Walking in My Shoes

AUTHOR: Livvie and Angel (aka Kelly and Mike)
SUMMARY: Angel goes to another dimension, but something happened to the other Angel, so there is mad tension between Angel and AU!Cordy. She knows he is not her Angel, but the kids are pretty young and think he’s their father.
RATING: NC17
POSTED: 2006
CATEGORY: Alternate Universe / Challenge Fic / Romance / Pseudo-Smutish
CONTENT/PAIRING: C/A
WARNINGS: Sexual Content
FICPIC CREDIT: N/A
AUTHOR NOTES:
1) Challenge by rouse dower on the Stranger Things message board.
2) While it might appear at first reading that we haven’t met the challenge, I promise that in later chapters, it will all become quite clear.
STATUS: Incomplete


Preface:

The battle was raging around Angel. The smell of acrid smoke, of blood coupled with the screams of battle and death. Angel himself had dealt several killing blows the past several hours and yet the demons and vampires still came. He made it to Gunn’s side and turned to get the man’s back. “We need to find a retreat,” he said. “A safe zone so we can regroup and rest.” As he waited for a response from Gunn he swung his sword and took off the head of some lesser demon. The foul odor emanated from it as he did. “For once why can one of them smell like roses or, you know, home baked bread?”

Gunn was having trouble keeping up with the vampire. His hand was clenched around his side to prevent his bleeding while he fought with his axe in his other hand. His blows were wobbly and off mark but he did manage to kill a few of the seemingly infinite army. He wasn’t going to live through this fight. He could feel that. His head was light and his fingers tingling. His vision had already started to blur with black closing in around him. He was going to go out fighting. He looked over at Angel, nodding his head. That distraction though, cost him, as a demon sliced clean through his arm. It separated arm from shoulder, his fighting arm falling to the ground with axe still in hand. Gunn sunk to his knees, too weak now to stand. The blood was pouring out of his shoulder wound. With his hand holding his side, he hadn’t the strength to move it to hold his bleeding shoulder.

“GUNN,” Angel yelled. Angel allowed his demon to come forth. He ran the killer demon through as he let out a feral roar of rage. When his sword was through the creature he pulled up, cutting the demon open from midsection up to its shoulder. It fell, crumpled. He turned to Gunn and bent down, picking his friend up so he could get him out of the battle.

Gunn was dying. He had predicted it from the moment he came into that alley. He had lost too much blood from the wound in his side and now his arm was gone. He looked at Angel, stopping him from picking him. It would only lose time. More than likely cost Angel his life. “Don’t, man. Just…kick their asses.” He fought hard. He fought long. He was dying a warrior’s death and that gave him an odd sense of peace. He had a small smile of satisfaction as he thought that he would finally get to see all those that had died before him including Cordelia, Wesley, Fred. Even Anne might be there. He doubted she could have lived through this Apocalypse.

“Gunn,” Angel said still with that growl in his voice, “Don’t die on me, man…don’t….”

“I’ll tell the girls…you said…hello…” With that, his eyes slipped closed. His body went limp as the life went out of him. His body fell back against the wreckage that was once a street in Los Angeles. The only burial he would get would be under ash and stone from the buildings crumbling around them. Or under another pile of bodies.

Gunn was correct in that Angel taking this time to comfort his friend was going to cost him. Seeing an opportunity, a demon with long, sharp talons sliced along Angel’s back. The cuts were deep, slicing through that trademark duster, shirt, and skin. The vampire felt that wound and Gunn dying in his arms just added to his ever increasing rage. He came up with another roar, despite the pain, the sword coming in a high arc with him. It came down on the demon’s shoulder and went through it, slicing the creature in two very neatly. Letting his demon now seize the fight, he went for another demon. He’d lost too much the last couple years and he was pissed as hell about it.

Across the battlefield, Illyria stalked towards Angel. She needed to find the vampire amidst all this carnage. Spike had fallen and she felt the need to end this pathetic battle. She cleared her path as she went, her fist covered in demon blood and gore as it ripped holes through any that came in her path. She stopped in front of Gunn’s body, her head tilting to the side as she examined the situation. “Another has fallen.” She said dryly, lack of emotion to her voice. She looked up in time for her eyes to see Angel cutting down a group of demons.

Angel was too far out of it to notice the God King’s approach. All he wanted now was blood of as many demons spilled as possible. He swung his sword at them in a blind fury. He grabbed one by the head and twisted hard hearing the satisfying sound of its neck breaking.

The frenetic pace at which Angel was fighting would be his demise. At least, this was Illyria’s thinking. It had been that way for Spike. She raised her hand. Despite the diminishing of her powers, she still had a slight ability to alter time. Something she had hidden from even Wesley. Her thinking was to slow the demons and keep Angel at the same wild pace. Another demon came at her from the side. Distracted, her offhand shot out to grab it around the neck and pop his head off with her extreme pressure on his neck. When she turned back from killing the oncoming demon, all she saw was the group now standing dumbfounded but still moving slowly. Angel, was nowhere to be found. “Vampire…” She called out. In her distraction, something had gone wrong. Angel was now lost. It could take centuries to find the dimension she sent him too. And her primary concern now was the approaching group of blood thirsty vampires. She was the last one standing.
Chapter One:

Angel turned for another demon but as he did all he saw was the courtyard of The Hyperion. It was filled with night blooming jasmine. The fountain was working and koi were swimming in the large part of it. It didn’t look as if it had been in an Apocalypse. His yellow eyes looked for the next attack. Trick…had to be. A psychic demon was putting images in his mind. Angel stretched out his senses. He smelled the air and listened. Despite the wound in his back, he slowly made his way towards the door that would lead into the lobby. He didn’t open it though, he just looked in through the glass.

Laying on the floor of the lobby was a little boy. He was probably no more than three or four years old. Spread out before him was an entire large box of crayons, put in an order only understood by the little boy. His feet were up as he drew on his sketch pad, careful not to let the crayon go off the page. Then he has to clean it up. And he hates cleaning. He turned his head, calling out. “Ma! I wanna purple one!” as if Angel had interrupted some conversation.

Angel moved into the shadow of the tree to the side of the door, not yet entering. There were no children in the hotel, except when Connor was little. This boy was too old to be Connor. Angel hadn’t traveled back in time. His money was still on a psychic demon invading his mind.

The small boy paused as something caught the corner of his eye. He had really good senses, heightened like his brother’s. His Da had been teaching him to use them better. He got up to slowly make his way to the door, ever the more curious between himself and his sister and older brother. He could kill a big scary demon. His big brother even told him so. He slowly pushed the door open. The hotel was protected so even if it was a demon out there, it couldn’t hurt him.

Angel quickly changed his features back to human. The boy would see him if he looked at the tree. Probably not the best hiding place but he moved to it quickly.

The boy’s head turned to look at the whole area of the courtyard. Something was out here. He could feel it. When his eyes got to that tree, his face lit up. He pushed the heavy door open all the way, crying out. “Da! Da!” He ran as quickly as he could with his small legs, stumbling a few times. He threw his arms around Angel’s leg in a hug.

“Da?” Angel questioned then looked down as his leg was glommed onto. He had to brace himself by the tree, the wound on his back starting to take its due on him.

The little boy looked up at Angel with hazel eyes. Just a twinkle of mischief in them. He was the type that was always putting ants in the bed. He went back to hugging that leg once more before curiosity got the better of him. He looked up at Angel once more. “Why you outside?” He let go of Angel’s leg only long enough to grab his hand.

Angel frowned. Was he dead? Was this some holding facility of the Senior Partners? “I…I just got here,” he finally said to the boy.

“Ma’s been sad.” The boy tugged at his hand, trying to get him to come inside. “I made a drawing for you. Come see.” He was eager to show his father what he had done. Artistic talent at least ran in the kids. Didn’t get it from their mother, that is for sure.

“Ma?” Angel said. The vampire moved with the boy but his body protested. He hurt all over. His back felt like it was on fire. Probably some kind of poison in those talons that demon had. That could be causing this hallucinations.

“She is getting posicles with Kat.” He near had to pull his father to the doors and then struggled to get the door open on his own. He finally managed it so that he and his father could go inside. Once Angel was inside the doors, he let go of his hand to run down to pick up the paper. He rushed back to his dad, holding it up for him to see. “Its you and Unca Gunn and Unca Wes fighting a bad guy. See..” He pointed to the picture. “This is me and Connor. We are helping.” He held the picture higher for Angel to take.

Another voice called out now, coming from the kitchen of the hotel, carrying all the way to the lobby. Cordelia had that mother’s gift to reach her children no matter where they were in the hotel. “Ian! Are you talking to Taco again?” She had heard her child’s voice but wasn’t sure he was talking to. He had an imaginary friend, like most kids his age. She had no idea where the child had come up with the name ‘Taco’ from. Her guess was on Fred with her love for them. He did admire all his “aunts” and “uncles”.

Cordelia decided to check on him though, picking Kat up to put her on her hip. She was getting a little too old for her mom to carry anymore but that didn’t stop Cordelia from trying. Kat was quietly eating an orange popsicle, being very neat about it. Cordelia had two in her hand. A purple one for Ian and a cherry one for herself.

Angel reached down for the picture. He looked at it, studying it then he heard that familiar voice. His head came up to see who it belong to. “Cordelia?” he said.
Chapter Two:

Cordelia saw Angel standing there and was shocked to say the least. He had been gone for nearly a week. No phone call or anything. She was fearing the worst. She put Kat down, pawning the popsicles on her (which the young girl was all too happy to take). She rushed to Angel, throwing her arms around him. She wasted no time in crushing her lips against his in a searing, passionate kiss.

The pain hit him but the kiss…the kiss..He dropped his sword and brought his arms up around her. He lost himself in that kiss for a few moments then he started sinking down to the Hyperion floor.

The kiss broken as he started to fall, Cordelia didn’t panic. She took him as best she could within her arms and lowered him with her to the ground. She looked at the twins. “Ian…get the first aid kit please. Kat, make your dad a special drink.” She spoke with an authority that they had done this before. Once Angel was on the ground with her. She looked at him. “Where are you hurt?”

Ian turned his face away, nose wrinkled up in disgust as he saw his parents kissing. He even made an “ewww” noise. It was short lived though as mom barked out orders. He knew where the kit was. Right behind the front desk counter. He moved as quick as his little legs would carry him to get it. For her part, Kat, who had remained silent and staring at her father, trailed slower behind her brother. She didn’t have the same sense of urgency he did as she got a container of blood out of the fridge.

“My back,” Angel said. “Demon…claw.” Though it probably wouldn’t kill him it was making for some very painful moments, not to mention having ruined his best duster and a $200 shirt.

Cordelia just nodded her head. She got to work quickly. She pushed the duster off his shoulders and then started to unbutton his shirt. She tried for a smile. “At least you were wearing your old coat. Not the new one Gunn got you.” She moved behind him now, sliding against the floor of the lobby. She gently peeled the shirt away from his bleeding wounds. “Got you really good. Any idea what kind of demon it was?”

“Gunn?” he said. Gunn had never gotten him a duster and Gunn was dead. Angel had held his friend as he died. “Oww,” he said as she worked, “Big claws, one big claw on each hand or paw or..whatever. Beak like face.”

Ian came rushing back with the first aid clutched to his chest. He held it out for his mother to take. He looked at the wounds in his dad’s back with wide eyes. “Cool” He said almost breathlessly. He looked back to Angel, a ball of energy. “Didja get him good, Da? Kill him good?”

“Ah, yeah,” Angel said to the boy. Son…this was…”Cut him in two.”

Kat watched as her brother bounced around like a rubber ball. She was cautious in her approach of Angel as she handed him the container of pig’s blood. They weren’t allowed to use the microwave. She watched Angel with large brown eyes, so deep and soulful, one could get lost in them. She turned to look at her mother. “He’s not right.”

“Mmmm…will have Wes check it out when he gets back with Fred.” She finally got his shirt free of his skin. She took the first aid kit from Ian with a smile. “Thank you, Ian. How about you go get that jar of salve from Uncle Wes’ desk?” She wanted to give Angel a moment to recover here. She leaned forward to whisper to him. “You do realize he will want to hear the whole story tonight before bed, along with re-enactments?” She kissed his shoulder softly before her eyes went to Kat. She was already getting out the bottle of iodine to clean his wounds. “We know, baby. Your dad got cut to ribbons.”

Angel took the blood offered then after sniffing it, he drank. He looked at Kat and could tell she was a little afraid of him, he could smell it. “Its okay, lil’ one.”

Kat, however, had the same defiant look of her mother in her eyes. She didn’t move any closer to Angel. “My name is Katharine. I am not little. I know that two and two is four.” Even her tone was every bit as confident as her mother’s was in her Queen C days.

Ian took off again like a shot to get the jar his mother was referring to. He knew the one. He had brought it to her before. He liked to feel helpful. He came rushing back out, holding it out for her to take. Once she took it, he was right back in Angel’s lap, looking up at him. “Did you cut those two in two? That would make…” The child paused for a moment as he thought this through. Both of the kids, incredibly smart and not quite human. He held up three fingers. “This many?” He waited to see if he had the right answer.

Looking at the boy, he nodded. “Quite a few.” He paused then said to Cordelia, “It feels like I’m on fire back there. Not a good feeling for a vampire.”

“I have to clean the wounds out, Ace. Unless you want them to heal up with all this dirt and debris in them. Where on earth were you?” She set the iodine down to reach for the jar of salve. She opened it and then dipped two fingers in. She gingerly applied it to his wounds. It should help to cool his skin, take away the sting, and help his healing along. “Kat…” She warned. “Neither your dad or I is in the mood right now.”

“I was at the ending of the world,” the vampire replied. “I thought.” He flinched at her touch now and then.

“You are so melodramatic, Angel. You were not at the end of the world. Jeeze…” Cordelia shook her head at him. She continued to gently apply the salve to his back. “Did you lose your wedding ring…again? I am taking up Faith’s suggestion and just leaving a box of them by the dresser.”

Ian pushed the blood back up towards his dad since he barely took a drink from it. In his lap, he could do that. “You hafta drink. Then you will get strong again. I wanna hear the story! But…but you hafta wait for Connor to come home so he can hear it too.”

So much is going on in his mind now. Cordelia, these kids…they were a family. Was he dreaming? Did he die and this was his reward? “Okay, lad.” Angel said as he smiled at the boy. He drank deeply from the jar.

Kat hung out quietly near the front desk after her mother admonished her. She just watched this man. He looked like her father but something…she didn’t know why but he was wrong. Something was wrong about him. Her innate love of her father though, caused her to slowly inch forward. “I don’t want to hear that story.” She spoke up finally.

“Katty,” he said the old nickname he called his little sister, “If you don’t want to hear it you don’t have too. I promise.”

Kat kept a good foot distance between herself and Angel. Unlike her brother, who had no fear or brains, just climbing into the man’s lap, she was far more cautious. “I want to hear the story where you rescue the princess.” Her tone was very matter of fact that she was going to get what she wants. Anything standing in her way would be demolished by her will alone.

Ian was busy amusing himself by going through the first aid kit. He peeled a band-aid off and put it over a scrape on Angel’s chest so he felt like he was helping. His nose wrinkled up. “Not the princess story AGAIN.”

“Is that the one where we all went to Pylea,” he asked, keeping his tone soft. He looked down where Ian had put the bandage. “Thanks. I bet in 10 minutes you can take the bandage off and that mark is gone, huh?”

Cordelia leaned forward to speak to him. “You want me to half heal you? These wounds are pretty deep.” She looked over at the kids then with a smile. “Guys, I think your dad is probably too tired for storytime but how about I tell Kat the princess story and I will tell Ian the story about Aunt Fred and the Duslar and the big bugs?”

Angel wrinkled his nose at the kids. “Eww, bugs,” he said, “and there were guts too.”

Ian’s eyes got wide at the mention of that story. He looked like a kid on Christmas. He tried to get up, almost falling over a few times. “I like the part where Grandpa and Grandma Burkle runned over the bug. Tell that part again!” Not even realizing that he did just tell that part again. But his parents did it so much better.

Kat sat down with her legs crossed over each other about six inches away from Angel now. She started to put everything her brother spilled back into the first aid kit. “I like the Princess story better. Cause she got saved. And everybody lived happily ever after. And cause you had a funny face in that one.” She looked up at Angel. She was, in fact, talking about the rescue mission to Pylea.

Cordelia waited on an answer from Angel. Not getting any, well she went ahead and did whatever she wanted anyway. She shook her head. He loved his children so much so she was so used to his ignoring of her sometimes when the kids were around. They had their alone time, which he never ignored. She rubbed her hands together and held them just over his back. Her hands started to glow a soft white, warming Angel’s skin like real sun without harmful after effects. She concentrated on using her own energy and life force to merge with his, healing his back over.

That warm sensation caused Angel to sit up a bit straighter. This couldn’t be something the Senior Partners cooked up, he so was convinced now. He closed his eyes at the sensation and a slight stupid smile played on his lips.

Cordelia only had enough in her to heal the wounds over so they would no longer be open. He could heal the rest of the way with his own strength. It took about five minutes before she finally pulled her hands away from him. She bowed her head, resting back on her hands to recover.

Ian reached up from where he was standing. He put his small hands on his father’s face. He started to play with that smile, moving one cheek up and then the other. He laughed madly as he did so. Even louder when he mushed Angel’s cheeks together.

Angel pulled his face away from the young boy’s hands then turned to look at Cordelia. He frowned in concern. “Cordy?” he spoke quietly.

Cordelia looked up at him, raising her head just slightly. “Yes?” She didn’t look any worse for wear. She just felt as if she had run around the block. All she needed was five to ten minutes, she would be good as new. “You feel better or you need more blood?”

“No. I’m good. Maybe I need to go clean up now.” Angel moved Ian away from him and worked on standing. It wasn’t as bad as it was but still he was sore and tender.

Cordelia watched him get up before she looked back down at the kids. “Well, daddy ruined popsicle time. So how about we go to the kitchen and pick out some new ones? I will even let you guys have the chocolate ones. And then, we can watch a movie upstairs with dad.” She didn’t yet move from where she was sitting on the floor. She figured the kids would go running off to the kitchen at the promise of chocolate, leaving her and Angel alone for a few moments.

Ian seemed far more excited by this prospect than Kat did. As soon as his father set him down and away, he let out a whoop. “CHOCOLATE! I wanna watch Spongebob too! Spongebob movie.” He took off for the kitchen, still letting out little victory cries. Kat watched the brief interaction between her mother and father before she got up quietly. She followed after her much more boisterous brother.

“Now that is not right,” he said. “Chocolate!” He called as the kids took off then he looked down at Cordelia. He put his hand out to her to help her up.

Cordelia slipped her hand into his and took his help in getting up. “Since the kids are gone, you think I could have a real hello kiss now?” She raised a brow as she waited for him to make his move.

“Cordelia,” he started to say but then he looked at her and those lips. He leaned down to her and kissed her. He wasn’t sure how she would accept it at first then he gave in to his own passion.

This man was her husband, the father of her children, her best friend. And he had been missing for days. She was so worried that he was dead. Or worse. There were worse things than death. She wrapped her arms around his neck as his kiss went from hesitant to passionate. The children away and their parents could play. She gently pushed her tongue past his lips, not minding that he had just drunk blood. She was not phased.

He accepted her tongue, how own caressing her’s. He didn’t care right now if this was some punishment from the SPs or reward from TPTB or another vision hitting him at this moment. All he cared about was now, this moment, this kiss. If only his heart could beat it would be pounding out of his chest right now. Though his heart remained as dead as he was something else was pressing and he was feeling the discomfort and the need. Angel finally broke that kiss and backed up a little. He can’t have these feelings. Not him. Its not allowed. He could loose it. Is that what the SPs’ want? They have been trying for years to bring Angelus back.

She kept her eyes closed for a few seconds after he pulled away from the kiss. She opened them slowly to look at him. She gave him the smallest bit of a smile. “All these years and you can still take my breath away.” She paused though as she noticed the discomfort on his face. She closed the distance between them. “Angel? Are you okay?” She reached for him in case he was about to take a knee to the ground once more.

He frowned slightly. “I’m…maybe it was the battle,” he said his voice a bit hoarse. “Years, huh?”

She kissed his cheek very lightly and tenderly. “Why don’t you go up and take a shower. Get to bed early. You need to rest to heal. I’ll grab the kids and swing by to see Connor so you have the whole hotel to yourself. Nice and quiet. Need to get you another wedding ring anyway.” She said with a smile as she gently poked him in the chest. She stopped short, raising a brow as he said the second. “Did you get whammied again? If your memory is starting to go again, we have to get Lorne to come back from his tour.”

He looked down at his left ring finger, he then flexed his hand. “Rest might be good. I’m immortal, not indestructible.”

She reached for his chin after he looked down, tilting his face so that he could see her now. “No matter what, just remember that I love you. As long as you remember that, we’ll be okay. Nothing can be as bad as when you thought you were Liam and went around humping every girl in the office.” She gave him a bit of a smile, waiting for him to return it with one of this own.

“I did that?” he said with a raised brow.

She laughed. “Yeah. You chased Gwen around a desk. Cornered Faith upstairs. And stepped right into the shower with Fred. I am not sure Wes forgave you for that.” She touched his face softly again, fingertips barely brushing his skin. “Get some rest, baby. Looks of you, you went through Hell these past few days.”

Nodding, Angel turned and went up the stairs. Shower was a good thing. Then sleep, not likely. Being alone in the hotel he could do a little snooping and see if anything could tell him about what’s happened.

“Oh…baby…” She called out to him as he was halfway up the stairs. “In case you forgot, our room is past the living room and the kitchen. Its tucked in the corner after the kid’s room.” They had, when she found out she was expecting, expanded their room. Then, when they found out it was twins, expanded even more. When the kids each wanted their own room…well the entire third floor was now their family’s.

He paused and looked back at her. He smiled and nodded. “I think I can find it.” Then continued on up.
Chapter Three:

The whole of the third floor now belong to the family. When Angel stepped inside, on first glance, it looked like any other home in LA. Save for the large, dark curtains covering the windows that faced out on either side of the hotel. In addition to the three bedrooms were two guest rooms in case the happy couple decided to have any more children. There was a dressing room for Cordelia, with a spacious walk in closet, vanity table, and a large picture window to look out over the city and let the sun shine in during the day. Angel had a room for himself as well. A place to escape to either read, as evident by the library, or to draw. Given the sketches littered around, he had been doing quite a bit of that lately. The other rooms were mostly unremarkable. Living room with a television, a large couch for all four to sit on and two recliners. The kitchen had been overhauled as well with all the most modern appliances. How they had managed to afford all of this with Angel’s iron clad shut wallet was a miracle in and of itself.

Angel paused looking around the place. Then he moved through it and finding the master room, he started opening drawers. Finding his drawers, he got out clothes. Boxer shorts and a clean wife beater. Finding the bathroom, he stepped in and started the shower. Snooping would come after shower. The allure of a hot shower and soap was too much. Turning it on full, he let it run to heat the water as he started to undress.

Coming out of the shower nearly a half hour later, dressed in a bathrobe, he started checking out the apartment. He came to a door and opened it to reveal an immense closet when he flipped on the light. It was the size of a bedroom. Hell, it probably was one of the floor’s rooms. He stepped in and knew these had to be all Cordelia’s. She loved her clothes and shoes. He saw a wall of drawers and stepped over to them. Opening them he found, well, in one bras. One panties. One hose and socks. Seems each drawer held only one under garment item. He opened another drawer finding it to hold keep sakes things. He found a photo album and pulled it out. He found a seat in the closet, no doubt where Cordelia put on her shoes. He sat down and opened the album. He started looking at the pictures within it. Wedding photos…He swallowed hard looking at them. Cordelia, in a beautiful gown, looked like a princess from a fairy tale. Him in tux. Photo portrait of them looking at each other while on the dance floor. Her standing with her leg up on a chair, skirt pulled up and him taking off the garter.

Then a few pages past that, pictures of Cordelia starting to show with pregnancy. First, ultrasound pictures pasted among candid photos. Cordy again, huge with babies. Though, he would never tell her that. Then, in the hospital. Cordy, him, on the bed both holding a baby. This was the life he wanted, the dream he’d always had. He got up and putting the album away, he opened another drawer. This one seemed to have personal papers in it. Bank statements of “his” accounts, business accounts, a joint account with Cordelia. Other papers laid underneath. A graduation announcement for Connor from Stanford. Then he opened a business envelope. A school opened by Connor. Financial backing from himself and Cordelia and tax returns.

He had been caught by the little girl though. She had watched the entire thing. So much for going to visit Connor apparently. She was just as sneaky as her father and older brother were. Silent as the grave as she appeared in the doorway, watching him. He was far too engrossed in the pictures to hear her heartbeat perhaps. “Whatcha doin’?” Her voice soft and almost curious sounding. There was an underlying tone though, as if she had just caught him with his hand in the cookie jar.

Looking up at the sound of her voice, he put the papers up, not in haste though, just casually. “I was just looking at some old things.” Angel said to the child.

She moved closer towards him, stepping into the closet. “Those are personal stuff. We aren’t a’ppose to look at them without mom.” She still didn’t trust this man. He looked like her father but there was something off about him. She couldn’t describe it, being so young, she just knew.

“Yes, Katty, I know,” he said, “but that is for you and your brother because a lot of this stuff is important. Important to your mother and..” he paused then finished, “…me.”

Her head tilted just a little bit so that she could look at him more closely. She was near examining him now. “Connor is home. He is taking his doggie out for a walk.” She relayed the message her mother wanted her to give. She was on her way up anyway to go to her room.

The vampire nods to the child. “Okay,” Angel said to her. “I’ll finish getting dressed and go down.” Yes, he did feel like a microbe under a lab scope at the moment. “Katty, is something wrong?”

There was something in her eyes that showed she was wiser than her years. Some sort of consciousness that other humans were lacking. “You’re wrong.” That is all she says. That is the only way she can think to describe it. Her vocabulary was too limited to describe the unsettling feeling she had.

What could he say to that? He knew he was wrong. This was a dream life for him, a dream he wasn’t meant to have. He knelt to get eye level to the child then reached for her hand.

She let him take her hand. She looked down at her small hand in his large one and then looked back up to him. The examination of him had stopped with that touch. She was reading something about him now. Something about that touch. He wasn’t bad. Not bad at all. Maybe just tired or sick. That is what was making him wrong. She still knew he was wrong but he was good. She relaxed. “Not bad.”

“No,” he said to her. “Not bad.” He pulled her to him now that she seemed relaxed to hug her. He couldn’t help it.

She threw her arms around his neck now that she felt he wasn’t going to hurt them, despite being off. She whispered softly to him. “I missed you, Da.” Her little face buried into his neck and she started to cry. At first glance, when he felt wrong, she thought it was a trick. Da had taught her that things aren’t always as they seem. There are lots of tricks out there. He could have been a trick. But when she touched his hand, she felt no ill intentions.

He stood up holding her as he did. Walking out of the closet, he carried her. He kicked the door shut with his foot. “I…I missed you too. Your brothers and mommy.”

“You went away after I said those mean things. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean them. Honest. I won’t fight with Ian no more.” She had blamed herself for her father leaving. He said he was going out to take care of some demons but she knew the truth. He had left because she fought with her brother. And he didn’t come home. As much as she didn’t like her brother or him putting bugs in her hair, she’d be good now.

“Hush that talk now.” he told her as he sat on the couch with her. He pulled her back so he could look at her face. She so looked like her mother must have at this age. ” You did nothing that made me want to stay away. Its just that sometimes things happen that we can’t control and it seems its all in the hands of The Powers.”

She looked at him for a moment, her cheeks stained with tears, her nose running. She sniffled, trying to pull the snot back into her nose. She buried her face against his chest again. “Promise you won’t leave again. Please.”

Angel just held her for a moment trying to think of what to say to that. “I can promise you that no matter what happens to me you, your brothers and your mother…you are all in my heart and part of my soul. And you know how import a soul is, right?”

She nodded her head against his chest. She turned her cheek to rest against his chest now. She was still sniffling though, barely crying. She was starting to calm down and get sleepy from her outburst. “Daddy…will you tell me a story now?” She was asking nicely, not demanding it like she was downstairs. And not demanding him to tell her a certain story. He could pick.

“Hmmm, let’s see now,” he said trying to think of something. He wasn’t very good at this. Did having kids change that in him here? “Once upon a time on a far off island, that was so green and beautiful it could make a man cry, lived a fair maiden. This maiden’s name was Katharine…”
Chapter Four

Since Angel had been gone for near a week, Cordelia didn’t want to interrupt his time with the kids as he tucked them in for bed. Kat was easy. She was asleep against her father’s chest when Cordelia finally made her way upstairs to get ready for bed. Ian, Ian would be a whole other ballpark. He was far too excited about hearing his dad’s story to settle down. She glanced at the clock. She was right. It was taking longer than usual. She went back to reading her magazine, having gotten ready for bed already. It was so rare that she had a few moments to glance at some back issue of Cosmo (there is no way she could stay current) that she wanted to savor this hour to herself. No visions. No kids. No nothing but Twenty Tips to Please Your Man.

She wasn’t trying to embark on some grand seduction of Angel. With him, it didn’t take much. He had decades and decades to make up for without getting any. Though, to be honest, she was hardly in the mood. She was still feeling drained from healing Angel. And the stress of worrying about him missing was still taking its toll even though he was here. There was also some niggling feeling in the back of her mind that she just couldn’t place, some voice trying to tell her something. And trying to ignore it was making her exhausted. To be honest, she would be more than happy to just hold him and talk. She yawned softly, covering her mouth with the back of her hand. Apparently, those Twenty Tips, little on the boring side.

Finally, Angel came in the room. “I never thought he’d go to sleep.” he said with a chuckle. He pulled off his robe then slid into bed.

“He is just excited to have his daddy back is all. And you know how he loves the war stories. Connor’s been putting him to bed this past week with all these tales about growing up in the Hell dimension. Surprised Ian hasn’t woken up with nightmares.” She shook her head. She closed her magazine and put it on the dresser next to her side of the bed. She looked at Angel, watching him as he got into bed with her. “How are you feeling? Back? Memory? Any of it better?”

His smile faded. He didn’t look at her. He looked at his hands. “My back is much better.” the vampire said. “My memory…this doesn’t seem like my life. It seems like somebody else’s. What I remember is…so different.”

She reached for his hands as he looked down at them. She used one hand to tilt his chin back up so he could look at her. “When Wes gets back, we will have him take a look at you. I already called Lorne. He is cancelling the rest of his tour to come back. We will sort this out, just like we always do.” She offered him a smile, hoping he would exchange it with one of his own.

Angel let his eyes take in her features. He finally spoke, “We’re happy, right? Good together and for each other?”

She laughed just a bit when he said that. “You drive me completely nuts. But I am nuts about you. You always tell me how much you love me, how happy you are. And we haven’t missed a Saturday night date night in five years. Even if it means we have to go kill stuff together.” She hesitated though, her smile shaking around the edges, threatening to disappear. “Are you having some kind of…crisis? Is that what this is? Leave me to run off with some blonde?”

“I remember I loved you. I finally realized that I loved you. Things happened and I never got to tell you…then you came back and in one moment we did tell each other then you were gone.” He moved so he could take her in his arms. Her scent fill his nostrils. Angel kissed the top of her head gently.

Cordelia was stiff in his arms. Something about what he said. She pulled away from him. “Why are you talking in the past tense? I “loved” you. I “realized”. What do you mean by that? I never went anywhere, unless you count Pylea. And you were still so deep in the Buffy-love, you were swimming in it.”

“Actually it was just before Pylea that I realized what I was starting to feel.” he said. “Past tense, I don’t know if I can explain it or not…what I remember or why it was like that.”

“I think I should try Wes again. There might have been something in those claws that is messing with your head, affecting your memory. I told you not to go out alone. I wish just once you would listen to me. I am your Seer for a reason. And your wife. I think that earns me a little ‘Listen to Cordy-ness’.” She moved out of the bed and got up. She was looking like she was about to pace. Or maybe she just needed to stand to collect her thoughts. Her face was just clouded with worry. That nagging feeling was getting more and more intense. Something just didn’t feel right. She just attributed it to her worry over everything. Nothing more than that.

“Cordy,” he asked her as he reached for her hand as she stood. “How is it we…we enjoy each other and I don’t go..or get perfectly happy?”

She sighed as he touched her hand. She couldn’t be upset with him. That demon (or demons) had to have messed with him. That was the only explanation she could come up with. Demons caused the memory loss. She was just happy he was finally home, no memory or not. She sat down on the edge of the bed, looking at him. “Wes…he found a way to permanently soul you. He…after the night at my apartment, a few days later, I went and talked to him. We locked you up, took your soul out and put it back, curse free. Had to call in a lot of favors in the underworld. And the first few times, I still had to keep you chained up just in case.”

She neglected to tell him, however, that after they took his soul out, Angelus managed to escape. He had a fun filled few days in LA before they recaptured him and did the spell. Or how Angel spent several weeks after that in a brood over what he had done.

“So, Angelus is just a memory…” Angel replied. Oh, if it could be so true. Maybe it was, maybe she was right about his memory and this thing messing his mind up. “And the kids, are they, well, you know…biologically mine and if so how?”

“They are yours alright.” She chuckled but just barely as she looked at him. “That was all Fred. You and the guys had gone up to Sunnydale to help out Buffy and the Scoobies. A few weeks after we got married. Fred was playing around with some Mohra demon blood. And she figured it out. She mixed it with your…” She hesitated and then gestured vaguely around near his waist. “Stuff, it would come back alive. So we took it to a clinic and first try, I got pregnant with the twins.”

“Wow…that’s…Being a dad again and this time raising them, not missing those years.” He shook his head in wonder at it all. He was really starting to like where he was now.

“Before you left to track those demons, we had gone to the clinic to try again. I took the test but it was negative. Maybe once we get the memory thing sorted out, we can try again. We’ll have to take another high profile case though. My inheritance is almost gone.” That explains all the renovations to the hotel. Or at least, seemed to. Coupled with the fact she made Angel sell the rest of his properties and a few antiques when she found out she was pregnant. They lived a comfortable life now.

“Inheritance?” he asked because where he was from the IRS took care of any and all chances of her having an inheritance.

She nodded her head. “My grandmother. She couldn’t give it to my parents, who knows where the hell they are now. Not like I care. She had a change of heart once I got married, had some kids. Then, we got that huge secret check from my mother that no one is suppose to know about. Came from a “client”. Maybe get another one if we have another baby.”

Angel paused in realization of something she had said earlier.”Let’s not bother Wesley….Wesley? You were going to call…Wesley is alive?”

“Um….yeah….” And then she remembered his memory loss. “Wesley and Fred left tonight to try to find you. Gunn and Gwen went out last night but nothing. We were all taking turns. That is how worried we were, Angel. You might not remember your life but you have to remember your family loves you. We worry about you.”

“Let’s just, I don’t know…” he said pulling her back down into bed. “Let’s just pretend that tonight our problems are just all gone. Or we have none and we’re all just…normal.”

She laid back against the bed with him, turned so that she could look at him. She sighed softly. “I can’t…you know…I am too tired from healing you.” She was assuming that he meant making love with the whole no problems line. She moved a little closer to him. “Unless you are fine with just some cuddling and kissing?”

“I’m more then fine with that,” the vampire said as he wrapped his arms around her. “I can’t think of any place else I’d rather be.”

“Well…I know how…primed you get after a fight. I am lucky if I get out of here with my clothes intact.” She laughed as he wrapped his arms around her. She looked up to his face. “Do you even remember anything? That first night when admitted our feelings or the first time we made love or rather, about the fifth or sixth when we weren’t so nervous…or our wedding?”

Angel relaxed his hold on her. Shaking his head, he replied, “No. I can’t. I…the last thing I remember is The Apocalypse coming down on those of us left standing to fight. I’d killed the dragon then Gunn died in my arms…a vicious beast went for my back and then next thing I knew I was in the courtyard gardens.”

She reached up, brushing her thumb over his cheek. “Angel…that never happened. You know that, right? Gunn is alive. Talked to him on the phone tonight. We fought in a lot of Apocalypses together but never any with a dragon.” She paused for a moment, her eyes searching his for any sign of recognition. “I wonder if Wolfram and Hart is messing with your head.”

He frowned when she said that. “Would my saying that for the last year I was CEO of the L.A. branch of Wolfram & Hart make you think they had?”

She couldn’t keep a serious face when he said that. She started to laugh. She thought he had to be joking about that. “You and your jokes. That is one of the better ones. I’ll have to tell the guys that. They will get such a laugh.”

However, he wasn’t laughing. “I’m serious, Cordy.” Angel said to her. “I was CEO. It was handed over to us after we beat the Beast and Jasmine…after all the chaos and horror they wrought on this city. Even down to killing everyone at Wolfram & Hart.”

She reached to take his face in her hands, looking at him. “Baby…that didn’t happen. We took care of the Beast. We stopped The Rising.” Her eyes moved back and forth to look into his. She was hoping he could remember even a fraction of that. “The past year, we’ve been helping Connor with his school, working cases. You were tracking that demon faction that was killing Slayers and Watchers…like the Bringers were?”

“To me though…it happened.” he said. “I wish I could say it didn’t. I can’t.”

She sighed softly. This just like the time he thought he was Liam, that he was back in Ireland. He was convinced that was real. She didn’t know what to say or do until Wes got here to sort this mess out. “Do you love me? Do you know if that much is real?”

He looked at her now. “I love you.” he said. “I’ve loved you for some time and not even realized it. Probably why I put up with your poor phone skills and bad typing in the beginning.”

“What? I did not have poor phone skills and bad typing! I will have you know that I was and still am, an excellent secretary! And look what I had to work with. Mr. Kicked Puppy. Did you even ever smile once before you met me?”

“Oh, yeah, that’s why Doyle had to look up that search that time.” he reminded her. “Though you did come around in about two years.”

“You are so about to be in trouble, oh husband of mine. You want to go for final death here?” She raised a brow. She was looking at him with a smile, however. “Doyle, loved him, but he drank. I can’t help it if an Irish didn’t get my filing methods. You sure don’t.”

“Oh, Mrs. Thomas was filed under F because she was French?” He starts to chuckle. “Mr. Poulin was filed under B because you said he was a bastard.”

“He WAS a bastard! He talked at my tits. AND his check bounced.” She reached over and she drilled her fingers into his side to tickle him. She had to do it extra hard since he was a vampire. “You are so getting it now, Champ.”

“Okay, no fair.” he said as he tried to wrestle away from her. But then what do you do when you not only get it from your wife but then suddenly two little screaming mimis come running in and start in insisting on helping their mother battle the vampire?

Ian let out a battle cry as he charged the bed his parents were on. The door was slightly open, which means they weren’t doing that funny wrestling they do. He launched himself to land on his father’s back. He started to tickle Angel’s neck, giggling like a madman. There would be no sleep tonight!

Kat had been more cautious. At the foot of the bed, she slowly pulled the covers down while Angel was distracted. She let the bedding drop to the floor, Angel’s feet now exposed. She used her small nimble fingers to tickle the bottoms of his feet. They had done this before.

Cordelia was laughing so hard at this point that she could hardly continue her tickling of her husband. She wrapped her arms around her middle, falling on her back, laughing loudly as the kids gave their father the royal treatment.

When those little fingers go at the bottom of Angel’s feet, he jumped. Angel wasn’t expecting that. Now, he was on his hands and knees whirling around to face what was doing it. Ian probably thought he was now a cowboy on a bucking bronco.

Ian let out another howl of laughter as his dad spun around. His arms were held tightly against Angel’s neck so he didn’t fall off. “Yeehaw!” It was clear by his enthusiasm, they have played this game before.

When Angel came face to face with Kat, the little girl just gave her daddy a small, innocent looking smile. She moved closer, like she just might want a hug but then she started to tickle him on the inside of his elbow. She was quite the sneaky child.

“Oh, I see how it is in this house!” he play-growled at them. “All pick on one, huh?” He lunged forward at Katty and play-growled once again while Ian spurred his bronc.

Kat let out a peal of laughter, sounding like his laughter actually. Just a child version of it. She was caught by her father but squirmed in his arms to try to free herself.

He stopped and whispered to Kat. “Look at mommy laughing and not being tickled at all. I bet she is just begging for it. Her belly button, go for it.”

Cordelia had heard that, despite Angel’s attempts at whispering. She got off the bed, covering her stomach. “Oh no you don’t, Angel.” She snickered and went to get a camera off their dresser. She stood back so she could take pictures of this moment.

Ian patted his father’s back. “The horse is not suppose to stop, Da!” He tried to kick his little legs like he had seen on the tv, to get the horse to go.

The Angel-horse leapt from the bed, staying on all fours. He was pretty certain the monkey on his back can hang on. He neighed as he charged after the mommy dragon for the knight to try and slay.

Cordelia just continued to click off pictures as Angel went crazy. She laughed and set the camera back down as the two got to her. “What is this, huh? Full frontal assault?”

Kat ran over and wrapped her arms around her mother’s leg. Those girls have to stick together. She stuck her tongue out at the boys before moving behind Cordelia to hide herself.

Ian held on for dear life as his father bucked up and off the bed, going on all fours over to mom. He waited for Angel to stop before he stood up on his back. He called out. “I am the Champwion and I am here to rescue the princess from the evil demon” That demon, however, was his sister. Kat was always the demon in these games.

Angel came up on his knees like he was a raring horse as the Champion proclaimed his mission quest.

When his dad reared up, Ian nearly fell off his back. He had to surge forward to hold his father’s neck for dear life. That is when Cordelia stepped forward, moving to take Ian off his dad back. “Okay, Champion…the princess and your trusty steed need to get to bed. As do two children.” Cordelia managed to hold onto Ian and reached for Kat’s hand. “There will be time enough tomorrow to play dragons and princes with your dad. Promise. So let’s go…off to dreamland.” She waited for Kat to take her hand. She looked back to Angel. “Just give me thirty minutes to tuck them in.”

“Love you guys!” he said and it seemed….natural for him to say it as he watched them leave the room with their mother.
Chapter Five

While Cordelia was putting the kids back to bed, Angel got up off the floor and went back to the bed. He looked at the picture in the frame at the bedside. Cordelia and him, not looking at the camera. She was looking up, somewhat over her shoulder and he was behind her, looking at her. How could this be? This type of life was something he’d always dreamed of. But in his dreams, he was human again. Real. So maybe this wasn’t the doings of The Senior Partners. They would have made it all true…if just in his mind.

Cordelia slipped up behind him, putting her arms around his waist. She stood on her tiptoes so that she could put her chin on his shoulder. She had rationalized her hesitation while tucking the children in. She was worried about him. He had been gone for a week, he came back looking like he had been to Hell and back. That is all it was. It was just her worry causing that niggling feeling in the back of her mind. “That was taken on our honeymoon. Outside some little pub in Ireland.”

He still looked at the photo. “You know, for me, I haven’t been back to Ireland since…since I left the first time.”

“No…” She reached for the photo to take it from him. She set it back down on the dresser by the bed. “We went there for two weeks for our honeymoon.” She had hoped that something, anything, could trigger his memory. It only made her worry that much worse. “Just let me call Wes. Please.”

Turning to face her, Angel shook his head. “Tomorrow.” he said. “Its late and he’s probably in bed.”

She gave him a small bit of a grin. “Probably in bed with Fred right about now. Thank the powers he wised up and dumped Lilah.” She shook her head. She reached for his hand. “We should be getting to bed too. I think I was promised some kissing and cuddling?”

“Hmmm…yeah, you were, weren’t you?” Angel turned her to the bed to sit her on it.

Cordelia sat down on the bed, giving him a smile. “Don’t go too far. I will probably fall asleep in the middle if you try to have sex with me. But…you ask very nicely…I think I can let you get away with a love bite.” Though she knew he shouldn’t be on human, she didn’t really count. The half demon in her seemed to calm him, heal him faster. It was a balancing force. Something he desperately needed in his life.

He smiled at her then leaned to her and kissed her. His hand came up to caress her face then run back into her hair. He laid her back, not breaking that kiss. She tasted so sweet to him that he had to have more. He pressed his tongue on past her lips.

She laid back against the bed. Now this was more like it. Kids wouldn’t be up again or if they did, they would go bother someone else. She had the forethought to lock the damn bedroom door. Her lips parted just barely as she meet his tongue with her own.

Angel was losing himself in her. He was starting to believe that is was where he belonged, that whole other life was a delusion from the poison. He began to think when the poison finished coursing through his system, that he would start remembering. He rubbed his hand over her thigh as he kissed her. With the promise of a love bite and his arousal, his demon came to surface. It was not just the fangs that became sharp but the lower teeth and the teeth between those menacing fangs. His sharpened teeth nicked her tongue and the teasing taste of her blood flavored that kiss. It took everything he had not to moan with that first taste.

She was probably the last person she ever thought would have a thing for vampires. Then again, she didn’t have a thing for vampires, she had a thing for one vampire. The one who’s hands were now roaming all over her body. Who’s lips were pressed to hers. She broke the kiss despite not wanting to. She had to breathe. Her hazel eyes met his yellow ones as she reached up to touch his face. Yes, this was a face she could love. Did love. She used her other hand to move her hair, two small marks already on her neck. They had faded long ago to just two tiny pink scars from where Angel had marked her for good. The other bites on her body would heal but not this one. This was permanent.

His first reaction instinctively was to flinch back as she touched his true face. Her warm fingers exploring the now prominent ridges of his cheeks and brows. The wider nose and nostrils for sensing prey. He had long learned to control some of it. He kept his hands from becoming claw-like. Angel looked down when she moved her hair aside. He knew that mark was his, though he had never marked anyone before. He could sense it. He brought a hand up to touch it and feel that pulse throb under it.

Her eyes slipped close as his fingers brushed against the mark. How could he doubt that this is where he belonged after seeing that? The pulse under her skin quickened at his touch, in anticipation of what was to come. She shivered just slightly in anticipation also. She trusted him. That he would never hurt her.

He leaned down and kissed her neck first. Then ran his tongue over the place which would dull the pain. He kissed again then repeated his earlier actions. He wanted no pain for her. Never any pain caused by him.

She shivered again as she felt his cool tongue against her neck. She wrapped her arms around him now as he worked. Her hand touched the back of his head gently as she waited for that moment of quick pain. She drew in a sharp sounding breath, her chest rising up to press against his. Cordelia felt something else rising to press up against her since he just had his lounge pants on. But then vampires, by nature, were in a constant state of arousal. Something Angel had to deal with since having a soul. One reason why, probably, that kept to himself for so long. Remove all temptation and live like a monk. And she was all too well acquainted with his arousals and appetites. Usually, she was more than happy to indulge him. However, the extent of injuries to his back was bad so she had to use a lot of her own energy to heal him. This, she hoped, would be an acceptable substitute. It had been in the past. Angel’s fangs sank through her skin to open the vein and he fed from her slowly. Her body surged up against him as he started to feed. Her breath held, eyes now open to look at really nothing at all.

He finished then pulled back after sealing her wound. He did it slowly but when he pulled back his human face was there. “You okay?” he asked in a hoarse whisper. He had all the signs of someone who was high on something, but that was normal after having even her partial human blood.

She let go of that held breath finally and allowed herself to breathe again. It was painful when he bit her but painful in a good way. She had to try to think about anything to keep herself from going further. She was thinking about Gunn and Wesley singing showtunes. When he spoke though, it shattered the image of them holding each other as they sang “Memories”. She tilted her head down to look at him, a small smile graced her lips. “I could go for some rocky road ice cream but other than that….”

“Stay right there and I’ll get it,” He pulled back from her after giving her a kiss on the cheek. Blood breath not a plus and he knew that.

She laughed when he said that. She reached for his shoulders to pull him back to her. “Kidding, baby…kidding. Right now, all I want, is to fall asleep in your arms. Think you can manage?”

Being pulled back down, he kept a serious face. “Its a tough job, but somebody has to do it.” he said as he wrapped his arms around her trying to get his mind off his other problem he should probably go take care of.

“After I fall asleep, you can go out and beat stuff up.” Though her blood might have had a calming effect as opposed to the either broody or violent funk human blood put him into, she knew that denying him meant he would leave to take out his frustrations on something evil. Such was her life and she had accepted it long ago. She grinned at him though, his comment was far too amusing to pass without a comment of her own. “Hey, too tough for the Champion, I can always go ask one of the other guys around here to hold me. Don’t think I will have a problem finding one.”

“Yeah, well,” he shifted a bit. “I don’t have to go out to kill what I have too. And sure, you’ll find it hard to find takers because they know I’ll kill them, or the very least torture them for a few days.”

“Oh Angel, you always know exactly what to say to a lady.” The sarcasm was dripping in her tone but she was looking at him with a smile. She settled in against him, closing her eyes. “I am beat…” Just an observation on her part. Healing him and letting him feed, she would be out like a light for at least eight if not ten hours.

Angel held her until she had drifted off to sleep. Like his Cordy, or rather, the one he remembered, she seemed to be able to sleep through a bomb blast. He remembered how she snored at the ballet and drooled on the sleeve of his tux jacket. He didn’t complain, though. Her leaning on him, even in boredom, felt right. He slipped out of the bed when she was snoring and moved to the bathroom. And the shower started.
Chapter Six

It was mid day when Angel left the apartment upstairs. Cordelia had taken the kids down long ago for breakfast and to start their lessons. She had explained that they started their schooling early because of the intelligence the twins showed. She also told him they had settled on home schooling, at least until they could be sure they wouldn’t tell the fanciful tales of demons and vampires at school, especially Ian who loved to re-enact the stories of the battles that his father and the others would tell. Cordelia said that that is all they would need would be to get called to the school for a psyche exam for the whole family by Child Services.

Angel stepped into the office and found the coffee maker with coffee already fixed in it. He poured himself a mug, even though he couldn’t taste it, the hot liquid felt good going down his throat. Well, he could taste it somewhat and he made a face. This was still the same. Cordelia still had the same talent for making coffee. Of all the things his taste buds could register was bad coffee. It made him chuckle and made things feel all the more right.

He needed to get down to the job of trying to find out a few things about his life here so he sat down at the desk and turned on the computer. He hated these things. He hated cell phones. However, while working at Wolfram & Hart, he had to pick up some of the modern skills. No more paper memos, it was all done electronically. Oh, he’d always knew how to do the simple things on one, but he kept that to himself and let the others go on about him and his techno-challenged self. Sensing something he looked up from the computer screen to the door of the office. Angel smiled, it was his son.

“Connor.” he said standing. What he remembered was Connor just regaining his memories and the day he spent with him before that final battle. It was nice. Then he showed up at the office to help fight.

“Dad,” he said as he stepped in with a raised brow. “Finally get up the nerve to touch the beast?”

Angel looked from Connor to the computer monitor then back. “Uh, yeah. Nobody was around so I thought I’d just…you know…”

“Don’t worry,” the young man said, “I won’t tell you’re hooked on Rebel Assault. Caught you playing it the other day.” Connor stepped on in. “Did you find what was attacking the school?”

Angel cut off the monitor so he could concentrate on talking to his son. “I…I’m not sure.” the vampire said. He swallowed as he walked around the desk to sit on the corner of it.

“You were gone a week” Connor replied with a bit of a frown. “What happened? We were worried you might have been killed. Something must have happened during that time.”

“Something did.” Angel acknowledged. He explained to Connor that his memories had been altered or something and where his memories seemed to start differing from everyone else’s. Of Cordelia never making their meeting place. Of Connor being there and sealing him into that metal coffin with the single window and being trapped at the bottom of the ocean for three months. Jasmine and her defeat and that of being offered Wolfram & Hart and taking it. Giving Connor the life he had never had, including taking away his memories of his real father, then of the final battle and finding himself here in the courtyard garden.

Connor listened to this. Whole ranges of emotions came over him as he heard his father re-account all this. When Angel had finished he remained silent for a long time absorbing all this. His first reaction was that his old man had finally went over the edge. That maybe with his years senility finally had set in.

“Yeah, well, that sinking you to the bottom of the ocean,” he finally spoke, “not one I thought about. Though I have thought about a few other devices of torture. Not normal teenage thoughts about parents and ways to make their lives miserable as possible. Most of them, I’ve found, are on the lines of just flat killing. However, when your father is already dead, you have to get creative.”

“I’m just sorry I don’t have anything useful.” Angel said. “Maybe whatever is doing this is what messed with my memories to throw us all off track. Maybe it was because I was getting too close?”

Connor shrugged. “Why go through this kind of trouble instead of just killing you?”

Angel shook his head. “I don’t know. Maybe it wants to mess with us first.” he said remembering how he used to love to do just that. Angelus had considered this type of torture an art form to be both enjoyed and admired.

“Well, its just good to have you back, no matter how mental you are.” Connor said and started back for the door. “I’ve got to get back to the school.”

Angel tried to think a moment even for one small memory. “Connor, just…just what is this school exactly? Have you kind of developed a new Watcher’s Council?”

Connor paused. “You just really don’t remember a thing, do you?” the young man said. “When Willow woke all these slayers they had no place to go. Giles was overwhelmed. You and him talked and decided to open this school. Giles now heads the New Watchers’ Academy. I was put in charge of the Slayer Academy. I mean whom better to learn from then the son of two vampires? You, mom, Gunn…you all help. Help teach them their skills and the skills of vampires.” Connor chuckled, “Though I admit the first time you came over those girls went crazy with their spidy senses because a vampire was in the house. But now that they’ve learned to control it…not so bad.”

“Yeah,” he replied, “I imagine I set off a few inner alarms and probably not a picnic for me either, being in a school full of slayers. I am still what I am.”

Connor nodded and gave his father a slight smile. “Yeah, you are. And sometimes that means you’re a real jackass.”

With that he left. Angel stood there a moment after Connor’s departure. Though his son acted pleasant he still got that underlying feeling of blame and hostility from him. The vampire stood and went back to his chair to continue trying to piece together what had happened.

Charles Gunn had left the Academy after teaching his class about urban warfare. Those girls had to learn to survive in the big city. And survive if shit ever hit the fan. They might get stuck underground with no food or no water. It was something that he knew all too well. Most of the girls seemed to be taking well to the classes. There were troublemakers, always were, but he had his favorites. Just like everyone else that was teaching there. Gwen was busying teaching her class about breaking into corporation offices, which came in handy when they needed information on Wolfram and Hart. And Faith had her group doing slayer training. Without his two ladies, he was left to amuse himself. He figured he might stop by the office, see if Fred and Wesley were back yet. He poked his head into Wes’ office, giving pause as he saw Angel at the computer. “Hey man. Playing Rebel Assault again?”

Angel glanced up at Gunn. Gunn alive. He had to take a moment because the man before him had died in his arms. Finally he blinked and looked at the computer then back at Gunn. “Uh, no,” he said as he turned off the monitor. “I was just looking at a few files. Nothing big just refreshing myself.” This from the guy with the photographic memory.

“Since when do you have to do any refreshing?” Gunn had no idea about the memory loss. He knew Angel had been missing for near a week. No one had bothered to call him to tell him that the vampire had returned to the offices.

“Since is seems a part of my life is missing or screwed up.” he replied. He picked up a pencil and played with it. “Including the part where…you’re still alive.”

Gunn raised a brow as he looked at Angel. “Do I look like some kind of ghost to you?” He patted his chest, as if to emphasize the point that he was here and he was alive. Someone put the whammy to Angel. Again. Seemed to happen at least once every couple of months so he wasn’t surprised.

The vampire stood up and gave a bit of a shrug. “I’m sure it will all pass. Its weird, you know.” he said, “I don’t even remember having any kids but Connor and here he’s running a school for slayers instead of trying to kill me. Well, he did get over that, though.”

“We all want to forgot Barbie being pregnant. You are lucky you don’t remember, man. She got mad if we breathed too loud.” Gunn paused for a moment as he saw Angel stand. “You call Wes yet? He put your memories back in before.”

“No. I’ve not talked to him. I thought if he’d come in today…” Angel replied. “It seems things take a fork in the road around the time Holtz and Wolfram & Hart were chasing us for Connor. In my memory, Holtz got him and disappeared into a Hell dimension.

Gunn nodded his head. “Yeah. That is what happened. Then he came back a few weeks later, all grown up. Tried to kill all of us. Cordy calmed him down. You remember that?”

Angel nodded. “And then some. The some I haven’t told Cordelia about.”

“I don’t want to be around when she finds out you are keeping things from her. I am just glad the girls don’t mind if I keep some things on the downlow.” Gunn pointed out to the lobby. “Coffee fresh or is that the stuff from last night?”

“Fresh,” he said with a nod. “Some things don’t change and it seems Cordelia’s coffee is one.” Angel turned and poured Gunn a mug and handed it to him. “So, tell me about this school of Connor’s. Slayers, huh? If anyone can train them its him. Best of all worlds wrapped up in that kid.”

He took the mug from Angel and leaned back. Cordelia made horrible coffee but you put enough sugar and creamer in it, it was tolerable. He wondered sometimes if she used more grounds than water. Either way, it kept them all awake. “Just one of a few popping up. One over in Cleveland. One in New York. One in London. Rome.” He took a drink from the coffee. He hid the distaste on his face well. “More of an effort on everyone’s part. All those new slayers out there that didn’t know jack. Someone had to teach them.”

Angel nodded once more. “Understandable. It wouldn’t be good to have a bunch of rogue slayers running around.” He paused then asked, “So, besides not being dead, how are things with you?”

He chuckled as Angel asked that. “You take a blow to the head too? Want me to get some cakes for our little tea party?” It just seemed so out of the ordinary for Angel to be asking him how things were with him. Kind of girly, actually.

Leaning back on the desk, he crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m just thinking that if I hear the right thing or get enough of it all in my head something might trigger everything else into place. Make sense?” He frowned a bit as he looked at Gunn.

“Unless someone put a mystical whammy to you. Then no matter what anybody says, it won’t come back.” He leaned back against the front desk. He took another sip from that god awful coffee. “Things are fine. I just got back from teaching my class at the school. Me and the girls are suppose to take the slayers out to a nest near Altadena. Just hope whatever attacked the school last week doesn’t try to follow.”

“A nest?” he straightened. This was good. This was something he did know and could do. “How about some help?”

Gunn raised a brow. He set his coffee cup down on the front desk. “See, now I know you have the memory loss. Because tonight is you and Barbie’s special night away. Drop the twins with Connor and do whatever it is you two do. Which, I don’t want to know.” He held his hands up to emphasize his point.

The vampire leaned back on the desk again. “You don’t want to know and I…I have no clue. I mean I do but,” he paused his heavy brow furrowed. “I’m only confusing myself more here…and coming off…geeky. right?”

“Man, you always come off as a big geek.” He reached over and patted Angel on the shoulder. “And the women hate it when you don’t have something planned. Maybe she will cut you some slack. Or you can’t lose with dinner, movie, and heading to the beach.”

Angel rasied both his brows and got that ‘what the hell’ look. “Movies are always good. Dinner…last time she picked there were mirrors all around and I’m not big on mirrors.” Angel then looked at Gunn. “I don’t come off like a big geek. I mean, I can kick ass. Geeks can’t do that.”

“Sure they can. They just do it on Halo.” He grinned at Angel. He crossed his arms over his chest.

“I guess I better find something to wear then if this is like date night,” he said. He straightened and started for the door. “Flowers,” he stopped and moved for the phone. “Flowers are always good.”

“You are acting like this is your first date. This date, judging by how tense you are now, is going to go just as well.” He paused for a moment to look at Angel. “You remember anything about you two getting together?”

“My last memory of us together was just before she died. She’d been in a coma..or rather was still in a coma and somehow came to me,” he explained. “She helped me see where I was going wrong with running Wolfram & Hart.”

Gunn just looked at Angel for a long minute. His head was really jacked up. “Angel, Cordy’s never been in any coma. And you sure as hell didn’t run Wolfram and Hart. Obviously, she ain’t dead. Hell, Wolfram and Hart is the whole reason you two ended up together in the first place. Messed with her car.”

“We found her Jeep stalled on the freeway. She was on her way to meet me but she wasn’t there,” he retold it to Gunn. “Come to find out she had become a higher power and was taken. When we got her back at first she had no memory of who she was or us. Then she got it back and…” His voice trailed and he looked away from Gunn. “Its not something I like to recount. But I was CEO of the L.A. offices of Wolfram & Hart. You were head of my legal department. Fred headed the science division. Wes, mystical research…and Connor…I made a deal with the Senior partners to take all memories of us from him and give him what he never had, a real family and a home. Nobody but me remembered Connor.”

He just blinked before he started to laugh. “Me in the legal department? You are tripping.” He shook his head. He moved over and put an arm around Angel’s shoulder. “Man, you have to believe me here. None of that happened. Cordy hasn’t had that Jeep since the night we went to the drive in and the Wolfram and Hart goons jumped us. Came back here, she called. She went to start her car, heard this clicking. They were trying to go old school mafia on her. She got out before it blew. Called you up, you went over there. Didn’t see you two until the next evening and it was all cuddles and romantic comedy up in here.”

“That is what everyone is telling me, Gunn,” he said. “But I’m telling you I could take you to that building where Wolfram & Hart is and show you around it and the White Room.”

“It sounds like you were in Hell. You sure you weren’t having some Hell flashback or something? Or get some demon blood in you that is messing with your head? Cause I know I am real. I know everybody else here is real. What proof do you have all these other memories are real?”

Angel shook his head. “I don’t but what I do know is if I don’t get ready for this date night it won’t matter if my memories are correct or not.”

Gunn nodded his head. “I got to go get the van ready for tonight. Catch you later, bro.” He took Angel’s hand in his, hitting it with his other hand as he lurched forward. Usual between brothers sort of hand shake before he left Angel to plan for his big date night.
Chapter Seven

Lillian Rogers sat in the back of the class at the Slayer Academy. She was trying very hard to pay attention to what her teacher was saying but her mind was drifting. All the notes and the diagrams in the world couldn’t keep her focused when Connor spoke. This was far more than a student/teacher crush. She would watch his mouth move, the way his body moved, and it turned her from a quiet girl into some kind of sex maniac. She tried to sit in the back of the classroom so that she could hide her wandering gazes of him. She tilted her head forward to allow her curtain of blonde hair to hide her eyes. She was worried that any of the other girls saw her eyes or any of the teachers did, the jig would be up. She’d be shipped back off to Michigan to live with her grandmother again. That was not what she wanted at all. She was having too much fun in LA, even if she couldn’t concentrate in class.

She was so enthralled by her daydreams of the young man that she hardly noticed when the bell rang to end that day’s lessons. She knew later tonight she was suppose to go out with the group to take care of a vampire nest but she was debating playing sick. She needed some time alone. Three seconds into the bell, she finally noticed it. She gathered up her notebook, pen, and purse, getting out of her seat. She headed for the front of the classroom, trailing behind the other girls who had jumped seconds before the bell sounded.

Connor had noticed Lillian’s distraction as he spoke to the class. He was going over the weapons effective on different demons, not just vampires. When the bell rang, he reminded the class to look over the chapter on Byzantine adz. Just as a certain student tried to go by the desk with her head ducked, Connor called to her. “Lillian,” he spoke, “will you please wait?”

When the girl stopped, he moved around and sat on the corner of the desk. “You were very distracted today.” he said. “Care to share what the problem is?” As he said this a very slight smile crept into the corner of his mouth. That same one you could often see on the lips of a famous vampire (who also happened to be his father).

The barest hint of pink crept into Lillian’s cheek as she was caught. She hugged her notebook tighter to her chest. Her eyes went to the still open door momentarily before she looked back to Connor. She wanted to make sure none of the other girls were lurking outside, waiting to hear this conversation between teacher and student. “Sorry…I just have some things on my mind. Not school things.”

“Yes, well, I guess that means you can’t tell me the difference between a Nyanzian adz and a Carpathian one and which one is used to kill a Klentu demon.” He just watched her as he talked.

She raised a brow as she looked at Connor. He was seriously giving her an after school pop quiz? Then an idea popped into her head. A wickedly wonderful idea. She tried to hide the smile on her face. “I am not sure. Maybe I could use a little…after school tutoring?”

“I think I have a little time before the field trip tonight. I might even show you my adz that were passed to me by my father.” He looked serious but his eyes were anything but.

“Should I go shut the door then?” She gestured back towards the still open door. The last thing she wanted was to be disturbed during some special after school one on one time with Connor.

“Hmm…maybe.” he looked at the door then back to her. “We should go to my office. I keep my best weapons there for special occasions.” He stood from the desk. “Five minutes should give you enough time to put your books up and only bring something to take notes on.”

She tried to hide the smile at the prospect of being alone with him in his office. “Yes, sir.” She rushed from the classroom. Five minutes was more than enough time for her to drop her books off in her dorm room and get back to his office. Not to mention do a little makeup touch up, check her hair, and her breath.

Connor was in his office reading, yes, reading. He wasn’t though, just looking at the book, waiting for Lillian to show up as he knew she would. She was so beautiful and everything he could want…but she was a student.

She knocked lightly on his office door before she opened it and slipped inside. She tried to suppress the giggles that were rising up in her. She leaned back against the closed door, looking at Connor. “I am here…for my lesson.”

Getting up Connor, walked across the room to her. “Punctual, I admire that in a student.”

She raised her chin up slightly when he came closer to her. She looked up at him. The anticipation was killing her. The way her heart was pounding out of her chest at his pseudo-compliment. “Thank you. I think punctuality is one of my best qualities.”

He reached behind her and locked the door then flipped off the main lights. A corner pole lamp was all that lit the office. He then leaned down and kissed her hard and deep.

She brought her arms up to slide around his neck. Instead of pressing back against the door, she shifted her body forward to move against him. It was pure hell to have to spend all day avoiding and pretending, just waiting for this moment at the end of the day.

Connor wrapped his arms around her and picked her up, still kissing her. He could hear the quickening of her heart, smell her perfume…all of which caused his heart to race in turn. He didn’t know how long he was going to be able to wait before he could declare he belonged to her but it was going to have to be soon.

Lillian was sick of keeping it a secret as well. She hated sneaking around. She didn’t see the point. It was his school, really. His father funded it, the new Council approved it but it was still his. So what if he wanted to date a student? She broke the kiss, sucking in a breath. “Connor…” Her voice was soft as she was still recovering from that whirlwind of a kiss.

Carrying her over to the couch, he lowered her then leaned on her so she had to laid down. His hand came up to run his fingers in her hair. “Hmmm?”

She rested her hands against his chest to keep him from laying on top of her. “I want to be with you but we have to talk. This…this isn’t working out for me.” She realized how that sounded so she added quickly. “The sneaking and the lying, I mean. I am tired of your mom being the only one who knows about us. I want everyone to know.”

He looked down at her. “I need that.” Connor said. “I need to be able to hold you when I want without looking over my shoulder.”

She was worried that he was going to tell her no. That other things were more important. She smiled brightly. “You mean that? You know what it means though…I will have to leave the school. I won’t have any place to go.”

“Move in with me.” he said. “Live with me and train with me and my father.” He looked at her, hoping her answer wasn’t a no.

Her eyes searched his. She wasn’t sure if he was being serious or not. “Are you sure? I…I would love that more than anything but I only want it if you are completely sure. I know we haven’t been together long but…I love you.”

“I’ve never been so sure about anything.” he said. “All I do at night is think about you. My dreams are filled with you.” Connor’s blue eyes watched her to see if she was going to say yes.

Her face lit up once more. “As the head of the Slayer Academy, consider this my official resignation, sir.” She pulled her body up so she could meet her lips with his in a kiss. While she loved the Academy, she loved Connor more. And Fred never had any real formal training. And neither did Connor’s mom. Or Gwen. They all fought alongside the guys. Why couldn’t she?

Connor grinned and then the kiss, he melted into it. He broke it long enough to whisper to her. “I want you.”

Those long held giggles escaped now. “I can tell.” But it was short lived as she shifted under him. She was hesitating.

He lowered and kissed her neck then shoulder to her collar bone, a hand slipping under her shirt. The feel of her skin excited him so.

She reached down to stop his hand from touching more than just her stomach. “Connor. We don’t have to do this anymore. No more office couch. We can go to your place, be in a proper bed.” It would be a nice change of pace from his office couch or desk or floor. Or the back of his car. Or seedy motel rooms where they checked in with a fake name.

“Then,” Connor said standing, his hand reaching down to her, “let’s go home.”

She slipped her hand into his so she could get up from the couch. She leaned over to kiss his cheek. This meant a lot to her and the fact that he realized it, meant even more. “Just let me go pack an overnight bag. I can get the rest of my things tomorrow. Think you can bear to be alone for fifteen minutes?”

Smiling at her, he spoke. “It’ll be hard, but I’ll manage.” Pulling her to him again, he kissed her wanting to taste her lips.

The kiss lingered for several seconds before once more, she broke it off between them. She grinned at him as she slowly moved away from him. She unlocked the door, opening it. She looked at him for a moment before blowing a kiss at him and leaving his office.

Connor watched her leave and when the door shut he turned to his phone and called the hotel, or more specifically mom. He waited for it to be answered.

Cordelia was getting ready for her big date night with Angel when she heard the cellphone ringing. She had it practically glued to herself now, waiting for Wes to call her back. But it was Connor’s ringtone. She answered it. “Don’t tell me you are calling to cancel babysitting tonight?” There was a smile to her voice though. There was always someone eager to watch the twins when Connor couldn’t.

“And I love you too, mom.” he chuckled. “Actually, no. But I do have something to tell you because, well, you’ve had enough to deal with, with Dad and his swiss cheese brain the last couple days. I don’t want you surprised.”

“Oh god…you grew a tail didn’t you? I knew this was coming. I told you that if you kept drinking those weird energy drinks, it was going to mess with your body.” Obviously, a joke on her part. She always knew Connor had suffered enough so she tried to keep things as light as possible when she could.

“God, and you call Dad a dork all the time.” Connor replied. He picked up a pen and doodled on his desk blotter. His father’s art talent, he didn’t get that gene. “Somebody is moving into the hotel with me.”

She paused in mid-curl of her lashes. She pulled back away from the mirror. She sounded a little more serious now. “Did you get another dog?” She had no idea what else could be moving into the hotel with Connor.

“No,” he replied, “Lillian. She’s quitting the Academy and coming to live with me.” He was waiting to hear the lecture. He knew Cordy like Lilly but her quitting the Academy, that’s a whole other kettle of fish.

“Just what we need. A blonde slayer around your dad.” She chuckled though. She sat down on the edge of the tub. “I thought you said you didn’t want me surprised?”

“Just what we need. A blonde slayer around your dad.” She chuckled though. She sat down on the edge of the tub. “I thought you said you didn’t want me surprised? I am not surprised at all. Its about time really.”

Connor raised a brow. “You’re okay with this?” he asked. “I mean her leaving school and all? I’d ask what Dad would think, but right now that’s a moot point.”

“Why wouldn’t I be okay with you? Now you two can stop sneaking around. I won’t have to find you necking in the back of your car.” She paused for a moment. She felt as if she needed to reassure Connor. “I didn’t go to any Academy. Neither did your dad. Or Gunn. Or Fred. Or Gwen. Or even you for that matter. And we all still kick ass. You’ll just have to work double time to train her outside of the school. So she won’t be a Council Approved Slayer. Did you really want her shipped off to where ever the newest Hellmouth is?”

He chuckled and put down the pencil. “No. I wanted her to stay. If she left, I’d probably follow after.”

“This works out for everyone then. Lillian stays here. Teaches at the school with you. We get another member for the team. Your dad and I don’t lose our son and the twins don’t lose their big brother. I really don’t see a downside here.”

“Good, so we all win.” he said. “We’ll be home within the hour then to watch the rugrats. Where are the keys to the cage?” Connor grinned as he said this.

She laughed when he said that. She knew that he was just joking around. Kat was entertained being left alone and Ian was entertained with Connor war stories. Heck, Ian would probably want to be locked in the cage if Connor suggested it. “I love you too, you nut. I will see you two kids when you get home.”

“How can you not love me?” he said. “Later.” Connor waited for her goodbye before he hung up the cellphone.

“Bye.” Cordelia shook her head as she hung up the cellphone. She set it down on the bathroom counter so that she could finish doing her makeup. She was hoping that this particular outfit would jog Angel’s memory. She was amazed she even fit into the short black skirt and low cut cami she wore on one of their first dates. Demon killing was definitely the best workout in the world.
Chapter Eight

Angel walked out of his changing closet in guess what? a black on black outfit. He was looking down as he buttoned his shirt. “I can’t find my good shoes…” his voice trailed.

“Did you check the top shelf of the closet?” She called from the bathroom. He didn’t need the mirror. He could gel his hair in the dark. She, on the other hand, always wanted to look her best for these weekly dates. Hell, she wanted to always look her best. Just because you were saving the world, that was no excuse to look bad.

Angel turned around and went back into the closet. He looked up. “Why are they up there?” he said as he reached for them. He stepped back out to the bed to sit and pull the shoes on.

“Because…that is where you put them. So Ian wouldn’t fill them with Play-doh again.” She stepped out of the bathroom. At least they matched with the black on black. Though she was showing more beautiful skin than black clothing. She laughed softly. “We look like we are going to a sexy funeral.”

He looked up and saw her. He had to stop in what he was doing, his mouth falling agape.

She moved over to him. She slipped a finger under his chin and pushed up to close his mouth. “Letting the flies in. But good to know I can still leave you speechless.”

“I wasn’t speechless.” the vampire said. He was doing his best to keep his eyes on her..eyes, yes her most attractive feature.

She looked down at him. “See, not the best thing to say in this situation, Angel. Compliment, usually good. Like ‘yes, Cordelia, my love. You took my words away but only because you can’t take my breath away. Because, as you know, I don’t breath.’ ” She had her hand against her chest as she did her little speech. She lowered it but kept the smile on her lips.

Angel: “Its just that…Yeah, you are beautiful,” Angel said as he stood. His eyes couldn’t help but take advantage of his new position of standing to look down…at her…”Nice shoes too.”

“Its just that…what?” She raised a brow. Even the shoe compliment couldn’t detract from what he just said. Despite everything, she still had a slight underlying insecurity. And even though she loved Angel, something seemed off. She just chalked it up to his ordeal, his false memories and her concern for him. She was so worried that he was dead, part of her could feel it, that when he returned, she was too busy being happy to worry about any doubts.

Angel cleared his throat and spoke, “Movie, I thought we’d go see a movie. Gone With the Wind is playing.”

She stepped away from him. “No. I am not going anywhere until you tell me what is going on. Keeping things from each other is what always got us in trouble before. Whether I did or you did. So out with it.”

“Cordy, I don’t know if its true or what. If the memories are real of planted…”

“If you can’t look at me and tell me what is true, then maybe you need to go someplace until you can figure it all out. Look me in the eyes, right now. Tell me that you don’t know if you love me or not. Tell me that you didn’t enjoy laying in that bed with me last night with your arms around me or that you don’t want to make love to me right now. I dare you to tell me that none of that is true.”

“Cordy,” he said as he moved to her, “that all feels so right. It feels like a dream come true for me. This life is what I’ve wanted, well save for still being a vampire. But you are the right woman for me.”

“Then what is the problem? What more do I have to do here to convince you? I love you and this is where you belong. This is real, not whatever else is in your head. Can’t you just trust in me about that and accept it?” Despite her better judgment, she moved closer to him. She loved him so much so this was killing her. “Angel…if this was all some dream or illusion, you are smart enough to know. You have all those spidey senses. If this was suppose to be some perfect world, you would have Shanshued. And things would be perfect. But they aren’t. You are a vampire and you might not be cursed but you still can’t feel the sun or enjoy food. We still have to fight everyday whether its demons or vampires or humans at Wolfram and Hart. And Connor loves you but he still hasn’t totally come to grips with things. This isn’t a perfect world, its not a wonderful dream. I love our life, I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but its not perfect by any stretch.”

Angel looked at her then took her hand in his. It was so warm and soft. It amazed him how she could get past what he was, basically a dead body with a demon in it. No pulse, breath, body temp or heart beat. “Cordelia, I’d known since before Pylea I loved you but I tried to keep it hidden. To risk it and give into it was to dangerous.” He paused a moment trying to find the right words and hoped he could. “You’ve told me I am free of the curse of losing my soul. My mind, I’m not disbelieving you…but its still scary as hell to me to think what could happen.”

“You’ve told me all of this before. Since your mind got messed up. I keep hearing the same things over and over from you and its driving me completely nuts, Angel. I can put up with a hell of a lot. I have put up with a hell of a lot for you. If you want to be scared, then you can be scared. I’m not. Since I’ve been with you, I haven’t been scared since.” She pulled her hand free of his. She was hurting too much. Until Wes got back and fixed this, she wasn’t sure she could be around him with so much doubt clouding his mind. “Let’s just call this night a wash. I’ll sleep in one of the guest rooms tonight.”

He pulled her back to him. “Its not a wash.” he told her. “I’m not saying its not possible because right now, its very possible, seeing you in that outfit is just….and I want to take you out so all the other men in this city can be jealous of what I’ve got. Even though I’m not a man, but they don’t know that.”

“Damnit. I knew you were wishy washy but come on. Make up your mind on what you want. Either you want to be Angel, my husband or Angel, the nutjob. Which one is it going to be tonight?”

“I guess,” he frowns a bit, “I’m sort of both. But the husband is winning out and make no mistake what I’d do if I even thought you were in danger. Its just a weird feeling, you know? But when I look at you its that good kind of weird.”

“Yeah, its that happy in your pants kind of weird, right?” She gave him a bit of a sidelong smile. She poked him very lightly in his stomach. “I am starving. Where is Gone With The Wind playing? The drive in? We could swing by someplace, pick up food. Sound good?”

“How’d you guess?” he said and flinched with her poke. “You want chinese?”

“Do you even have to ask? And quit flinching. It ruins your whole dark avenger image.” She started to pull away from him once more. “Let me get my coat and purse. Then we can go.”

“Your purse is..” he said and he has it. Grinning at her, he held it up.

She grabbed it away from him. “It looks much better with me carrying it. Its not your season.” She took her jacket off the back of the chair, pulling it on as she walked for the door. “We have something discuss on the car ride. And no, you aren’t in trouble.”

The vampire was about to ask just that when she said discuss something but after she added the other, he relaxed. “Well, your chariot awaits. I even polished the ol’ girl up earlier.”

“Like it really takes any arm twisting for you to go out and molest the GTX. Sometimes wonder if that car is the only thing that could really ever give you perfect happiness.” She stepped out of their bedroom and headed through the rest of the house until she got to one of the main doors leading back to the hotel. It really did feel like their own separate home since they renovated the whole floor. It was only a matter of minutes and one elevator ride before they were in the parking garage, heading for the Angelmobile.

When at the car, he opened the door and waited for her to slide in on the driver’s side, possible due to the bench seats that modern cars lack. “She’s a classic.”

“Its a girl? How did I know? And I know the whole reason you want me to slide over is in the hopes my skirt rides up and you can see even more skin. I know your game.” She doesn’t protest though as she gets in the driver’s side. And she only slides in to the middle. What is the point of putting all that space between them?

Getting in, he shuts the door then puts the keys in the ignition. “Well, yeah, she’s a girl.” he said, sitting there a moment. “She’s long and sleek,” he paused as he starts the GTX, “and purrs when you stroke her just right.” He looked at Cordy with a bit of a grin.

“You are SUCH a perv. Don’t tell me girls actually used to fall for lines like that back in Ireland.” Once he was settled and had started the car, she made herself more comfortable. She had found the perfect spot against his body to have the most contact without interrupting his driving. She didn’t really want to end up in an accident for distracting him.

Angel pulled on out and shrugged. “Actually, I didn’t start driving automobiles until I was over here in the States. I mean after the soul thing I never returned back there.”

“I meant the cheesy lines. If they fell for cheesy lines like that.” She rolled her eyes. “You are such a man. I wonder if you even listen or understand half the things I say.” Her tone was light though. This was their date night. Their time to go out and have a good time. And it had been a while.

“What most of them enjoyed was,” he put on the brogue, “watchin’ os lads fight fer their fair affections.”

Her nose wrinkles up. “I don’t like it when you do that. It…it wigs me out.” Probably for the simple fact that she doesn’t associate that voice or that accent with her Angel. Its someone from a very long time ago. A someone who isn’t the man driving right now or the man that she married. It reminds her of someone else too…The Scourge of Europe. Not something she wants to recall. Ever.

“Sorry.” he said to her. “I did shed the accent when I came over here. Well, to me it wasn’t an accent. But I didn’t want to stand out.”

“I know. And I know you don’t remember how much I don’t like it. Sort of killed the mood we had going here, baby.” Then again, any thoughts of Angelus could make any woman’s blood turn cold. Not exactly the romantic send you flowers type. More like the rape you, then kill you, then rape you again type. It didn’t go a long way to setting the mood.

Angel pulled the car into a chinese place and pulled up at the drive through. He turned to the speakerbox to put in her order. . He knew what Cordy liked.

“Amazing. You remember what I like to eat but you don’t remember our wedding day…or our wedding night.” She grinned as she reached for her purse to get her money out. It was easier for her to get her purse then him to dig for his wallet. It was both their money anyway.

“Yeah, well, you’ve been eating it since before the little downtown office blew up.” he said to her as she looked for her money.

She handed him over a twenty from her purse. “My tastes might have changed. I was craving anchovy and pineapple with green peppers pizza when I was pregnant with the twins.”

“Okay, the anchovy thing is new.” he said with a nod as he took the money to pay. Handed the change back, he gave it to her. “I guess that’s better then sprouting a tail and horns.” He chuckles.

“I don’t crave it now, Angel.” She rolled her eyes at him but playfully. She took the change from him to put back into her purse. She took the food from him as the window clerk passed it out. She put it in the footspace of the passenger’s side since she was sitting next to him. “Speaking of horns and a tail…back to the topic I wanted to talk about.”

The vampire pulled the convertible on out and into traffic heading for the old drive in. “Okay, what topic is that?” he asked as he glanced to her a second.

“Its about Connor.” She just couldn’t wait. That chinese smelled so good. And she was a sucker for some good crab puffs. She reached into the bag to get them out. “Do you remember Lillian at all? From the school?”

He shook his head. “No, sorry.” Angel said. “I don’t even remember anything about the school. Though, I found plenty of records where I had a large hand in getting it started.”

“Well, the short of it is, your son has a thing for blonde slayers. I wonder where he got that from?” She gave Angel a pointed look. That was all his genes coming through there. “She came to the Academy a few months ago and it was love at first sight. Connor and Lillian have been keeping it a secret since he is well, the dean of the school and she is a student. She quit today and she is moving into the hotel with him.” She had a feeling the questions about Lillian were going to come. The girl has to be good enough for his son, she knew that.

“Moving in?” he said. “Is she old enough to be with him and leaving school…” He shakes his head. “Where is she from?”

“They are the same age. This isn’t just an Academy for young slayers. A lot of older potentials got activated too with Willow’s spell. She went to college in Michigan. Got her degree in English. She was getting her teaching certificate when she was activated. Lived with her grandmother and had no idea why she could suddenly crush walnuts with her bare hands until Giles showed up. Willow did some spell to locate all the activated Slayers so they could be contacted.” She paused for a moment. She wanted to get just one crab puff eaten before the barrage of questions started.

Pulling into the drive-in, he pulled out his wallet and eased the car on up. Everything paid, he drove on in to find a parking spot.

She managed to eat at least three crab puffs. They still had a few minutes before the movie was going to start. “Any other burning questions about Lillian? Her last name is Rogers, if you want to run a background check when we get back to the hotel. Her parents died when she was a baby in a car crash, just to warn you. So she has come to think of you as like her substitute father.”

“No. I don’t think that will be necessary.” he replied. “If Connor likes her then she has to be good people, right?” He looked at her hoping she’ll agree.

“She is really nice. And she makes Connor so happy. Not like that ditz he dated in college. Jennifer. What a total bitch. I think she must have just caught him at a bad time. He was all vulnerable because we finally got through all the walls and wanting to kill you thing. Completely took advantage of him. I was secretly glad she flipped out when she found out about his family.”

“I really don’t see the problem if he makes her happy.” Angel said. ‘Because that means he’s not looking at you’, goes through his mind.

“They seem really in love. I am really happy for him. He needs this.” The odd relationship that might have existed in his world was completely null in this one. She was no more than a mother to Connor. She didn’t take any of his crap when he came back and she helped him work through all his anger. “Well, you will probably get to meet her tomorrow while everyone is at the Academy. I thought you could help train her like you did with me? Well, not like you did with me because I could always tell when you were enjoying the training sessions a bit TOO much.”

“I remember how you hated the red and white fishing bobber I strung up for you to combat, even put a smiley face on it.” He laughed and shook his head. “You kept saying you wanted a light saber if you were going to fight some floating orb thing.”

“I totally stand by that statement. I felt like Luke Skywalker or something. Only I wasn’t making out with members of my own family.” She reached into her bag now to get her food proper. She was starving. And she was going to need the fuel to watch Gone With The Wind and still have her special alone time later with Angel. He does have that vampire stamina. She leaned more against him, waiting for him to move his arm on the back of the seat so she could really be comfortable.

He moved his arm just like that as she moved over closer. His hand rested on her shoulder and then he leaned over and nuzzled her hair.

She snickered as he nuzzled her hair. It was causing small strands to brush and tickle against her naked shoulders. “Enjoying yourself there?”

“Your hair has always smelled so nice.” he said to her. “I never get tired of it.”

She shifted against the seat of the GTX. She had to admit the fact that he was getting so close to her was getting her excited. Watch the movie, Cordy. She had to keep that in mind. Or else they would end up having a public display in the back of the convertible. It wouldn’t be the first time and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. “Angel…its been over a week. Self-control is not at a high point for me right now. And I want to eat my food and at least watch through when Scarlet gets back to Tara after the fire.”

If everything she has been saying was true then those long nights of…Angel shook his head just a bit as he sat back to face forward and look at the large screen of the drive-in. “Popcorn? Something to drink,” he asked. “Before the movie starts?” He had to do something or else this old car was going to see more action then Sherman’s march to the ocean. He reached for the door handle to open it and get out. “Anything else from the stand?”

“Just can’t get away from me fast enough huh?” She laughed and held up her food and drink from the Chinese place. “I think I am pretty well set. Now, if you want a pack of Junior Mints…I might steal some later.” She reached over, absentmindedly brushing her fingers against his thigh. She was losing her Angel pillow here so that last touch was just a gentle reminder. Considering his memory loss, he probably needed it.

“Junior mints,” he repeated. “Okay. Good idea.” Angel turned and headed for the concession stand. What was wrong with him. He loved her and he was acting like a damn school kid with his first crush. He stood in line playing with the $20 in his hand as he waited his turn. Finally he was at the counter and he looked at the choice in the glass case.

While Angel was gone, she reached over to adjust the radio to the right station for the movie. She missed the little boxes that used to be just outside the car but guess in the long run, this was better. Or maybe not. She had no idea about running a drive in theater. She finished her dinner, putting the trash back in the take away bag and then putting it into the backseat. With nothing to amuse herself now, she looked around. What was taking Angel so damn long? The movie was going to start here and he was going to miss it.

Angel came up beside the car, his arms loaded with all the movie goodness snacks. One of each from the case. He made it just in time for a couple of boxes to fall from his arms. Hot tamales and DOTS. “I hope these last the movie.” he said.

“Did you buy the entire snack bar? Leave some for the other people.” She reached out to help him as the boxes started to fall from his arms. She put them on the passenger’s seat next to herself and then held her hands out for more to move.

When his burden was relieved he got back in. Slipping his arm back on the back of the seat again, he pulled out a tootsie pop bouquet from his shirt and handed it to her. “Happy whatever anniversary it may be.” the vampire said to her.

She laughed as she took it from him. She snuggled back up against him once more. “You are too sweet sometimes.” She grinned from ear to ear though as she twirled the bouquet in her fingers.

“You bring out that embarrassing side of me.” Angel leaned over to her. “Let’s not let the secret out. Don’t think it would strike fear properly.”

“Nice to know I bring out your inner dork. You can scare off demons by declaring you are a level eight wizard.” She was merely teasing him. They always had that back and forth banter and even if his mind was swiss cheese, he didn’t seem to have forgotten that. She leaned up, whispering in his ear. “I know all about the Lord of the Rings dvds you tried to hide in your closet.”

“I wasn’t hiding them!” he protested. “They were just…just not enough room on the shelf for them.”

“And for asked for the Star Wars trilogy for Christmas? And the Indiana Jones box set? You are just a big old manchild. I am surprised you guys haven’t had a lightsaber fight in the lobby yet.”

“Yeah, well, the getting to play with real swords sort of takes the fun from that.” he said with a shrug. The movie starts and opens with a cartoon. Roadrunner. He shifted a bit more in his seat and smiled at seeing the cartoon. He laughed at the coyote’s failed attempts to get his rocket skates to stop.

She always did love it when he laughed. She settled herself against him. And he was claiming not to be a huge dork and here he is, laughing his face off at cartoons. Dork. But that is why she loved him. Maybe she just had a secret thing for dorky guys. Or it could just be that this was a side of him that few outside of their family had ever gotten to see. A special secret that was reserved just for them about Angel.

“I love these. My favorite, though is Marvin the Martian.” he said and did his best to imitate Marvin. “Ooooh, I am sooo furious. I must blow up the Earth because it is obstructing my view of Venus.”

“And you thought I was a bad actress?” She turned her face up to look at him with a raised brow. “Don’t quit your night job. Voice over work, not in your future.” She turned her chin back down so she could look at the screen. “And I know. I am Vision Girl.”

“What? We going to get you some tights and a cape now.” he asked. “Big V on your bre…chest?”

“You would like that too much. Me running around in skin tight lycra superhero costume with a giant letter to draw attention right to my breasts. I barely made it out of the house when I dressed up as Wonder Woman last year!” She reached up and poked him lightly in the chest. “Yeah Mister…I still remember what you said to me. ‘Keep the costume on, Cordy’ in that low growly I-need-you voice you do so well.”

The vampire’s smile faded and he looked down at the box of Milkduds in his hand. He had just put one in his mouth, though not being able to taste it, he just liked the texture. “I wish I could remember it.”

“You will. And if you don’t, then we will just have to relive all our best moments. I don’t mind tying you up with my golden lasso again.” She let her hand drift down to touch his knee. “We can make new memories too. Like right now. Aren’t you having a good time?”

Looking over to her, Angel put on that little half smile. “The best.” he said to her. Leaning to her, he gently kissed her.

She kissed him back but she moved her lips from his right as the movie started. “Now shhh, eat your candy, movie is starting.” She whispered to him, however unnecessary it was. Just one of those drive in or movie theater things. When the movie starts, you get quiet. Its the rule. Despite the length of the movie, it passed quickly as she was snuggled up against Angel. She always got a bit misty eyed when Bonnie dies. She wasn’t a big fan of Melanie though. So perfect and flawless and everyone loves her. Then again, her Angel was quiet aware of her opinions about all the characters.

When Rhett finally told Scarlet, ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn’…he leaned over to her. “Do you know what a scandal it was when this movie came out and he said that?”

She snickered softly. “You always say that to me when we watch this. I always get the story. But go ahead, I know you are dying to tell me again.” Since he probably didn’t remember any of the times that he had told her before.

“Yeah, well,” Angel said, “back in the day cussing just wasn’t done in the movies. This was the movie that was the ground breaker. I went to see it and when Clark said that this little old lady had her a real fit over it.”

“This from the guy who’s people made cursing an artform.” She hadn’t moved her hand from his knee but now that the movie was winding down, she slowly started to inch it higher up his leg from his knee.

“That’s not all we’ve made an artform,” he said as he looked at her, feeling her hand move. His eyes looked down then back up at her face.

“You want to go back to the hotel or maybe up to the Point? Don’t want to go too far out of the city and get stuck in the middle of nowhere at sunrise.”

Leaning over, he started the GTX. “I think our own bed is where I want to be.” He said, looking over at her as the engine comes to life.

“The hotel will be seeing a lot of action tonight.” She laughed. Between her and Angel and Connor and Lillian. Good thing the twins’ rooms were on the other side of the house. And they knew if the door was locked, mom and dad were doing their special training session.

Angel stole a kiss from her as he waited for a break in the traffic to pull out.

She smiled at him when he did that. “So quick and sneaky. No wonder you are what evil fears in the night. I just hope you don’t kiss them like that.”

“I’ve had a couple of them ask me to kiss their asses,” he said, “but I declined and decided on the decapitating instead.”

“I think that was probably the best idea, for all involved. I know better than to tell you to kiss my ass or bite me. You will do it.”

The drive back seemed like it took a century to Angel but finally they were pulling into the parking of the hotel. He parked the car and got out holding the door open for her. “We’ll send the kids for the candy later,” he said as he waited.

She grabbed her trash out of the backseat of the car. “You are watching them after they stuff their faces. Or we can tell Connor there is candy and watch it disappear in two seconds flat.” She slid over on the bench seat and got out. She made her way to the elevator. She would throw the take away trash out at home. Angel would have killed her if she left it in there.

Riding the elevator up, Angel couldn’t resist. He cornered her and kissed her. His hand moved down her hip, around to her ass.

She didn’t seem to mind being cornered like that. She dropped the bag of trash on the floor so she could wrap her arms around his neck. It seemed to her that Angel was wanting this, after this week apart, as much as she was. If not more.

When the door opened, he picked her up, still kissing her. Carrying her through the renovated suite to the bedroom. He lowered her onto the bed when there.

She finally broke the kiss so that she can breathe. She was panting softly. “Angel…lock the door.” Her voice was barely more than a whisper there. But someone had to make sure the kids didn’t walk in on them.

He looked at her and blinked. “Door..” he said in an echo, a blank look on his face…”Oh, door!,” he backed off her and went back to the door to lock it.

She scooted up on the bed after pushing her shoes off her feet. She can put them up later. She watched him as he locked the door, grinning. “You going to put on a little show for me now? Shake that manpire booty?”

Turning, he looked at her. “I could say, manpires don’t dance.” he said as he unbuttoned his shirt, slowly coming back to the bed.

“We are behind closed doors. I think you could dance for me.” She moved so that she could kneel on the bed. She kept her eyes on him, moving from his face down to his fingers as they worked open his shirt.

Pulling that black silk shirt off, he tossed it to a chair. He reached for her to pull her up to stand. He turned her around and his hands pressed her back against him as he started moving against her. His hands moved to rest on her hips, keeping her back against him.

She closed her eyes as he started to move against her back. She moved easily with him. The contact was electric for her, sending sparks down her spine and right to her very core. Sometimes something so small like a touch or a look, could excite her more than anything else in the world.

Angel took in the scent of her perfume. Closing his eyes, he imagined what this night was going to be like. How wonderful to be with her. He lowered his head to kiss her shoulder at the juncture of her neck. He let out a low, rumbling growl.

She smiled as she heard that growl or rather, felt it against her skin. “I love it when you get all growly.” She slowly rolled her hips back, her ass grinding against his groin. It was only fair to give him a taste of his own medicine after what he was doing to her.

“Remind me roar in a bit.” he said, knowing she knew what he meant. His right hand came up to her breast and his long fingers started teasing her nipple through the fabric.

Over the clothes groping, Cordelia felt like she was back in high school. For about thirty seconds until she felt those skilled fingers. They were hardly the bumbling fingers of some barely out of puberty youth. These hands belonged to her husband, a man with a wealth of experience through the ages. And someone she loved, which made the experience so much more pleasurable.

His hands moved over her as if it was the first time to touch her like this. For him though, it was. His left hand moved from her hip to her top to work it off. He peeled the shirt from her, tossing it away.

She hadn’t bothered to wear a bra this evening. The cami was tight enough that it would have just shown through. She kept her eyes closed as she felt him pull it over her head. She only moved body away from his long enough for him to get her top off before she laid back against him. Her hot skin against his cool chest, skin pressing to skin now.

Angel turned her around to face him and he lowered to kiss her and he unzipped her skirt. Her warmth where she touched him caused his skin to tingle.

Cordelia tilted her chin when she felt his lips touch hers so she could make the kiss easier between them. Her heart skipped a beat as he started to unzip her skirt. Her hands rested on his chest for only a few brief seconds before sliding down to the waistband of his pants.

Breaking the kiss, he raised his head to look down at her. His right hand came up to caress her face, his thumb brushed her lips.

Her eyes opened as he pulled away from the kiss. She looked into his eyes. “I think we both still have too many clothes on.” She said with a grin as she pushed her skirt over her hips, letting it fall to her feet. Clad now in just a black lace thong, her hands started to make short work of his pants. She refrained from pulling them down until he got his shoes off.

Pulling a leg up, he unzipped his half boot on one foot then the other and pulled them off. He put a finger in the strap of her thong. He twisted it until the thin strapped snapped.

She jumps back a little as it snaps back against her skin. She rubbed her hip, smiling at him. “That hurt, you nut. I don’t go around snapping your panties.”

He reached to pull her back to him and then snapped the other strap as he did with the first. He pulled the thong from her easily since the straps were broken. “Seems like I’m over dressed.”

“I really liked that pair of panties, Angel. You could have just asked me to take them off.” She frowned as she looked at him. He should know better than to go tearing her nice clothes. He didn’t like it when demons tore up his shirts. She didn’t like it when her demon husband tore up her panties.

“I’ll buy you five pairs tomorrow.” he said, letting the thong drop from his hand.

“I am holding you to that.” The look in her eyes was clear that she meant that. She moved back to him so that she could help him out of his pants and boxers. She was going deliberately slow, like she was unwrapping some present and wanted to spare the wrapping paper. She was mostly doing it out of revenge for her panties.

When she got them down, finally, he stepped out of them and then laid her back on the bed. He swallowed, feeling her body under his. It felt good and also…facing a boaritz demon didn’t make him feel this nervous.

She ran her hands along his body, starting at his arms and then up over his biceps to his shoulder and then his back. “Baby, what is wrong? You are so tense.” The muscles along his back felt like stone. She leaned up to kiss his lips softly. “Lay down on your stomach. I’ll give you a massage.”

Nodding, he moved up to the head of the bed. He so wanted her but he was so afraid of several things now.

She waited for Angel to lay on his stomach before she straddled the small of his back. She started low, fingers working into the tense knots at the base of his spine. “Are you worried about that group that keeps attacking the school?” Usually, cases like this, if they talked it out and he got a massage, he was in good enough spirits to perform.

Angel frowned and was quiet for a long moment. “What group is that?” he asked. But her massaging was taking the frown right off his features.

“We don’t know. You went out to track down a lead last week.” She started to slowly move her fingers along either side of his spine, massaging in small circles. “They killed a girl who was on her way here from Reno. Left a calling card. No symbol we had ever seen.”

“Where is this picture?” he asked her. “Maybe I’ll remember something from it.”

“In Wes’ office…” She sighed because she knew what this meant. He was going to get his robe on and go downstairs. She swung her leg over his back, getting off him so he could get up.

Rolling over, he looked at her. He reached up to touch her face. “I thought…but I can’t…” he pulled her down to him. He wasn’t going to go, it could wait until morning.

: “You thought what? You can’t what?” She was confused but she didn’t resist as he pulled her down. She wanted to be held by him. Well, she wanted a lot more than holding but if he was in that mood, she could always take care of herself later.

“Just lay here with me for a little. I want to feel your warmth against me.”

Damnit. The least he could have done was get her off. She knew that could sense that need in her. She was trying to give him some slack, what with the memory loss and everything. And the fact that he was understanding last night. She finally barely sighed. “Okay…” But it was with a resigned tone as she moved closer against him.

He rolled on his side. He knew. His hand moved down from her shoulder then over her breast. He leaned down and kissed her nipples. Maybe the evening could be saved if he tried.

“Angel…” She said softly. “If you have too much on your mind, its okay. We can just lay here like we did the other night.” Her body wasn’t reflecting what her mouth was saying though. She shivered as she felt the coolness of his lips against her nipples.

He reached up and put a finger to her lips. He took her whole nipple in his mouth. He sucked and pulled up, letting it slowly pull from his mouth.

She kissed his finger softly. Who was she to protest when he was making her feel so good? Then again, his sexual appetite…some nights not even wild demons could drag him away.

Angel worked over her breast. Nipple in his mouth, he flicked it with his tongue and then sucked. He tasted her and it was like honey. He felt the nipple harden in his mouth then he turned his attention to the twin.

She gasped as the air rushed over the harden bud once he took his mouth away. The combination of the wetness and the air was too much for her to keep quiet. She reached for his hand to cover her breast, protect it from the air. And to force him to give both of her breasts attention at the same time.

He was going to move his attentions elsewhere after teasing her at her breasts. “I just want to please you, Cordelia.”

She raised a brow when he said that, tilting her chin down to look at him. Maybe he just couldn’t remember what she liked. She gave him a small smile. “You are doing pretty damn good so far, Champ. I’ll tell you if you do something I don’t like.” How could she not? She wasn’t going to let him get away with doing something if it didn’t feel good. Then he just might do it again if she faked it.

Angel kissed her before he slipped down her body. Each kiss against her skin was followed by a nip. He pushed her legs apart and rubbed the inside of her thigh.

Those just barely there nips caused her to snicker. Just this side of tickling is what it felt like. She wasn’t sure which way Angel was going with his foreplay tonight. She wasn’t complaining either way. Never. She slowly pulled her legs up, knees bent down as he rubbed her thigh.

Looking at the prize, he then lowered. His tongue licked her sex, slowly, teasing her every bit.

The same sounding gasp she had let out moments earlier once more escaped from her lips. She was expecting it but at the same time, it always felt so wonderfully new and exciting.

Licking her again, he tasted that sweetness. He took her lips in his mouth then his tongue sunk into her. He pulled it in and out of her, running it on different areas each time. Again, a growl came from him as his demon came to surface.
Her back barely arched up, lifting her slightly off the bed as his mouth worked against her sex. It had been so long for them. A week was long for them! And he was exploring her with the fervor of their first time together. A little longer with these kind of attentions and she would be begging him to make love to her.

Angel pushed his demon back. He wanted to please her as a man, not an infernal creature. He delved his tongue in her again, tasting her honey. He could push that demon back physically but it was still there and it still heightened his own senses. He could tell her body temperature had risen slightly as her heart rate increased. He could smell the small secretions of perspiration. Most of all he could taste that first little bit of reward coming from deep within her. He brought a finger up and started stroking at her asshole as he continued to eat at her sex. His long finger played at the entry then he slipped it in.

Cordelia had never been a woman to hold back and especially behind these closed doors with Angel, she held to that personal rule. Her hips rose up as she pushed against his cool tongue. The sensation of his room temperature lips and tongue against her red hot heat was as amazing now as it was the first time she experienced it. And the fact that he didn’t have to breathe was not lost on her. It was most appreciated in situations like this. She felt his finger teasing her at first, a smile coming to her lips at the slight tickle but it was quickly replaced to a wide O as sunk the digit into her.

Now she can see why it was the Furies so moaned his name when they said it. He thrust his finger in and out of her. He kept his tongue working her heat. Her pleasure was rewarding him.

Her hands twined in the sheets of the bed, gathering them up in her fists. And here, in this moment, she surrendered. She whispered his name as her body clenched in climax.

Angel kept on when his mouth was given that honey from deep within her. His free hand moving up her side, groping as he heard her call to him. He felt her G-spot on the tip of his tongue…her muscles contracting.

Her toes curled down, digging into the bed like her fingers already were. “Angel..” Her voice was barely there. She had to force herself to make noise. Her body was straining, her muscles wound tight now as her body alternated shaking and contracting. “S-s-stop…” She managed to get out in a panted whisper.

Stopping, he raised his gaze up to look at her. The taste in his mouth still fresh..and the scent from her was intoxicating.

Her eyes were open and she was looking up at the ceiling but she sure as hell wasn’t seeing anything but stars. Blissed out, completely sated and satisfied stars. Oh, she was glowing alright. Not just from that bit of demon in her either. She was panting as she tried to drift down from that incredible high.

Angel moved on up to her. His arms around her now. He kissed her lips, crushing her warm, glowing body against his cool one.

At first, that kiss didn’t register since she was still riding that afterglow but only seconds later, she was kissing him back. She took the reins to deepen the kiss. She had her fun and now it was Angel’s turn. She brought her leg up to curl around his, trying to move even closer to him if that was possible.

He rolled over, pulling her on top of him. His hands moved down to her ass and he groped her, feeling her firm ass.

He must have been reading her mind when he did that. He already worked so hard. Hard being the key word. She broke the kiss between them so she could breath but it only took a few seconds before she was kissing his chin and then moving to his neck.

He tilted his head back, eyes closed. He swallowed hard. Her hot body covering his felt so good. Every place she was in contact with him felt like fire. An erotic fire that burned but didn’t consume.

She knew exactly what he liked and she bit into his neck. This wasn’t a nip at all but it wasn’t enough for her to draw any blood from him. She just wanted to make sure that he felt her teeth against his skin. She enjoyed driving him wild before she finally gave him release.

Angel gasped involuntarily when she bit him. His back arched up against hers and his hand grasped her ass tighter. Yes, vampires and the neck thing, Cordy seemed to know all about it.

She pulled her teeth from his neck. But she didn’t stop the contact. She kissed his earlobe and then the shell of his ear. Her voice was a low, husky whisper to him. “I need you inside me.” It was more of a warning to him than anything else.

“I want that too.” Angel barely managed to say. “I want to fill you.”

She sat up now so that could look down at him. More so that she could put her legs on either side of him and get herself ready for what was to come. She moved her hands torturously slow along his chest, her fingernails barely scratching at the surface of his skin.

He opened his eyes to watch her. That perfect body and beauty. Reaching up, he touched first her stomach then moved his hand up to brush over her breast.

Her hand curled around his member when her hands finally made their way to it. She stroked him gently though he really didn’t need it. She wondered sometimes if he was born with an erection. He always seemed ready to go. She sat up on her knees just enough so she could guide him inside her.

Irish boys are mostly born with hard-ons team that with being a vampire, well, things do tend to come up. The pleasure was close to being painful. He closed his eyes and his hips pushed up to meet her. He came up on his elbows a bit.

She settled into his lap once she had used her hand and body to slid him fully inside of her. She didn’t move just yet. There was always those few seconds she needed as a period of adjustment. Very slowly, her body began to move. At first, it was just a slow rocking back and forth, still adjusting and deciding on her pace for this evening.

Then the memories flooded him. What happened with Buffy….and as happy as he had been then now…this was bliss. This was..Suddenly, her rolled her on her back and just laid there, but looking not at her.

She wasn’t sure if he was trying something new out or what exactly was going on. She had suddenly gone from being in control to being under him with him not moving. “Angel…baby…is something wrong?” She gently touched his back with her fingers. She thought maybe he was still weak from his attack. Or maybe he was…oh god, did they make Viagra for vampires?!

He moved off her finally. “I’m sorry.” he said quietly.

She had to steal a quick peek. No, he was still hard as steel. So what was the problem? She looked back up at his face and reached for him to keep him from moving further away. “What’s wrong?”

Shaking his head, still not looking at her, his eyes diverted at the bed. “I…I don’t know.” Angel said.

“Don’t pull away…” Her voice took on more of a commanding tone than she had wanted it to. She tried to reach for him once more. “You have a lot on your mind, I understand that.”

“I need you and I want you.” he said as he looked at her. “God knows how I do. I think I’m just…really tired after what has happened.”

She gave him a small smile. “Then just lay back and let me do all the work. I promise afterwards, you are going to feel so much better.” She sat up now. She wouldn’t force him but she wasn’t going to just accept his no and roll over.

He reached up for her face. “Just a couple hours when we’re both recharged.”

“You can stay up for a couple more hours, creature of the night…I can’t.” She leaned down to get closer to him. “I think I know how to recharge you.” She kissed him. She made sure that it was soft at first. She was testing the waters. He was going to turn her into a rapist at this rate.

She was making this near impossible. Angel returned that kiss, slipping his arms around her. Yes, he wanted her. Wanted her more then anything he could ever think of.

She broke the kiss so that she could breathe now. She looked at him. “Please don’t deny me. I need this, Angel.” And she did. A week of worrying that he was dead and now he was back. She needed this physical intimacy. She needed the release from all that worry she pent up for so long.

He moved her to lay on top of her. He worked himself between her legs then into her, watching her face as he did.

As she felt him enter her, again, she took in a breath. Enough to fill her lungs and cause her body to rise up just a bit to touch his even more. She let her eyes meet his now, watching his expression as well.

He moved inside of her, his thrusts slow and easy at first. He kept himself up on one arm watching her.

She brought one leg up and wrapped it around his leg. She matched his pace with her hips to push back against him with each one of those slow and deliberate thrusts. Her hands reached for his face to pull him in close for a kiss.

Angel lowered and kissed her. His hand moved over to her breast and he worked it with his long fingers, feeling its firmness and the hard nipple. He still had his fears, making it hard to focus on the moment, no matter how much he wanted to.

He seemed to want things to go very nice and easy this evening, which was fine with Cordelia. She just wanted to be with him. It didn’t matter the how as long as it happened. She gently pushed her tongue into his mouth to mirror his thrusts.

His movements quickened. His kiss broke to move down her jaw to her neck. His muscles were tense as he tried to keep control of his release.

She rose up from the bed to meet his now quick and short thrusts. She moaned as his lips slid away from hers and moved to that mark against her skin. She was too lost in the moment to notice how tense he was, how he seemed to be holding back.

Angel finally started moving harder. His cock was throbbing with release as his gut tightened. His face strained with pleasure.

She held onto his biceps as he moved harder, pushing down and back against the bed. Her chin tilted back, her neck arched and waiting, as she felt herself reaching that wonderful peak of climax.

He released into her. The heat of her and her tightening on him caused a gasping moan to escape from him. He trembled as with each thrust he released into her.

While she might have thought it odd that he didn’t let his demon to come out to play, right now, her mind wasn’t working on those big concept ideas. Despite the hard and quick movements, this entire night had been gentle so it was no wonder that her own climax was as well. It was hardly the seeing stars kind but it was very pleasurable to say the least. She calmed down, riding out the high of afterglow as Angel finished.

Angel wasn’t trusting letting his demon out with his doubts. He was finally spent and he lowered down on her and kissed her. Then moving off her he rolled on is back and closed his eyes, swallowing as if waiting for something.

Now that, that was sudden. Usually there was a period of holding, of waiting. She sat up slowly. She watched him with his closed eyes, frowning deeply. Something was wrong. She just kept her eyes on him until he noticed she was winning this staring contest.

Opening his eyes, he looked over at her. “I’m still…I’m..me.” he said and blinked.

She snorted now. “That’s really debatable.” She got up off the bed so that she could get her robe. Unlike some people, she could feel the cool air in the bedroom.

Angel reached for her arm and pulled her back. “I mean that, my soul.” he looked at her. “I was waiting for the hard pain but it never happened.”

“I told you…Wes took care of the curse.” It was hard for her to get pissed off at someone who had memory loss, who couldn’t remember his friends, his family, his wife. She could, however, be annoyed that Wes hadn’t called her back or come back to the hotel.

“I was afraid at an minute it would happen and then I’d kill you and the kids,” he said giving her that look. Yes, the puppy look. The one he used on her all the time when she was pissed at him after the firing incident a couple years ago.

She sighed at him. She took his face in her hands. “What do I have to do, Angel? Just tell me what you is going to make you realize that this is your life, this is where you belong? There is no more curse. That should have proved it to you, even if it was really less than our usual perfect bliss.”

“Cordy,” he said, “when I lose my soul, I know nothing of what Angelus is doing, though he knows everything I’m doing. When I’m back then it hits me hard, like a ton of bricks what he’s done…Memories I have to live with and if those memories included hurting you and our family…” His voice trailed off as he reached up and touched her face. “But I think I’m good now.”

“That is the thing. You don’t have to worry about him. You haven’t had to worry about him for years. Why can’t…why can’t you just trust in me?” She shook her head and pulled away from his touch. She got up from the bed so that she could finally get her robe.

“Cordy, its because, I guess I can’t remember this spell. But what I do remember is Angelus.” He stood also.

Cordelia tugged her robe on. She was hurt but she was hiding it well. “Good to know you can trust your faulty memory to the flesh and blood wife in front of you that is telling you what is what.” Her poor robe was taking the brunt of her hurt and anger as she near violently tied the sash.

“I made love to you, didn’t I? ” he asked. “I trusted you that it was okay.”

“I think you would have been more passionate and in the moment if you were humping the couch. I could tell you weren’t with me. You were just going through the motions because I know the one thing that scares you more than any demon or vampire…and that is making me mad.”

Angel nodded and he moved to her. He took her face in both his hands. “Yes, you scare me more then any demon I can face. In my swiss cheese mind, I lost you…To me that was so real and when I saw you here and when I look at you now that feeling of losing you again drives through me like a stake. I couldn’t live through that again.”

She touched the hands at her face with her own. She looked up at him. “You aren’t going to lose me. I promised you that I was going to be by your side until the Powers decided to finally make you a real boy. And I will be there afterwards.” She gave him a small smile. “Someone has to be around to change your diapers when you are an old man.”

“And to tell you how hot you still are with silver hair and support hose.” he said with a chuckle.

“I am hoping this demon thing pays off and I stay young and beautiful forever. I can heal my own wounds, why not my wrinkles.” She touched his chest softly. “All your shuffleboard buddies are going to be jealous you have such a hot wife. Be like Grandpa Munster or Hef.”

“I don’t know what will be worse. Growing old with wrinkles or living long enough to get a bat nose like The Master.”

“I’ll love you either way but my vote is for wrinkles.” She got up on her toes so she could kiss that nose he was just talking about. “I am going to relax in the tub and then check on the kids. I assume you are going out to kill things? Take Connor. I don’t want you out alone again.”

“Connor might be busy.” Angel said with a wince.

“What is the wince for?” She raised a brow as she caught the expression. Her first worry was that his back was hurting him again.

Angel just gave her a look.

: Whatever he was trying to tell her, it was completely lost on her. She looked confused and it was not a look that she particularly cared for. “What? What’s wrong?”

“You said he moved his girl in here tonight,” Angel said.

“And?” It didn’t even enter into her mind that Connor and Lillian might be in Connor’s “apartment” having sex. Parents don’t want to think about their kids having sex. She got Angel his robe, handing it to him.

He took it and put it on. “I’m guessing Connor is healthy with a normal if not above average libido.”

She frowned when he said that. “He better be using protection. And let’s not talk about our son’s sex life. Bad enough when I caught them making out in his car.” She paused for a moment. Angel’s been home for a while, he was probably itching for a fight. “If I give you the map to get to the nest in Altadena, do you promise me you will not go missing for another week? That you will stick to Gunn and Faith like glue?”

“Yes, dear, and I’ll be home before sun up. I won’t stop off at the locale pub for a pint with the boys.” Angel tried desperately to keep a straight face.

“Don’t. Its not funny.” She really does look truly upset now. “I was so worried…I thought you were dead. I just felt empty inside. You can’t scare me like that again.”

Pulling her into his arms, he leaned down and kissed her. Finally, he released her. “You can’t be rid of me that easy.” he said. “You’re aren’t that lucky.”

The kiss at least kept her from breaking down like she had so many nights when he was missing. She pulled herself out of his arms, though reluctantly. “Hurry up and get your shower or all the good vampires will be dust by the time you get there.”

Angel smiled at her then headed for the bathroom to get ready to head out for his play time.
Chapter Nine

Angel was behind the wheel of the GTX, or what everyone else jokingly referred to as The Angelmobile. Tonight had been good. Everything good happened and no grrr. He had been nervous and it was hard to relax because he just had no idea if he was going to lose his humanity or not. But it seems that Cordelia was right. He could be happy now. He could love and feel loved. After this nest was taken care of, he was going back home to show his wife just how much he did love her.

The rest of the team was already assembled just outside the nest in Altadena. Faith flanked the left side with a group of slayers-in-training while Gunn had taken the left side with his own group. The nest wasn’t a house. It was an industrial warehouse with a large underground floor to hide the vampires during the day. It didn’t matter if they went night or day because either way, the vampires would have a place to hide. Gunn was about to gesture with his chin when he heard the noise. They had been smart enough to park a half mile away and hoof it in. He looked over at Faith, who was clearly agitated.

Cutting the engine and lights, Angel let the Plymouth roll on in. Another nice thing about the older cars. Try doing that with one of the new models. Finally, he stopped it then got out. Cordelia had given him perfect directions.

Faith hadn’t seen Angel since he disappeared last week on the hunt for the demons that were attacking the Slayer Academy. She gave Angel a grin. Never hurt to have another body in the fight. Especially when that body was a well trained vampire. She motioned for Angel to come over to her, much to Gunn’s chagrin. She just blew the big, beautiful, bald, black man a kiss before she grinned.

The vampire moved to her, carrying that infamous broad sword of his. Never leave home without it. He glanced at the building then to Faith. “They’re in there,” he spoke quietly. “I’m sensing them.”

Faith nodded her head. “Yeah, close to fifty. You ready to jump back into battle or you think you need to go home and have a bubble bath?” She flashed Angel a smile that could be seen even in the dim lighting outside the warehouse.

Gunn had shifted position as he saw Angel move to Faith’s flank. He was getting itchy for this and so were the girls. Angel could small talk later. He moved his hand over his head as he and the girls started moving towards the warehouse.

Angel caught Gunn’s movement. “We better get busy before he gets hurt.” With that, Angel moved a bit further down where he saw a fire escape but was drawn up. He leaped up and got the bottom rung. He climbed and as he did the lower half of the ladder lowered down.

Faith motioned for her group of girls to follow her. They already had worked out a plan at the school. Gunn’s group would take on the front, full tilt. Her group would sneak in from the side entrance and come up behind the vampires. She was in charge of the sneak attack. She got to the side door and waited for one of the girls. Willow’s big bang spell had activated all kinds of Slayers. From Homecoming Queens to street rats. And “Lucky” was one of those street rats.

The large Samoan Slayer, “Lucky”, moved out from the group. She crouched down in front of the door. She worked quickly as she picked the lock on the side door. She heard Gunn kick the front door open and give some line about “daddy being home or something”. It took all her willpower not to roll her eyes. She had to pick this lock so they could get inside. A turn here, a turn there of her tools and the mechanism clicked. She got up and reached to pull the door open quietly.

Inside, the vampires watched their leader up on the crate as he spoke. “Our town, my friends. It is our town and our right to claim what is ours!'” The vampires all nodded and mumbled to each other in agreement. “Yeah,” one yelled. “We’re tired of this shit and not gonna take it any more!”

That would be why the sound of the door coming down and Gunn coming charging in didn’t register. Gunn cursed to himself as his great line was completely destroyed by the Vampire Hitler up there on the stake of crates. He watched the girls fan out. He moved fast, coming up on the side of one of the vampires. He chopped his head clean off, sending dust flying through the air. Distraction, it seemed, was going to pay off after all. Gunn went for another, elbowing her in the gut, then bringing his elbow up under her chin before he staked her. The Slayers in his team seemed to be doing well on their own, each fighting at least one, if not more, vampires.

“So much for the plan.” Faith muttered to herself. She watched as the vampires scattered out in all directions. She got inside and went for the first one she could find. This on sight training was great for the girls. And this was a huge gathering. She just had her trusty stake. That was all she needed even though she knew Gunn was partial to his axe. She grinned at one of the vampires as he tried to get away. She grabbed him by the collar. “What? Leaving so soon?”

The vampire turned and brought a fist up to connect with Faith’s face. He was happy as he watched the Slayer’s head snap back. Faith righted her head and looked at him with a feral grin. “Don’t you know the rules? No physical violence until the THIRD date!” She staked the vampire quickly, spinning around to catch another unawares.

The leader looked at the intruders, his yellow eyes wide. He leaped up for the rafters. He had no loyalties here. Actually, none of the vampires had. They just were tired of being staked every night and the number of slayers now was totally unfair.

Angel came to stand before the fleeing leader. “So, your team is losing and you are leaving the game early to beat traffic?”

The vamp knew who this was but it couldn’t be. He had heard…”You’re dead!”

“You know, seems like a guy like you would know that already,” Angel replied and then brought the hilt of the sword up to catch the other vampire under his chin, which sent him down to the floor level again.

Gunn briefly glanced up to see the fight going on between Angel and Vampire Hitler. He barely had time to register it before he felt a blow to the back of the head. One of the smarter (and that term was used loosely) vampires had grabbed a board to smash Gunn upside the head. He stumbled and then turned around. Forgoing the line, he just laid into the vampire with his axe until he was just dust in the wind.

Angel followed the vampire down, his duster bellowed out almost like wings as he dropped. The vampire came up with a sharp piece of wood and tried for Angel’s heart. The Champion blocked it with his sword and in the process took off the other’s lower arm. Vampire Hitler screamed and as he did, the scream was cut off when his head went flying, thanks to that large broad sword.

Faith was keeping an eye on the girls. Some of them were taking in some serious blows but no one was dead yet. That was a plus from the last time they went out. They had lost Celia. She was a good kid and it was hell having to tell her parents. She staked two more vampires in rapid succession. There were way more than fifty vampires gathered here, that was for sure. She was going to have to go down and rough Nickels up. He gave them all wrong information.

Angel had engaged another vampire and he brought up a round house kick to him as a female rushed in on him. His left arm came up and just as the female was just inside arms length, he ran the stake in her. His attentions back to the other vamp now and again taking off another head and dust followed.

Gunn wanted to make sure that Faith was doing okay. He looked at her and she was holding her own against a circle of vampires. He checked on Angel. He just dusted another. Gunn gave him a nod of his head. However, as if it was deja vu, that nod of his head was enough of a distraction for a vampire to bring a crate up and break it over the man’s head. Gunn went crashing to the ground under the weight of the crate.

Angel saw the crates fall on his friend. “GUNN,” he yelled and then made his way over. With his free hand, he started tossing crates off him.

Gunn was dazed but other than that. He was fine. He was on his hands as knees, turning to face Angel. “Get that vamp, will ya?” It was more of a request than a demand. Faith was already sprinting over. She offered a hand to Gunn to help him to his feet.

Angel turned and his demon came to surface. The idea of losing Gunn again wasn’t an option. Even if now he was convinced that was a false memory. He sprang after that vamp and grabbed him by the hair of the back of his head. He yanked him back hard. A human would have snapped a human’s neck from the force.

Faith helped Gunn get to his feet. Her gaze went quickly to Angel and then back to Gunn. “Looks like he is letting out his inner rage.” Faith motioned with her chin towards a group of remaining vamps. “I don’t want the girls to have all the fun. You going to be okay, sexual chocolate?”

Gunn nodded his head and chuckled at Faith. She could turn a phrase sometimes. He moved off to the side, only looking at Angel briefly before leaning against a wall. He was still feeling a little dizzy but he would be okay. Faith and the girls could finish off the last of the vamps and then they would be done here.

Angel took down the last vamp finally but one of the slayers was just a bit excited. Just seeing the vamp face, she brought a stake at him. He managed to grab her arm in time.

The Slayer looked up at him. It was Sondra, one of the former members of Gunn’s gang. Who knew that she was going to get activated when she was just a street kid fighting vamps to survive. “Sorry, all started lookin alike.” She lowered her arm, pulling it slowly from Angel’s grasp.

Angel nodded. He only hoped she meant that because he remembered how Gunn’s gang felt about him and those feelings weren’t the warm fuzzies.

Sondra rushed off to join the group of the girls that was now passing around celebratory high fives. They cleaned out the nest and most of them got out of it with a few bumps and bruises. No one was seriously hurt. All and all, a good night. Gunn leaned against the wall as he still recovered from the crate smashing on him. He gave Angel a smile. “Kind of takes the fun away, having all the girls here.” Gunn said it and had only meant that there were less vamps for each of them to dust.

Angel made his demon recede and now his features were human again. Looking at Gunn, he nodded. “There was a time you and I handled a nest like this ourselves.”

“Have to train them somehow. Most of them will be shipped off in a year anyway. Watcher’s Council wants them as fast as we can get them. Every town has got demons.” He pushed off from the wall. He moved over to Angel and gave him a slap on the back. “We are a dying breed, my man. Least you settled, got the family thing going on. Me, Faith, and Gwen…who knows. Keep training Slayers until we are in Depends.”

“Only thing wrong with your statement there,” the vampire leaned over to whisper to Gunn. He pointed at his own chest. “Dead guy already.” He chuckled and started for the door. “I’m going home to let a certain somebody know I’m okay.”

“What, you don’t want to go out to breakfast with me and the girls? We can tell them to make the steak for your steak and eggs bloody rare.” It was worth a shot. Gunn had a feeling that Angel could offer to cook them breakfast instead. Lot easier for him to be at ease when he was in familiar settings. And the windows at the local Waffle House weren’t exactly the most shaded.

Stopping, he turned to Gunn. “Like old times, huh?” Angel paused then nodded. “Why not, with that big kitchen.”

“Uh, well we usually like to hit the Waffle House. Only come over on Sundays for family breakfast. Ain’t Sunday yet.” He grinned at Angel. He knew it. “Go home. Cordy will kill me if we keep you out too long after the week she had.”

“Sunday,” Angel frowned a minute. He then nodded. “Yeah, sure, I forgot. Sunday. I’ll just go ahead and go home and…well, go home.”

“No prob. Your mind has been nothing but full of holes. Get to work on that. You are forgetting the best stuff. Like how I kicked your ass at Mario Kart.” Gunn chuckled and then jogged off to meet back up with Faith and the rest of the girls.
Angel came in from the garden entry after leaving Altadena just before sunrise. He carried his sword to the weapons cabinet. Opening it, he reached in and got out the polish and the rag. He always liked to clean his weapons after a kill. He had respect for them and in turn, he felt they would have the same back. He sat down in the lobby to start to work on the sword and axe.

Lillian had been rooting around in the hotel kitchen while Angel was busying himself with his weapons. While she loved Connor, she didn’t love the lumpy milk that was in his fridge. She always had trouble sleeping in a new place the first few nights so she had hoped a glass of milk would settle her down. Then she could get a few hours of sleep. She just about had a heart attack as she came out of the kitchen in her pajamas to see Angel sitting in the lobby. In her startled state, her milk shook and threatened to spill out of her glass all over the tile floor. And she couldn’t help the little surprised noise that escaped out of her. It wasn’t that she was surprised it was Angel, she was surprised someone was in the lobby just before dawn.

Angel had heard her in the kitchen but cleaning the weapon came first. He didn’t look up. “You must be Lillian.” he said as he cleaned the polish off the sword, preparing for another coat.

She was having a little trouble finding her voice. She wasn’t scared. She was just half asleep when she came down for the milk and she was startled. Even slayers can get caught off guard. Of course, that is when they end up dead. “Connor told me that your memory isn’t what it used to be. That you probably wouldn’t remember me.”

Angel cleaned that second coat off and then stood to put the sword, rag, and polish away. He closed the cabinet and turned to her. “Yeah, I know.” he said. “Cordy told me we met before. She also told me that you’ve moved in with Connor.”

“Just yesterday afternoon. Haven’t been here very long.” She laughed softly as she rubbed her eye. While she looked over 18, the Supergirl pajamas she were sporting might have fooled someone. Something about a grown woman wearing a shirt with the Supergirl logo and cotton pants that were covered in them tended to point to a younger age.

He nodded, not really knowing what to say to the girl. That long quiet thing passed between them. Finally, he spoke. “So, you’re dropping out of the school then?”

She laughed just a little bit. “Kind of had too. Unless we wanted a scandal. Dean of school shacking up with slayer student. Not exactly the kind of press a young couple needs. We aren’t Brad and Angelina.”

“If you and Connor are happy,” Angel said, “then I guess one can’t argue. That’s what I want for my son is happiness.”

“I am not going to presume to speak for Connor. ” Though by what they did after they put the twins to bed led her to believe he was really, really happy. At least now. She took a sip from her milk and then lowered the glass. “I know you don’t remember me so I am fully prepared for the ‘girl who stealing my son’ interview portion of this morning. Just to refresh your memory.”

He leaned on the front desk and looked at her. “I really don’t think I need to get into that.” Angel replied softly. “Everyone knows how I feel about my family. And my family just isn’t my kids and wife but also the others. Family is more then blood.”

“Huh…Cordelia took a WHOLE other attitude after she caught us. We got sat down and she really grilled the hell out of me. That is one tough chicka, I will give you that. Then again, totally understandable after what Connor’s been through. She’s just being a mom. And you, well you already knew me from the school. Not so much of a surprise cause you knew me from classes and all.”

“Cordy is very protective,” he said with a nod. “She can get into mama bear mode in zero seconds.” A little chuckle escaped him there. “I remember when Connor was first born I wouldn’t let any of them touch him and Cordy finally chewed me out about it. Said I was too protective.”

“Looks like the two of you changed places then. She’s probably got a background check around here someplace in addition to all my school paperwork.” She leaned forward, seeming as if she was about to share a big secret here. “I am up to date on all my immunizations.”

“Ah…,” he paused a moment, “Okay that was a joke, right?” He wanted to make sure. He didn’t know this girl or her sense of humor.

She smiled at him. “Yes, that was a joke. I mean, I have all my shots but I was trying for a joke but I am starting to think it might be just a tad bit too early for me and late for you for my high comedy.”

“I do like comedy, though.” he tried reassuring her. “The Three Stooges, I mean they crack me up all the time.” He said with a grin. “And George and Gracie..,” Angel paused looking at her. “Sorry, that was just a little before your time, wasn’t it?”

“My grandmother likes them. I do know who you are talking about. Wasn’t raised in a bubble. Though, not such a bad idea. The bubble thing. Kind of like a defensive shield. Tough enough plastic, no vampire is getting through. Demon with big claws…yeouch. Rethinking the bubble thing now.”

“Might be a good idea.” he agreed. “Bubbles can be scary.”

“And bubbles, not that easy to fight in. Sure, you can roll your opponent down but what do you do after that?” Her thoughts were always all over the place. It was a wonder that Connor didn’t need a road map to follow them. She always had a slight case of nerves around Angel. Him being a vampire, her being a Slayer. It was only natural that she would slip into super-talkative mode. And these were the kinds of things she thought she should be thinking about. New means of defense and offense.”How about a suit…made of fire? Not exactly livable but definitely better for the killing things.”

“Hmmm, not a good look for a vampire.” Angel said.

“No. But you are the enemy. Not you exactly, because of the soul and all but vampires in general. Thinking outside the box with the slaying. Like maybe make a special gun with wooden bullets for long range kills. Then again, have a crossbow for that but today’s former gang member slayers really want the comfortable familiarity of a gun.”

“I think you and Fred are going to get along.” Angel nodded at the girl with her mile a minute speech and tangents. “But now if you’ll excuse me, as you pointed out it is late for me. And although its myth we are catatonic in the daytime, we do feel the need for rest like most creatures when we’ve expended mass amounts of energy.”

His mind really WAS fried if he couldn’t remember that Fred taught at the school too. Someone had to teach these girls science. Especially the girls who were barely in high school. “Have a good night or morning or just…yeah. I will be seeing you around, no doubt.” Again, not that she didn’t already at the school. But he didn’t remember that.

Angel headed on up the stairs from habit, rarely did he use the elevators. Shower and bed, maybe a warm meal. Then falling asleep with Cordelia in his arms. He wished he could have remembered this girl if she was this important to Connor. On his floor, he entered what was now home and headed right for the bathroom and a hot shower.

Lillian watched Angel climb up those stairs. So sad. Hopefully one of the mental giants like Wesley or Fred could figure out what was wrong with him. Then again, might be better if he doesn’t remember certain parts. Connor and Angel’s relationship was tense on a good day, she knew that. Anyone could see it. She made sure to wash her glass out and put it in the drying rack once she was done with her milk. She didn’t want to wake the rest of the hotel so running the risk of using the elevator was out. She climbed up the stairs to the fourth floor and slipped back into Connor’s apartment, which was really just three suites renovated into one. She tired to be quiet as a church mouse as she slipped back into bed with him.

When Lillian came back to bed, he rolled over and his arm went around her, a movement that was new but seemed natural. His hand came up to her breast to hold her there. “I missed you.” he said in a hoarse whisper.

She smiled as she felt Connor’s arm around her. She turned her head so that she could look at him over her shoulder. “I wasn’t gone that long. Like fifteen minutes. Your milk was lumpy and it smelled like a men’s locker room.”

“Sorry,” he said, “I don’t eat up here much.” He kissed her shoulder.

“Because you are the take out king. I saw that pizza box under your bed. I think it was growing hair. Speaking of hair, I think your dad’s memory loss has affected his styling choices. His hair looks more gelled than normal.”

Connor let out a sigh. “He’ll be okay,” he said. “Always is.” Angel was not really a subject he wanted to talk about.

“Is something wrong? The sigh? The tensing up?” She turned herself on her side so that she could be face to face with Connor now. She hated to go to bed when she was worried about him.

“Can we talk about something else besides my father?” he said. “I make nice to him for Cordy. I’d rather just…go for a bit without somebody bringing him up in a conversation.”

She was quiet for a moment. “I’m sorry…” She said softly. She didn’t want to tell him that she had run into Angel downstairs if he was so anti-Angel right now. Some days were better than others when it came to his dad.

“Its okay.” he told her. “Let’s just…” He trailed off and put her on her back. He looked down at her, “think about us. When that door is closed, there is nothing else in his world but…us.” He lowered to kiss her.

She giggled as he kissed her, pulling her face a little away from him. “Cooooonnooor…” She drew his name out. His above average sex drive was going to make it so neither of them ever left his apartment.

“What?” he asked. His hand moved under the covers to slip over her body until he had reached her sex. He watched her face.

“You are so crazy horny! You have to go to work in a few hours and I am tired out. Some of us aren’t children of prophecy who have super stamina” She moved his hand away from her groin and put it on her stomach.

“You didn’t mind that stamina an hour ago.” He slipped under the covers and down her body. He nipped at her thighs through her clothing.

“I am serious! I need some recovery time. Even Slayers have to heal!” She moved her body. Her leg moved over his head as she laid on her side. She curled up, trying to keep as little of herself exposed for him to attack.

Stopping his attack, he came back out from under the covers. “This is hard you know.”

“What is? Aside from the obvious?” She turned her body and her head just enough so that she could look at him. She was smiling though. If they hadn’t been at it all night, she would have given into him easily.

“Self control, is what!” he said as he looked at her.

“I see this as an opportunity. We don’t have to sneak around anymore. We can go out like a real couple. We can have late night conversations, just holding each other. We can snuggle on the couch while watching old movies. It doesn’t just always have to be about the sex.”

“You mean act like a mature couple and not a couple of horn dog kids ready to hump anything that moves?” Connor asked, deepening his voice just slightly. He tried looking at her seriously.

She couldn’t hold back the giggles so she was forced to cover her mouth with her hand. It was the deep tone and the serious face that was causing her such a problem. She nodded her head for the simple reason that there was no way she could speak and hold off the laughter.

“Yeah, right, and the moon is made of swiss cheese!” he said. “You haven’t seen how the lord and lady of the manor here act.”

“And who says we have to act like them? We are Connor and Lillian, two different people. We can do what we please with our relationship.” She turned her body more to look at him more fully. “Its not a competition between you and your dad. Who has the better woman. Who can have more sex. Who can do this or that.”

“I already know who has the better..” He leaned forward and tried to kiss her again.

She moved her face away from his kiss. “I am really worried about you sometimes. This strange competition you have. Your dad just wants you to be happy. And you are your own man, a very special and amazing man.”

Connor sighed and his eyes looked up. He fell on his back, head on the pillow. “I’m not competing with him,” he said, “and I thought we weren’t going to talk about him.”

She wasn’t one to press an issue, even if she accidentally started talking about it. “I’m sorry. Like I said, I am just worried about you, baby.”

He laid there a moment, then reached up and pulled her to him to hold her, wrapping his arms around her. “See, I can cuddle.”

She closed her eyes and settled herself against him when he pulled her in for that snuggle. This was nice and more than that, it was reassurance that she was more than just a good time. After a few minutes, she tilted her chin up, opening her eyes to look at him. “You know I love you, right? Like…a lot. As in I would do almost anything for you. I say almost anything because there are some things, like stuff on Fear Factor, I just can’t do for anybody. Like eat weird stuff.”

“Oh, you mean you wouldn’t eat the eyeball soup or the maggot pie?”

Her nose crinkled up and her body tightened just a little against him when he said that. “Ewww…that is disgusting!” She laughed though. “I am trying to be all sweet and tell you I love you and your only response is to talk about fly pie? I have so much work to do training you!”

“Actually, you’d be surprised what I’ve had to eat or deal with. You’ve just been at the books and school training.”

“Yes, the fuzzy pizza under the bed. That is some scary stuff.” He was such an oblivious boy sometimes but that is part of the reason she loved him. She moved closer against him, closing her eyes once more. “I am going to try to get a few hours of sleep. I need the energy if I am taking the twins to the park today.”

He chucked at her. “Sure you don’t want to go back to school?” He closed his eyes and kissed the top of her head.

“No. I am exactly where I want to be.” It was only a few moments before she was sleeping in his arms, where she felt the most safe and the most loved.
Chapter Ten

Angel turned off the shower. He grabbed a towel and started drying off. The bathroom was steamed up like London in a fog. He felt a lot better after that, always did after a shower. Even back in the day when everyone was told how unhealthy it was to take a lot of baths he didn’t listen. How could something that made you feel so good have been so bad?

After drying, he put on his lounge pants and headed for the bed, padding across the floor in his bare feet. He turned the covers back and slid into them. Rolling to face Cordelia’s side, he touched her pillow. He could smell her scent there. A bit of a smile came to his lips as he closed his eyes to drift off to sleep.

Cordelia had missed Angel coming in so that she could take the twins over to the school early. They had an afternoon planned with Lillian and Connor so they had to get their lessons in as soon as possible. It was late afternoon when she finally finished her errands and returned back to the hotel. She was more than a little relieved to see Angel sleeping in their bed. She quietly set her bags down, glancing towards the one from Victoria’s Secret. She had to go to the mall anyway to pick up new pants for Ian so what was wrong in getting a little something for her and Angel to enjoy? She picked the bag up and headed for their bathroom to change and surprise him.

Stirring a bit, Angel rolled over on his back. Despite her best efforts to be quiet, Cordelia had roused the vampire thanks to his sensitive hearing He was in that half sleep stage, that place between waking and sleeping.

She was rather surprised that she had to pay so much for something that was so…well…non-existent. It was made of mesh and completely backless aside from five little strings to help keep it on. And she did know how good she looked in red. The babydoll was short enough that it barely covered the matching red mesh panties. She opened the door, peeking out to see if Angel had woken up with her coming in. She saw that he had rolled over and was starting to stir. She barely called out his name as she moved from the bathroom towards their bed. “Angel…Aaangel…” She knew there was still time before sunset but he was usually awake.

Opening his eyes, the vampire turned his head to see Cordelia. He pulled himself up a little. “Somebody is looking to be naughty.”

She grinned at him. She started to climb up on the bed. “Everyone is gone. I went to the mall. Someone tore my favorite pair of panties. So…I got something new. What do you think?”

Angel’s eyes looked her over, taking in every inch of skin. “What I think is….Damn, you’re hot.”

“That is all you can say? No dirty talk? No telling me how sexy I look or how excited I make you? Or is it just because you are waking up?” She reached down and ran her hands up his legs over the covers.

His eyes looked down to where her hands were and then back up at her. “Keep those hands moving and you’ll find out how excited I am.” Angel was now convinced that this was real. After last night, his soul was intact. It had to be bound to him for good, right? He shifted his legs just a little as her hands moved.

Cordelia scooted up a little more on the bed, getting closer to him now as she parked herself between his knees. She rested her hands on his thighs as she leaned in towards him. “Much rather you showed me. Unless you are still too tired?” She started to move her hands off his thighs and sit back up.

Reaching for her, he pulled her up to him and kissed her, his hands holding her by her upper arms. He slipped his tongue into her warm mouth to press his against hers.

‘This was more like it. No holding back like he did last night.’ Cordelia thought to herself. All he needed was some of the old violence against evil and he was back in the saddle again. She pushed his tongue out of her mouth and then pulled away from the kiss. “You think its going to be that easy, huh?”

Looking from her eyes to her breasts, Angel then looked back into her eyes. “Unless you plan on tying me up,” he said. Killing something always did create that bit of…desire. Usually he just went upstairs to have his private shower time.

“I think we might still have the chains around here someplace.” He was still holding her upper arms. She looked around, trying to move as much as she could. She thought that maybe they were under the bed. There was nothing wrong with teasing him, working him up. The payoff was always better in the end for both of them.

“And just how do you plan on getting them on me,” he asked as he rose up, nuzzled her neck and took in her scent.

“I take it asking nicely not going to work in this scenario?” She chuckled lightly as he started to nuzzle her neck. She half closed her eyes. She couldn’t resist it. It felt nice and it was a good way to make her melt.

“I don’t think so,” he said in her ear. He nibbled at her ear, his hands moved down her arms, over her hands and then to her thighs. His cheek rubbed against on hers.

“I am half demon, I will remind you. I can use excessive force.” Though the prospect of that was getting more and more remote as he touched her. She was just trying to keep up the game though. “I’m suppose to be in control here. Hence the sexy little number.”

“But if I just gave in,” Angel growled in her ear, “where would the reward be?” Those long fingers of his slipped up around to her ass. He groped the firmness of her cheeks, massaging them roughly in his hands.

“I will have you know, I am an amazing reward! And quit doing the low growly thing in my ear. You know what that does to me. It’s an unfair advantage.” He could no doubt tell the changes in her that she was trying to fight off for as long as possible since this battle had started. She couldn’t control the reactions of her body that well though. Who was going to give in first and beg for release?

“But I am full demon,” he reminded her. “And playing fair when I want something…not a chance.” Suddenly, he had her on her back and he was over her. He looked down at her with a grin. It has been so long since he’s played at sexual games. He had been so long since he remembering having sex period.

She couldn’t take Angel just on brute strength. She knew that. She was going to have to use her brains on this one. Admittedly, they were her best weapon aside from her body. She touched his arms lightly. She looked into his eyes. She leaned up to whisper to him. “I have to use the bathroom.”

He paused over her, not moving for a long moment, then he reluctantly let her up. He kept his eyes on her and while she was up he planned on undressing to be ready when she came back out.

He wouldn’t get the chance though because as soon as he moved up, she used the distraction to get him flat on his back. She was straddling him now, looking down at him with a satisfied smirk. “I can’t believe you fell for that. Dork.”

“And you think this will keep me down,” he said with a raised brow. He’ll let her have her fun for a little while. Angel thought about letting the demon show but then decided not so soon in this game. However, her warm legs and the heat of her sex on him…the scent of her…was really starting to cause a situation.

Cordelia grabbed his wrists and put his arms above his head. “I think I have ways of making you stay put.” She leaned down, her body pressed to his. Nothing but a thin layer of mesh separating her breasts from his chest now. She kissed his jawline, slow and deliberate.

And she was playing dirty pool here, but he didn’t want to concentrate on that. He wanted to concentrate on her, the feel of her. Angel seemed to not even notice his arms were raised and held down by her. He arched his back some so there was more contact with his skin, his body to hers.

The whole point of these games was to be sneaky and cunning. It’s just a shame that he wasn’t on her same level. She moved his wrists together to hold them with one hand, giving herself one hand free. “Since you don’t remember, you can end this torture whenever you want. Just have to tell me that I win.” Admitting defeat was the ultimate submission. They were both too strong willed to give in.

“I’m the Champion,” he said, “I don’t admit defeat.”

“You’ve said it before in this bedroom.” Her free hand was busy fishing around in a drawer in the bedside table. She was reaching blindly as she moved her lips back to his skin. She kissed softly right under his chin and then slid her lips down to his adam’s apple.

Angel shifted and ducked his head to catch her lips with his. He tried to pull one of his arms down so he could get hold of her.

Whatever she had been reaching for in the drawer, she had it now. She tightened her hold around his wrists, knowing that he could take it. It wasn’t chains but she had rope. She sat up and now used both hands to tie his wrists together. “I think the student is about to surpass the master.”

He looked in surprise as fast as she had his wrists bound. “You know, Padawan, I could break this,” Angel said. But then he wasn’t sure, really. It could be enchanted rope.

“No, you won’t.” She did say won’t instead of can’t. She barely touched his bare arms as her fingertips moved down along his arms to his shoulders. She danced her fingers across his chest, walking down towards his lounge pants.

“Won’t,” Angel questioned. “And what happens if I don’t listen? I do have a habit of that.” He watched her hands. If he breathed, he’d probably be taking in a deep gasp. If his heart beat, it probably would be tripping hard.

“Oh, I don’t think you want to know.” She played with the drawstring on his lounge pants. She slipped a few fingers under the waistband, her warm fingers brushing against his cool flesh. She was loosening the waistband of his pants but doing it painfully slowly.

He brought his still bound hands down. He grabbed one of her breasts. So firm…and the nipple so ready, he could feel it through the thin material.

She gasped and looked at his hand. She took her hand out from under the waistband of his lounge pants and slapped his hands away. “I should have tied you to the headboard too. I still can.” She grabbed his wrists and tried to push his arms over his head again.

Angel grinned. “Reflex reaction. I can’t promise it won’t happen again.”

She loosened the rope just enough so that she could tie him to the headboard. She wasn’t sure that he wasn’t going to fight back so she tightened her thighs around his body.

He looked up at what she’s doing then at her. He pulled on the bonds then raised his head some. “The ropes, my circulation,” he pleaded.

“Ha! Not going to work, manpire. You don’t have circulation. Which always makes me wonder how you get this…” She reached down and rubbed his dick through the lounge pants.

“Hmmm…Oh, that,” he looked down at her hand and the teepee in his pants. He looked back up at her. “Just one of those demon perks.”

“Perk for you or perk for me?” She smiled at him as she looked at him. She arched her brow up just barely as she continued to rub him through his pants. She was going to win this. And the more she teased him, the more aroused she got herself.

“What do you think,” he replied but then he stopped and his gut tightened at her attentions, his ab muscles pulling. This was going to be harder then he thought (quite literally!). He turned his head a bit.

“Now…since you don’t remember the rules. If you give in, I get to do whatever I want to you. Not like I can’t now, considering you fell for that bathroom trick. But, I could make you sit and watch Beaches with me.” She figured she might as well take a little pity on him. She slid his lounge pants and boxers down over his hips and then moved them down his legs until they were completely off.

He watched her as she removed the only clothing he was wearing. “Or I could make you watch hockey or Bonanza,” Angel replied with a grin. His cock was at attention. “But that would be such a waste.”

“What makes you think you are going to win? You can’t do a damn thing to me.” Now she was goading him. With his pants off, she climbed back onto the bed with him. She straddled his thighs, rubbing her hands together to make them fire hot.

“Because I’m manpire,” he replied as more of a question. “I have what you want.” He was again with that questioning tone. He shifted his legs.

“What do you think that is?” With her hands hot now, she reached down and started to stroke him slowly. She would use her own body heat to help warm his body. She had her ways to make him say those few words to her.

He looked from her face to his cock. “Call it an educated guess.” He so wished he could remember the other times between them. But if he had to, this was the start of new memories. “I know I want to be in you and pleasure you…”

She clicked her tongue. “Sorry, Champ. Thems the rules. You want that, you have to win.” She moved her hand up and down along his shaft. She bent over, giving him a wonderful view of her cleavage. She kissed the very tip of his cock as she stroked him.

“Titty fuck,” he said in a hoarse, dreamy voice, once more asking her. That cleavage was so perfect for that. He could only imagine it for now.

She looked up at him. He had distracted her with that. “Listen to the mouth on you…Not the two words I wanted to hear though. You aren’t even trying here.” And he wasn’t. He was just laying back and not fighting back. She shook her head and leaned back over once more. She barely put her mouth over just the tip of his cock, hovering there to tease him.

His head came up. She wanted a fight? His legs came up, his right one back more to his head then he snapped it around putting her in a scissor hold. He had her lying on her side and he was on his. “How’s that for trying?”

She smiled up at him. “You are just lucky I didn’t bite down. Does that part grow back? I’d really rather not experiment.” She had her hands free at least. She tried to pry his legs off her so that she could get enough space to get away.

She might just get away but not before he managed to pinch her with his toes. He watched her to see what her next move was.

She let out a yell when he pinched her. “OWWW! Angel!” She looked at him with a frown. He wasn’t going to win doing that. She rubbed the spot where he had pinched her.

He thought it wasn’t a hard pinch. By her reaction, he was wrong. He tried pulling some on the ropes to get himself free.

What wasn’t hard to him was hard to her. He did have a great deal of strength on her. She looked appropriately upset about the whole thing, still rubbing the spot. “Here…I’ll do it….” She reached over to try to undo the ropes with her free hand.

“Cordy,” he said as she did and then he sat up. “Cordy, I’m sorry. I just…I just want to make you happy.” His hand came up to stroke her hair back.

This wasn’t one of her games to gain the upper hand again. She pulled away from his touch. “Don’t…I have to heal myself so I don’t get a bruise.” She moved off the bed, moving away from him. She went into the bathroom and near slammed the door behind her.

Angel sat there for a long moment. ‘Stupid’, he called himself over and over. Finally, he stood and moved to the door. He leaned on it a bit. He could hear her in there. Okay, he could be the sad, begging one here or…He opened the door and on seeing her he went over and picked her up. In the mirror, it looked like she was floating. “Cordelia Chase,” he said as he held her, “we have some unfinished business then we have to discuss the ceremony of renewing our wedding vows and maybe taking a honeymoon. Demon free, just you and me.” He stood there just holding her for a long moment. He waited until he could catch her eyes with his. “I don’t know if I’ll get my memories back but I want to make some now. I want to picture every moment I spend with you. And with a photographic memory, I don’t have to buy a lot of film here.”

With her hands against the sink, head bowed as she tried to recover from healing herself, she hardly noticed Angel come in. For some reason, it was always harder to heal herself, than it was to do it to other people. It was probably just another cosmic joke from The Powers. She wasn’t expecting him to pick her up though and she let out a gasp as her feet suddenly left the floor. She grabbed around his neck so that she wouldn’t slip out of his arms to go crashing to the floor. They had enough injuries for one day. She raised a brow at him. “A lot of film here? You always have the cheesiest lines.” She chuckled. It was easy to forgive him when he was standing here naked and holding her. And she couldn’t really hold a grudge on an accident. She knew he hadn’t intended to hurt her. He would never hurt her.

Angel leaned to her and kissed her. Standing there, holding her, was far from a problem for him. Suddenly, he started laughing in that kiss.

She was rather enjoying the kissing until he started laughing. A confused look passed over her features. She had to pull back so that she could look at him. “What’s so funny?”

“Mirror, ” he said. “Strange and erotic and belongs on Saturday Night Live.”

“Because it looks like I am floating?” She laughed softly as she looked into the mirror with him. She turned her face back to him, a wicked looking smile painted on her lips. “Put me down.”

“And kissing…,” his voice trailed in another chuckle as he put her down.

“That look in your eye, I think you are thinking what I am. It has been a while.” Her feet touched the floor of the bathroom but she turned back so she could face Angel. “You’ve turned me into some kinky monster, you know that?”

“It will take a few minutes for me to put the mirrors in place,” Angel said as he leaned down and kissed her neck.

She closed her eyes as he lowered. She took in a slightly sharp breath, holding it for a few seconds before letting it out. “Well, use that vampire speed and get to it. Sun is going to set soon and you have to go help the helpless.”

Angel left the bathroom, heading through the room to a large closet. He’d found the screen of mirrors earlier in there and then it didn’t take a rocket scientist to know what they were for, especially since they were labeled “head” and “foot” for the different parts of the bed. He pulled them out and, yes, they fit along one side of the bed to create a wall of reflection.

Cordelia stood in the doorway of the bathroom, watching him. The mirrors had been his idea. She was barely this side of virgin when they married. She hardly counted gropefests in high school as adding to her sexual education. But with Angel…well when you have been around as long as he has, you pick up a few new and interesting things. They had to keep all the toys locked up though. Last thing either of them wanted was Ian finding them. He was so curious…She laughed, not at Angel, but the thought of Ian finding something and thinking it was a toy.

Turning, he looked at her. “I, uh, found them in my prowling yesterday.”

“Oh, not laughing at you. I was laughing at the thought if Ian ever found our little treasure chest. He might think that string of beads is some kind of weapon. I just went visual on him swinging them around like knunchucks. Then again, I might have done the same thing if you hadn’t corrupted me.”

Angel hadn’t found all the toys..yet. He planned on it now though since she mentioned them. He smiled at her and waited for her to come back to bed.

She pushed off from the doorway of the bathroom and moved towards him. She climbed up onto the bed, crawling once more towards him. Odd sense of deja vu from before except for the simple fact that now she could see herself in all directions, moving like a cat towards some invisible prey.

Reaching up, he stopped her. Getting to his knees, he turned her to face the mirrors and moved around behind her. He moved his hands up from her thighs to her hips, one sliding over her mound, rubbing her over the thin material of her panties. His other hand moved up for her breast. He kissed her shoulder but kept an eye on the mirror and her reflection.

When Angel stopped her and moved her to face one of the mirrors, she kneeled but put her back towards him. Most of her back was bare, save for a few strings, so when he touched her, she used the moment to push her back against his chest. Her skin to his skin, the contact was electric. She only barely glanced to the mirror as she felt Angel’s hands on her body.

He then slipped his hands to the back to take care of the strings. He started slipping the garment off her and in the mirror, it seemed to peal away from her body all on its own. He’d played these games…or rather Angelus had long ago with other females, mostly demons.

She shivered as she watched it move away from her body. No matter how many times they had done this, it was always oddly fascinating and new to her. She moved her body to sit up on her knees just a bit, her breasts pushing forward towards the mirror as the mesh slid over her skin and off.

His hand slipped down her ass and her found her sex from the back. He stroked her over her panties. He carefully watched her face as he did this, her watched the reactions of her body.

She tilted her hips back as she felt his hand slip down over her ass. He was really working her up as he touched her over her panties. There was something inherently sexy about it. She closed her eyes as she moaned softly.

Leaning to her ear, he nipped it. “Now, when you surrender let me know,” Angel spoke then nipped at her shoulder. He started to work the panties off her now.

“What makes you think I am going to…give in?” Her breath hitched slightly as she felt him starting to remove her panties. And she gasped softly when that first brush of cool air touched her heated skin. She touched her body back against his.

He rubbed his hard cock under her, along her asshole to the lips of her sex then back. “I just have a hunch.” Angel did it again. He hands come up to grasp both her breasts. “Arms out to your sides and watch…watch your body.”

She raised her arms out to the side, doing as he said and watching herself in the mirror. She had to admit, it was pretty hot. She was beautiful and the way her skin was flushed just the lightest shade of pink, that wanton look in her eye. How could that not be the sexiest thing any man had ever seen? She shivered as she felt his manhood teasing her. She wanted to feel him so badly inside her but she didn’t want to give in yet.

“Hmmm, feel it, lover,” he said in a whisper. His hands groped her breasts, nice, and firm then he rolled her nipples between his fingers. Now he let the demon come out and with a sharp fang he barely grazed her shoulder.

It was that growly whispered tone that did it. She moaned even louder now. She hated to say it, hated to surrender but he was driving her mad by teasing her. Turn about is fair play apparently. “You win.” She mumbled in a whisper. She hoped even his vampire hearing couldn’t pick it up.

“Down, hands and knees.” His hands started to push her down gently. He was going to fuck her as he made her watch. He would make her watch her expressions as she got off on what seems like nothing.

She does as he wants. She did give in after all. She only hoped that someplace in his mind, he could remember the safe word. Of course, shouting “Gucci” in the middle of having sex wasn’t a really common occurrence, even for her. She was on her hands and knees now, waiting for his next move.

Angel moved up behind her and was in her without waiting any longer. He growled as he slid in, his lips pulled back, and those fangs were bared. He paused when in all the way, his hands holding her hips fast to him.

She gasped as he was suddenly filling her. She hadn’t expected it to be so soon and so quickly. After last night, she didn’t want a repeat. “Don’t hold back…” She managed to say. She could always heal herself later if he got too enthusiastic.

He pulled out almost completely then thrust back in slowly, drawing it out. He was moving slow but hard. He lowered his face over her back and as he thrust into her, he grazed her back with his fangs enough to bleed. He nipped at the light scratches to bring up more blood.

She tried not to move but with those slow, hard thrusts but her body lurched forward. She was good at recovery, pushing back against him though. She held her breath as he cut lightly into her back, nipping at her as well.

Angel’s hips moved faster now and he bit into her side. As he slammed into her, he feed deeply and his hand grasped at her breast.

She lets out a strangled sounding cry as he bit into her side. A little warning would have been nice. Her back arched as that first slice of pain was overcome with pleasure from the rest of her body. She looked at her own face in the mirror, her body surging back against nothing.

He pulled his head up and as he climaxed, he let out a loud growl. He rammed her hard then stopped. He pulled back and did it again, slamming into her again. His cock was throbbing hard in her.

Cordelia had to dig her hands into the bed to keep from moving too far forward with each of those last hard thrusts. Finally though, it seems as if Angel was stopping. She bowed her head, resting her forehead against the bed, as she panted heavily.

He remained there for a few moments, his hand sliding over her body. “Okay,” he said in a hoarse tone.

She merely nodded her head. She had to recover from that kind of a workout. Her legs were hurting from strain but a good kind of hurt. She swallowed hard. She needed a drink and a good soak.

Angel leaned down and licked her wounds, easily and slowly.

The sudden feeling of his cool tongue against her skin caused her to shudder and tighten around his softening cock.

He paused when she did this. He groaned. “Wanting more,” he asked her and licked the wound again.

“Can I ever really get enough?” She looked up at the mirror, even though he wasn’t there. “Can you?” Another lick and another round of her tightening around him occurred. She knew all too well about vampire stamina and recovery.

He smiled and pulled back out of her. He moved her to sit up. “Lay down, on your back.”

She did as she was told. It was still his show for now. She laid back down on her back. She looked up at him, waiting to see what he was planning.

He rubbed her thigh then spread her legs. Leaning down, he kissed that erotic zone just inside the thigh, near her sex, and then he bit her. His fangs sunk in, he knowing what this would do to her. He fed slowly, not wanting to take a lot, just enough to pleasure her.

She would definitely need a cookie and juice after all the blood donations. At least Angel would be well fed for fighting tonight. Then again, she was hardly thinking about any of this. The only thing she could think about was the tingle in her thigh and how it was shooting straight into her core. How that tingle was becoming more and more intense until she threatened to explode. Her orgasm came quickly and hard, washing over her and taking over her body. She had barely cried out his name during climax. She was amazed she could form words. She kept a hand at her forehead as she slowly started to recover. “Wow….”

When he knew she had climaxed, he withdrew, licked the wound then licked her sex for the sweetness that flowed from her. He moved up her body to lie by her, his eyes closing.

“Better,” he whispered, his face had yet to go back to human. He was still riding the blood high. Last thing on his mind right now was pushing the demon back.

“Yes…” She leaned over, kissing his cheek. She was completely unphased by his true face. She whispered to him. “I am going to take a bath. If you want to join me, the invitation is there.” Though she knew Angel probably just wanted to do the guy thing of rolling over and taking a nap. The sun might have set but they still had a bit before he would really have to go out to patrol the mean streets of LA.

Finally, he put the demon back. “Not this time, babe,” he said. He smiled. “I think you wore me out.” That had to be it, he was feeling a bit off now, or it could be her demon blood. It was something.

“It’s a talent.” She leaned over to kiss his now human lips before she got up from the bed. She patted his chest. “Next time, I’ll drink ginseng before we get going. Give you some added energy.” She snickered as she finally slid off the bed. She slipped into the bathroom, shutting the door and locking it out of habit. Not soon after, the water was running and the radio in the bathroom was on softly.

Angel moved up to put his head on the pillow. His eyes closed as what seemed like sleep took him.
Chapter Eleven

The vampire stirred in his sleep then suddenly, he sat up. He looked around, wild-eyed. It hurt and he knew what was happening. Then the pain was over and he relaxed. He brought his hands up and looked at them, flexing them. He got out of bed and stretched. “Man, how good can it get?” He headed for the closet, opening it and looking for something in particular. “What to wear…what to wear?” he said as he stepped on in. Finally, he stepped out, dressed. “I am so going shopping.”

Cordelia thought she had heard Angel talking to himself. That was kind of strange. He usually didn’t do that. She got out of the tub, reaching for her bathrobe and a towel to put her hair up in. She reached over to turn off her radio, calling out to Angel. “Baby? Are the twins home?” She could normally hear them though. Ian at least, was so boisterous and loud. She imagined a lot of time that is what Angel was like when he was a young boy in Ireland.

Angelus grinned when he heard that voice. Oh, he knew a set of twins he’d like to get hold of. “Nobody here but you and me, sweetheart,” he called to her.

She unlocked the bathroom door and poked her head out. “Who on Earth were you talking to?” She looked him over, frowning slightly. She thought they had gotten rid of all the leather pants once Wes took care of the curse. Angel probably hid one pair. So like him, the secret keeping, even if it was with pants. Why should she instantly think leather pants equals Angelus? She hadn’t had to worry about him for years.

“Uh, no, I just had the radio on a moment,” he said as he stepped toward her.

She stepped out of the bathroom now. She had to get dressed, brush out her hair, and figure out what sort of ready meal she was going to make for the twins and her. Green Giant was a God in her world. Toss it in a pan, even she couldn’t screw that up. “Don’t forget tomorrow, you have to go pick Lorne up at the airport. I know your memory is all…woodeedoo.”

“I tell you what,” he said, though looking at her he was thinking what a delicious main course she would be. “I’m going to go see if the twins are back yet.”

“Can you please make sure that Ian washes his hands? Tell him that he is killing small demons or something. Oh! And tell Connor and Lillian they can come down for dinner too. The kids and I never eat one of those meals all by ourselves.”

“I think I can handle that,” he said as he backed away, reaching for the door with his hand behind him. He was nearly free to go out and have fun. “Have one big family dinner.”

“Uh…aren’t you forgetting something here?” She stood there with her hands on her hips. Even in a bathrobe and towel around her head, she still managed to look pretty menacing. She was sporting the sort of look would usually send Angel back to her and apologetic.

“Forget?” he said with a raised brow. “Yeah, yeah, forget to…” And he moved to her to give her a quick kiss on the cheek. He had to make with the business as usual or he would be downstairs in that cage faster than you could say bloodbath. He was out and he wanted time to play. He could take down each member of this “family” one at a time. Then he’d be free for good.

“Much better.” That menacing look faded away. It was replaced by a smile. She didn’t even wait for him to leave before she went to her closet to get dressed. She yawned though and peeked out to check the clock. She still had time for a nap before dinner.

Angelus left the room and stood in the hall a moment. He got that shit-eating grin on his face. Oh, he’ll have his way with Cordelia and her twins, plus every other part of her before it was all over with but he liked to savor things. And he wanted his freedom. The longer he was out of the cage, the stronger he got and the more difficult it was to pull that white, fluffy soul from the ether. This was a different world from where he and Angel had come from and he was going to make it his, one victim at a time. He moved down that short hall that was left to the stairs. He went down them, whistling as he did. Down in the lobby he stopped and his gaze went out to the garden where he saw a young woman sitting. She was pretty and she smelled….smelled of Connor. “My, my,” he said, “my boy is finally looking to woman who’s not a mother figure.” That was the memory from the dimension he and Angel were from: Connor and Cordelia. That was even..almost to sick for him…almost. Angelus stepped on to that door. The sun had gone down enough that the garden was shaded completely. He walked out to the young lady.

Lillian had been granted a momentary reprieve from babysitting the twins with Connor while he took them out for some ice cream. She had passed in favor of staying at the hotel and recharging for a few minutes. She had no idea how Cordelia and Angel did it. Kat, well she pretty much took care of herself but Ian’s energy more than made up for the two of them combined. At least Connor had been the one to oblige him with his wrestling and climbing games. But the simple fact was that just watching the kid had exhausted her. She yawned, covering her mouth, when she saw Angel standing there. She quickly lowered her hand, smiling softly. “Angel, hi…”

Angelus stepped forward. “Lillian, or Lily,” he said, “I don’t know which you prefer.”

“I’ve gone by both of them. Grams was pretty strict with the names so it was always Lillian. But I let people get away with Lily. Whatever people feel like at the time, I guess. I am easy like that.” She grinned at him as she shrugged her shoulders. She pulled her legs up to sit with them crossed on the bench in the garden.

“I knew a girl back in the day named Lily,” he stopped in front of her and looked up. “She was a sweet thing.” Though his head was tilted up, his eyes glanced down at her.

At least Angel was being a bit more sociable towards her. It was a step in the right direction towards the old Angel. She smiled at him. “Well, I bet you knew someone with every name in this place at some time. Being so old.” Her tone was just a gentle teasing though, about his age. She was feeling rather…uncomfortable. She couldn’t place why. Just an overall feeling of unwellness.

“Does my age bother you?” he asked as he lowered his head. “I know age doesn’t disturb Connor.”

“Why would it…” She paused for a moment. What was that comment suppose to mean? She looked confused for a moment there. “Huh? Connor and I are the same age. What do you mean?”

The vampire raised a brow. “Oh, wow,” he said. Oh, this was so sweet. It was going to be so fun. Soul gone for less than a half-hour and he already found a delicious victim. “You mean you didn’t know?”

“Don’t know about what?” She looked completely out of the loop at this point. Was there something Connor hadn’t told her? They hadn’t done much of the past relationship talk before. Mostly when they were sneaking around, it was gropefest. It didn’t leave a lot of openings for talking.

“I would really hate for you to go into a relationship with my son and him not tell you everything,” Angelus put on such a look of concern on his face. He reached for her hands and sat down on the garden bench next to her.

She let him take her hands as her eyes searched his face. He was really putting her in a state now. What could Connor possibly be hiding from her? It sounded like it was something really terrible. “What do you mean?”

“Lily,” one only had to listen to the sympathy in his voice to be convinced of his “concern”. “Lily, Connor has had a thing for his step mother for like, ever. Its been really hard at times, especially when we’ve sat at the same dinner table and he casts those looks at her.”

“What?” She gave a nervous chuckle. There is no way that was true. “Connor doesn’t feel that way about Cordelia…there’s no way.” But there was the faintest hint of doubt in her voice. Especially after what Connor said last night. That he was only nice to Angel for Cordy. She gave it no thought then but now…it was stuck in her mind.

Angelus caught the hint of doubt in her voice and had to suppress his smile. He nodded, concerned look still on his face. “Yes, yes, I’m afraid it is. I so hate it that he wasn’t honest with you about this. Now when you are in his bed you will ask yourself, am I what he wants or is it his mother?”

She got up from that bench, yanking her hand free from his. “No. You are wrong. He…he doesn’t feel that way. There is no way that he feels like that. He isn’t…” She was going to say that he wasn’t that messed up but she knew that was a lie. Connor had a very rough life. He wasn’t normal by any stretch of the imagination but neither was she. He had…his moments where she doubted his sanity for a brief second.

Angelus was in his element now. He loved the mental torture as much as the physical. Drusilla was a testament to that. He moved up behind her and put a hand on her shoulder. “And truthfully, I think the same night…after night..after night because I’ve seen her returning his wanton gazes.”

She pulled away from him and turned around to face him. “Now I know that is a lot of crap. I’ve heard the stories, I’ve seen the pictures, and I have seen you two around each other. There is no way that Cordy is even remotely interested in Connor like that.” He had tipped his hand. He didn’t have the knowledge that both Cordy and Angel had taught at the school. That Lily had seen them act around each other. And that she had seen Connor and Cordy. She could buy that sometimes Connor looked a bit strangely at his mom but not that it was returned.

“Lily, I wished it were. I just don’t think you know him or Cordy as well as you think you do.”

“If you doubt your wife that much, that is your problem. I don’t know what is going on in that head of yours so maybe you just think you remember things you don’t.” She went to move past him. She knew the ice cream place that Connor took the twins. She didn’t want to let this sit and fester. She wanted to ask him about it right now.

As she moved past, he grabbed her and spun her around to him. His face vamped out and a maniacal grin parted his lips, showing those sharp and lethal fangs. “I remember a helluva lot, especially the taste of slayer blood.” He pulled her closer and his head was down at her neck.

There was that first bit of shock as she got spun around and pulled towards Angelus. Just a brief ‘what the hell is going on here’ before her instinct kicked in. She used her free hand to punch him in the stomach, causing him to stumble back and away from her neck.

Angelus straightened up. “I wish I could say you knocked the wind out of me, but hey, I don’t have any.” Quickly grabbing her, he head-butted her with his ridged brow then tossed her. “You just really don’t want to make this easy, do you, Lily? I was going to go easy on you, because, truthfully, I like you and I just want to put you out of your misery of having to be with that weird fruit of The Soul’s loins.”

The head-butt was enough to make Lillian dizzy so she didn’t have a chance to fight him off when he picked her up and tossed her. She landed in a rose brush, the thorns tearing her clothes and flesh. The scent of her blood in the air would just be yet another incentive. She got up quickly, grabbing a stake from against her ankle. She was a Slayer; she had to be prepared. “I really don’t do the cheesy fight conversation.” She came at him with three hard and fast punches to his face to knock him back once more.

Angelus stumbled back but he was laughing. “Oh, man, I see why he likes you in his bed. You can fight and you are dingy. Are you sure you and Jessica Simpson weren’t separated at birth?”

Now she resented that. She went to college. She got a degree. While he was busy laughing, she brought her leg up to kick him in the stomach. If she could get him on his back, it would be easier for her to stake him. She was the stake first, ask questions later type of Slayer.

When her leg came up, he got it and held her there for a moment. “No thanks, I’m a breast man.” Then he made a sharp twist of her leg wanting to hear that rewarding snap sound.

She managed to pull her leg out of his grasp before he could break her ankle. At least all of those training sessions at the Academy might be starting to pay off. Granted, she had never faced down a vampire as old as Angel…or whoever this was in Angel’s body. She took a more defensive stance, waiting on his next move.

“Niiiiice,” he said. “Oh, I guess I better properly introduce myself. See, Cordelia kept believing that Angel’s mind was swiss cheese from something messing with him,” he walked around her slowly, like a tiger stalking its prey. “When, in fact, we’re from another dimension. A place where, yes, Connor bumped uglies with Cordelia and an Apocalypse destroyed everything…it was glorious. And now, thanks to Cordy, I’m free because whoa, man…was it perfect last night!”

She watched him as he started to circle her. At this point, she didn’t believe a word that he was saying. She was quick to turn so that he never had her back. “Now is this where you keep monologuing at me and tell me your big evil plan?”

“I just wanted you to know who’s going to kill you,” the vampire said. “I like to always toot my own horn, you know?” He lunged for her.

She jumped out of the way when he lunged at her. While he was in the motion of moving, she brought the stake down into his back. She missed his heart though. She was never good with the hitting on target from the back. The stake lodged in and now, now she was weaponless. When in doubt…she took off like a shot, trying to get to the street. She had no idea that it was just the hotel proper protected by the anti-violence spell. If she knew that, she would have turned and headed inside.

Angelus got up. His demon faced screwed in a wince and his hand reached around behind him to pull out the stake. “Damn, that really puts me in a bad mood.” He was off after her. He went over the wall and then came down in front of her. He grabbed her, then quickly sunk his teeth into her neck.

Lillian had enough time to scream out one name in a cry for help. “CONNOR!” She felt that sharp prick as Angelus sunk his fangs into her. She never imagined that the pain would be so intense. She struggled as best as she could. She would not give up. She had to get away from him. He would kill her if she didn’t. She knew that.

He fed greedily on her. He had to heal that stake wound. And she was a Slayer. He suddenly stopped. He raised his head, hearing something. He looked back down at her. “Sorry, babe,” Angelus said, “we’ll have to continue this later.” He dropped her and took off, disappearing into the night.

Angelus had taken so much from her already. When he dropped her, she didn’t even have the strength to help herself from slamming against the sidewalk. Her head smashed against the concrete, her limbs bent at odd angles. She looked like a broken Barbie doll.

Connor came running from the street and then into the garden. He told the twins to get inside and upstairs now. He could sense the danger and smell the blood. He paused a moment, looking around, and then he saw her. “LILLIAN!” He was at her side instantly.

She was too weak to speak. Her pulse was faint as she tried to fight for her life. She was just bleeding out from too many places. She had the scratches from the rose brush, the puncture wounds, and now the head wound. She was unresponsive. She couldn’t even hear Connor’s voice.

Picking her up, he rushed her into the hotel. “MOM! FRED!” He called for anybody at this point. Where was everyone?!

She was limp in his arms. Her head fell back over his arm. She was starting to turn cold and pale. Her heart was fighting hard, each beat sounding more and more desperate.

Pulling out his phone, he called 911. He gave all the information to the operator, trying to make the bored-sounding woman realize the gravity of the situation. He hung up and looked back down at Lillian. Then he noticed her neck. “Nooo….” But his voice was drowned out by the wail of sirens.

Upstairs, Cordelia had woken up from a nap. She had slept through the sirens, the commotion in the garden. Then again, she could sleep through a nuclear blast. She even slept through the twins coming upstairs and ruining their dinner by raiding the Hostess cupcake stash. But now, several hours later, Cordelia was beginning to get very worried. The family dinner she planned had ended up just being her and the twins. Connor and Lillian were no place to be found. Angel was gone as well. She had fed the twins, spent some time watching television and coloring with them before she put them to bed. Now it was just the long wait until someone came back to either watch the kids so she could go fight or get a vision or wait for someone to drop by the hotel to say hello. She flipped channels, sighing. She was bored. She looked upwards. “Powers…Vision would be good. Or something at least.”

And as if someone had heard her, the phone rang. It was the hotel line. Better for her to watch the twins and still take calls for the business when no one was around. Fred was usually fine at manning the front desk. She was more than a little worried that neither her nor Wes had checked in. She answered the phone, muting the television. “Angel Investigations. We help the helpless.”

“Mom,” Connor said as he paced in Lillian’s hospital room. He was using the hospital room phone and the only number he could remember in his state was the office number.

“Connor? What on Earth is going on? When I woke up, the twins were here alone, covered in ice cream and stuffing their faces with junk food. Everyone else was gone.” She paused for only a beat. Her first instinct was that the demons attacked the Slayer Academy again. “Was there another attack on the school?”

“Lillian,” he said, his voice choked. “Vampire…”

She sat up straighter on the couch. “Oh honey…Is she…?” Her voice trailed off. She didn’t want to ask if she was dead. That meant they were going to have to cut off her head, make sure she didn’t rise again. And Connor wasn’t strong enough to do that. She didn’t think any of them were.

“We’re at the hospital,” he said. “She’s alive. She was attacked in the alley behind the hotel.”

Now the vampires were moving in on their turf? Maybe it was some group after the twins. They only ever had a problem with Wolfram and Hart for the first year, trying to get the twins. But you beat them up enough; they learn which battles to stay away from. “You just stay there with her. Is she conscious? Can she tell you what the vampire looked like?”

“No. She’s asleep,” he said. “The doctors want her to stay that way for a few hours yet.” He paused then continued, “I’m going to go, she needs me. If you can, let Dad know?”

“I am going to make sure he gets back here and he investigates around. Maybe he can pick up on a smell or something. Just stay with her, honey. When we can, we will come to the hospital.”

“Thanks,” he hung the phone up and looked back to Lillian. He sat down next to her, taking her hand. He brought it to his forehead as he closed his eyes.

Cordelia hung up the hotel phone after Connor hung up. She reached for her cellphone. She had been so on Angel about answering his phone the past few years. So many emergencies could happen with the twins. She passed him off one of the hotel spares since he didn’t have his when he got back. She dialed that one, hoping it wouldn’t ring out of the bedroom.

Angelus strode through the streets of L.A. enjoying the freedom of being out. As he walked, he heard something. He stopped and reached into the pocket of his duster. Grinning, he answered the cell phone. “Well, heelloo, lucky you to be talking to me.”

She couldn’t even joke at a time like this. She frowned. “Angel, where are you?”

“Well, that’s a good question, babe,” he said. “As far as I know floating around in the Ether where he belongs.”

“Haha, very funny. Come on now, cut it out. We have a serious situation here at the hotel. I need you to come home. Now.”

“Serious,” Angelus gave a mock tone. “Serious as in Connor’s little bitch was made a snack? Oh, yeah, been a while since I had Slayer for dinner. Though the last time I did, the Slayer was spiked. Have to get Faith back for that. Man, how unfair can that be, I tell you? I wanted to yell date rape.”

The initial urgency had waned and she was able to really listen, to really hear that tone. She knew that tone. It was all too familiar. They had to let Angelus out once before so that they could resoul Angel permanently. It took them nearly a week to catch him again after he managed to get free of the cage. She swallowed hard. “How?”

“Well, do I have to tell you?” he asked. “Are you into phone sex, Cordy, babe? Can you recreate the moans you made? Hmmm, when you came and how you tightened on my hard cock in you,” Angelus recounted, “Well, Angel’s but I was there. Waiting…and enjoying.”

‘Why now?’ was all Cordelia could ask herself. The resoulling had been fine for years and years. There was no curse. She had to get him back to the hotel, back to where she had tranqs and there was an anti-violence spell. She tried very hard not to sound disgusted. “Why should I fake it? Why don’t you come back here and make me moan yourself?” Why did she ALWAYS end up as baitgirl?!

He chuckled. “Oh, it would be so tempting but I have so many people to do and babies to eat.”

Think, Cordelia…think. What does Angelus like more than anything? That was easy, sticking it to Angel. “Yeah, but Angel doesn’t care as much about those random people as he does about the ones in this hotel.” Why couldn’t he be stupid like just about every other vampire in the world?

“Hmmm, interesting point,” Angelus said as he leaned on the wall of a building. “But I remember once before that your pet horny demon put that antiviolence spell on the place.” He glanced around. He watched a couple of skaters go by and was thinking Meals on Wheels. “Now if I were stupid, which I’m not, I’d consider it. But as beautiful and all that you are and last night…I can stay out here in the city and find all the pleasure I can handle and then some.”

She paused for a moment. Okay, change of plans. Insult him. Always seems to work when you go right for his masculinity. “What’s wrong? Don’t think you can handle me? Just worried that Angel was more of a man that you are?”

“Again, babe, how stupid to you take me for?” He started walking again. Could she hear the carousel now? Where there are painted ponies, there are kiddies. And children make such divine snacks. “I’m not Spike, Cordy. I thought you’d learned that by now. The big difference between me and that pussywhipped Angel is in the end…you’d be dead. No can do as long as you’re in the hotel.”

“Can’t blame a girl for trying, now can you?” She heard the sounds in the background. He was down by the boardwalk. She had to warn Gunn and Faith. Her fingers were already on the landline phone upstairs, dialing the number for the school. She kept him on the phone, then she kept him away from killing things. “What, you aren’t going to turn me? Not even worth being around for eternity. I’m hurt.”

“Well, you got the looks, babe, but the mouth,” Angelus commented, “yak, yak, yak…Gotta look at the picture in the long run. So, I think I’ll find me a happy meal here and I really don’t like to talk while I’m eating. Maybe I’ll catch you around town.”

She couldn’t let him get off the phone. She pushes the hotel phone into the couch as she heard the machine for the school pick up. She didn’t want his vampire hearing to catch it. Once it beeped, she put it to her other ear. “Angelus, I am the only one that knows you are out. Which makes me a serious threat to you getting to stay and play. You tell me where you are and we can settle this once and for all.”

“Yes, babe, you make a good argument there,” he admitted. “But how do I know you won’t broadcast it all over the 11 o’clock news as soon as I hang up? And settling this, you know what that will mean, which doesn’t necessarily mean I have to drink you dry to do it. There are so many other ways to hurt you I just can’t count them. Thinking of them, ah, well, I start to get a hard on.”

“Who’s to say you are going to win? Get right down to the matter, you are nothing more than a coward. And why would I tell anyone else? You don’t think I know I can take you on myself. In that big empty head of yours, I know you are more than aware that I do like to run headlong into danger alone.” Which, when she paused to think about it, was sadly the truth.

Now he laughed. “Oh, man, Cordelia, you are making my pants so uncomfortable.” Angelus paused in his walk. “And telling you where I am, uh, I don’t think so. You see, I have serious trust issues going. I think I need to really see somebody on that but I just don’t have time right now.” The sounds of the amusement park are loud now. The games, the rides, it was a perfect hunting ground.

“Glad to know I could help. I’ll be seeing you soon.” Just to further piss him off, she hung up on him. She turned her attention to the phone that was picking up her conversation at the Slayer Academy. “He’s near an amusement park or something. He already attacked Lillian. Don’t take any of the girls, this is our kind of a mission. I will meet you guys there.” She hung up that phone as well.

Angelus looked at his phone. “Bitch,” he said then he tossed it over his shoulder and moved on. The midway was always a good place to find a snack, no matter what century. Seems the amusement parks of this time were…well, far better because they didn’t pack up and were much…much…much bigger. Angelus walked among the crowds, studying each of them he passed. He was looking for that one in the herd that needed to be culled out. But what a stupid herd humans made. They moved oblivious to the fact that one or more of them were going to be eaten tonight. He always enjoyed the thought of this, and again, humans had changed very little in that respect through the ages.

Off in one of the darkened corners, away from the thoroughfare and the commotion of the seaside boardwalk at night was a group of three vampires. They were surrounding something or rather, someone. Demon faces on as they pushed and pulled at the young woman. She couldn’t have been more than seventeen if that. Painted up to look older, she pinballed between the three vampiric thugs as they taunted her. The vamp that had the girl now laughed as he turned her to face him. “Watch the tears, lil’ one, your make-up will run,” he said. “Wanted to come out and play where you didn’t belong and well, we want to play too. Benny! Catch.” He shoved the girl to one of the group.

Benny caught the girl and he grinned at her. His lips pulled back to reveal his menacing fangs. He leaned down, just barely gracing the girl’s neck. It was enough to scratch the surface and draw blood from her delicate skin. The girl screamed out before she dissolved into sobs and pleads. “Please, please…just let me go…Here…” She pushed her purse at them, as if these were ordinary muggers.

Angelus paused as he listened to what was happening in that dark corner of the park and then he smelled the blood. It was like a dinner bell and his stomach reminded him how hungry he was. Lillian was just an appetizer. He started moving up the alley and stopped on seeing the party. “My, my,” he said, “this really isn’t right.”

Benny looked up from the girl’s neck and he growled. Any vampire in Los Angeles knew who Angel was. He started to back up with the girl while his two buddies took the front positions. He would keep the girl safe, or kill her, while the other two fought Angel off.

Martin, not the sharpest tool in the shed, looked back a moment at Benny. But then, Benny probably picked the poor dumb country boy to turn because he wasn’t smart. Martin looked back at the approaching vampire. He’d fight. He liked a good fight. He always had. He busted up quite a few saloons back in the day. “Don’t remember puttin’ out the invites,” he said.

Angelus only shrugged. “Don’t remember asking for one.”

Benny held onto the girl who was struggling to get away from his vice like grip. All she was doing was going to wear herself out. He called out. “You going to let some filthy souled do-gooder talk to you like that, Marty?!”

“Like hell I will,” Martin said and charged. Benny knew just the right words to get what he wanted out of Martin. Martin sprung for Angelus. The other vampire just side stepped the dumb farmer boy turned vamp and tripped him as Martin went past. Martin went headfirst into a pile of old crates. He impaled on one of the sharpest, broken pieces of the crate, dusting instantly.

Benny made a mental note that if he got of this, which he planned to, no more alleys with crates. He grabbed the girl and tossed her over his shoulder. There was no loyalty in this gang. Ed saw Benny run and then turned back to Angelus. He grinned and pulled a knife out of leather jacket. He wanted to really cut into the girl. And once he caught up with Benny that is what he was going to do.

Angelus sprang for Ed and landed square on him. In the same fluid motion, he had a stake out and it went right for Ed. Leave it to the soul to put stakes in every single one of his jackets.

The stake connected but it was with Ed’s shoulder as the vampire shifted. He stabbed upward into Angelus’ stomach, twisting the blade in. The pain in his shoulder was going to be nothing compared to the pain he was going to inflict on the guy who had the balls to ruin his meal.

Angelus’ mouth turned up as he felt the blade. The pain was there but pain was a good thing. He grabbed the other’s wrist as he kept his eyes locked with his. He gave just a slight scoffing chuckle. “To clue you in, asshole,” he said through his teeth. “Angel is gone…Angelus is back out to play.” He rammed that stake again into Ed.

The surprise that Angel was gone might have been enough to catch Ed off guard but he had been at this for a long time. He scrambled out and away from Angelus, leaving his knife still buried in the other vampire’s stomach. Did he care of the hows and whys? Not particularly. He grabbed up a full trashcan and threw it towards Angelus as he started to get up.

He pulled the blade out and looked at it. “If you were going to stab me, wood would have done more…” his voice trailed off and he knocked the can aside. “Now you’re just pissin’ me off.”

Ed looked for any other sort of weapon. The crates had been Marty’s downfall. Marty had barely lasted five minutes in this fight. He broke off a piece of jagged wood from the crate, the same on that killed his gang-mate. It would do well enough. He lunged once again for Angelus; makeshift stake raised and ready to hit his heart.

Angelus had had enough of this game. This vampire was stupid enough to keep at it after he told him who he was, well, then he deserved what he had coming to him. He leaped up and over the charging Ed, coming down in time to place a foot in the back of the other’s head. All those martial arts lessons Angel got into were actually paying off.

The kick to the back of the skull sent Ed flying forward and coupled with his own movement forward. He stumbled in an effort to catch himself. That would be his death as his body flailed. He fell, impaling himself on his own weapon. “Isn’t this ironic?” He said right before his body exploded into a cloud of dust.

Now for the last one and then dinner, Angelus turned and started to follow the scent of the blood as he played with the knife as he walked. As he neared, he started to whistle, and it wasn’t a sorry, suckass Barry Manilow tune.

Benny had pinned the girl up against the wall of one of the buildings. He was too eager. She was just so young and ripe. The smell of her blood was driving him insane as tried to go for her neck. But she was a fighter, punching and kicking against him. Anything to keep those horrible looking teeth away from her. She slapped him but Benny only grabbed her wrists and used his body to once more shove her against the wall.

Suddenly, Benny was yanked back by the hair and then pulled to the side. His head rammed into the side of the building. Angelus followed through and repeated the process. After two or three times, Angelus pulled the other vamp back looking at this bloody, battered face. “What do you say, boy?”

Benny was in a daze as most of his face now looked like ground meat. For an answer, all Benny could do was gurgle. The blood spilled out over his lips as a wet sound escaped his lips. It sounded like a wad of wet paper towels hitting a brick wall. He was fairly sure he had swallowed some of his own teeth during the skull bashing.

“That’s what I was afraid of,” Angelus sounded disappointed. He pulled out his stake and it found its mark. He put his human face back on, that face of an Angel.

Benny, like his other two friends before him, disappeared into a poof of dust. The young girl watched the whole scene. The man, the one who had saved her, he was just like them though. His face was at the very least until she watched it change back. He saved her though so maybe he was a good one. She moved away from the wall. She was a trembling wisp of a thing. “T-t-thank you” she stammered.

“I just couldn’t stand by and let those three treat you like just a side dish,” he said to her. “It wasn’t right or fair. You’re much better then that.” Putting his arm around the girl, he acted like he would comfort her. “There, there now,” Angelus said to her, “It’s all over now.” Angelus then started to walk her away from this exposed place.

She sniffled when Angelus put his arm around her. She merely nodded. He had saved her. Why would he go through all that trouble if he were going to kill her? She paused through. “You are bleeding!” She just now noticed the gut wound he was sporting.

He looked down at his blood soaked shirt. Goddamn mother….ruined another good, expensive shirt. First, Lillian with the stake, now this. “Don’t worry,” he told her. “It’s not as bad as it looks. Nothing vital was hit.” He kept walking her further away from the crowds and sounds of the midway. The sounds were becoming distant to the human ear if paying attention. “What we need to do is get you relaxed.” Yes, relaxed so we can work you up all over again. But you can trust him, look at that face. How could somebody so good looking be bad?

She merely nodded her head as she sniffled once more. The fear and adrenaline she felt earlier was fading and she was starting to let the shock wear off. She still wasn’t aware of the fact that they were getting further and further away. “What were those things? What are you?” She had seen his true face when he was fighting. Again, he saved her though.

“There’s a whole other side of things…I didn’t catch you name, ” he said as they walked and he held her to his side. “One that most don’t even know about or believe in.” This one was going to be tasty when that fear is released again.

“Karli.” She just noticed that they were getting further away from the boardwalk and people. She was further and further away from her car. She turned around then looked back to him. “My car is actually the other way. Thanks for your help though.” She started to pull away from Angelus

“Karli,” he said her name. “Actually, Karli, you won’t be needing your car. See, what they were, were vampires. What you were to them was a snack. Since there were three and a lot of times traveling like, that they share. Me, I’m a vampire,” he said with a shrug. “Actually I’m the most badass vampire to ever walk and instead of a snack, you’re dinner because see, just one of me.” And then his demon face came to surface. The ridged brow, sharp cheekbones, broader nose, yellow eyes and those lethal, sharp teeth were all on display.

She tried once more to pull away from his grip. “But…no…you…you saved me…” She was struggling against him now. She kicked him in the knee, hoping it would be enough so she could get free and run.

“I don’t like to share,” he said as he slammed her against the warehouse wall after that kick. “I’ve never been good at it, you know? Besides I like to season my own meal the way I like it. Makes for a better dining experience.”

She was seventeen years old but her nails were still done from Prom. She reached up and scratched at his face with both hands while she screamed. Karli was a screamer. She yelled high, using all her lung capacity to holler the word out into the night. “HELP!!”

A growl came from him when she scratched him. He pulled that blade and cut her barely above that low neckline. He put the point up under her chin. “Nobody can hear you except a few bums and they don’t give a big rat’s ass what happens to a prima donna like you, babe.”

She trembled now, her entire body shaking with fear. Huge hot tears rolled down and over her cheeks. “Please…” She pleaded with him, her voice hoarse from screaming so loudly. She winced as the tears rolled off her cheeks and into the bleeding wound across her chest.

Angelus leaned to her. He smelled her and chuckled. The fear was so tangy sweet. He cut her cheek and when it bled, he licked it.

“Why are you doing this?” She had never in her life experienced true fear or true hate before. They were foreign concepts to her. She sobbed harder as he cut into her cheek and then licked it.

“Did you believe in vampires before tonight, Karli?” he said in a whisper in her ear.

She just shook her head. She was too scared to speak. There was a part of her that hoped and prayed to God that he was just going to let her go with a few scratches. She would take a rape and release at this point, as long as he didn’t kill her.

“Don’t worry, I’m not cutting you too deep,” he said to her as he let the blade slice her up her thigh. “I don’t want to waste much.” He then grabbed her and pulled her to the door of the warehouse, kicking it open. Inside was stored equipment for the rides.

The cut along her leg didn’t hurt while he was doing but it was starting to hurt as he grabbed her. The air whipped across it, making it sting and burn at the same thing. She was losing her will to live slowly. Her legs were weak. She stumbled over her own two feet, as she was drug inside. She had already endured so much and her body was succumbing to fear and shock.

Angelus sensed this and so he plunged his fangs into her neck. He drank slowly from her. When he finished he picked her up and carried her to a merry-go-round pony. He propped her up on it. “What goes up, must come down. Spinning wheel got to go ‘round.”

Karli could feel the life slipping out of her. She was near death as Angelus propped her up on the pony. She slumped forward, her head slamming against the ceramic mane of the horse. It dented into her forehead before her body slipped off and fell with a sickening wet thud to the floor. Her limbs sprawled out in every direction, skin pale, eyes wide open and staring into nothing.

He just shook his head. He knelt down and with that blade, he carved the cross in her left cheek. Standing, he walked for the door while wiping the blade clean. Children wanting to play big games is such a shame when they find out they can’t. He’d have to find not only some more tasty meals but a new shirt as well.

It had been a few hours since he killed Karli and left her, along with a few others, in the warehouse. He was building up a nice pile of bodies for Cordelia and the rest of those morons to find. Now, Angelus was bent over a teenage girl, his fangs in her neck. She was just another victim. He drank deeply from her, that hot, thick fluid that gave her life so it could in turn gave him unlife and pleasure. When she was drained he dropped her like the wrapper off a Taco Bell Burrito, not a supreme though. He licked his lips as he looked down at the dead girl. “My luck, virgin,” he said. “Well, as in no alcohol. Would a little Jack Daniels have hurt? Teenagers and no rebellion, it’s just not right.”

The old carney warehouse was silent, but for the distant, hollow echo of the carousel. But then something, he heard something. It was a faint sound and a familiar scent. “Hiding isn’t going to work, you know,” he said. “I can smell you and man, you need to change that cologne.” The vampire slowly turned. “I mean, c’me on now, that was one thing Angel did have was taste. But, hey, he got that from moi.”

Gunn had received the message from Cordelia and he just couldn’t believe that Angelus was loose. He told Wes when he was getting ready to do the funky chicken or whatever it was that he had to do to resoul Angel the first round that messing with magic, never turned out well. It was like a damn ticking time bomb. And now it went off. He had his tranq gun in a holster under his jacket and he carried with him his axe. Faith was out with the girls but he left a message for her. If anyone would want to help him take down Angelus, it was going to be his girl. He ran his hands up the handle of the axe, ready for Angelus, as he moved through the abandoned warehouse. This place gave him the creeps. It looked like the same place that he and Fred had killed some vamps in during the whole Holtz ordeal. Speaking though, dumbass gave away where he was. Shame that Gunn didn’t get here in time to save all those people. He’d have to take care of them later, just in case Angelus turned any of them. He wouldn’t put it past the rat bastard. He was hardly hiding from the soulless demon. He was just gauging the right plan of attack to come at him. He muttered low and to himself. “Just keep talking, asshole.”

“I heard that,” Angelus said as he looked back down at the dead girl. “Yes, wondering how I got free, I imagine, Chocolate Wonder. Long story. However, in mine, you’re dead along with all the rest of Team Angel. But I don’t think I’ll bore you with it. Let’s just say that Cordy couldn’t take no for an answer and…WOW…here I am.” He kept his senses tuned, listening for the human and smelling him. “Now my next question is, are you black all over? I guess I’ll find out when I gut you open.” With that, he leaped up into the beams just over head and landed on the balls of his feet. His yellow eyes searched the dim shadows for Gunn. He crouched down on the narrow beam.

Gunn had no idea what the hell the demon was going on about. His hands tightened around his weapon. He stopped for the moment. He was trying to hear any sounds that could give away Angelus’ location. His voice, a creak of wood, anything could do it. Something. He stuck to the shadows, circling around the center of the warehouse where the poor dead girl was now put on display with the others. “Sorry I interrupted your date.” He was hoping that Angelus would answer him back. The way that the girl’s clothes were, he had no doubt that Angelus was about to have his way with the corpse. He pushed down the vomit that rose up in his throat. He knew the guy was sick but this was a whole new level. He was about to screw a corpse in front of a small audience of other corpses. It was clear that he had already done it a few times before tonight.

Angelus had invented many levels of sick. “What’s the matter, Gunn, don’t you like your women submissive?” his voice seemed to come from all sides.

“Like my girls to be a little active.” He answered, like Faith and Gwen. Two of them were more than happy to share and join in. Kind of occurred by happenstance but he wasn’t going to start complaining about being with two beautiful and strong brunettes. All sides, he noted, that meant it was echoing off the walls. Angelus wasn’t on the ground so…Gunn turned his attentions up towards the ceiling, trying to spot him.

He waited for Gunn to turn and then down he came with that trademark growl.

Gunn heard Angelus jump. Someone hadn’t dusted this place in a while. The dust falling from the beam was enough to alert him, that shuffle. He spun around and without waiting for invitation, swung his axe across Angelus’ middle. Cordy didn’t say anything about not hurting him first. It was enough to cut through his shirt and into the flesh of his stomach. Yet another ruined shirt for Angelus.

The vampire landed easily and looked down a moment. Okay, that pissed him off. That was the second shirt of the night to get destroyed. He grabbed an old metal support rod for some ride; about six-foot in length and in a fluid motion he swung it below Gunn’s waist. He was aiming for the back of the legs to take the other man down.

The metal rod caught him in one leg, causing him to take a knee. Vampire speed coupled with a metal weapon wield with vampire strength, he hardly stood a chance of getting out of the way. He still had one good leg and he used it to kick Angelus in the kneecap. He could bring the guy down to his level. He was thanking Faith for her Christmas present of heavy Walker police issue boots right about now.

Angelus bought that rod down to block that kick then brought one up of his own. “Stupid human pet tricks,” he said. “Let’s take it to Letterman, huh, Gunn?”

He rolled out of the way of that kick. He had just enough time since Angelus was too busy running his fool mouth. He reached in for the tranq gun, yanking it out of his holster. He took aim and fired from the floor, up at Angelus.

Angelus leaped and rolled to one side dodging the pesky dart from the gun. He came up and looked at the man, his features going back to human. “Another time, Gunn,” he said. He then leaped up for the beams again to travel through them.

Gunn laid there on the floor of the warehouse after Angelus ran off. Once a coward, always a coward. He reached into his jacket to get his cellphone now. He tried to work himself up to sit as the phone rang Faith. “He’s on the move.” Someone was going to have to get a tracking chip on him so they could plan a better ambush.

Angelus made it out then he paused by Gunn’s truck. He chuckled as he glanced back to the warehouse. He stepped back just a bit and raised his foot. Angelus kicked out the headlight on one side then the other. After that he headed on off. He had a lot to do before sunrise.

It took about a half-hour before the pain in his legs subsided enough for him to get up. He was still limping as he left the warehouse. He knew. He just knew that Angelus had messed with his Girl. It was a feeling deep in the pit of his stomach. That instinct. He frowned when he saw the damage. No headlights meant no driving in LA at night. And the bastard messed with his truck. No more tranqing. He was dust. He climbed into the back flatbed. Nothing he could do until dawn. And that was fast approaching. Once it did, he would take care of all those bodies in the warehouse.
Chapter Twelve

Cordelia wasn’t exactly going to waste anymore time waiting on Angelus here. He wasn’t going to come for her at the hotel. He hadn’t last time, why should he this time? She was near running out of the room and down the stairs to the lobby. She would call one of the girls, they would drive over to watch the twins and then, well, she can take care of Angelus. She still had no idea how this happened. Maybe someone re-cursed him? Wolfram and Hart? That had to be it. Those bastards. She had to wonder how on earth they were able to do it. Though she thought Earth, probably didn’t have a lot to do with it.

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce entered the hotel. He was worn and beat up looking. He moved to one of the seats in the lobby and sat. He couldn’t believe what had happened this past week, it all seemed like an impossible dream. He wasn’t sure how he was going to tell everyone, especially Cordy.

Cordelia stopped just as she got to the bottom of the stairs. She could see Wes there and he looked…well…really bad. He could have gone ten rounds with a hulking demon or gotten into a fight with a Mac truck. “Oh god, Wes…don’t tell me that he got to you too?” She rushed down from where she was so that she could check on him. Any wounds or injuries, she’d have to take care of before anything else.

“Cordy,” he said trying to sit up. He winced and held his side. “Cordy, before anything else there’s something….something, I need to tell you.” He paused a moment, “Who got me?”

“Angelus. He is loose. Something…something must have happened with the spell. He attacked Lillian. He is at some amusement park. I called the school already. Gunn and Faith should be on their way.” She moved behind the counter and grabbed the first aid kit. She could see him wincing. She came back to him, trying to help him with his jacket. It was like a repeat of the other evening, only this time with Wes. “Where are you hurt? I can heal it. I feel fine. Well, more than a little pissed off right now.”

“Cordelia,” he said, “Angelus can’t be loose.” A frown of more then just pain crossed his features.

“I just talked to him on the phone. The conversation is totally recorded on the machine at the Academy. Okay, now where are you hurt? We don’t have a lot of time here. And where have you been? I have been calling you for three days since Angel came back. I thought you guys were coming together. And where’s Fred?” She fired the questions off at him with machine gun speed as she got his jacket off. She started to take off his shirt. For as many times as they had bandaged each other up, this was just protocol. And eww, any thoughts about Wes. No. He was like her brother: her annoying British brother but still.

“Cordelia,” he tried again. “Cordy.” He stopped her hands and was looking at her. “He can’t be Angelus because Angel…Angel is dead. I saw him dusted right before me.”

She met her eyes with his and then pulled her hands away. Her face looked serious. One of those not amused looks she could put on so well. “That isn’t funny, Wes. I mean it. Angel came back to the hotel. He was pretty beat up. He’s been here for a few days. He is not dead.”

“I’m not being funny,” he insisted, his tone soft. “Cordelia, Angel is gone.” He reached into his coat pocket and brought out a ring. It was Angel’s wedding ring.

She looked down at the ring. She just couldn’t believe it. She reached for it, her hand barely shaking. “Wes…no…you didn’t see what you thought you saw. Angel was here. I…he spent time with the twins. We…” Her voice dropped to barely a whisper. “I let him…we…” She couldn’t continue. How could she tell Wes what she did? And how could she not tell it wasn’t her husband. Maybe she just…she wanted so badly to believe it was Angel.

“Cordy, tell,” he said. “Tell me what has happened here? Why do you think Angelus is running lose?”

She curled her fingers around the wedding ring in her palm. She was trying so hard not to just start crying. When it rains, it pours it seems. It was the story of their existence. She looked up at him, tears in her eyes but she held them in. She could mourn later. She had to be strong. “I told you, Wes. I talked to him on the phone. He attacked Lillian. She is in the hospital.” She was quiet as she looked down at the fist that held the wedding ring. “How could I be so stupid? I should have known something was wrong when he came here without you. He couldn’t remember the past few years. He said the last thing he remembered was fighting in the Apocalypse.”

“Whatever has been here has not been Angel,” he moved to get up but the pain put him right back down on the poof.

“It was Angel…it was. I know him.” She looked up once more at Wes. If it wasn’t Angel, some twisted form of Angel, she wasn’t sure that she could deal with it. She would have let a stranger into her bed. And let him…touch her like he was her husband. Worst of all, she let him near her children. That is what chilled her to the bone.

Wesley could no longer keep conscious. His injuries had the better of him and he passed out. Cordelia had no choice but to try to drag Wes upstairs to one of the rooms to sleep and heal.

It was several hours after she had put Wes to rest but she found that she couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t a big surprise given the news. Cordelia sat at the large picture window with a window seat that Angel had so long ago put in for her. He couldn’t enjoy the sun but he wasn’t one to deny her of it. She was watching the sky as it turned from that deep blue black to the hazy blues and pinks of morning. The sun was rising, which meant Angelus would have to hide for now. He wouldn’t come back to the hotel during the day. The anti-violence spell would keep him away. She’d have to take the twins to a safe house though so she could be free to fight. She brought her knees up to her chest, resting her head down. How could she had thought that man, that thing, that whatever was Angel? Couldn’t she tell the difference? Or maybe she didn’t want to? Maybe some part of her knew that Angel was dead and she didn’t want to believe it? She was desperate to ask Wesley the details of how Angel died but deep inside of her, she didn’t want to know. If it was something mystical, she knew Wes would be trying to bring him back. But no, just dusted. Heart breaking that Angel, the Champion, went out like any other soulless vampire. She raised her head to once more look out over to the rising sun. How long ago was it that she and Angel had nearly forgotten about the sunrise because they were asleep in her apartment bed. She smiled just a little at the memory. Seemed like a lifetime ago of that night that would change both of their lives forever.

——Summer 2002——–

Cordelia blinked back from the vision. Well, it was nice to know that it took a glowing version of herself to tell her the truth. If she wasn’t so blinded by the love puppy, Groo, she might have been able to realize it ages ago. Her biggest fear though, was that Angel didn’t feel the same. Dennis had the phone floating in front of her. Wasn’t hard to figure out since she did talk to herself and she said she loved Angel. She dialed the number for the Hyperion.

Hearing the phone as he entered the lobby of the hotel, Angel headed for the front desk. “I got it,” he said and whistled as he went across the lobby to answer the phone. Yes, he’s happy. It’s been a good day for them all. “Angel Investigations. We can help you,” he said. “I know we can.”

Angel sounded just a little bit too chipper there. She had to wonder if they spiked his blood with uppers or something. “Hi. Its me.”

When he heard her voice, his mood even rose more. If sunshine had a voice it would sound like Cordelia’s. “Hi, Cor, how are you?”

“I’m good. You?” From the sounds of it, he was doing fantastic. This was definitely a goofy Angel kind of evening.

Glancing back at Connor, he spoke into the phone. He may not have been able to raise Connor from a baby but he had him back now. “I’m pretty good.”

Cordelia hesitated for a moment. This wasn’t going to be easy. There was always that fear of rejection that sat heavy in her stomach. “Um…Angel…I sort of need to talk to you…in person.”

The vampire took on a serious tone, reaching her through the receiver. “Is it something…bad?” he asked, his heavy brow furrowed just a bit.

“No. No!” She wanted to quickly reassure him. She could hear that tone. “Its something good…I think.” There was that hesitation again. “Well, it sort of depends on how YOU feel…”

Angel shifted his weight. He felt a bit of a knot in his stomach. “About what?”

“Well…about me,” She really hoped that this was one of those times where Angel wasn’t as dense as a Death by Chocolate cake. She hoped that he could figure out what she was talking about.

His face sort of went blank for a minute as he processed what she was saying. He swallowed. “Oh,” was all he could manage to get out.

So typically Angel. He could face down the worst demons in the world but ask him to discuss love and relationships…”Could you meet me tonight?”

Did he hear her right? Meet her? “Tonight,” he asked her, maybe not believing this…the evening and now Cordy. “Sure. Okay. Where?” He was a manpire of few words.

She smiled. She was rather impatient but she had to get this off her chest. The sooner it was over the sooner they could celebrate or deal with the aftermath. “I’ve always loved Point Dume. There’s a viewpoint. It’s the first turn north of Kanan. Really pretty spot.” It was romantic too but she spared Angel from telling him that.

Grabbing a pen and note pad, he wrote her directions down and repeated them as he does. “Point Dume. Viewpoint. First turn, north Kanan. We’ll meet there. – About an hour?” He waits for her reply.

“Yes.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

“Yes.”

“Good. Okay then, we’ll do that.” She was probably just as nervous as he was. She hung up the phone and looked around her apartment. “Oh god…oh god…” She looked at the time. An hour. She wouldn’t have time to change or do more than brush her teeth. Really don’t want to have bad breath when you are meeting someone to tell them that you love them. She looked around for her purse, relieved when Dennis brought it to her. “Thank you, Dennis. My ghost with the most.” She breathed in a deep breath. “Okay, wish me luck. This is when I go tell Angel how I feel…for better or worse.”

After brushing her teeth, she left her apartment with her car keys in hand. She had to park on the street because getting a spot in her complex was damn near impossible some nights. She crossed the grass and got in. She put the key in ignition, ready to turn it. It was a quiet night. Well, quiet for LA. She turned the key and nothing. “What the…oh not tonight, not tonight.” She turned the key again. She paused as she thought she heard something. It was a click, followed by a few more. If it wasn’t for the fact she watched Casino just the previous week, she might have stayed in that Jeep. She grabbed her purse, leaving the keys in the ignition as she leaped from the car. She hit the grass hard but it wasn’t a moment too soon. The Jeep clicked loudly once more before it exploded into a fireball. Cordelia covered her head with her hands quickly, trying to ball her body up so she didn’t get hit with all sorts of flying debris from the car’s explosion.

She turned over slightly, just so that she could get a good look. Her car was a blaze and the alarms of other cars were going off all around her. This can’t be happening. She was suppose to live to a ripe old age. Or be killed by a demon or something. Not go out gangland style. Her hand shaking, she was barely able to get her cellphone from her purse. She had to call Angel. She had to warn him and the others. She dialed Angel first and foremost. They might have rigged the GTX the same way they had done with her Jeep.

Angel was already in his car and pulling out in the street. He heard his phone ring and curse to himself. Damn phones. He pulled out his cell and answered it. “Angel.” He wasn’t in the mood to be bothered now. He was on a mission. A mission of the heart, even though his was probably just a dried up walnut…it was still his heart.

“Angel…” She choked out. The fumes from the car were starting to affect her breathing. She pulled herself further away from the wreckage. “You are okay?” She was surprised to hear the sound of his voice. She had no idea that Wolfram and Hart had already tried at the drive-in to cause trouble.

“Yeah, I’m,” he said, then stopped on hearing her voice, “Cordy, what is it? Where are you?” An urgency came to his words.

“I am in the grass outside my complex. My Jeep…My Jeep blew up.” That was heartbreaking for her. She still had a ton of payments left on it. And it was something big that she bought with her own money. It was hers. Just like the apartment. It wasn’t much but still.

“I’m on my way,” he said without hesitation. “Just…just wait in your apartment.” Oh, no, this wasn’t going to happen.

She nodded her head despite the fact that he couldn’t see it. She could already hear the sirens. Which meant the police would be here soon. Probably declare it an accident since she was pretty sure Wolfram and Hart had their hands in cop pockets. She struggled to try to get up. That is when she noticed her leg was killing her. “I think there is a piece of metal in my leg.” She could see the blood seeping out and staining her white dress. Why did she wear white? Some crazy virginal thing going on here? Angel already knew that before Groo showed up, she wasn’t getting any. She didn’t have to remind him.

He was now racing through the streets of L.A. Streetlights be damned. Anyway, most the new cars now a days if they hit the GTX, little to no damage. Car was a tank. It was just how they used to build them. “Cordelia, I’m just a couple minutes away.” He could see the emergency vehicles and smell the acrid smoke.

She sat up as Angel was speaking, pulling the hem of her dress up to inspect the damage. It was pretty deep. Now she had to remember, pull it out or keep it in. She took a deep breath and yanked it out. She let out a choked sound. That pain was nothing compared to what Wolfram and Hart had done to her before. “I have to tie this off so I can get back to my apartment.” She just hung up the phone. He should know it wasn’t to be rude. It was simply the situation. Her brain kicked over into work mode.

Angel tossed his phone on the seat of the car. Finally, he pulled into the parking area for the apartments. He wasn’t going to pull around where the explosion and excitement was. He got out of the convertible and started making his way the way Cordy would have walked from the scene. He could smell it. He could smell her blood. Blood was what most of a vampires senses were geared to, which made it easy to track like a bloodhound. He stopped when he saw her.

Her back was too him. She had already ripped off a strip of her dress. Good thing she got it on sale. She was tying off the wound on her leg. She looked worse for wear, smudges of black on her cheeks and her clothes. The back of her dress had scorch marks. And she was missing a shoe.

“Cordy,” he said as he came up to her. He moved around to kneel down in front of her. He looked at the wound then at her face. It was all there in his eyes: the worry, anger, love. “Cordelia?”

She turned her chin up so that she could look at him. “Powers always warning me about everyone else in trouble. They don’t think to warn me.” She tried for a smile but it was interrupted when she start to cough.

Angel reached for her and picked her up easily. He just stood there a moment not saying anything, just holding her. He was thinking he could have lost her tonight.

It felt good to be in his arms to be honest. She was suffering from a mild case of shock. This whole thing just seemed so…surreal. “They blew my Jeep up, Angel. How am I going to get to work?” That was the shock talking. Unless he wanted to spend the night with her at the hospital with lots of questions, going back to her apartment, playing dumb, might be the best course of action. Who knew what they would do to her at a hospital?

Carrying her on towards her apartment, he told her, “Don’t worry about work now, Cordy.” As they got to the door it was opened, thanks to Dennis. As Angel carried her in, the ghost closed it. The vampire carried her to her bedroom and laid her down on the bed. “We better look at that leg.”

“In the bathroom is my first aid kit.” She barely had to get the words out before Dennis was already there with it, along with a glass of water. She sat up a little. She reached for the water so she could take a sip. It would help clear out all the junk in her throat.

Angel took the first aid kit and opened it. He then took her makeshift bandage off her wound.

She hissed softly as he pulled the blood soaked piece of dress away from her skin. “I can’t remember the last time you were doing the patching up.” She set her water aside. She didn’t even want to think of what she looked like right now.

He didn’t even have to say it. Dennis had a wet rag. He took it and started cleaning the wound. His lips drew in a thin line as he worked.

She winced as he started to clean the wound. It looked a lot worse than it really was. Jagged and angry, it was still bleeding. She wouldn’t need stitches though which meant no hospital. She just kept quiet as he worked.

Finally, he finished cleaning and wrapping the wound. When that was done, he was quiet, as he often was. He wasn’t sure what to say or do next.

She was about to speak when she heard the knock on the door and the all too familiar “Police”. She turned her eyes back to Angel. “Can you…get rid of them? Grr face or something. I really need a shower and a drink. Please.” It would probably take the police a bit to trace the Jeep back to her apartment. By then, they would just tell her it blew up and she would make sure it looked like she wasn’t there when it did.

“Yeah,” Angel said as he stood. He went into the living room and what she probably could hear were only murmurs.

She got up from her bed, limping slightly from her leg injury. She moved into the bathroom, shutting the door behind her. She got the water running first and then undressed. She just wanted to wash away all signs that she was out there. Also she wanted to relieve some of the tension that was building up in her shoulders. Poor Angel, left out there with the officers and then left alone. She must have been in that shower for a half-hour easily before she finally emerged in her bathroom. She called out. “Angel? Where are you?”

He came to her door. “I’m right here, Cordy,” he said as he came around from the kitchen carrying a mug of something hot.

“I…I’m sorry about pawning the cops off on you. I just needed a shower. I was so…grubby. Did they say anything?”

“Its okay,” Angel said as he handed the mug to her. “Hot chocolate, with little marshmallows. Thought you could use it.” He paused. “No, they just wanted to know if we saw anything suspicious and I said nothing but the call the ref made on that last play on the game playing tonight.”

She looked down at the mug and then back up at him with a smile. “Hope you put some peppermint schnapps in this too.” She chuckled as she moved past him. She headed to the living room to sit down on the couch. There was less temptation with the couch than her bedroom. “Did you really say that?”

“Yeah,” he replied. “I even turned the set on as I moved by it.” He followed her. He stood, his eyes went from her to the carpet then he felt invisible hands push him towards the couch.

She blew on the hot chocolate before she took a sip from it. It was actually nice. The shower, the drink. It was helping her to forget what had happened with her Jeep. But not what she had meant to say to him tonight. She looked down into the mug. “This isn’t how I wanted tonight to go.”

“I know,” he replied. “At least I think I do. Do I?” He got that going in circles look.

“Did you want to get some frantic phone call from me saying that Wolfram and Hart blew up my Jeep? Is that how YOU imagined it?” She threw in the Wolfram and Hart thing there. She was already convinced that is who was trying to kill her. They did it before.

Angel sat down next to her finally. “Not really. Seems like Wolfram & Hart wanted to ruin everyone’s evening.”

She raised a brow when he said that. She looked over at him now that he was finally sitting down. “What happened?”

“They attacked us at the drive in,” he told her. “But you should have seen Connor.” A smile started playing on his lips.

She moved just a bit closer to him. She was worried now. “Is everyone okay? They didn’t hurt Connor, did they?” Her concern was because no matter what, no matter how upset Connor could get, she still loved him like her own son.

He shook his head. “No, but a few of them will be on sick leave for a while.” Angel looked at her and smelled her subtly. He leaned to her as she moved closer to him. His eyes were looking at her lips.

She smiled as she heard that. “You two are going to make a great father and son team.” She let her voice trail. She could see where his eyes were looking. She knew that he was thinking the same thing that she was.

“Angel and Son Investigations…” Angel trailed off but picked up again with a single word. “Cordy,” his voice was but a whisper now.

“Yes?” Her voice was as soft as his. She was just looking at him. She was waiting. She didn’t want to face the possibility that he would tell her that she was a great Seer but he didn’t like her that way.

“At Point Dume,” Angel said as he lips got closer, “Would we have done..” Then with that, his cold lips touched her warm ones.

Her heart jumped into her throat as she felt him press her lips against hers. She closed her eyes. Not from the moment but to pray to the Powers that Angel wasn’t possessed by some spirit. She knew she wasn’t. But every single time they seemed to have a moment like this, it was interrupted and destroyed completely. She kissed him back but she was holding back.

He broke the kiss but didn’t pull back far. His forehead was touching hers. “Would you have told me you loved me?”

She very gently nodded her head. “I do love you. I’ve just been so…retarded to realize it.” She answered him. She had put herself out there. Now it would all depend on what he said next.

Angel brought up his hand and his fingers lightly touched her cheek then jawline. “Me too,” he spoke. “I wanted to tell you when we got back from Pylea…”

She tightened up though. He wanted to tell her because Buffy died? Then he had lost his one true love so he could settle for second best? She needed some kind of assurances here. She wanted to hear the words, to look into his eyes. She pulled away from his fingers to look at him. “I need to know…I need to hear you say it.”

“Cordelia Chase,” he said as he looked into her eyes, “I love you. I’ve loved you for some time and been to stupid to realize it.” He waited for her to reply. He swallowed hard. His stomach felt like it was in knots.

“So…I guess the next question is what do we do now? We both made this huge declarations. We love each other. That is all great…if we were two different people. Normal dating, kind of thrown out the window what with the saving the world.”

“Would you settle for normal?” Angel asked her. He took her hand in his and looked at it. “Could you love what I am. My cold touch. And the other aspects of what I am?”

“How can you even ask me that? I mean really. Here I am, telling you that I love you. I have been around you long enough to know what you are. You are stubborn and you are a big dork sometimes. And you get excited over the silliest things. But, you have a great big heart and it hasn’t been easy for either of us to get to the place where we put others before ourselves. So, I’ll take care of you, you take care of me, we should do okay.”

He waited for a moment, then he leaned to her again and kissed her. Then he pulled back suddenly. “Do I kiss like a dork?”

She smiled at him. She held her hand up, holding her fingers just a little bit apart. “Just a little.”

“Oh, no,” Angel said, “no way do I kiss like Xander Harris.”

“Hey now…I had some really good makeout sessions with him in the library…and the janitor’s closet…and my car. What comparison do I have here? Nothing that wasn’t some fake reality or being possessed. Those two tonight aren’t a good enough basis.”

He leaned to her again and this time he kissed her deeply. He wanted her to really remember this kiss. He pressed his tongue into her mouth, searching for her tongue.

She reached her arms up and draped them over his shoulders. This made the whole Jeep blowing up incident worth it. She still couldn’t believe that this was happening.

His hand slipped over her hip as he let his tongue press to hers. He played with her tongue, teasing her through this kiss. He could stay like this for eternity but he knew she had to breathe so he finally pulled back, reluctantly.

She smiled at him but she didn’t move away from him. “Much better.” Her voice was a breathy whisper. She leaned towards him again. She knew they had to be careful. His curse was still a huge factor. They couldn’t go too far.

Angel’s dark eyes searched hers. He loved this woman on levels he’d not ever loved before. She had seen the worse of the worse in him…his demon. And that thought made him give pause. “Do I have the right to love you? To keep you from finding happiness..total happiness?”

She reached out to touch his face. She held it in her hands as she looked at him. “Sometimes I think you like the whole suffering dark avenger thing.” She tried for a small smile before she looked serious once more. “What makes you think I won’t find total happiness with you? I have pretty much accepted the fact that there is no way I can have a normal life. I am Vision Girl. Most guys wouldn’t understand my life. But you do. Because we are in this thing together. You are The Champion, I am The Seer. Its like peanut butter and jelly.”

“Um, that’s not exactly what I’m talking about,” he said. “What about the needs of a normal relationship. You’ve seen what happens and I don’t see how I couldn’t have that perfect moment…”

“Jeeze…” She rolled her eyes. “I just told you I love you like five minutes ago and you are already worried about getting into my pants?”

Angel shook his head. “Cordy, I’m looking at something more for us. What I want for you goes beyond just dating. I want you to be my partner. My helpmate…I want to share the rest of your life with you and make you as happy as I can.”

“And why can’t we do that? First off, in case you haven’t noticed, every single time I have sex, something bad happens. So I’ve learned to go without. And second, have you forgotten the brains we have back at the office? Fred and…” She trailed off from mentioning Wes. She still hadn’t forgiven him for taking Connor but he could really help in this area. He deserved a chance to redeem himself, just like they all did.

He settled back on the couch. He slipped his arm around her pulling her to him to just hold her. “We are a pretty amazing bunch of misfits.”

She had no problem with the just holding her there. She laid against him, resting her cheek and a hand against his chest. She was quiet now because she had thought about Wes. She was still thinking about him.

His finger moved up and down her arm as the sat there with her. Could he really content himself to just this? Could he control himself around her? He doubted it very much. “You’ve gotten quiet.”

“I am going to see Wes tomorrow. See what he can do.” Her tone was very matter of fact. She really wasn’t going to take his protests into consideration. He might still be pissed at Wes, and he had every right.

Angel remained silent when she said this. Wesley wasn’t his favorite topic…far from it. Finally, he nodded. “I can’t tell you who to see and who not.”

“And what if I go to see him and he tells me that he knows how to make that soul of yours permanent? If he tells me that he can take care of that curse and keep you a Champion?” She turned her face up so that she could look at him now.

“I don’t know,” he replied. Angel still had a hard time wanting to deal with Wes for anything. He’d stolen his son, which led to Connor growing up in a hell dimension.

: “No one is perfect. I seem to recall a certain someone who really hurt the people that love him. Threw them out on the street and they didn’t know if he was coming back or if he was going to lose it completely. And they still took him back in. They forgave him after he hurt them so deeply.”

“And I recall somebody got a new wardrobe out of it too,” he said with just a slight smile, remembering her finding the clothes.

“Yeah, well…I still think you got off easily for what you did.” She turned her head back down so that she could get comfortable against him again. “Did you mean that whole little speech about going beyond dating?”

Angel nodded. “I meant every word of what I said.” He kissed the top of her head.

“So…if I was like…’Hey Angel, let’s run off to Vegas and get hitched’, you’d be fine with that?”

“I would say, ‘Hey, Cordy, why wait that long. Let’s go to city hall.’ How about that?”

She laughed. “You say that now.” She draped her arm across his stomach, really making him a mattress now. “I think its going to have to wait until tomorrow night. Between the averting death and big declarations, I am exhausted.”

“Sounds good,” he said. “I’m sure Dennis has your bed turned down by now.” It was pretty nice to have your own live in help.

“I am really comfortable right here.” She made no move to get up. Why should she? He was her own Angel bed. What woman would say no to that?

Angel brought his other arm over so he could hold her in a light embrace. This was fine with him. He’d not complain.

She started to relax and doze. She was just on the edge of sleep before she remembered. Her eyes flew open. “Dennis…can you pull the curtains please? Sun is coming up.” She heard the curtains move and settled down once more. She didn’t want to wake up in a pile of dust.

“I hope he doesn’t get jealous,” Angel whispered. It was the last thing she heard before she drifted off to sleep in his arms

Cordelia pulled herself out of the memories. She could feel not only the warm sun on her face but the tears on her cheeks. She had to pull herself together. She sat up a little straighter before swinging her legs off the window seat. She stood up, wiping her cheeks, before she headed to where she left Wesley for the night.
After an evening of feeding, maiming and torturing of humans, Angelus made a quick stop by County General. He’d heard through the demon grapevine that one of the slayers had been put in the hospital. Gee, wonder how that happened, he chuckled to himself. What a perfect way to end the day then to go by and pay his respects to his son and his slut, er, slayer.

Before arriving Angelus made sure to grab a bottle of mint scope from a convenience store where he had just killed the clerk, along with a few other things he’d need when he camped out in his temporary digs. The vampire also got one of those little roses in the plastic tube to take with him. He opened the mouthwash and took a mouthful and swished it around then as he walked out he spit it out in a planter outside the door.

“Ah,” he said, “minty fresh.” He tossed the bag into the GTX, which he managed to take from the hotel parking before dawn. He got in and headed for the hospital.

Angelus didn’t need to inquire where they were, he could track Connor. Soon he was walking the floor towards the waiting room where he found Connor. He put on that deep concerned look that a father would have when his son was troubled and hurting. “Connor,” he said, “I came as soon as I heard. How is Lillian?”

The young man looked up and stood. “We don’t know yet. Blood loss slowed her healing abilities. Though if she’d been normal…”

Angelus nodded. “I know, son,” he said and noted Connor had been crying, the little candyass. “I brought a little something because well, I know she can’t have much in ICU.” He handed Connor the little flower in the tube.

Connor took it and nodded. “Thanks, I know she’ll appreciate it, especially from you. First time she met you she thought you were cool.” He chuckled. “Mom laughed and informed her you were nothing but a 250 year old dork.”

That just rubbed Angelus all wrong. The Scourge of Europe, the biggest mass murderer in history being reduced to be called a Dork. He quickly recovered. “Connor, why don’t you go get a cup of coffee before I have to leave. I’ll sit here and if the doctors come with news I’ll call you.”

Connor didn’t really like this idea but then he’d been here all night. He still had some issues with his father but he was trying. He also knew with Angel there, Lillian would be safe. “Thanks,” he nodded and went to find the cafeteria.

Angelus watched him leave and turned to look to the ICU ward. He smirked then entered and moved to find Lillian’s bed. He could smell her out and soon found her cubicle. Angelus walked over to Lily’s bed and looked down at her. It would be so easy, but where would the sport be? He looked at the IV and the bag of blood hanging there. So tempting. Just unplug that IV and the straw is there.

The monitors around Lillian beeped, showing signs of life. If a human had lost as much blood as she did, they would be dead. She was fortunate in that she had a Slayer’s healing ability. Her body was focusing on healing enough so that she could regain consciousness. Her eyelids started to flutter, her hand twitching with movement. It would be a shame that Connor was not the one to see her wake but rather, her attacker.

Yes, it was a shame. Angelus was standing right there at her bedside. He was smiling down at her. If it had been anyone else with a smile like that it would have been warm and caring, but on Angelus it was anything but. “Well, sleeping beauty.”

That voice cut through the fog that was clouding her mind as she tried to come to. She thought for a moment that she was back in her nightmare. The one that kept replaying while she slept. In it, she hadn’t been spared. She had been killed and turned. And she killed Connor. It was horrific. Her eyes opened wide suddenly, popping open. She looked at Angelus, her already pale skin paling further.

The vampire looked from her to the IVs and especially the one with the blood. “Now isn’t that just something.” Then his gaze went back to her, “It smells so inviting.” He reached down and took her hand in his. He patted it lightly.

Her free hand started to creep towards the call button slowly. She didn’t want to alert him. She needed the blood transfusion to survive. She swallowed hard as she felt the cold chill of his hand touching hers. Where was Connor? He should be here. Had Angel already killed him?

“Uh, uh, uh…,” he noted that button. “I could snap your neck before you even touch it, babe.”

Her hand stopped short when he noticed that she was going for the call button. Even if she did press it in time, he could just snap her neck afterwards. She spoke, her voice was hoarse and barely more than a whisper. “What do you want?”

“What do I want?” he tried to look thoughtful, looking up at the ceiling. “That is a good question. I know I don’t want this Norman Rockwell life Angel had me going for when we got here from our own dimension.”

While he was looking up at the ceiling, she could have pressed the call button. Aside from the fact that it would light up the red light over her bed and alert Angel she had done it. She closed her eyes, trying so hard to send out a mental message to Connor. She had no idea if it would work. Some Slayers had prophetic dreams. Some demons could read thoughts. Life was different when you were special. And Connor wasn’t an average human. Could he pick it up? ~Connor…please…Angel’s evil. Help~

Then casually, Angelus pulled the transfusion line from the needle in her arm. He held his thumb over the end. “But you know, in the end, I guess I want an Apocalypse. Last one didn’t go to well. Landed me here some how.” He took a sip from the line like it was a straw.

She whimpered as he yanked out her transfusion line. It wasn’t exactly a pleasant sensation. She reached her hand over across her body to cover the needle still sticking from her arm. The movement was slow though as she was so weak.

Clamping off the line so the blood didn’t run out and drain to set off the IV alert, he looked back at her. “I’ve had a slayer before, been a while and it was so…warm,” he said as he put a hand on her thigh over the sheet. “And at this time of a morning there isn’t hardly a soul on the floor but the desk nurse.” With the other hand, he pulled the oxygen tubing out of her nose. His hand quickly covered her mouth.

Now she was really frightened. She couldn’t scream for help and she was too weak to fight him. Her brain was going a mile a minute to try to figure out how she could get out of this. She weakly moved her leg away from his cold touch. She screamed out in her mind. ~CONNOR! HELP!~ She only wished he had some sort of power or that someone up there liked her.

Angelus had the sheet off her. He then pulled the hospital gown up, exposing her body. His features vamped out and he started to go for her breast and just before he was about to bite he paused and looked from her to the hall. He looked back at her and with a growl took off. Second time that Connor had interrupted his playtime. That kid was really getting on his nerves.

The moment that he left, she grabbed the sheet up as best as she could to cover herself. She started to cry. Her sobs were weak, choked in her throat, her entire body shaking with them. It was taking everything out of her to cry. She was spilling her soul out in those tears. The thing that made her cry so much was that utter helplessness. She couldn’t fight him off, she couldn’t defend herself. If something hadn’t scared him off, she would have been raped…or worse.

Connor had sensed something was wrong. He stepped off the elevator and headed for Lillian’s room. He frowned when he saw no sign of his father, who had promised to stay. He stepped in and saw Lillian. He could smell the fear coming from her. “Lillian, babe,” he moved quickly to her. She was awake but she was shaking and not from the cold.

She was also still mostly exposed from what Angel had done to her. She couldn’t bring the sheet up all the way to cover herself. She saw Connor through tear blurred eyes. She opened her mouth but the only thing that came out was a dry, cracked sound.

He was there and reaching for her with one arm. The other was hitting the call button. With that done, he pulled the covers up over her. “Its okay, babe, I’m here,” he said in a hushed whisper.

“Angel…he…he came back…and he…” Her voice sounded like a dry husk rubbing against sandpaper. She shook in Connor’s arms. Usually, she felt safe but not now. Not after this. “He…he touched me and he…he came to finish it.”

“Yeah, dad was here,” Connor replied. “He said he’d sit with you until I got back. But he’s gone now. What do you mean, finish you?”

“Connor…Angel…Angel is evil. He…” She just reached up to touch that spot at her neck where the bandage was now. It was her way of telling him that Angel had done this. She couldn’t bring herself to put it into words. Then it would be too true.

“He looked from her face to her neck where her hand was. He was silent. He couldn’t talk for a long moment. “Whatever it was that messed him up took the ensoulment spell,” he finally spoke. “I can’t believe I didn’t know. Angelus…”

She tried to shake her head. But she could barely do it. She had to tell him. She had to tell someone what Angel had told her. “Not..from..here.” She was getting weaker from the moment. “His world…was destroyed…” She didn’t know too much about other dimensions or inter-dimensional travel. But Connor, he was an expert.

Connor’s sharp blue eyes suddenly looked at her from his far away state. “Another dimension,” he repeated. Then he frowned. “He had no memory loss because he hadn’t had the memories of being here.”

She couldn’t be sure but it seemed like a logical conclusion. Her brain was too clouded in pain and barely holding consciousness to process anything on her own. “He…told me…He said…horrible things. He said…you and your mom…” She couldn’t bring herself to say it. She just started crying in his arms once more.

“Don’t listen to a word Angelus says, Lillian,” Connor told her. “Even Angel warned all of you in class one day of the evils of his demon. The worse of all that walked.” Then the nurses came in and he had no choice but to leave. Before he did, though he leaned to her and kissed her.

Moving down to the waiting room, he used the phone there and called Cordelia’s cell. He waited as it rang. “C’me on…pick up.”

Cordelia was headed towards Wesley room after having her little moment of remembering the past. When she answered the phone, her voice was thick. She was holding back crying. “Hello?” She half expected Angelus to be calling her, to taunt her some more for her mistake that let him free.

“It was him,” Connor said. “It was Angelus.” He felt he didn’t have to say anymore about Lillian’s attack. “Did you know?”

She stopped in her tracks when he said that. She closed her eyes. “I didn’t when you called. I called Angel’s cellphone after you called me…when I heard Angelus, I knew. Connor…I…that is not your father. Angel is…” Her voice trailed off. She didn’t have the heart to tell him over the phone. “We can arrange for home care for Lillian. She needs to be someplace protected and I need you back here.”

“Even he’s not my father. He’s from another dimension,” he said. “Did you know this too? Did you know this and didn’t warn us?”

That was the first she heard of it and she couldn’t hide the surprise in her voice. “No. I…I had no idea. After Wes came back and he told me…” She hesitated again. “Connor, just come home. We need to talk, in person.” Her voice was too serious for him to say no.

Connor just hung up.
Chapter Thirteen

Cordelia had to make one more phone call before she went to see Wes. Since Lillian was a student at the school, the school was not only her contact information but also her medical proxy. Cordelia needed to arrange for home care for Lillian. The Slayer-in-training needed to be back here, at the hotel, where there was an antiviolence spell. And with Lillian here, Connor would stay rather than go out hunting Angelus. It only took but fifteen minutes before it was all arranged. It wasn’t the first time Lillian had been in the hospital. It wouldn’t be the last since she was a Slayer. She hung her cellphone up and finally went to Wes’ room. She knocked on the door, waiting for him to answer.

Wesley was up now and able to function for the most part. He had a pretty good black eye and cut lip. His arm was in a sling. He answered the door to see Cordelia. “I was just going to come speak to you.”

She wasn’t in the mood for any sort of light heartedness. She had come here to talk plans. She came into the room and closed the door behind her. “It IS Angelus. Angel, from another dimension. Connor just called me to tell me. I don’t know how he knows but Angelus attacked Lillian.”

Wesley sighed and indicated a chair for her. “If we only knew why and how he came to be here.” He was ever the curious mind. “Fred and I will mix up the tranquilizers. Its past dawn, he’ll be looking for someplace to hold up for the day. It shan’t be far from the hospital.”

Cordelia took the offered seat. She needed it. She hadn’t slept all night. She looked bone weary with dark circles around her eyes, puffy from having cried all night over the loss of her husband. Now though, was not the time to mourn. They had a battle to deal with. “I have to take the twins to the safehouse. I am betting that since this Angel is from another dimension, he doesn’t know about it. That explains the memory loss though.”

“Actually there would be no memory loss because he didn’t have those memories to start with,” Wesley reminded her in that annoying way of his. “I just hope he can’t sense them like their real father could. Tea?”

Her jaw tightened. She wasn’t in the mood for Wesley correcting her. She just found out she lost her husband and Angelus was loose all in the same hour. “I meant that when this other dimension Angel showed up, we all thought he had memory loss. It turns out he never had the memories.”

“Yes. Now the question is, what do we do about him?” He looked at Cordy, waiting for her answer.

That was when she realized it. With Angel gone, she was in charge now. They were going by seniority rules. She was the one who had been here the longest. She straightened up. “I want to know why. I want answers, Wes. So we tranq him, we resoul him, we get our answers, and then we send him back to wherever the hell he is from.”

“I will have to find another orb,” he nodded. “We’ll have to fix something we can contain him in or with. I’m sure you remember how strong and crafty Angelus is.

“We still have the cage. We might have to check it for rust. I am glad now Angel thought to keep it around in case we came across werewolves.” There was a tinge of sadness that entered her voice as she mentioned her now dead husband. “Lorne will be at LAX tonight. If anyone can find one, he can. Who can say no to a worldwide singing sensation?” She smiled but it was forced. Her attempt at lightening the mood was no attempt at all.

Wes nodded once more. “Then we will do a live capture,” he said. “After all it probably isn’t any fault of his own that he is here. You did say he seemed so much like our Angel before Angelus took over. Poor bastard having to still live in that fear…” He paused, realizing just now how it was Angelus came to be here. He poured his cup of tea.

As Wes paused, she felt a knot grow in her stomach. The need to defend herself was rising up in her. “You can blame me all you want. But I thought he was my Angel. Or maybe…maybe I just wanted it to be.” She looked down now at her hands in her lap. Her eyes drawn to the wedding ring on her finger.

“I’m not assigning blame,” he told Cordelia.

“You might not be saying these things but I can tell it in your eyes. Asking yourself how could I not know?” She was tired and it was making her snap. Or more so, it was the accusation in Connor’s voice. It was so hard to get him to trust and now, now she had ruined the delicate balance they had achieved. She took in a breath and looked up at Wes. “I want to know what happened.” Cordelia had an odd sense of deja vu when she said that. It had been so long ago that she was poised outside of his apartment door, waiting for him to answer the door.

—-Summer 2002—-

Cordelia had put off coming to see Wes for as long as possible. Her and Angel…they needed his help. There was no way around it. He was the best when it came to this sort of thing. And what Angel didn’t know…She knocked again. She knew he was home, she could hear him moving around inside.

Wesley answered the door. He didn’t look like the same person that she had seen weeks before. His eyes held a coldness to them as he looked at her.

“I want to know what happened.” That is all she said as she stood there. No one had asked Wes why he had taken Connor. They had just pieced it together from his notes and made assumptions. She wanted to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. The answer didn’t satisfy her, her and Angel would have to learn to enjoy being celibate.

“And now you care, why,” he asked. They had all abandoned him when Angel had turned on him. He could get none of them to understand why he did it. He had tried. He turned and went back into his apartment, not closing the door. He sat and went back to loading the clips of for his guns.

She followed in to his apartment. She was glad right now that she didn’t need an invitation. She wouldn’t have gotten one. She shut the door behind her. “Why else? I want something.” She never was one for the lying. She was more adept at…creative subterfuge. She moved into his kitchen to put on a pot for tea.

Finishing a clip, he picked up the Glock and loaded it. He put it down and went to work on another. “I told Fred why,” he said, not looking at her though he was totally aware of where she was at all times.

“I didn’t say I wanted to hear it from Fred, did I? I came to you and I want you to tell me what happened.” After the kettle was on, she came out of the kitchen. She didn’t sit down but instead, stood there, looking at him.

“I read in the prophecy a passage in reference to the vampire with a soul and the son born to him. And the father will kill the son,” he said. “I thought I was protecting both Connor and Angel. I was going to disappear with Connor and keep him safe.”

“And what about all the secret meetings with Holtz? Come on, don’t talk to me like I am some dumb high school cheerleader, which I never was. If I have to remind you from my SAT scores.”

“At first it was to try and reason with him,” Wes finished another clip. “I wanted him to stop what he was doing and see that Angel was not the same creature he’d hunted centuries ago.”

She moved to sit next to him now. She reached for his hand to stop him. “Why didn’t you call me? I left the number. Why didn’t you talk to Gunn or Fred? Wes…” She let her voice trail off.

“The more that knew, the most likely it would get to Angel,” he said and stopped, clip in on hand, bullet in the other. “If it got back to Angel he would have at the least disappeared with Connor out of fear. Connor is something he never thought he could have and I know this.”

“Thanks for the vote of trust.” She pulled her hand away from him. “You would have told me how scared you were that Angel really would have killed Connor, I would have helped you. We could have figured it out together. At what point did you decide your family wasn’t worth trusting?”

“Prophecies have a way of coming true,” he reminded her. “And if found out I wanted to protect everyone else and only have Angel’s wrath fall on me. Even with a soul he can be rather brutal.”

: “You might not be able to realize what you did…but you did exactly what Angel did when he fired us. You withdrew into yourself. You didn’t come to any of us for help. And you went to a really dark place. All it would have took, in both cases, was for one of you to reach out.”

“I am still there,” is all he said and continued to load his clip then put it into the pistol as if to punctuate his statement.

“So…this is how you want it to be? Fine. Push away your family, Wes. And I am talking about your real family. We’ve all made mistakes. Angel firing us. Me not telling you all I was dying. You with Holtz and Connor. I am sure Gunn and Fred are real close to screwing up. But we always come back to each other.”

He looked at her finally. “I had my throat slit then was almost murdered in my hospital bed.” Wesley stood and took the guns. He put them in the holsters hanging close to the door.

“None of us slit your throat. Your newfound friend Holtz’s bitch Justine did that. You know, the guy you trusted instead of your friends.” She stood up now, heading for the door. “You know where we are…when you come to your senses.”

“What is it you wanted,” he asked, turning to her before she got to the door.

She debated for a moment of not even telling him. But what could it hurt? “Angel and I are together. Not together together. But he’s suffered enough and we want to be able to be together in that perfect happiness way. Fred only went so far with your books about souling a vampire. And you have the contacts we need.”

“Making his soul, permanent,” Wesley said in that quiet tone of his. It was clear he was reflecting on this idea. “I broached him once about it, about the possibility. And I know some that might be able to help. But in doing that, it may ruin the Shanshu Prophecy. That was why he refused.”

“Then I guess we just need to find a way so that it doesn’t. Who knows when that is going to be. I am not going to wait around a century for the Apocalypse so Angel can be a real boy.” She paused for a moment as she looked at Wesley. “This is…deeper than just the two of us getting laid. Angel said he wants to go beyond dating, for me to be his mate. And I know what that means. I’ve been doing my research.”

“For a vampire, that is no small deal,” he agreed. “It was why Darla was so adamant to get him back.”

“Yeah…well…now you can see why we want to take care of this.” She moved a little closer to Wesley now. “Wes, you are like my brother. Gunn too. And Fred is like my strange cousin. Lorne, our crazy uncle. We are a big dysfunctional family and it’s wonderful. Why don’t you…come home?”

“I’m not sure the head of the family is quite ready for the prodigal black sheep to return.”

She gave him the slightest hint of the smile. “We both know that Angel isn’t the boss. He’s never been the boss.”

: “I will see what I can do,” he told her.

“Thank you, Wesley.” Her smile widened when he said that. What more could she ask? If he did this for Angel…well it would be redeeming. She’d just have to work on Angel too. She didn’t mind harassing him about those sorts of things. She eventually always got her way. And the making up was fun.

Cordelia shook her head, coming back to the present. She blinked away the memory and looked back at Wesley. “I want to know what happened…with Angel. I have a right.”

Wesley sighed, this was not a story he liked to retell but she was right. Cordy had a right to know. “We found that nest of Viskel Dracanus demons that had been helping the others terrorize the Academy. But they were threatening a convalescent home. One was fixing to eviscerate a paraplegic girl…” He paused, waiting for her reaction.

She kept no expression on her face. They had already faced so much together. The thought of demons going after invalids wasn’t that surprising. She just kept her eyes on Wesley as she waited for him to continue.

“Angel interceded,” he finally added. “The demon decapitated him instead of going after the child. I grabbed girl up and got her out.”

She was quiet for what seemed like hours before she finally spoke. Her voice was breaking as she did so. She was trying desperately to keep the emotions in check. “Then he died how he would have wanted to. Helping the helpless.”

Wesley nodded. “And he took the demon out just at the same split instant. He was the Champion to the end, Cordelia.”

She could take some comfort in that fact. That Angel had fought to the very last. She swallowed hard to push her emotions back to herself. “We should probably both get going. We have things to do. I am taking the twins to the safehouse so I will be back in a few hours. I assume you are going to be going to find some Shaman to help with the spell again? So at least let me heal you so you don’t draw attention to yourself”

“No, I don’t think this time I will need to. I do, however, need to find an Orb of Thesulah.”

“Still creeped out by the healing thing huh?” She could tell when he was making excuses. She got up though. There was too much that had to be done now for her to sit here and argue with Wes about this. “The Powers gave me powers for a reason.”

“It’s just, the feeling,” he didn’t want to say what affect it had on him.

: “Oh, you mean the happy in your pants feeling? Yeah, I know. Only seems to happen to guys…and Faith. But let’s face it, she enjoys it.” She paused as she reached out to gently touch Wes’ arm. With Wes, she wouldn’t do it unless he wanted it. “Thank you.” It was hard to tell what she was thanking him for. It could be because he told her. Or because he wasn’t angry with her for thinking this other dimension Angel was her husband. Or it could go beyond that. Perhaps she was thanking him for just being. For him just being here was enough to warrant thanks.

Wes nodded to her again. “Just make sure the children are well safe,” he said. “They would be what Angelus tries for first.”

“Xander has never let us down before. Remember that troupe of demons with the whole hanging things out of their jaws.” She moved her hand around her mouth. “He killed, what, three of them himself to keep them from getting to the twins. I have faith in him.”

“Yes, and we know he only does that for you. He’s not a big fan of either myself or Angel.”

“What can I say? I am fabulous.” She tried for a smile but it was so tinged with exhaustion and sadness, it could hardly be regarded as such. “I am not telling the twins until this is all over. I am just going to tell them that their father is Angelus on the drive up and to follow the rules. Thank the Powers we taught them a contingency plan”

“What you think is best,” Wesley moved to get his jacket. “The sooner I get the orb the sooner we can resoul Angelus before he does much more damage.”

“Hopefully this Angel doesn’t have some walking in the sun secret.” As he got his coat, she was already at the door. She held it open for both of them. “If you can’t find it, Lorne will be in tonight. He knows where we can get an Orb.”

“I’m sure I’ll turn one up,” he said. “People have been collecting them as paperweights.”

She shook her head at Wes. She headed back down the hall towards the stairs so she could go downstairs. She had to wake to the children and get them packed up. They loved their Uncle Xander so it wouldn’t be too hard.

Angelus had come put through the sewer access into the basement levels of the Hyperion. Where would the last place he’d be that the Crusaders would look. Often in plan sight was the best place to hide. He also thought with any luck one of them might wander down here and he could have a little fun and a mid day snack. Angelus grinned as he stood with his arms crossed and shoulder leaning on the wall by that air duct. It was like listening in on a phone conversation. “Taking the little ones to see Uncle Xander,” he said. “How sweet is that?”

Angelus looked to the stairs. Damn antiviolence spell, they should be illegal. He could smell them up there, what a delicious treat the twins would be. More so making Cordelia watch as he made them squeal like piglets and beg daddy not to hurt them. Then there was that school full of slayers, which could offer entertainment. Pryce, that annoying twit would have to be dealt with before he could pull Angel’s soul from the Ether. Yes, it was Angel’s soul, not his. Disgusting thing, it was like a cancer inside him.

Ian opened the door to the basement, calling back to his mother who just inside of the lobby. “I have to get Mr. Monster. I lefted him down here.” Ian was humming with excitement. He always loved these trips to see Uncle Xander. He was so cool and he had a big wooden fort in his back yard and he let him play paintball, which he wasn’t going to tell mom about cause then she would say no and the best thing was that always had cookies.

The vampire watched the boy from the shadows. This was too good, too sweet. “Peeky boo, I see you,” he said in a singsong voice.

Hearing his father’s voice, Ian broke out into a wide smile. He moved away from the door and crouched down. He grabbed the railing for the stairs with both hands so that he could peer down into the dark basement. His eyes searched all around for his father. He laughed wildly. “Where are you?”

“I thought you were a monster hunter, boyo,” Angelus said like he was playing with the boy. Well, he was. He wasn’t above playing with his food.

Ian looked back towards the door. He knew how his mom would be if he was even a half second late. He was suppose to come in, get his stuffed animal, and leave. But this…this was Da! “We can’t play. We hafta go. You comin’ with us?”

He stepped from the shadows. “Hey, if I say we can play then we can play,” Angelus said.

He saw his father downstairs now, just a few feet from the big cage that was “not for playing in, Ian!”. He grinned and stood up. He was slow going down the stairs. His coordination was not nearly as perfected as his sister. She had far more grace than he did.

Angelus stepped towards the stairs and the boy. He held out his hand so he could take hold of him as soon as he was in reach. “C’me on,” he said, “let’s surprise mom with a game.”

Ian reached out for that hand, still a few steps away. But he stopped. He pulled his hand back quickly. He could hear his mother shouting for him. He turned his head to look back up the stairs, expecting her to come down.

“Ian, c’me on,” he begged the child. “Let’s play hide and seek from mommy. I’ll even let you play in the sewer tunnel.”

“She sounds really mad. And that means no ice cream on the way.” He was already starting up the stairs. This kid was all stomach. The idea of playing in the sewers was fun but the lure of ice cream on the way to Uncle Xander’s was by far, a more powerful force in the young boy’s mind.

“I’ll take you to Haagan Das.”

Ian paused, halfway to the door, where his safety lay, and halfway to his certain death and defilement. Uncle Xander had paintball and a wood fort though. He was so torn. He heard his mother call for him once again. That was when the door opened, flooding the dimly lit basement with light from upstairs.

Angelus moved away from the stairs then. Damn the rug rat.

Cordelia had already stepped through the door and caught the movement of Angelus. That bastard had some brass balls. She looked at Ian with a frown. “Get up there and go find your Uncle Wes with Kat.” The little boy scurried past her. The tone was enough to tell him that mom was mad. If only he knew it was at Angelus and not at him. She started to come down the stairs. “Kind of a bold move for a coward like you?”

“And you dare to step down in the den,” he said watching her. He was so ready to have his way with this bitch.

“I am not the kind of girl that sits at home while you go around murdering all my friends and family.” She knew there were plenty of weapons down here. What was the point of waiting and the plan when she could take Angelus on right now? She knocked him back into the cage and shut the door quickly, this would all be over and done with. She’d fought tougher than the so-called Scourge. Then again, different dimension. He might have different tricks. She was willing to run the risk.

“Then I’ll just have to kill you first,” he said as his true face appeared. “Or maybe there is a better torture for you.” He leaped and then came down behind her.

He was a little too predictable for her taste. The Angelus that managed to get out here for a few days did almost the same thing. She was prepared. She spun around and already had her block prepared. Good thing Wes didn’t want her to heal him. She would need all her strength for the fight.

He went for a fake left but at the last minute when down for a sweeping kick to take her legs out from under her.

She was prepared to block the left but the kick took her slightly by surprise. She was only able to dodge at the last moment. The Powers at least had given her a little bit of speed to go along with the demon powers. What good was a slow Seer? She stumbled back with the defensive move. The room was filled with weapons but her fingers couldn’t seem to find one. “Have to say, kind of disappointed in alternate dimension you.”

“Well, let me give you a kiss then you can tell me if you are,” He said then decided to go right at her. He leaped on her to take her down to the floor. Those sharp fangs of his were bared now.

She wasn’t able to dodge the tackle as she fell back hard against the concrete floor. That was going to leave a mark to be sure. When in doubt, always go for the most sensitive part. She brought her knee up to try to meet with his groin as her hands struggled to get something out of her jeans.

Those fangs were right at her neck. He was so ready to do the worse to her, turn her. Just as his fangs scathed her skin, he froze. He felt an unbelievable pain. He felt up all the way up in his throat. Why the hell do women do that? She got him right in the goods. He didn’t scream or make a noise of any kind.

Once she knew that she had him and he had paused, that is when she brings out the big guns. She got the small vial of holy water out from her jeans. With Angelus around, she could never be too prepared. She brought it up and splashed it in his face. With that, she shoved him hard in the chest to get him off her. The cage seemed so far away.

Now that holy water brought him to, out of one haze of pain and into another. The smell of burning flesh filled his nostrils, his burning flesh! He screamed as he fell back. “YOU MOTHER FUCKIN’ BITCH!” His hand was over the side of his face that Cordelia had hit with the holy water.

“Thanks for the compliment.” She was at her feet in an instant. She figured if she kicked him enough, he might go tumbling back into the cage. She brought her leg back and kicked him under the chin with one of those deadly pointed Manolos.

When Cordy brought that leg up he caught her foot then twisted it. As he did that, he shoved hard to send her flying back. “That so wasn’t very nice.”

He didn’t break her ankle, of which she was thankful. He merely sprained it. Shoved back with his vampire strength, she goes flying. She would have kept going if the wall hadn’t been there to stop her. She hit it, falling forward against the concrete. She puts her hands on the concrete, struggling to get to her feet again. She was not going to let him get away.

“But I’ve got places to be and people to do.” Angelus had made his way right to where the open sewer grate was. Once again, he was going to have to feed to heal, not just for fun.

She got to her feet just in time to see him at that sewer grate. She had one shot. She yanked a throwing axe off the wall and hurled it at him. She had aimed for his shoulder and chest on the side opposite his heart. She didn’t want to kill him. Just make him hurt really badly.

Angelus dropped down into the sewers. The ax embedded itself in a support. From the grate, his laugh could be heard be heard and then silence.

She leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes. Her ankle was throbbing. The rest of her didn’t feel so good either. She needed to heal. And then call Connor to come seal off all underground access to the hotel. And then take the twins to the safehouse. Hopefully by tonight when she returned, Wes would have some good news about the Orb.

Connor entered the hotel as he saw Cordelia come up from the basement. He just looked at her, no emotion on his face then he moved to the weapons cabinet. Pulling off his jacket, he put on the retractable stakes. He put his coat back on. He started grabbing stakes and a few other things. No, this wasn’t going to be a quick death for Angelus. It was going to be slow and painful. He pulled out a large bottle of holy water. Ever see what happens to a vampire when tortured with the stuff? When carefully measured and used it could bring torment for the undead thing for hours.

She came up the basement stairs after healing herself, looking worse for wear. She made a mental note to get the guys to hose that place down. There was dust everyplace. At least the twins had done as she asked, gone to find Wesley. She looked at Connor with a frown. “I know what you are planning and don’t.” She still hadn’t told Connor about Angel. Their relationship was finally getting to some even ground and now this. She only hoped this imposter wasn’t going to taint his memory of his father.

“Oh, I don’t think you even begin to have a clue as to what I’m going to do,” he said as he closed the doors of the cabinet.

“Connor…come here…” She moved closer to him. She was very careful in taking his elbow to lead him over to the couch. She wasn’t frightened of him. She just didn’t want to make him even more jumpy than he already was.

“I really don’t think we have much of anything to discuss,” Connor moved with her but it was clear he wasn’t going to be very receptive to whatever she had to say. “There is a depraved demon on the loose and needs to be dealt with.”

She waited for him to sit down, turning to him. “I am more than aware of that. He and I just had a great date downstairs. But he isn’t from this world. Wes and I agreed that the best thing to do is a live capture, resoul him, and send him back to whereever he came from. Now, you aren’t going after him to kill him. We are running the same plan we did the last time Angelus got loose. Understood?” She knew the best way to deal with Connor was not ask him politely. He was like a young lion. You had to show dominance.

“I was so planning on capturing him alive if possible.” His posture was straight, not relaxed. He had slipped back into his defiant and deadly “Destroyer mode”. He would need his head clear to be able to take down Angelus.

“Capturing him and torturing him. This isn’t a solo mission and it’s not up for discussion. You need to stay here with your girlfriend. I already arranged for home care and they should be here soon to set things up. Do you want her to wake up alone here?”

“What, are you afraid I’ll prove who’s son I really am?” he asked, looking at her. “Afraid to find out that Angelus is my true father not Angel?”

“Oh honey, no…” She reached for his hands and looked into his eyes. “I know whose son you are. Angel’s. Mine. Our family isn’t about blood, it’s about love.” She sighed softly. She was going to have to bite the bullet sooner or later here. “Wes…Wes saw Angel, our Angel, die. He died saving a girl from a demon. So now, it’s just us. And I need you to be on my side on this.”

“So, why do you care what happens to this poser?” Connor just glances down at her hand then back at her face. “Who says he isn’t some demon in glamour?” Connor still wasn’t going with the idea of him not catching this creep and giving him a bit of his own medicine back.

“I want answers. And Angelus isn’t exactly forthcoming unless he is lording over you. That is all I care about. Some kind of explanation. If we find out he is some evil demon in glamour, I promise you that you can do whatever you want to him. Bamboo under the fingernails, tying him to a cactus with wet leather, whatever you want. But I want my answers first and for that, he needs his soul back.” Cordelia answered him. She was trying her best to convince him that this was the best way.

“And just what answers are you looking for?” Connor stood and paced away. “He comes from another dimension, what the hell does it matter? It has no baring here.”

“I think I have a right to know why and how. This could have all been avoided if he had been honest in the first place. And if where he is from has mastered some kind of interdimensional travel, it could be useful for us in the future. If you get sucked into some portal and end up in Poodle Hell, don’t you want us to get you out as soon as possible?”

“And how many times have I told you all magic isn’t good? Every time all of you try it things blow up in our faces.”

“You get sucked into a portal, I am not going to sit around going ‘Oh well, we need magic to get him out and that’s bad. Let’s just leave him’. No, I am going to get in there and I am going to find you. There is always some bad with the good. It’s just life. Yes, when we souled Angel before, we had to take his soul out first. And yes, Angelus got out for a few days. But we got things righted and your father lived his last years happy. You can’t hate him that much that you wanted both of us miserable? That you would take back that spell Wes used and the twins would disappear? It doesn’t always have to be negative.”

“And now he is out again. Killing and god knows what else,” Connor said quietly. That coldness in his voice could freeze hot lava.

“You can blame me all you want. Fact of the matter is that with Angel gone, I am in charge now. And besides that, I am your mother. I really have half a mind here to take you over my knee.” There was seriousness to her voice that she was really contemplating it.

“Like he was in charge before,” Connor said. That statement wasn’t a joke, it was a fact. Much the same way Nancy Reagan actually ran the country even though Ronnie was the President, Cordelia ran Angel Investigations even though Angel’s name was on the stationary.

“Yeah, well, I liked to let Angel think he was in charge. It made it a lot easier for everyone.” She knew exactly what he meant. She gave him a little bit of a smile. “Come here.” She gestured since he had stood while she remained on the couch.

Turning, Connor walked back to her and stood in front of her. He didn’t say anything and he still had that look in his eyes, the one that wants blood. There was nothing she could say that would convince him that torturing Angelus slowly wasn’t the best thing to do in this situation.

She got up from the couch and she put her arms around him. She pulled him in for a hug. It was sneaky, yes, but she was going to calm him down. She had to do it so many times before, it was ingrained now. Seemed every time she hugged him, she slipped him some mojo to calm him down.

This was totally dirty pool and he fell for it every time. Suddenly, he felt warm all over as she hugged him and it was like his breath was being pulled from him and yet he could still breath. Connor blinked trying to gather himself.

Cordelia always felt that deep down, he knew she was going to do it and he wanted her to. One of these days, she found finally cleanse him of all that hate and resentment. One day, his first reaction wouldn’t be violence. She just hoped that day was soon, especially since he found Lillian. She pulled away from him, skin still harboring a warm glow. “Hospital will be here soon with Lillian. You better get everything ready.” She said quietly to him.

Connor only nodded then he turned to go up to his suite. The bloodlust was sated, for now. There was no telling, however, with Cordelia gone at the safehouse, if it wouldn’t creep back up again.

She sighed as she watched him go. Maybe now…FINALLY..she could get the twins and get out of here. She followed upstairs after him after a few minutes to gather them from Wes’ watchful eye.
Cordelia drove back from the safehouse, mostly Xander’s house, after dropping the twins off. He was happy to see them but then again, he was always happy to see them. They were happy to see him too. They could rough house with him like they used to do with Angel. He didn’t seem to mind. He encouraged it. The thought of Angel was bittersweet at its best. She had so many good memories but now he was gone. She had made so many excuses before. At the end of the day, she was the one that brought Angelus down on them now. Her hands tightened around the steering wheel. She didn’t want to remember the last time he was out. She only hoped that the people of his world hadn’t used this same plan to capture him.

No, she wasn’t going to remember the bad times. Now that Angel was gone, she had to focus on the good. There were so many good ones. She smiled softly to herself as she thought of the twins, thought of when she first told Angel. She counted that among the happiest days of her life and she knew he did too She remembered that time so vividly, even now, all these years later.

—- Summer 2003 —-

Angel and the guys had gone up to Sunnydale to help close the Hellmouth. It had been a rough few weeks for all of them involved here. A particular nasty vision of a malevolent power trying to rise had left Cordelia in less than optimal shape for going to fight some huge evil in Sunnyhell. She had non-stop visions of that as well: one of them trying to steal an amulet from Wolfram and Hart, that had left Faith and Gunn both pretty battered, one of all the Slayers in the world being activated. That one really took its toll on her. But what really caused her exhaustion was the fact that every night she kept Fred company in the lab as Fred worked on a solution to her and Angel’s mutual desire to have children. It was near a dream come true when Fred had finally told her. She was at the clinic doors as soon as they opened with her sample, ready to go. Who knew it would only take the once with Angel’s enhanced super sperm. The phone call with the positive test results had come only hours earlier when she heard the GTX pull into the garage.

Cordelia was trying to make herself look busy but in actuality, she was surfing designer maternity sites on the web. There was no way that she wasn’t going to look her best with this pregnancy. If Darla could pull off a skintight red dress and still look good at 8 months, then she was so going for Versace. She closed out her windows quickly, grabbing some files from her desk to pretend at working.

Angel came up from the garage level by stairs as usual. He carried his weapons to the cabinet and started putting them away thought he was so tired, he was about to drop. Sword, throwing knives, stars, stakes from pockets all went into the cabinet. He pulled off his coat and took the spring-loaded stakes from his arms.

She watched him out of the corner of her eye as he started to put the weapons away. She wanted to tell him right now but she could tell that he was tired. “Everyone make it back alive?” Except for Spike but then again, she knew that already from her vision. She had told them all so. She opened the file cabinet and rather than check her filing, she just haphazardly put the folders where ever. Then again, to an outsider, her system did look pretty random and insane.

Closing the doors of the cabinet, he turned and walked to one of the couches. He sat down heavily. “For the most part,” he said. “The Hellmouth is no more.” He laid his head back, eyes closed. He had a gash on his forehead. His shirt was for the ragbag, injuries of various kinds under what was left of it.

Once the folders were put away, albeit a mess, she moved to get him some blood. He needed it. And it was as fresh as she could have gotten. She put it in to the microwave and reached to get the first aid kit. “Everyone else at home recovering? Is Connor coming or did you drop him off at an all you can eat buffet with twenty bucks again?” That kid was as bad as a Slayer; fighting and eating. Or it was fighting and having sex. Connor hadn’t been seeing any girls, at least not any that she knew.

“Hmmm, yes and yes,” he said and sat on up as she approached. He looked up at her and gave her that little bit of a smile that was reserved only for her.

She handed him the warmed blood and returned his special smile with one of her own. “Sit up more so I can fix you up.” She set the first aid kit down and then sat down on the couch. She was near bursting with this news and it was so difficult for her to shut up long enough to patch Angel up.

After taking a drink of the blood, he put it down and took his tattered shirt off. It’ll make another good rag to polish the GTX with so he doesn’t get in trouble for taking the hand towels. “They aren’t as bad as they look.”

“Good because they look pretty bad.” She chuckled. She opened the first aid kit and took out cotton balls and iodine. She wetted the cotton ball first, then reached up to gently pat the gash on his forehead.

Angel winced slightly. “You should have seen them right after the fight. Scoobies tried to make me stay but I told them I had somebody important waiting on me.”

“I wish you would have let me at least drive up there with you. I wasn’t THAT tired from my parade of visions this past month.” She took out the Neosporin, even if it didn’t help things, she liked to put it on. She gently rubbed it into the gash before she bandaged it up. “Where else?”

He indicated the wound in his right shoulder. It was a puncture wound. “And I think I broke a rib or two.” He paused. “There wasn’t any need in you going. You were having that round of visions and I know when they hit you like that you really aren’t that great afterward.”

“Thought the whole being half demon thing was suppose to be helping. But I guess having them one after another….” She trailed off as she started to tend the puncture wound. She was biting her lower lip as she desperately tried not to just blurt it out. It was coming though. She could feel it. And…”Angel, I’m pregnant.”

“Well, if you remember, Doyle didn’t exactly have an easy time with…” His voice trailed as what she said finally sank in. “Pregnant,” he repeated. “But…” How could she be pregnant? He got a knot in his stomach when he thought how she might have. Hopefully, it wasn’t like that. Hopefully, she hadn’t already broken their marriage vows. He knew that she would never do that to him. So it was another possibility. “You went to a sperm bank?”

She grinned wide. She could see the expression on his face so she knew that she needed to explain as soon as possible. “It was Fred. Well, I helped. I kept her company.”

“Okay, so Fred,” again, he spoke softly. “Fred got you what you needed.”

“Kind of…sort of…” She didn’t look at him. She instead focused on getting him patched up. She wanted him to feel better so they could celebrate. “I had been talking to Fred about children, just wishful thinking. And she said she knew how to do it. Mohra blood. So…I have been kind of…sneaking with collection and she tried some things until she got just the right combination to bring your little guys to life. I took it to the clinic when you were busy a few weeks back when you guys were raiding Wolfram and Hart. And well…I’m pregnant now.” She looked up at him finally. She hoped that she explained it well enough for him.

Angel was trying to absorb all this. His face went through a whole range of expressions. He wasn’t sure what to say. He wasn’t sure what to do. But then he finally spoke, “My baby? A child…I know Connor but…that was…,” he looked at her, “We’re going to have a family?”

“That is what I have been trying to tell you, slowmo. Get on the train.” She laughed as she threw her arms around his neck. She was mindful of his wounds though. “Yes, your baby. Our family. And we can have more. We can fill this hotel with our kids if you want.”

His stunned expression became a big smile and he wrapped his arms around her and laughed. He buried his face in her shoulder trying to hide the face that he was also crying now.

She closed her eyes as he held her. She wanted so badly to give this to him. She wanted a family with him. They had a great family as it was but to give him this. It was a dream come true. And she knew The Powers had something to do with this. He had saved the world plenty of times. Now it was time for him to have some bit of a reward. She touched the back of his head softly. She had nothing to say. She just wanted to enjoy this moment.

Finally, he released her. “I just can’t…” he said trying to find words and for a guy of few words, it was damn near impossible.

She reached up to wipe the tears away from his cheeks. “Shhhh, its okay. You’ll have nine months to think of something to say.” She chuckled, trying to break the strange tension that came up in the room. Either she could laugh or happy cry. “Good thing we took care of that curse already? Probably ranks up pretty high on the happiness list.”

“My happiness scale has been in that perfect place since the day we got married,” he told her.

She pulled away from him just enough so that she could take his hand and rest it against her stomach. “That is amazing considering the whole, stopping the end of the world twice thing.” She smiled at him and then looked down at his hand. “Just a spot right now but its our spot.”

Soon, he’d be able to sense that spot to be more. Soon, he would be able to feel his baby, hear its heartbeat, know if it was in trouble or happy or stressed. “So faint now,” he said. “That’s why I couldn’t tell.”

“I am glad you couldn’t tell. I wanted this to be a surprise. So…you surprised?” She smiled at him as she waited on his answer. She could see the light in eyes. She knew how happy he was.

“It’s the best,” he said then he frowned. “Schools. We have to look at schools or maybe home school would be best. Savings, another savings plan…”

“And we have to put an anti-violence spell on the hotel. Expand the upstairs. Make sure Wolfram and Hart doesn’t find out until the last possible moment. I need a whole new wardrobe and we need baby stuff. Crib, blankets, diapers, bottles. We really have way too much to do.”

“I’ll fix another room for us so I can start work on our place,” he said then he stood. “A baby…wow..”

She didn’t get up from the couch, not yet anyway. There was just the smallest, tiniest hint that he might not have wanted this as badly as she did. It was just one of those what ifs. “Angel..” She laughed at him. “You just got home from closing the Hellmouth. It can wait one night.”

“Names,” he said. “I’ll have to get some books. Names are really important…”

“Its bad luck to name a baby this soon. We don’t even know what Spot is going to be. Could be a boy, could be a girl.” She leaned forward some, sitting on her hands. “If I knew you were going to be like this, I wouldn’t have told you.”

The vampire had started pacing, he then stopped. “Like how?”

“Like this!” She pointed at him. “With the pacing and the freaking out and the Angel-ness.” She gestured vaguely in the air as if that could better illustrate his Angel-ness more than her words could.

“I’m not freaking out,” he protested. “I’m just making plans, you know. You need plans where kids are concerned.”

“We have nine months to plan. I was hoping that we could go out, celebrate. The world is saved, we are happily married, and having a baby.”

“Which will mean we have to fix you a diet that will be good for you and the baby,” he said. “A baby,” he said with a chuckle and that stupid Liam-like grin. “I can’t believe, me, a dad again.”

“For a guy who could barely hold his head up when he came in, you sure are looking fit as a fiddle. I think you were faking it before.” She pointed a finger at him. He was pacing around, acting the nervous nelly, grinning like an idiot. She was sure now that he wanted this baby as much as she did. Since that was settled, now he could take her out or at the very least, cook her something.

“I heal fast, you know that,” Angel replied. “But a baby…”

She shook her head at him. She moved her hand in front of her face, snapping her fingers to emphasize her point. “And the baby is hungry. Cordy is too. You think you could use some of that vampire skill to put a shirt on so we could get some dinner?”

“What,” he questioned then looks down at himself. “Oh, I’ll…I’ll be right back,” he told her as he turned to the stairs. He took them several at a time, like a young kid, to head upstairs to clean up.

Cordelia blinked back the tears as they started to blur her vision of the road. What happened? How did it go from such a happy time to Angel being dead? He was gone and she would never get to surprise him again with the news of a baby. She grabbed a tissue out of the console to dab her eyes as she saw the Los Angeles city limits.
Chapter Fourteen

This was the third magic shop Wesley had been to. It was the same story; people had either tossed them, lost them, stop selling them or were using them as paperweights. He got a tip from one of the local demon bars about one last shop owner in town. There was a possibility that he might have one laying around in the back. He had a fondness for things like that, outdated magic.

Wesley wasted no time in getting across town. He found the little shop tucked away between a pizza place and a Chinese take out restaurant. If someone were walking by, they would go right past it. Wesley went inside, rushed inside more like it. He didn’t have any time to waste. The longer he spent running around the LA, the less daylight he had. When night fell, the killing would start again. That is, if Angelus hadn’t already been killing during the day, using the sewers.

“Excuse me?” Wesley spoke up when he got to the counter. “Do you have an Orb of Thesulah?” This man had to have it. He was their last chance. Wesley cursed himself for letting Ian playing with the one at the office now. The small child dropped it and that was the end of it.

“Well, I did…until this morning. Pretty lady came in, bought the last three that I had.”

Wesley frowned. This man had three while the rest of the city had none and he sold it to a woman. “Can you describe her perhaps? Please. It is of utmost importance.”

The shopkeeper nodded and spoke once more as he reached under the counter to retrieve a thick ledger. “I like to keep all my purchases recorded. Never know when some fool is going to use Ickdine Powder on a woman and the police are knocking at my door.”

The old man ran his finger down the page; spectacles perched on the corner of his nose. “Ahh…here it is.” He turned the book and pointed an age-spotted finger at the name.

The Englishman didn’t seem surprised but yet he did. “Thanks,” he told the pudgy man and handed him a twenty for his efforts then walked out. He got in his Cherokee and sat there a moment. So, she’s collecting. Only thing Wes could think if is that she’s found out. Wes sat there for a long moment. He thought of when he had to ask her for this spell the first time.

—–Summer 2002—–

The last time that Lilah Morgan would ever see Wesley Wyndam-Pryce romantically started out mundanely enough. Standing outside of his apartment door, she kept her anger carefully in check. She knocked on the door. It wouldn’t take him long to answer it. He was expecting that she was coming over for sex. How wrong he was.

Wesley opened the door. “Lilah, what an unexpected surprise.”

She wasn’t going to be playing any kind of strange sex games with him tonight. She had heard and seen things that were most definitely pissing her off. “I could say the same thing about you.”

Stepping aside, he allowed her to come in. “Lilah, you seem to be upset. Thong in a bunch?”

She came into the apartment and waited for him to close the door. She turned to face him. “I am not here for one of our little evening trysts, Wesley.”

After closing the door, he turned to her. “Then why have you come?” he asked her in that calm voice of his.

She just looked at him. He honestly couldn’t figure it out. Here she thought he was smarter than the shaved apes he worked with. “I know you have been poking around my contacts.”

“And you are pissed that one of them gave me the secret Wolfram & Hart really didn’t want Team Angel to get a hold of,” he said. He knew. “Well, didn’t exactly give to me, but you get the meaning.”

“Oh, I am pissed about that. There is a really good reason we don’t want Angel running around with a permanent soul. Something you can’t even begin to understand. But you’ve jeopardized my job and my life.” She might just have to kill him. Or rather, she might have to have someone kill him. She would much rather hire someone than to get her own hands dirty. “Is this to get back in with the good guys, the ones who tried to kill you?”

“Well, seeing that Wolfram & Hart have been trying to unleash Angelus for how many years now,” Wesley said as he poured a couple drinks. He walked back to her and handed her one. “Champion or not, I’m not really anxious to let Angelus out. You’ve no idea what could happen and I assure you, Lilah, you’d be on his list. Angelus retains all of Angel’s memories.”

“We have contingency plans to protect our employees.” She takes the drink from him but she doesn’t drink it, not yet. “You went behind my back and for what? Those do-gooding idiots?”

“For them or not,” he said, “I’ve no desire to have a crazed, psychotic vampire on the lose. A normal vampire is bad enough.” He drank the entire contents of his scotch in one gulp.

“Are you trying convince yourself or me, Wesley? Angelus on the loose, you can kill Angel without feeling guilty. Quick stake to the heart, from long range even. Hell, you owe him it. He tried to smother you, after all.”

“I also owe him my life many times over, Lilah,” he said. “Angel was hurting. Connor was a child that shouldn’t have been and Angel knew this. Something he never dreamed he could have.”

“It still sounds like you are talking for your own benefit.” She set her drink down on the end table but she doesn’t move closer to him. “Your precious prophecy, that you risked your life and your friends for. False. Completely false. Then again, you did a little better research, you’d know that.”

“I worked with what I had, since, it seems the main script was stolen from us.” Wesley went to pour himself another drink.

“Just full of excuses tonight, aren’t you?” She paused for only a moment. She reached into her purse. “You didn’t really think I am was going to let you get away with going behind my back, did you?”

“And if in my shoes you wouldn’t have done the same? Come now, Lilah,” he said, not seeming worried. He knew he well enough to know that she wouldn’t dirty her hands.

“I think you forget who I work for. Not in the business of helping Angel and his flunkies. And I’ve held off on anymore Connor captures for you. Nice to see how I am repaid.”

“Don’t think I wasn’t expecting a possible visit from you about this,” was all he said.

“I knew you would. You know, you could great things if you just came to work with Wolfram and Hart. I know you are attached to the good side and everything but…well, every thought about taking us down from the inside?” She gave him a smile as she kept her hand concealed within her purse.

“Yes, well, I am but one man, I’m afraid.” Suddenly, his hand was at her wrist. “I’d advise you to take your hand out slowly.”

“You have a problem with a lady getting out her lipstick, Wesley? Paranoid much?” She didn’t remove her hand from her purse. She wasn’t planning to either until he let go of her wrist. “Must be at the bottom. Having a hell of a time finding it.”

“I’m sure.” Slowly, he released her wrist but he was ready at the first sign. He wasn’t the bumbling idiot he had once been. Life tends to do that to a person.

She did finally draw her hand out once he let go of her wrist. Clasp between two fingers, was a folded piece of paper. She held it still close to her body. “There’s always a price to pay. You sure you are ready?”

“I’m sure whatever it is…I’ve already paid it,” he said, knowing that his soul was probably already damned.

“You might be surprised.” She moved her hand, holding that paper just barely out of his reach. “How to contact a being powerful enough to give Angel his soul with no strings attached.”

“Maybe not to him,” Wes said, keeping his eyes on her. Sex was great with her but trusting her, now that wasn’t so great. “But what about to you?”

Yet he is the one that went behind her back. There was something to be said for her coming out of this looking like the more loyal companion. “I know you can be clearer than that, Wes. What do you mean?”

“I’m sure you want to extract some price for this.” Wesley downed that second scotch. He could only imagine the price that Lilah was going to request of him. He knew that no matter what he imagined, what she said would be far worse. She had a talent.

“Oh baby, now I am hurt.” She put the piece of paper down on the edge of the end table, next to her drink. She didn’t say another word as she started for the door.

“Lilah,” he said in that quiet tone of his.

Her hand was already on the doorknob, her body just barely turned towards him. “You go behind my back again and they will need a microscope to find all the pieces of you in the desert.”

“Thank you,” is all he said as he watched her.

She merely snorted as his thanks. She opened the door to his apartment and stepped out. She shut the door behind him. She’d risked everything in giving that to him. And once the Senior Partners found out, she would most likely be dead. However, like always, she had a way to spin it in her mind. She only hoped they would buy it. She walked away from Wesley’s apartment and more importantly…Wesley.

The entire exchange haunted him as he drove. Lilah still hadn’t asked for her price yet. He thought that perhaps that would come now. Wesley Wyndam-Pryce pulled up in front of Wolfram & Hart. He got out and headed into the pristine building. Rather than risk the reception desk and alerting Lilah he was here, he checked her name on the directory. Her office was on a different floor but not hard to find.

It seemed that the spin she put on the whole situation had worked with the Senior Partners. No longer Junior Vice President, she was President of Special Projects. It was mostly taking down Angel and company. She couldn’t claim credit for the assaults on the Slayer Academy but she had to admit it, that was an excellent idea. Her plans consisted now of generally making Angel’s life hell. Of course, that was completely down the gutter now. The Senior Partners weren’t happy about Angel being dust.

She was in her large plush office, turning her chair slightly from side to side as she looked over the latest file. Their intelligence had gotten a lot better. Why does one need cameras when Angelus is bragging all over the streets and to his victims about what happened? She was trying to determine the next course of action. She had plenty of proposals and plans. Now, she just had to pick one of them.

Wesley entered her office without a word or greeting. Her personal secretary was out on a break so it was perfect timing on his part. He looked to the shelf to the side of the room and saw them there. She had five Orbs now. He moved over there and picked one up. He paid Lilah no mind.

“I would put that back where it belongs if I was you” He must have really been distracted if he didn’t see that she was, in fact, sitting in her office. She didn’t even put the file down. She just continued doing what she was doing. But her hand was resting in her lap, fingers curled around the handle of a concealed 9mm.

Wes saw her, he just didn’t care. He turned to look at her. “One would think you were hoarding these to keep Angelus on the loose.”

“I resent that accusation.” She shut the file. She tossed it on her desk. Her look to him was one that would have withered a lesser man. “Put it back. Don’t forget whose turf you are on.”

“In case you haven’t heard the rest of the story,” he said as he stepped towards her desk. “This isn’t our Angel or Angelus. He’s a creature from another dimension that we know very little about.”

“He is telling it to just about every single demon he meets. Not some big secret you can use as leverage, Wesley.” He must have, in his desire to touch her nice things, also forgotten that Wolfram and Hart was pandimensional. They had offices all over this world and thousands of others. She always thought he was the smartest of that group of morons but it seemed she might be wrong about him.

“You must realize its for the better we resoul him,” he said to her. “Our Angel is gone. Killed in a fight saving a young girl.”

She chuckled softly as she keeps her eyes trained on him. “Tell me exactly WHY resouling him is better? We are an EVIL law firm. Now we have what we always wanted, Angelus running around. No pesky soul to keep Angel a Champion. Maybe you would like to know exactly whom you are bringing back? His file reads like a Kentucky Fried soap opera.” She shoved the file towards Wes. “He works for us.” She had, for her own purposes, omitted large chunks of history of this other dimension Angel out of the file she was giving to Wes.

Taking the file, he read it over quickly. He barely skimmed it. He couldn’t believe her. Or rather, perhaps, he didn’t want to believe her. “Next, you’ll be telling me the death of our Angel was orchestrated by Wolfram & Hart so you could bring this one over and arrange for him to become Angelus.” He looked up at her from the file.

“We had nothing to do with that. You know the rules in regards to Angel. Look but don’t touch. Torment but don’t kill. Can’t come at him directly. That was just a stroke of luck.” She leaned back in her chair. “And we had nothing to do with this. It was one of The Old Ones.”

“Why would one of The Old Ones ever bother with him?” This puzzled Wes. He knew that if any of them were set loose it would just as soon kill a person as to toss them in a portal.

She opened her desk drawer, reaching in to pull out several other files. On the tab of each folder were the names of each member of the AI team: Wesley, Fred, Gunn, Cordelia, Connor. These were followed below by a series of numbers that matched the one on the Angel file Wesley had. These were to tell what dimension they were from. She handed them over to him. “Go ahead and keep them. We have plenty of copies.”

“I’m sure they’ll make interesting reading tonight. And how fortunate you must feel to have this fall into your lap.” He paused then looked from the files to her. “Did you ever think, Lilah, that this Angelus just might come for you like ours’ would have? From what we’ve experienced, he’s just as crazy and unpredictable. He kills for the sheer pleasure and not just the need to feed as is the case with other creatures, even vampires.”

“He is one of our employees. And in this dimension or any dimension, there are certain little…failsafes implanted. Your concern isn’t needed or appreciated.” Lilah answered him dryly.

“Then I guess I’ll just take my leave,” Wes said as he turned for the door.

She stood up from her chair, her 9mm now aimed for the back of his head. “Take the Orb out of your jacket and put it back on my shelf. I don’t want to have to get brains all over my original Matisse.”

Stopping, he didn’t turn to face her but his head just turned just slightly. “You can’t blame a bloke for trying.” He then turned as if to take it back with his left facing her and in a quick fluid motion he pulled his own gun. He rolled and fired, just intending to shoot the gun from her hand or the very least cause some confusion.

The sound of gunfire was enough to alert security to her office. The gun flew from her hand and landed on the floor. She slammed a button under her desk, on the off chance that security was running slow. “You’ll never make it out alive, Wes. Give up now and they might let you go with minimal torture.”

“I’ll risk it.” He ran out of her office, down the stairs, and then across the lobby. He had everything in his SUV ready. He could recite the spell as he drove if he had too. He could hear the running of the security guards and see the security doors at the front starting to come down. He sped up his pace.

She grabbed her gun up from the floor so that she could give chase. Her heels slipped on the floor, causing her to curse. He might be able to get the soul into the Orb but she would make sure that he didn’t get that soul back into Angel. “Shoot him already!” She shouted at several guards as they ran up to her. They paused, took aim, and fired at the retreating man from the upper floor.

The lobby floor was slick as it had been freshly waxed. Wes was going to use that fully to his advantage. He sped up his running then went down like he was sliding for home as those security doors came down. He just barely made it as bullets hit the barrier as it locked down. Outside, he stood and looked back into the building. He could see Lilah seething at the window. He waved at her then took off running for his Cherokee.

Lilah pistol-whipped the nearest security guard in her rage after she saw Wes waving. She stalked back into her office, almost ripping the phone out of the jack as she grabbed it. She dialed a single number. She brought the phone to her ear. “He got one of the Orbs” She slammed the phone down in her annoyance.

Getting in his SUV, Wes placed the orb on the seat with the other items. He started the car and drove at breakneck speed for the hotel. He didn’t want to waste any time as the sun started to set. He started the incantation as he drove. Now it was just up to the rest to lure Angelus into the trap they had set.

Angelus entered the seedy demon bar. His face, burned on the left side, was still red from that damn bitch, Cordelia, and the holy water. That stuff should be illegal. It hurt like hell. The vampire paused and glanced around. The place was dead. He made his way towards the bar. He looked at the tender. “Whiskey,” he said to him as he sat. He touched his injured face and hissed when it hurt.

The bartender just nodded his head, his jowls swinging in the air as he did. He turned to pour Angelus his whiskey. The bar was relatively quiet. It was still daylight out so most of the vamps weren’t around. A lot of the demons that came in here worked during the day as lawyers, stockbrokers, priests, talk show hosts. He set the whiskey down in front of Angelus. “That’ll be five dollars or one kitten, mate.”

Angelus just looked at the demon barkeep then took the glass with that fast vampiric speed. He knocked it back and put the shot down, his eyes never leaving the ugly demon.

“Five dollars or a kitten.” The demon, which looked like he was made up of mounds of bread dough, held one meaty hand out for his payment.

In another fast move, Angelus had a large blade. He grabbed the demon’s hand, slamming it onto the bar counter. He held the demon’s hand down on the bar and cut a finger off. “I hear you talk again and I’ll cut another off.” He grabbed the bottle from the demon’s other hand.

It was probably a good thing that he didn’t have any real feeling in that hand. Angelus cut off the finger, which wiggled around the bar. The demon grabbed it up and jammed it back onto his hand. Like the wad of dough that he was, it melded back into. It just took a bit of kneading. “You want that whole bottle, you better have a litter off kittens under your coat, Scarface.”

Angelus watched as the demon reattached his finger like nothing was wrong. A slow, sadistic grin spread across the vampire’s features, despite the pain it caused due to the holy water burn. Oh, the fun he could have with Pillsbury Doughboy.

The grin, no doubt, would be short-lived as a shriek came from behind Angelus. It was a happy shriek. The voice was like a Valley Girl on helium, way too enthusiastic for someone who wasn’t high on cocaine. “ANGEL! OMIGOD!”

The grin was very short lived and faded quickly. That sound was like nails on a black board to him. He took one long pull from that whiskey bottle. Maybe if he just ignore her, she would go away. What the hell was Spike thinking when he turned her? Well, he wasn’t thinking as usual or rather, he was thinking with his dick.

Harmony rushed over to his side. Last time she had seen Angel had been when she tried to turn him and the other members of the gang over to the cult. She had a tendency to just forget her evil ways. “What are you doing here? Never thought you would come to a dive like this. No offense, bartender demon dough man.” She gave the doughy demon a winning smile before looking back to who she though was Angel. “Oooh, drinking. Did Cordelia dump you? And eww…what happened to your face?”

He was getting a headache already and she had only been here a few seconds. “Harmony, I’m in here getting a drink and thinking…what can I kill in the next ten minutes to help with some stress relief?” He turned, finally, to look at her. “Something wrong with my face?”

“Yeah…it’s all scar-y and pink and stuff.” She gestured vaguely around his face. “You are here to kill demons right? No hard feelings about the whole cult thing, right?” She gave him a sheepish smile.

“Yeah, well,” he reached for her face and pushed some of her hair back. She had his bloodline in her and he did not like that. Spike should have been more picky in who he chose to sire. “Since I couldn’t kill my own kids tonight.”

“Heeey…” She whined as she tried to pull away from him as he reached for her face and pushed her hair back. “Watch the hair. You know how hard it is to find a stylist that will do vampire hair? Most of them don’t like it when you try to take a bite out of them!”

Angelus grabbed her at the back of the neck. “Do you think I give a shit? Do you think it matters in the big picture?” His other hand grabbed her by the throat. Though a vampire couldn’t be choked to deprive them of air, it still usually sent the young ones into a panic.

“Angel, what are you doing? I thought we were okay about the whole trying to kill you thing.” Harmony reached up and tried to take the hands away from her neck. She didn’t like that. She didn’t like it one bit. “Sorry about your face. It looks good…really it does.”

“Angel would forgive you,” he said the name in disgust. “Angel is a bitch whipped soul boy that I’m forced to watch as he does his good deeds.”

No one would ever accuse Harmony of being a Mensa member so she still has yet to figure out that she was dealing with Angelus. “You can let me go now. Please. I have a really important thing I have to be at tonight. Once the sun goes down and everything.” She tried once more to get the hand gone from around her neck.

The older vampire shoved her down on the bar. “Oh, I don’t think you’re going to have to worry about it. Its about time I cleaned up the bloodline.”

Harmony was never much of a fighter either. She never really had to be. Shoved down on the bar, she just looked to the tender for help. But fights and deaths were a common occurrence here. She looked back to Angel. “Hey! I am your wife’s friend. You can’t hurt me. We were BFF! How come I didn’t get an invitation to the wedding? It was at night, I could have gone!”

“News flash, you dim bitch,” he said. He reached over and flipped over a barstool with his free hand. He broke off a leg to make a jagged and deadly stake. “Angel is dead. Angelus is back and ready to take control of this city.”

She grinned at him. “That’s great! There are so many people in this city that need to be eaten or killed. It’s a shame that my Blondie Bear is dead. You two could have really raised some hell! Can I join the gang then now? Since Spike is gone and everything. I am his…whatever you call it, after all.”

“You’ll join the gang. Tell Darla and Spike I said hello when you get to Hell.” He brought that chair leg up and brought it down hard into her chest. Harder than he needed to but she deserved it. As expected it hit right on target, going through her chest to hit her heart..

“Do we get to wear matching…” Harmony never got to finish her sentence. She was so busy thinking about how cool it would be to be part of a group again, thinking about wearing matching jackets, that she didn’t see the stake until it was too late. She was staked mid-thought, turning to dust. Her leftovers joined the other vampire remains before her in coating the bar.

Angelus tossed the stake aside and turned back to the bartender. “Now that we have that problem solved, let’s get to ours.” The vampire walked the length of the bar. At the end, he stepped around and started to come slowly towards the tender behind the bar. “I’m sure you heard now who it is you’re talking too?”

The bartender made a slight clicking sound, as if his jaw was popping as he chewed tobacco. This being a demon bar, however, it was more likely that he was chewing on a human ear. “I know you are the guy who owes me a litter of kittens and is going to clean my bar.” He tossed a damp rag at Angelus, hitting him right in the face.

When he pulled that towel down, his true face had come to surface. His yellow eyes seemed to glow and he bared those sharp fangs and teeth. He grabbed something quickly from under the bar and then he was within inches of the bar keep. The thing even smelled like bread, bread that was wet and had been left out on the counter too long.

“Get back on your side, leech.” The bartender didn’t seem the least bit afraid of Angelus. He had all kinds coming in here. Vampires were the lowest rung on the ladder, especially punk vampires. He was from a Hell dimension so it took a lot to rile him.

Angelus didn’t stop his advance on the demon. The fold of his duster was hiding what he had picked up. He ran his tongue over his teeth between his fangs. Then in a swift move, he had his fingers buried in the doughy flesh at the top of the thing’s head. He had taken a large butcher knife from under the bar and he brought it up. He cut across the neck of the bartender, separating his head from his budda-like body. He’d came across one of these demons before. He quickly pitched the head in the little freezer then got a tub of ice. He turned it upside-down over the opening where the demon’s neck used to be. “Okay, Doughboy,” he spoke back to the freezer, “colder your head gets there, the harder its going to be to re-attach. Meanwhile, I just might make a strudel out of the arm of your body…or better yet run it through the grater.” He couldn’t threaten the thing’s dick. They didn’t have one. Well, they did when they wanted or a vagina when they wanted. Damn asexual bastards, he was thinking to himself.

The vampire moved too fast for the slow moving demon to really react. Before he knew it, his head was in a freezer. He glared, as best as he could, at Angelus. “What is your problem? Didn’t get enough love as a child?”

“How’d you guess? Probably why I ate my parents, tasted like chicken.” Angelus replied. “Now, you’re going to tell me what I want to know while I have a couple more drinks or I’ll have your body served up as pastries. And mind you, I am a decent cook.” He looked at the doughy body. “I’ll start with finger sandwiches.” He grabbed his bottle again, He opened it and took a pull from it. “Now, people have been running around asking about Orbs.”

“I don’t know nothing about no Orbs.” There was very little he could do. He couldn’t control his body with his head not attached. It just stood there, unmoving. He wished he had Jedi powers like the movies, to will his body to move to him.

The vampire just shook his head and pulled out a plate. He sat the hand of the body up on the counter once more and got another knife. “Have to keep with health codes now,” he said. “You got mayo and mustard?” He looked back at the glass door of the freezer where the head was sat between a bottle of Killian’s Red and a Bud.

He watched Angelus put his hand on the counter. The counter was filthier now since he had dusted the big-mouthed blonde vamp on it. He would end up reattaching his fingers along with bits of vamp-dust. It wasn’t something he wanted. “There is only place in town you can get Orbs anymore.”

“And what place is that?” he asked. “How about onions, tomatoes, lettuce? Pickles even?” He was rummaging for all the good sandwich stuff, pausing now and then to get a drink of his whiskey. “You really need to start serving drunks in here, man. This takes forever to get a vampire drunk, or buzzed even.”

His eyes widened as the vampire put the sandwich stuff on the bar. He was serious! The only reason he kept that stuff around was that there was a certain breed of demon that got drunk off veggies. He wasn’t a big fan. “Its a little bookshop. On Ivy. It’s tucked in between a pizza place and a Chinese place. If you aren’t looking for it, you will miss it.”

Angelus stopped and turned to face the freezer with a “duh” look. “All you had to do to save the trouble was tell me that.” He shoved the body so it fell back on its ass on the floor. He stepped over it. He made his way from behind the bar and started for the door.

The demon yelled at Angelus as he went. “Hey! Wait! What about my head? My body? I need to reattach!”

The vampire stopped at the door. He turned back and looked at the freezer where the head was. “What about it?” Stepping out, he said, “Dude just needs to chill out a bit. Too uptight about his job.” With that he went to find a little magic shop that could pose an annoying problem.

After slipping down into the sewers from the access by the demon bar, Angelus walked the tunnels towards his destination. He paused under the access that would take him up into the alley next to the pizza shop. He took the ladder up and slowly lifted the cover to make sure the alley wasn’t in direct sunlight. The sun had lowered back behind the buildings so shadows were cast in the alley. He climbed out of the manhole then moved to the front of the building. He was such a lucky bastard. Awnings lined all down the buildings. He walked to the magic shop and stepped in.

The diminutive shopkeeper heard the bell ring over the door. He glanced up from his reading. It was Miller’s Demon Compendium. A good read but it was one he had read several times before. He had only seen two customers today and he was curious if this third was seeking the same thing as the others.

Angelus glanced around at the contents of the shop. He wasn’t seeing anything to lead him to believe what he was looking for was here. There were on Orbs just sitting out on the shelves. He looked at the man and leaned down on the counter on his arms. “Nice little place here,” the vampire said

The shopkeeper pulled back as the vampire leaned down on the counter. He just knew, after years of working in this business, when a vampire came in. He adjusted the spectacles on the end of his nose as he regarded the vampire. “How can I help you?”

“I really hope you can,” Angelus said, looking like an oh-so-troubled customer. “I need this orb thing. Thesulah, I think it’s called. I was told you were the last place in town to have them.”

The man just looked the vampire over. He could sense something was wrong with this situation as the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. “You looking to get souled?”

Angelus just chuckled a bit. “What does it matter what I want with a glass bauble? I want it.” His voice changed slightly to a lower near growl.

He tilted his head. It was the chuckle that had done it, had put him off for the moment. After the change in tone, he knew that those hairs on the back of his neck were correct. “We are all out. My apologies. But I have a lovely Stone of Petra if you are interested.”

“That’s really not what I wanted to hear,” Angelus said as he propped his chin in his hand. “Now, next thing I want to ask is…Who bought them?”

“I don’t know.” He was lying. He hadn’t had to lie much in his life. He wasn’t particularly versed in it. He only hoped the vampire didn’t notice the bead of sweat forming at his brow or the way his heartbeat skipped a beat before increasing.

Lying to a creature that can sense your respiration and heart rate was a bold and stupid move. “You know, this isn’t going well,” he said, “not for you, at any rate.” Turning, he found a horse hair rope on one of the shelves. He grabbed it, swinging it slightly. He moved slowly down the counter. Already once today he had to slip behind a counter to get answers.

“I don’t know what you are talking about. Like I said, I don’t know who bought them. I let that stuff stay private.” He was thankful now that he had put the large ledger away after the Englishman had come in earlier. He backed away as Angelus advanced on him

The vampire uncoiled the small cord of rope. It was beaded on either end. That was probably for some Native American magic. But Angelus could use if for some magic of his own. “Lying isn’t good for your health, you know that?” Lunging over the counter, he pulled the keeper around. The keeper was now on his back against the counter while Angelus slipped the rope around his neck quickly. He managed to tie it off on a large iron urn, just at the base of the counter

He tried to struggle to get away from the vampire but the vampire’s speed coupled with the shopkeeper’s old age was no match. He found himself against the counter, rope around his neck, and tied to one of his most prized containment urns.

Angelus looked to the case and saw a very thin, sharp blade in it. Yet another piece that was no doubt used in rituals. He broke the glass and pulled it out. “Memory getting any better?”

He knew that if he said anything, neither the Englishman nor the woman would be able to use those Orbs to restore this creature’s soul. He was smart so he could jump to those kinds of conclusions. He turned his head away from Angelus, pulling at the rope around his neck.

Turning to the man, he tore open the man’s shirt. He started counting ribs, using the tip of the thin dagger. “This would make my job easier if you’d stay away from the Big Macs.”

He was old and his body showed his age. Marked with age spots and the sagging skin of being a senior citizen, he was exposed now. His hands were still free however. He used them to close his shirt up. It was worth a try though, no doubt, it would only anger the vampire further.

Angelus grabbed one of those arms and in a quick motion broke the fragile wrist bones. The sound of them snapping was like the sound of a .22 pistol.

The old man whimpered in pain as the vampire broke his wrist. It was quick and he was thankful for that. He held the wrist against his chest with his other hand to help with some of the pain that was shooting up his arm

Angelus went back to opening the man’s shirt. Finding the place he wanted, he slowly slid the small dagger into the man’s body, not hitting anything vital. Angelus found another dagger in the case, this one with a jagged edge. “Now, who bought the orbs?”

The old man bit his lip so hard that he drew blood as Angelus slid the first dagger into his chest. The hand that was holding his wrist flexed in pain. “I told you…” He said breathlessly. “I don’t know.”

“Not what I wanted to hear.” Instead of driving it in this time, he ran the jagged dagger down the center of the man’s chest, just skin deep. He got a little blood on his finger and he licked it off. He made a face. “How many drugs are you on to keep this old bag of bones going? I am going to have to find some girl scouts or nuns to kill before I visit our friend. Now where do I find the person that bought the Orbs?”

The jagged dagger cut down his flesh, stinging along the way. Most of the time, being on all those drugs kept him safe from being eaten by demon or vampire alike. He didn’t answer Angelus. He was counting back the hours. How long ago was it that the woman bought them? How long since the Englishman came in? Could it be possible that they had started the spell, gotten this creature’s soul, and the necessary magical firepower to do it?

Angelus made a crosscut now across the man’s torso. He started lifting the skin and cutting just under it. Yes, the old man was getting skinned. He looked up at the old man’s face. He knew what he wanted. What was the point in asking again when it would just interrupt his beautiful work?

He might not have believed in a single God or even in multiple Gods, but he was praying to someone or something greater than he was now. His lips moved over an ancient prayer, trying to remember the words to help take this pain away.

“Its surprising what the body can endure. Even a tired, worn out one like yours. Now, it can all stop if you just give me some information.” He was bent over now and you should see how much of that skin he has separated from the old man’s rib cage.

The old man prayed for forgiveness but mostly, he prayed to be delivered from this torment. Then he felt it, that tingly numbness spreading up through his arm. He knew what this was. It had been almost twenty years since his last heart attack and triple bypass. It seemed the Gods smiled on him in his hour of need after all.

Angelus folded some of that skin back then started on another section. “I probably could have been a doctor. Missed my calling, though I am somewhat of an expert on the human body.” He pulled the skin back, running the sharp knife under it to cut it from muscle.

The old man felt it as his heart seized up. He felt the last breath of life escape his lips, his soul departing with it. He went quickly, which was once more a blessing in disguise in regards to this whole situation.

When the old man died Angelus stopped. He paused a moment then he looked to the man’s face. He stood up straight, slowly. He leaned on the counter, looking up in annoyance. “You goddamn sonuvabitch,” he said quietly. He just stood there for a moment like that. Then suddenly, he hit the counter on either side of the old man and the counter shattered, falling with the dead body.

“NOOOO!” He turned, grabbing one of those urns and threw it. The heavy containment vessel broke the shelf and everything on it. Picking up a large club-looking weapon, he turned and hit the old man’s body in the head. “You motherfucker! You fucked me over dying, you bastard!”

Angelus swung the club again at another counter and it shattered. When it did, a large book fell from it. It opened, pages spilling open to reveal a list of names and purchases. He stopped upon seeing it. Bending down, Angelus picked it up and what he read, put a grin on his face. Then, he chuckled. “Well, well, isn’t this a sweet turn and surprise.” He tossed the book and turned for the door to leave. This was turning out to be an entertaining evening already.

Angelus made it up from the basement/garage levels of the Wolfram & Hart offices. After leaving the shop, he had found himself a delicious troop of Girl Scouts, selling cookies. He wanted to heal his face so that he could look his best when he went to see Lilah. The sun had set just enough then that it wasn’t a threat as he drained them all quickly. Each of them was like a little juice box, just enough to sate his thirst for a moment. They had gotten their merit badge for being dinner.

He dusted himself off. After all, he used to be the CEO of, well, Angel was, of a branch. Finally, he came off the elevator into the lobby. He stopped at the directory to look up a certain office. He took the steps quickly and went down the hall, looking for that office. He stopped short though, seeing a familiar face. He couldn’t believe who was behind that reception desk. It seemed that the mighty had fallen. He stepped over to the desk with that devilish smirk. “You know, the problem with all these buildings the firm builds, they are all the same.”

Eve looked up from her workstation to see…Angel? What was he doing here? She was just a lowly secretary so she didn’t have the same knowledge that those in the big offices upstairs did. How was she to know that Angelus was loose? Or that this vampire wasn’t the same vampire that they all knew? Then again, anytime Angel came to ‘visit’ Wolfram and Hart, there was always trouble. He had brass balls walking through the front door. If the vampire alarms didn’t catch him, the fact that she was reaching for her own alarm button should. It was late and most of the security was still cleaning up the mess made earlier by Wesley.

“Uh, uh, Eve,” Angelus said, “wouldn’t do that.” He moved around the desk. “And as for you vampire detectors, I have a free pass.” He still had that charm Angel had to come and go. He pulled it from his pocket. “Makes me invisible to them. So, Eve, you still like that little mole behind your ear nibbled?”

“What?” She was up from her seat in an instant. She turned around to look at him. Her fingers were still stretching, reaching for that alarm button. At this moment, she hated Lilah. If the boss worked late, she had to work late too. It was one of the “perks” of being the personal assistant to the President of Special Projects. “Don’t you have some puppy to save?”

He grabbed her wrist with that quick vampire speed. His real face was showing now. He was sick and tired of her already. “Why can’t a woman ever listen like they used to back in the day? They didn’t and they’d get shown the error of their ways.” He slammed her against the wall behind her desk.

Eve’s head slammed against the wall. Along with it the dull thud, was a sickening squishing sound. She was just a human in this dimension, albeit, an evil human. The smell of her blood permeated the air as the back of her head smashed against the wall. She was dizzy and disorientated now, fighting weakly to keep Angelus off her.

Angelus ran his finger on that blood smear on the wall then licked it. “Mortal,” he sounded a little disappointed. He looked at her, He knew exactly what he was going to do to Eve. “I’m a bad guest. I came here to see a friend and didn’t bring a gift.”

His voice sounded as if it was coming through a tunnel. Her vision was starting to go black around the edges but she was fighting to stay conscious. She scratched feebly at his face, her nails barely nicking the surface of his skin.

When she did that, his hand came to her face and forced her eye open. With his other hand, he yanked out her eyeball with a practice skill that suggested he had done this several times before. He held it in his left hand.

The pain cut through the fog in her mind. She felt his fingers push into her eye socket and she was too weak to fight him off. She screamed though. She screamed loud and long, in anguished pain as he pulled her eye from the socket. Blood streamed down her face, over her cheeks, like red tears from the open wound.

“Normally I’d let this draw out so we could really bond and all, but I have to see somebody.” With that he crushed her windpipe to let her asphyxiate. He let go of her so she could drop and then headed for Lilah’s office.

Her throat crushed, once let go of her, her body crumpled to the floor. Her body spasmed in death, voice making a last few choked and gurgling noises. The blood pouring from her eye pooled at the side of her face as she shook with the final stages of her own death.

Stopping at the office door, he read the name and title. “Lilah Morgan. President. Special Projects Division.” He opened the door and stepped on in. “Man, what did you do to piss off the Senior Partners in this dimension. I mean Angel was CEO and he didn’t have a law degree.” He moved on in and took a seat in front of her desk. His feet went up on it. “In fact the only major he had was in Stupidity.”

Lilah sat at her desk. It was a good thing her office was soundproofed or she would have been distracted from the screaming in the outer office. Her head was down but when she heard her door open, it snapped back up. “You really should think about making an appointment next time, Angelus. I’m a busy woman.” She had no fear. In his home dimension, he was an employee of Wolfram and Hart. The failsafes there should work here, even if he did bring the Apocalypse down on his world.

The vampire tossed that eyeball up and caught it as if he were playing with a little ball. He tossed it on her desk, letting it roll in front of her. “Present. I mean I didn’t want to be a bad guest.”

She watched as the bloody eyeball rolled across her desk. She frowned and flicked it away with her pen, back towards him. “Was that suppose to impress or scare me? I deal with demons every day. Eyeballs on my desk are par for the course.”

He looked around the office and his yellow eyes settled on that bookshelf. He stood and walked over to it where four crystal-like orbs sat. “You should keep these things in a case because they are so fragile. Didn’t you know that?” Reaching up with two bloodied fingers, he rolled one off the shelf. So delicate it was, it shattered on the floor. “Ooops, clumsy of me.”

She barely watched him as shattered the Orbs. She just went back to her work. She didn’t want Angel back anymore than he did. “I assume you still remember how to get to the White Room if you want your old job back. Or if you want to ask them to send you back to own dimension.”

He knocked another off then another. There was only one remaining. He picked up the last one. “I was told you had all of these,” Angelus said and he looked at this orb. He tossed it from one hand to the other and looked back at her. “And well, there’s not much left of home,” he said, tossing the orb higher. “Sort of got Apocalypsed Now.”

“Sort of Angel’s fault too. You don’t have to worry about him here. He’s dead.” Her voice had all the emotion as if she was reading off a grocery list. “If you were just here to kill my receptionist and destroy the Orbs, can you finish already? I have a big merger I need to work on. I can’t be entertaining you. Go kill Wesley or rape some nuns.”

“I’ll get around to it,” Angelus replied as he came back to the desk. “Didn’t you ever wonder, Lilah, what we’d be like? You, me. After all, I was the one you wanted.”

She frowned deeply and looked up at him. She wanted him out of her office. She pointed to the Orb with her pen. “That isn’t the last one in town. Sure Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys are looking for one right now.”

Tossing it over his shoulder, he heard it break as it hit the floor. Now that was over with, he could get back to his fun. He replied, “I’m sure they are.” Angelus moved around her desk to her side. Reaching for her now, he pulled her up. “But I’m suddenly in the mood for some office romance.” He backed her ass to the desk, his hand went up that short skirt of hers. He merely grinned at her.

Her ass hit the papers on her desk. All she could think was so much for her merger. Her butt was going to smear the ink. She shoved her knee hard against his stomach. One of the perks of being President of Special Projects was that she wasn’t human anymore. “I don’t have time for your ‘I am so evil, I take what I want’ posturing. Get out of my office.”

Angelus doubled a moment then looked at her. “We’ll just leave out the posturing then.” He turned her and slammed her face down on the desk. Before she could react, he ripped her skirt off her exposing her ass. He made short work of her thong. He was so evil and he was taking what he wanted.

Her face hit the desk hard enough to split her lip. There was no way she was going to allow this to happen, not to her. She was Lilah Morgan, shining star of Wolfram and Hart. She was not some random girl off the street or someone who was so emotionally attached to Angel, she wouldn’t hurt him. She struggled to try to free herself from him, wiggling on her desk like a fish. She kicked him hard with her heel. When he stumbled back from the force of it, she was off the desk. She ran, tripping once, as she tried to make it to the door. She’d let security deal with him.

Stumbling back, Angelus wasn’t put off but for a second. He leaped over the desk and was on her before she reached the door. “Wolfram & Hart wanted me, babe, now they got me,” he growled out. He grabbed her by the back of the hair to pull her up and rammed her head into the doorframe. “I’ll have you, bitch, alive or dead, doesn’t matter to me. Or both.”

Her head snapped back as he grabbed it before it was slammed back into the doorframe. This time it was enough to break her nose. Her eyes watered as her nose started to bleed, the blood slipping down over her lips. She was a little disorientated now as she felt him start to pull her back.

“Is this how you saw our first night together,” he said, dragging her back to the desk. He slammed her down on it, bent over with her ass in the air. He grabbed the fountain pen out of the holder on her desk. He laid her hand out, palm down on the desk. He rammed the pen through her hand and through the top of the desk, pinning her hand to it.

The edge of desk bit into her stomach as he slammed her against her desk. She held back against crying out. But when he pinned her hand to the desk with her fountain pen, she had to scream out in pain. She was more upset at the fact that he had put the pen through her merger, her blood staining the paperwork than she was of the physical pain. Pain faded but failure lasted forever.

“Now then,” he said with a rather ominous tone. She could hear the sound of the metal clink of a belt buckle then that of a zipper. “Let me show you what you’ve been dreaming about.” He rammed his cock into her asshole hard and laughed while he did.

She was able to hold back that scream. She squeezed her eyes shut against the pain of the invasion. She almost wished that she were dead for this. Then, it wouldn’t hurt so much. Wolfram and Hart would bring her back, all in her contract. Her other hand grabbed the edge of the desk to keep her body from flying too far forward with each of his thrusts against her. That would only make the fountain pen dig even further into her hand.

Angelus rammed her hard and with each thrust he cut her back with a blade he had pulled from his coat. He wanted to mark her, to make her bleed, and make her suffer. “How do you like me now?”

She heard the tearing of the fabric of her blouse first before she felt the cool metal slicing through her skin. Then came the wetness as the blood seeped up and pearled along the cuts. She shut her eyes tighter against the assault. If she could just escape to a place within herself, then she wouldn’t have to endure this. Children weren’t the only ones that could use retreating into their own minds as a means of defense.

Angelus plunged once more into her savagely. He was going to give her the fucking to remember, or remember until he killed her. He could smell her blood in the air and it excited him further. It was partly from him cutting into her skin and partly from his brutal assault on her ass. “Feeling tight, Lilah. Never let ol’ Wes get in the backdoor?”

The last thing Lilah wanted to think about during this ordeal was Wesley. The pain was causing her see spots on the backs of her eyelids. She wanted to cry out but at the same time, she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. The fingers of her free hand brushed something on the underside of the desk and for a flash of a moment, she had hope.

After the last cut, he leaned down and bit her hard as he got off. How lucky could she be but to be raped and abused by Angelus. Well, he could kill her. And she would receive that privilege that had been given to so many since he was released.

As she felt him start to climax, she knew he would be too distracted, too lost in the moment. She formed her hand into a fist and hit the alarm button hard. The sirens started to blaze loudly in the building as for the second time today, Wolfram and Hart started to lock down.

Hearing that, he stopped. Bitch knew how to ruin a moment. He knew what was coming. He heard the building locking down. “This isn’t over, Lilah.” He went for the window that the security system almost had sealed. He broke out, the high tempered glass shattered with his force like the four Orbs he had destroyed …and he was gone into the night.
Chapter Fifteen

Lorne stepped down from his private plane onto the tarmac. He hated this plan. He hated it the first time they did it. He hated even more now. He didn’t like the idea of himself or Cordelia being used for bait. Mostly he didn’t like himself being the bait, especially not for an unpredictable monster like Angelus. He had been briefed during flight of the entire situation. Then again, this Angelus’ actions might differ from the actions of the one they had dealt with. This was the reason he left LA the first place. He hated being the sacrificial lamb. If he wanted violence, he could have stayed in Pylea. He just wanted to sing and entertain and have a good time. Despite the distance though, these people were family. So here he was, doing this last favor. He pulled the sunglasses from his face, giving his best sunny smile to the demon that was waiting there. “Angelbuns. How are you?”

Angelus smiled and stepped away from the GTX. Lorne’s customary limo was not in sight. Maybe it was because when the vampire got here, he intercepted it before it made it on the tarmac. Lorne had just as good taste here as he did in his own dimension. Inside the limo he found a sexy little female driver in a short skirt with two juicy, plump tatas. They were like a couple of nice ripe, sweet melons. It was so nice to find a girl so endowed by nature and not man made. “Lorne, man, been a long time,” Angelus said as he stepped towards the green demon. “I hope you haven’t forgot us little people in your star glittered fame.”

This team was always putting him in bad situations. This one had to rank at the top of the worst. All those acting classes with Madame Stella were really going to pay off in this situation. “Well who can resist a woman like Cordelia when she tells me a hero sandwich like you is having more swiss cheese in your head than usual.”

The vampire opened the door of the convertible for Lorne to get in. “Actually, it’s not as bad as it was,” he said. “Hope you don’t mind, got a call that your limo was broke down.”

“Those limo companies…how do they expect anybody to get around LA?” He gave a bit of a nervous chuckle. He wanted to run, fast, and far away. He could be in St. Barts right now, not worried about if tonight was the night he was going to die. He got into the GTX. “I can have Raul send my luggage to the Hyperion. Can’t wait to see the two little twinkies.”

He closed the door then walked around and got in behind the wheel. “I’m sure they’ll just love seeing their Uncle Lorne too,” Angelus said glancing at the green demon with a smile. He pulled the car away from the jet and his right hand slipped into his pocket as he kept his eye on the road.

Lorne swallowed hard against the knot forming in his throat as he saw Angelus slip his hand into his coat. He knew that at least he wouldn’t be getting a bullet in the head. Angelus was more the torture you until you break then kill you type. Not that he was looking forward to any of those options. “Been a couple of months, not that you remember that, Angelcakes.”

Suddenly, Lorne’s left wrist was handcuffed, followed by a second click. Angelus had cuffed him to a bar in the seat that was anchored behind it. “Now, we’re going to have a talk, asshole,” he said as he glanced over at Lorne.

“Seems like you have made some modifications to the Batmobile.” He was handcuffed too quickly to react to it. He needed to talk to someone about getting some superpowers. He could blow Angelus’ head up but then the dream team waiting at the demon bar would probably be pissed at him. They wanted a live capture. However, if Angelus tried to kill him, live capture wasn’t going to be an option anymore.

“Okay, we can do this a couple ways,” Angelus said taking a turn to head down to the warehouse district. “Want to hear them or can you guess?”

“How about you just go ahead and tell me my options. I hate to go into situations blind. Like the time I was performing at the Flamingo with no contract. Who knew they were going to pay me in shrimp and left over prime rib?” He was nervous but that was an understatement. He found himself babbling. He really should have been trying to figure out how to get out of the handcuffs. “So what is with the handcuffs and name calling, Cupcake?” He had to play dumb in order for this to be pulled off. If Angelus suspected that Lorne knew the truth, that this was all part of an elaborate scheme, he would never get Angelus to the capture location.

“You call me a pastry again and I’ll reach up your ass and pull your still beating heart out, got that?” Angelus growled out.

“Taking a wild guess and either you are having another one of your muddy periods or something went wrong with your soul. As in, it’s missing.” He already knew the facts. He was Angel from another dimension. Cordelia had given him the big happy, and thus Angelus. Angelus had already made his mark on LA since being let out. The bloodshed was too much to even put it into words.

“Give the horny guy a prize,” Angelus said with a chuckle. He pulled the car in front of a warehouse, the alley dark and quiet. Cutting the engine, he turned to Lorne. “Now, why don’t you tell me where certain objects are located? You know, pretty little Orbs that have a nasty magic of being able to draw souls from the Ether and contain them?” For encouragement he grabbed the little finger of Lorne’s cuffed hand. He shoved it back hearing that wonderful popping sound as it broke.

Lorne let out a scream as Angelus broke his finger. At least he didn’t play the piano during any of his shows now. Good thing Angelus was getting right to the point. There was a chance the torture would be minimal. “OW! I am not a fan of the torture. I had to sit through a Pat Boone doing metal concert. That was enough torture for ten lifetimes.”

Angelus broke another finger broke. “Start with the war stories and I’ll break off your dick and feed it to you. You can brag how you gave yourself a blow job.”

This was just more proof that someone didn’t do their research before going headlong into a situation. Sometimes Angel was too much like Angelus. “There are dealers all over town. A little shop on Aldondra. Another place over on Olympic.”

“And they were all fresh out. Sold to Wolfram & Hart,” he said. “Found them. Broke them. I got word there is one more out there.”

Lorne now had two broken fingers, which were two broken fingers, too many. He had hope he might get out of this situation relatively unscathed. Cordelia was healing those fingers. He was panting somewhat now though, from the pain. “In West Hollywood, there is a bar. Owned by a guy named Nickels. He has one in the back room but he will only sell it to me.”

“You do know what I’m going to do to you if you lied to me and this is a trick, right,” Angelus reached over and grabbed Lorne’s hooked nose in his hand. He twisted his hand to the side with a hard, sharp movement until the green demon’s nose was broke now as well.

He lets out another cry of pain as his nose broke. He nose began to bleed, red blood pouring out over his lips and down his chin. It was going to get on his suit. He was just happy he had worn one of the cheaper knock-offs. You could tell because the colors just weren’t as bright and the silk wasn’t quite as soft. It was still quality but it was bought off the back of a truck quality as opposed to a nice French boutique. Lorne would rather be in either place than where he was now.

Lorne’s eyes watered as he yanked his head back. He took his scarf off from around his neck with his free hand and put it up to his nose. “What else do you want to know to prove I am not lying? He keeps it in a mystical safe in the back. I gave it to him for safekeeping, just in case. Only my voice and his voice will break the spell on the safe.” This was the gang had guaranteed his safety the time before and now. He was no good to Angelus if he was dead.

The vampire sat there for a moment. He started the car and pulled out to head for this bar. “Don’t bleed all over the interior.”

“Kind of hard since…SOMEONE BROKE MY NOSE!” Lorne’s voice was slightly muffled from the scarf and thick sounding as the blood started to drain down back into his throat.

“You know you always were a pantywaist,” Angelus commented as he drove. “How do you get a girl like Lydia to work for you?” Angelus was talking about Lorne’s limo driver. He knew how Lorne could be swayed by the threat of lives. After all, that was how he was kept in check in Vegas. But wait, maybe this Lorne wasn’t since it was another dimension. However, Angelus knew it was one and the same demon. The same plea for lives that worked on Lorne in Vegas in his world would work on Lorne in this world.

Lorne knew then that Lydia was dead. His head bowed just slightly. He should have kept his head up to help with the blood flow but he seemed meaningless now. He was probably going to end up dead. He was quiet as he thought about that. He was going to have to send Lydia’s family some flowers if he lived through this. Or maybe see if he could pull some strings to bring her back to life or even himself. He knew enough people.

“Hmmm, she was sweeeeeet,” Angelus said, making a bit of a smile as he said it. “Literally. And my god, her rack. Oh, by the way, I got them in a bag in back. They were all natural, you know that? No artificial flavoring added.”

He looked greener than usually. He wasn’t about to look into the back. He wanted to pretend that this was just one of Angelus’ tricks to throw him off. He closed his eyes. Lydia didn’t deserve to be dragged into this. The team was going to hear about this. They were going to hear about a lot of things if he lived through this. At this point, that was shaping up to be a pretty big if.

He pulled the GTX into the parking of the bar. All the demons knew the different spots around L.A. to hang out. He got out of the car and went back to the trunk. He opened it. He pushed aside a few trophies that he had taken from others during his little spree. “Now we’re going in and you’re opening that box. After that, you just might breathe a while longer…though it’s highly over rated.”

Lorne turned around as best as he could in the seat. Angelus had parked in a dark spot. He doubted that anyone would care if he screamed. He just kept telling himself that Angelus had to keep him alive. That was the only thing that was keeping him from screaming out and ruining everything. He pulled the scarf from his nose. “Uh…Angelus? Peaches?” He said no pastries! He said nothing about fruit.

Closing the trunk, Angelus came up the passenger side. He swung the large sword, taking off Lorne’s head with ease. Lorne’s head went flying, landing on the asphalt of the parking lot. He looked down at it on the ground. “I forgot to tell you that I hate fruit too.”

He looked up at Angelus and just blinked. There was not much more he could do since his torso was now sitting in the car. “Can you at least pick me up? My hair is in a dirty puddle. You know how much this haircut costs.” He had a feeling this was coming but he was still alive. The Angelus of this world didn’t cut off his head. He just roughed Lorne up. He was starting to like the Angelus they had here a lot better. He only hoped the group was in the alley, cloaked under Wesley’s spell, and ready to attack.

With his foot, Angelus kicked Lorne’s head up then caught it by the hair. “Want to borrow my phone so you can call someone who cares? Wait a sec, you can’t call. You have no body.” He headed into the bar.

Lorne winced as his head was treated like a soccer ball. He refrained from telling Angelus he needed some new material and new writers. He was worried he was going to get a Three Stooges poke in the eye for his trouble. He had no hand to stop Moe here from really hurting his peepers.

“I ever tell you I’m pretty good at hacky sack?” He said as he glanced around the apparently empty bar. He didn’t see the bartender even at first glance through the smoky haze. But he smelled something, or more importantly, someone, which brought a sadistic smile to his features.

Cordelia was already in the bar, past the haze and the smoke that seemed to be a perma-fixture here. She was drinking but only ginger ale. Alcohol always seemed to get her in trouble and she needed to be alert for this. She already had created enough trouble. She was starting to feel the guilt from incredibly selfish act. She wanted that guy to be Angel. She wanted it so badly in fact, she had put them all in danger.

Cordelia was talking to Nickels at the end of the bar, their voices low. She had dressed for the occasion. The skintight red dress left nothing to the imagination as it hugged her every curve. Her breasts threatened to spill out from the low cut neckline as the hem of the dress rode higher to barely reveal a peek at the bottom of her ass. It was a carefully planned trap. She was the bait.

Lorne was looking around as well when he saw Cordelia at the end of the bar. Good was all he thought. He was worried that he might actually have to produce an Orb that didn’t exist. That meant Wesley, Connor, Gunn, Faith, Gwen, and a few of the female slayers were hiding out in the alley under the cloaking spell.

Angelus’ gaze stopped when he saw Cordelia in the flesh. He was right; it was her scent cutting through the reek of smoke, alcohol, and desperation. He felt her thanks to the mark at her neck before he set his eyes on her. He brought Lorne’s head up and looked him in the eye. “I warned you about tricks.”

Lorne had to think fast in these situations. Lucky for him, Cordelia seemed to know they were here. Lorne watched as she produced a tape recorder out of her purse. “What? No tricks? I had no idea she was here. Don’t you think she wants to get a hold of the Orb too? The way she is pouring it on for Nickels, I would say so. She probably has a tape recording of my voice!” The demon tried desperately to explain. He didn’t want to this to fall apart and they all end up dead.

Cordelia set the tape recorder on the bar and then reached into her purse to produce some money. She didn’t need to have good acting skills for this. They had run this EXACT same scene before. Apparently this Angelus was none the wiser than the one they had dealt with. She put the bills on the counter, shoving them towards Nickels. She leaned so far over the bar, her feet rose up from the ground. It only made her long legs seem even longer.

As Nickels reached for the money with one hand, a sword came down and cut it off. Angelus was really starting to like this hand cutting off thing he was doing to the bartenders in town. Angelus stood there looking at Cordelia but he spoke to the bartender. “Give me the Orb and you get to keep your other hand for jerking off.”

Cordelia barely watched from the corner of her eye as Nickels scrambled away from Angelus. Nickels had the bar between him and the monster known as Angelus. His hand was a lost cause because he didn’t want to get close enough to retrieve it.

Cordelia turned fully to look at Angelus, no hint of fear in her eyes. “Excuse me…I believe that belongs to me.” She pointed at Lorne’s head. All she had to do was get Angelus out to the alley. Hopefully playing on Angelus’ eternal lust, adoration of torture, and want to destroy anything good in Angel’s life was going to be the thing to do it.

Lorne shot Cordelia a look. “Hey! I don’t belong to anyone!” This was neither the time nor the place for the outburst but something about that rubbed him the wrong way. Then again, he lost his head! He wasn’t in the best mood. Fact was, she hadn’t said that the first time. Stick to the plan, Cordy, was all he could think.

“Finders keepers,” Angelus told her. “I was thinking of maybe poking the eyeballs out, cutting the nose off, and making it a bowling ball.”

“I am surprised you didn’t think about using it as some kind of athletic supporter or a makeshift sex toy. Must really hurt when your own hand falls asleep on those lonely nights.” She was trying to provoke him. It was a dangerously thin patch of ice that she was walking on since Angelus had a sword. She wanted to get him to drop Lorne and come after her. Lorne couldn’t defend himself as just a head. She could.

“How about you just set me on the bar for now? Not going anyplace. Not looking forward to either the bowling ball or…” Lorne’s voice trailed as he heard what Cordy said. “Cordelia!” His voice was panicked now. She shouldn’t go putting ideas in Angelus’ head.

“Oh, baby, my hands never fall asleep,” he said as he took the point of the sword and slipped it under the strap of her dress. “And I don’t have to use them to pleasure myself. Too many willing ladies out there to do that for me. Vampire and human alike.”

Cordelia knew that if she moved, she would end up cut from that sword. But she stood her ground. “None of them are willing, Angelus. I think you are starting to believe your own hype.”

“How would you know?” he said still holding Lorne’s head, not paying his protest any attention. He stepped closer to Cordelia. “Despite it all, you couldn’t keep your hands to yourself, now, could you?”

The words stung her and cut her deeper than any sword of his could. It was just a momentary flash in her eyes before it faded. She was too strong to let this asshole break her. “Thing was…I wanted Angel. Not you. You don’t even register on my radar. Just a stain I have to wash out with club soda and a bit of magic.”

“Maybe you two could continue this conversation outside? Just put me on the bar and let Nickels pour me a last drink? Granted, it will end up all on the bar but at least I can still taste it.” Lorne didn’t care for the fact that Angelus was still swinging his head around like a cat in a sack here.

“Unlike your friend here when I take off your head with this sword you won’t live,” he said. He saw that flash in her eyes and it was delicious. He wanted more. He turned that blade for her neck. “Afterward I’ll have my prize.” His eyes roamed her body. He had to admit that she looked good in that red dress. It was as if she was covered in blood, painted in it from head to toe. He only hoped he could recreate the effect later before she died in agony.

Cordelia just grinned at that. “You so sure about that? Half demon after all. Things work a little different here than they do in your dimension. Besides, you don’t want to kill me too fast. You want me to suffer. Because that would hurt Angel the most. He wouldn’t have lied to himself if this wasn’t the life he really wanted.” She was calling his bluff. She didn’t want the kids to be without two parents. She grabbed her purse off the bar and when she did, her hand squeezed the middle. It was enough to press the send button on a call already programmed in. The cellphone inside her purse dialed to Connor’s so the group could hear this entire conversation. They could hear when she was in trouble and gave the code word to come rescue her. She had to get him to take her outside. This place was protected from violence and the stealth spell wouldn’t work. Angelus would know in an instant and be out the door.

“You have one flaw in your little theory, babe. That flaw is the only way it would hurt Angel is if he came back. He. Ain’t. Comin’. Back. He suffers and bitches and moans about all the sins because he remembers. News Flash, when the soul is gone, he is too. Unlike me. I have to sit and watch all this do-gooder shit. He saved a goddamn puppy from getting hit by a car and I couldn’t freakin’ stop it!”

There was no hesitation in her whatsoever. She rolled her eyes. “Oh, not the damn puppy thing again.” She shoved the sword down from her neck now. This was taking too damn long. She knew Angelus hated Angel. She knew he wanted to destroy his life. Even Angelus knew that these trips out were temporary. He knew that someone would eventually put his soul back. “Are you done with your speech now? And you said I talked a lot?”

He lifted his hand holding Lorne’s head and pointed at her with a finger. That head jerked in his grasp, probably pulling hair. “I’m done talking.” Angelus tossed Lorne’s head and it hit the jukebox. Some old Reba McIntyre song started playing. He grabbed Cordy and pulled her to him, his face changing to the demon.

At least Lorne was now out of Angelus’ hand. He winced as he hit the jukebox and rolled across the floor into the corner. “I am not sure which is worse. The head injury or the country music.” He was stuck there sadly. Until this was over and someone could put his head with his body.

Cordelia didn’t fight him as he grabbed her and pulled her against him. That was going to leave a mark in the morning. She would have to heal the bruise he left. She had no doubt that they were going to come out on top. They always did. She frowned and made sure to keep her head and neck just far enough away from him. “You are a lousy dancer too. And you know what they say about how a guy is on the dance floor.”

The door burst open thanks to a meaty hand on the other end. It was something unexpected as a group of about a dozen demons came filing in. They were all dressed in leather and biker jackets, helmets still on. They had rings and other piercings threaded through their face. They sat down at the bar, lining up all along it. The leader pounded his fist against the bar. “Nickels! Where are you, you scrawny sonovabitch. We want some beer.”

The last demon to arrive turned his head as he heard voices. He scented the air with his piglike snout. He was starving. It was a vampire and something that smelled human. He elbowed the companion next to him, who turned as well. Upon noticing the two, slowly each of the demons in turn looked at them. The one who was yelling for Nickels ran a thick pink tongue over one of his protruding teeth.

Still holding onto Cordy, Angelus looked up, seeing the demons. He wasn’t about to share this with anyone, least of all demons. He growled in an effort to show his dominance, baring his teeth. In the demon world, vampires were the lowest of the low but even he had made and gained respect from the full bloods. He wasn’t in the mood now. He wanted that Orb and he wanted it now. He knew if Cordy got it what would happen. The vampire pulled her to the back door then out.

Cordelia nearly stumbled over her own feet as she was pulled towards the back. They were finally in the alley though. It wouldn’t be much longer until Angelus was no more. Her heel broke, twisting her ankle as well. It was the second time her ankle twisted when facing down Angelus. What was with her and her ankles when Angelus was involved? She put up a struggle to try to get away from him, only to make it more believable. They were so close that she couldn’t have him suspecting anything now.

Angelus came out that door and flung Cordelia away. He came for her quickly, so confident. “Where’s the love now, Cordy?” he asked. “That night in bed when you offered your neck?” He grabbed her and forced her further back.

She couldn’t catch her body or her footing as she was flung. She stumbled as he forced her back. All she could hear in the alley was the sound of her heels and her own heavy breathing. The spell was still working then. She looked at him, still trying to free herself. “Jealous much, Angelus?”

He pulled off that leather duster, tossing it to the side. He grabbed her and forced her back on a crate. He came down over her to pin her down. He sniffed at her neck in a long, broad movement. He ripped the strap of her dress and pulled that low cut neckline down to expose her breasts. His hand grasped at her breast, kneading it roughly.

Suddenly, Angelus froze. “Sonuvabitch,” he said as he got up. He staggered somewhat and his hand came up to his throat. He crumpled to the alley floor, a dart sticking out of his ass cheek and one sticking out in his neck. From the shadows came Wesley, carrying the tranq gun.

Cordelia was still against the crate, her legs had fallen every which way like a Cordy-rag doll. She sat up, pulling the strap of her dress up to cover her exposed breasts. She was going to need a very long, very hot shower thanks to him. She looked at Wesley. “What took you so long?” She slowly got up, feeling the pain from being tossed around tonight. “Lorne’s head is inside. Not sure where the body is.”

“Its in Angel’s car,” Wesley said to her. He knelt down and started to bind Angelus. “He does so look like our Angel, doesn’t he?”

She moved over to look down at the body as Wes bound it. She pulled her uninjured foot back and kicked the unconscious vampire hard in the ribs. She really hoped she broke a few of them. “That is for ruining my dress.” Cordelia pulled herself together quickly. She couldn’t afford to lose it now. “Take it that Gunn and the girls are getting the body and then will be back to help you carry this sack of shit?”

Wes nodded. “They are loading it in the back of Gunn’s truck then they’ll back up the alley and we’ll load him up.” He looked up at Cordy. “Now you sure this is what you want to do?”

She looked down at Angelus’ body. She really wanted to kick him again. She wanted to kick him a lot, a broken rib for every victim, a broken bone for every scream, an injury for every injury he caused. Then though, she would be no better than he was. “What other choice to have? We can’t keep him as Angelus. Its not his fault I slept with Angel and let him loose. He deserves to get sent back to where he came the way that he came. Isn’t that what we do?” She looked up at Wesley. She was asking him if this was the right thing to do. There was a part of her just wanted to dust the bastard now. She wanted to use a piece of that crate and drive it through his chest. A larger part of her desperately wanted answers.

Before he could answer, the truck was backing up. He stood to help guide Gunn. When the truck stopped, he looked at Cordy. “Are you going to drive his car home or you want me to?”

“You can. I…just call me when it’s done. I need to go take care of something.” She tied the strap of her dress back together and then took off her broken heels. She threw them in the trash before she walked out to where she had parked her car.
Angelus moaned as he raised his hand to his head. He felt something heavy around his wrists. He slowly opened his eyes to look at them. They were bound. He assessed the rest of his situation. He was chained and shackled along with a collar. He assumed that several hours had passed since the alley and now. Sitting up, he found he was in the cage, in the basement of the Hyperion. “You people could be creative,” he said. “I’ve been here done this.” He knew they could hear him. He could see the little camera with its annoying blinking red light in the corner.

Wesley stood watching the monitor, his arms were crossed in front of him. “I’ve always felt Angelus would be a worthy study. Why is or rather, was, he worse then any others? Is it the demon or did the human he was bode that much evil?”

Gunn came up from behind Wesley. He had just walked through the front doors of the Hyperion. He had to drop the girls off before he stopped by. Faith wanted to come by and beat on Angelus. She missed that. But you remind a woman that she has other shit in LA to kill, she generally goes off to take care of that. “He ain’t for studying, Wes.” He gestured with his chin towards the office. Lorne was on the phone, sitting at the desk, still rubbing his neck. “Lorne making the calls?”

He glanced back at Gunn. “He’s not our Angel,” he reminded Gunn. “Angelus is the worse of the lot. He never killed just to feed like other vampires. He killed for the shear enjoyment of it. Often without feeding. He also left his mark on his victims in the form of a cross on their left cheek. What other vampire in recorded history has done this?”

“You said it yourself, man. He is not our Angel. So get this shit on the road and send him back where he belongs.” He paused for a moment. He knew all about Angel being dead. He looked directly at Wes. “She’s suffering enough. Don’t keep that monster around for a reminder. Either soul him and send him back or I will go down there and shoot him with a crossbow. Your choice.”

“You know, I like this bondage thing as much as the next guy,” Angelus called, “But its not as fun when I only have myself to play with. I’m sure you both know that since you both had the same minxy little wild cat, Fred…rwerow…Oooo…but now Gunn is with Faith and Gwen,” he added. “Angel almost had him some of both of them. The idiot.”

Wes paused for just a moment when he heard the insults Angelus was throwing out. He took a deep breath then gathered all the items. He started arranging them on the floor around the Orb. He had gotten distracted in the car and almost gotten into an accident. That was when he decided it was best to just wait until he was back at the hotel to retrieve Angel’s soul.

“Fred still recovering at your place from the attack?” Gunn meant the one that had taken Angel’s life but he wouldn’t come out to say it by name. When you said stuff like that out loud, it makes it even more true.

“Once his soul is in the Orb, we will keep the containment spell on it so the Orb doesn’t go seek him out. That way we can do to him what was done to our Angel.” Wesley paused and looked down a moment. “Yes. I think Fred was hurt more emotionally then physically.”

“Shame Red is in Thailand. Would have been nice to see that little witch curse his soul. All we got is the permanent solution.” He looked at the monitors when Wes mentioned Fred. Part of him would always love her. There was something so special about her. It just wasn’t meant to be. He was happy with his little Gwen and Faith situation. With Fred though, she felt deeply and she showed it. Cordelia could play strong all she wanted but they all knew. With Fred, it was so much more raw and obvious.

When things were ready, Wes took up the book and opened the marked page. “I’m going to start. Hopefully in a few moments we’ll have his soul.”

“Didn’t work in the car?” He knew Wes. He knew that he would have started the ritual as soon as he got his hands on the Orb. He crossed his arms over his chest and stepped back. He was still iffy on magics. All the hoodoo just didn’t sit well with him. He was in agreement with Connor about that.

“I managed to place a containment spell on the Orb in the car,” the Englishman said. “Now I just need to put out the locator to find the soul we are looking for to draw it to this side of the Veil.”

“I don’t need to know the hows or whys, English. You need me, I am going to be playing Playstation 3 in the break room.” Gunn figured that he wasn’t needed for this sort of thing. Wes could handle it on his own. Lorne was still on the phone to call in the big guns. Even Wes wasn’t powerful enough to go putting souls back, not yet anyway.

“Hey! Room service! This ain’t a way to get listed in the travel guides,” the vampire called out. “I mean, call Hookers To Go. Or better yet send one of your ladies down. We know how they all secretly lusted after Angel…well, some not so secret. I can role-play and pretend to be good,” he continued. “Really. Well, fact is, I am good…Go ask Lilah how I drilled her in the ass last night! So, be careful with that Orb there, ’cause I busted the others.”

“I’ve had better.” An all too familiar voice came from behind Gunn and Wes. There stood Lilah Morgan in all her glory. Her hand was bandaged up and she had some bruising around her face. She was standing just inside the lobby. At her side was a creature of sorts. Wrapped in purple and gold robes like some sort of king, it was almost transparent as it faded between this realm and others. The hood of the robe hid its face. “Wes, you remember Bernie.”

Wesley turned to see his former lover when he heard her voice. Then he saw the creature next to her. He gaze though, went back to Lilah. “Lilah,” he said in a soft tone.

“Senior Partners decided that dead Angel here is better than Angelus here.” That was only partly the truth. The real story was that she didn’t much care for Angelus killing her receptionist and then sodomizing her. She put up with a lot working for Wolfram and Hart but forced anal sex was not in her contract. Convincing the Senior Partners was a little bit harder though. In the end, the deal she had to make, she wasn’t looking forward to the consequences. But if it kept Angel dead and Angelus away from her, she could live with it. It would be nice not to be beaten for information on a weekly basis.

Gunn frowned as he turned to see Lilah. He looked back at Wes. He caught that soft tone that Wes was suddenly plagued with. He shook his head. This was English’s mess. He didn’t deal with Wes’ ex-girlfriends. He headed off for the break room to leave the two former lovebirds alone to talk or plot or whatever.

“I had thought they wanted Angelus on the loose,” he said as he stepped towards her.

“Plans change.” This was personal. She had killed Billy in the end and Angelus was going to get what was coming to him. She was going to do the worst thing possible and get rid of him forever. “Like I said. Dead Angel, preferred. You and the gang here re-soul him, send him back home. Better for us in the big picture.”

Lorne stepped out of the office, not noticing Lilah there yet. He was rubbing at his temple, Sea Breeze in his hand already. “Bad news, crumpet. My…” Lorne stopped as he saw who was in the lobby. “What is the Queen of the Damned doing here? If she is here to break out the Soulless Wonder, I suggest you shoot her now.”

Looking to Lorne, Wes shook his head. “No. Seems the Senior Partners want the Soulless Wonder resouled.”

“Oh, yeah, I knew Lilah would be back for more,” From the monitor came Angelus’ voice. He could sense that Lilah was up there and hear her all the way down in the basement. “C’me on DOWN, Lilah, babe.” He started to undo his leather pants.

“Don’t tell me you…” Lorne stopped again. He was easily distracted. Hours ago, he did have his head chopped off. “Bernie! Strudel! No wonder I couldn’t get a hold of you.” Lorne moved over to the creature, which was now more invisible than he was visible. He put an arm around him, leading him away from Lilah. These two had a lot to catch up on. “Did you see Junior’s act at the Gardens? Fabulous.”

Lilah glanced to the monitor when Angelus started talking and then she looked back to Wes. She was ignoring Lorne and the comments. She kept her eyes on Wes now. “Deal is done. Bernie is all yours.”

“Lilah,” he spoke, “thank you…and I’m sorry for what happened to you.”

“I don’t need your thanks, Wesley. I didn’t do this for you.” At least Lilah had the ability to lie well. Let him believe that it was all a selfish move on her part. That it was revenge against Angelus. That was only a small fraction of why she was doing this. She didn’t say anything else. She just kept her eyes trained on Wesley.

Wesley only nodded. “I’ll just finish then what I was doing so that Bernie can do what it is he needs too.”

She was done here. She called out though, loud enough for a certain asshole downstairs to hear her. “Enjoy your last few hours of freedom, Angelus. I’m screwing you like you screwed me.” With that final comment, she turned. She was having a great degree of difficulty walking but there was no way that she would accept any help.

“I would have split you in two, Lilah,” he said, “if I’d been given the chance. You were such a tight fit too.”

She didn’t even hesitate or show a reaction to what Angelus had shouted over the monitors. He would be gone within the week. That is, if the forces of stupid could figure out how to send him back. If not, she had a feeling she would be paying another visit here. She wanted him gone and she had a knack at getting her way. She shut the door behind her as she left.

“Damn, you mean I got this hard-on for nothing!” Angelus whined.

Wesley started the incantation and as he did the air in the lobby seemed to stir. He continued and then finally the Orb burst with an inner glow. He opened his eyes to gaze down at the Orb. A soul in such a state was a beautiful thing. So beautiful that words could not describe it.

Cordelia had every intention of walking through the lobby doors when she got back from her personal trip. But she had seen Lilah there. She chose instead to go around and come up through the basement. She wanted to make sure Angelus was caged and chained. She just looked at him, her bag still on her shoulder. This was all her fault.

“Mmmm…mmmm…” he said as he stepped up to the bars. “You didn’t play fair, Cordy. How can we build a relationship where trust is an issue?”

“Not planning on a relationship with you. I am planning to send you back to whatever Hell you are from.” She gingerly put the bag down on the chair in the basement. “You owe me a new dress.”

“Can’t very well pay that debt while chained up in here, now can I?” Angelus held up the chain that was connected to his collar to emphasize his point.

“Oh yeah, that is really going to make me want to let you go. Oh here, let me just come unchain and uncollar and uncage you. Yeah…how about no.” Cordelia said flatly. How stupid did he take her for? They had him right where they wanted him. There was no escaping now.

He leaned on the bars and just looked at her. He wasn’t going to take his eyes from her. “If you think about it, I need to thank you for releasing me,” he said, “because I think Angel tried telling you a couple times about his memory thing that wasn’t really brain fucking…but you just had to convince him it was.” He knew that would hurt her. He had seen the flash in her eyes at the bar. He wanted to cause her pain, even if he was chained and caged. He continued. “You know, where I’m from you hurt him…oh goddamn, how you hurt him,” Angelus lowered his voice and chuckled. “I couldn’t have done it any better. You and the kid…man, fucking your own son. Well, maybe not by flesh, though you both got really fleshy and Angel…he saw the whole thing.”

She already knew that this whole thing was her fault. She wanted so badly to believe that it was Angel. Perhaps, deep down, she knew her husband was dead and she was desperately clinging to something to keep that from being true. She knew that and she blamed herself for everything that had happened. She would blame herself every day for the rest of her life for it. She knew Connor blamed her too. “I found the Wolfram and Hart files about your dimension. I read them. Recap all you like. But pretty soon, you will be back to that twisted sick reality that a monster like you thrives on.”

“Reading it just isn’t the same as living it.” He paused and looked her up and down. “Why don’t you come on in here and I can take you to the dark side. It’s so much more fun, and babe, that body of yours was built for fun.”

“Do any of these lines ever really work? Or are you just so used to hanging around idiots like Spike and Dru that you think everyone has the IQ of a sea monkey?” She paused for a moment to pick her bag up. She was getting ready to leave. “You know, part of me is hoping that Wes can’t put your soul back. I would really enjoy watching Connor dust you. Especially after what I read.”

Angelus rolled his eyes. “Spike is an insecure bastard who turned his own mother thinking he’d heal her and she only wanted to rape him after.” He looked back at her, grinning. “I could drive you just as insane as Dru. I’d tie you in a chair and then I’d bring the babies in… Oh, yeah…I’d start with their cute little toes. One at a time…joint at a time…popping them off…”

“Not helping your case here. Must be forgetting that I am not stupid enough to go ‘oh, he’s so dreamy’ and forget the fact that you are a soulless killing machine. You are the same as any other vampire out there. A problem that needs to be taken care. You think I fell in love with Angel for his body and in some strange way, that gives you an in, you are wrong. I look at you and all I see is the people you’ve killed, the lives you’ve destroyed. Hardly makes me want to let you out.”

“Hey, I’m an artist, thank you very much. And I take my art seriously.” He gave her a sour look. “Please, I’m far removed from other vampires. Most are just worthless pieces of shit..and not half as good looking as I am.”

“Angelus…news flash…you ARE a worthless piece of shit.” She started for the stairs. She had no idea why she let him run his mouth for as long as he did. Sometimes, she thought he liked the sound of his own voice better than actually killing people. He just liked to talk them to death.

“Oh, and while you’re up there, babe, find me something in O+. I’m a little hungry. Be a good wife there.” He holds up his left hand with the ring on it. His face held a shit-eating grin as he locked his eyes with hers.

“You’re not my husband, soul or not.” That was the last she said as she got to the top of the stairs. She pushed the door open and came out. She saw Wes in the lobby. Lorne was talking to something in the corner. She paused as she saw the Orb though.

Wesley looked to Cordelia. “You shouldn’t have stayed down there, you know.” The soul in the Orb glowed with the same patterns as Angel’s had before. The shift in the colors seemed unreal.

“I have done so much this week I shouldn’t have done, Wes. What was one more thing?” She sounded tired. Dealing with Angelus took all of her strength. She would never let him break her. She kept her eyes on that Orb though. “How could they be so alike and so different?” She looked back up to Wes for a moment. “I took those Wolfram and Hart files from your office. I read them all. I know what Angel is like in that world. CEO of Wolfram and Hart. Are we…are we making the right decision here?” She had no way of knowing that the files were not complete nor they were altered. She only had that to go on.

Wesley sighed. “I don’t know, Cordelia,” he said. “You got to know him better then we did.”

Her eyes went to the monitor. She watched Angelus. She got to know Angel all right. She got to know him so well that she unleashed Angelus on this world. She closed her eyes for a moment, pulling herself together. “He felt like Angel.” That was all she said. She opened her eyes and moved to put her bag at her desk. “Just do it. I want this over with. I want to get my answers and I want him sent back to where ever he is from.”

Wesley nodded and he walked over to Lorne and Bernie so they could get started. Wesley came down with the things that Bernie had instructed. This was the second time at this so Wesley was certain he had everything. He made a binding circle on the table then pulled the Orb from the cloth bag. He placed it in the center.

Angelus came to the bars and watched the Englishman. Then he saw the Orb and it wasn’t void. He shifted and swallowed hard. These bastards were really planning on doing this. This wasn’t going to be a little curse where some woman could release him. This was permanent containment.

“This will be over shortly,” Wes said in that quiet tone of his as he continued to work. “Seems like you pissed off the wrong people, Angelus. A talent you seem to have across dimensions.”

“It’s a gift, what can I say?” the vampire replied. “You know you can take that bauble and cram it up your ass. On second thought, you’d probably enjoy that.” Angelus leaned on the bars. “You know, Wes, I could answer all the questions you have about me that Angel would never talk about because of that damn moral thing he has. I’m always a part of him, you know, no matter what you do. I’m always there, unlike him who is well…a floaty thing in a big glass marble.”

“What can you tell me,” he said as he turned to face the cage. “That you are ruthless? One of the biggest mass murderers in history? That you loved to torture your victims before the kill, put the fear in them because it made them taste sweeter?”

“Oh, he reads. Yeah, well, I know you spent long hours studying about me in books, but do books do the real thing justice?” Angelus looked up at nothing. “Why are you so in a rush to do this since, you know, for you Angel is dead. Why not leave him that way?” He looked back to Wesley. “C’me on now, Wes, you’ve tasted that darkness. You’ve experienced how erotic it is to be in its embrace,” his voice was a whisper, but loud enough for the other to hear. “We could be a team, you and I. I’d help you kill whole nests and in turn…”

“In turn what? You’d talk him to death?” Cordelia was coming down the stairs now with her arms loaded down. Bernie floating behind her, his form still fading in and out of this realm. She got to the bottom of the stairs and looked to Wes. “Lorne went to check on Connor and Lillian upstairs.” She set the rest of the materials down on the table. She moved to start setting up the candles around the cage.

Angelus rolled his eyes and turned to lean his back on the bars.

“Good,” Wes quickly said. Angelus was right, though. He had tasted that darkness and it was such a temptation and always would be. “Good. I don’t think it would be good to have him down here.”

“Because Mr. Cruise here chopped his head off? I think not.” She saw how quickly Wesley spoke. She moved over to him, touching his shoulder softly. She leaned to him, lowering her voice. “Don’t let him get to you. That is what he wants.”

“What I want is out of this cage and chains so I can make mad, passionate, never ending love to you, Cordelia.” Angelus tried, in that moment to sound sincere. As with most of his words though, it was tinged with sadistic venom. The word love was not one he held in his vocabulary.

Wes just took a deep breath as he looked over to Bernie. The breath was partly caused from what Cordelia had said and partly from the never-ending commentary from the vampire in the cage.

Bernie hovered near the bars of the cage. He was close enough that Angelus could grab him, if he could take any sort of corporeal form in this realm. He had no visible eyes but the gaze he held bored into the soulless creature in the cage.

Angelus saw the thing and a chill ran through him. Few things scared him but this thing…. this thing was damn creepy. The thought that he would be locked up forever was also a very real fear.

Bernie’s hand passed through the bars of the cage, going right through the steel. His fingers were unnaturally long and dark as pitch. He was reaching for Angelus. His arm seemed to grow and stretch out as he reached. He was a conduit. Much like others in this realm but his existence was everywhere.

Angelus moved back and he stumbled on his chains. “Stay away from me you fuckin’ creep,” he said as he caught his balance. He kept backing until he couldn’t. His back was to the concrete wall behind him.

Cordelia tightened for a moment as she heard not only Angelus’ false wants but also his protests in regards to Bernie. She took in a breath and then moved over to light the candles. “Wes, you burn off that sage yet? I really think we have enough problems right now without more angry spirits or energies or whatever coming to this party.”

“I’ll take care of it as you finish,” he told Cordy. “I wanted it to be fresh.” He started preparing it to light. The sage would smoke a protective barrier to keep anything else away as they did this.

They had done this before, with Bernie. Cordelia moved through the motions as she drew the necessary symbols on the concrete. Restoring a soul was not an easy task. Restoring one without a curse was even harder. She stepped back up and looked to Wes. She nodded her head. All they had to do was hand the Orb to Bernie and this would be done.

“We can say we did this not for us but for where he came from,” Wes commented. “From those files, his dimension suffered enough without having Angelus loose in it again.”

“Yeah and from those files, he let you, me, Fred, and Gunn die. Some Angel.” She stood back, leaning against the table. She looked to the Orb and then to Wes. “You ready?”

“Somehow, Cordy, I have trouble believing that,” he said, and Wesley did have trouble believing it. He knew better than to blindly trust Wolfram and Hart files. He wasn’t dealing with the same level of guilt and betrayal that Cordelia was so he kept quiet about that for now. He nodded to indicate he was ready. “I think the sooner the better, for all of us.”

Bernie moved his other hand towards the duo now standing near the table. His first hand was merely centimeters from Angelus. His fingers were reaching for the Orb, waiting for one of the two to hand it to him. His hand took on a more solid appearance so that he could hold the Orb in this dimension.

Wesley picked it up then handed it to Cordelia. He felt it was only her right to do this. It was her decision now. If she smashed the Orb, he would be more than ready with a stake to take care of Angelus. No matter what, this would be the end of Angelus.

Cordelia took in another breath. She couldn’t believe they were doing this. A voice in her was screaming to just stake the lying bastard, especially after reading those files. Her heart was telling her that no, it was wrong. He might have made bad decisions in his world and she wanted answers as to why. She made her choice. She put the Orb into Bernie’s hand and waited for the inevitable.

Angelus tried to duck past that hand. The chains were making his movement more cumbersome. Why the hell did they always have to ruin his unlife? Why couldn’t they just let him be the demon he was meant to be?

Bernie’s long fingers curled around the Orb as he brought it back to him. His arm seemed to fold it on itself as he touched the Orb to his chest. Angelus had no where to go as the hand he tried so hard to duck past shot into his chest and took a solid form, locking it into place.

The vampire froze in place, his hand coming up to grab the arm of the thing that was violating him. His chest felt like it was going to explode. If he could have paled, he would have. He was being lifted now, his feet not touching solid ground.

Bernie drew the soul out of the Orb, letting the swirling, multi-chromatic essence travel through his chest and then slipped down his arm. It curled around, moving like a snake as it moved towards its proper host. It slithered along, leaving behind faint traces of electric looking energy.

Angelus watched that cursed thing creeping toward him. He shook his head. “Noo…” he actually sounded like he was pleading with them. “You don’t know what its like…you don’t know…” his voice was hoarse. He didn’t want to be locked away forever, having to experience Angel’s atoning, his nobleness, his fighting for good. The worst was Angelus not being able to do a damn thing about it. Hell was a resort compared to that.

Cordelia watched in rapt attention at what was going on. The first time, she was here but she couldn’t look. She didn’t want Angel, her Angel to suffer any pain, even as Angelus. But now, she wanted revenge. She wanted to see his face and watch the suffering on it. It was selfish but she wanted that hint of revenge. She crossed her arms over her chest, pleas falling on deaf ears.

The essence paused for a moment before plunging itself into Angelus’ chest. Bernie’s voice crept out, slinking along like the soul had done moments earlier. An old demonic tongue to secure Angel’s soul into the body. It was meant to merge demon and man to one for now and forever.

Angelus screamed, the sound was both demon and human. His body convulsed on the end of Bernie’s arm. He passed out, held up by the arm sticking out of his chest.

Wesley stepped up from beside Cordelia to Bernie as he waited for the…well, whatever Bernie was to finish.

Bernie withdrew his arm from the vampire’s chest, letting him drop to the floor like a bag of cement. He looked back to the two standing by the table. He nodded at Wes. It was done. His form started to flicker once more. He was having trouble staying in a solid form in this realm after the magic expenditure. He nodded at Wes as the man approached him.

“Thank you, once again, Bernie for your help,” Wes told the being. “You must stop by for a spot of tea, it has been awhile. I just got an excellent blend in from England.”

Bernie allowed his hand to once more take on a more bodily form. He touched Wes’ shoulder. His body pitched forward, something whispered passing from the being to the former Watcher. With that final statement, Bernie’s form flickered once more as he left this dimension.

: “I am going to bed, Wes. I have to pick the twins up tomorrow at Xander’s.” Cordelia said after Bernie disappeared. She didn’t even look at the form of Angel on the floor. Her eyes were on Wes. “Don’t let him out. I don’t care if he has a soul now. He stays in the cage until we can send him back.”

Wes watched Cordelia leave. He turned and grabbed a few things: a camping cot, some pillows, and a blanket. Unlocking the cell, he entered. He set the cot up and placed the pillow and blankets on it. He turned to the still form on the floor and set about unlocking his bonds. With that done, he stepped out and locked the door of the cage. He need to get back to Fred so that they could figure out how to send this Angel back to where he belonged.
Chapter Sixteen

Cordelia climbed the stairs to her and Angel’s room in silence. She opened the door. It seemed so empty without the twins, without Angel. She moved into the living room and fell into the couch. She set the courier bag she had brought up from downstairs on her lap. She held it close to her, thinking about what it contained. She thought about what she had done once she left that alley, once she had left the gang to deal with an unconscious Angelus.

—-Earlier that evening—-

Cordelia rode in silence to the convalescence home where Angel had gone before. It wasn’t that difficult to find, especially with a little poking around Wesley’s desk. She found the files on their doppelgangers in his office at well. She knew it meant he went to Wolfram and Hart to get the Orb. She didn’t care where he got it as long as he got it. She hadn’t dared peer into the files yet but she took them with her. She parked the car right near the front entrance to the home, looking into the abandoned building. Who could blame the elderly for leaving it? She wouldn’t want to stay someplace where demons had attacked. She sighed softly. She knew what she had to do.

After stopping at the office to get the information off Wes’ desk, she went upstairs to change into something more comfortable than the now tattered dress she used to provoke Angelus’ lust. Jeans, T-shirt, somewhat sensible shoes but they still looked good. She burned the dress in one of the trash fires that seemed to always blaze downtown to keep the homeless warm before she headed out of LA.

She got out of the car, gravel crushing under her feet and then moved around to the back of the car. She grabbed a large gym back from the trunk and then a flashlight. She had her own mission to take care of before she went back to talk to this alternate universe Angel. She shut the trunk lid, turned on the flashlight, and headed inside the building,

She knew exactly what she was looking for was she swept the flashlight over the tile flooring in each room. It shouldn’t be that hard to spot though the more she saw how much the place was destroyed; the more she thought this might be a Herculean task. She was ready to give up when she finally saw it in one of the back bedrooms. It was bittersweet for her. She was glad no one had disturbed but at the same time it was the last bit of proof for her. She stepped into the room, setting the gym bag down next to it. She kneeled in front of the pile of ashes.

“Sorry it took me so long.” She said to the pile. “Had to deal with something unexpected. But hey, that is our life?” She forced out a sad sounding chuckle as she fought her tears. She set the flashlight down so she could work, taking a small dustpan and hand broom from inside the gym bag. “Got this at the dollar store. Only a buck. Thought you would be proud of me. Saw a jewel encrusted one at Cartier but I resisted.” She knew deep down, that she shouldn’t be making jokes at a time like this. It was the only thing that was keeping her from breaking down, however.

Taking in a shuttering breath, her whole body quaked with it as she tried to pull herself together. She reached into the gym bag to retrieve an urn. She had bought it on her way back into town from dropping the twins off when she made the decision to come find his ashes. She set it down next to her.

“The twins are with Xander right now. He promised he would play paintball with them and not let them eat too much ice cream. I think he is lying about the ice cream though.” Her voice was thick as the tears started to roll over her cheeks. She gently swept the ashes into the dustpan and then transferred them to the urn, still talking the whole time. “When Wesley got back, he still wouldn’t let me heal him. All happy in his pants and that makes him feel weird. He sees more sexing up than any of us, you think he wouldn’t mind.”

If she could just talk to him like this, it could help her grieve. Or at least, that was her thinking. She wasn’t sure what she was doing other than she wanted to have this human ritual. She wanted his ashes. “Ruined another dress fighting a demon tonight too. That red one you always hated. I don’t know why I bought it in the first place. Probably just to piss you off.” She finished sweeping the remains into the dustpan and the final amount when into the urn. She put a lid on it and looked at the urn for a long time. She stared at it, holding it, until her legs got cold and her butt was completely numb.

“Damnit Angel…you promised me. You promised me that you would always be there for me, be there with me. You lied to me.” She threw the dustpan across the room before she broke down sobbing into her hands. All the pain of her loss spilling out as the carefully constructed damn split wide open. All she could think about was their wedding day and that promise he made to her. It was a promise that was now so much dust.

—Spring 2003—–

Cordelia sat in front of the full-length mirror in her dressing room, or rather the makeshift dressing room that had been made for the wedding. She smoothed out the front of her dress as Fred worked on trying to get her hair up. She took in a nervous breath, causing her entire body to rise forward and up. She felt herself get stabbed with a hairpin for her efforts. “Hey! What are you doing back there? Making the Great Wall?”

Fred just giggled at Cordelia as she worked on her hair. “You keep moving and this will never get done. I had all the plans drawn up. You have to sit still because then, the whole thing is going to fall down. Its based on Behran’s Third Principle, where the function supercedes form because I don’t see how anyone would want to have this kind of hair, not really practical. You put your head in the dryer to take your clothes out and it would be ruined. And then you would be left with flat hair in the Laundromat and nobody wants that.” Fred rambled on out of one side of her mouth, hair pins in the other side. Armed with a bottle of hairspray, she grabbed a curling iron with her free hand.

“Like usual…I have no idea what you just rambled about, Fred. But…thanks?” She tried to smile in the mirror but her nerves were showing there. Where was Wes? He was supposed to walk her down the aisle. The least he could do was be here for this hair disaster. She adjusted the tiara on her head, trying to get it just right.

“So exciting, our first wedding. Unless you count a couple of months back when Lorne had to marry that Gypsy woman with the talking mole so he could get his hands on that Pendant of Dutok. That didn’t really count though since she just needed her green card.” Fred giggled once more in the way only she was capable of. “Green card…she was in for a surprise. But he didn’t ask me to be his maid of honor. He didn’t ask any of us to be in the wedding. Nice of Angel to ask Connor to be his best man though. We all get to be involved.”

“Well, Angel and the guys are going to Sunnyhell in a few weeks. I don’t want him tempted by She Who WIll Not Be Named. Ring on his finger, he is less likely to remember he doesn’t have a curse and she was his great big love.” Cordelia frowned at these thoughts. She hated to ruin her wedding day with her insecurities. She straightened once more, clearing her throat and all those thoughts. “Can’t believe Angel is letting Lorne perform the ceremony. I just see it ending with “I now pronounce you Angelbuns and Cordycakes'” She did her best impression of Lorne, which at its best, was horrible.

Fred finished the construction of the tower of hair. She stepped back to spray the entire thing with what seemed like a whole bottle of hairspray. “Cordy, you and Angel were meant for each other. Two warriors in battle. Nobody can fight Kyrumption.”

Cordelia didn’t put a whole lot of stock in anything that came out of Pylea. She should have stayed there and ruled as a Princess. She missed all the waiting on her hand and foot. She made a mental note to make Angel do some of that on their honeymoon. Speaking of their honeymoon, it was two weeks in Europe. She had been more than shocked when he told her. She stood up, taking in a breath as she looked at herself in the mirror. “You did a great job, Fred. Now I just need that bumbling Englishman to come get me to walk me down the aisle.”

“I can go find him if you want. Probably still with the guys trying to figure out their tuxes.” She giggled yet again behind her hand. “Remember the night of the ballet, thought the three of them were never come out. And Angel’s tux smelled like a luggage steamer. All mothballs and old ladies. I couldn’t tell him. But he did look handsome. All the guys did.” This was slightly awkward for Fred since her and Charles had mutually agreed to end their relationship just a month prior. She knew the way Wesley looked at her since he had finally returned to work full time. Truth be told, she didn’t mind those glances at all.

“I think I might slowly ease Angel towards cologne that wasn’t made in 1970 and called High Karate.” Cordelia laughed. She took one last look at herself in the mirror. She looked like a princess right now. The corseted top to her wedding dress and then the large skirt with the bundles of taffeta underneath. She skipped the veil and instead opted for just a tiara. She thought it was more fitting than covering up her face. Fred and Faith, two bridesmaids, had been put into a periwinkle blue. She was surprised Faith didn’t protest more but it seemed that after a conversation with Gunn, Faith kept her mouth shut about the whole wedding thing.

As Cordelia watched herself in the mirror, her smile started to slowly fade away. It was replaced by a sad looking expression, a desperate one. “If we could have kids, then this could actually be a normal life. For me, for Angel. That would be a dream come true, something close to normal. I know he wants it too, the normal life. Hence the wedding.”

When Fred knew that, she knew what she had to do. She had been toying with some ideas in her head, scribbled in notebooks. But she never saw them through for the simple fact that she wasn’t sure how Cordelia felt. That look in the other woman’s eyes told her everything. “I best try to find Wesley. We have to get this wedding started before sunrise.” She giggled once more before she slipped through a tiny crack in the door. She headed down the hallway towards where the men were getting ready. She knocked lightly on the door. “Wesley…you in there?”

Wesley heard Fred. He stepped to the door and opened it. He looked up and back down the hall. “I thought you might be trying to help Cordy sneak in to see Angel. I already stopped Gunn from trying to get him in to Cordy.”

Fred couldn’t help but grin. All of the guys could pull off a tux but Wes was looking particularly dashing tonight. “Cordelia said she is ready to go. Wants to know when that bumbling Englishman was going to come walk her down the aisle” She snickered as she tried to peek around him at the rest of the guys. She called back to them. “Don’t cha’ll know its bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding! You want to jinx this, you two!” She meant Angel and Gunn, the knuckleheads. She should have given them some new video games. Then of course, the wedding might never have happened.

“I was just on my way,” he said. As he did, he looked at her with a smile. “I’m afraid you are going to out shine the bride, at least for me.”

“Just don’t tell the bride that.” She waited for Wes to step out and shut the door before she spoke again. “She’s having some Buffy issues. You should have seen her face when she mentioned it. I don’t think this is going to be a happy day unless someone can pull her out of that funk. She is having the baby-want too. Only getting worse this past couple of days.”

Wes offered his elbow and he sighed. “She is still insecure when it comes to Buffy,” he said. “As for the baby thing…”

“Don’t tell anybody but I think I might know a way.” She started to walk Wes down the hall towards Cordelia’s dressing room. She carefully took his elbow. This was rather new in regards to Wes and she didn’t feel like rushing things and screwing it up. Not everyone could get a curse removed and get married inside of a few months like a certain couple.

Stopping a moment to look at her, his brow raised. “You have…that would be wonderful.”

“I been thinking about that day that Angel was human. And if can change a whole vampire, maybe it can change just the part of him they need. Just a matter of getting all the balances right. The right ratios and everything. I was hoping while they were gone in Europe, you could help me set up a lab.” While she would always love Gunn, he wasn’t as into the science as Wes was. It would give them an excuse to spend more time together.

“Naturally,” he replied. “I heard the story about that happening and it’s hard to conceive the idea it happened.”

She paused outside of Cordelia’s door, dropping Wesley off as promised. “We can talk about this once this wedding thing is over and they are on a plane. I better get downstairs and make sure Faith didn’t eat all the cocktail shrimp. And have to get Angel and Lorne into their places. This whole place is a bunch of nervous Nellies. Think we were facing down the end of the world or something.”

“Yes, well, its not everyday the chosen Champion gets married,” he said. “In fact ours may be the first in history to do so. I’ll see to Cordelia and make sure she is ready.”

She nodded her head. There was a lot more than just some Champion getting married. She looked at Wes for a moment before she hopped up on her toes. She gave him a quick kiss on his cheek before she went skittering down the hall to collect the guys and get them to their places downstairs.

Wes smiled and watched her go. She was a bundle of energy. Finally, he turned to the door and knocked. “Cordelia.”

Cordelia hadn’t been doing much more than dealing with the very real idea that she would get down there and Angel would be gone. She didn’t cry though because her makeup was absolutely perfect. “Wes, its open. And don’t worry, I am dressed.”

Stepping on in, Wes closed the door behind him and looked at Cordy. “My, you are a sight, Cordelia Chase.”

She turned around to look at Wes. She gave him a nervous smile. “Good sight or a bad sight? How is my hair? Fred did it but I think it looks a little lopsided.” She reached up to touch her hair. She was just too nervous for her own good. She was trying not to show it but even she couldn’t put the wall up against it this time.

“It looks just right,” he said. “Now we have one nervous vampire waiting on us.” She did look beautiful. She and Angel really belonged to each other.

“He is nervous?! He has had 250 years to get used to commitment. I’ve only had a couple of months.” But as she said that, she did step forward towards Wes. She looked at him. “How was the wild and crazy bachelor party? Heard you guys were up until all hours playing Grand Theft Auto”

He chuckled. “I think all three of them paid more attention to the video game then the girl that came in the cake.”

“You guys had a girl in a cake?!” She frowned as she looked at Wes. “Well, I am sure that Connor’s eyes almost popped out of his skull at that. Does Quor’toth have strippers?” She grabbed up her flowers as they made their way to the door.

“Actually, no girl,” he said. “Angel made that a standing order. He said, and I quote, ‘I have what I want, I don’t need to look any further.’ unquote.”

“Aww, Wes, you made a joke!” Cordelia smiled wide when Wes said that. “Did Angel really say that?” He was SUCH a dork. But she was about to become Mrs. Dork, in so much as they could. He was a vampire after all. It’s not as if anything would change. It was hard to get a blood sample from a dead guy or produce a birth certificate for a guy who was born centuries ago. Though tonight, she knew she would give Angel something that meant more than any piece of paper.

As they walked, he nodded. “Yes, he did.” Then they were on that landing and he started her for the stairs. Pausing a moment at the top, he looked at her. “He is deeply in love with you Cordelia, don’t ever doubt that. But also remember what that is for a vampire.”

“I know. Its obsession.” She turned to look at Wes now. “I love him too. For a long time, I was just too stupid to realize it. Or I didn’t want to realize it because I was scared of the rejection, of losing my best friend. And I know that this ceremony, it’s just for me. So tonight, I am going to give Angel the kind of ceremony he needs to know how much I love him.”

Leaning over, he kissed her forehead then patted her arm. “Shall we then?”

She took in a deep breath and then nodded her head as she exhaled. She had a chance to see the courtyard earlier. It was such a small gathering, everyone could fit. It looked beautiful, decorated with Chinese lanterns and most of the flowers in full bloom. Not to mention it was a beautiful spring evening, not too warm and not too cool. She silently thanked the Powers for letting this happen. There was no rain in sight and their whole strange little family here. Everyone was in their dress best. She waited for Wes to start when she heard the customary music.

Angel stood in the garden with his son, Connor, beside him and then Gunn by him. If he could sweat, he would. Never had he dreamed this day would come. Usually he had no problem wearing a tux but tonight it seemed to bother him all over. The collar seemed tight, the cumberbund also.

Connor glanced at his father. “Relax, Dad,” he said, “unless you want to call this off.” Connor had a little bit of a smile on his face. Watching his father squirm like this was new and entertaining.

Angel looked at Connor then at Gunn then back to his son. “No..no…I want…” His voice hushed as he heard that music start. His eyes went to those doors that led into the lobby of the hotel. There he saw Wes with Cordelia. Once his eyes settled on her, he couldn’t remove his gaze. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen there, framed in that doorway. He froze his fidgeting and swallowed hard. To him, this wedding was as real as if they were doing it in a church with a priest, which in his case was not a possibility. He watched her every move as she came on down into the garden.

Cordelia smiled as she saw Angel. How could she not? He had even gone out to buy a new tux for this occasion. Her not so subtle hints that she didn’t want to marry a guy with old man smell to his clothes, even if he was technically an old man…pire. She stepped down as Wes lead her up towards the front. Lorne looked like he was having way too much fun with this. But under it all was the seriousness of this situation. After Wes affirming to Lorne that he was giving away this woman, she turned to face Angel. She reached for his hands, mostly to steady her own shaking ones.

Lorne was grinning like idiot at the both of them. He loved weddings. Who didn’t? They were filled with all that fabulous linen and taffeta and just the feelings of love and affection. Despite everything they had been through (like blowing up his club and stopping the end of the world), it was nice to have a happy occasion for this family. “Well, kidlings, we are all here today to see this lovely woman Cordelia finally wipe the perma-brood off the face of our dear Angelcakes. So if anyone has any objections, you might want to voice them now. So Angel can beat you with your own arm and we can continue with the ceremony.” Lorne was hoping that his jokes would at least put the very nervous couple at ease.

Angel held her hand keeping his strength in measure because as nervous as he was, he wasn’t sure that if he didn’t concentrate he couldn’t control it. As Lorne spoke, he just looked into his bride’s eyes.

She returned Angel’s gaze with her own. Her poor heart was pounding so hard out of her chest, she was worried it was going to fly out and hit someone in the face. That was not how she wanted to remember her wedding day. Hopefully, The Powers would be kind enough to give them this day without visions or monsters or disruption. Her smile widened as she heard Lorne’s words until the beating over the head comment. She briefly looked away from Angel to cut her eyes over to Lorne. It was just a silent warning with that look to get a little more serious.

“Well, since there are no objections…let’s get this show on the road.” Lorne shrunk a little from that look that Cordy shot his way. That woman could work a look to say the least. He straightened up and cleared his throat. “Uh, Best Man…you have the rings?”

Connor seemed to wake up and then the searched his pockets. There was a wave of nervous tension that swept over the crowd. But a grin came over his face and he pulled out her ring and handed it up to Lorne.

Lorne gave Connor a bit of a frown. He wasn’t boring, he was entertaining. He took the ring and then handed it to Cordelia. “Since the lovely couple is going with the own vow writing, I am going to step back and let the bride go first.” Lorne leaned forward to just gently tap Cordelia on the shoulder. They didn’t have the luxury of a rehearsal. There were too many demons to kill.

Cordelia pulled her hand from Angel’s and with shaking fingers, took the ring from Lorne. She looked back to Angel. This was really happening. She took his hand once more, the ring poised to slip over his finger. “Angel…its been a long couple of years. We’ve both changed and we’ve grown. But we’ve grown together. You’ve grown not into only my best friend but the man that I love and want to spend the rest of my life with. I want to be able to make you smile and give you a hard time because everyone else around here is too scared of you.” She quickly glanced over to the three men standing off to the side and behind Angel. “I promise that no matter what, I will always be by your side, fighting the good fight with you. More than that though, I promise to love you in the good times but especially in the bad times.” She slipped the ring onto his finger, signaling she was done. It went a lot better than she thought it would. She was never the type for long speeches.

Angel hung on every word she said. He then looked as she slipped that ring on his finger. A single gold band. It was simple but it was the symbol of the most important thing in his two hundred plus years.

Lorne just looked over at Connor. He better be awake now. He held his hand out, waiting for him to hand over the ring so Angel could make this all official. Lorne still wasn’t convinced that he was going to fire them all again. He looked paler than usual. He did have commitment issues, that wasn’t a surprise. But Lorne doubted he would get past the front gate before one of guys staked him. They all felt the same way about Cordelia. She was a sister to them, not necessarily needing protection but it would be there if she did.

Connor handed Lorne the smaller ring. He just smiled at the green skinned demon as if reading his thoughts.

Who knew with that kid? Son of two vampires, he might have powers none of them even thought about. Lorne took the ring and then passed it off to Angel.

Angel took the ring and raised her left hand. He held it at her ring finger and swallowed hard. “I’m…I’m not big on words,” he said, “and I can’t put into words how I’m feeling now. But if I don’t say something I think Lorne and or Fred will corner me after this.” He paused, his dark eyes moving from her hand to her eyes. “Cordelia Chase, we’ve known each other for some time. I’ve seen you grow into one of the most caring, loving, and most beautiful women I’ve ever come to know. You’ve seen all the sides of me. You know me better then anyone. My best friend and more. I promise to love and protect you for as long as we have together in this life and into the next.” He slipped the ring onto her finger. “My wife, and my soulmate.”

Cordelia knew this had to be the most horrific torture for him. He probably would have rather faced down an army of demons than recite some vows. It meant a lot to her that he was doing it though. And he didn’t do badly. He was just too nervous. She didn’t even wait for Lorne to give the go ahead before she threw her arms around Angel’s neck and pressed her lips against his.

Lorne just grinned as Cordelia went ahead and kissed Angel. Then again, she was always working on her own timeline. “Well, I guess with that and the powers invested in me by The Powers and an Internet church, I now pronounce you husband and wife. Just keep kissing the bride there, strudel. We will be here when you are done.”

When she kissed him he wrapped his arms around her and did the same. Lorne didn’t even register on his radar now. None of them did. Only the woman in his arms mattered at this moment. They could all go have punch and cake, he was where he wanted to be.

The reception seemed to be nothing but a blur to her. Time had moved from that kiss in the courtyard to seal their marriage to the kiss started in the hallway as Angel carried them towards what was now their room. That was the only thing she could remember, his kisses. She broke the kiss as they got to the door of the suite, resting her forehead against his, eyes heavy lidded. “I love you, Angel.”

“Cordelia,” he said as he paused at the door, “Grá mo chroí ”

“What does that mean?” She wasn’t sure if it was some demon language or Romany or something else. He spoke so many languages, it was hard to keep track sometimes.

“Gaelic,” he told her as he opened the door. “Love of my heart.” He entered the room and used his foot to close the door behind him. When they’d left the others were still partying, they probably didn’t even notice the couple had slipped off.

Well, when Mr. Tight-with-a-buck finally opens his wallet to pay for an open bar, the employees are going to take advantage of it. That was the way she was thinking of it. They deserved a party too. They would be leaving for Sunnydale in a matter of weeks to take care of problems up there. This was really one last party for everyone, just in case. “Guess I am going to have to learn Gaelic to call you a dork then.” She smiled and put a delicate kiss right between his eyes.

Angel just chuckled at her as he sat her down. His hands came up to hold her face then he lowered and kissed her. It was a deep, passionate kiss.

She reached up to rest her hands on top of his as he held her face. She kissed him back with the same deep, burning passion that she felt for him. She still couldn’t believe this. It seemed all too surreal that they were married. She was waiting for the alarm to ring, waking her up from this dream.

He broke the kiss, just barely. When he spoke, it was a hushed tone. “I want to make love to you, Cordy,” he said as he hand slipped down to her shoulders. “I want to get to know every part of your body. I want to know what pleasures you.” His hands were more then just merely touching her, they were caressing her.

She closed her eyes as he started to caress her. Her shoulders were bare and the feeling of his cool hands against her warm skin was a welcomed sensation. She opened her eyes after he spoke so she could look into his eyes, gaze at his face. “Angel…I want that more than anything.” There was a hesitation to her voice. It was now or never though. “Make me yours…now and for as long as I live. I want to be yours and no other’s”

Angel’s gaze searched her features. Now he realized she’d been doing more in-depth study on vampires. It was more then just dead thing, turns to dust when staked, beheaded, exposed to sunlight or fire. “Are you certain?” he asked her.

She nodded her head at his question before it left his lips. She had been doing her homework. If they were going to get married, why not just go balls out with it. Cordelia Chase didn’t do things halfway. She turned around, pulling her hair up. She waited for him to unzip her wedding dress.

He pulled the zipper down as he leaned down and kissed her shoulders. Then his hands slipped in the dress and around to her breasts. He wanted to pleasure her and not just have sex…though that was also on the menu for the night. He had so much planned for tonight and for every night for a long time to come.

She shivered as his hands once more were touching her skin. She felt them slide around her back and sides to her stomach and then up to her breasts. Her bra was hardly a barrier between her skin and his hands. She turned her head to look at him over her shoulder. “Let me just put my dress away…” She said softly but not yet pulling away from him.

Angel slipped his hands from her slowly, not saying anything. He really didn’t need to. He pulled off his tux coat.

She held the dress up against her body after she felt his hands leave her body. She went to the closet first to get a hanger before slipping into the bathroom. She undressed fully, taking her robe off the hook on the back of the door in the bathroom. She came back out, dress in hand, moving to put it in the closet. She assumed during that time, Angel would have already gotten undressed himself.

She was correct in that assumption but he had done something else as well. He had turned on the electric blanket and was under it to bring his body temp up for her. On her pillow was a small box with a white satin ribbon around it.

She moved over to stand by the bed and gave him a smile when she saw the box. She reached for it. “You are sneaky. What is this?”

“I am sneaky. I can’t help it. Its what I do,” he said. “Just a little wedding present.” Angel watched her. He knew how much she loved presents.

She did love presents. And presents from Angel, especially so. She opened the box. She reached in to pull out the silver charm bracelet. She looked at the single charm on it. It was a shamrock. She held it out for him, along with offering her wrist so he can put it on for her. “I love it. Its beautiful.”

Taking it, he put it on her wrist. “I thought that with each anniversary I will add one charm to it.” When it was clasped ,he looked at her, still holding her hand.

“I might need a bigger bracelet then.” She untied her robe and let it fall from her shoulders. She had to pull her hand free of his so that she could be free of the robe. She climbed into their bed. It was their bed, truly. She slid over so that she could rest herself against him.

“If that is what you want,” he said, as he slipped his arm around her under the blanket. Leaning towards her, he sniffed her hair. He always did like its scent.

“I can’t fit fifty charms on this bracelet.” She held her wrist up so he could get it. Angel, was a little slow sometimes, especially when it came to relationship things. She tilted her head to look at him. “Are you…sniffing my hair?”

“Hmmm…yeah,” he answered. He looked back to her wrist. “How about every ten years you get a new bracelet to start all over?”

“I think we could do that. And nice change of subject after I caught you with the hair sniffing.” She laughed. Sometimes he did the strangest things but she still loved him for it. It made him happy so that made her happy.

“Yes, well, I want to know every part of you with all my senses,” Angel told her. “It’s a vampire thing.” With that, he moved to her shoulder and kissed her there while his hand rubbed her thigh under the blanket.

“I think its just an Angel thing, a my husband thing.” She shifted her leg as she felt his fingers. Her leg slid over across the bed, closer to him. She wrapped her long leg around his, rubbing her foot against his calf.

He did like the sound of that, her saying ‘my husband’. He brought his hand up her hip and over her flat stomach. His kisses moved up to her lips as his hand found her breast. He began to work it slowly from around the edges and then around it. He moved his fingers up slowly so he could play with her nipple.

She sighed contentedly as his hand started to explore her body. Despite the soft kiss they were sharing, she allowed a moan to pass from her lips as he played with her hardened nipple.

Angel slipped on down her body, kissing the entire way down. When he reached her other breast, he licked the nipple. He took it in his mouth and sucked. He was going to pleasure her this night. He wanted to show her how special she was to him.

He was doing a fantastic job to start, which was for certain. She closed her eyes as she felt his tongue touch her nipple and then his mouth around it as well. They had been together before, since taking care of his curse, but not like this. That had never been together as husband and wife.

He didn’t stop just at her breast. It was a momentary stop. He trailed kisses down against her stomach. He was nipping, licking and kissing. He was tasting her skin.

“You are driving me insane here, Ace.” She laughed just a little. Then he hit a part on her stomach that caused her to really laugh, trying to turn from him. “Tickles…”

“My plans, exactly,” he replied. He reached for her leg and turned her back over. He moved down, spreading her legs. He went down between them and ran his tongue over the lips of her sex. He was teasing her now, just tasting her again.

Again, he caused her to shiver. Partly from the cool sensation of his tongue on her heat and partly from the fact of what he was doing. He was talented.

Angel came up and moved his body over her, but reversed. His face at her heat, his cock at her face. He knew that she was inexperienced outside of what they had done together thus far but he hoped she could figure out the sixty-nine position. His tongue sank into her sex as he gave her more access to his cock.

She had no problem in returning the favor for him. She was a quick learner. He was causing her to squirm on the bed now though as he pleasured her. He was already hard so instead of stroking him further, she merely kissed the tip of his cock. She let her tongue peek out from her lips, lightly running over his tip and shaft.

He stopped for a moment as she teased him with her tongue. His hand rubbed her ass as he brought his leg closer to himself. His tongue went back to work. He was working on that sweet reward, plunging in and out of her hot depths. His hard cock throbbed as he tasted her and she him.

Even if she did see him through to his own climax, she knew that it wouldn’t matter. That vampire stamina, he would recover before she did. She figured what the hell? Tonight was about them, about enjoying each other, pleasuring each other. She used her hand to guide his cock into her mouth, pushing past her lips as she barely parted them so he could feel them drag along his shaft.

Angel tightened his hand on her ass as she took him in. He growled into her. She was doing what he liked and what he liked was being alone with her, enjoying her body.

She knew what he liked all right. He liked just a little bit of pain with his pleasure. She gently used her teeth with discretion, dragging them up the same path her lips had gone down only moments earlier as she pulled him out of her mouth. The growl from his lips against her sex was enough to send vibrations through her to her very core. She had to pause for the briefest moment. Now this would become a contest. Who could make who stop for the longest.

Now he let’s his demon surface. Those lethal fangs that could so easily kill, lightly grazed her. She wanted to use her teeth, he was going to use his.

Her chin tilted back when he did that and she had no choice but to let him slip out from her warm mouth. She groaned loudly. “Not fair…” was all she managed to say, her voice hoarse.

He chuckled. He knew how to win their games. At times being a vampire had its advantages and in the bedroom was one, that is if you had a soul to go with it. He pulled from her sex then licked that area of her inner thigh that was up high close to her heat.

“Angel…” She said his name softly. If he was going to claim her, she didn’t want to lose too much blood during foreplay. She shifted herself underneath him, pressing up against him now. “I need you…now.” The tone of her voice was NOT a request by any stretch of the imagination. She was telling him what she wanted and when she wanted it. And she was going to get her way.

He heard her but the temptation couldn’t be left without some satisfaction for his demon. Angel didn’t bite her. He did was just barely rake his fang on that sensitive area and just a little beaded blood trail followed. He licked it and as he did, it sealed. Again, he just wanted a taste of her. He gave her sex a last probing with his tongue before he got up and moved back up to her. He looked down at her with those yellow eyes. With them, it had become common for him to release his demon in their lovemaking. Her demon half pulled his out, or that is what he liked to rationalize.

Cordelia moved her arms up and put them around his neck. She leaned up as she pulled him down towards her. She kissed him softly, tenderly, as she wrapped her legs around his body. Despite his now changed features, she didn’t act any differently towards him than she did any other time. She learned to accept and love every single part of him.

Returning her kiss, he shifted his hip and his hard member rubbed the lips of her sex. He always gave that little bit of a tease before he let her have what she wanted, what they both wanted. He finally pushed into her, slowly, and filled her. He stopped kissing her as he felt that hot core surrounding him.

She surged up against him as he finally entered her. No more teasing, no more foreplay, this was the main event. She stayed still against him so that she could partly get used to the feeling and partly to relish the sensation.

Angel finally moved. He could feel her pulling on him as he did then thrust in. His upper body shivered somewhat and his muscles tensed in his gut. He raised up slightly on one arm and opened his eyes to look at her face. He never got tired of looking at her.

She kept her eyes locked with his, hazel meeting yellow. She raised her body up just enough off the bed so that his chest rubbed her breasts with each thrust. She couldn’t keep her hands still as they ran and caressed the muscles of his back.

He rested his weight on his left elbow. Bringing his right hand up her side to her breast, he held her as he moved. Then he lowered and kissed her, inviting her tongue to meet his.

She was mindful of his fangs as she touched her tongue against his. She moved her body in time with his, rising up to meet his thrusts. She raked her nails down his back to give him that slight sting of pain.

When Angel felt her nails, his pace sped up, his hand tightened on her breast. He pulled back from that kiss to look at her neck. He could hear her heart pounding and smell her blood.

She watched him as his eyes drifted to her neck. She wanted this now more than anything. She was certain in her decision. She turned her chin, taking a hand from his back to push her hair aside. She closed her eyes with the anticipation. “I love you, Angel.” Her voice was barely above a whisper now.

His response wasn’t in words. He lowered to her neck, his mouth pressed to that vital spot. His tongue licked over it. His motions sped up more, pushing against her at an almost frantic, desperate pace. Then his fangs punctured her neck and he fed.

She gasped as she felt him bite her. It was different than the small love bites he had given her previously during their lovemaking. A moan caught in her throat as she climaxed in his arms. It was so much more than the sensations to her body, it was what he was doing to her soul. Best friends, lovers, and now they were becoming soulmates.

In his own climax, he surged within her. He rolled over, holding her tight, and still feeding. He wasn’t taking much in reality. He was just drawing it slowly, to keep his fangs in for as long as possible to make sure all demonkind would know whom she belonged to. This is how they would see it. The mark would also protect her from those that would recognize it and realize the swift justice that would come to them if they harmed her while he existed.

She barely registered the fact that he was turning them over, that she was now laying atop his body. All she could think of was how every nerve in her body felt alive. The bite, that could be so vicious with his fangs and jagged teeth, was now gentle and pleasurable. She jerked slightly again in his arms as she climaxed again.

Angel stopped feeding as he became spent. He withdrew his fangs but he kept his mouth over the wound. He licked it over and over to seal it. His arms tightened around her, his long fingers worked into her hair at the back of her head.

She didn’t move. She didn’t breath. She just laid there on top of him. Slowly, by degrees, her body started to relax around him. She sighed, a happy contented sound.

He pushed his demon back into hiding and he just held Cordy for as long as she wanted to lay there. His fingers still working in her hair.

“What? I don’t get a thank you?” She laughed softly, not daring to move from where she was. She didn’t want this moment to end. This was perfect happiness. She knew it. She could feel it with every fiber of her being.

“I’m afraid,” he said in a soft whisper.

She pulled her head up enough so that she could look down at him. She touched his cheek softly. “Afraid of what, Angel?”

“I’m afraid if I say it…this will all be gone,” he said, looking at her now, his features very human.

She smiled at him. She leaned down to brush her lips against his. “You’re stuck with me. I told you. I am here until the light at the end of the tunnel and when we get hit with the train.”

Angel looked up at her. Then with the hand that was running through her hair, he pushed her head down after that brushing kiss. He gave her a slow, loving kiss.

She let the kiss linger for several seconds before she finally pulled away from him. She started to move off him. “Alright husband of mine, we better go get a shower if we want to get packed and catch that charter flight to Europe. Thank god for vampire airlines.” She laughed as she was finally untangled from him, standing at the edge of their bed. Her legs still felt a bit weak and probably would be more so after their shower together.

“Cordy,” he said as he got up. “About the vampire airline…” He winced as he speaks.

She turned back to look at him, halfway to the bathroom. “Yes?”

“Well, I sort of had to tell them…well, before they’d take a reservation for us…I had to…well…” It was clear that he was nervous, whatever it was. It was probably far from good news.

“Angel, just spit it out already.” Sometimes, when he got flustered like this, it was endearing. Now, when the promise of a hot shower was calling to her, it wasn’t.

“ I had to tell them it was for Angelus and his…well, pet.” He winced, fully expecting Cordelia’s wrath.

She frowned when he said that. Despite her lack of clothing, she put her hands on her hips to glare at him. “Just for that, we are stopping over in Paris and you are taking me for a night of shopping. Whatever I want…WHATEVER…I….WANT.” She emphasized the last three words.

“ I was afraid if I said Angel…and well, the name Angelus got us a discount. They were afraid I’d make them Dust Buster filling if they didn’t accommodate me.” How could she argue against the discount. The flight was costing enough, not to mention the hotel, the rental cars, the rail passes, and the other assorted fees.

“This is my “You are digging yourself in deeper” face, Angel. I will make you Dust Buster filling if the next words out of your mouth don’t include an apology and a promise.” By the tone of her voice, Cordelia Chase was quite serious in that threat.

“What if I make it up with a romantic dinner at night on a small yacht floating lazily down the Seine?” He figured that would end up being cheaper than a shopping spree Cordelia Chase-style.

“Romantic dinner AND a shopping trip. And I will forgive you for calling me Angelus’ pet.” This was not up for negotiation. Then again, she wasn’t usually the kind to compromise, especially when it came to shopping.

She was getting him where it hurt and she knew it, his wallet. He had to think, then he nodded. “Okay, I surrender.”

“Good. The sooner you learn that this marriage is about me getting my way, the easier it will be.” She graced him with a smile. She was annoyed but not nearly as much as she was pretending. She beckoned him with her finger as she slipped into the bathroom.

Cordelia was jerked back to the present, out of her memory, when she heard a noise in the darkness. She gathered her things up and reached into the bag to grab out a throwing axe. She saw a tabby cat run through the darkness, the light from her flashlight reflecting off his green eyes. She breathed a sigh of relief. She touched her cheeks, feeling the dried tears there. She couldn’t keep doing this, losing herself in memories of Angel. She had to get back to the Hyperion. She wanted her answers. She picked up the urn, holding it close to her body as she left the convalescence home.

—Present—–

Cordelia could feel the wetness on her cheeks as she recalled the events of earlier tonight, recalled the evening she was married to Angel. Unable to hold her emotions in any longer, she laid down on the couch. She curled up, the courier bag with the urn held tightly to her chest, and she cried. She cried until she felt she couldn’t cry anymore. She cried out her pain, she cried out her guilt. She cried out every last emotion in herself because she needed to be prepared. She needed to be able to carry on, to fight. She knew that is what Angel would have wanted. He wouldn’t have wanted her to give up or worse, killed herself in some tragic Shakespearean move. One of them had to stay on and keep this world safe. That was going to have to be her. With everything drained from her, physically and emotionally exhausted, Cordelia Chase let sleep overtake her.
Chapter Seventeen

Connor paced the bedroom. He didn’t like not being down there with what was happening. Neither Cordelia nor Wesley would let him anywhere near Angelus. They were afraid he’d dust the vampire and well, they were so right.

Lillian sat up slowly in bed. If not for the Slayer healing, she would be dead. She still didn’t feel 100 percent though. She saw Connor pacing and frowned. “You are going to wear a hole in the floor.” Her voice was hoarse from being unused. She looked around for a pitcher of water when she realized she wasn’t in her hospital room anymore.

“They are down there, performing magics on that…beast,” he said, his rage just barely controlled.

She cleared her throat, making a wet and dry at the same time sound as she forced down a lump. “You think you can maybe, get me a glass of water…if its not too much trouble?”

“Huh?” He stopped his pacing then what she said sunk in. “Oh, oh…yeah…just a minute.” Connor went to his little kitchenette and got her a glass of ice water. He brought it back to her. “Here, I’m sorry.”

She took the glass from him. She did her best to smile but it was weak as the pain in her body took precedence. She took a sip from her water. She could feel it moving down her throat and into her stomach. It was then she realized how starved she was. With Connor pacing and upset though, she thought it might be a bad time to say or do anything.

“I don’t see why they are doing this,” he grumbled. “That thing down there…” His voice trailed off. He wanted to kill something. He wanted to kill what was in the basement.

Connor wanted to kill his father was sort of an ongoing topic of discussion. When he got into one of these rants, she merely let him rant himself out. It was just healthy venting. He vented about everyone. He probably even vented about her when she was gone to someone else. She took another sip from her water.

Connor finally stopped at the foot of her bed. “We can move out, if you want,” he said as he looked at her.

“Your family is here. Your brother, sister, mom. They are probably going to need you.” She can’t imagine how everyone else was dealing with this ‘Angelus from another dimension’ mess. She was alive, and she was grateful for that.

“Yeah, but if they let that…thing stay here…how can we?” He had no clue that she was hungry. He had never been in her position before.

“Don’t you think it’s a good idea that if they are going to keep Angelus here, that you stay here in case he gets loose? Someone has to look out for your family.” She had no idea that Angel was dead but she couldn’t imagine he would be able to stake himself, even if himself was Angelus. She brought a hand up to her head. All these confusing thoughts were not helping her headache.

“Lillian,” he moved to her side. Concern was written on his brow. “What is it?”

“I just have a little bit of a headache and I’m hungry. Its nothing.” She slowly lowered her hand as she looked over at him. She gave him a smile. There was a lot she wanted to say to him but she had to approach it just right.

“Food…okay, I can do that,” he started for the kitchen. “What do you want?”

“Do you have anything in there that isn’t growing fur?” She finished her water. She set the glass down on the dresser by his bed. First thing she would have to do is clean this place top to bottom. Then stock the fridge up with stuff that hadn’t become a living organism.

“I’ve got some Pringles and a jar of dill pickle spears.” He called to her. “Oh, and some Suzy-Q’s. Never run out of those.”

“You need Suzy-Q’s Anonymous.” She called back out to him. She was already trying to make her way out of bed. She pulled the IVs from her hand gingerly. “You are starting to look like a burrito with long hair to me.”

Stopping his hunt for food, he thought for a moment. “You know that could be taken in so many ways that are so wrong.”

“I guess it would be really bad for me to tell you I want to eat you.” She laughed. She was pretty good at making the best of the worst situations. She got out of bed and went to her suitcase. She didn’t even have a chance to unpack. She wasn’t going to wear her pajamas out.

Connor turned, seeing her up. “Just what are you doing,” he said, coming back towards her. “You’re not supposed to be up yet.”

“I am a rebel without a clue?” She turned to look at him. She shrugged her shoulders with a smile. She reached for his arm. “Mmmm… Your arms are made out of churros.” Once she got a hold of his wrist, she brought his arm up and playfully bit down into it. It was not enough to hurt. This was a diversionary tactic. She had many for him

“ Man, and mom says she’s afraid of me at the dinner table.” Connor laughed softly.

She knew any sort of joke about having a taste for human flesh would not be funny after being attacked by a vampire. She pulled her mouth away from his arm. “Arturo’s. Drive-thru so I don’t have to get dressed. We can borrow your mom’s car.” She moved away from him so she could slip her feet into a pair of slippers.

“We could or we could take the GTX, top down and enjoy the evening,” he said to her. “After all, it should be mine now.”

She frowned just a bit. “Why is it yours?” She was appropriately confused. Her train of thought went along the lines of someone posing as Angel while he was gone.

“Dad is dead, Lillian,” he said and he took a deep breath. “That thing down there isn’t him.” He told her what Wes had said. He waited when done; knowing it would hit her hard because his father had become a second father to her also.

She lowered herself down onto the edge of the bed. Her concern right now wasn’t for herself. It was for Connor. “Connor…I am so sorry. Are you going to be okay?”

“I’m okay,” he said. He never did open up feelings in these areas. “He died as he would have wanted. He died saving somebody helpless that would have perished had he not been there.”

She knew that death was all too common of a side effect in this line of work. Slayers didn’t live that long, even with a ton of them around. It was still something difficult to take in, considering her own parents had died when she was young. “I am sorry that you two never…that you guys never quite patched things up before he died. I know he loved you a lot and you loved him, no matter what you might say. I think you guys would have worked through everything eventually if he’d lived.”

“Yeah, well if frogs had wings they wouldn’t bump their asses on the ground when they hopped,” he said. “Let’s go get you something to eat…and well, I think I can eat a bit too.”

“I am really not feeling hungry anymore.“ It was frustrating at times, loving someone who was emotionally retarded. It wasn’t Connor’s fault so she couldn’t blame him. She slipped her slippers off, letting them fall back to the floor.

Holtz could actually be thanked for his lack of ability to deal with emotional issues. “I’ll go out and get some take out and bring it back, how’s that sound?”

“Can you maybe just stay with me here for a little bit? Or are you really that hungry?” She pulled her legs up to her chest, looking at him. This was still a shock to the system for her.

“Yeah,” he nodded. “I can stay. I have Suzy-Q’s. I can survive. All that creamy goodness.” He moved to the bed to then lay down to spoon her, his arm trying to come around her.

“I can’t lay down anymore, Connor.” She stopped him from trying to spoon her with a hand against his chest. “I’ve been laying down for too long as is. How about I just watch you play some video games or something?” It wasn’t so much contact, as she just wanted to have him around her.

“Or we could just watch a movie?” He rolled over on his back. His hand came up to touch her back.

“Movie is good. You can pick it out.” The hunger she had from earlier was replaced in her stomach but with a pit. She could feel it, heavy and dark inside of her. It was grief. If she felt this bad, she could only imagine how the rest of the team was taking it.

—-The Afternoon After—-

The twins had only recently arrived home. After a day of playing paintball with Uncle Xander and stuffing himself full of ice cream sandwiches, Ian had slept not only the entire night but on the car ride back. Mom had told him not to go in the basement again but that made him want to go there even more. Slipping away from his mom was easy because she was thinking big thoughts right now. She was distracted. He climbed the stairs down to the basement, holding onto the railing as he made his way down. He hoped there was a werewolf in the cage. That is why he couldn’t come down here last summer. He got his best ‘grr’ face ready to face whatever was down here.

Sitting on the cot Wes had set up, Angel was nursing what could only be described as a hangover. He heard the boy come down the stairs and he looked up.

Ian stopped at the bottom of the stairs though. It didn’t make sense that dad was in the cage. Unless, he was evil. He squatted down, two little hands grabbing the railing bars so he could look through them at Angel. “Are you evil?’

Angel shook his head. “No, Ian. Not anymore,” he replied giving the boy a slight smile.

“How come you are in the cage?” He didn’t understand it. He looked at the man he thought was his father. “Did you make mom mad again?”

He stood and moved to the side of the cage closest to where Ian was. He leaned on the bars with his right shoulder and looked down. How do you explain to a child? “I…I was bad but it is all fixed,” Angel said. “I just think your mom wants to make sure it stays fixed.” He wasn’t sure what Cordelia had told the kids.

“If it’s fixed, I will let you out. And we can play Dark Avengers!” Ian grinned as he got up from his perch on the stairs. He knew the keys were up high on the wall so he would need a chair. He saw one, moving to it to try to drag it over.

“Ian…wait,” he said. “Please. Let it be your mother’s decision. She knows best.” Angel hoped the boy would stop. Again, what do you tell the boy about this type of thing? He was sure if Cordy wanted him to know that much, she would have told him.

The little boy shoved the chair against the wall and started to climb up on it. He stood there, looking over at Angel. He didn’t understand and the confusion was written all over his face. “Don’t you want to come out and play?”

“I’d like that,” Angel replied as he knelt down. “Come here.” He indicated for Ian to come over to the cage bars.

Ian’s grin widened. “Let me get the keys.” He turned back to the wall. He stretched up as high as he could go. His small fingers barely brushed the bottom of the keys. He stood on his tiptoes, tongue poking out the side of his mouth as he tried desperately to get the keys.

“No. No… This is going to be a game and I have to stay in here for it,” Angel told the boy. “I mean you being the Dark Avenger and all.”

Ian lowered his little body down. He never played this one. It sounded fun. He jumped down off the chair and went to his dad. He had no fear, which would no doubt get him into a lot of trouble as he got older. “How do we play?”

“Yeah, well, I’m like the bad monster,” he said, “so I have to stay in here. And well, I can’t get out because the Princess has to come take away the bad monster in me so I can be…good again. Your job is to bring the Princess down here…. And well, maybe something for the monster to eat would be nice too.”

“Which Princess?” In this hotel, there were a lot of Princesses that needed rescuing: Princess Mom, Princess Aunt Fred, Princess Aunt Faith. He could go on.

“The most important one. The one that has control of the chocolate ice cream and cookies.” He winked at Ian when he said this. “The most mystical and powerful of the princesses.”

Ian nodded his head. He wanted mom to come save him. “She is in a bad mood, Da. I don’t think she wants to play. She is still hurting, Katty said so. She hurts real bad.”

Angel sat down on the floor, his head leaned to the bars. “I know Ian,” he told the child, “and I’m to blame for part of it. I was trying to be something I’m not.”

Ian moved his head so that it was resting against his dad’s in between the bars. “How come?”

“Because I tried hard to fit in where I didn’t belong,” he said. “You ever have a dream and when you first wake up you have a hard time telling what is real and what isn’t?

He nodded his head. Ian could understand that. “I have dreams about the demons and I wake up and I still fight them. Then Katty yells at me cause I am hitting her.”

Angel sat and thought for a moment. “Well, something happened to my mind while I was gone and some things seemed real to me and others didn’t. And it wound up hurting a lot of people, including your mommy.”

Ian was done with talking. He wanted something fun. He could go upstairs and play with his video games or find Connor to play Monsters with. He was getting that distracted look as he played with the bars of the cage.

Angel noted this. “Go on,” he told the boy. “You need to go up and play. I bet its pretty out in the garden today.”

Ian grinned. “It is sunny and warm. Yesterday, Uncle Xander took us out to his paintball range and even though he has the pirate eye, he is still good. He shot me three times. Want to see?” Before Angel could respond, he was lifting his shirt up proudly to show off the faint red marks. Its not abuse, its a badge of honor. “I got him good, Da. I hit him in the no-no place by accident. And he cried.”

Angel looked, then he stood. “No-no place, huh?”

He pulled his shirt down and nodded quickly with a big grin. “Katty got him in the tushy too. That was an accident too. She never plays paintball.”

He nodded. “Okay. Run on and go play. I’m sure I won’t be here long.”

“Can I have a hug through the bars?” He slipped his little arms through the bars, holding them out, as he waited for Angel to kneel down once more so he could hug him.

The vampire did just that. He knelt down and let the boy hug him. He let one arm slip through the bars and he hugged him back.

Ian stiffened suddenly though as he heard something. Angel’s vampire hearing could no doubt hear it as well. It was Cordelia, calling for him. He pulled away from the cage and looked towards the basement door. He was going to be in trouble if she found him down here.

“Ian,” Angel whispered. He pointed to the laundry elevator. It was big enough for the boy to crawl in. “Push the button for it to go up to the second floor then get out. You can come down the stairs then.”

Ian nodded his head. He rushed to the laundry elevator. He had a time crawling into it, little legs kicking against the wall as he pulled himself up. He waved to his dad before pressing the button to go upstairs.

Cordelia opened the basement door just seconds after Ian’s escape. She frowned because he shouldn’t be down here. She told him not to come down here. “Ian?” She called out. She didn’t care if the imposter was awake or not or if she woke him up. She started to come down the stairs because if Ian were here, he would be hiding.

Angel watched the boy and then the small utility elevator take him up. He heard Cordelia at the door above and looked up to it. “He’s not down here,” he said as he moved back to the cot.

Angel was awake. She stopped halfway on the stairs. “You aren’t exactly the poster boy for honesty this year.” She continued down the stairs. She’d do a quick sweep for Ian and then check back upstairs.

“Don’t get mad at the boy,” Angel said. “He was here. I sort of…well, he’s back upstairs.” He stopped then looked back at her. “I think…I think I was honest. I had said none of this was what I remembered.”

She stopped at the bottom of the stairs. He had said the entirely wrong thing to her. “You talk to or even look at my kids again, I will stake you before you can say ‘please, don’t’. I don’t care what Wes says, I will kill you.” She moved away from the bottom of the stairs. Wes put a cot in there and had unlocked him from his chains. That didn’t go towards improving her mood. She was debating even feeding him at this moment.

“Cordelia,” he said as he stood in the center of the cage. “I just think we both wanted to believe in something that…that wasn’t. For me, this…you, the kids…is a dream. One that I could never have. My memories are my memories.” He paused then continued, “My world is a dark, ugly place. My friends all gone or dead and I come here to this…I don’t know how I got here but my reality took a major right turn.”

“Your friends are all gone or dead because of what you did. Wes brought back files, CEO of Wolfram and Hart. Sounds like you were really helping the helpless.” She opened the small fridge down there and pulled out some blood. It was probably old but she didn’t care. She wasn’t going to heat it for him either. She moved to the cage, holding it out for him to take. “From what I have read, you are a cold, calculating, manipulative bastard. You destroyed your world so you came here to destroy ours.”

Angel stepped over to the bars and took the jar. He frowned as she said this. “Yeah, I was CEO of Wolfram & Hart for a year and in that year I took out the Senior Partners’ connections here in L.A.” He opened it and looked at it. It was old but not yet gone bad. He was really hungry so he took a drink. “I took Wolfram & Hart to use it for the good with all its resources. I thought…but I found out they gave it to me to distract me from what they were doing. The Apocalypse had started.”

“I should believe you why?” She stepped back away from the cage. She just looked at him. “What I see is an agent of evil who saw a great opportunity and slipped right in. If I didn’t know different, I would have bet you killed my husband too.”

“Give me a truth potion,” he told her. “I’ll even sing for Lorne.”

“Except that I know that Lorne is wrong sometimes and truth potions don’t always work. You knew you were cursed and you…” She couldn’t even bring herself to say it. She blamed herself so much for this whole situation. “Nothing good can come out of evil. And Wolfram and Hart is the biggest evil there is, in this world or any other.”

“I knew and… I wasn’t sure,” he said. “I was thinking maybe my mind was swiss cheesed.” He looked down at the jar in his hands. “I thought I had you back, that none of what took you from me happened. That Jasmine never happened because you and Connor never…” His voice trailed at the memory of this. “You were used by an insane Power that highjacked your body so it could be born.”

“No. I wasn’t. Your Cordelia was. And you let her die. You worked for Wolfram and Hart with all of their spells and their powers. Never once did you bother to see if you could cure a mystical coma. No. Too busy chasing fuzzy werewolves and Buffy. Then again, if you weren’t always thinking with what is in your pants, Angelus wouldn’t have gotten loose here and maybe, back in your world, you could have noticed that one of your employees was acting a bit off.”

“I was told that everything was being done for you…I mean her…that could be done. I’m not a doctor…” Then out of anger at himself, at everything, he threw that almost empty jar at the wall. “I was blinded and I lost…I thought I could change things….” He sank down on the cot and sat there, holding his head.

The sound of the jar breaking was enough to send her jumping back, away from the cage. She didn’t trust this Angel, not after everything that she had read. Part of her was screaming to unlock the door, to try to comfort him, that this was all a big mistake. Another larger, louder part of her was reminding her that this creature was evil. He was just as manipulative as Angelus. He helped to bring an Apocalypse down on his world. She didn’t say a word though as she stood there, watching him.

Angel looked up and a tear was running down his cheek. “Gunn…I held him dying in my arms. Wesley died…Fred…my family. I signed away my Shanshu so I could insert myself into the Circle of the Black Thorn to destroy them…” He didn’t look at her.

“That isn’t what your files say.” Again, she had that war roaring within her. She could rationalize that it was just the grief over losing her Angel. All she had to do was remember that he pretended to be someone he wasn’t and it was enough for her to overcome the urge to let him out. “Wes will be back before sunset to figure out how to send you back. You should sleep while the sun is still up.” Her voice was flat, as if she was giving him instructions on how to program his TiVo.

However, she kept telling him his memories had been screwed with and when this perfect life was here before him, it was easy to start believing. He only nodded.

Cordelia did blame herself for that. She wanted so badly to believe that Angel was alive, that he had returned to her, that she convinced herself that all her niggling feelings were nothing. Deep down, she knew Angel was dead. She just refused to acknowledge it. She climbed the stairs back up the lobby slowly. She wasn’t sure which side of her to trust.

Fred watched as Cordelia came up from seeing the other dimension Angel. Her heart went out for the woman. They were all missing Angel and to have this doppelganger running around wasn’t easy on any of them, especially after what he did as Angelus. Fred had gathered up some clothes and warmed some blood up for the vampire but she waited until she saw Cordelia go into Wes’ office with him that she slipped downstairs. She tried to be as quiet as possible because she knew that Cordelia wouldn’t like it if they started treating him like a guest. Fred, unafraid but really just curious, went right up to the cage bars. “I brought you some clean clothes and some blood. Figured you might want to get out of those leather pants. Never did like them, you, I mean, you here. I don’t know what you there or you, like.”

He stood when he heard the door open, though he knew she was coming. He didn’t approach the bars at first. He waited to see what Fred wanted to do. If she just wanted to place the blood and the clothes on the service cart that was fine. “Thanks,” Angel said. He looked down a moment at his clothes. “Actually, well, before I became CEO of Wolfram & Hart I…I did wear them now and them. Not just an Angelus thing.” He was quiet for a long moment then looked up at her. “I’m sorry. I know its not good enough. I know…I just…”

Fred passed the small pile through the bars, holding it out for him to take. Her faith in Wes and his abilities was unshakeable. He had told her that the spell went perfectly. There was no reason to be afraid. “Like I said, here, the Angel here didn’t like them. Too much of a reminder of an old life I guess. Or old sins. We never really talked about it. They just weren’t. Wes told me about you being part of Wolfram and Hart. He got a bunch of files. I didn’t read them. Kind of weird to think that there is another one of me running around. I kept asking myself, “does she like quantum mechanics as much as I do?” or “does she like tacos as much as I do?” or “does she really hate it when you are trying to come up with a new stain remover for T’moch blood and you can’t get the chemical composition just right so you end up burning a hole in your shirt?” Fred shook her head. “Too many questions.”

Angel stepped forward and took the bundle from her. “Yes to them all,” he said. “My Fred was all of that.” Angel looked down when he said that. He turned and put the clothes down and looked at the glass of blood. “She was special to us all.”

She had caught something in his voice, his expression, and then the very words that he said. “Why do you say ‘was’?” She had a pretty good feeling that she knew the answer to that question. She hadn’t been told much about the life that this Angel had aside from the fact that he had help run Wolfram and Hart. Fred knew though, in her heart, there had to be an explanation for that.

“Fred…Fred was killed,” he said. “Her body was taken over by an Old One. I could have saved her but…But it would have meant the lives of thousands of innocent people if I had.” He couldn’t look at this Fred as he said it. “I knew she wouldn’t have wanted that.” Angel sat the blood down. This wasn’t a conversation to have while eating.

“I guess that is kind of strange too. Come to find out that I am dead in another world. Or taken over. What about everyone else? Can’t be all bad, right? Though, the Wolfram and Hart thing…” She trailed off and then laughed nervously. “I mean, here they tried to kidnap Connor, tried to kill him, tried to blow Cordy up, erased your memory and played with your head more times than I can count. Oh, and put the works on Wesley once so he thought he was a cannibalistic demon. He kept trying to gnaw my arm clean off.”

“Everyone…I think,” Angel replied. “Gunn, died in my arms in the battle. Wes died fighting Cyvus Vail, a powerful wizard. Cordy…” he leaned on the bars, “Cordy died a couple months before the Apocalypse. She’d already been in a coma. We fought Wolfram & Hart for years and they were finally took down by The Beast. We destroyed the Beast…or rather Angelus destroyed the Beast. Didn’t like the competition. But he was caught and my soul restored. When we defeated a fallen power, Wolfram & Hart gave us the L.A. branch to do with as we wanted.” The vampire recounted what he could that brought him here to this dimension. “I was beginning to believe Wolfram & Hart had messed with my mind and that his was…home.”

Fred was never one to be quiet. “I am sure glad that our Angel didn’t make the same mistakes you did. What I mean is, all of us are alive and pretty happy. Sure, we got this crazy demon group attacking the school and Wolfram and Hart is still after all of us but at least we are alive and we got each other. I know what Cordy would say if Wolfram and Hart offered us the LA branch and none of that would be pretty. Her and Lilah got into a couple of throwdowns when they tried to take Cordy when she was pregnant. Never seen a woman use a belly like a weapon before.”

“Yeah, well, I did it to give Connor a life he never had,” he said. “For a time he had that family life he so wanted, but the Senior Partners didn’t take his abilities…he was still the child of two vampires.”

“But did it help? End of the day, he still is what he is. Can’t hide that from him. He was going to find out sooner or later, as soon as he got into a fight or something. Can’t judge though, you did what you thought was best. Is he still alive there or did he die too?” It seemed to Fred that just about everyone that this Angel associated with wound up dead. She wondered if he had a different curse on him. Maybe between Wes and herself, they could come up with a magical detection spell to see if everything he touched died or something.

“I don’t know,” Angel answered truthfully. “I sent him home just before the battle. I hope he made it. I told him as long as he lived, no matter what, they couldn’t harm me.”

So much like Fred, she just blurted the following out without thinking it through. “We can’t send you back. Wesley spent all night on it and there is no way we can do it. We went to Pylea once but the power that brought you here, we can’t match it. Not with what we have here. He was going to try Willow but she is really hard to get a hold of. She could be in some jungle and no one will hear from her for months.”

“I really don’t have much to go back to,” he said as he started to unbutton his shirt to change it since it was rather torn. “But maybe I have even less here.” He pulled off the tattered shirt and tossed it on the cot then picked up the fresh shirt and put it on.

“Can really blame us. You lied to everyone and then Angelus got loose and we are having to deal with the fact the Angel we knew is dead. And you come here with the Wolfram and Hart connections and you can’t expect everybody to just trust you. I can’t even imagine what Cordy is going through because I am getting a little weirded out here too. You look like Angel we know, talk like him, sometimes act like him but you aren’t.” Fred’s tone was calm though as she was just trying to explain things to him.

“Fred,” he looked at her and stepped to the bars, “I…I tried to tell Cordelia…I told her I didn’t remember any of this. She was convinced my head had been messed with and I started to believe it too. I never lied to anyone…but myself.”

Fred was still bursting with questions as she tried to work out conclusions in her own mind. “Why though? Why didn’t you just wait for Wesley to get back? He always fixed it before when someone messed with your head. Cordy had to tell you that. Then again, Wes and I were watching Angel get killed so maybe it would have been solved a whole lot sooner and people would still be alive. Then again, you might have been spending a lot more time in this cage.”

He glanced at Fred and then looked up. “I didn’t go grr when…. When Cordelia and… The first time and I started believing what she said. I wanted to believe. To have…to have this dream life I could never have before.”

“Do you love her? I mean, there, did you love Cordelia there? Because I have only met Buffy once but I know the history. Since things were different, did you marry Buffy there, where you are if your Cordy was in a coma?” Fred was trying to understand. This Angel was like a puzzle to her. With each question, each answer, she got another piece to fit in.

“I loved Cordy,” he said looking down at his hand as he ran a finger on the bar. “We got to tell each other just before she died.” Angel swallowed hard. His lips drew in a tight line and his voice cracked there at the last.

“Then I guess no one can blame you for what you did. Not sure if you were as baby crazy there as you were here. So you got Cordy, you got kids, and here, Wolfram and Hart has messed with your head before. No one could blame you.” He had, for the moment, at least one person on his side. Then again, Fred wanted to trust him. She wanted to believe this was real. They had lost the Angel they all knew and loved. She knew that coincidences don’t happen. Things happen for a reason, the universe balances out. Nature abhors a vacuum.

“I don’t know,” the vampire spoke quietly. “Maybe…maybe the powers sent me here for a reason.” He was thinking with the Champion here murdered and the way Illyria’s powers were messed up, he got pulled right where he might be needed.

“If there was some kind of void here…” Fred crouched down on the floor. There was enough dust here that she could write in it. She started speaking to herself. “A void that caused a tear in the veil between dimensions and then enough of a power to push through the veil but close it at the same time while in the other reality…” Her voice trailed off now as she hurriedly scribbled in the dust of the floor.

Angel turned to watch her as she did what she did. He couldn’t begin to even pretend to understand what she was going on about. He remained quiet as she worked.

Fred shook her head and sat back so that she could look at the calculations she had drawn in the dust. She needed more room and something more lasting than dust on the basement floor. She stood up, looking at Angel. “I should go. Upstairs, they are probably looking for me. And I want to get some paper so I can write all of this down. Maybe if I can figure out where the distortion occurred, then we could have a chance of sending you back where you came from or figuring out how you got here to begin with.”

“Fred,” he said as she started to leave. “Fred, maybe I can help with these demons or whatever is terrorizing the school. I mean a fresh mind and eyes might be just what’s needed…especially a vampire’s.”

Fred paused as she was making her way back to the stairs. She just looked at him. She might have been on his side in this but this was something else entirely. “I don’t think that would be a good idea. You…you are Angel but you aren’t OUR Angel. Not a part of this team. It would just make everyone upset if you tried to be an Angel substitute. Angel Lite. Like the Diet Coke of Angels. Not to say you are any less but you are less than our Angel, the Angel we knew and loved. It’s…its not good for his memory.” With that, she hurried up the stairs. She only hoped that he could understand where she was coming from.

Angel watched her leave. He picked up the blood and took a drink. It had aged but blood did that quickly. But he still drank it. When done he sat the glass down and started to change his pants but then stopped and looked up at the camera. The light was on and he could hear the faint electronics. “A little privacy, please?”

Angel’s pleas to the camera fell on deaf ears. Fred had gone upstairs to check on the twins and Cordelia was in the office with Wesley. She sat there, silent after he had told her that they couldn’t send this imposter Angel back. “I don’t get it, Wes. If he got here, why can’t you send him back? I don’t want him here. I don’t want him around.”

Wesley pulled off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. He’d been at this for hours and it showed on his features. “There could be several reasons,” he said as he lowered his hands from his face. “One of which his world is destroyed so it would stand to reason the portal would be closed. The power allocations could be another factor. It is easier to open a portal to another dimension then it is to a co-existing reality. They are completely different.”

“There has to be something. Some book, or some spell. Can we call Willow?” She was fairly serious about this. She didn’t want this Angel around, especially not after everything he had done. Not only was he a reminder of her husband, he was a reminder of her own failure.

“Cordelia,” he said as he leaned back in his seat, “I’m sorry. If we could open a portal to his dimension it would take more power then we could muster. Not even Willow could and I’m afraid if she tried the darkness would suck her in so deep we’d never get her back.”

That was something that she didn’t really want. They didn’t need Dark Willow trying to destroy the world again. She slumped down in her seat. “So what are we suppose to do? Ask him to join the team? Get him an embroidered jacket?”

“Did you consider, maybe…Maybe this was destined by the Powers? His world was lost and our Champion is lost.” He paused a moment. “The Powers don’t take our personal feelings into consideration in these matters. They look at the greater picture. I’m not suggesting we take him in with open arms, I’m far from ready to do that.”

“Don’t even go riding that train of thought, Wes. Why would the Powers send us an Angel that worked for Wolfram & Hart? One that led his friends and family to the slaughter? He isn’t a Champion. He is a selfish monster with no brain and no heart.” She hesitated in suggesting that they just kill him. The only one who would be able to do that would be Connor and that would cause more damage to the young man than Cordelia would wish on her worst enemy.

“I will play the Devil’s Advocate here for a moment,” the Englishman said. Wes was one to always take an analytical view of everything. “We got those files from Wolfram & Hart. Maybe we should ask Angel about them without him reading them?”

“I did ask him about it and he was full of excuses. So typical of him. Ian wandered down there already today so I went down to feed him and talk to him. He is smooth, I will give him that. ‘I was working with Wolfram & Hart to take them down from the inside.’ Anyone with two brain cells to rub together can see how that is the stupidest plan ever. Why would anyone do that?” Cordelia countered.

“What led up to that decision? Maybe he really believed he could,” Wesley said.

“Wes…he has to be the stupidest Angel in any dimension if he believed that. Maybe the Angel here got all the brains. He told me that there, Cordelia got body-jacked. And he didn’t notice. This from the vampire who used to be able to tell the haircolor of the girls you had sex with. He didn’t notice something that big? He has to be retarded. That is the only explanation I can think of.”

Wesley cleared his throat at that remark. It was a surprise that day when Angel did that and worse, Cordy was standing right behind him when the vampire announced his activities from the night before. “Then what would you like done, Cordelia?”

“I want him sent back to where ever he is from. I want to be able to grieve for my husband. I want my kids to grow up without a guy with their daddy’s face being locked in a cage downstairs. I know we can’t keep him there forever.”

“No. We can’t,” Wes nodded. “He does have his soul back and it is anchored for good now.”

“Wes…” She just looked at him. She wanted his advice. She needed his advice, both as a friend and as an equal. He was one of the few that could be objective in this situation and do what would be best for everyone. She knew she was too clouded with emotion.

“We could release him,” he nodded. “But legally, we can’t turn him out. The hotel is his, none the less. Or the authorities would see it as such. You two were never legally married but you could sue for support for the kids.”

“You have to be kidding me. He ISN’T Angel. Next, you are going to tell me that just because I married an Angel here, I have to give marital privileges to any Angel that falls out of a portal.” She gets up from where she was sitting, visible upset by this. “How the hell was I suppose to get legally married to a man that doesn’t exist? A man that should have died 230 years ago if he had stayed human?”

“I’m not saying you have to acknowledge him in any of those ways of marriage,” Wes said as he stood. “But are you going to tell the authorities that Angel is dead and yet here he is? Tell them he is from an alternate universe?”

“I’ve already lost my husband, Wes. I am not going to lose my home because some helmet-wearing short-bus riding version of Angel kicks me out. This is MY home. I have nothing. We sunk all our money into this place. Where am I suppose to go with two small kids? I can’t exactly shack up with you and Fred or with the three’s company situation Gunn has going. What about Connor? This is his home too. But some…asshole from a world he destroyed could destroy ours too?”

“Cordelia, you are jumping in totally other directions then what I was stating.” He moved around and sat back on the desk. “I wasn’t suggesting we turn it over or anybody move out. I was just pointing out that we can’t force him out either.”

“This is bullshit. I don’t want him here. I don’t want him hanging around my kids. You have to do something because now, if I see him, I will stake him.” She was serious. She would go that far to protect her children. To her, this new Angel was a threat in that he could take away their home.

“I was only pointing out the worse case scenarios, Cordy,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest.

“In case you haven’t noticed, we ARE in the worst case scenario, Wes. Angel is dead. The Angel we got comes from a world that was destroyed. We have a group of demons killing our girls at the school. And we have Angelus fallout to deal with. Welcome to the worst case.”

“I doubt he will put you or the kids out,” he said with a sigh. “If he was as you said he was with the children, I really do not see it happening. I’m just stating that you can’t put him out either.”

She shook her head. She couldn’t believe this. It was honestly just beyond her comprehension. “I don’t want him here, Wes. I am serious when I say that. I don’t feel safe and its going to come down to him or me. So you let him go and you let him know. If I see him around here or around my kids, he is dust. Me or him.”

Wesley nodded. “Fair enough. I’m sure that Connor wouldn’t hesitate. I shall point out that it is probably better if he made himself scarce around here.” Wesley had no problem with this at all.

“Good. Give him Buffy’s address. From those files, seems he had a habit of running after her. Maybe he will leave us all alone if he has his Slayer.” She was quite serious about that. From reading those files, she didn’t even know this Angel. It seemed as if her Angel was able to make the decisions, take the steps, that this other Angel couldn’t. It was as if her husband could stand up for things and it had given him a happy life. But the one downstairs was a wishy-washy mess of a man. What had it gotten him? He got his family killed and his world destroyed.

Wesley grabbed the keys for the cage. “I’ll do it now, unless you want to talk to him first. Are you still wanting that?”

“I already talked to him. All I found out is that I can’t trust a word that comes out of his mouth. Give me a half-hour before you let him out. I am going to get ready and go take the kids to the park.”

Wesley nodded to her. “That will give me time for a cup of tea.”

She paused for a moment to look at him. “Wes…thanks again. I don’t know if I could get through this without you. Without everyone.” She didn’t just mean the situation with the Angel downstairs. She meant coping with Angel’s death. “I…I went and got his ashes. I thought it might be good for all of us if we had a memorial service before Lorne had to leave.”

“That might be what we all need,” he gave her a smile, that slight smile he had “Perhaps you would like to make a place in the garden for him. In the corner where the sun always hits during the day.”

She nodded her head, trying to keep the tears out of her eyes. She had done enough crying in private, she didn’t need to start in front of Wes. “I need to go now.” It was more so that she didn’t break down in front of him than it was anything else. She pulled the office door open and exited quickly. She headed upstairs, leaving Wes to the task of releasing this Angel.

Wesley made his way down the stairs into the basement where the caged vampire was. He waited a moment as he noted Angel was just finishing changing. He knew Angel would realize he was there, the vampire senses and all.

Angel turned while pulling down the hem of his fresh shirt. Seeing Wesley, he nodded. “Fred said none of you like the leather thing,” he said quietly.

Wesley stepped on toward the cage and spoke in that soft tone of his, “No, we don’t. Angelus seemed to favor them and it’s just a reminder.”

Angel nodded again. “I can understand,” he replied, “I now realize how my Wesley felt when…”

“Yes,” the ex-watcher interrupted. “Yes, I know the feeling also.”

Angel didn’t reply, he just looked down at the concrete floor.

“Cordelia feels you posed as our Angel,” Wesley said breaking the silence.

Angel raised his gaze to the ceiling of the basement. “Wes, in the beginning I tried telling her this wasn’t right. I told her what my memories were. I tried to resist but it became so easy for me to believe that, yes, Wolfram & Hart screwed with my mind. Not like they have in the past even in my dimension. I see this life and its what I so wanted, save for the part of still being a vampire. Cordy wanted it and, yes, I did too. I have no other excuse.”

The Englishman looked down at the keys in his hand. “Speaking of Wolfram & Hart, how is it you managed to take it over?” He had read those files but he wanted to hear it from Angel.

Angel recounted the story about what had happened in his dimension, the events that led up to the surrender of the firm to Team Angel. He then told Wesley what had happened after, how he’d lost his mission in the big drowning mess of running the L.A. branch and how Cordy came to put him back on track…and how Cordy died. He told him about the taking out of that inner circle and how afterward that pissed off the Senior Partners so badly that they brought on the final battle.

Wesley had remained silent through all of this and when Angel had finished he put the key in the lock of the cage then opened it. He looked at Angel. “My advice to you is to leave here without a word and don’t look back. Understood?”

Angel just looked at Wes as he stepped out of the cage and then swallowed hard. Saying nothing, he turned to the sewer access. He knelt down and opened it. He looked back to Wesley on more time then dropped down into the dark maw of underground Los Angeles.
Chapter Eighteen

Angel had left the hotel. He didn’t even take a thing. After he and Wesley talked, he turned to the sewer access and left. He’d been holding up on Merl’s old place. He’d taken out a couple nests while down here then he finally decided he couldn’t do this. He found himself coming up in the garage level of Wolfram & Hart.

He made his way up, still having the charm. He was using Wolfram & Hart’s own mojo against them. He paused before he stepped off the elevator. Glancing around, he saw Eve. She was back from the dead. Good ol’ W&H did like to keep those employees. He walked on, heading for Lilah’s office, not stopping to ask Eve a thing.

Eve saw Angel though and it was enough to send her into a panic. She had to wait for W&H to grow her a new eye so for now, she had on a rather stylish eye patch. She got up from her desk, backing away. For the rest of her existence, she would also bear a mark around her neck, fingerprints against her skin that had crushed her windpipe. She hit the button for the intercom, frantic now as she tried to contact Lilah.

Angel stopped and turned to Eve. “I’m sorry.”

“Ms. Morgan…Ms. Morgan…Angelus…he’s…” She barely got that out before he turned and spoke to her. She was so low on the ladder, no one bothered to tell her that Angel had his soul restored. She backed herself up against the wall. “Just please, leave me alone. You don’t know what you have to go through for them to bring you back!”

“Eve,” he said, stepping towards her, “Angelus is gone now. He’s locked away. What happened to you…that’s what Wolfram & Hart has been wanting to release for so long.”

She reached into her desk drawer and she held up a cross. She kept it in front of her. She had no depth perception now so it was hard to tell how close he was to her. She held it out though. “Don’t come near me.” She shook the cross at him.

That cross caused him to stop and look away from her. Soul or not, the sight still pained the demon in him. “I need to talk to Lilah.”

“She’s…She’s in her office.” Eve stammered. She wasn’t sure if this was some kind of trick or not. But Lilah could deal with him. Eve was taking her break starting now. She started to inch away from him, moving along the wall. She already had one eye patch because of him, she didn’t want two.

He turned from her and headed on to the office. When there he entered. Did he knock? Nope. He never did before, why should he start now?

Lilah had gotten the heads up from the frantic intercom message from Eve. She was waiting for Angel to show up. Its not as if she didn’t have oodles of reports about what he had been up to for the past week. Given that she was no longer completely human, all the damage from Angelus had been healed. Her office looked like nothing was wrong at all, except for the missing Orbs. “How is sewer life treating you, Angel? Kind of a change from being family man for a day?”

“Open the portal and send me back,” he said to her, eyes not blinking. His expression was one chiseled from stone.

“What’s wrong? You don’t like it here?” Lilah sat back in her chair. There was a small part of her that hoped it would come down to this. She hadn’t actually believed Angel was going to do it though.

“This isn’t where I belong,” he told her. “I belong back in my own world to suffer whatever fate that offers.” He moved closer to her desk. “I would have thought this is what you’d want. Angel here dead and well, me gone since Angelus didn’t work out too well for you.”

Lilah turned back to her computer. Watching Angel in pain was like every birthday, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah rolled into one. She typed on her computer, sending out emails so it could be done. “You might be surprised what I want, Angel.” She glanced up at him and then went back to typing. She was going to save this and goad him to the very edge. “Not sleeping to well I take it? What’s wrong? You reach for her and she isn’t there?”

“Don’t push me, Lilah,” he warned her. “Don’t mistake on this side like your counter did that I won’t kill a human…especially when she’s not totally human. And yes, I know they’ll bring you back but you could have some badly mangled parts to go along with the deal.”

“Did you not see the title on the door? I won’t end up like Eve if you decide to start removing body parts. You also must think I got stupider since the last time you were here. I have new…precautions.” She was speaking to her computer though as she typed. “Why the change of heart?”

“I don’t know,” Angel said as he moved to look out the window of the office, “maybe because someone gave Wes some super edited files of my life as it was. They were more of a Reader’s Digest version and sprinkling in a few things of Wolfram & Hart’s own so that no one would believe me.”

“Those were your choices. Can’t blame us because they were the wrong ones. You think you are the only Angel to have gone that route? Granted, most of the time it doesn’t end in Apocalypse but we are gaining the edge.” She turned in her chair to look at him. She had expected him to fight, not just roll over and die. Then again, she only knew this Angel from his files. “How does next Tuesday sound?”

“I’m sure Wolfram & Hart didn’t even want what happened,” the vampire spoke still looking out at the city. “We did take out The Circle of the Black Thorn.” He was silent for a long moment then turned and looked at her. “If that’s my only choice.”

She chuckled. He really was far stupider than the Angel that was here. “And you think there isn’t another group of evil just waiting to take their place? Other groups in other cities? You think too small, that is your problem. As far as choices…” She shrugged her shoulders. “Ball is really in your court. Technically, you are still an employee of Wolfram and Hart. Our services are available to you. Oooh, I know, how about altering reality again? That seemed to go so well before.”

“Oh, I know,” he agreed. “But the mere fact they were taken out so easily by a group that was so far beneath their power and status.”

“You are amazing at rationalization.” She merely shook her head. Even after Jasmine, he didn’t realize that no matter what, he was just a puppet in his own world. He was so easy to manipulate. “Everything you touch gets destroyed. My advice, leave here before you end up putting your special brand of tinge on the people here.”

Angel just glared at Lilah. He finally turned on his heels and headed for the door. He didn’t want to even look at her any longer. She’d take anything he would say or any part of his history and twist it.

“Don’t you want the address and time?” She just grinned. She got him so annoyed that he turned and left. That was definitely rewarding after what Angelus had done to her.

He stopped at the door and said over his shoulder, “I would have figured it could find me.”

She wrote something down on the back of her business card and handed it to him. “This isn’t like going to Magic Mountain. It takes time, preparation, and a whole lot of magic.” She waited for him to take the card, looking up at him. “Truth hurts, doesn’t it, Angel?”

Taking the card, he said no more. He just went on out to make his way back down to the sewers. Maybe this dimension would be better off without him and just maybe back in his own he could pick up the fight, even if he had to do it by himself.

—-Next Tuesday—-

Lilah waited patiently near the bridge for Angel. Lined on one side were three dark SUVs. She had brought back up in case Angel decided that he wanted to play around. Standing next to her was a Kobash demon, large and assuming as he hulked near her. She was on her cellphone, making sure that everything was set up. The scene should be all too familiar to Angel. She had picked it on purpose, the site where he lost Connor. Then again, mystical veils and rips in them were easier to find and use again in the same locations. She only hoped in the days that had elapsed between their meeting and now, he hadn’t changed his mind.

She started to pace a bit as she spoke on her phone. Something wasn’t right here and she knew it. He seemed to be too stupid to realize it wasn’t this easy. Would he be smart enough to figure out that she had set him up? She wasn’t sending him back to his dimension. He had brought forth Hell on Earth and the Senior Partners couldn’t be more pleased. Angel was a thorn in Wolfram and Hart’s side in any and all dimensions. She had her orders. Either send him to the surface of the sun or to a Hell dimension. She opted for the Hell dimension. An eternity of torture seemed far more gratifying than an instant death.

Angel came walking up that street after coming up from the sewer just a block away. As he walked his duster stirred in the wake of the breeze. He knew the place all to well. He stopped seeing the vehicles and what looked like a small army. He glanced from side to side as the security noted him and they leveled their weapons. They were still thinking firearms would stop him. He only shook his head at them as he stepped up to where Lilah stood.

Lilah hung the phone up when she saw Angel and slipped it back into her jacket pocket. “Just a little protection. Makes our contacts feel a little better when they are dealing with vampires.” If the armed men shot him enough, he lost enough blood, wouldn’t be too hard to get in to stake him. “This is one of our Shamans. Kobash demon. I am sure you know all about them. Shall we?” She was eager for this. Sending Angel to a Hell dimension made her tingle, in all the right places.

Angel looked over at the demon and said nothing. In fact, he said nothing to anybody. He just stepped past Lilah to the same spot that he had laid on the ground mourning the loss of his son. He was ready to go back to his world and face what had been wrought, good or bad.

Lilah tried to hide her grin and it came out as a small looking smile. She stood off to the side, watching this with a suppressed glee. At long last the Senior Partners were finally allowing a more hands on approach to Angel. She could not be happier about it.

The Kobash demon raised its huge tree like arms, chanting low to open the portal. His fingers moved through the air, manipulating the very fabric of reality. Slowly, a small portal began to form, like a whirlpool in the air. As it began to grow, the air around the demon, portal, and Angel stirred.

Concealed in the shadows and behind the SUVs of Wolfram and Hart, the Angel Investigations Team was crouched and ready for attack. They must have gone over the plan a thousand times. The armed guards would be left to Gunn, Faith, Gwen, and the Slayerettes. Connor would take care of the Kobash demon. Wes would close the portal. And Cordelia, as much as she hated this plan, would be charged with getting Angel out of the way so he wasn’t sucked into the portal. Cordelia’s hand flexed around her short sword. She hated it when they brought guns. It was just so…wrong. But they would be no match against the sneak attack of the team. The Slayers against a group of humans, even with guns, the humans were toast.

Angel stared at the opening portal. His coat tails whipped around him. A slight frown crossed his features. Something was out of place. Something…or things…that shouldn’t be here. Then he started seeing what was on the other side of the portal…. And it wasn’t Earth in any incarnation. He quickly looked at Lilah realizing what was going on. He had been betrayed. His features changed. His brows became thick, as well as cheekbones and his eyes turned yellow. His nose broadened and his teeth became lethal, sharp fangs.

Kobash opened the portal wider, stepping back and allowing the pull of the portal to drag Angel towards it. He had a job to do and ridding the world of a vampire was one he was more than happy to do.

Cordelia watched as the portal opened more. Her eyes were kept on Angel. She turned her head towards Wes, waiting for his signal. As soon as he started chanting to close it, that is when the entire group would come out. It was a shame Wes couldn’t find a spell that would just close it. No, it had to expand it first before it contracted on itself. So that meant she still had to get Angel out of the damn way.

Wesley knelt and placed the crystal down in front of him. He looked at the portal trying to judge when it would be at its apex.

Angel’s yellow eyes locked on Lilah. He let out a roar not unlike that of an angry tiger. He went to lunge for her but he felt like something had him and was pulling at him.

Cordelia saw that Wesley had started. She nodded to Gunn so that he and the girls could move around the SUVs to take care of the armed guards. She waited a moment more before gesturing to Connor next. She moved around behind Wes, giving him an encouraging pat on the back. She waited in the shadows for Wes to give the final signal so she could tackle Angel out of the way.

Connor moved as close as he could to the demon. He would just as soon let that bastard that was trying to be his father have his fate but he’d miss out on a good fight, one like he’d not had in a while. Running the school took up a lot of his demon killing time. Now the girls were going to see their headmaster in action first hand.

Angel reached out to grab Lilah. He felt, by god, if he was going to be sucked into this he wasn’t going alone, but his fingers barely brushed her jacket. He was being drug backwards still by unseen hands.

Wesley pulled a small pouch that held bone dust. He started the chant and as he did he started making a triangle with the crystal in the center and the point of it pointed at the portal.

“Wes…” Cordelia’s voice was barely a whisper. “How is that spell coming?” She could see how anxious Connor was. She could see how anxious the girls were. Nobody wanted anyone sucked into a portal though. The timing was everything with this and after so many years of working together, this team had it down.

Wesley held up a finger and kept chanting. The crystal started to glow yellow and shake. He kept up the chanting and then suddenly the crystal shot for the portal and at the same time he pointed at Cordelia.

Cordelia ran when he pointed at her, not taking the time to notice that at the same time, the group of Slayers and their leaders had busted out from behind their cover to fight the armed guards. She was just glad that she bought some new running shoes for this. She had the advantage with the element of surprise, tackling Angel to the dusty ground and away from the ever-expanding portal. “Stay down!” She yelled at him, just in case he tried to fight her.

Connor sprung at the Kobash. His foot made contact with the back of the demon’s head just at the neck. It had been way too long since he had a party like this, playing the soft spoken school administrator wasn’t fun, but it served a purpose.

Angel was knocked to the ground but it didn’t stop him being drug towards the portal. His fingers dug for a hold to stop him. Cordelia tried holding him but in her effort, she too was being pulled. He caught hold on a small bush and his arm went protectively around Cordy. He held with all his vampiric strength.

Cordelia could feel herself moving as Angel was drug closer to the portal. Wes had warned her about this. The pull was less on the ground though than it would have been if Angel were standing up, buying them more time. Her head turned, she kept her eyes on Wes to make sure that portal was getting closed. She didn’t really want to spend the best years of her life in a Hell dimension with a manpire she hated.

The crystal shot into the heart of the portal and then a rumble sounded from within. What sounded like a scream erupted and then the portal started closing in on itself, getting smaller and smaller.

The Slayers had their hands full as they fought off the armed guards. Lilah watched the scene for about a half second before she realized that it was a lost cause. She gestured with her chin towards two of the guards before she slipped back into one of the SUVs. She gave a final glance to the fight erupting before the SUV sped off into the night, leaving the other Wolfram and Hart employees to fend for themselves against the Angel Investigations Team.

The demon hurdled forward when Connor kicked it. It growled and turned around. Bringing one large arm up, it smacked the young man across the face and sent him flying towards the rows of vehicles. It turned back in time to see the portal starting to close. It growled deeply, raising its arm to try to force the portal open again.

Connor hit the fender of the closest SUV but came up. That one was going to need bodywork. He pulled out the crossbow pistol and fired for the base of the demon’s head where the neck and skull meet in the back.

The demon turned and knocked away the crossbow bolt before it could connect with its neck. He roared and stalked towards Connor. Grabbing the grill from one of the SUVs, he yanked it off and swung it at the young man.

Angel pulled Cordelia up toward the shrub. “What the hell are you doing,” he said to her over the roar of the portal.

When Wesley heard the sound of the crystal starting the implosion he stood, shouted on last phrase in a long dead demonic tongue. The portal swirled, clouded in the center. It actually gave off a sound that sounded like a dying beast and finally in one big light show it vanished. Wes looked at the place where it was. This particular portal would never open again. The crystal sealed it forever. This had been the major argument he gave to help Angel.

Cordelia kept her eyes on Wesley and the portal, going back and forth. She finally looked down at Angel. “I had a vision.” That is all she said in matter of conversation. It had been a huge fight about it but at the end, it came down to keeping the mission, as Fred had pointed out. This Angel was helpless against being sucked into a Hell dimension. Plus, a fight with Wolfram and Hart was always welcome.

When the pull of the portal stopped Angel was pissed now. He got up and saw the demon advancing on Connor. Head on confrontation with a Kobash wasn’t a good idea. He let out a growl then leaped for the creature landing on its back, grabbing its head to give it a twist to break his neck. This was Connor…it didn’t matter what dimension he was still his son.

Connor fired another bolt just as Angel jumped the Kobash. It was one freaking’ ugly thing as well as stank. This was one time he wished he had the thing of not having to breathe like a vampire.

Cordelia got up when Angel did and she watched him go for the demon. Connor was going to be pissed. That was his demon to kill. Most of the armed guards were taken care of and the Slayers were finishing with the few who had stayed to fight instead of running. She looked over to Wes with a frown. All of her inner thoughts were reflected with that one disapproving expression. “I told you this was a bad idea.”

The demon felt the vampire land on its back. It turned its head to keep Angel from breaking its neck, making sure he didn’t have a good hold. It stumbled back as the crossbow bolt hit it in the shoulder, causing it to drop the grill it was using as a weapon.

Angel hoped this Connor was as observant as the one he knew. That armored plating of the demon’s stomach wasn’t going to let a bolt get through. But Angel still had hold of the thing with all his strength and his knee went to the middle of its back forcing it to arch and exposing the tender flesh between the plating.

The demon did so as the vampire put a knee to its back. With no choice, it arched back. It pulled the crossbow bolt from its shoulder and reached back to stab Angel in the back, just below his shoulder blade.

Connor saw this and took aim. His bolt shooting for that soft flesh. Connor had never fought a Kobash and so little was written about them he hadn’t found how to kill one.

Wesley looked to Cordy. “Maybe not,” he told her. “We did succeed in closing the portal on one hell dimension.”

Hidden under that plating was a small round spot, about the size of a quarter. It was almost like a target, white against the Kobash’s gray skin. With Connor’s aim, it hit directly. It was a power source. The demon crumpled, falling to its knees and then forward. But at least it had gotten one good blow in with the crossbow bolt to Angel’s shoulder.

Angel clenched his fanged teeth when the bolt struck but he kept his hold. When he felt the demon crumple he let go and stumbled back. He looked down at the bolt that had been put through him. It had almost got its target, his heart. The tip of it was out his chest.

Cordelia moved to Wes, knowing that Connor could take care of the demon. She hadn’t intended to tackle Angel that hard and it had made her hurt enough that she didn’t want to fight. The Slayers were gathering around as well as the Kobash demon died. They were trading stories of the fight, different versions, and patching each other up. Cordelia watched the scene briefly before looking back to Wes. “You okay?”

Wesley looked at Cordy and nodded. “Tired. Takes a lot out of me when I do a spell of this magnitude.” He looked it. His eyes showed bags under them and he leaned back on the nearest SUV.

Cordelia glanced at the scene from the corner of her eye. She saw Angel stumbling back, the bolt sticking out of his back. There was a part of her that wanted to go to him, pull the bolt out, and heal him. Her heart hurt because he did look like her dead husband. It only brought back all the pain and loss she felt. She looked back to Wes. “I’ll drive you back home.”

Connor looked up at the vampire. There was no emotion on his face. He did approach him. He stepped around and pulled hard taking that bolt out but not being gentle about it either. He tossed it aside then he walked off calling to the slayers.

Cordelia’s concern was for Connor. She had seen him tossed into that SUV. She reached out to touch his shoulder when he finally came back over to the group. “Didn’t get too banged up, did you?” She gave him a smile. “You still have to take the girls out to that demon bar tomorrow to teach them how to get information.”

Connor stopped and looked at Cordelia. “I’m fine,” he said. “I still don’t see why we can’t dust his ass.” He looked back to Angel who now stood alone over what was left of the body of the Kobash as it liquified into what looked like an oil puddle.

“You know why, Connor. We already talked about this.” Her voice was low. The suggestion had come up along with the one of just letting this Angel rot in the Hell dimension. They had all run options until they were blue in the face. For some reason, The Powers wanted him saved so they saved him. She looked to the girls, who were too excited from their fight to settle down for a bit. She looked back to Connor. “How about we swing by, get Lillian and the twins, and everyone can out for breakfast? Chicken and waffles?” She bumped her hip gently against Connor’s. This was a success, they deserved breakfast. “We have to drop old man Wyndam-Pryce off though. He can’t keep up with us big dogs anymore.”

“Old,” Wesley spoke up. “I am not old. The fact that it takes so much energy to direct magic such as this…” He paused looking at Cordelia and Connor’s face. Connor had managed a slight smirk.

“Are you saying that you are up for some Roscoe’s with the rest of us then? Maybe some of that sludge they call coffee would do you good. Fred can meet us there. We can have a little victory party for once again kicking Wolfram and Hart’s ass.” Cordelia cupped her hands around her mouth, shouting towards Gunn, Faith, and the gathered Slayers. “Roscoe’s! Victory celebration!” She lowered her hands just in time to see Gunn nod his head and Faith start to eagerly load the girls into the van. Faith was like a horse with a carrot sometimes. They could motivate her to do anything with the promise of food.

Wesley looked to Angel now then back to Cordy and Connor. “What about him,” he asked.

Connor headed for his vehicle. “Leave him. I’ll meet you guys there.”

Wesley looked to Cordelia. “You know we might not have killed that Kobash had it not been for him. We’ve never faced one and it seems that in his dimension he has.”

Cordelia looked at Angel for a moment and then back to Wesley with a frown. “I am not inviting him out to our victory celebration…” She looked back to Angel again. She didn’t approach him though, but merely called out. “Hey…” She didn’t want to say his name. Angel was a name reserved for her husband, not this imposter.

Angel looked up when he realized that somebody directed their voice to him and not about him. Either they forgot, as often they did in his dimension, about his vampire hearing or they just didn’t care.

“Uh…thanks for helping with the demon.” Cordelia looked back to Wes, a questioning expression on her features. Was that going to be good enough for Wes? She said thanks so could they please leave now?

“You’re welcome,” Angel replied. “Just, well, Kobash demons are not really common and I didn’t know if any of you had faced one before.” He didn’t want to have Wes speak up now to invite him to this breakfast so he added. “I’m going to wait here at least until close to dawn, make sure he doesn’t pull himself back together. They can sometimes do that. But he was expending a lot of his energy on that portal so he probably is done for. But just to be safe.”

Cordelia frowned. He could have said anything at that moment and she would have frowned. She didn’t hear the one thing she wanted and that was a thank you from him for saving his ass. She just looked to Wes, her tone flat and cold as ice. “Let’s go. I don’t need a demonology lesson.” She started walking for her own vehicle, waiting for Wes to follow.

Wesley frowned slightly also. “We just also saved you from a Hell dimension. You might wish to show a little more gratitude.” With that he turned and followed Cordelia back to his Cherokee.

—One week later—-

Angel leapt over the wall that surrounded the grounds that was Cyvus Vail’s estate. He paused a moment, trying to sense anything that might be around. He was determined he was going to help Cordy, Wes, and the others to find out who it is that is heading this group targeting the school and the slayers. The vampire started moving towards the old mansion.

The symbol in the sewer he’d found matched one he had seen on Wes’ desk. He was going to find out what it meant and when he did, then he’d find the group. But he needed something first and the old wizard he knew could help, if the old git was so inclined.

Angel had come close to spending eternity someplace he really didn’t wish to vacation in, Hell dimensions. He’d been there, done that already. But the team had shown up and saved him. He hadn’t expected that. He decided he owed them now and he was going to pay his debt.

With the wall breached, the first round of guards came at Angel. They were coming at Angel with guns drawn. It seemed that Wolfram and Hart wasn’t the only evil in this dimension that preferred firearms. Most of these guards were human, some vampire though. Angel was going to be in for a fight if he wanted to see Cyvus Vail.

Angel paused on seeing the threat. He assessed his situation. “I knocked but nobody answered,” he said, not making a threatening move yet.

“Master Vail has been waiting for you, sir.” One of the guards replied, standing stiffly next to his other counterparts. They were military trained but not by any military of this world. The guards waited in a defensive arch around Angel to see how he would react.

Angel looked at each of them in turn then to the one that spoke. “Then let’s not keep the old fella waiting any longer.”

Turning on his heel, one of the guards broke away from the group. Once Angel started moving, they all fell into a formation around him, surrounding him. They had very strict orders on how to deal with the vampire. The guard that had spoken opened the door while one in the behind Angel muttered to himself. “He ain’t so tough. Don’t know why we all had to be here. There was a game on tonight.”

Angel heard this but he just kept walking. He’d been here before several times in his own dimension and it seemed it was still the same here as there. He could smell the old wizard. His medicines both mystical and medical keeping him going, his decaying body. As always there he was in his large parlor, so like a throne room.

Cyvus Vail sat in his large, elegant throne, alone in the empty room save for his IV stand and oxygen tank. He was the same here as any other dimension, red skinned with straggly, thin white hairs covering his head. He was wheezing, even though he had yet to speak. He raised his hand feebly, the guards parting into a U-shape to allow Angel to step forward. The one behind Angel muttered to his companion again. “Maybe we can kill him when he leaves.”

Just as the one guard finished his outspoken, wishful thought he found a stake in his heart and just the bare glimpse of the vampire with a soul holding it. The guard exploded into a cloud of dust. Angel turned away and back to the old wizard. He stepped towards him. “Vail,” he said keeping his eyes on the wizard almost like nothing had just occurred.

The rest of the guards grabbed their weapons and stayed in formation around Angel. The old demon kept his eyes on Angel’s before he dismissed the guards with a wave of his hand. When he spoke, he wheezed his words out. “I was wondering…when you would arrive. I am pleased to see you only killed one of my guards in this world.” He hinted that he had the knowledge of what had occurred in Angel’s home dimension.

“The night is still young,” Angel said. “Besides, I didn’t come here to fight.” He glanced around a moment then back to Vail. “Seems some things don’t change no matter where one goes…Well, except that you’re still alive.”

Vail rasped out a chuckle with Angel’s assessment of the situation. “I may still yet be alive in your world too. There are always…measures in place…my dear boy.”

“How about we keep the checks and balances going then,” the vampire stepped over and picked up a very unassuming little capped vase. “How goes it with Sahjhan here since, well, Connor hasn’t took care of him for you?” He looked back over to Vail. He was trying to test the waters to see what bargaining chips he had.

It was a good thing that little vase was not the one that housed Sahjhan. It was too small. However, Vail understood what the vampire was getting at. He reached over to adjust a knob on his IV. “You must want something then. And you know my price. Shall we skip formalities?”

“Probably,” he agreed. “Well, there’s that problem and the pesky one of me knowing all about the Circle…And for some reason, somebody is still wanting me alive. This leads me to believe, now that I’ve thought, there’s a bigger forest here.”

Vail struggled to get up from his throne. His whole body shook as he tried to rise. “To make the same mistakes you did in your world. There is more to lose here, though.” Vail lifted his hand, his palm laid flat and open. “I can show you, what has happened because you wanted to go on a suicide mission.”

“Actually I’m sure there’s more use to the information of the who’s who of evil society then the threat of my killing you all,” Angel said. “Otherwise why all the secret enclave stuff. I mean, why not just be a Mason then?” When Vail put out that hand he looked at it, ancient and gnarled. He wasn’t quite ready to trust Vail until they had boundries laid down. It would be his luck he’d turn his back and Cyvus would throw some Hellfire at him.

“I told you once before. I am not the sort of man you want as an enemy. You have so much more to lose here.” Vail moved slowly across the room, pulling his IV stand with him. Each of his breaths was labored, wheezing as he moved with a great degree of difficulty. “Now why do you want in exchange for your…son helping me take care of my little problem?”

Angel moved just a step behind Vail. It was a good thing vampires didn’t have to breathe. When was the last time this old fart ever showered? “I want the memories of the Angel from this dimension,” he said.

Vail turned to regard Angel now. “That is quite a feat you are asking. Building memories is one thing.” Vail paused. It wouldn’t be hard considering how powerful he was. He knew also now that Angel had undergone the little spell to merge demon and soul forever. He was weighing the risks with the rewards.

“I’ve studied up on it a bit, Vail,” the vampire said. “The mechanics isn’t that difficult, especially since they come from an identical me.”

“You bring me the boy and he takes care of that nasty cur and you will have your memories.” Vail replied.

“That’s not going to be easy,” Angel admitted. “Right now, he’d just as soon stake me as to look at me.” He was trying to think what he could do to convince Connor to come to the old wizard.

“That isn’t my problem.” The old demon wheezed out once more. He had forgotten why he got up in the first place so he made his way slowly back to his chair.

Angel started for the door to leave. “I didn’t say I couldn’t get him here, just its going to be hard.” He got to thinking that maybe this Connor would accept the challenge openly to kill Sahjhan. He hated prophecies. He’d gladly taken on the demon himself.

Vail lowered himself back into that throne-like chair once he got to it. “And within the week if you could.” Vail gave another wheezing chuckle as Angel departed from his estate.

Angel didn’t pause as he found his way out of the house. He was heading for the same section of wall where he had come over. Why not? The GTX was parked closer there. He was trying to think how he could approach Connor about this so that the young man would listen.

—-Near dawn—-

Fred sat in the little diner all alone. If the gang knew that she had been communicating with Angel, they weren’t going to like it. The general consensus was to let him rot. Or rather, the most vocal consensus was that. Cordelia and Connor had made their feelings perfectly clear. Fred had a feeling that Wesley was waffling though. She smiled at the thought of him. She could sway him yet if she could just get enough evidence. She could win him over with logic. She looked down into her coffee, wondering why she even bothered to order it. She was too nervous to eat or drink. With Fred, that meant she was really nervous.

The vampire was there at her table looking down at her. He cleared his throat. Fred was a good soul. Kind and well, as corny as it sounded, an old soul. It was nice seeing her still alive and, well, not blue.

Fred jumped when he was upon her and clearing his throat. He could be a sneaky one, that was for sure. She looked up at him. “Angel, gosh, scared me. Need to go about announcing yourself a little better. I almost spilled my coffee all over.” Fred pointed down to the full mug and the spill over from her jolting that was now on the table. She reached for the napkins so she could clean the mess up.

“Sorry,” he said as he slipped into the seat across from her. It was the very early morning, not many in the place. It was littered with bums that had just enough for the price of a cup of coffee or truck drivers waiting for the dispatcher to call, typical creatures of the night that weren’t necessarily of the supernatural kind.

Fred started to clean up the little mess that her jolting had made. “Its okay. It’s just coffee. And they have free refills here. I can spill all I want all over the table and they will just keep filling it up. Though, don’t think they would much like people pouring coffee all over the tables.” She looked thoughtful for the moment, as if she was contemplating that.

“No, probably not,” he said as he folded his hands on the table and looked down at them. The waitress came over with a cup of coffee and placed it down in front of him. When she asked if he wanted to order, he looked up and shook his head. “No thanks. Coffee is fine.” He looked to Fred to see if she wanted anything.

Fred had to admit she was pretty hungry. She was less nervous now that Angel had arrived. She ordered some pancakes and bacon for now. She would probably put away the three pancakes that came and order yet another stack. For a girl so small, it was amazing where she put all that food. She waited for the waitress to leave before she spoke again. “Thanks for meeting me here. I am sure you have your own thing going on now.” Fred reached into a bag in the seat next to her. She was rummaging around for something.

“I’ve always got time,” he said. “One of the advantages to being immortal.” He just gave a sad bit of a smile. He picked up the cup of coffee and took a drink of the hot, steaming liquid. Coffee was one of the few normal things he could taste. Maybe it was the acid or something, who knows.

Fred came back out with a small photo book. She knew that he was lonely. If it were up to her, she would have welcomed him right back with open arms. They had lost their own Angel but here was another one. It wasn’t the same, no and it never would be but still, it could be good. “I thought maybe you could use some pictures to put up where you are staying. Since you came here with nothing but the clothes on your back. I brought you some clothes too! Had to wait for everyone to be gone so I could sneak up and get them.”

Angel took the photos then started looking at them. Sometimes he wondered if letting so many people in his life or unlife had been a good thing. “Fred…thanks,” He didn’t know what else to say.

Fred watched him for a moment. She saw the expression on his face. What she said next was blurted out in a typical fashion. “Charles doesn’t believe the files. I heard him talking to Faith about it at the school. He thinks this is…well…he said bullshit. He and Faith don’t see why you can’t just come and help.” She had to do it. She had to give him that hope. He looked so utterly crushed and it was killing her.

“I have been,” he said to her. “I’ve just been in the shadows. Those vamps last night…There were twice as many as you guys could see.”

“I think Faith knows you have been shadowing her when she takes the Slayerettes out.” Fred smiled. “That is what we call them, the Slayerettes. Most of them are in their twenties though so doesn’t really fit. And it’s always sad when the Council assigns them someplace else after they graduate. Faith is so good with them, like their big sister. Maybe…maybe you should go talk to Charles and Faith. Charles is still upset about his truck though so I don’t know if that is a good idea.”

Angel shook his head. “I can’t, Fred,” he said. “I can’t as long as Connor and Cordelia…. What happened happened because of emotions running crazy and…” He took another drink. “But…I do know a way I can help.”

Fred sighed because Angel really could be stubborn sometimes. She grabbed the bag up and put it on the table between them. She brought him enough clothes for a week. “I put their address in there. They don’t live at the hotel. They have a nice place near the Academy. Gwen’s gone to Japan for the rest of the month but she isn’t around much anyway. I think it would be good if you just talked to them. You aren’t going to get anybody besides me on your side if you wait around for Connor and Cordy.”

“Look,” Angel shifted in his seat, “I need to talk to Wes. I know once I’ve explained things to him he’ll understand. I don’t know if Gunn could reason with Connor on what we need the way Wes could.” The vampire looked to the bag. He pulled it over and sat it down from the table. It was so strange…they were his clothes but they weren’t. And it hadn’t slipped him that the hotel could easily be his and he would no longer have to live in the sewers…but Angel would never put them out.

“Charles won’t be able to reason with Connor but Wes isn’t going to listen to you unless someone besides me talks to him about it. Right now, it’s two against one in that hotel. I don’t want to gang up on Cordy cause she is hurting. A lot. Nobody wants to say anything to her about it. But it would be lot easier for me to get Wes to talk to you if I could get some of the others behind him. I am doing this alone.” She was too. She seemed to be the only one defending him outright. If only he had any idea of the emotional plea she gave to them after Cordy’s vision.

“Okay, I’ll talk to Faith,” he said giving in. He knew what Fred was doing. She wanted her family back together. If she was anything like his Fred, if something in the misfit family went wrong she was all about fixing it to keep the constant in her life after leaving Pylea.

“Might want to think about getting Charles some new headlights too.” She gave Angel a bit of a grin. She was happy that he was at least going to try. He was right. Their Angel might be gone and it did break her heart. But after all her calculations, all the experiments she had been doing, this Angel was here for a reason. She just seemed to be the only one who could see that.

“I’m lucky I don’t have to replace the whole truck,” he replied to that. Angelus could have done so much more but the evil vampire always considered himself an artist at what he did and sometimes just a little damage delivered a better message then total destruction.

“Don’t know how your Charles was but that truck…If he had to pick between that truck and his women, he would be sleeping in the truck.” Fred laughed as she made a joke. It was a shame that the joke was the truth. Her pancakes arrived, as she was mid-laugh so it was cut short so she could eat.

“Yeah, well, it’s a guy thing,” Angel intoned. Well, who was he to say different to how Gunn felt about his truck? That GTX…But the car sat over in the hotel garage. He felt if he tried to take it, Cordelia would have staked him on site.

Fred was too busy stuffing her mouth with pancakes to speak anymore. She finally swallowed a big bite and looked at him. “If you want to see the kids, I take them some nights to watch them. Used to be a lot more but if Cordy wants to go out and fight, someone has to watch them so we always alternate. I can tell her I want to take them to give her some time to herself.”

“I’d like that, but I don’t want to get you in the middle of all this.” He finished his coffee and picked up the bill the waitress had left.

“I am already in the middle of it. I made my choice. There is a reason we can’t send you back and there was a reason that you were sent here. I was doing the calculations, figuring it all out. You came here the instant that our Angel…died.” Fred still had a hard time saying it. It would always hurt her.

Angel looked over at her. “I know,” he said in a hushed tone. “The Powers have reasons they do things. I doubt those files Wolfram & Hart turned over were the whole truth. Just enough truth to make it all seem possible. I did get side tracked but Cordelia was sent back to me to put me back to what I needed to do and that was to take down Evil, Inc. from the inside, which I did.”

He didn’t have to convince her. Fred knew that Angel could never do anything as bad as those files said. She trusted him here and in any other dimension. He had saved her after all. “I should go before Wes wonders where I got off to. I told him I was going to pick up some new physics books from a friend of mine. Now I just got to find some physics books.” Fred giggled softly.

Getting a napkin, he wrote down an address and handed it to her. “Tell Elijah I sent you,” he said. “Retired magician and now runs a new and used book store.”

She took the napkin from him with that trademark Fred smile. “I will call you when I can get the twins so you can see them.” Fred slipped out of the booth and made her way quickly out of the diner.

—Several days later—-

Faith sat next to Gunn in the small house that they shared. It was a good location. It was right near the Academy and it gave them enough room to just chill out. With Gwen’s substantial fortune to help them out, they always had the latest and greatest when it came to toys. Right now, they were busy playing a game system that had yet to be released on the domestic market. Gwen had picked it up during one of her trips to Japan. Faith nudged Gunn, not too hard, but just enough to get him to screw up so his racing car would spin off the track and into a group of spectators. “Ha! Beat you again. You suck at this, admit it.”

Gunn purposely moved too far to the side with the nudge so that he would go off the track. Faith was competitive. She wasn’t that bad with the racing games but he knew better than to go winning any shooters any time soon. “I let you win, girl. You want to go another round or you ready to order that pizza?”

“No… Not hungry for pizza.” Faith grinned at him and tossed the controller aside. She moved on the couch so that she was straddling him now. “I don’t have to share you, you don’t have to share me. How about we just enjoy our alone time?” Faith leaned down so that she could capture Gunn’s lips in a kiss. Something about winning these video games always put her in a mood for sex. It was just like slaying. She either wanted to have sex or put an All You Can buffet out of business.

Angel stood at the front door. Fred had said she’d talked to Gunn and that she thought he would be open to any ideas, especially to end the attacks on the slayers and the school. He rang the doorbell.

Faith paused when she heard the doorbell. She groaned as she started to move off Gunn’s lap. “So much for a hot time in the old city tonight.” She reached down to grab the controller up again and playfully pushed Gunn in the side to go get the door.

Gunn groaned too as Faith left his lap. He was going to need a couple of seconds to recover from her attack on his mouth. Only girl he knew that could get him from zero to rock in three seconds flat. He called out, “Give us a minute. We’re naked up in here.”

“Really more information then I needed,” Angel said. That vampire hearing sometimes not so much a plus, or the other senses. The smell of sex was light but then when Faith was around there was always that lingering in the air.

Gunn was halfway through getting up from the couch when he heard the voice. He glanced to Faith, who merely shrugged her shoulders before going back to her game. She wasn’t going to be any help in this. She was too much like Fred in regards to Angel. He saved her and so she thought that maybe they needed to save him too. Gunn made it to the door finally and pulled it open. “Hey…” He gave Angel a nod of his head, not sure what else to do.

“Hey,” he said thinking how awkward this was. “Fred wanted me to come by and talk to you and Faith. But if this isn’t a good time…”

“Fred told me.” Gunn stopped as he looked back over at Faith. She was pretty much involved in her game now so it was as good at time as any. He looked back to Angel. “What you need?” He wasn’t about the invite the vampire in. He leaned against the frame of the door, arms crossed, as he looked at Angel.

“I need your help with Connor if you want to beat this group attacking the school and slayers.” Angel said.

“Thing about that is, can’t really go anywhere and help with anything cause someone busted out my headlights.” It was going to take a lot more than Angel showing up and telling them he needed their help if he wanted to get it.

“I’m sorry,” the vampire said. He could go into the argument that that wasn’t him but what would be the point. His Gunn always knew to separate Angelus from Angel though he knew it was hard for the human to do it. “I’ll get you some new headlights.”

Well, like Angel always said, atonement is a bitch. He was atoning for Angelus’ other crimes, why not some property damage too? “She could use a wash and a wax too. Right, Faith?” He turned so that he could look at his woman.

Faith knew what Gunn was up to. She put the controller on the couch and got up. She sauntered over to the door, standing a bit behind Gunn. “Wash and wax sounds good. I also lost my favorite crossbow rifle waiting on Angelus in that alley.”

“Gunn, since when did you start waxing that truck,” he asked. He’d never seen The Girl all shiny and slick. Then, he understood and he nodded. “Okay, wash and wax,” he said and now Faith was in on it. Two headlights that would normally cost about $20 was turning into something nearing over $500.

Gunn grinned. “Never did until now. But I think she deserves to feel beautiful after what happened.” Gunn slung his arm over Faith, still looking at Angel. “And either finding Faith’s crossbow, which would be prefer cause we got superstitions with it or getting her a new one.”

Faith leaned into Gunn when he threw his arm over her. She was grinning right on back to Angel. “Yeah, old man. I killed a master vampire with that thing. Took him down, right in the heart. Never missed a shot with it since. It’s got…sentimental value.”

“Okay, I’ll see if I can find it,” the old man replied. “Shouldn’t be that hard.” He was starting to get the feeling that even with all this, these two were enjoying what they were doing here. How often did they get to see Angel give in to demands and plead to them for help?

Gunn glanced to Faith for a moment, reading something in her eyes. They both stepped aside. “You coming in or what?” Gunn asked. He wasn’t sure if that was a good enough invitation or what. The intention was there and that seemed to work in the past. “You want a beer or something? Faith always keeps some in the fridge.”

Angel stepped on in. “Beer sounds good,” he said as he waited for them to show him to wherever they want to talk.

Faith went back to the living room, pulling up some couch while Gunn went off to the kitchen to get a beer. Faith called out to Angel, “We aren’t paying for air conditioning for the whole outside, Angel. Shut the door.”

Closing the door, he then followed Faith in. He found a chair and sat. He was a bit nervous here. He knew he was on thin ice around these people that were once his friends. The only real friends he’d ever had in his life or unlife. He glanced around at the place then looked to Faith. “Nice place.” And yes, he took note of the weapons on the wall. Most of them designed to kill vampires. Sort of made him as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full on rocking chairs. “Homey feeling.”

Faith watched him look around and she saw that his eyes settled on the weapons. She laid out on the couch, watching him. “You can chill out. If we wanted you dead, we wouldn’t have saved your ass. Or you know, would have staked you as soon as Gunn opened the door. Only ones you got to worry about killing you are the Three Stooges back at the hotel.”

Angel nodded. Normally the weapons wouldn’t have had the affect on him, but with what had happened lately, who knows what could take place. “I’m hoping I can sort of change their minds about that.”

“Hey, Wes can forgive me for torturing the hell out of him and almost killing him, think he can do it for you to. Can’t speak for the kid or Cordy though. Connor seems to be hating everyone but the blonde he shacked up with right now.”

Gunn came back out with three beers in hand. He handed the first to Faith and then one to Angel. He moved around the couch, lifting Faith’s legs up. He sat down and then put her legs in his lap. “Never thought the kid would turn on Barbie but looks like he has. Think everyone is feeling a bit of the blame but her the most.”

He looked at the bottle handed him a moment. “I’m hoping with what I want to do all this blaming can stop and a focus on what needs to be done can get done. As long as things are like they are its not going to happen.”

Gunn just shrugged his shoulders. Good luck with getting Cordelia to stop blaming herself. Gunn knew that Hell would freeze over first. He took a pull from the beer bottle and brought it down, resting it on the arm of the couch. “So what do you need us for?”

“Are there still the prophecies here,” Angel said after he took a drink. “In my dimension there was a passage in them that told of the son of two vampires will vanquish the mighty one called Sahjhan.”

Faith just chuckled at that. “You are asking the wrong people about prophecies. That is Wes’ department.” Faith chugged down her beer and put the empty bottle on the table.

“I know Sahjhan does exist here and Cyvus Vail is damn scared of him,” Angel said. “Those prophecies are what caused the fight with Wes and the rest of the team. He tried to kidnap Connor to protect him because Sahjhan altered the prophecies to read like I was going to kill my son.”

“Same thing happened here. Wes did kidnap Connor or did you fail to notice that he is grown up here?” Gunn raised a brow. If Angel was going to talk to them like they didn’t know what was what, then he was going to find himself out the door, headlights or not.

“I know,” he nodded. “I just wasn’t sure that the same prophecies were what did it…well, until I talked to Cyvus earlier this week.” He waited to see their reaction to him going to see the old wizard.

Gunn looked at Faith and then Faith looked at Angel. “Uh…are we suppose to know who this guy is?” It was clear by the expressions on their faces that neither of them had any clue who this Cyvus Vail was. In their world, Connor was never attacked with his fake family, thus sending them to Wolfram and Hart, thus sending Angel to Cyvus.

Looking from one to the other, he took another drink. Swallowing, he answered. “Vail is a very powerful old warlock,” Angel said. “The only thing he feared was the demon Sahjhan. Right now Sahjhan is contained in a special urn in Vail’s possession. The old buzzard is afraid the demon will find a way out and according to the correct prophecy only Connor can kill Sahjhan.

Another look passed between the couple. “What is the problem then?” Faith said as she looked back to Angel. “Just give us the address, we will send Connor over there to kill them both. No big deal.”

“I don’t want Vail killed,” he told them. “I’m certain that your Angel knew quite a bit about your attackers…possibly more then he told any of you. Vail can give me those memories in exchange for Connor killing Sahjhan.”

Gunn held his hand up, still holding his beer, holding up one finger along with it. “Wait, so you are telling me that you are going to trust some warlock to go playing around in your head. Your version stupider than our version or something?”

“Cyvus is a lot of things, evil being at the top,” Angel agreed. “But he also has honor. When he makes a deal and receives payment for that deal he goes by it unless he’s double crossed.”

Faith sat up a little bit now, looking at Angel. “You are going to have to count me out. Making deals with evil isn’t exactly on my list. And I don’t really like the idea of you having the memories of our Angel.” Faith swung her legs off Gunn’s lap. She leaned over to kiss him quickly. “I got to hit the head. That beer went right through me and I need to break the seal.”

He watched Faith leave then he looked to Gunn. “Gunn, how many more attacks? How many more of the girls are going to die if this isn’t stopped?” He was hoping that would hit home with Gunn. “There are other reasons not to take out Vail. What happened to my dimension is an example.”

Gunn leaned forward once Faith left, resting his elbows against his knees. “You are never going to get Faith to agree to go along with this. Hell, I can’t get her to agree to go along with this. And she is right about the memories thing. That is just straight up weird. You getting all the memories?”

“I know its weird,” he agreed. “From what I know it has to be all or none, especially since it’s after death thing. If I could think of any other way, Gunn…. But with them knowing they took The Champion out, they aren’t going to be sitting on their thumbs waiting for anybody to go through all the investigating again. They’ve probably closed the information net your Angel used to get what he had on them.” He meant closed as in killing the sources.

“This ain’t exactly going to help you with Cordy. She isn’t going to like it that some dude is running around with her husband and best friend’s memories. I sure as hell wouldn’t want the Faith from your world coming here, trying to replace my girl. I am just putting it all out there for you. And you really think you are going to be able to live with the memories of another man’s life all up in your head?”

“I’ve always had another man’s memories in my head,” Angel said referring to Angelus. “I’m looking at the greater need here. More girls dying and probably the academy itself is being destroyed. That is a small price to pay when you put the outcome on the scales with it.”

Gunn looked long and hard at Angel. “You tell me the truth, straight up now. And I will know if you are lying to me…its not just for the girls or the Academy, is it?”

The vampire gave Gunn that expressionless look of his. “I will admit other thoughts did cross my mind, Gunn. But I’m also not lying that first and foremost in this is the slayers and the Academy.”

“There is nothing wrong in saying that you want a happy life. Or that you want to remember a happy life. Just uh…be prepared is all I am saying. Angel…after Wes took care of the curse, Angel changed.” Gunn wasn’t sure exactly how to put it. Especially since he was sitting here, talking to Angel.

“I think I know that,” he said as he looked back at that beer bottle. “It’s a finer line to walk now that my soul is anchored. It’s actually more so then before.” He remembers when he took care of the vampire lookouts for the gang the other night. His demon took full charge of it and when done he had to have some serious downtime to be able to put the demon back.

“I don’t know how you were but here, Angel got kind of waffley sometimes when it came to things. But man, after that, it was like he knew what to do, wasn’t afraid of anything. And well…” Gunn voice trailed and he just gave Angel a look. “Let’s just say don’t go eating off any surfaces in the hotel without bleaching them down first. Got me?”

“I, yeah, its call vampire sex drive,” Angel commented. Oh, that he knew all too well and now that he could have happy moments without worry…his dreams when he slept were about Cordelia. Probably a good thing he was living in concrete cubicle that was basically sound proof.

Gunn paused and then called back to Faith. “Babygirl, you okay in there or did you fall in?” He shook his head and then looked back at Angel. “Did you already talk to Wes and Connor?”

Shaking his head he replied, “No. I probably can’t get within ten feet of Connor without him trying to stake me. Wesley…I don’t know how he’d take this.”

Gunn got up from the couch when he didn’t hear a response from Faith. “She probably fell asleep in the tub or something. I will talk to them for you. You got a phone or anything?”

“No. Just leave word with Fred,” he told Gunn. “She…well, she knows how to get in touch with me.” He stood up also. “Thanks for the beer. Probably best if I get along. I’m sure you and Faith want to get some sleep.”

“Yeah…sleep.” Gunn chuckled when Angel said that. He should know Faith better than that. Gunn started to head back towards the bathroom, where he knew he would find Faith waiting for him. Angel could see himself out.

The vampire turned and headed on out the door. He had several hours before dawn so might as well put them to good use keeping the streets safe for the people of LA.
Chapter Nineteen

Fred had managed to talk to Cordy and convinced her that she needed a night off from the kids. After taking them to see a Disney cartoon, they were now in the park, enjoying an ice cream cone each. Kat sat slightly off by herself on the swings while Ian was trying to see if he could climb the spider bars and keep his ice cream in his hand. Fred sat on a nearby bench, an eye on the two but also keeping an eye out for a certain vampire.

Angel came out of the shadows, doing that vampire thing of now-you-see-him-now-you-don’t. It was such second nature now so he forgot now and then. “They look happy,” he said as he sat down next to her.

Fred jumped just a little and she almost spilled her ice cream all over. “Angel, I thought I warned you about that. You can’t come sneaking up on me. Especially not when I have a double scoop of Rocky Road Delight. I remember one time Charles scared me so bad that I dumped a whole ice cream cone on my shirt. I tried to get it out the normal way but it stained so I made a paste of acid and a low pH base to put on it to eat through the stain but it ended up eating right through my shirt!” Fred grinned at him before tilting her head to eat the dripping ice cream.

“Sorry,” the vampire said as he sat down by her. “Its like breathing for you, I guess. Do it without thinking. So, Haagen Daas?” He says because he remembered him and Fred always used to go. She always insisted that he get an ice cream too, though he couldn’t taste it and he’d have to rid himself of it later since he didn’t digest.

She shook her head. “No. Connor found this little place that is right near the Slayer Academy. They know us all by name now. You should see the girls after a fight, all they want to do is eat. They closed down restaurants before but if they do well on a training mission, ice cream for everyone. Which, if you stop to think about, really makes them seem kind of like dogs. Which I don’t think is a good thing. But maybe it is because we are training them and all.”

“Everything responds to rewards for good jobs,” he said as she sat back on the bench. “I used to cook breakfast for everyone when we completed a good night’s work.” He watched the kids play. It felt weird to think they were his but yet they weren’t.

Kat was ever observant. She watched as Other-Daddy went to Aunt Fred and sat down next to her. She wasn’t sure how she felt about this. Her mother told them that he was not Daddy but Other-Daddy and to make sure they were not alone with him or went anywhere with him. But he was sitting with Aunt Fred so she wasn’t sure what to do.

She caught Angel’s eye as he watched herself and her brother at play. Her face mirrored her own confusion. She was having a debate with herself to either go over there or stay at her swing. In the end, the curious part of her nature won out. She walked with cautious steps away from the swing, approaching Angel and Fred.

Fred was trying to keep an eye on the kids but at the same time, she wanted to talk to Angel too. She was about to launch into some little tangent about chefs on the Food Network when she saw Kat start to approach them slowly. “Hey Kat, did you have fun on the swings? When I was a little girl, I used to try to go over the bar. Thought if I did, I could bend space and time to travel to another world. Then I found out that you really can do that but not by going over the bar on the swings.”

Angel leaned forward as Kat approached. He leaned on his elbows on his knees. “Hey, Shortstack,” he said with a slight smile.

Kat raised her chin. She wasn’t one that enjoyed the nicknames. She had made that clear at their first meeting. “Its Katharine or Katy or Kat.” She said with the same defiant tone that her mother had. It wasn’t disrespectful, she was just telling the adult how things were going to be.

“Kat…” Fred spoke up. Sometimes the kids were so spoiled by their parents, that they completely forgot their manners. “You should ask people please to call you Katharine, Katy, or Kat. Its not nice to just tell people. You don’t want to be mean, do you? Especially not to Angel. Not to anyone.”

“Sorry,” Angel said. “Everything that has gone on I guess I forgot.” He reached into his pocket as he spoke to Fred. “Its okay. She told me before but I just forgot.” He pulled a small box out and handed it to Katy. “I wanted to give you a little something.”

Kat kept a little distance between herself and Angel. Her eyes, however, were on the small box. She wanted to take it. She looked to Aunt Fred first, who, for a change, didn’t say a thing. Fred merely nodded her head. She took the box from Angel, sitting in the grass in front of the two adults. She put her ice cream down into the grass, the vanilla ice cream going right down into the green and dirt.

Angel watched her as she opened it. Inside was a locket on a chain and in the locket was a four-leave clover on one side and a picture of her mother on the other. “I’ve carried both of those for a long time in my wallet. I saw that locket and decided I knew a girl that it would look pretty on.”

She had gotten jewelry before from her Daddy. This was Other-Daddy though. So much like her mother, at times a present was all that was needed to turn the tide. She lifted the locket out, gingerly touching it as if it might break. “Thank you, Other-Daddy.”

“Welcome. Want me to help you put it on,” he asked her. He had no idea what Cordy would say if and when she saw the necklace. If she’d let Katy keep it or what. He was hoping she would. He’d carried that four leaf since he bought the hotel. He’d found it out in the old garden and it just seemed like a sign.

Kat was about to say something but the force of nature that was her brother Ian interrupted her. He came running at Angel full tilt, arms spread, and sticky fingers flexing. “OTHER-DADDY!” He screamed as he launched himself off the grass and at Angel. He knew, somehow, that he could be caught safely in Angel’s arms.

Angel caught the boy in his arms. He chuckled at the bundle of energy. “Oh, man, you’re getting strong,” he said as he felt the boy’s arms around his neck. It was a good thing he didn’t breath.

Fred watched as Ian tackled Angel. She figured that it would be okay to give them some alone time. She got up from the bench to give Angel a wide smile. “I better go get some cleaning supplies out of Wes’ SUV. You two are looking sticky. And you know how Uncle Wes gets when you get his car all sticky. Don’t think you want to miss Saturday morning cartoons to clean the car.” Fred didn’t wait for Angel’s protest, though she knew it wasn’t going to come.

Ian’s hands were sticky as they clung to Angel’s neck. He pulled back after the hug to look at Angel with a big smile. “I got Tutti Frutti ice cream and it had gum!” Ian pulled the piece out of his mouth so that he could show Other-Daddy. He had already chewed whatever elasticity the gum had so now it was just a hard little ball. “You want some? I will share!” Before even getting an answer from Angel, Ian started to break the gum into two pieces.

“No, Ian, its okay,” he said to the boy. “But I do have something for you.” Sticky of this kind wasn’t a bother for him. It would shower off. From his pocket again, he pulled out a box. It was just a little bigger then Kat’s box.

“Yes! You should share my gum. Kat doesn’t like gum.” He turned enough so that he could stick his tongue out at his sister. He turned back to Angel and pressed the half of gum against his lips. “I give you a present, you give me one. That is how it works.”

Kat just watched as her brother approached Other Daddy with the same enthusiasm that he approached everything with. She was skilled enough that she could put the necklace on by herself. She put the charm to the back of her neck and fastened the clasp in the front before she moved it around. She frowned as she watched Aunt Fred go, turning towards her. “Mom said we aren’t to be alone with Other-Daddy. Or go anyplace with him!” She spoke up to Fred

Fred looked back to Kat, halfway on her way to the parking lot. “I am not leaving you alone. I am going to be right there at Uncle Wes’ car. I can see you from there. See.” Fred pointed as if to emphasize her point. She waited for the little girl to relax her posture before she started off for the SUV.

Angel had the gum in his mouth regardless of if he wanted it or not. When Ian opened the box, inside was a watch. But it was also a compass and told the moon cycles. It told military time as well as regular time. He had spent a good deal on it but he didn’t bat an eye because it was for Ian.

Ian took the box from Other-Daddy and he gave it a good shake. He always shook his presents. That was why he always got things that couldn’t easily break. He brought it back down and sat in Angel’s lap so he could open it up. He pulled the watch out, holding it up. Rather than use it for what it was intended, he started to move it through the air, making airplane noises. “It’s an alieum spacecraft. Take us to your leader!”

The vampire chuckled as he watched Ian. “Let me see your wrist,” he said. He put the watch on Ian’s wrist. He pulled up his own wrist. “See, it’s like mine and the time is set just the same.”

Ian frowned as Angel put the watch on his wrist. He struggled to get it off. “That is no fun. It don’t do nothing.” The young boy didn’t understand what all the bells and whistles were for. He knew how to tell time but what was the point? When its dark, its night. When its light, its day. That is all he needed to know.

“Now just a minute,” he told Ian. “Its really important to know what time it is. All superheroes and monster hunters have good watches to tell them when its time to save the world or take a nap.”

Kat wasn’t looking at her brother and Other-Daddy. She was sitting silently in the grass. She was watching intently as a group of ants came to claim her forgotten ice cream cone. There was enough light in the park that she could see the line and how they swarmed around it, leaving just little patches of white vanilla here and there.

Ian spoke up as he finally figured out how to unsnap the watch from around his wrist. “I know how to tell what time it is. Its night time now.” He was just as stubborn as his father, that same look to his face. He brought the watch up close to his face, inspecting it.

“But it has a hidden secret,” he whispered to Ian. “Now that nobody is looking you want to see it?” He glanced around again like this was going to be super secret stuff for two champions.

Ian was still convinced that if there wasn’t a laser beam in this watch, he was going to pretend it was Dr. Ookalook’s secret doomsday device. “What?” He sounded very skeptical about the entire thing.

“Press the button there,” Angel said, pointing to the one on the upper right side. He waited for Ian to do so. When the boy did there was a beeping sound but it wasn’t from Ian’s watch.

Ian did as he was told, pressing the button. He frowned when it beeped but not from the watch. He brought the watch up to his ear and he shook it again. “It’s broken.” He frowned. He shook the watch again, as if it would make it work correctly.

“No, it’s not broken.” Angel held up his wrist and his watch was the one beeping. “If you are ever in trouble you, your sister, or your mother are in trouble you push that. It will beep my watch. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

Now this was something that Ian could get behind. He reached for Angel’s wrist, grabbing it with those sticky fingers, smudging the face of the watch as he pulled it closer to himself. “Coooool…” He drew the word out as he brought Angel’s wrist up to his ear to hear it.

“But now you have to promise, Ian,” Angel said, “For emergencies only. Champion’s honor?” He held up his hand to get the boy to high five.

Ian still held Angel’s wrist against his ear but he reached out with one hand to give Angel a gummy high five. He pulled the wrist away with a grin. “How is your gum? Mine is all gone. I swallowed it!” He sounded so proud of that fact. He opened his mouth, putting it near Angel’s face to show him proof.

Kat was used to being ignored in favor of her brother. She had developed a quiet, thoughtful personality, able to escape into her own world when her brother’s larger than life personality demanded the attentions of all those around him. She had found herself a stick, taking a glob of ant covered ice cream and moving it several feet away from the original. She was curious as to what the ants would do once they were separated from the group.

“Ian, you’re not supposed to swallow gum,” he told him. Angel was keeping one eye on Katy as she played.

“That is why I do it!” He laughed, clasping his hands over his mouth like it was the funniest thing in the world. He leaned back in Angel’s lap. He was threatening to spill off it. He pulled himself back up. “Other-Daddy! Wanna race me to the top of the spider bars?”

“What about your sister? We going to leave her out,” he asked. He wanted so just to be able to pick the two up and carry them home, back to the hotel. He knew that soon Fred was going to come and take the twins on back home.

“She doesna like to race. Let’s race, Other-Daddy. I wanna race.” He was near bouncing in Angel’s lap at this point now until he bounced down onto the path in front of the bench. “Are you ready? You ready?”

“Oh, and you think you can beat me, huh?” he raised a brow at Ian. “You really think you can do it?”

“Yes! GO!” The little boy shouted the command and started off for the spider bars. He was too it in an instant, moving faster than your average kid. He was climbing up them like he was part monkey.

Angel sat there for a few minutes then looked down at Katy. “Want to help me win?” he asked her as he watched Ian start to climb.

Kat looked up at him. She studied him with those dark eyes. “No, thank you.” Her eyes went back down her ant experiment. She was separating them into groups of blobs of ice cream further and further apart to see if the ants could find their way home.

“What are you doing with the ants,” he said, still watching the boy giving him that lead. Katy was a bit of an enigma. But yet he saw a lot of his little sister in the girl. She was quiet and studious.

“I want to see if they can find their way home. Ants make trails. That way they can go home. I am moving them away from the trail.” Kat was quiet because she learned long ago that she could, in no way, compete with her brother. She also felt the world around her differently than he did.

Angel saw that Ian was just about at the top. He got there and went up the other side. He was looking eye to eye with Ian, waiting for the boy’s next move. He grinned at him. Now Ian, he understood. Ian was a lot like he was as a boy before his father decided it was time to shove him into that family mold.

Kat frowned as she was once more left alone in favor of her brother. She had tried the crying for attention thing but that had only gotten her scolded. She frowned deeper now as she watched the ants’ struggle. She started to feel bad for them so she carefully picked each wayward one up and put them back on their path.

Ian grinned right back at Angel at the top of the spider bars. “I was king of the mountain first. I win!” Ian locked his legs around the bars and then threw his arms up in a triumphant pose.

“Man, I just knew I was going to win,” Angel said. He was tempted to stand on the top and pick up Ian. He wanted to put him on his shoulders but then thought better of it since he didn’t want the boy to try standing on them himself. Climbing back down, he looked back up at Ian before walking back to Katy. “How’s the experiment?” He so wanted some way to break through her reserved manner.

“I felt bad for the ants so I am moving them back to their family.” She was delicate as she picked each ant up with her small fingers. She didn’t seem to flinch or wince as they sometimes bit her. “You let Ian win.”

“Why don’t you make a trail with the ice cream for them to follow back?” He sat on the grass next to her and looked at her when she said that about her brother. “Yeah, this time,” he said. “Not exactly fair for me to really race him, I’m sure you know that.”

Ian watched as Angel walked away from him to talk to Katy again. He tried to stand on the bars, yelling out. “Other-Daddy! Watch me…watch what I can do!” Ian squatted down and slipped his legs around one of the bars. He hung upside inside of the spider bars and then dropped. He turned in mid-air, coming to land on his feet like a cat. He stood up, grinning wildly. “Did you see it? Did you see it? Did you see what I could do?”

Angel looked up as Ian called. “I saw, but you better be careful.” All he’d need was for the boy to get hurt and Cordy find out he was here when it happened.

“My daddy used to let me win at checkers.” Kat sat up on her knees and used her stick to make a river of ice cream from the small piles she made back to the larger pile and cone. “He was teaching me the game with the horseys and little men. Mommy doesn’t know that one.” Kat cringed when she heard her brother’s voice, screaming for attention. “You should watch him or he will cry.”

“Chess,” he said with a nod. “Tell you what, if Aunt Fred says its okay maybe next time I’ll bring a chess set and I’ll teach you. Chess really helps you think.” Yes, he could do that with her. One thing he found in common now.

“Watch me again!” Ian yelled out once more. He started to climb the inside of the dome now so that he ended up upside down on the inside. He saw Fred by the SUV and yelled to her, momentarily distracted from Angel “Aunt Fred! Watch me! Imma do a flip!”

“My daddy said that too. We were reading a book together but now…” Kat’s lower lip quivered just a bit but she kept her eyes on the ants. She usually wasn’t prone to crying unless she had some crippling emotional pain building up inside of her. She stabbed the stick into the ground, as a means of dealing with what she was feeling.

Angel picked up on this from her. He stood, took the stick from her and picked her up. “Its okay, sweetheart, its okay,” he said in a hushed tone. “Crying is sometimes good. It helps us deal with things.”

This was the second time that he held her while she cried. She turned her face against his shoulder but she was quiet. Her tears were silent as they slipped out of her eyes and wet his shirt. She clung tightly to him, as if she could bring her father back if she did so.

He got up and sat on the bench holding her to him. His gaze went for a minute to Fred, hoping she’d realize this was a moment that Ian didn’t need to upstage. Katy was finally releasing her feelings, in her own way, and it was needed. He started to softly hum to her ‘Sweet Molly Malone’ as he rocked her a little.

Fred did see it and she moved over to Ian at the spider bars. She leaned on them, smiling at him. “Ian, how about a race around the park? We can stop at the exercise stations. I bet I can beat you on the chin ups.”

Ian came out from the spider bars dome and he was off before Fred could even finish the sentence about beating him on the chin-ups. The kid had too much energy. Fred jogged after him, keeping him in sight though. This place was a little too public, too many people around, for Wolfram and Hart to do anything. But there was always the danger of humans who weren’t all quite there.

“I miss my daddy.” She said softly to him, her little voice hiccuping as she cried. It was mostly muffled as she kept her face against his shoulder. Truth be told, Kat was an enigma to most everyone at the hotel. Not even Wes or Fred, who were suppose to be the brains, could understand the little girl at times.

“I know, Katy,” Angel whispered to her. “I know and it’s hard. It’s hard to understand why things happen like they do.”

“Mom said he was in heaven and we should talk to him everyday…” She shook her head against his shoulder, starting to cry anew. “I want him here. Who will read to me?”

“Do you have a book in Uncle Wes’ car?” he said as he stood. “I’d love to read to you here at the park.” He wanted to be able to take her home and read to her after tucking her in. He really hated The Powers right now for all of this.

She nodded her head against his shoulder once more but she didn’t move her face. She had plenty of books in the little book bag that she carried with her when she left the hotel. She put Ian’s drawing supplies in it too. She could count on him to be quiet for a bit if she gave him his crayons and his pad.

Angel carried her back to the Cherokee. He opened the back door seeing the book bag. “What one do you want,” he asked as he reached for it. “We could get in the back and you can lay down by me while I read.”

“Don’t wanna let go.” She said softly. Inside the bag was a collection of books that no five-year-old should have. They were dusty volumes from Angel’s own collection: Dickens, Shakespeare, Tolstoy. But the inside covers were littered with stickers and Katharine’s name in her own handwriting under her father’s name, newly written. A project done together as they picked out the books to read together, decorating each one so everyone knew that they belonged to them.

Angel pulled out Dickens. He recognized the book from his own library. He’d had a vast collection of the old classics. He’d always loved his books, even as Angelus. Good poetry reading tended to sex a girl up back in the day. He opened the cover and saw the names and the stickers. Normally he wouldn’t have liked seeing his books all defaced like this but this put a lump in the back of his throat and he swallowed looking at it.

Kat turned her head just enough so that she could see which one he had picked out. “I like that one. I like Pip.” She turned her cheek and rested it against Angel’s shoulder but she didn’t let go of him. She was worried if she let go, then he was going to leave. She didn’t want to lose another daddy, even if this was Other-Daddy.

“Okay, so Pip it is,” he said as he turned the page to start reading to her.

It was at least a half-hour before Kat was asleep, her arms still held tightly around Angel. The adventures of Pip, Miss Havisham, and Estella were a little too much for her to concentrate on after her emotional upheaval. Like her mother, she snored softly, using Angel for a pillow.

Closing the book, the vampire sat it aside on the seat. He sat there holding Katy while Fred was off with Ian. He heard her little heart beat calm down as she drifted off to sleep. She seemed calm now, peaceful and content. He looked down at her and then gently kissed the top of her head. He could sit here like this for as long as it took to comfort Katy.

Fred came back with Ian in tow. He was looking a little more worn out, as Fred had to help him get to the car. She opened the door, glad to find Angel there with Kat. She had no doubt that he would be here but admittedly, when she didn’t see them by the bench she got a little worried. She breathed a sigh of relief as she helped Ian into the car. “I need to get them back now, Angel. I shouldn’t have kept them out this long. I am expecting an angry phone call any minute. I don’t know how they are going to go to school tomorrow. Might have to take a day off to recover.” Fred was chattering away, not noticing that Katy was dead asleep in Angel’s arms. Not that it would have mattered anyway.

Angel slid out of the car still holding the girl then he started to put her in the seat. “I understand, Fred,” he replied. But when he tried to put Katy down it was proving to be more difficult then it should have been.

Kat let out a little bit of a moan as she struggled to stay held onto Angel. “Don’t wanna let go.” She said again, half in sleep and half awake. She had the mumbled, tired voice of a child who just needed five more minutes.

He looked at Fred. “It won’t hurt for me to ride back. I mean I can leave through the sewer down in the garage and Cordy doesn’t need to know I was there.” He gave Fred those eyes, the puppy looking ones.

Fred was already pressing her luck since Cordy would know from the gifts that the kids had seen Angel. She wasn’t very good at making with the lies. Fred just sighed. “Angel, you really owe me for this. We are even now for you getting me out of Pylea. Then again, we were even on that when I figured out how you could have kids. But don’t be asking me for any more favors until you save me from another dimension again.” Fred got into the driver’s seat and waited for Angel to get back into the back seat before she started the car. Ian still had a bit of energy left him in so he immediately reached for the radio dials to find something to listen to.

Angel got in and settled with Katy clung to him. He was just as good at any seatbelt if something happened. He’d use his own body to shield Katy. “It’s okay, just a little longer, okay,” he spoke to the sleeping girl. He looked up to Fred as she drove. “She broke down, Fred. She’s not handling her loss like she should.”

The hotel wasn’t that far from the park so this wouldn’t be a long drive. Fred pulled out of the park, taking the SUV onto the street. She wasn’t sure what to say to that but she glanced back at Angel in the rear view mirror, even if she couldn’t see him. It was so he could see her eyes so he knew she was talking to him. “Everybody is handling in it in their own way. I don’t know if there is a right way or a wrong way to handle this sort of thing. None of us has ever really had a member of this family die.” Fred looked back to the road, hands tightening slightly on the wheel. She was dealing with it by desperately trying to replace Angel and get her family back together.

“Cordy and I have,” he said to her. “Doyle.” With that, he stopped talking and started humming softly again for Katy. It seemed to comfort her before to have her ear to his chest and hear the humming…if only she could hear a heart beat also.

Ian let the adults talk because he was ready to have some fun. He had the glove compartment open and was digging through the various items there. He pulled out a large dagger, staring at it. “Coooool!” he said.

“Ian…settle down. It’s only a five minute car ride.” Fred had no idea how his parents put up with it. She reached over to close the glove compartment to keep the child out of it. She sat back up and glanced in the rear view again. She could use a little bit of help here, even if Angel did have Kat clinging on to him for dear life.

He caught the look. Reaching with a free hand, he tapped Ian on the head. “Listen to your Aunt Fred,” he said. “You’re in her car and you follow her rules just like you do when you go to somebody else’s house.”

Ian reached up and put his hands on the top of his head. “Oww…” It wasn’t a hard tap but he felt it was enough to warrant an ‘ow’ sound out of him. He put on an apologetic look and the puppy dog eyes. “I’m sorry Aunt Fred.”

Knowing she couldn’t see him in that mirror, only Katy, Angel spoke. “Boys are a bundle of energy. Just need reminding now and then.”

Fred pulled the SUV into the underground parking of the hotel. Ian was already out of the car before she even put it in park. He was rushing upstairs to the lobby, calling out in his loudest voice. “MOOOOOOOOOOOOM!”

Fred got out of the SUV and then moved around the back to open the backseat door. She looked in at Angel. “We better get her off you fast before Cordy comes down. Should have told Ian to play the graveyard game. That is the one where he has to lay down and be as quiet as possible. If he makes a sound, he loses and has to start over. Something Cordy came up with to keep him quiet for a couple of minutes a day.”

Angel nodded and got out. He again tried to disentangle himself from Katy and it was proving just as unsuccessful as earlier.

Fred moved over and tried to pry the young girl’s hands from around Angel’s neck. She just wasn’t going to budge. She frowned at the situation “I don’t think some WD-40 would work in this situation. What about some lotion or butter or carmex or something? I used to use that Vaseline lip therapy sometimes to grease gear parts.”

“I think we’re going to have to just fess up on this, Fred,” Angel said. “Cordy isn’t going to start anything with the kids and I’ll take full blame. Tell her I saw you in the park.”

The only thing was that Fred knew that Cordy wouldn’t believe that. She nodded her head. “You don’t mind if I just…get back in the car and drive back home and don’t stick around for the fallout, do you? I could lie and said I had some big experiment cooking but I just really am in enough trouble as it is.”

“I’ll tell her I told you to go,” he replied. “I’ll tell her if there is any fall out it is on me, nobody else. These children are hurting and if my being around helps them then she’s going to have to understand.”

Fred just nodded her head and she hoped that Cordy could understand that. She waited for Angel to move around from the car before she got back inside. She pulled out slowly, checking back on him every few seconds before she was gone.

Angel took the stairs up, walking softly. Times like this vampire stealth was a good thing. He finally entered the lobby knowing Cordy was there. Ian’s announcing their return took care of that. He only hoped that Cordy would see how Katy was and just hold off on anything until he got her settled down.

Cordy was kneeling in front of the front desk with a handiwipe in her hand. She was cleaning up around Ian’s mouth and his face, which were sticky messes. “I don’t know how you get so gross. Its like I have to pre-wash you before you take a bath!” Cordelia had yet to sense Angel there thanks to his stealth. But she wasn’t looking well herself. Her tan had faded, leaving her looking pale and mottled in parts. Dark circles had taken up residence under her eyes, which were looking duller by the day. She had lost at least fifteen pounds, pushing her into the emaciated supermodel category of women. She was doing her best to be strong, like always. Anyone that knew her though, one look, they could tell that she was destroyed.

Angel stood there a moment. Holding Katy was no effort for him. He hated seeing her like this. He hated Katy in the state she was in. Something had to come to a compromise here, even if it was just for the good of the children. “Cordelia.”

She heard her name and raised her head. That was the last person she has expected to see standing there. There was a momentary flash in her eyes, grief coming to the surface before she shoved the wall in front of it. He looked so much like her husband in that pose, holding their daughter, that it was almost too much for even her defenses. She looked back down at Ian, going to work on cleaning his hands now. “Angel.”
“I’m sorry,” he said standing there, “but they saw me at the park. Katy… Katy wanted me to bring her up to bed. I couldn’t tell her no.” He waited for Cordy’s response.

She was quiet for a few seconds as she washed Ian’s hand. She was trying to decide what to do. She didn’t want to fight in front of the kids. She was quite tired also. She finally spoke. “You know where their room is.”

“I’ll take Ian up also if you want, get them ready and tucked in,” Angel offered hoping to take that chore off her.

“Ian needs to take a bath. He is going to be a while before he is ready for bed.” She stood up and tossed the dirty handiwipes in the trash. She looked down at Ian. “Go upstairs, pick our your jammies. I will be up in a minute to run the water.” She stood there, hands on hips, clear that she wasn’t going to take any of his gruff tonight. Ian looked up at his mother for a moment and then back to Angel. He was almost waiting for Angel to tell him he could stay up and play video games.

“Ian, do what mommy tells you,” he said. “You look like you brought half the park home with you.” His look told Ian there was going to be no fussing about it. When the boy ran upstairs, Angel looked back at Cordy. “I just thought it could be a help if I did tonight so you can go ahead to bed.”

“Thank you for offering but I do it every night.” She turned away from him. She didn’t want to look at him as he stood there holding Kat. She could go to bed but it would do her no good. She wouldn’t sleep. It felt strange, after all these years with someone, to be alone in her bed.

Turning, he started for the stairs to take Kat up. “I’ll get her down and leave as soon as I can,” he said as he started up.

“Thank you.” It was hard to tell if she meant the thanks for putting Kat down or for leaving as soon as possible. She wanted to wait for him to climb the stairs before she followed to give Ian his bath.

Angel got Katy ready for bed, even with her passed out. He gotten a washcloth and cleaned her up. He put what looked to be one of his t-shirts, that was laying over the back of the chair in the room, on her. He leaned down and kissed her forehead then stood.

While Angel was busy with Kat, she managed to get Ian into a quick bath. Some nights, the warm water was the only thing that calmed the child. She came back in, carrying Ian as best as she could into the twins’ room. She hadn’t witnessed the kiss but she saw Angel standing there. She didn’t say a word as she put Ian into his bed.

Angel moved to the door and waited for her to step on out. He had thought about just leaving but he wanted to tell her about Katy at the park.

Cordelia kissed each of her children in turn and then stepped out, closing the door behind her. She was too tired to be venomous, which should be a clear indicator of how much pain she was in.

“How long has it been since you had a good meal,” he asked the concern showed in his features. He wasn’t liking this at all: Her, the kids… It wasn’t healthy for any of them.

She reached down to pick up the toys that were littering the hallway between the kids’ room and the master bedroom. “Are you accusing me of being a bad mother now? I cook a balanced dinner for the kids every single night. It’s not anything amazing but it has the four food groups.” She had interpreted it that he was trying to suggest she wasn’t taking care of the kids. She was doing the best that she could given the situation.

“I am talking about you,” he replied. “You’re looking a lot like I must have when they pulled me up from the bottom of the ocean.”

“I am fine.” She got to the playroom, her hands full of toys. She dumped them into the toy box before going to clean up the toys that were on the playroom floor. She didn’t want to tell him that she felt such guilt and grief that the mere thought of food was something she couldn’t stomach.

The vampire stepped in and started helping her. He started placing stuffed toys in the net and cars on the shelves. “No, you’re not fine,” he said turning to her, holding a pink bunny. “Part of being what I am I can tell fine on many levels and you’re not on the shelf.”

She took the pink bunny from him. “I just lost my husband and my best friend. No, I am not fine. But I will survive. Its what I am, a survivor.” She turned so that she could put the bunny up in the net with the other stuffed toys. She folded up the plastic easels, putting them in the corner.

“Katy broke down tonight,” he said. “She cried. You need to let them see you grieve, Cordy. You can’t keep this up.”

“Can you spare me the lecture and the advice? I have too much to deal with right now.” She stepped out of the room, having this feeling that even despite what she said, he would trail after her. When Ian was sleeping or gone was the only time she could do not only her mom chores but the things she needed to do to keep Angel Investigations going. She went into the home office, grabbing a few books from the huge bookcase against the wall.

“Why don’t I go get one of those pineapple and Canadian bacon pizzas you like? My treat?” He was hoping that her favorite pizza would do the trick. She needed to eat and she needed to grieve. He knew much longer and she was going to be in the hospital and that wouldn’t be good on the kids.

She turned to look at him. She thought it was just very much a ploy. “What do you want? Do you want to come and go as you please? You want us to just accept you back into the team? Just be honest instead of… This whole “Hey, I want to be your friend” thing. I’m just not in the mood and I am not looking for an Angel replacement, like Fred.” She knew that was what Fred was doing. She wasn’t stupid, far from it. She was observant enough to notice the missing the clothes, the missing photos, the way Fred would disappear near morning.

“What I want is for you to be here for those babies in there,” he said to her stepping up to her. “The rate you’re going now you won’t be in sight of a week. I’m not thinking of me in this, Cordy.” He hoped he was getting to her some way on this. She was looking like a zombie here.

“I find that kind of hard to believe.” She stepped around him. She had an armload of books and she was going to sit down at the research table to get a few hours in before her body just gave up. If she slept on a copy of “Demon Factions and Leaders” at least she was sleeping.

“Why is it hard to believe,” Angel asked as he took the armload from her. “Why is it so hard to believe I’m concerned for you and for the twins? If you would have seen Katy tonight.”

“Because you’ve pretty much proven that you are pretty selfish.” She took the books back from him. She could carry them herself. She put the books down on the table and lowered herself into the chair after she pulled it out.

“Selfish,” he said with a raised brow. “How do you figure that?” He would really like to hear this. They’d really never talked this out when he wasn’t captive and it was him listening to her.

Cordelia grabbed the pad of paper and pencil she had left there from the night before. She opened one of the books, checking the index before turning the page. “Do I get to use the files or am I stuck with examples from your last month or so in our world?”

“Will you consider where those files came from,” he pleaded and sat down across from her. “Is there a reason I haven’t been able to look at those files too? Wolfram & Hart would love nothing more then to make sure there wasn’t a Champion in any dimension. My coming here probably screwed up their Christmas.”

“You want to see the files, they are downstairs in Wes’ office. Or you can just go ask Lilah for a copy.” She said it rather matter of factly as she wrote down a few notes from the book. “They might have been from Wolfram and Hart but you basically admitted that you were the CEO and all your family was dead because of it. Fred thinks the reason we couldn’t send you home was because your world was destroyed in an Apocalypse. Tell me when I am wrong.”

“I took it over because I wanted to give Connor something he wanted more then anything, first of all, a normal life. Second, I felt I could take Evil Inc. down from the inside, but I lost my mission… I admit that. But my Cordelia came to me and set me back straight and I knew then what I had to do.”

Cordelia just sighed. They already had this discussion when he was caged up. She was too tired to rehash it now. She kept her head down as she wrote something else. “You should listen to yourself when you talk. Even saying it out loud, it’s a recipe for disaster.”

“It’s easy to look from here and say that, Cordy,” he said. “Being where we were at the time. We lost you to a rogue Power…Fought it…And I wanted Connor to forget all that. Forget….” His voice trailed off.

“That’s life, Angel. It’s full of pain and disappointment. Everyone wishes they had a magic wand to erase everything bad and start over. But most people don’t go out and get the magic wand. They deal with it. Connor here isn’t the best-adjusted kid. He has anger issues, he has trouble connecting. But we would never make him forget because when you erase the bad, you erase all the good too. And I defy you to sit here and tell me that every single moment with Connor was bad. He is a good kid, deep down.”

“He was more then that in my dimension, Cordy. And you were more to him, but it wasn’t you and he didn’t understand that when it was all said and done,” Angel finally said as he looked away. “And he wasn’t dealing well at all with any of it. I was coming close to thinking I was going to have to take drastic action.” He didn’t want to say what the action was.

“There are always options other than going to the dark side. You’ll never convince me otherwise. In this world, Willow is the most powerful being. Even more powerful than the men who made the first Slayer. If things were that bad, there was nothing that Wolfram and Hart could have done that she couldn’t. You can keep talking all you want but you won’t change my mind. I made a deal with the devil once and it would have destroyed the world if we didn’t catch it in time. Sounds like you made a deal with the devil and it did destroy your world.” Cordelia said bluntly.

“Willow is still human. The Senior Partners aren’t.” He paused then continued. “My Cordelia before she died passed me her visions and I saw what I had to do and I couldn’t have done it from where I was. My dimension was going to be destroyed whether I did what I did or not.” He raised his hand and rubbed his face

She put her pencil down, looking across the table at him. “You are the most stubborn man that I know. You can’t even admit that you made a wrong choice. You have to rationalize it to the point of being ridiculous. You’ve made a ton of mistakes in the past like say, oh I don’t know, going into an alley with a certain blonde or getting groiny with another certain blonde. But you’ve never have a problem saying hey, know what, I was wrong. Obviously, weren’t right about it or you wouldn’t here and your world wouldn’t be gone.”

“Cordelia, from my vision, what was going to happen was going to regardless. It was coming and people were going to die and demons were going to rule. It all was set to motion long before I took Wolfram and Hart,” he was trying here. “From Connor’s birth to Skip giving Cordy her demon half…It started long before.”

She was already exhausted and he was just making it that much more pronounced. She rubbed her temples, her eyes closing, making her pale skin and dark circled eyes even more noticeable. She was chalking this up in the selfish column. He just invited himself in, sat down. She didn’t want to throw him out and run the risk he would turn around and do the same to her. “Whatever.”

Standing, he looked down at her. “Sorry,” he said. He turned for the door then stopped and looked back. “Just remember your own advice about being selfish and remember those children across the hall. Remember what you are doing is also affecting them.”

She didn’t turn around to look at him. How could she after what he said? “You just don’t get it and you never will. You talk to me like this is something I want, like it’s a choice. You’ll never understand. I don’t think you can.”

“What is it you do want, Cordelia,” he asked. “What is it that can be done that would help?”

“A magic wand, Angel. I want to be able to go back to a time where I could sleep in my own bed because someone I loved and who loved me was there. Back to a time where I could get through a day without being weighed down with grief and guilt because my husband is gone and I cheated on him with his twin, bringing about a monster that we didn’t have the time, energy, or resources to fight. I want my husband here to sit with me and be here to help me like he promised me over and over again. That is what would help.”

“If I could make things right for you,” Angel spoke softly, “I would.” With that, he turned and went on out.

Cordelia pushed the book aside and laid her head on the table. It didn’t take long before she was crying, like she had done so many times when she was left alone with her own thoughts. She would cry herself to sleep, for yet another night in a row.

Angel waited in the shadows and listened. When he could tell she was asleep, he slipped into the master bedroom. He turned her bed down then went back to pick her up gently. He carried her to the master bedroom and laid her in the bed. He removed her shoes and then pulled the covers up.

Angel took one more look in on the kids to find them sleeping after having put Cordelia to bed. He moved down the darkened corridors of the hotel and down the stairs. So many times he has walked these halls and stairways and had never once felt like a stranger in his own place. Now he did and was. He stopped on the upper landing, hearing the doors that led from the garage open into the lobby.

Lillian leaned against Connor, laughing as she playfully shoved him once they were in the lobby. “I can’t believe that part either. I was so not expecting the shopping cart and….” She paused then though. She felt something, those spidey senses of hers tingling like you would not believe. She went quiet as she saw Angel standing there at the bottom of the stairs.

The smile on Connor’s face faded when he saw the dark figure on the landing. He stepped forward. “What the hell are you doing here,” he said in a low, even tone.

The vampire stepped on down. “Katy saw me at the park and she refused to come home without me bringing her and tucking her in,” he said. He looked from Connor to Lily then back. “I put Cordy to bed also. She’s not doing well, Connor. She needs to eat and rest or she’ll be in the hospital soon.”

Lillian moved so that she was a little behind Connor now. She reached down and took his hand for support. She wasn’t sure what she should say or do in this situation. After all, Angelus had attacked her, almost killed her, molested her. That was Angelus though. Plus, the Angel before them wasn’t even the Angel they knew.

“And you expect me to believe that,” Connor said. “Expect me to believe its all concern and not stalking mother and my brother and sister?”

“I would like you to believe it, Connor,” Angel said. He was now standing in front of Connor, well within striking distance. But if that spell worked the same here as it did in his dimension Connor would be in for one helluva headache if he tried.

Lillian looked past Connor’s shoulder to Angel. Well, that was a nice night ruined. “Angel…maybe you should just go.” She kept a hand on Connor, trying to keep him from going full tilt at the vampire before him.

Angel’s eyes went to Lillian then nodded. “I intend to,” he replied, “but I’m warning you both Katy and Cordy are in bad ways now. Katy broke down in my arms at the park and I think it’s probably the first time she has. She doesn’t need this fighting and blaming now. She needs love and support.”

“We can handle it just fine,” Connor growled. “Besides who is the one responsible for this to start with?” Connor’s muscles in his arms tighten as his fists ball up.

“Connor…Don’t. Not here.” Lillian said softly to him. She was trying to calm him down. She had to admit that at times, his anger frightened her. It frightened her almost to the point she doubted their relationship.

“Get out of here,” the younger man told the vampire. “Get out of here and stay out.”

Angel took a last look at them then he headed for the door to leave. Since it was still dark, he went out the front.

Lillian pulled her hand away from Connor’s shoulder now that Angel was gone. She only hoped that he wouldn’t go running after Angel.

Connor turned and moved to the door. He locked it, like it would do any good, it was just the fact that he could. But what he’d much rather do is kick that door and hear the glass shatter.

Lillian looked at Connor as he stood at the door. It was almost like she knew what he was thinking. She didn’t like those thoughts one bit. She finally spoke up, her voice very quiet. “Connor…You know he is right.”

Connor turned to look at her. The muscles in his jaws worked. “He’ll never be my father. He’ll never be part of this family. He comes around here again and I’ll dust him.”

Lillian kept her distance from him. He looked like a snake, all curled up and ready to strike out at the nearest thing that moved. There was real fear in her eyes as she looked at him. “Connor…You need to calm down…”

Ian was never one for sleeping much. Once he found out that Kat and Mommy were asleep, he had snuck upstairs to see Connor. Not finding him, he came downstairs in time to hear his older brother. “Who you gonna dust, Connor? Can I help?”

Connor looked up to see his little brother. He then looked at Lillian. “Ian,” he said, “We’re not going to dust anybody tonight. We’re just…Talking.” Connor did start to calm himself with the boy now present. “What are you doing out of bed. Mom won’t be happy if she wakes and finds out.”

“I couldn’t sleep. I miss daddy and Other-Daddy. Look!” Ian came down the stairs, his arm thrust out to proudly show off his new watch. “Look what Other-Daddy gave me! I can make him beep but its only if I am in trouble. We super secret promised.”

Connor’s eyes went to the watch and that fire flickered in his eyes again. “He gave you that,” he said. He wanted to rip it off the boy’s wrist.

Lillian moved to sit at the bottom of the stairs. She gave Ian a small smile. “Here, lets see that watch, Champ.” She pulled Ian over and put him in her lap. She held his wrist, looking at it. “This is a very nice watch.” Lillian was trying not to look up at Connor. She could tell from the tone of his voice how the emotions were raging inside him.

Ian looked up at his big brother and smiled at him as he nodded. “Yeah. He gave Kat a necklace. And he was gonna get mommy pizza.” It was clear that Ian had been listening, at least partly, to the adult’s conversation. “He watched me on the spider bars. I did a backflip!”

“Ian, the watch is really cool and all,” Connor spoke up, “but its not a good idea to take presents from strangers like that.” Connor was going to do his best to influence Ian to not take anything else from Angel.

Ian laughed at Connor. “He isn’t a stranger, silly. He is Other-Daddy. Maybe he will come to the park tomorrow.” Ian sounded hopeful before he broke away from Lillian. “Connor…Will you make me some hot chocolate? Please?”

“Sure,” Connor said. “One hot chocolate coming right up.” He headed for the kitchen. He was really going to have to talk to Mom about this. Letting the kids call Angel “Other-Daddy” was not even close to right in his book.

Lillian looked at Ian with a smile. “How about you go get Uncle Gunn’s video games all set up in the break room? We will be in with your hot chocolate in two shakes.” Ian nodded his head eagerly and took off for the break room. Lillian moved into the big kitchen, watching Connor. “We need to talk.”

He was waiting for the water to boil. Ian was a picky little snot about it. He wanted the water boiled on the stove and not the microwave. He seemed to always know. “Talk about what,” he said as he got the hot chocolate mix from the large cabinet.

She sighed softly as she watched him. “You know about what. Your temper, your rage. He was right, Connor. No one needs the fighting and the blame right now.”

After tearing the packet open, Connor poured it into a cup then tossed the packet away. “He almost killed you, you know.”

“That wasn’t him and you know it. That was Angelus. And yes, I do remember that Angelus tried to kill me. He molested me too. But I realize that there were all sorts of circumstances, Connor. And I realize that everyone is hurting. We don’t need more pain by pointing fingers and trying to kill each other.”

“Yeah, and I think we’d all begin to heal a lot faster if he wasn’t around.” Connor grabbed the kettle, poured the hot water in, and stirred it. Then getting the marshmallows out. He put a couple in the mug. He popped one in his mouth.

“Connor…Why don’t you try to understand all sides of this equation. What would happen if the Council called me on some super secret mission that I had to go alone on? And you felt, deep down that I was gone. But then I show up here. Only, it’s not me. It’s me from a world that is pure hell. And here, it is bliss. Would you kill me too? For wanting to love you? Is that so horrible?” Lillian tried to plead with him.

“I don’t even think that would be the same thing,” he replied. “This guy didn’t have an anchored soul. He was CEO of Wolfram & Hart. He destroyed his own world for god’s sake.”

“Maybe he just wanted to believe. To believe in something pure and good. You haven’t even talked to him. Or even given him a chance. There are reasons, reasons why people do the things they do. Like…If Lilah came in here, right now, and said to you that either you could work for Wolfram and Hart or they would destroy your whole family in a blink of an eye, before you could stop it, what would you do?”

“From those files nobody threatened anybody. He saw a chance for power and he took it,” Connor answered to that. He looked down at that steaming hot chocolate.

Lillian was blocking the door so that Connor couldn’t leave. “Those files came from Wolfram and Hart. The same place that tried to kidnap you. That has tried to kill your family for years. That did horrible things to numerous to mention to everyone here. Now, couldn’t there be a small, tiniest possibility that those files are altered?”

Connor didn’t answer to this. He didn’t want to answer. He didn’t get along with his father that great before why the hell should he get along with his poser?

“You…You have so much hate in your heart. I don’t think there is any room in there for love sometimes. And that bothers me. I love you, I do…But all this rage…You scare me in those dark times. More than anything in the world.”

He looked up at Lillian. “You think I would hurt you,” he said. “I could never do that. I love you, Lillian.” He couldn’t believe she had just said this.

She looked at him for a moment and then she nodded her head. “You just in such a rage…I worry that one time you are going to go to that place and you are never going to come back. I am going to lose you forever to this hate you carry with you.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve never felt Angel was my biological father. Maybe I’ve been right all along,” he said. “Maybe my true father is Angelus.” He had thought this for some time. He has always felt he had more in common with that evil demon.

“If you…If you really feel that way…” Her voice was breaking, cracking as she spoke. She wasn’t sure what else to say to him.

“ Ian’s chocolate is going to get cold,” he said to her.

Lillian nodded her head and she stepped aside so that he could leave. When he walked past her, she touched his shoulder. “For what its worth, Connor…I don’t think Angelus is your father. You are a good person, I know that. Its just…This hate is poisoning you.”

When she spoke, he paused and looked back over his shoulder at her. But he didn’t say anything to that. He headed on out to give his little brother his hot chocolate and try and coax him back to bed.
Chapter Twenty

Gunn blasted into the hotel, throwing the two doors open. He stumbled down the front stairs. He reeked of ash and sulfur. He called out; hoping that anyone was here. “Kid! English! Barbie!” A huge gash ran the length of his face but he wasn’t thinking straight to get himself to a hospital right now. He collapsed to his knees in the middle of the lobby floor.

Wes heard Gunn’s calls from the office. He came out, pulling off his glasses. Frowning, he looked at Gunn and the mess he was in. “What on Earth happened?” he asked.

Connor turned from the weapons cabinet. He’d just put away several of the axes and swords after cleaning. He looked at Gunn and then crossed over to him. Wes had already spoken the question on his mind.

Gunn coughed, long and hard, coughing up more than just phlegm with it. He held an arm around his middle. “The Academy… We were… In the training room and… It blew…”

Wesley led Gunn over to a couch to sit. “My word, is everyone okay?” There was a tinge of urgency in that unshakable British voice of his.

Gunn got up slowly as Wesley helped him to the couch. He was covered in blood, most of it was not his own. He held fast to his middle though. “No…” He croaked out. “Connie is dead. Fantasia is dead. Rita is dead too. A dozen other girls are in the hospital.” Gunn paused to suck in a painful breath. “Faith is in the hospital.”

“I’m not sitting around for this anymore,” Connor said. “I’m taking the fight to them.” With the girls dead and Faith in the hospital, Connor was going to track these demons down.

“We don’t even know who them is, kid.” Gunn wheezed slightly. He had some broken ribs in addition to the gash on his head. That was quite clear now. He looked over at Wesley. “Some of the girls… Internal bleeding… They might not make it.”

Wesley was quickly assessing Gunn’s wounds. He went and got the first aid kit not speaking yet.

Connor’s blue eyes settled on Gunn. “Never stopped us before,” he said. “I’ll go back to the school and see if I can pick anything up and start tracking.”

“Bomb squad is out there now and the place is crawling with cops. Probably crawling with Wolfram and Hart too so they can find out who did this and do a damn victory dance with them.” He saw Wes come back with the first aid kit and he held up his hand. “I’m cool. I’ll have a doc check me out when I go to see Faith.”

“At least clean that place up on your forehead,” Wesley handed Gunn a wet cloth and the first aid kit so he could get out one of the alcohol wipes. “We could have had this done by now,” the Englishman said. “Angel had hinted he had some leads.”

Gunn took the cloth and cleaned up around his face to get all the ash and soot off. The rag came away more bloody than gray. He grabbed an alcohol wipe and ran it down the side of his face without showing the pain on his face. He took a piece of gauze, slapping it against the side of his face to help clot the bleeding. “Might be a way, English.”

Wesley looked at him with a frown. “Angel say something to you?”

Connor looked from Wes to Gunn. “Yeah, did he?” the younger man asked. “We all know he had informants that he never told us about because they wouldn’t talk to humans.”

Gunn shook his head slightly. “Not Angel. The other one. He came over to see me and Faith. Knows a way to get Angel’s memories, but needs Connor’s help.” Gunn glanced over to the kid. That was a snowball chance in Hell right there.

Connor shook his head. He looked up at the ceiling and said nothing. Somehow he knew that faker would enter into this.

Wesley suddenly looked up. He knew what Angel had told Gunn. “The Prophecy. The passage that had been altered,” he said. “But Sahjhan is no longer a problem.”

“You have to talk him, English. Prophecies ain’t my thing. Wants to make a deal with some dude named Vail. That sound familiar to you?” Gunn answered.

“Yes,” Wes replied with a nod. “Yes, I have. Cyvus Vail. Very powerful warlock..”

Connor now spoke up. “Oh, hell no,” he said. “No. We’re not going around messing with magic. That never works for us.”

“You are forgetting that magic got rid of Angelus forever, twice, kid.” Gunn was starting to feel the fatigue from his injuries. He wouldn’t be much in swaying the two other men towards helping Angel. “You get to kill a demon, powerful demon, to help save the girls. I think that is a pretty good trade off.”

“That’s it,” Connor looked at Gunn. “Just kill this demon. The one that sent me into Quor’toth.”

“Guess so. Least, according to Angel.” Gunn looked over to Wesley now. “What do you think, English?”

Wesley took in a deep breath then let it out. “If we can get the information Angel had,” he said. “Any more losses like this recent one is unacceptable.”

Gunn then turned his head to look at Connor. He gave him a toothy grin. “Whadda say, kid? You feel like kicking some demon ass?” After tonight, Gunn was fairly well determined to do just about anything to make sure another attack on the school never happened.

Connor had a stubborn look on his face. “One question,” he said. “Just how are we going to get these memories and learn what Dad knew?”

Gunn knew. He knew all too well. He also knew that telling Connor would only make the kid turn around and say no. So Gunn did the only thing he could, he lied. “Don’t know. All I know is that you kill a demon that sent you to a Hell dimension, we get the memories.”

“The memories would have to be put in something organic and…” Wesley stopped and looked up at Gunn, his eyes giving away that he knew what was going to happen.

“Looks like we better get a potato then, right English.” Gunn gave him a grin, catching in Wes’ eyes that he understood. Wes had to realize that Connor wouldn’t do this if he knew the truth. He reached a hand over to clamp it on Wes’ shoulder. Not too hard but enough to ask him non-verbally not to say too much. Then Gunn reached into his pocket, knowing that he and Wes needed to talk alone. He winced as he dug the keys out of his jeans. He tossed them to the kid. “Why don’t you get the girl warmed up for me, bring her around front. Need someone to drive me to the hospital.”

Connor caught the keys. He was far from stupid. He knew why Gunn had asked him. He just nodded and headed on out to the old Ford. That was another curse Connor would probably always bear in this family, being thought of as the kid.

Wesley watched Connor leave but he didn’t say anything until he hoped Connor was out of earshot. Well, really out of Connor’s earshot, which was considerably further than any human’s earshot. He looked back at Gunn. “Are you mad?” he asked.

“No, I am hurting because some group blew up the damn school, Wes.” Gunn turned as best as he could to look at Wes. On the same side of his face that was sporting the gash, his eye was starting to swell up as well. “Angel has the information. Angel is dead. So we put it in the other Angel and we save lives. I thought that is what we did, we saved people. I got three students dead, probably more will be dead come morning, and my girl is in the hospital. I am doing what is necessary.”

Wesley grabbed his jacket. “I’ll get Fred to contact Angel,” he said. “Seems she’s been doing so from since he was sent out from here.”

“Now let’s just hope that the kid wants to kill the demon.” Gunn got up slowly. It was going to be a long, slow walk to the front where hopefully, Connor had the truck waiting. “Hope you guys won’t mind if I sit this one out this round.” Gunn tried to chuckle but it only aggravated those broken ribs of his.

Reaching out, Wes steadied and lent support to Gunn. “I think that would be wise for all parties concerned,” the Englishman agreed. When they were out at the truck Wes opened the passenger door for Gunn. He looked at Connor. “If you wish to battle Sahjhan, Connor, I will find out the details and call you. I warn you, he is not your typical demon.”

“Yeah, well,” Connor spoke from behind the wheel of the truck, “I’m not your typical human either, am I?”

Gunn got into the truck, sitting himself down. He looked from Wes and then back to Connor. “If you two ladies are done with your tea party, you think you could take me to see my girl now?” Gunn chuckled as he waited for Wes to shut the truck door.

Wesley shut the door. “I think first thing is first, you see a doctor.” He gave a look to Connor and the young man nodded. He knew Wes had just made that an order, not a request. The doctor was first, Faith was second. If Gunn tried to fight, Connor would just bodily drag him in.

Gunn just shook his head as Connor put the pedal to the metal, guiding the truck quickly down the streets of LA towards the hospital nearest to the Academy.
Angel waited for Wesley and Connor at the front gate to Vail’s estate. When Wes’ SUV pulled up, Wes unlocked the doors and Angel got in the back seat. The gates opened and the sound of the iron hinges groaned.

“Man,” Connor said, totally ignoring Angel. He was looking at the old house. “How much more Addams Family can you get?”

Wesley pulled up in front of the place and cut off the engine he looked to Connor. “That is about as far as the similarities go. Cyvus, from all accounts, is a very dangerous being.” Once Wes was finished speaking, he excited the SUV, followed by the other two men.

“Connor,” Angel finally spoke up, “when you confront Sahjhan, don’t let him talk much. He’ll distract you with words.”

Connor turned to look at the vampire. His expression was hard and cold. “I think I can handle it just fine without your help.”

Wesley spoke before Angel could reply. “Connor, it would do you well to listen to Angel,” he said. “He knows this demon better then any of us. Just please, take the advice.”

Just as the younger man was about to speak the large doors opened and a little toady demon answered and allowed them in. He led the three to the meeting hall where the old warlock waited.

Vail stood up slowly, with some degree of difficulty. He wheezed out his greeting as they were shown into the receiving room. “Welcome. I’ve been waiting for you.” He chuckled and then coughed as it seemed he did too much. “I thought our week deadline would pass, Angel.”

“Doesn’t matter now,” Angel said, “we’re here.” As much as he disliked this, he did know that Cyvus was right in that it had to be done and Connor was the only one that could do it.

“You know,” Connor broke in, “I just really want to get this done. I want out of this creepfest as soon as I can.”

“Eager boy. Well, then…” Vail stepped down, moving slowly over towards the trio. He raised a gnarled red hand, pointing to his left. “Right through there.”

They followed the old wizard. Wesley was taking everything in. He realized that things in this place all had reason and meaning. There were probably wards placed for various reasons. But Vail was so afraid of Sahjhan, it seemed he felt not even his wards would protect him from the demon.

“Now then… Gentleman… Let the boy do what he was meant for.” Vail almost wrung his hands with the impending excitement. Connor would kill Sahjhan and that nasty little cur would be a threat no more. Vail looked to Wes though. He could feel the darkness in the man. It was a shame he was in service to another.

Connor stepped forward. “So, where is this badass?” He looked about, not seeing anybody.

Once Connor stepped into the other room, Vail turned to Angel. “He can’t see us anymore.” Indeed, if Connor looked back, there would be a wall where once was open. In the room was a table and assortment of axes on the wall. On the middle of the table, sat the large urn that housed, or rather trapped, Sahjhan.

Angel tensed. This was still hard even though he seen it before and this Connor stood an even better chance since he had his abilities intact. Wesley could tell that an energy barrier had been put up. Wavelengths told that.

Connor walked over to the table and looked at the jar or urn or whatever the hell that ugly piece of pottery was. “I guess I’m supposed to open it,” he said, reaching for the lid and pulling it from the jar.

A silvery smoke seeped out from the urn, slipping down and over the table. The smoke began to take shape, that of the demon Sahjhan. His booming voice carried out before he fully appeared. “Thank you, mortal, for releasing me from my cursed prison. In gratitude, I grant you 3 wishes.”

“You know, if I thought you really would I might take you up on that,” Connor said as he picked up an axe and looked it over. “Somehow I doubt any of those would come to pass.”

“Yeah, just messing with you.” The demon looked around the room. “Not exactly a day at the spa in there.” He cracked his neck from side to side. “Not exactly a day at the spa out here either.”

Connor looked at the demon, his eyes narrowed as he studied him. “So you’re the big, bad, bastard that sent me into a hell dimension because you were scared shitless of me.” Connor chuckled. “You’re one ugly sonuvabitch.”

“Kiss your mother with that mouth, kid?” Sahjhan looks Connor over. “It’s been a long time since I saw you but I expected you to be more… Intimidating.”

“Looks can be deceiving,” Connor said. He swung the axe targeting for the demon’s neck. He was channeling all his rage to this.

Sahjhan stepped back enough to be out of the way of the swinging axe. He grabbed it where the head met the shaft and twisted it out of Connor’s grip. He had a weapon now at least but that wasn’t his style. He brought his fist back, punching Connor hard in the gut.

That punch knocked Connor back and flying. He hit the wall then slid to the floor. He lay there a moment working on getting his wind back.

Angel’s fists balled as he watched this for a second time. Wesley looked over at the vampire and he could see the genuine concern on his face. Then he looked to Vail. He’d never seen the warlock but he had heard of him.

“Calm down, vampire. You have seen this all before. Maybe it turns out different in this world, though?” Vail coughed again. His black eyes trained once more on Wesley. He was… Unstable He could appreciate that. Though the man had tried to kill his double in Angel’s original world.

While Connor was catching that breath, Sahjhan stalked over to the young man. He picked him up by the collar of his shirt and tossed him across the room. “You know… I went through a lot of trouble to get rid of you. What a colossal waste of time that turned out to be.”

When Connor landed, he was on his feet. He had a sword pulled from the wall. He faced Sahjhan. He took the move and came at him, bringing the blade in a low arching swing.

Angel shot a glance at Vail. If Connor lost this fight then Cyvus would have more then Sahjhan to worry about.

Sahjhan rather preferred not to fight with weapons. Really, what was the point in this dimension when he could just skip to another. Something on this room was preventing that though. He grabbed the urn off the table, hurling it towards Connor’s arm in an effort to break the kid’s arm and disarm him.

Connor just knocked the urn out of the way. This demon was the root of his trouble. This demon was why a mad man took him from his parents As he rounded the table, keeping an eye on Sahjhan, he kept the sword in one hand and he picked up another axe in the other. Leaping the table, he swung the sword again.

He wouldn’t have a choice in this fight if he wanted to keep his head. Someone had been training the kid. Maybe sending him to a Hell dimension was not the best of ideas. He grabbed a sword off the wall to block the sword swinging down at him. He twisted it and pulled, yanking the sword out of Connor’s grip, once more disarming him. Using the kid’s own inertia against him, he kicked him in his midsection to send him flying.

When the demon locked the sword, a move Connor was depending on he brought the axe about in his other hand and as Sahjhan kicked him back the axe when into him. Connor kept hold of the handle with the head now imbedded in the demon. When he got his footing again his left leg came aiming for Sahjhan’s head.

The axe head stuck in his side but at least he got the kid off him. He pulled it out with some degree of difficulty, stumbling back a few feet with it. With the axe head now pulled from his body, he flung it like a Frisbee at Connor while he was going up for that kick. Connor had the choice to either follow through and maybe lose that leg or drop back down to avoid the axe head spinning towards him.

Connor tucked and rolled to the floor to avoid the axe. As he did he landed by one of the heavy dining chairs. Rolling up and grabbing the chair by the legs he swung it for Sahjhan’s back. The thoughts of the girls that had just died in the attack and of Faith in the hospital fueled that rage in Connor. A rage that had been at the boiling point for some time and the pressure cooker was about to blow.

Sahjhan was in mid-turn to hit the kid again when the chair swung at him. It caught him in the side, where Connor had already hit him once before with the axe. The chair splintered against him, sending him reeling into the table. A rather large piece of the chair jutted out from his side, adding to the already open and bleeding wound.

With the demon down, Connor was up with that fallen sword in his hand. “No matter how you try a fake prophecy, demon,” Connor said to Sahjhan with venom, “the true one always comes to light.” The sword came down for Sahjhan’s neck.

The sword sliced through the demon’s neck cleanly. As it came to hit the table, the barrier between the two rooms fell, allowing both parties to once again see each other and move freely. Vail managed a weak clap but at least now one of his greatest foes was no more. “I’ll have… My servants take care of the body.”

Connor stood there still ripe with anger. He looked back at the three. His breathing was hard He would so love an excuse to take out Angel and the warlock right now.

Wes stepped forward. “Connor,” he said in that calm voice of his, “perhaps we need to go home now and see if there is news on Faith.”

“Ah, feisty boy you have got there, Angel.” Vail moved slowly towards a rather large cabinet on the other side of the room. He had no desire to die anymore than any of the rest of them did. If Connor destroyed the old warlock, the Senior Partners would retaliate. The same events would unfold in this world as they had in the other. Vail hoped that one of them, perhaps the unstable one, had enough sense to explain these things to the boy.

“I’m not his boy,” Connor said as he stepped around Wes and for the warlock.

Angel quickly was there and his hand caught Connor’s wrist. “Connor, now is not the time,” he said as he locked eyes with the young man. His voice holding that same commanding tone he had used on Connor after the vampire had been brought back up from the ocean depths.

Vail gave another wheezing chuckle. “You didn’t tell them what happened in your world when you sent Wesley to kill me? No one wants history to repeat. You are also down one Old One now.” The warlock’s shaky hand opened one side of the cabinet. Inside were vials of all different colors, bright lights swirling within them. He picked one out from the rest, which seemed to carry the brightest hue of all. The essence inside was bright blue, like a robin’s egg.

Wesley came up on the other side of Connor. “Angel is right,” he said. “Let’s go out to the car and go home now.”

Connor just gave them all one last look then dropped the sword and stormed out. Wesley gave Cyvus a last look then look to Angel. “I hope this doesn’t turn out badly.” With that he followed Connor on out.

Angel’s gaze followed Wesley on out then he looked to the old warlock. He frowned seeing what was in the cabinet. Then he looked at Vail not saying a word.

Vail held the vial out for Angel to take. He didn’t say anything as he waited for the vampire to take it. “Not as impressive, but its only memories for one. No shattering this time. Down the hatch with it.” He patted Angel on the back as he moved back to his large chair. He had been standing too long while watching the fight.

Angel looked at the vial in his hand. “Looks can be deceiving,” he said. He pocketed it and turned for the door to leave.

Angel opened the door to the liar that had once belonged to the snitch Merl. It creaked in protest on the rusted hinges. After stepping in, he closed the door and bolted it locked. He moved to the corner where the simple surplus army cot was. He pulled off his coat and then took the vial from its pocket. Laying the coat aside he sat on the cot. He looked at that glowing vial in his hand. Memories… Memories of another man that was him and not. It seemed they had the same life up until a few years ago and that this is what his life would have been if he’d say maybe skipped that cup of coffee that morning or wore the striped shirt and not the solid.

The vampire finally pulled the little stopper from the vial that put it to his lips and drank, or thought he drank because he tasted nothing. That wasn’t unusual, though. Vampires didn’t taste much of anything they took in except that of blood. He laid back and closed his eyes. But relaxation was not in the offering for him. Suddenly, they hit: the memories. His eyes opened and his hands gripped the sides of the cot.

Each of the memories seem to hit like a freight train running at the speed of light, coming at him so quickly that it was hard to see but a glimpse of each. They came in order though, overlapping and enhancing the ones he already had of his first two hundred plus years until it came to that point of divergence. This was the night of the meeting on Point Dume where the memories differed from him and this world’s Angel. Instead of going to be locked at the bottom of the ocean, he went to be with Cordelia. Instead of spending three months trapped, they spent months searching for a cure, finding it, and being with Cordelia. While he was busy trying to figure out why LA was dark, this Angel was celebrating his wedding his honeymoon. While he was running Wolfram and Hart, the Angel here was becoming a father. The two lives were so different and it was clear that this was not only a different life but in the future as well. He had been transported through dimensions and through time to this moment. As the memories settled after the initial rush, he could now access them as if they were his own, so vivid and compelling. It was as if he had lived this other life and been this other Angel, a man who was far more romantic and decisive in his decisions.

Angel laid there and started sorting out these memories. He had all night to. He began to focus on one particular memory, one that stuck out in his mind.

The green rolling hills and cool breeze, it was surprising how little had changed over the centuries here in this corner of Ireland. Angel was astride a big gray warmblood. He looked to the side to see Cordelia riding a tri pinto beside him. She was all decked out in riding attire. “I’m only sorry this can’t be during the day,” he said to her. “I remember as a boy how blue the sky is against the green hills.”

“And I look upset about it how?” Cordelia turned to grin at him. Anyone who knew her could tell that she was in heaven. How could she not be? She was here with the person she loved most in the world, her best friend, and she was doing an activity she used to adore but had to stop once the IRS stepped in. “Its beautiful at night. Shame its kind of cloudy though. It would have been nice to see the stars.” She looked up into the sky, as if just saying it could change things.

He stopped his horse and at the same time reached for the reins on hers to stop him. When Cordy looked to him, he leaned over and kissed her.

She kissed him softly. They had enough of the impassioned fiery kisses on the way over here on the plane as well as when they settled into their hotel room. She pulled away from him with a smile. “Race you to that fence.” She pointed to a fence off to the distance. She wouldn’t be taking no for an answer. “Ready… Set… Go…” She urged the horse forward with all the experience of a practiced rider. Angel surely had no idea what he was getting into with her and his suggestion.

Angel grinned when she kicked her horse off. His own arched its neck and chomped down on the bit wanting to go. When he did give the horse head, it leaped into a gallop after the pinto.

Cordelia glanced over her shoulder for just a nanosecond to see where Angel was. He was fast approaching on her. She leaned down against her horse, urging him to go faster. She wasn’t going to let Angel win this race, not unless he had some demon or vampire horse. The fence was still several yards off but she was coming upon it quickly.

The gray wanted his head but Angel kept the rein in check. He hadn’t wanted to come back here, to the land of his birth and rebirth, but Cordelia insisted. She didn’t want to see Ireland as a tourist but she wanted to see it through his eyes. He realized now there were things she wanted him to face. The vampire let his mount’s head come up to the right flank of the pinto.

Cordelia turned her head just enough to see that Angel was gaining on her at a maddening pace. She wasn’t about to let him win, that was for sure. She dug her heels into the pinto to get that last burst of speed to take her to the fence. There were only yards between herself and victory now.

Angel pulled back a bit more on the reins to allow Cordelia to get just a tad bit more of a lead and win.

At least Angel already knew that sometimes, you have to let your wife win, especially when your wife had that bit of a competitive streak in her. Whether it was trying out for head cheerleader or being prom queen or just getting to the phone first, it was the little wins that make life worth it. Reaching the fence, she guided her horse to turn just before it and begin to slow down as they moved next to the fence. She knew better than to just stop after a run like that.

He let her win but didn’t mean he still couldn’t show off. Angel didn’t slow up his horse, instead he set the gray up to take the wall. When the horse gathered, Angel leaned forward. The horse leaped and they were over the wall.

Cordelia watched all of this and she laughed at him. She called out from the end of the fence, “SHOWOFF!” She slowed the horse down until they were moving at a leisurely pace back to Angel and his horse.

There was a break in the fence a few yards down. Angel turned the horse and trotted him for it. “Me,” he called back and then indicated the horse, “it was him.”

Cordelia just laughed at him. For the first time, in a long time, she hadn’t seen any trace of the brood. He was actually having fun, enjoying himself, and she was too because he was happy. She was about to say something when she felt something hit her cheek.

Angel felt it too. He looked up and then cocked his head to listen. “We’ll never make it back to the cottage,” he said. He could hear the oncoming rain over the hill. He looked to Cordy and turned the gray. “C’me on,” he said as he pushed the horse to a canter.

“Oh, you have to be kidding me.” She looked around and saw nothing but open space. Angel knew this area better than she did but that was how many centuries ago? She followed him but she could feel more and more little droplets hitting her.

There, backed up to a little hill was a barn with stone walls and thatched roof. “We can hold up in there and wait it out. Hopefully it’ll pass before dawn.”

It’s not as if it was a downpour. It was one of those drizzles that gets you soaked before you even knew it. She could already feel her hair and clothes clinging to her body. She was also getting cold. It might be summer but it was also Ireland and raining.

At the door of the barn, he jumped down from his horse. Pulling the reins from over his head then turning to the wooden doors, Angel opened them and led his horse in. There were a couple stalls and he led the gray into one. He turned and waited for his wife.

She was in a hurry now because the light drizzle was getting to be a little more… Insistent She dismounted and grabbed the reins of her own horse to follow Angel in. She just hoped that the owners didn’t decide to show up sometime tonight. She led the pinto in a stall right next to the gray. She was starting to look very drowned rat though.

“Ah, Ireland,” Angel said putting on just a bit of a brogue. He looked at Cordy dripping now. He stepped over to her. She looked damn sexy in that wet riding habit.

She grabbed a handful of hair and rung it out. How she let him talk her into growing her hair back out, she had no idea. She had to admit, short and blonde did not work for her. She looked up at him when he walked over to her, smiling just a bit. “Hey you…” She said softly.

“Hey,” he said back. With that, he couldn’t hold off any longer. He grabbed her and pulled her to him. Leaning down, he kissed her hard and deep, his hand slipping over her ass in those tight fitting riding pants.

She slid easily into his arms. Her own arms came up and around his neck as he kissed her. She surged her body up against his. He was even colder than usual given the temperature outside but she was determined to warm him up.

Her body was warm, inviting. Angel reached up and started pulling on her riding coat, not breaking that kiss. He could hear her heart speed up and this aroused him even more. He wanted her and wanted her now.

She struggled to get the coat off herself as he pulled on it, twisting her body but careful not to break that kiss. She pushed against his body, pushing him back against a support beam. She moved her hands off his neck, into the hair at the back of his head.

His long fingers worked between them on the buttons on her blouse. He was lost in the taste of her lips on his. When he got the blouse open, his hands slid under to touch her firm but soft skin.

She had to break the kiss now though so she could draw in a sharp breath. The feeling of his cold fingers against her slick skin, sliding easily over her body thanks to the rain, was enough to give her shivers. She was far less delicate with his shirt, taking her hands from the back of his head and moving them to either side of his shirt. She took it up in big handfuls and pulled, ripping it off him. She went at him again, kissing him harder this time.

Angel shrugged the tattered shirt off. If he’d ripped hers, he’d have not heard the end of it until they landed in London on their way back and went to Harrah’s to buy her a new one. He turned her as they kissed so her back was to the hay pile behind them.

She broke the kiss once more, panting lightly as she looked at him. Her eyes told him everything that he needed to know. Rip it, tear it, do whatever he wanted in the heat of the moment, she wanted it. “Angel…” She spoke his name, her voice hoarse, beckoning him.

Pulling her blouse off, he knelt down and started kissing her warm flesh with his cool lips. He slipped his hands up her back to get her bra off. He loved to unwrap presents and this was the best present of all. With the bra off, he raised up to lick her left breast then run his tongue over the nipple. He pulled at her pants now and when those were open he pushed her back on the hay pile. He just looked at her for a moment then started pulling her boots off.

She couldn’t help giggling just a bit when he kissed her skin. He was so eager, like it was Christmas. However, when she felt his tongue against her nipple, she moaned softly. It was all too brief though as she felt him tugging at her pants and then pushing her gently back against the hay. She fell back, landing into the hay pile. She watched him as he pulled her boots, keeping her eyes locked with his.

With the boots off he reached for her waistband of her pants. He started pulling them off her, along with her panties The vampire looked down at her for just a moment then he covered her body with his, finding her breast with his mouth again. As he sucked, his other hand moved to give her other breast attention. He was groping with his whole hand then rolled her nipple in his fingers.

Her back arched, pressing her breasts up against his hands and his mouth. She allowed herself a few moments of his attention before she moved to sit up, pushing him back up with her body. She touched his chest, running her fingers over the wet wife beater. She grinned at him with a devilish twinkle in her eye. “You need to get out of these wet clothes.”

“Yeah,” he said in a hoarse voice. “It does seem one of us is at a disadvantage here.” Sitting up, he pulled off his half boots. He didn’t go for the traditional riding attire like Cordy had. He kept his eyes on her as he got to his knees and then unfastened his pants. Then he grinned at her. “You get them off me.”

“Oh… I’ll get you off, all right.” She laughed softly as she moved closer to him. She pulled the wife beater over his head. She leaned forward, running her tongue from his navel to his Adam’s Apple before she nipped at his chin. Her hands were busy, slipping into his pants and boxers.

Angel’s grin broadened as she started her play. After the nip on his chin, he bent his head down and kissed her, slipping his tongue into her mouth. He growled from the attentions he was getting from her hands even though it didn’t take much encouraging to start making that part of him she loved to start coming up.

She took his tongue between her lips, sucking on it. She pushed her naked body against his body. She couldn’t help but shiver as hot met cool again. Her hand found his cock, circling her fingers around it. She didn’t start stroking him but instead, waited to see what he would do.

He pulled back from her quickly, his hands taking her by the upper arms and then he tossed her into that haystack. With that done, he pulled of his pants and boxers, tossing them over a rail in the barn. Now he turned to her and leaped into the hay grabbing her.

It was all in good fun. She knew that he would never hurt and that he was always careful. She had to laugh as he leapt into the hay to grab her. “Angel…You are nuts.”

He rolled over, pulling her on top of him. His hands rested on her ass, which felt so nice. “Don’t let it out and ruin my rep,” he said, not wanting this moment to end.

“I am telling everyone when we get home.” She leaned down and this time, she kissed him very softly. She just barely pressed her lips against his. It was just a brief moment of tenderness before the main event.

His hand moved down her ass crack and under to find her sex. Those long skilled fingers stroked her.

She broke that soft kiss. Her lips moved across his cheek and to his ear. Her body moved against his stroking fingers. She wanted him, badly, but she knew better than to just go about taking the plunge. She kissed the shell of his ear before her tongue ran along it, tracing it as if it was new to her.

Angel shuddered some. The muscles in his gut tensed. His fingers continued to tease her sex. He kept his eyes closed working on keeping his demon in check. He’d tasted her on their wedding night but he was still uncertain about releasing his demon all the time.

She could feel him tense though and she stopped her movements. She keeps her mouth at his ear though. “Angel… What’s wrong?” She wasn’t sure if that was tensing in pleasure or tensing in stress.

He kissed her bare shoulder. “Nothing,” he said. “Nothing other then… Then having you. Wondering what I have done to deserve such a wonderful person in my life.”

She closed her eyes as she felt him kiss her shoulder. “Here, sit up. I’ve been reading up on my Cosmo Kama Sutra.” She opened her eyes and pulled up enough so that she could look down at him.

When she was up enough, he sat up also. His eyes remained locked on hers. “Oh, you have, huh?”

“I have to keep up with you, don’t I? Though, I think it might be fun if when we got home, you taught me some new tricks.” She rested her arms on his shoulders for a moment. She had to get her body positioned just right. She memorized that little pamphlet in her Cosmo, every single page of it. She really should have been filing but she had a feeling Angel would forgive her just this once.

“I just might,” he said, his hands on her hips. “Some very special ones.” His hands moved over her hips and thighs. “I see so many beautiful colors around you.”

She leaned forward to kiss him after he said that. If only he had any idea how happy she was now. She slid her hand down his chest, between their bodies. She once more wrapped her fingers around his cock. She sat up just enough so she could lower herself back down around him.

Angel closed his eyes feeling her around him. This had to be his reward from The Powers for having fought for them as he had all these years. He wasn’t human. But he could be happy and have a life with a caring woman beside him.

She brought her arm back up to rest on his shoulder. She leaned forward, her lips brushing his. “Open your eyes. I want to see you. I want you to see me.” She started very slowly to move her body. Her hips barely rocked forward before pulling away from him.

He slowly opened his eyes. “I can see you in so many other ways,” Angel said and then kissed her lightly in return. He started moving with her, feeling her body one with his.

She used her arms around his neck to pull him closer to her. She wanted to touch as much of his body as possible with her own. She kept her eyes opened as they just barely kissed.

Angel loved those eyes. He could see her every emotion in them and when she was happy they sparkled brighter then any star in the heavens. As she moved on him, his hands moved over her body. His sensitive touch memorizing every part of her body.

She broke that barely there kiss as she felt his fingertips touch that sensitive little spot at her lower back. Her back arched and curled, forcing her whole body against his, moving him deeper inside of her.

He pressed his face to her collarbone, kissing along it. What she was doing to him would have took his breath away… If he had any. His body trembled feeling her against him.

She reached back to take one of his hands from her lower back. She guided his hand over her skin, down her hip, and between them. She knew that was all the instruction he was going to need. She still moved slowly against him, wanting this to be more than just the act. They were sharing a moment together, something so special and intimate, and something that neither of them thought they would ever have.

That hand needed no instructions. His fingers slipped down over her mound and stroked. As she rose, he slipped his fingers under her.

She was quiet for now but her body was saying all that she couldn’t put into words. Moving in that steady, slow rhythm against him, his fingers gently stroking her, it wouldn’t be long before she climaxed. She wanted it to be with him. She tilted his chin up from her collarbone so that she could look at him. She just looked into his eyes, asking him if he was close.

To answer her, he leaned up and kissed her. It was a kiss full of love and passion. His other hand moving up her back. He was determined not to let the demon have her tonight.

That was all the answer that she needed. She let him guide the kiss between them. She was actually happy that she could be with the man part of him tonight instead of the demon. She broke the kiss though, her chin tilting back as she panted softly. Her entire body arched, following her chin, as she climaxed.

His hands went up her sides. He throbbed hard in her and then released. He could hear her heart racing and feel the heat of her body. He so wished he could share that feeling. Then he saw her exposed neck and for one brief moment, he almost gave in.

She bowed her head as her climax ebbed away from her, resting her forehead against his shoulder. It was mostly to cool off her fever. This was the best way to warm up that she could think of and it had worked wonders.

Angel wrapped his arms around her, holding her to him as he softened in her. “I better find you blanket,” he said in a whisper.

“No.” She told him. She didn’t want to leave his arms or leave this feeling. She knew that the moment he pulled away and out of her, it would be gone. “Don’t move. I’m perfect right now.”

“I don’t want you getting chilled,” he said, bringing a hand up to stroke her hair. “Can’t have you getting sick with our honeymoon only half over.”

“I’ll be fine, Angel. This is where I want to be, with who I want to be, how I want to be.” Cordelia’s voice was firm. She wasn’t going to take any more guff on his part. She kept her eyes on his as he stroked her hair. A slow smile spread across her face though as a thought entered her mind.

“I like this too,” he had to admit. He leaned back into the hay, taking her with him.

She rested her cheek against his shoulder and his chest when he leaned back into the hay. She gave a soft sounding sigh. “Does it make me any less Cordy when I tell you that I kind of like it when you get all demanding and take what you want-y? You know, when you know I want it too?”

“Does it make me any less Angel to demand and take…When I know you want me to,” he replied back to her.

“Hmmm…I think we pretty much have this marriage thing figured out then.” She rested her head on his shoulder, closing her eyes. “I just want to stay like this… For a few minutes more.”

Angel’s eyes opened. He laid there just looking at that concrete ceiling. This could have been his life if he’d made different choices but those choices were long before Wolfram & Hart, before the bluffs. The choice he should have made was when he first realized he loved Cordelia but never acted on it. In this life, he’d acted sooner. He’d taken that right turn instead of the left. He brought his hands up to cover his face then rub his eyes. The memories now made him more a part of this dimension. It made him more a part of the people in it that he counted as his family.

He’d never be able to make them understand, he realized this, but he was now the Angel of this world. He was this world’s Champion. The anchoring of his soul had made the largest difference here. He realized what that had done… It had made the man and the beast one. It was not longer just Angel or just Angelus, two separate entities. They were one now. The demon part of him was also ensouled.

Angel sat up now. That attack on the convalescent home was not random and it had done exactly what it was meant to do: take him out. This group knew Angel would sacrifice himself to save the really helpless of the helpless. He’d found them and they knew it. He’d not had time to tell anyone when the threat on the nursing home came in and Wesley was to meet him there. Well, they thought he was dead. Surprise is all going to be theirs.

Angel stood up and grabbed his coat. He went for the door. He had a couple people to see and then a nest of big bads to clean out.
Chapter Twenty-One

The lobby of the Hyperion had been converted into a war room for all intents and purposes. The large poof that had been used so many times for people to collapse on was pushed to the side. In the middle of the lobby was a large folding conference table, chairs all around. The table was covered in books and crumpled pieces of papers, notes from the various members gathered. At the head of the table stood Wes, framed in front of a giant white board, covered in various handwritings. Cordelia sat to his left, Fred to his right. Gunn, Faith, Connor, and Lillian completed those assembled. Off in the corner, Ian and Katharine were quietly drawing.

Most heads at the table were down, flipping through books. Cordelia paused though. She raised her head. She still looked unwell but she was getting better with her family’s help. They, not Angel, had convinced her that Angel wouldn’t have wanted her to wither away. She was taking her own advice about fighting in memory of him. “What about Branaki? It says here that they are skilled at making weapons and firearms?” She looked up at Wes, waiting to see what he had to say.

Wesley pulled off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “It could be or it could be other factors,” he sighed. “With none of us having had a good look at what is doing this we could be dealing with humans, demons or a combination of both. There are factions that have joined both sides for ill-gotten gains.”

Connor stood up and walked over to get a cup of coffee. “He means organized crime,” he said as he poured.

Wesley raised his gaze to the young man. “That’s what I said, Connor,” Wes interjected. “Problem is, we’ve yet to grasp that one tangible lead. Well, Angel…” His voice trailed at the mention of the vampire’s name. “Angel had mentioned something but never gave me specifics. What attacked us at the convalescent home was not a single race of demon but several.”

Faith had one booted foot up on the table and was pushing her chair back so it was on two legs. She was busy cleaning demon blood off one of her favorite knives. “So what? You think the old folks home and all the attacks on the school are related? Why would a demon group want to take out old people AND Slayers? Doesn’t make sense.”

Gunn was watching Faith but that was only because his own mind was trying to figure out possibilities. He looked over at Wes. “Unless they were doing a test run. We got the plans for the home? If it’s got the same layout as the girl’s dorm, there you go. Used to run those all the time with the crew, only we used targets instead of real vamps. Can’t exactly get them to stand still or not run once you put them someplace.”

Wesley shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said. “Its been puzzling me also. And it wasn’t just elderly people in that place. There were constant needs children and that was the one the demon was going to eviscerate.”

Lillian, who had remained quiet in this discussion, shifted just a bit in her seat. She hadn’t really felt like part of the group yet. She was just “Connor’s girlfriend”. She glanced to Connor for a moment before she spoke up, very quietly. “Well, not all Slayers in the world are at the school. Couldn’t it be possible that Willow’s big spell activated the Slayer mojo in people who maybe are in wheelchairs or had physical and mental problems before the spell?” She sounded very unsure of herself as she put that possibility on the table.

Wesley nodded. “A very good possibility to look into, Lillian.”

Then, from the door, came another voice. “No. It was a tactic that did just what it was meant to do,” Angel said as he entered. “Where are there more defenseless innocents to draw the Champion out? Put him in the place of saving the innocent and having to sacrifice himself to do so?”

When Angel entered through the front doors, all heads turned to look at him. He suddenly had seven pairs of adult eyes on him and two sets of children’s eyes. Fred smiled just a little bit at him but quickly hid it before the others could see. The topic of “Other Angel” was still a sore sticking point for most of the people that were gathered here.

Ian, however, was unaware of the tension that was mounting in the room. The only thing that he saw was Other Daddy. He set his crayons down and picked up his piece of paper, rushing over to Angel. “Other Daddy! Where ya been? Lookit what I made for you.” He held the drawing up. It was of Angel and Ian, standing triumphant on the top of the spider bars.

When the boy came to him, Angel picked him up and looked at the picture. He smiled. “I’ve been busy, boyo,” he said. “I’ve been trying to find these bad guys so we can make the school safe.” He put Ian down, handed him the picture back. “Now let me talk to the adults.” He ruffled Ian’s hair.

Ian laughed as Angel ruffled up his hair, ducking his head down to try to avoid it. He hugged Angel’s leg before he ran back off to lay back down on the floor with his crayons and paper. All eyes were now on Cordelia to see what she would do. She hadn’t told anyone about the evening when Angel had showed up with Kat clinging to him, or the conversation that followed. She wasn’t looking at Angel, however. Her eyes were turned down at her notes for the time being.

Connor put that coffee cup down. The hate in his eyes was the only emotion that showed. When he spoke, his voice was even and low. “You’re not welcome here, asshole,” he said as he walked up to Angel.

Angel didn’t flinch from Connor’s approach. He’d dealt with Connor’s anger before. The boy had issues. “Connor,” he said, “shut up and sit down…Now.” Angel took on that commanding tone he’d used so often on his son.

Connor looked like he was about to hit the vampire but instead he took his seat back next to Lillian. There was a time and place and that would come soon.

No one wanted to get involved in the middle of a Connor and Angel fight. Most of the group just kept their mouths shut when it came to Connor and his laundry list of problems. Secretly, Cordelia and Angel had been looking for some kind of demonic therapist to take the kid to so he could speak freely and work out his issues. When Connor sat, Lillian reached under the table to take his hand. She wasn’t sure if it was going to be enough to calm his rage or not. She could only take so many more of these outbursts before she left for good. He had to know that by now.

With that crisis averted, Gunn turned his head back to look at Angel. He had his new headlights, a wash and a wax, so he was cool with the other man. Couldn’t say he wouldn’t have done the same in his situation so can’t fault him for that. “You going to take a seat or just stand up there like you are the star of the show all night?”

“What I want to do it help,” Angel said as his gaze went to Cordelia. “If I’m welcome to. We all want the same thing. This gang sought out and dealt with.” Angel was careful to leave out what he had received for Connor’s job.

Cordelia didn’t turn around to look at him. She saw him once and that was more than enough. She could feel his eyes on her but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. He was Angel but not and looking at him only made her hurt that much more about the loss of her husband. She looked up at Wes. He was in charge now. It was his call. If he thought they could use this Angel, then fine. If he thought not, then fine.

Wesley looked from Cordy’s eyes then to Angel. He stood. He might as well voice what he felt. “As much as it pains me to say this,” he said, “I’m afraid we do need you.”

Angel nodded and moved to an empty chair next to Gunn. “I know this is going to be hard. Hard on us all because in the world I remember I’ve lost all of you and you were, in my long years, the closest to what I ever had as a family. In turn, I know what I remind you of. But we can work it to an advantage here. They think they did away with what they targeted as the major threat. They aren’t considering what they think as mere humans a problem.”

Cordelia’s eyes went back down to the book. She knew, inside, that they needed a Champion. She just wasn’t sure if this Angel was up for the job. She finally did turn her head towards him though and spoke. “And let’s just one thing straight here. You aren’t in charge. Wesley is. If you don’t like that, you can leave now.”

“Cordelia,” Wesley spoke, “quite all right. The fact is, he’s right. They think they have us crippled.”

“I know who’s in charge,” Angel nodded to Wes. “But I still have certain skills…”

Connor scoffed. “You aren’t the only one here with those skills.”

Faith slammed her knife into the table and looked between the three men. She was a little fed up with this. She had ended up in the hospital and her girls, her charges, were dead. “You think you three can stop playing whose dick is the biggest so we can focus on the big picture here. Girls are dead. Good girls. Girls who left their families and trusted us. So when it’s all over and these demons are dead, I will get out the damn ruler and we can see who is biggest. Okay?”

Gunn knew this whole situation was serious but he had to grin as Faith put her foot down here. It was true. They had to go and focus on the big picture.

Wes cleared his throat. “Faith is right, we need to focus here and leave the personal baggage outside for now.” He looked to Angel then Connor. “What we were trying to do was pool what we know.”

Faith yanked her knife out of the table before she sat down again. She started to clean out her nails with it. “We know it’s not The First. No Hellmouth. No Ubervamps. No appearing as dead people. Has to be just some group that wants the school gone. They aren’t going after Red or Giles or the New Council. Attacks are just here.” She wasn’t sure if Angel had gone ahead with the deal with the devil so she was filling him in.

Angel looked over to Faith and nodded. “I was out earlier information gathering,” he said. “There’s a new gang in L.A. and their first order of business is to show whose in charge.”

“Then we already dealt with this before.” Gunn said. He glanced over to Wesley and then back to Angel. He didn’t know if Angel went through with the deal either. “Last year. Had some vampires and demons uniting to try to take the twins. Thought they could negotiate with them. Trade the kids for…Angel” Gunn paused just a moment there. It was odd talking about Angel to Angel.

Angel listened to Gunn, but he already knew this. There was a pencil on the table in front of him and he reached up and picked it up. He remained silent for a long moment then without looking at any of them he spoke. “This gang isn’t like anything any of us have encountered. These demons were once human.” Now he raised his gaze to look at each of them. “Many of them are the dead slayers. Bodies unaccounted for in clean up are no longer unaccounted for.”

Fred peeked her head up now. This was something that she hadn’t heard of before. She was avoiding all the fighting and the posturing by pretending to be working out some grand plan but really, it was more like she was doing differential equations over and over again. “What do you mean? Like vampires? Or are we talking some kind of possession? How can they be using the Slayer bodies if they are dead? Is it zombies? I bet it zombies.” Fred nodded her head as she looked to the rest of the group

“Technically,” Angel said, “I’m dead.” He looked at them all then to Fred, Gunn, Wes, and Cordelia. “You remember in Pylea what my true self looks like unbalanced and unchecked? The same is happening here. Incorporeal demons are being given bodies and the body of choice are the slayers.”

Cordelia didn’t look to Angel but instead she looked to Wes. “What about that spell we used before? Could we do that large scale and push the demons out of our girls? I really don’t like the idea of something walking around, wearing their bodies like this was Men In Black or something.”

Faith was quiet during this whole time. She wanted to kill these things, whatever they were. Not that she didn’t want them dead before but now, was even more so. They were using the bodies of the girls. She turned her knife over in her hands, waiting for The Queen to finish talking. “I just want to kill the things. How do we kill them?” She turned to look at Angel now.

“I’ll have to do some research,” Wesley said. “But this is totally something new…and the girls looked no way human.”

The vampire leaned forward, his arms on the table. “I’m guessing find the leader or the queen, whatever you want to call it. Kill it because these things seem to have a hive mentality. But in turn they aren’t just hijacking the slayers, it’s other demons. Only thing they can’t take are vampires since we already have a demon in us.”

“So…” Fred interjected now. “It doesn’t matter how many times we might strike down the bodies, because these demonic energies will just find another corpse to go into. See, I told you it was like zombies. Only they aren’t eating flesh and they aren’t as slow moving as some of the ones that we have dealt with before. I know once we take off the heads, they stopped moving before. Like when they attacked the school in February.”

Gunn kept a careful eye on Faith. She was tightly wound and the slightest thing was going to make her pop. Gunn looked back to Angel. “Where’s the Queen then?”

“There’s a set of books in Wolfram & Hart,” Angel spoke softly not knowing how this would be received. “If we could get to them they’d tell use everything we want to know and how to kill these things.”

The entire table went quiet because they were all well aware how this Angel knew that Wolfram and Hart had those books. It was quiet for what seemed like an hour after that statement.

The corner of Connor’s mouth turned up in a snarl. “And he wants to takes us into the lion’s den to get killed.” He stood up quickly.

Lillian reached up, trying to pull Connor back down before he leapt across the table and tried to kill Angel. She could very much see him doing it. “Connor…” Her voice was soft, trying to stay very calm. It wasn’t working though as that hint of fear crept into her tone.

Wes looked over at Connor. “We know about the books. Connor, we need to look at all avenues, even the ones we don’t like if we are going to take care of this problem.”

“I am not going to let any of our people go to Wolfram and Hart, Wes.” Cordelia looked right at the Englishman with the kind of look that she used on the kids when it was really time for bed. “We already made too many deals with them and it cost us too much.” There was a rather knowing tone to her voice but one that only Wes would catch.

Angel didn’t even seem to look upset. He kept his seat and just looked up at Connor. “Last resort,” he said, “if Wesley can’t find anything. As for the queen I’m not sure where its at but I’m sure its where it can consume and replenish itself considering the energy its expending to create its babies.”

Fred was writing things down, making calculations. “What does it feed on? Energy? Or something more physical?” She was posing the question to anyone who wanted to answer seeing as her head was still down.

Wes frowned. “We know most demons expending energy use the primordial to help sustain themselves.”

Gunn leaned back just a little bit in his chair. “How about putting that in English so the rest of the folks at home can understand what you are saying?”

Angel looked up at Wes. “The distillation plant.”

“Exactly where I was thinking,” Wes nodded. “It is large enough and it is right on the coast to bring in sea water.” He looked at Gunn. “Warm, damp, and a lot of salt.”

Faith looked across the table at Connor and Lillian. “You two want to come with me and Shaft here to do some recon work then?” Faith was itching to get out of the meeting and go do something, anything. Even if it meant creeping around a distillation plant for clues”

“That might not be a good idea,” Angel said. “It better be me to go there. Most it can do is dust me.”

Faith looked back over to Angel but she was already up out of her chair. “Don’t worry, Chief. We aren’t going to go down there and fight it ourselves We are just looking around. We got it.” Faith kicked Gunn’s chair to get him to stand up. She looked back to Connor. “You coming or going, Con-Air?”

Connor stepped away from his chair still glaring at Angel then he turned and headed for the door, not saying a word.

Lillian got up from her chair as well. She gave Angel a little apologetic smile and then followed Connor out to the door. Faith and Gunn pulled up the rear. They were all smart but they were hardly the brains when it came to figuring out the hows and whys of this thing.

Fred glanced to Wesley for a brief moment. “Maybe we should go hit some of the bookshops and see if we can find anything about demonic energies that take over demons and Slayers? Has to be something.” Fred slowly pushed the chair out, hoping that Wesley would take the hint. She knew what Angel had done since she was just about the only one that was in regular contact with him. With her gift of gab, she had told Wesley as well. Keeping it from Cordelia had been a struggle though.

Wesley stood and pushed his chair in. He just gave first Angel then Cordy a nod and followed after Fred. This wasn’t going to be easy. He could already see the difference in the vampire. Fred at this point wouldn’t have even had to have told him.

Cordelia found herself relatively alone with Angel in the lobby now. She could smell a set up when she was being forced into one. She got up from her chair to move over to where the kids were playing. She kneeled down with them, wordlessly taking a pad and some crayons. She gave Kat a little smile as Ian was fairly engrossed in his drawing of a large, green demon that looked like Satan-possessed Shrek.

Angel stood. He wasn’t sure what to say to Cordy. He wanted to tell her that it was him. He was back. That his very last thought before he was dusted was picturing her face and the children laughing. “Everything been okay,” he asked for the lack of being able to think of anything else. He stepped around the table and only part of the way from there to where her and the kids were.

“We’ve been better.” She responded. She was trying to be civil towards him. He had given them a great deal of information tonight that would go a long way towards helping stop this thing. That is what she wanted. She didn’t want to lose anymore lives.

Ian looked up and over at Angel. He held a sheet of blank paper out for him, along with a crayon. “Come color with us, Other Daddy! The big stuff is over. I drawed another picture for you.” He tried to hold the paper and crayon in one hand while he got his other drawing. The paper or the crayon kept slipping from his small grasp. It almost hit the floor but he always managed to stop it before it did.

“Better ask your mother first, Ian,” he said. “She might would rather I go help Uncle Gunn and Aunt Faith.”

Cordelia didn’t really have much of an art talent but it was something to do with the kids. So sadly, her picture was looking more like a Picasso abstract than the horse she had intended it to be. “If the kids want you to stay, its fine.” She answered quietly though. The kids had been missing their father and they were too young to understand the fights of adults. It wasn’t fair to them not to transition slowly into the grieving process.

Angel moved and sat down with the kids. He reached for some paper and a black crayon. He smiled at the kids then he started drawing and before long he had a picture of Katy drawn and he laid it down for them.

Once Angel had put his drawing down, Ian was once more climbing him like he was a jungle gym. “Do one with me, Other Daddy. Killing a big demon. I want a big sword. And a horse that has fire coming out of his nose.” Ian hung on Angel’s back, his small arms wrapped about the vampire’s neck.

Katy looked up from her own drawing to look at the one that Angel had put in the middle of the misshapen circle they had fallen into. She looked up at him for a moment before she went back to her own drawing. “Not wrong anymore. Not Other Daddy.” She said softly, more to herself, as if she was clarifying the point.

He had started drawing one for Ian as he requested but he stopped on hearing Katy. He didn’t look up; only paused then went back to work again.

Ian pointed down as he watched the work, hanging off of Angel’s back. “No! Make the demon bigger. With more teeth. Lots of yellow teeth.”

Cordelia paused in the drawing of her own blob. She had almost missed what Kat had said because of Ian. “What was that, Kat? What did you say?” Kat so rarely spoke that on the occasions she did, Cordelia felt it was her job to try to draw more out of her.

Kat kicked her legs around in the air as she laid on her stomach. “He is not wrong anymore. He isn’t Other Daddy. He is Daddy.”

Angel paused again then he did look up, but not at Katy, at Cordelia. His lips had drawn in a tight line.

Cordelia’s eyes went from Kat and then back to Angel. She looked at that expression on his face. She looked back to the twins. “How about you two go to the big freezer and get out some fruit popsicles? Just one each though.” This was the safest way for her and Angel to speak in private. Cordelia watched as both of the children got up and bounded off for the hotel kitchen. She could hear them if they got into any sort of trouble.

The vampire looked back down at the drawing. He didn’t say anything. He was going to let her open this dialogue.

“Katharine feels and sees things that no one else understands but her. She sees the world differently. Ian, he almost kicked himself out of my womb because he is stronger than other children are. So I know that there is some validity to what Kat just said. She might not know how to put it to words. You might as well tell me what happened inside of hiding it.” Cordelia finally said.

“Yeah, they are both very special and beautiful children,” he replied. Angel just really wasn’t sure how to say it to her.

“I got that. How about telling me something that I don’t know now?” She just looked at him. She couldn’t see any apparent change in him. She couldn’t really trust her demon powers either considering they thought he was the real deal when he first arrived. Or rather, she had convinced herself he was the real thing.

“I…I found out the information about the demons,” he said. “I couldn’t let it continue. Slayers or not, they were humans getting murdered.”

“That has nothing to do with what Kat said. I heard her. She said you were wrong anymore, that you weren’t Other Daddy.” She leaned forward, closer to him. She was looking into his eyes with her own two critical ones. Could they have put their Angel’s soul back in this Angel’s body? Was that possible?

Angel kept his eyes locked with hers. “The last thing I remember before…Your beautiful face smiling and the sound of the kids laughing.” He swallowed. “I’m sorry, Cordy.”

Could it really be that they had put the souls back wrong? She reached out to touch his face gently. “Oh god…Angel…is it really you? Are you really back?” Her voice was cracking, breaking because she was going to cry if it was true. She would cry if it wasn’t true.

He nodded. He wasn’t sure how she’d accept this. With those memories he was this Angel as well as the one from the other dimension. The memories, anchoring the soul…he was Angel. He was her husband and father of these children.

She threw her arms around him, moving against him now. She touched the back of his head softly. She held her face hard against his shoulder as she sobbed. “I’m sorry…I’m so sorry…why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you tell me we put you in a new body?”

“Cordy, we’re both…the memories have made us one,” he said to her. “I had Vail give me the memories so I could learn about the demons. That’s why they targeted the home. They knew that be a good place. So many innocents in there…” His voice trailed and he trembled.

Her hand on the back of his head tightened into a fist, clasping a good chunk of his hair with it. She pulled away to look at him. Her entire face was puffy, her eyes red from crying against him. “You did what?” She was shaking now. She wasn’t sure what to make of this. She shook out of fear, out of ignorance, out of grief.

“Cordy,” Angel reached up to touch her arm. “It’s why I was killed. I learned this information and they didn’t want it brought back to everyone else here. Please, I’m here. I know what’s been happening,” He pleaded with her hoping she could understand.

“You…you weren’t killed though.” She finally pulled her hand from the back of his head. Lucky for him, she didn’t rip his hair out. She looked as though someone punched her in the stomach though; all the air escaping her and that deflated look to her body. “You…you stole a man’s life…his memories…he…” She needed Wes. She looked around as if he would walk through the door at any moment. She needed someone to make sense of this because it was senseless to her.

Angel shook his head. “No, Cordy. It’s not like that. I have no way of describing it,” his voice hoarse. “The school and the students…I had to do something. And then the memories of the last moments…of the birth of the twins…of our wedding. Never had I been more frightened in my life then that day.”

“I didn’t marry you. I never married you. You killed your friends, you took over Wolfram and Hart. No…” She started to get up from the floor. She had gotten the tiniest shred of hope and it had been cruelly taken away from her.

“Cordelia, I’m here too,” he stood. “I’m here.” If only she could understand that it was him.

“How? Tell me how you can be two people at once? How can you be the loving husband and Champion I knew and be this…monster from this other world?” She stepped back away from him. Why was it suddenly pouring on her? The last few months had been one horrible thing after another.

Angel looked away when she said the word monster. He was a monster, he was a vampire, but to hear that word come from Cordelia was like a stake in the heart. He looked back up at her. “We are the same, Cordy,” he told her. “The same soul. The same being. The only thing that differed was the divergence of timeline. Here we didn’t have a fallen Power manipulate things where in that other dimension we did…and there it used you to cause unspeakable evil even unleashing Angelus. Things occurred there that didn’t here to make choices that could only lead one way.” He paused again trying to place into words what had happened.

“When I was killed at the convalescent home, I was brought through that portal here. I was brought here to keep this world from being destroyed by this creature doing what it is. But all the choices made in that other world were not mine alone and that is what you have to understand. You’ve read what are in those files Wolfram & Hart turned over. Do you really think that they would give you the truth?” He stepped to her a bit closer. “Yes, but just enough of the truth to make everything else seem plausible. Cordy, look into my eyes, you of all people know me better then anyone. Look into my eyes and tell me I’m not Angel. I’m not the one that loves you and our children.”

Cordelia stood where she was, not moving closer to him as he spoke. She didn’t want to allow herself that glimmer of false hope again. When he stepped closer though, she took a step back. When faced with adversity, she always did come out stronger on the other side. It was trying to wade through that was difficult, that she would only allow herself to deal with in private. She had already cried against this stranger. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of giving in, doing what he wanted. “No.” That was it, that was her answer. She knelt down so that she could start to clean up the art supplies from the drawing. She knew the kids would be back soon.

Angel didn’t say anything more. He just bent down and helped her pick up the art supplies. He didn’t want to crowd her. It was a lot for him to take in. He had thought the memories would be just that but it was more, especially since they were his, except just a different dimension.

Kat came out from the kitchen with her popsicle. Ian wasn’t trailing far behind. She looked up at Angel with those chocolate colored eyes, so much like his own. “Daddy, will you read me a story after my bath?” Unlike most children, she didn’t protest when it was time to have a bath.

Angel paused in picking up the supplies. “Only if you’re mother says its okay, Katy,” he said. He looked at Cordelia for only a moment then carried then picked up the box.

Cordelia had gotten most of the crayons picked up when she heard that. Kat had been having trouble sleeping since the death of her father. The only good night sleep that it seemed any of them got was the night Angel returned with the kids from the park. “Not a real long story. No more of those whole acts of Shakespeare, deal?” She gave Kat a little hint of a smile. Cordelia was good at hiding her true emotions behind a well-crafted wall.

Kat beamed as her mother gave into her demands, or rather, her single demand. She started to help with the pick up. The sooner they got things picked up, the sooner her and Ian would have their bath, the sooner she would get the story read to her.

Angel couldn’t help the feeling he got when he watched mother and daughter. “I’ll finish up here,” he said, “Why don’t you and Mom head on up and get Ian. I’ll be up by the time you’re done.”

Cordelia called out. “Ian! Come on…bath time, buddy. I will get the action figures for you to play with.” It wasn’t but moments before Ian was running out of the kitchen. He was sticky from the popsicle mess so he really did need that bath. He ran right to Angel though, threatening to put those sticky hands all over his clothes. “I want to play Superheroes!”

“Listen to your mother, Ian,” he told the boy. “It’s late and you need to get ready while I finish up down here. That way we kill two birds with one stone and by the time you’re done, I’ll be up there and we’ll have more story time.”

Ian’s face fell. He wanted to play. He was wondering just how much he could get away with now that this was Other Daddy. He didn’t believe it was Daddy. He didn’t believe Kat. “Please! Just a little longer. I want to play Superheroes!” Ian turned to look at his mom. “Pleeeeeease?”

Angel was not going to give in. Cordy had told the boy what to do and with Ian you gave an inch and he took ten miles. “Ian,” was all he said in that no more messing around voice.

Ian knew that tone all too well. His father used that tone on him all the time. His little face fell. He started to trudge up the stairs, hand on the railing, making it all sticky. He was trying to his best wounded puppy. He kept looking back at his mother and Other Daddy to see if one of them would bend.

Cordelia reached down to pick Kat up. She looked to Angel briefly. “Thanks…since…since his father died, he has been out of control.” That was all Cordelia was going to say on the matter. She started up the stairs so she could give the children their bath.

Angel finished cleaning up and then he headed upstairs to the kids’ room to wait on them. He sat in the rocker and just looked at those little beds. It felt good to be here with his kids again and that was exactly how he felt.

Ian came running in first, wearing Spiderman pajamas. He took a running leap and then jumped onto his bed, bouncing around on it. He bounced in circles, like a dog that was trying to settle for the evening. Kat wasn’t far behind, wearing just pink pajamas. Behind them was Cordelia, the front of her shirt soaked. Ian had gotten a bit too enthusiastic in his bombing of his ship tonight.

Standing, Angel looked at Cordy. “Are you sure they got the bath?”

It took her a minute before she realized what he meant. She looked down at her shirt, pulling it away from her body. “Yeah…happens most of the time. I should just wear a rubber apron.” She just had to remind herself to be civil to this Angel. He had her husband’s memories, which meant he knew more about her than she liked. He also helped them a lot in regards to the demons attacking the school. They would need him if they wanted to succeed against the attacks. She glanced over at Ian. “Hey! Stop jumping on the bed. Are you a little monkey?”

Ian paused on his jumping on the bed. “I am not a monkey! I am a hero.” He stood up on the bed but he faltered and fell right back down on it. Kat, in the meantime, had already quietly gotten into her bed, ready to be finished being tucked in by her parents.

“You know, I could stay the night,” he said to her. “You could get some rest and I’ll take care of these house monkeys.” He paused then walked over to Ian. Grabbing the boy up in one arm, he turned the bed down with his free hand.

Ian screamed with laughter as he was picked up in one arm. He looked at his mom with a giant grin. Cordelia couldn’t help but smile back. She had to admit, he was good for the kids. Kat seemed to be less withdrawn since the night in the park. But the staying the night, the smile she had for Ian faltered. “I don’t think that is a good idea. We don’t have a spare room here. The only guest rooms made up are across from Connor’s place.”

Angel had Ian over his shoulder like a sack of grain or as he remembered calling the boy in this position “A Sack of Taters” Finally putting him down, he tucked the boy in. He then tuned to Katy and pulled back her covers. “You know, I really don’t need a room. Night time here. Vampire. Once they are asleep I’ll just get a book myself and read,” he said. “Chair up here or even couch down in the lobby.”

Ian sat up in his bed now, looking at his mom. “We can play camp out! I will go get my tent.” The little boy was already throwing the covers of himself to get out of bed. He knew exactly where mom had put the little one-person tent and the sleeping bags. Before either of them could say no, he was already running down the hall at a breakneck speed.

“Ian…I…” Cordelia didn’t have a chance to finish her words and instead finished with a sigh as the young boy ran off to fetch his camping supplies. She wasn’t sure what to do in this situation. She knew that she wanted to call Wes and that would be harder with the two kids keeping her up. She reached over and turned on the baby monitor. “I will hear if you try anything funny.”

“Not up to anything. Just story time and making sure these two get to sleep because they have lessons tomorrow.” Angel was moving the chair between the two beds.

Kat turned her head so that she could look at him. “Which book are we going to read tonight, Daddy? Pick one before Ian comes back.” She knew that if Ian came back, he would insist on an X-Men or Batman comic. Kat yawned just a bit. It wouldn’t be long before she was asleep.

“Well, I thought I’d give you two choices. Rob Roy or Gone With the Wind,” he said to her as he sat.

Kat smiled at him. At least both of those had some action so that Ian would keep quiet. “I like Rob Roy. Will you do the voices for me?” Kat looked up at him expectantly. She knew this was her father and she knew that he would know what she meant.

“Well, I don’t know,” he said, “been some time since I did a Scottish accent. Maybe with some help I can do it.” He kissed the top of her head giving her a smile.

Cordelia moved back to the door so she could stick her head out and see if Ian was getting into trouble in the hallway closet. He was just pulling his tent out, his little tush in the air. Cordelia was inwardly relieved that Kat didn’t pick Gone With The Wind. That was sort of hers and Angel’s thing. Odd how he had picked it for their date night though. Maybe he just knew it from his Cordelia. She moved out of the room to help Ian with his tent and two sleeping bags, one for him and one for Angel. “Here, let me get those, kiddo.”

Ian looked up at his mom with those big hazel eyes. Kat got Angel’s eyes, Ian got hers. He held one of the sleeping bags up for her to take. “Why won’t you let Daddy sleep in the big bed with you?”

“It’s complicated.” Was all of the answer that Ian was going to get in that regard from her. She wasn’t sure she should go around trying to explain this complex situation to such a young kid.

“Why is it com-plee-kated? Its Daddy and Daddy sleeps in the big bed with you. And we aren’t appose to sleep there unless we get a bad dream. I don’t understand.” Ian wrapped his arms around his own sleeping bag, still looking up at his mother.

“Because…” Cordelia said as she reached for his tent. “That isn’t your Dad. That is Other Daddy, remember? I explained it all to you?”

Ian shook his head. “No! It’s not Other Daddy. Its Daddy. Kat told me. She told me he isn’t wrong. She said his head was full with us now.” He started to head back to the bedroom, carrying his sleeping bag.

Cordelia merely sighed because she wasn’t sure how to explain this to Ian. Mostly because she didn’t understand it herself. Once the kids got settled, she was calling Wes. She didn’t care if he was in some run down bookstore downtown, he was getting a Cordy Call. “Do you know how to set his tent up?” She lifted it up as she spoke about it to Angel.

Angel looked up at Cordy when she asked. “Yeah, sure,” he replied. “We’re big boys we can handle it.” But he remembered the last time they tried it. It fell on them. But then he remembered Cordelia laughing so hard, she had to go excuse herself to go to the bathroom.

Cordelia set it just inside the room, putting the adult sleeping bag next to it. “I will be in my bedroom with the monitor. I’ll hear if anything goes wrong.”

Looking at Kat and then Ian, they all three looked at her. The perfect innocence on their faces. “What could go wrong,” Angel asked with a raised brow.

She gave them a rather tight-lipped expression. “I’ll be in my bedroom.” That was all she said before she turned and headed down the hallway for her own room. She grabbed the monitor off the dresser, turning it up as she put it by her bedside. She grabbed her cellphone from the bedside stand but hesitated for a moment.

Cordelia sat on the bed, looking at the phone in her hand. Wes could wait. She wanted to hear this guy with her kids, when no one was around. Usually after a few minutes, most people forgot about the baby monitor and started acting naturally.

Ian grabbed the tent from where his mom had left it. He was bouncing around the room, sing songing to himself. “Caaaaamp! Oooout!” He fell to his knees and started to pull his tent out from the bag that kept the parts together. He was making up a little song, singing to himself. “Fight the monsters, in the forest. Cause them is mean. I fight them good. Keep the Princesses safe.”

Angel looked at the boy for a moment before he opened the book to begin reading. “Chapter I. How have I sinn’d, that this affliction should light so heavy on me? I have no more sons, and this no more mine own–My grand curse hang o’er his head hat thus transformed thee!–Travel? I’ll send my horse to travel next. — Monsieur Thomas.” He read the intro to the chapter.

Kat gave her brother a glare when their father started reading and it quieted him up quickly. She laid back down, turning so that she could face her father in the chair. She put her hands under her head, just listening to him as he read.

Angel read to Katy, making the voices and accents for the British lords, Scottish nobles and peasants. He even changed the octave of his voice for each character for her.

It wasn’t long though before Kat felt her eyes go heavy. She shifted a little in her bed to get more comfortable. “No more tonight, please, Daddy.”

Ian was sitting crossed legged on the carpet now, looking up at his father. This was the kind of story that he liked. Better than the girly ones that Kat was always picking for bedtime.

Closing the book he stood and leaned over and gave Kat another goodnight kiss on her forehead. “Okay, Katy, sleep well.” With that he turned to Ian and the tent. “You know we won’t live this down if we get tangled up in this again.”

Kat curled up and gave just a little bit of a smile as Angel kissed her on the forehead. Her Daddy was back and that was good enough for her. He promised her tea parties and readings and taking her to see pretty pictures in museums. Now he was back to do that. She could sleep through a lot with Ian for a brother so she slipped into sleep.

Ian looked over at the tent. “We don’t hafta put it together. We can sleep on the floor with our sleeping bags.”

“Yeah, well, you know that’s how we did it back in the day,” Angel said. “We didn’t have tents and if we didn’t have blankets, we’d bury ourselves in leaves.” He grinned and tossed Ian his sleeping bag.

Ian’s eyes got all wide as he caught his sleeping bag. “In the leaves?! That is so cool! I want to sleep in leaves. Can I sleep in the leaves, Daddy?”

“Maybe one night we can all go camping in the real woods, okay,” he told Ian as he rolled out his bag. “Now get in your bag because monster hunters need good rest.”

Ian unrolled his own bag next to Angel’s and then went to get the pillows off his bed. “Are we still gonna go up to the cabin for Christmas? I want to go skiing!” He wasn’t suppose to know about that. It was going to be a surprise for the family but Ian had been nosy and seen the pamphlets about it.

Angel pulled off his shoes. “That’s up to your Mom, kiddo. But you’ve let the cat out of the bag. That was a secret.”

“Nobody told me it was a secret!” He puts the pillow down at the head of his sleeping bag and then puts the other one at the top of Angel’s sleeping bag. He frowned as he looked at his father. “How come mom gets to pick? When is it my turn to pick?”

“I’m sure you’ll still get to go. You, Katy, Mom, Connor and Lillian.” He also took off his shirt and hung it on the back of the chair. Under it, he wore his typical wife beater.

Ian didn’t understand this. He frowned again as he stood there, looking at Angel. “No. Why won’t you come with us? The sun is cloudy. I saw pictures.”

“Ian,” Angel tried to think how to say it, “things aren’t that simple with adults. To make things right and good for you we have to talk things out and try to get along first. It wouldn’t be good to have Mommy and me fighting and we couldn’t have fun. Mommy and me, we both have a lot of things to work on. But never…never doubt that we both love you and your sister and Connor.”

The small boy was still having trouble grasping this concept. “You both say you are sorry and then you buy something nice for each other. That makes it all better.”

“Maybe,” he said. “Maybe that will work over time. Now then you better close your eyes and get to sleep. I don’t want Mommy saying I kept you up all night.” He slipped into the bag, though he didn’t need to. He leaned over and gave Ian a light kiss on top of his head.

Ian was still frowning though because he didn’t understand this. He got into his sleeping bag and he just watched his father for a long time. It was a good thing he was starting to feel tired or he would have been up all night with this problem. Eventually, though it took a while, his eyes started to close with sleep.

Angel laid there staring at the ceiling. He was far from sleepy. This was his day, but these were his children. Cordelia was his wife, his best friend. He wanted that back and how could he get her to understand that he was back.

Without seeming to have gotten up from bed, Kat was standing there by his sleeping bag. She clutched a worn stuffed unicorn in her arms. “Daddy?” She said softly, trying to get his attention.

Looking up at her, he came up on his elbow. “Katy, what’s wrong,” Angel asked the child.

She buried her head into the unicorn, holding it tighter to her chest. “I had a bad dream.” Her voice was very soft and small sounding.

Angel unzipped the sleeping bag and held it open. “C’me on here. Bad dreams aren’t allowed down here.” He waited for her to lay down then covered her up.

Kat crawled into the sleeping bag and moved so that she could hold her father. She didn’t care of he was cold. He was her father. “It was about Connor. He got hurt real bad and he…” Her voice hitched in her throat and she whispered the next. “he died.”

He wrapped his arms around her. “Its okay, it was only a dream,” he said softly. “Remember when you had that bad dream that somebody took Sunny?” He indicated her unicorn. “You came to mommy and me that night and we all laid there and Sunny stayed safe?”

“This was different, Daddy. It was…” She lowered her voice once more to a whisper. “One of those dreams.” She balled herself up even more against him, putting her face against his chest. She was scared. This was more than just dreaming that someone took her most treasured stuffed animal

“Its okay, Katy,” he assured her. “I’m not going to let anyone hurt your brother. Now close your eyes and dream happy dreams. Of the park. Of Disneyland…”
Chapter Twenty-Two

Cordelia reached over and switched off the monitor by her bed. She sighed heavily. The incident where Kat was so scared she was going to lose Sunny was one of those reaffirming moments that she knew her and Angel would make good parents. Now that memory belonged to someone else. She dialed Wes’ cellphone, knowing he would still be up researching.

Wesley did pick up the phone as he still was reading, not checking the ID. “Hello,” he spoke into the receiver.

“Explain it to me.” Was all that Cordelia had to say about the situation. She had a feeling that Wesley knew exactly was going on, especially the way he and Fred made themselves very scarce.

Wesley sat back in his chair and pulled off his glasses. “Cordelia…” he said in that soft tone. He basically didn’t know how to start.

“Don’t Cordelia me.” She got up from the bed so that she could start pacing the room. “I have a vampire in the other room with my kids that claims he is my husband. Why? Because he got a hold of Angel’s memories. Now either you did this or some other magic mumbo jumbo man did, so fess up!”

Wes let out a sigh. “Perhaps I should come over and talk.”

“Yeah…I think it might be a good idea if you did. He is laying down with the kids right now so I can’t exactly leave. I will meet you in your office here.” Cordelia grabbed the baby monitor, glad that it had a long enough range to reach the entirety of the hotel.

It took Wes about 20 minutes to drive back to the hotel at this time of night. Parking his SUV, he locked it and went into the hotel. He paused in the entry, stealing himself to face Cordelia with this. Finally, he went for the office and entered.

She was already sitting in there. She was trying to thumb through a book about mystical coincidences but she was having too much trouble concentrating. She just kept thinking about that Angel upstairs. He had used a very personal memory about Kat to calm the child down. She was far from pleased.

He moved around to sit at his desk. He swallowed hard and looked down at his hands folded on this desktop.

Cordelia shut the book and put it back on his desk. She sat there, staring at him. She was far too quiet. Cordelia quiet was never a good sign.

“Ah, where to start,” he said. “First, it was done to find out what Angel knew about what was attacking the school and how it knew so much about it and the students.”

“I think you need to go all the way back up and tell me how come no one bothered to tell me that this was being done? Who else knows about this besides you, me, and I am assuming Fred.” She sat back in the chair because this should be really good.

“Gunn and Faith,” Wesley answered. He told her of what Connor did but he didn’t know Angel was getting the memories. “I agreed to the fact that we needed to know what Angel had found out. He had alluded to me in his phone call before we joined up he had some news. However, before he could tell me he had been…well…”

“And someone else couldn’t take these memories? Why didn’t you give them to me? Whose grand idea was it that they should go to the guy who destroyed his home dimension?” Cordelia was at a loss. They had had some stupid plans before but this one was taking the cake.

“Because they couldn’t be guaranteed to be complete and intact given to anybody else,” Wes told her. “What I was afraid of was he’d go crazy having two sets of memories. But I’ve done some reading. Cordelia, he is Angel.”

“Wes…how can you say that? He is not Angel. Angel is in a spot in the garden, where the sun…” Her voice started to choke up and she tried desperately to shove her emotions back down. “Where the sun hits him every day. That is where Angel is.”

“The shell that contained what is Angel. But that life within…That was released.” Wesley paused again. “I wasn’t for this in the beginning but like I said, we needed that intel. He now also has other valuable knowledge that can serve us in our fight against Wolfram & Hart. He knows their tricks and how to avoid them.”

“My god, how can you talk about him that way? The shell…Wes, he was your friend. You gave up…you gave up your chance at happiness so Angel and I had a chance. He wasn’t a shell. You can’t tell me that soul in there is the same Angel that I knew and I loved.” She pointed upwards as if to emphasize her point. “My Angel never would have sold out his friends and family. His soul wasn’t perfect but it was pretty much better than that one.”

“Cordelia, he and Fred have had some pretty long talks,” the English tried to explain. “Who knows what our Angel would have done faced with the same choices this one had. And yes, the body is just a shell. What’s real is what is inside.”

“So where is my husband, Wes? Where is his soul? Trapped in Hell forever so that this guy can have his memories, walk around pretending to be him? You know I don’t understand this stuff as well as I should. I know, it’s been years but its not like we have ever had to deal with this sort of thing before. I don’t want him to suffer because some guy up here is walking around instead of him.” Sometimes, she could be pretty stubborn. She just needed some time to process everything. She wasn’t stupid. She just sometimes was less than objective.

“Cordy, not even I have the answers to questions like that,” he said. “Maybe, perhaps, since they both are Angel, the souls are the same and when he was brought through at the same moment…It could be why when I was told about Willow and her evil other self could exist in the same dimension. One had a soul, one didn’t.”

“But they both existed here and there. But they had different lives. They made different choices.” Cordelia leaned forward. She wasn’t going to get her answers, not now and not ever. She knew that. That seemed to be happening a lot.

“They were faced with different circumstances,” he reminded her. “Cordelia was taken from him. Connor sank him to the bottom of the ocean. Facing a rogue Power That Was…None of us know what we’d have done in his place. And from what I’ve been told they all willingly accept roles at Wolfram & Hart.”

“I know. That is what I said. But the whole one with a soul, one without theory doesn’t really hold up when they both have souls. When he came here, I thought it was Angel. I wanted to believe it was Angel. He had a soul.” She balled her hand into a fist, putting it up to her forehead. “I should have known, I should have been able to tell.”

“Cordelia,” Wesley said and got up. He moved around the desk to her. “You couldn’t tell because he is Angel. You know as well as I we live in a world so few realize is actually out there. I didn’t want to accept this possibility either, especially since I had seen with my own eyes…” he paused with a sigh. “We know also that not all the dimensions are alike. We know also some are just enough to make our skin crawl. Angel here made the choice to protect that child and Angel there made some unwise choices. But the Powers knew that both of these versions were the same, only different circumstances led to different paths that were beyond either’ control. One protected the innocent and lost his life, or unlife as it were. One was about to lose his in a battle that he could not win. The Powers wanted their Champion to continue here. And I doubt there was little concern for personal feelings in this.”

“Now in taking the memories he’s become our Angel and more,” Wesley said keeping his eyes on her. “He knows the mistakes made in both world and how to avoid them here. I have talked more to Vail on this matter. He assured me the only vessel for Angel’s memory was Angel. Anyone else receiving his memories, especially with what he is would have gone insane. None of us could have dealt with his memories, Cordelia. With what he carries within himself. Even with his soul anchored he still walks a fine line that none of us will ever be able to imagine.”

Cordelia did listen but it was a lot to take in with all things considered. Maybe it would have been easier for her to accept if things hadn’t gone the way that they had. She was quiet for several moments as she took the time to process everything. “I think I need to get to sleep. Maybe this whole mess will make more sense in the morning…or afternoon…or whatever. ” She sighed as she turned the fist on her forehead to a palm, trying to calm the headache raging through her mind.

“Cordelia,” Wesley spoke up, “this doesn’t mean you have to take him back. We would all understand.”

“Wes…” She looked up at him now as he sat on the edge of that desk. “You are telling me that this is my husband, right? This is the man that I love and my best friend. What would you do in my situation? He has all these wonderful memories about us, about the kids. I don’t know what I am going to do. Right there, that is my answer. I don’t know.”

“Maybe with time you will,” he replied. “Time and healing.”

Cordelia got up from her chair. “All I know right now is that I want to go to bed. We have a lot of work ahead of us for this demon group slaughter thing. I don’t think its going to do any of us any good if we are nodding off. End of the world and I want to make sure I have my eight hours.”

Wesley gave her a soft smile and a nod.

“Thanks for coming over.” Cordelia chewed her lower lip for a moment. “Its good for the kids right? Having him around? And maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea if he stayed at the hotel, so he is close since we all meet here. We wouldn’t have to hunt around to find him?” She was trying to justify asking Angel to stay here. She was listening to her heart now, not her head.

“I think seeing how the children are behaving is where you’ll find your answer,” he told her. “And, yes, it would be easier because he has the same aversion to cell phones.”

Cordelia sighed. “That is what I thought you were going to say. And I guess, deep down, I know that is what is right too. Its just that…with everything that has happened…I am always second guessing myself now, Wes. I never used to second guess myself before.”

“You are second guessing because you have more to worry about then just yourself,” Wes explained. “And the other side to ask yourself, would you have rather he came back like he did the first time in Sunnydale? Insane, not knowing anybody? Having to learn all over again like a child?”

“No… I guess not. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.” She glanced towards the door and then back to Wes. “I should get back upstairs. I will have to rig something up so he can stay here. I am not going to put him in a room across from Connor.”

“Now that you didn’t have to second guess on.” He chuckled.

She gives Wes just a little hint of a smile. “I am not going to clean up some dusty sheets. I have more than enough to do around here that doesn’t include laundry. Speaking of, when do you think we can hire a cleaning staff for the hotel?”

“I’ll get back with you on that,” was all he said on the subject. Gathering a few things, he then started for the door.

“I take it that is a no then?” She tried for another smile as she followed out behind him. So much for getting someone to do her laundry and vacuuming. Life was so unfair sometimes.

“I will see you in the morning.” With that, he went on out.

Cordelia watched him go and she shook her head. She climbed the stairs back up to the residence. Once inside the main door, she headed for the kid’s room. She paused in the doorway, looking at the outline of bodies in the sleeping bags. The night-light provided enough light so that she could see that Angel was still awake with eyes open. “Her allergies act up if she sleeps on the floor. You might want to put her back in her bed.” She said quietly.

Laying there, Angel looked over to the door. Ian’s arm had rolled over Angel. The young boy was still in his bag but was using Angel’s other shoulder for a pillow. “I know but before I could get up,” he looked at Ian.

Cordelia came into the room. She picked Ian up, sleeping bag and all, and set him on the bed. She moved so that she could pry Kat away from Angel and put her into bed as well. She was getting used to the single mother slash superheroine thing with little to no adjustment.

Angel got up out of the sleeping, winced a bit, then stretched. He moved over and straightened up Ian and his sleeping bag.

“Sleeping on the floor probably isn’t going to be good for you.” She watched him with Ian. She already knew how he was with the kids. She had seen it and she had heard it.

“I’ll be fine,” he said. “I’ve slept in worse conditions. It’s just been a while…and well, sleeping where I have been hasn’t helped.”

“Do you want to…we could go Puritan style. There are still some old boards in the basement from training the girls on balance. We could just put one between us.” It was a first step. He was too tall to sleep on the couch comfortably. The huge bed in the master bedroom was the only other logical choice.

“I don’t want to make you uncomfortable,” Angel said. “I could get the cot in from the basement. Just put it in one of the rooms close to the kids.” Angel didn’t want to push anything on her or make her feel obligated.

“I don’t do things that make me feel uncomfortable. But fine. You want to sleep on the cot, you know where it is now.” Cordelia turned so that she could leave the kids’ bedroom. She had offered, he had declined. Her work here was done.

“Cordelia,” he said softly.

She turned when he said her name, raising a brow. “Yes?”

He took a couple steps to her. His dark eyes searching her features, vampire senses reading her. “The thing is,” he said, “I want you to be comfortable. I want it to be when you’re ready, not because you feel obligated or guilty. I have too much respect for you as a person and a woman…and I want to say as my best friend and my wife.”

“Let’s get something straight, I don’t do things out of obligation or out of guilt. I do things because I want to. That fact is, it’s easier if you stay here because this is where everyone meets. You can’t sleep upstairs across from Connor. We don’t have a spare room. I was trying a compromise. I offered, you declined. So let’s stop analyzing it. I am exhausted. You have Angel’s memories, you know where everything is. Anything else?” She stood there near the door. If he didn’t say something that didn’t involve talking around his foot, he was going to miss the opportunity for the olive branch she was trying to extend.

“I’m sorry,” Angel said, “I didn’t mean it to sound like it did. But then I do that a lot.”

“Shame they don’t make a pill for foot in mouth disease. We could invest in that company and you alone would make us billionaires.” She leaned against the doorway and gave him just the smallest hint of a smile.

“Give up saving the world gig,” he replied. She did look so good. He wanted now more then anything just to take her in his arms and hold her. Still in his slacks, his hands were in his pockets.

“Yeah. Right. When we give up the saving the world thing, I will become Queen of England.” She rolled her eyes when she said that. She looked past him to the kids who were asleep. Probably not a good idea to stand here, talking. “I am going to bed. Last chance. Puritan style or pulling up carpet, your choice.”

“I’ll get the board,” he replied, giving her just that slight smile of his.

“How about trying to turn the enthusiasm down about three clicks there? I am going to be sleeping with a stake.” She was serious about that. She turned and headed down the hall for the master bedroom. While he got the board, she could at least get changed into her pajamas. She was smart enough to do it in the bathroom so there would be no accidentally walking in. He might have seen her naked before and had plenty of memories of more intimate things but she wasn’t going to give him any more freebies.

Shortly, he was back with the board and several pillows he’d gathered from the lobby and various other places.

She came out of the bathroom, opting for the set of sleepwear that covered the most of her body. She couldn’t go wrong with yoga pants and an old Sunnydale High T-shirt. She took a stake out from the dresser drawer before moving to her side of the bed. “You need help at all?”

Angel started arranging the board to make sure it was secured by the pillows. “No, I think I’ve got it.” He turned to her and waited for her approval.

She merely shrugged her shoulders. Its not like this was something that she had done before. It looked good enough for her. She put the stake on her dresser. She climbed into her side of the bed, trying to be careful not to move and disturb the precarious arrangement.

Waiting a moment, he finally pulled his pants off and climbed into bed wearing only his shorts. The vampire settle finally and he laid there, looking up at the ceiling. He didn’t speak he just listened. He listened to her breathing and her heart. He took in a breath and could smell her perfume. Finally, he spoke. “Good night.”

“Night” She replied back. She was quite exhausted, like she said, and it wasn’t long before she was settled into the heavy rhythmic breathing of sleep. Then came the snoring. She was out like a light and no amount of hellfire or Apocalypse was going to wake her.

Angel closed his eyes and listened to her. That lulled him into sleep.

The talking of her parents was enough to have woken Kat up. She pretended to be asleep but after they left, she sat up in bed. She had a look of concentration to her features. She turned on the little horse shaped lamp by her bed and then went to get her crayons and a piece of paper.

Ian slept. He’d rolled over on his stomach then pulled his legs up and his butt was in the air. He snored, sounding like his mother. Saliva ran out the corner of his mouth and clutched in his arm was his dinosaur.

Kat moved over to the monitor and she turned it off. She didn’t want either of her parents hearing the plans. She moved over to Ian’s bed and shook him. “Ian…Ian…” She frowned as he didn’t even budge. She leaned over and shouted in his ear. “DEMON!”

Ian was up suddenly. He spun in his bag and was up; still half asleep holding his dino like a weapon. He was wearing his Batman Underoos. “WHERE!”

Kat smirked because that always seemed to wake her little brother up. She grabbed his shoulder roughly. “Come on, we don’t have a lot of time.”

“Time?” He blinked and then he was drug from his bed. “Where’s the demon? I’m tellin’!”

“Shhh, you ain’t telling nothing.” She yanked him out of bed and over to the small table in their room. “Do you want mom and dad back together or not?”

The boy rubbed his eyes and glanced around. He’d fallen asleep on the floor and woke in bed; it had just dawned on him. Face it, the kid wasn’t a morning person. “Where’d Da go?”

Kat sat down at the table. She could be alert right out of waking. She grabbed a crayon. “With mom. Sleeping. But they are sleeping with a board between them.” She heard it all as they were talking.

“Hmmm…” he was frowning. “Why would anybody sleep with a board?” He moved, climbing on the table and sat on it cross-legged. “It’s almost morning light time.”

“Because stupidhead…” She rolled her eyes at him and looked up at him. “They are hurting. Mom doesn’t know its really Da. And we got to get them back together.”

“Mom told you not to call me stupidhead,” he protested. He looked down at the crayon. “What are we gonna do them? Pull the board out of the bed?”

“You ARE being a stupidhead right now, Ian!” She nodded her head but she was starting to draw. “We got to do more than that. We got to think.”

“We could make them breakfast in bed,” he said. “Like we did last year for their married day.”

“Has to be bigger than that. This is a big ugly.” Kat was concentrating as she drew, as she tried to put her thoughts together into some kind of plan. Breakfast in bed was all well and good but it wasn’t going to be enough.

Ian sat there and he yawned. “Play dolly with them.”

Kat nodded her head again in agreement with that. “We can do that tonight.” She paused and held the drawing up for him to see. It was a plan.

He looked at what she drew and then started grinning. “Oh, man, that would do it.”

Kat smiled back at her twin brother. She set her paper down. She knew that plan would work. She looked out towards the window, the sun starting to rise. “You awake now? Last time we tried to play dolly and you were asleep…” Her voice trailed off because they were both well aware of what happened.

He stood and jumped off the table and roared. “I need to be a vampire and kill bad demons.” He did his best to bare fangs he didn’t have and if Mom or Dad heard him say this, he’d be in very deep time out. But it didn’t keep him from using his imagination.

Kat shook her head at her brother. He couldn’t figure out that they were part demon already, no matter how many times she tried to explain it to him. She moved over and put her hand over his mouth. “Shush…you are going to wake them up. Now come on!” She took the hand away from his mouth and once she made sure he was quiet, she snuck out of their room and to the master bedroom.

But he wanted to be like Dad and be a Dark Avenger. He followed after her and when they got to the door of their parents’ bedroom, they peeked in.

“They are asleep…” Kat said in a whisper. She pushed the door open wide and tiptoed towards the bed. “You take mommy, I will do daddy.” She moved to Angel’s side of the bed and put her small hand to the back of his neck. She waited until Ian did the same.

Ian moved to his mother’s side and looked down at her a moment then did the same. “Now this is for your own good,” he said trying to copy the tone she used when having to give them medicine or put him in time out.

Kat giggled as Ian said that. She held out her other hand, stretching it as best she can across the bed. “For your own good, Daddy.” Kat closed her eyes and concentrated very hard until she felt the strange warmness spread throughout her palm.

Doing the same, Ian felt the energy flow into his mother and touching those areas of her brain that needed to be kept still for the two to do what they wanted.

“Shhh, sleepy time…” Kat said very softly. She pulled her palm away from her father’s neck, a small pink handprint still on his skin. She giggled again when she saw it. They had done this before so they could raid the fridge. Kat climbed over Angel so that she was at the top of the board.

Ian went to the foot of the bed and looked to his sister, ready to lift his end to move the board. “Let’s hurry.”

Kat nodded her head. She lifted her end of the board. It wasn’t that heavy. She waited for Ian to start moving backwards before she started to walk forward.

He stepped back and when she got to the end of the bed he waited for her to jump down. Then he moved so the could put the board on the other side of the room.

She did jump down and then let Ian lead the way as he put the board in the corner on the other side of the room. She set it down and then went back to the bed. She started grabbing the pillows off, tossing them on the floor. She accidentally hit Ian with one, trying to keep from laughing afterwards.

“Hey! Watch it,” he said getting the pillows from the lower part of the bed. “Let’s make them all snuggly. I’ll lift Mommy’s head up and you move Da’s arm under.”

Kat nodded her head in agreement with that plan. She got down off the bed. “We have to push them closer together. We can push them together one at a time.”

“Who do we push first,” Ian asked looking from the two sleeping adults to his sister. These two were on a mission to save their family and they are going to do it.

“Mom is lighter. She will be easier.” Kat moved around the bed to get in a place where they could roll their mother over to face Angel now. “Did you make sure you put plenty of sleepy on her?”

“Yep,” he nodded. “Wasn’t hard. She already was heavy sleepy by herself.” He helped roll Cordelia then got her arm on top and moved it to rest on her hip until they got Angel moved. “We should do this to Connor some time and paint his face green like Uncle Lorne’s.” He giggled.

Kat giggled along with her brother. “I want to put pretty bows in his hair.” Kat ran around the bed to the side that Dad was on. She grunted as she tried to push Angel closer to Cordelia.

“Let’s do his legs first then we’ll do his body,” Ian suggested. “He’s big heavier then Mom.” Ian got up to his father’s hips and waited for Katy to get to his legs. “We could shave Uncle Wes bald.”

“He is harder cause he doesn’t live here. If Mommy and Da find out…” Kat’s voice trailed as she went down to grab Angel’s ankles. She lifted up with yet another grunt, moving slowly to move Angel’s legs.

Ian grunted as he moved Angel’s upper legs. His father moaned a bit and Ian stopped. Actually, he froze. He looked to Angel’s head to see if he was showing signs of waking.

Kat gasped and she moved back over to Angel’s head. She put her palm against the back of his neck and reached for Ian’s hand. They were really going to have to put a big sleepy on him this time. “Ian! Sleepy time!” She closed her eyes, as she always did when she concentrated for this sort of thing.

Taking Katy’s hand, he closed his eyes. He kept saying sleepy time to himself.

She felt all that warm energy come from her brother’s touch, go through her, and multiply. She pushed it into her father, hitting those points in his mind that would keep him knocked out. She held her breath for a few seconds and then exhaled. She took her hand off the back of Angel’s neck, nodding her head to Ian.

“Now I guess we move him up there and we’re almost done,” Ian nodded. All they had to do after moving Angel was put the two in each other’s arms.

“He needs to stop eating sweets.” She did that in the same voice as her mother. She tried to lift Angel’s torso with her brother’s help to move him closer to their mother.

“But vampires don’t change and food doesn’t make them gain weight,” he said. Yes, he’s read everything about all kinds of vampires.

“Then he is just heavy.” With Angel moved, she climbed over her Da. She sat on his side and started to move arms. “Lift mommy’s head up.”

Ian scrambled to lift Mom’s head and shoulders. He gritted his jaw as he waited for his sister to get Da’s shoulder and arm right.

She put Angel’s arm and shoulder under Cordelia’s head. She nodded to Ian for him to gently put their mom’s head back. She slid down Angel’s side and took his arm to put around Cordelia. “Put her arm around him.”

Nodding, Ian did it. He grinned and he pulled up Cordy’s leg to place it over Angel’s. He looked back up at his sister.

She smiled at Ian. “One last thing…” She put one hand on each of her parents’ cheeks. She leaned down, whispering to them. “Make kisses like Rhett and Scarlett.” It wasn’t just a suggestion as Kat used her powers to gently push that idea in their minds for when they woke.

Ian waited for Katy to finish. But he was dancing in place. “Hurry, I gotta go pee!”

Kat gave an exasperated sigh at her brother. She climbed down off the bed. She took off running back to their room, giggling all the way. Ian could shut their parents’ bedroom door. “Make sure you lock it!”

Ian locked the door and then he ran as fast as he could. When the need hits, it hits, and you gotta drain the radiator.

Kat took a running leap and landed in her bed. She pulled the covers up over her head. Whenever they played around like this, she always got pretty tired. At least Ian would sleep too, once he was done in the potty.

After sound of the toilet flushing it was only moments before he came running out. He jumped on Katy’s bed then leapt to his. “I’m the Dark Revenger!”

She let out a scream as he jumped on her bed. When he leapt to his, she pushed him right in those Batman Underoos. “You are the dark doodooface!”

“Am not!” He grabbed his sleeping bag. He got off the bed and went under the bed to sleep.

Kat shook her head once more at her brother as he went to sleep under his bed. She settled into her own bed. She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep with dreams of her parents’ reunion, family trips to Disneyland and Aspen, and lastly, of story time with her whole family.

Cordelia started to stir just a bit in her sleep. She felt heaviness against her body and she knew that it was Angel. She smiled and snuggled closer to her husband. She was still in the half-asleep dream state where her brain wasn’t processing that no; she should not be snuggling with that Angel. She pressed her warm body against his cool one. She settled into him, keeping her eyes closed for now. She just wanted to spend a few more minutes in his arms before she had to get the kids up and ready.

Angel instinctively pulled her closer to him. He was still in that dream state of sleep for him at this hour. And his dream there was a large southern mansion behind him on the porch he stood on. Out front, trees lined a long lane that led to a circular drive in front of the mansion. A warm breeze stirred the air and his hair bringing with it the light scent of peach blossoms and blooming magnolias. Then he looked down at what or whom he had in his arms. Cordelia. She was dressed in a green southern belle dress that seemed to be made of heavy velvet. One of her arms was around his neck, the other she held a dainty hand fan. He looked down into her eyes. Then he dipped her back and leaned over her, kissing her. Odd, there seemed to be music coming from somewhere but that kiss kept most of his attention.

She felt cool lips pressed against hers and she couldn’t resist, she didn’t want to resist. Her arms moved up to circle around his neck as she kissed him back. This was hardly a good morning, how was your night sort of an affair. Angel kissed her with such slow, smoldering passion, that she felt herself melt into little more than a puddle in his arms. If only all their mornings could start like this.

Angel lost himself in this dream. It was perfect. He could feel her warmth to him. He could smell her scent mixed in with the blossoms and the magnolias. But this was a dream, right? It was daylight. It was warm. It wasn’t L.A., obviously. Even in this deep sleep of his something seemed to stir. He started coming up from that sleep, it’s the reason vampires got the rep for sleeping in coffins during the day since they seemed dead. Slowly, he opened his eyes.

Cordelia’s eyes were still closed as they kissed. She wasn’t in some fantasy plantation world. She was just in a half-awake, half-asleep state. All she really knew is that she was kissing Angel and she didn’t want that kissing to end. She wrapped her leg around his tighter, blinding groping for his hand to put it on her hip as she deepened the kiss between them.

When the kid made the suggestion of how a deep sleep he was in then the whammy they put on, he was having trouble coming out of it. “Cordy,” he whispered between the kissing since she had to take a breath. He was only half there now, trying to shake off the rest of the sleep and knock out whammy the kids used.

“Shhhh…” She leaned forward again after getting her breath back so that she could start to kiss him once more. She was having a little harder time not only waking up but also shaking the feelings off herself. All she wanted to do was kiss him, over and over again until they both ended up naked and sated.

Angel returned the kiss, how could he not? He tried again when she had to breathe. “Cordy, please,” he whispered. If they didn’t gain control now, he was going to be at the point of no return.

“Please what…” Her eyes remained closed even as she drug her lips from his lips along his jaw line and down to his neck. It was starting to wear off a bit at least as she went from less Scarlett like kisses to more Cordelia type ones. She kissed the side of his neck very softly, barely brushing his skin. She was determined and the only way to stop her would be if he physically removed himself from the bed.

He wanted this. Angel wanted this but not like this. Something had happened in the night. The board was gone. He caught a faint scent on the pillow, very faint. He worked on trying to disengage himself from Cordelia.

The movement of him trying to pull himself away from her was enough of a jolt that she started to really wake up. She opened her eyes, rubbing the sleep from them. “What the…” She noticed the situation she was in and she recalled what she was doing moments earlier. She scooted away from him as fast as she could, pulling the covers around herself. “Oh god…sorry…”

Angel got out of the bed, quickly. He grabbed his pants. “You’ve got nothing to apologize for,” he said.

“Uh…I do…” She sat up in the bed and she pulled the covers tighter around her body. “I was pretty much…molesting you there.” Yet oddly, it didn’t feel all that wrong. Mentally, she knew it was wrong but physically, emotionally…She was ready to tear his damn clothes off.

He winced a bit as he zipped up his fly. “It wasn’t your fault,” Angel said as he turned. “It wasn’t…I mean…I…” He couldn’t get out what he wanted.

Cordelia looked around the room because she was looking for the board. How on earth did it end up all the way across the room like that? She got out of bed when she spotted something among the pillows. She crouched down and brought a stuffed unicorn up from under the pillows. She just frowned.

Angel looked at the unicorn. “That’s what I smelled and knew what happened wasn’t…us…well, it was but you know what I mean.”

She stood up, still holding Sunny the Unicorn. “Looks like the kids snuck in here and took the board out.” She just assumed that she ended up in Angel’s arms because during the night, he always used to hold her. The warmth from her body would transfer to his and for those first waking moments, they could both feel human before reality set in.

“Yeah,” the vampire said still having the dream fresh in his mind. “They are creative.” He picked up his shirt to help hide the fact that he was rising to the occasion.

She sighed. “I can’t exactly punish them for this. They didn’t really do anything wrong. They just don’t understand the situation.” Cordelia moved to put the unicorn on the dresser so that she could return it to Kat later.

‘Or they understand it better then we do’, Angel thought. “Somehow I don’t think punishment would work in this situation.”

“Me either.” She shook her head. She looked over at him. “I am sorry for…you know. I didn’t realize what I was doing. You spend years with someone, you get into a pattern for waking. I guess I just fell into that.”

“I know,” he replied. “Just if I wasn’t having that dream…” His voice trailed off as he said that.

“Just what?” She raised a brow at him. He trailed off and she wanted to know the rest of that sentence. She wanted to know what he was going to say.

“Don’t keep apologizing to me,” he said, “I was just as at fault.”

She raised a brow and put a hand on her hip. She just looked at him. “If I want to apologize to you, I will apologize to you. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. And if I could speak fifty languages like someone else I know, I would say I’m sorry in all of those too.” For the briefest moment, she forgot WHOM she was dealing with exactly and she stuck her tongue out at him. It was that moment where her brain didn’t click on that this was not her husband, it was an Angel from another world.

He was about to tell her how to say it in those other languages but then thought better of it. Then she stuck her tongue out and he raised a heavy brow. Despite it all, he had to grin just a bit. “You know, you’re beautiful when you’re mad,” he said. “You’re also pretty in a long green gown of crush velvet and hooped skirt.”

That didn’t help the eyebrow go down at all when he said that. She pulled her tongue back in and cleared her throat. “Well…I should probably go make the kid’s breakfast or lunch or…they are probably hungry. Unless they ate all the fudgesicles in the freezer while I was asleep.”

“I could make them breakfast,” he offered. “You can shower while I do.” The fact is he used to enjoy making the breakfast for them and her. ” And by the time you’re done I’ll have some coffee ready.”

Cordelia paused for a moment. The prospect of a hot breakfast instead of cold cereal was really, really tempting. The addition of the hot shower after weeks of having to sneak one at night while the twins were sleeping clinched it. “There are some eggs and other omelette type things in the fridge.”

He nodded. “I know,” Angel replied. Turning he went to the door and tried it. He couldn’t get it to turn or open. “It’s locked.”

“Did you forget how to unlock it?” Cordelia shook her head and went over to the door. She none too gently used her hips to move him out of the way. She turned the lock and then opened the door. “The twins,” She told him as a means for explanation.

“I knew how. It was just stuck,” he replied looking down at her. This close, he so wanted to just take her in his arms. He wanted to recap those waking moments, that kiss.

She looked at him for a moment. “Can I help you with something?”

“Uh, no,” the vampire answered. “I’m okay.” He tried to step around her.

She moved right as he did and she ended up being in his way. Another try only yielded the same result. She almost felt that for a moment they were in some kind of sitcom situation. “How about I just stand still and you move?”

“Yeah, that will work,” he said and he stepped around her. “I’ll be in the kitchen then.” Stepping out of the bedroom he went to the kitchen to start things then he’d rouse the twins.
Chapter Twenty-Three

The twins were already awake. They were both seated in front of the television in the living room. They appeared to be the picture perfect of two angels as they lay on the carpet watching Sesame Street. Ian was actually quiet, transfixed on the screen. Kat hit his shoulder lightly when she heard their father coming.

Ian looked at his sister then looked back seeing Da. The boy grinned. “Did you and Mom make with the hugs?”

Kat kept her eyes towards the television. She knew that if mom and dad were back together, they would have been there for a lot longer than they were. Their plan hadn’t worked at all.

Angel only glanced at the two and shook his head. “Breakfast will be ready in about 20 minutes. In just a little bit, I want you both to go wash and get to the table.” He moved on to the kitchen.

“Did you kiss like Rhett and Scarlett?” Kat asked innocently enough. Coming from such a small child, yes, it was innocent.

Stopping, Angel turned back to look at the two. “You’re sliding this time,” he told them. “Do it again and we will make a punishment for what you did.”

Kat frowned. She turned so that she could fully face Angel. She even got up so she could follow him into the kitchen. “How come? We were trying to help.”

Getting the milk, eggs, and butter from the fridge, he put them on the counter. He broke open the eggs in a bowl, added milk and started to beat them. “Katy, we know what you thought you two were doing,” he said as he put the bowl aside to get a pan, put some butter in it and then put it on the stove top to melt. “But sometimes you have to let Mom and me work things out between us.”

“Did she yell at you?” Kat knew the answer. She opened the fridge up so that she could help him. She got out some peppers, mushrooms, and ham and used a chair to get high enough to put them on the counter.

“Thank you,” he told his daughter and then started cutting up the ingredients to put them in the eggs. “No. She didn’t yell. But Katy it’s not that simple. Mommy and Da have a lot of things to work out. She’s been hurt and well,” he paused. “Well, she’s not ready to accept that I’m here.”

“She didn’t yell. That is a good thing. I know she is hurting but she needs you. You make the hurt go away. You make her feel better.” She reached in and stole a piece of green pepper for her brother and a mushroom for herself. She handed the stolen veggie piece to Ian.

Ian had gotten up and followed but he was standing there just watching. In matters like this, Katy was better. Ian took the pepper and nibbled on it. He then walked to the table and climbed up onto a chair.

Angel paused a moment then he picked up the bowl and poured the eggs in the hot pan. “No, she didn’t yell,” he nodded in reply, “but Katy, things are a little more complicated then they look. The best thing to do is just give Mommy time. It’s a lot to think that I died and yet I’m back. Well, yeah, I’ve done it before but that was different and it wasn’t your mother and she didn’t have a couple kids to worry about.” He turned to look at her. “Now, are you going to stir the pancake batter for me like always?”

Kat grinned at him. “Yes. Are you making enough for Connor and Lillian too?” Then again, Connor could probably eat everything in the fridge and still be hungry for more.

“I can,” he said to her as he put everything out for her to mix, “but I doubt Connor will be joining us to eat. He’s not happy with me here and he doesn’t know its me back…if you know what I mean.”

“Me and Ian can take it up to him when we are done eating.” Ian was being oddly silent. Which meant either that he wasn’t awake yet or that he was plotting something. Kat looked back to him to see which one it was.

Ian was playing with a napkin, seemingly not paying attention as his sister and father talked.

Kat got down from where she was stirring and went over to her brother. She sat down next to him. She spoke to him in their special twin language. “Ian, what’s wrong?”

Angel pulled out the cookie cutters then heated up the griddle. There was a dinosaur, unicorn, and a cat among the shapes.

Ian looked over at Katy, “Adults are stupid,” was all he said. He didn’t understand what the deal was. Da loved Mom and Mom loved Da. Simple and fixed in his book.

Kat frowned at Ian. She felt bad too because what they did hadn’t fixed things entirely. “We can come up with a new plan.”

Then the two had their plates in front of them along with two glasses of milk. “Better cut down on the secret language stuff, kiddos. I hear your mother.” Yes, he heard but that didn’t mean he understood. He knew several languages but all of them were known and face it, the romance languages. It used to come in handy with giggly meals.

Kat just gave Ian a look before she patted the pocket of her pajamas. He was in a brooding mood. She knew the one surefire way to get him out of a brooding mood. “Da… When we are done with breakfast and we do the dishes, can we train with you today?” She knew that would perk Ian right up. He would probably get so insistent, Angel would have to say yes.

“We’ll see,” Angel told them. “I have to see what Connor, Uncle Gunn and the others found out last night.” He turned and started fixing Cordy’s breakfast.

Kat elbowed Ian to get him to speak up. What was wrong with him? Was he getting sick? He was usually bouncing off the walls by this point. He was suppose to be the loud one and she was suppose to be the quiet one. “Just for an hour. Please, Da. Pleeeeease.”

Ian shifted with the nudge from his sister. He was too busy stuffing his face with breakfast to be asking about anything. The dinosaur lost its head right off the bat. Finally, the boy looked up. “We could be the monster hunters and you hide,” he said with a mouth still full. “That’s always fun down in the tunnels.”

Kat waited to see what Angel would say. She was a slow eater. She didn’t inhale her food like Ian did. She looked at Angel with those big brown eyes of hers, holding off eating any more until she got a satisfactory answer.

Angel turned and looked at the twins. “Ask your mother. If she says its okay then we will for a couple hours.”

“I want to go where we did before. The one with two levels,” Ian said. Then he shoveled some eggs in his mouth. After that, he took a big drink of milk.

Speaking of their mother, Cordelia had finally made her way into the kitchen. Her hair was still wet from her shower and she was still in her pajamas. She didn’t look Angel in the eye as she sat down at the table. She was still feeling pretty guilty that she woke up with her tongue shoved down his throat. She was also trying to figure out why that niggling feeling from before wasn’t bothering her this time.

Ian jumped up to give her a hug. That’s Mommy and he is Mommy’s boy as most boys are. “Morning, Mom,” he said as he gave her a big kiss on her cheek.

“Hey kiddo. How is my big boy this morning?” She pulled Ian up into her lap. She could see that his plate was already empty. She should have named him Hoover. It reminded her of Connor, just a vacuum with a mouth. “Morning, Kat.”

Kat went quiet now that her mother was here. She would let Ian handle their mother in regards to going to the basement to train. “Morning.” She said softly before she went back to picking at her breakfast.

Angel sat a plate in front of her. The pancake looked like a daisy. The eggs were around the edges for the petals.

She glanced up at Angel quickly. “Thanks. Did you make enough for the kids upstairs?” She broke off a piece of the pancake with her fingers and put it to Ian’s mouth. He was a bottomless pit and there was no way she would eat all this food. “Open sesame.”

Ian giggled and opened up. Angel turned back to the counter. “Yes, more then enough. Katy said she and Ian would take it up to them.” He then poured two cups of coffee. He put one down for Cordy and he got one for himself. He also got his breakfast and put it in the microwave.

Cordelia made a zooming noise before she put the piece of pancake in Ian’s mouth. She tore off a piece of pancake for herself before she got another piece for Ian. “I think today, we should go to the beach. What do you two say?” She glanced up at Angel. There was something in her eyes there. She had gotten a phone call after her shower. That is why it took her so long.

Ian closed his mouth and frowned. “But we were going to play Monster Hunters. We can go to the beach anytime,” he said as he picked at his mother’s shirt.

She leaned down to rest her forehead against Ian’s. She smiled at him. “You can play Monster Hunters anytime. Mom really wants to go to the beach today. We can see who can get the most sandcrabs.”

Angel sat and took a drink of his breakfast. “Ian, we can play Monster Hunter tomorrow. I think a day at the beach would be better for you and your sister.”

The boy looked from his mother to his father he started shaking his head. “No… No..” Then he started jibbing in twin speak to his sister. “Da is gonna go fight the bad things again!” Ian didn’t like this because he was afraid of loosing his father again.

“Hey now…I thought we had a little talk about the twin language thing. You guys promised me.” Cordelia frowned and made an attempt to eat her breakfast while Ian freaked out on her lap.

Kat looked at Ian for a moment and then she looked back to Angel. “He doesn’t want you to go fight the bad things again. He doesn’t want you to go to Heaven again.”

Angel lowered his mug and looked over at Cordelia. This was going to be an issue and he was afraid of that. He wished he could promise his kids that it wouldn’t happen again, he couldn’t.

Cordelia figured that distraction was going to be her best course of action in this kind of situation. She wanted to get the kids’ minds off it. “I know. How about after our beach day, we go down to the pet shop, and we get a puppy?” She looked hopeful. The kids were razor sharp so it might not be enough.

Angel grinned. “Wow, puppy,” he said. “Hey, you never let me have a puppy when I asked.”

Kat knew exactly what her parents were trying to do. She got up from the table and went to put her plate in the sink. She had to stand on her tiptoes to get it in there but she did. But, like most children, she could seize the moment. “If Ian gets a puppy, I want a kitty then.” She stood in the kitchen, arms over her chest, waiting on an answer.

“I want a parrot too,” Ian jumped off mom’s lap. “I want a parrot that talks like a pirate.”

Angel shook his head. “No birds,” the vampire said. “And I think the puppy was meant for both of you, not just one.”

“I don’t like puppies.” Kat stood firm. If her father was about to go into battle with demons again, she was going to get her kitty.

“No parrots, Ian. No birds, period.” Cordelia looked over at Angel at Kat’s demands for a cat. What could it hurt? The hotel was big and Kat was responsible. She shrugged her shoulders. She didn’t realize then that she was making decisions with this man like he was her husband or that she had even allowed him a say in this conversation.

“If you’re both done,” Angel said to the children, “you need to go to your rooms and get ready. Mom and I will be in there in a minute.” He looked at those children and it gave him a feeling like no other. They were gifts and very precious ones and he was going to do his best to keep them safe. Safe meant to take care of this evil because after the Slayers its next target could very well be his children. “And take Connor and Lillian their breakfast before it gets cold.”

Kat looked completely crushed that the discussion was over. She wasn’t going to be getting a kitty anytime soon. She just nodded her head and went to take the plates. She handed one to Ian and she took the second one. She tugged on his shirt and then left their parents to talk.

Angel finished his breakfast and got up and washed his mug. He never expected any of them to was his mugs and always did them quickly so they wouldn’t sit. He turned back to Cordy. “News?”

Cordelia finished her breakfast and then got up from the table. She cleared the table and then moved to the sink so she could wash the dishes before she put them in the dishwasher. “I talked to Fred and Faith this morning. Faith said recon went to be expected. Something is down there but they didn’t go down to check it out fully. Connor, Faith, and Lillian all felt something, big something. Wesley thinks he knows how to weaken it and then kill it. They are all going to be here after dark. Everyone was up until about dawn and they need their sleep.”

Stepping over to help, Angel filled the sink with hot water. He placed the dishes in it to rinse them good then to the drainer to cool where Cordy could load the dishwasher. “I’ll head down there through the tunnels. Take out any perimeter guards.”

“This isn’t a solo mission, Angel. We are going to meet. We will discuss plans. And we will go in as a team. I already have two of the girls coming over to watch Ian and Kat.” Cordelia said in a tone that left no room for any other suggestion.

“I didn’t say I was going in,” he told her. “I’m just going to make going in easier.”

“And I am telling you how it’s going to be.” She started to take the dishes once they were cooled and loaded them into the dishwasher. “Going in balls out alone is what got you…” Cordelia caught herself. She almost said him, as in he was the one who died. She cleared her throat and continued. “Is what got Angel killed in the first place. We all make the plans and we all move in as a team. You don’t like that, there’s the door.”

“Cordy, I know that plant and the tunnels leading to it,” he said. “That’s where…I’ve just fought there before.” He grabbed a towel and dried his hands on it then handed it to her.

She took the towel from him and she looked him right in the eye. “I don’t care if you know cold fusion. You aren’t going alone. What part of there is no I in team, aren’t you getting?”

“And the team is why I’d be doing it. The more that are sneaking around down there the better the chances of setting off alarms.” Angel persisted.

She tossed the towel down. “You want to go get yourself killed, fine, there is the door. But before you go charging out of here to do something completely stupid, you go tell those two kids you are going out alone, again. Why is it that you can’t see how incredibly stupid this is?” She shook her head, starting to walk away from him. “And Wes said this would be better because you could learn from past mistakes. Aren’t doing any learning right now.”

Just as she turned, he grabbed her arm and turned her back to face him. He locked his eyes with hers for a moment then not being able to help it any longer, he kissed her.

Her heart started to race when he grabbed her. She wasn’t sure what he was going to do. To be honest, the kiss was more of a surprise than anything. Her eyes went wide as he kissed her. She could count off the seconds in her head, one, two, and then she turned her brain off. She let her heart guide her. Her heart was screaming to just relax and enjoy it, which is what she did.

Angel finally pulled back. His hand came up to the side of her face to run his long fingers in her hair. He swallowed hard looking down at her. He just wanted some of this tension to break. He wanted to just…he wanted her.

She looked up at him. “Promise me you won’t go down there alone. I am serious.” There was something in her eyes that said that if he did go at this alone, he was going to lose any chance with her. He might very well lose his life as well. She didn’t have a vision, she just a feeling in her gut. She wished she got this feeling before, when Angel told her he was going out the night he was killed.

“I’ll wait,” he told her. His hold on her arm loosened. He could stand here the rest of the day and just look at her. “I’ll probably go lay back down until then.”

“Do you…I mean…there is a waterpark with an indoor wave pool. We’ve gone there before. You just come up in the service room from the sewers. It’s all concrete and fake sun. We could do that as a family instead of the beach.” The words were out of her mouth before she realized that she was saying them.

“I remember,” he said with a slight smile. “And I remember Wes showing up in a Speedo that time. That should be a sight nobody should be subject too.” Wes had showed up in a red Speedo when the family called for family day at the waterpark.

Cordelia shivered and closed her eyes as the visual popped into her head. “Oh, why did you have to remind me? He might be British but that is no excuse for a Speedo.” She faked a gag a few times before she gently pulled her arm out of his grip.

“Day with the kids and you sounds good,” Angel agreed. “But if I fall asleep on the towel don’t give Ian markers to color my tattoo again.”

She just grinned at him. Because he told her not to, she was going to be doing it. It looked nice with all the colors. To be honest, if things didn’t go well tonight, it could be their last day with the kids. She wanted to make sure that last day was a good one for the kids. “I am going to go get changed. When I am done, bathroom is all yours.”

“Sounds good,” he replied. “I’ll pack some snacks then to keep the twins away from the snack bar as much as possible.”

Cordelia headed out of the kitchen and back to the master bedroom so that she could get changed into some kind of swimwear. Really wasn’t a good idea that all she had was bikinis with a vampire libido running around. Then again, she never expected this sort of a situation. She got dressed quickly and put a cover up on before calling to Angel. “All yours.” She moved to go get the twins ready. It would take a bit to get them settled into the car.

Ian was in the bedroom already in his swim trunks and he was leaping from bed to bed while Katy was in the bathroom changing. “I’m the Dark Revenger,” he said. His beach towel was tied around his neck like a cape.

“Well, kiddo, you are going to be happy.” Cordelia grabbed him up from the bed and swung him around. “We are going to the waterpark. Angel included. And, if you are really good, maybe we will get In and Out for lunch.” She tapped his nose lightly with her finger.

“Awriiiight,” he said with a big grin. “We can play JAWS!”

Cordelia spun him around and put him down. “Go get your swim boards for me.” Cordelia moved and tapped on the bathroom door. “Katharine, honey…did you hear that? We are having a family day. You almost done? Don’t want Angel beating us there, do we?”

Kat came out of the bathroom after the knock. She looked mad, very mad. She was upset about not being allowed to have a kitten while Ian got his dog. She moved past Cordelia without a word to follow after her brother.

Ian ran to the room where they kept their outing things: toys, tents, water toys. He came back armed with all sorts of waterpark appropriate toys and some that weren’t. “Uncle Wes isn’t coming is he,” he asked.

Cordelia was the last one out of the room. She went to get some things out of the playroom. “No. Uncle Wes is sleeping. Did Connor and Lillian like their breakfast?”

“Yeah, until we told Connor that Da fixed it,” Ian said. “He told me not to call that thing Da. Why does Connor hate Da so?”

Cordelia just sighed. She should have known. She grabbed the little hand pump to take care of the inflatable. She took Ian’s hand and walked him downstairs. She knew Kat would already be down there, waiting. “He doesn’t hate him, Ian. Connor is just hurting. He isn’t dealing with it well.”

“Why isn’t he happy Da is back,” the boy said. He got that same deep frown on his features as his father would. “Katy and I are happy and Katy knows its Da. If she says so, it is so.”

“No frowns today, little man. We are going to the waterpark.” She reached down so that she could tickle his sides. This wasn’t the topic of conversation that she wanted to be having now. It wasn’t the topic of conversation she wanted to have ever.

He laughed and ran on into the lobby to where Katy sat on the poof. “Its okay, Katy, Uncle Wes isn’t coming,” he assured her.

Kat didn’t look up from her book. It wasn’t as difficult as Great Expectations or Tale of Two Cities. She got off the poof and headed for the parking garage now that her mother and brother were here.

Ian just watched his sister then he looked up at Mom not saying anything but the question was there.

“If we don’t get our butts moving, all the good spots on the fake beach are going to be taken.” She tapped Ian gently on the behind to get him moving. It took them about a half-hour with traffic, which probably gave Angel more than enough time to come up through the service room and get them a good spot. She didn’t expect it to be too crowded when people could go enjoy the real beach. She was right. Then again, she had a knack for being right. More people just needed to realize that. She ushered the twins inside after paying, looking for any sign of Angel.

When Angel saw her and the kids, he moved to them to help her with the things. He wore his dark trunks and had on a pair of sunglasses. “I was wondering if you had an accident or something.”

“It was traffic. You wouldn’t believe it if I told you.” She pushed a lounge chair and an inflatable alligator at him. She lingered just a bit too long with her fingers against his chest. She turned to the kids. “Okay, which one are we making dad blow up first?” She was already pulling the small hand pump from the beach bag to give to Angel.

“I want Wally,” Ian said, jumping up and down for the gator.

Kat took her little beach chair and set it up away from her family. She sat down and took her book out from her backpack. She didn’t even acknowledge her family. She was still sore about the kitten and besides, Ian was being the star of the circus.

Angel took the pump and then the inflatable toy and pumped it up. When done, Ian grabbed the gator and ran for the water. He watched his son a moment then turned to Cordy. “I think we need to bottle that energy and sell it. End the need for dependence on fossil fuel.”

Cordelia set up her lounge chair as Angel was pumping away. She shed her shirt and shorts quickly to reveal the bikini underneath. It might not have been sun but any UVA and UVB rays were good for her. She glanced over at Angel and then called to Ian. “Hey! You get back here, kiddo! You didn’t put on your sunscreen!”

Ian stopped on the water’s edge. “Awww, Mom,” he whined.

“You want to look like a broiled lobster?” She reached into the beach bag to get the sunscreen spray. She moved it back and forth. “Even heroes need their sunscreen. Right, Angel?” She glanced over at him.

The vampire was caught for the moment by her in the bikini, probably a good thing he had on the sunglasses. “Huh? Oh, yeah, because you see, I’m going to have Mom put some on my back after she makes sure you’re all protected.”

Ian came back reluctantly. “But we’re inside.” He turned around for his mother to rub his back down.

Cordelia knelt in the sand and sprayed Ian’s back before rubbing it in. “But these are tanning lamps. They will still crisp you right up.” She turned Ian around and sprayed his chest next. Then came his arms and finally, she sprayed some on her hands to rub on his face.

“Are we done,” he asked impatiently.

Cordelia rolled her eyes but it was all in good fun. “Yes, we are done.” She smacked him gently on the butt so that he could get going. “Kat, honey…you want Angel to put some sunscreen on you?” Cordelia frowned as she was met with silence.

Running for the water, Ian suddenly stopped. He made a U-turn and ran for the restrooms.

Cordelia just shook her head. She held the bottle out for Angel to take. “I better go check on him. He will try to take the gator inside with him.” She got up from where she was kneeling and headed off to the bathrooms, leaving Angel and Kat alone.

Angel walked over and sat in the sand next to Katy’s seat. “We better get this on you before Mommy gets us both.”

Kat remained quietly focused on her book but she held her arm out to be sunscreened and then stuck her legs out straight. She was mad at him too. She was mad at them both, for a lot of reasons

Rubbing it on her, he talked. “Katy, you know, stick that lip out any further and I’ll use it for a beach chair.”

Kat didn’t even crack a smile. She turned her head to look at him. “Why does Ian always get everything he wants? Why does he get a puppy? I hate puppies. No one asked me what I wanted.”

He stopped and put the sunscreen down. Taking her book, he reached for her to pull her down in his lap. “Nobody said you weren’t going to get your kitty,” he said. “But maybe do you think you can first help Ian with the puppy? It would really help your Mom and me with all that’s going on right now. And I promise,” he kissed her on the top of the head, “I promise we will get you the best kitty we can.”

She wiggled out of his lap to get away from him. She could really hold a grudge for a little kid. “I don’t like puppies. Why can’t we get a kitty first? Just because Ian is the loudest doesn’t mean he is the best.”

Angel pulled off his sunglasses so he could look at her and let her see his eyes. “Katy, you both are the best. Connor is the best,” he said. “And Ian doesn’t have a puppy yet.” He paused. “What if you come home with me through the tunnels? Just you and me.”

Kat paused for a moment as she tried to decide. She didn’t want to go with mom and Ian as they went to pick out Ian’s dog. She just nodded her head to show her father that was fine with her.

“Just do me a favor, sweetheart,” he said to her, “let’s try and have a good time. Mommy is worried. She wants to just have a fun day for us.

Kat knew how to bargain. She looked at Angel for a moment, thinking it over. “Will you let me pick another book from your library to be our special book?” Which meant that they would have to sit down and decorate it for an hour together. That is, if he lived through the battle tonight.

“Another special book, huh,” he said. “What if….what if we go to one of the old book stores find a book like one you want and then we make a scrap book. Put your favorite pages in and pictures and then we can make the book match it and we’ll put them on the shelves side by side.”

Kat was debating about this. That would take up more of her father’s time. Time was what she really wanted, especially after already losing him once. “Okay, that sounds good.” She put her arms around his neck, wiping most of her sunscreen onto him.

“Good,” he said, hugging her back. He picked up the bottle of sunscreen and pulled back. He handed it to her. “Now, you have to put this on my back. You know how easy I burn.”

Kat giggled when Angel said this. It was all just for appearances. Though the wave pool wasn’t really crowded today. Most people had opted for the real beach. She sprayed Angel’s back and rubbed the sunscreen in, still giggling.

“Not giggle monsters,” he warned her. “I’ll have to take care of giggle monsters.”

Kat put a hand over her mouth so that could try to stop her giggling. It was no use, however. She was still giggling behind her hand. She scooted up on her little beach chair, trying to tuck her body into a little ball. “Nooooooo, daddy…noooooo!”

“Just what I was afraid of,” Angel got up and turned. He grabbed her up out of the chair and started for the water. “Here we go. I’m going to beat the giggle monster!”

“DADDY!” She shrieked as she was picked up taken to the water. She was no longer giggling but laughing hysterically now. She was wiggling around in his arms, trying to get away but not trying too hard. She didn’t fancy accidentally being dropped.

When he got deep enough, he fell back, letting her grab around his neck. He swam on his back. He looked up at her grinning.

Ian came out of the bathroom, his trunks still not pulled up over his butt. He saw what Katy and Da were doing. “HEY! Katy can have Wally!”

Cordelia was running after Ian, trying to pull his trunks up as she held the inflatable alligator under one arm. “Ian! Let me pull your pants up. You want everyone to know your religion?” A phrase that would be lost on the little boy but Angel might get a chuckle out of it.

Kat held tight around her dad’s neck as he fell over onto his back. Ian had his own floaty with Wally. He should have held out for the dad float. Sometimes, being so anxious, he missed out on a lot of fun stuff.

“MOOOOOOM,” he said, jumping up and down at the water’s edge and pointing.

Cordelia finally caught up to Ian and pulled his pants up. “Well, hurry up and go catch up with them. Maybe if you ask nicely, Kat will trade you. And don’t hit her.” Cordelia pointed a finger at him and she was damn serious about that.

Fat chance that Katy would give up Da, he knew this. Ian looked up at his mother. “You come swim too.”

“I am just going to watch you guys for a little bit. You go have fun.” She pushed Ian gently towards the water. She made sure that at least his feet were in before she went back to her lounger. A little bit of fake sun, a new book, and the kids having fun, she really couldn’t ask for much else.

The boy got on Wally and paddled out to his sister and father. “The Wally Gator is gonna get you!”

Kat was still tired from manipulating her parents in their sleep state. She didn’t recover from it as well as Ian did. She was laying on Angel, using him as a float, her eyes closed. She opened them barely to regard her brother. “I bet you can’t swim out to the side wall and back! I bet you a dollar!” She knew how to easily get rid of Ian.

“Can too,” he said. He jumped from Wally and off he went. Sometimes Ian’s attention span was about like a moth’s.

Angel chuckled. “That was mean, Katy,” he said but not scolding because he was still chuckling.

Kat settled back on Angel. She knew that at least here, she was safe. If something happened, he would wake her up and keep her from drowning in the wave pool. “Not mean. It’s worth a dollar to me.” Kat gave just the smallest hint of a smile.

After about an hour of play, Angel got the kids out of the water to go rest and drink some water. As they approached they saw Cordelia. Angel could tell she had fallen asleep and a grin spread on his lips. He knelt down and pulled the kids to him. “You guys want to play a joke on Mommy?”

Kat looked over at the sleeping Cordelia and then back to her father. She was timid in the nodding of her head. She had seen mom mad and it was not something she was looking forward to repeating.

Ian grinned and nodded. Angel put his finger to his lips for them to be quiet. “Okay, go get your drinks and I’ll get busy.”

Kat nodded once more and moved over to the cooler. She opened it up and got a juice box for herself and Ian. She passed him his but kept her eyes on Angel to see what he was doing.

The vampire started digging a shallow trench. When done he moved to Cordelia and picked her up carefully. Laying her down in the trench it went from her waist down. Then he looked up at the kids and indicated for them to come help him cover her legs and waist with the sand.

Ian giggled and was there in a moment helping his father.

Kat didn’t hesitate either. She was soon on the other side so that she could help as well. She pushed the sand with both hands up and over her mother’s legs.

“Okay,” Angel whispered, “What do we do? Mermaid? Hula girl? Ideas?” He looked from Katy to Ian for what they thought.

“Oh, a snake,” Ian said. “A snake!”

“Um, I don’t think that would be good,” Angel said. “Especially since she almost got ate by a big snake demon one time.”

“Lets do a mermaid.” Kat said. She couldn’t believe her brother and the mention of the snake. She was going to have to punch him in the shoulder for that later.

“Okay, now I’m going to need a couple buckets of water,” he told them. He started building up more sand down where the bases of her feet were.

Kat got up from where she was kneeling in the fake indoor beach. She grabbed her little bucket and went running to the edge of the wave pool. She knew better than to go in too deep. She crouched down and filled her pail with water.

Ian grabbed his own pail and went with his sister. He bent down and scooped up some water.

Both of the children came running back only moments later, holding the pails of water out for Angel to take from them.

Angel took the buckets and wetted the sand as he worked and in about 30 minutes Cordy had a mermaid tail. The end came down to a curl and then the fin. He looked at the kids. “So, what do you think?”

“We need to take a picture!” Kat squealed. She went to the beach bag and rummaged until she found the camera. She held it up for Angel to take so that he could take the pictures. Kat grabbed her brother to put him on one side of their mother, Kat taking the other side.

Angel took the camera and shot the picture. “Now we might need to wake Mommy so she can see the surprise. Do it easy, don’t want to make her move real sudden.”

Ian leaned down to his mother’s ear. “Mommy….Moooommy…”

Kat gently shook their mother as Ian spoke in her ear. She didn’t want to jolt her awake and have her break the tail before she saw it.

Cordelia didn’t budge at all from her deep sleep. All the late nights spent worrying about the Slayer Academy were finally catching up with her.

“Mommy, Da has pineapple and Canadian bacon pizza,” Ian whispered to her.

Kat tried to shake Cordelia a little harder. She sighed and looked at Angel. “She is like Sleeping Beauty.” She turned her head back towards his brother, giving him a sly looking smile.

Ian looked up at his sister. “Eewww, ” he said, “I’m not kissing her like the prince. Mom is a girl!”

Kat rolled her eyes at her brother. He could be so dense sometimes. “Not you. Daddy has to kiss her. That is the way the story goes.”

“Oh,” Ian said, “but Da isn’t a prince either.”

Angel couldn’t help but chuckle at the two. Sometimes Ian was too literal and Katy was the little romantic.

“He is the Champion. The hero always comes to save the Princess and give her a kiss to wake her up.” Kat put her hands on her hips, ready for a full-blown argument with her twin.

Ian stood and his hands were on his hips just above his drooping swim trunks. The boy had no butt to keep pants up. “The story says a Prince. Besides they used to call Mom Queen, not Princess.”

Kat glared at her brother for a moment before she slipped into the twin speak to try to make him understand. “Doofus, we want mom and daddy back. So that means lots of kisses. So shut up and let Daddy kiss her already.”

Ian looked to his father. “Katy says you have to kiss mom,” he said as he moved. He still thought that his logic was the right one.

Kat gave her father an innocently sweet smile as she moved out of the way. She stood next to Ian and punched him lightly in the arm. “It’s the way they do it in the stories.”

Ian frowned and looked at Katy. “Stop it!”

Angel looked at the two. “Are you sure this is what I have to do? Positive?”

“Yes, this is the way they always do it in the movies. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty. You have to kiss her for her to wake up, Daddy.” Kat just shot a glare at Ian. He was going to ruin everything if he didn’t hush up.

Angel moved around and knelt down by Cordy. “Okay, let’s hope it works,” he said as he lowered and kissed her.

Ian covered his eyes. He knew moms and dads did this but it still didn’t make it not gross.

Kat grinned as Angel leaned down to kiss Cordelia. She reached out, out of sight, and pinched her mother light enough for Cordelia to feel it and wake.

Cordelia started to stir, more from the pinch then from the kiss. She opened her eyes slowly to find that Angel was kissing her once again. She gently pushed on his shoulder though. She still wasn’t completely certain of how she felt. She was a bundle of conflicting emotions, which was something wholly new for Cordelia.

“Um, I was told to wake the princess…,” Angel said with a slight smile. “And finding a mermaid, I couldn’t help it.”

“Finding a what?” She then woke up enough to feel that her legs were heavy, weighted down with something. She sat up enough to see exactly was on there. She thought for a moment that it was the twins but no. She saw the tail and shook her head. “Guess that will teach me to fall asleep….”

“Yeah, fall asleep on a beach and you get a tail.” He was working so hard here at not breaking up at that. “But you know it was all their idea,” he said pointing to the twins. “Yeah, it was their fault.”

“Daddy, you lie!” Kat pointed right at him. She wasn’t going to miss dessert because it was his idea. “He told us to help and he dug and he made it. All Ian and I did was get the water.”

“We did help put the sand on your legs,” Ian spoke up. Probably something he shouldn’t have. It’ll earn him another pinch.

“Lie,” Angel said looking hurt. “Your father doing that? I can’t believe…oh, drive a stake in me.”

Kat pinched Ian for what he said but her jaw dropped when she heard Angel. “You are the liar! You started digging the hole and told us to help!” Kat looked desperately at her mother.

Cordelia raised a brow as she watched the back and forth. She resisted the urge to correct Angel that he was not their father. “Well, since you two are working it out among yourselves, you mind if I get up? I am getting sand in my butt. And other not really fun places here.”

Angel fell over on his back with his hands over his chest at Kat’s words.

Kat ran over to him and she jumped on him. She started to tickle right where his neck meets his shoulder. She called to Ian. “Come help me. He lies!”

Ian couldn’t help it. He dove on the sand tail to help dig his mother out. He stood over it and started tossing sand out between his legs, probably hitting his sister.

Cordelia grinned at the little boy. “Faster Ian…I think I feel my legs starting to die. You have to save me.” Cordelia tried to move her legs a little bit to get more of the sand off herself. But she really wanted to let Ian feel like he was saving her.

Angel tried to keep from laughing. Finally, he came up fast with a roar and started tickling Katy.

Kat squealed out with laughter as her father started to tickle her. She didn’t even mind that Ian was hitting her with big, wet clumps of sand. She tried to wiggle away from Angel. “Daddy! Stop it! I will pee!” She drew the last word out as if to emphasize her point.

Ian worked harder to rescue his mother. “I’m the Champion! I will save you!”

Angel let Katy get away. He’d play stalking beast with her if she was fibbing about going pee. Then suddenly, he got hit upside the head with a big clump of wet sand.

When her legs were free, Cordelia leaned forward and scooped Ian up into her arms. “My Champion.” She gave him a kiss on the cheek before she let him go. “You two go to the bathroom while we clean up. Its almost time for your afternoon nap.”

Angel watched the two kids head off. He smiled then he stood and started picking up things. “They are something else.”

Cordelia stood up and started brushing the rest of the sand off her legs. She was trying to be discrete as she removed the sand out of her bikini bottoms. She reached for her clothes to get covered up again. “You should have been carrying them. Party in my womb every night. I thought they formed a frat and invited other fetuses over for a kegger.”

Angel stopped and put down their things in a neat pile. He reached over and stopped her from dressing. “Not yet,” he said.

“What? I can’t take the kids out to pick out a dog in a bikini, Angel.” She just looked at him like he was completely insane. Did he want her to stand around, half dressed?

Picking her up, he carried her to the water. “I’m taking Katy with me home,” he said as he walked. “And I got the sand on you, I need to help you get it off.”

“Hey…with the carrying here…I can walk! I have two legs that work.” Now that she was more awake, she was fully aware that this Angel was still the one that sold his family out to Wolfram and Hart. “And anything happens to Katy…” Her voice trailed but the threat was there. She didn’t want to deny Kat any time or experience in the rare case that she and Angel didn’t make it out alive tonight. The child was happy spending time with this Angel but Cordelia was going to make sure it was still done cautiously.

When he was waist deep, Angel lowered her into the water. He kept hold of her to make sure she was steady.

When they came out of the changing room, Ian stopped. He got Katy’s attention, pointing to Mom and Dad out in the water together.

Kat stopped right in her tracks to watch them out in the water. She grabbed her brother’s arm. “I told you. He has to kiss her. They always kiss in the movies and everything is better.” Kat looked excited at the prospect that her parents were going to finally get back together, the way they should be.

Cordelia frowned as Angel would not let go of her. She could struggle more to get out his arms but it would have been difficult. She most likely would have ended up flat on her butt. “I could have done this myself, you know.”

“I know, but this is supposed to be a fun day,” he said. He was to wrapped up in looking at her he didn’t notice the wave machine had been kicked up some. That is until it was too late and the wave came down on them. He grabbed hold of Cordy and when the wave passed surfaced with her. He was holding her to him. “Are you okay?”

Cordelia spat out a mouthful of water, coughing and huffing it up. She yelled out to the lifeguard on the side. “A little warning next time! Ring a bell!” She wiped the hair away from her face and coughed again. “Yeah, just a little annoyed. What if the twins were in here?” She raised her voice once more. “Someone should sue them!”

“I think the twins had something to do with it,” he looked back to the area where the wave machine was housed to see a figure in baggy swim trunks come running out.

“Between them turning up the wave machine and you digging up the fake beach, we aren’t ever going to be able to come back here again.” Cordelia managed to get herself out of Angel’s arms. She stood and she headed for the shoreline, calling out. “Okay you two little troublemakers. Let’s pack up and get out of here.”

Angel followed her on up. He ran a hand through his hair to get the water out. “Katy, help your mother and brother before we go.” He grabbed a towel to dry off quickly.

Cordelia rang the water out of her hair and then grabbed her own towel so that she could dry off. She looked at the twins as she did. “You two need to behave or we won’t pick up burgers on the way home. And that means no chocolate shakes. What you did messing with the equipment was wrong. Someone could have gotten hurt. There were other kids in that wave pool.”

Ian looked up at his mother. “But they weren’t deep,” he said. “And even though you are a girl it looks nice when Da is holding you.”

“Ian, that is no excuse to put lives in danger. Would a Champion do that? Would he risk the lives of others for something he wants?” She crouched down so that she was eye-level with the little boy.

Ian looked down now, not wanting to meet his mother’s gaze. “No, Mommy. I’m sorry.”

“Good. Now come here and give me a hug.” She held her arms out for him so she could show him that everything was forgiven now and that she still thought he was a good boy. She’d been watching all those nanny shows since the moment she got pregnant. Cordelia Chase never did anything half-assed and motherhood was no exception.

Ian went to his mother’s arms. Angel watched this a moment before he spoke. “I better go get changed. The tunnels really aren’t the place to go wearing only this.” He reached down for his duffle.

Cordelia gave the boy a kiss on the temple. “Okay, let’s get these toys cleaned up. Kat is going to go with Daddy so it will just me you and me, big man.” It seemed so natural just to call Angel, this new and perhaps improved Angel “daddy” instead of “other daddy” after the day that they had. She hadn’t even noticed she did it.

Angel soon came out in his regular black on black. He waited for his family to finish loading the car. He would help but the parking was in broad sunlight.

Cordelia managed to get herself dressed and get everything in the car. Loading inflated Wally in was difficult but it was easier than deflating him here. With Kat not coming along, she could just put the gator in the back seat. She came back and scooped up Ian. “You ready to go, my hero?” Cordelia looked over to Kat. “No trouble for Angel, okay?”

Kat took her little backpack and pulled it onto her shoulders. She nodded in agreement with her mother. “No trouble, I promise.” She went to Angel, looking up at him. “Can I have a piggy back ride?”

“PUPPY,” Ian yelled. He was more then ready.

Angel nodded to Katy. “How about after we get down in the tunnels,” he said. “And I bet we beat Mom and Ian back to the hotel, even after their stop. Though I think it would be better to go to a rescue then a pet shop.”

“Yes, your puppy.” She shifted Ian on her hip and looked over at Angel. “I was going to go to the No Kill Shelter on Cooper. I am not going to pay a thousand dollars for a designer puppy when I have to wear shoes from Payless.”

Angel nodded. That was good. He looked to Katy and reached for her hand. “Are we ready then?”

Kat nodded her head and gave her dad a smile. She took his hand and waited for him to start walking. She barely looked back as her mother left with her twin brother. She was more than a little happy to be free of the puppy shopping.

Slipping on down to the service area, Angel glanced around before he opened the grate. He took Katy’s backpack and climbed on down then waited for her at the bottom so he could help her off the ladder. When he did so, he went back up and close the grate. Dropping to the ground, he turned and knelt. “Still want the ride?”

“YES!” Kat was jumping up, waiting for her piggyback ride. She took her backpack from him and slipped it back onto her shoulders.

When she was on his back, he stood. They’d make better time this way anyway. “So, which way, kiddo,” he said, “The easy way or the way by the tunnel waterfall where I have to jump a couple of water trenches?”

“We can jump the trenches. We have to beat Ian and Mom home. That way I can take a bath without him in there, playing battleships.” She put her hands on either side of her dad’s head to help keep her on.

“Okay, trenches it is,” he said as he started off. He moved to a jogging pace so they could beat Cordy and Ian home by a long shot.

“I think you should take Mommy out for a nice dinner once you battle all the monsters.” Kat said. She was trying to sound offhand about it but she was so young, she couldn’t get the tone quite right.

“Oh,” he said, “and just what kind of dinner should we go out to?”

“I think….you should take her to that romantical one. The one with all the pretty fishies in the tanks and the music. She likes that one. Or the one where you sit on the pillows and feed each other. You took her there before.” Kat answered.

“Well, it was more like I fed her,” he said with a chuckle as he remembered.

“You can pretend. Pretending is good. You can pretend to be Scarlett and Rhett. You can put on your nice clothes.” Kat leaned forward and rested her chin on her father’s head.

“I pretend, sometimes,” he said but he knew she knew this. They came up to the first of a couple of the gutter trenches. For Angel the jump wasn’t anything, a human would have a hard time. “Ready,” he said.

She held tight to her father now. She didn’t want to fall off and end up in the dirty water. “Ready!”

Angel leaped and landed lightly on the other side. He moved on and then suddenly stopped. He glanced around a moment.

“What’s wrong?” She looked around but she didn’t feel anything. She could usually feel when there was something bad around like a demon or a vampire.

“Shhh,” he said softly then he reached up and put her down. “Wait right here.” He waited to see if she would acknowledge what he told her.

Kat nodded. She pulled her backpack off her shoulders and pulled a stake from inside. She stood, ready for whatever was lurking down here. “Daddy…” She whispered to him. “Do you want a stake?”

“No,” he said to her. “Stake won’t take care of what I’m hearing.” Angel vanished up a side tunnel and was gone for almost a minute then he reappeared in that main tunnel. His hand was behind his back.

Kat looked at him with wide eyes. “What was it? Was it a big bad? Did you scare it off?” She still stood there with her stake at the ready, her eyes looking around for any signs of danger.

From behind his back, he brought out something little and fuzzy. It looked around and it meowed a very hushed, hoarse sound.

Kat blinked when she saw the tiny kitten in her father’s palm. She moved forward but stopped herself. She looked up at him. She spoke, her voice very soft. “Its a kitty…a baby…”

“Yes,” he said, “it is and it needs a mommy. Its mommy and brothers and sisters were all dead.” It had looked to Angel like somebody had thrown the cats down into the sewers from above. The fall injured and killed all of them but this kitten.

Kat’s eyes welled with tears when he said that the kitten’s family was dead. She was smart enough to draw the parallels between this kitten and her own family. “No. That is bad, daddy.” She shook her head and then wrapped herself around his leg. She buried her face into his pants as she started to cry.

“I know, sweetheart, I know…and people do these things without thinking. But this baby is going to need to be taken care of now. Think you can do that?” His hand came up and stroked her hair. He never sheltered them from the truth of how things are in the world.

She shook her head against his pant leg. This was a little deeper than just a few dead cats, that was for sure. “No. Then I will be all alone too. Connor is going to die. I had a dream. And then you and mommy and Ian. I will be alone. Like the kitty.”

Kneeling down, he wrapped his free arm around her. “Its going to take something really big to take me away from you and I don’t think there’s anything big enough that can do it.”

“I don’t want you to go to Heaven again.” Kat turned her whole body into him so that she could cry. If she hadn’t had the dream the previous night, she might not be as upset. It was something about it. It seemed so real to her.

“Shhh, sweetheart,” he said softly. “I’m going to be around a very long time. I want to be around to scare the dickens out of your first boyfriend and annoy my grandkids.”

Kat sniffled and hiccuped before she pulled away to look at her father. “Do you promise?”

Angel took her and sat down on a ledge of fallen concrete. He sat the kitten down knowing he could find it. He loved all his children dearly but Katy was closest to him. She was special in a very unique way. “Sweetheart,” Angel replied, “we can’t make promises like that when we are doing what we are. But I will promise that the first thing I’ll do when I get home will be to come to your room even if you are asleep to let you know I’m home.”

Kat reached down and picked the kitten up. It was all alone now. She held it close to her chest. She brought the kitten up and she tried to snuggle it against her face. She pulled her legs up, trying to make herself smaller and into a ball. “I’m scared.”

“Let’s just get home,” he told her. “When you get a bath and then tonight ready for bed I’ll come and read you a story.”

Kat nodded her head again and moved off the little piece of concrete. She kept the kitten close to her though. She moved over to Angel and held her arms up, wanting to be picked up.

Angel gathered his daughter up in his arms and they headed on for home. “So, what are you going to call that kitty,” he asked to get her talking.

Kat looked down at the kitty in her arms. She held it up so that she could show Angel. “Is it a boy kitty or is it a girl kitty?” She was secretly hoping that it was a girl kitty.

He pulled his head back a bit because she had put the cat’s ass in his face. He frowned. “I believe is a girl,” he said and he sure as hell hoped he was right because the kitten was terribly young.

“What about Miss Muffins? Or Whiskers? Or Princess Puff?” Kat pulled the kitten back down to put it once more against her body. She looked down at the kitten, petting it. “Or Skittles, cause I like those. Or Stinky cause she smells bad.”

“Skittles sounds good to me,” he said as they walked. “Lady Skittles, Princess of Muffins and Duchess of Sandbox.”

Kat turned the kitten towards herself. She touched her nose with the kitten’s nose. “Her name is Skittles then.” She turned the cat, pushing its nose against Angel’s nose now as well.

When Kat did that, the kitten spat. “Maybe we need to let her get used to me gradually,” he said to his daughter. “Not many animals really take to vampires, Katy.”

“She will love you. Just like we love you. She reminds me of mommy right now. She loves you deep down but she is scared and feels alone.” Kat reached out to put her hand against her father’s cheek. “You have to do something special. With dresses and food and kisses.” Kat was pushing that hint of suggestion into his mind.

“Don’t worry,” he smiled at her. “I am going to do whatever I can to get your mother back.” She didn’t have to suggest too hard. He wanted Cordelia back and he wanted her to accept him as being back.

Kat pulled her hand away from her father’s cheek. She was tired now due to the crying and then pushing that suggestion. She rested her head against her father’s shoulder. It wasn’t long before she was napping lightly.

Angel kept going at a steady pace and before long they were at the hotel. He took her up to her room and found a box for the kitten after laying Katy down. The kitten was going to need a bath, that was for certain.

Kat did stir when Angel came back. She looked at him. “You promise that you will read me a story when you get home tonight?”

“I promise,” he said. “Now take a nap then you’ll have to get a shower for dinner. Skittles is in a box until we give her a bath and get the sewer smell off her.”

“Daddy…” Kat reached out to stop him from leaving. “Promise me one more thing. Promise me you will look out for Connor and mommy tonight. Please?”

“I promise,” he said and then leaned down and gave her a kiss on her forehead.

Happy that her father had agreed to both of her promises, she finally settled into bed. She only hoped that she wouldn’t have any more dreams of the battle that was coming.
Chapter Twenty-Four

Cordelia had managed to get Ian settled in upstairs with his new puppy, which was quite a feat in and of itself. She gave instructions to the two Slayers who were babysitting, along with her car keys. Kat was going to need some supplies for her new kitten and the girls might as well take the twins out for some ice cream afterwards. Finally downstairs after another quick shower, she was setting up the “command center”, which really was nothing more than the long folding table, chairs, and a whiteboard. She wasn’t sure where Angel had gone after he put Kat down for a nap but she had a feeling that he would sneak up here soon enough. The sun was down and he knew they were meeting.

Angel came up from the basement. He pulled off his coat and laid it over a couch. He quickly moved to help Cordy with that table. “You shouldn’t be lifting this by yourself,” he said. It was heavy but most of all, it was bulky.

“I can get it. I am not a cripple.” She hated it that he was implying that she couldn’t handle it. She had done it before. She was never one to sit back and play damsel in distress, though it happened often enough. “I used to set up tables longer and heavier than this for fundraising for cheerleading.”

“Sorry,” he said, “I just…The way I was raised.” He just reached for one end and waited for her to lift hers.

“Thought you would remember better than that now.” She meant that now he had Angel’s memories so at the very least he knew how much she didn’t like people thinking she was incapable. With the table set up, she started to unfold chairs to put around the table. She did feel a little bad since he was trying so she threw him a bone. “You can drag the whiteboard over here but don’t smudge anything we wrote.”

“I do… But, its just,” he paused then turned and got the whiteboard. He set it up then he stood back and looked it over.

“Just what?” She turned so that she could look at him, no longer setting up the chairs. She put one hand on her hip. “I don’t do the trailing off and stuff. Angel and I don’t do secrets or holding back. Every time we have, it’s gotten us in trouble. Only time he was allowed to keep a secret was birthdays and other present holidays.”

“Huh, oh,” Angel turned back to her. “I still have old habits from a whole other life that never got…Well, changed, diluted, or broke from. Holding a door for a lady. Helping with heavy lifting, though the vampire thing makes that for about any…Uh, not helping am I?”

She doesn’t look at him and instead, goes back to unfolding chairs. “I guess that is why Angel and I got along so well. He knew when I needed help and gave it without making me ask. And he knew when I wanted to do something myself, even if I sucked. We just…We worked together really well. He is the only person that ever got me. Sometimes I thought he had psychic powers.” She forced out a laugh but it sounded bittersweet. That Angel, her Angel, was gone and in his place was someone who looked like him and had his memories but wasn’t him.

A teenager stepped in the front door. He was holding a pizza case. “This Angel Investigations,” he asked with a cracking, changing voice.

Angel was there in a moment and pulling out his wallet. “Yeah, right place,” he pulled out some money and handed it to the kid. Then he took the pizza. “Keep the change.”

The kid grinned when he saw his tip. “Thanks, dude.” He turned and left.

Angel carried the two boxes to the table and set them out. He opened one and turned it to her. It was pineapple and Canadian bacon.

Cordelia raised a brow once the delivery guy left. “You ordered pizza? And you paid?” He must have really wanted to get in good with the rest of the team. She looked into the box once he turned it towards her. She had to admit she was hungry and that pizza looked good. “I better grab some before Connor gets here. He would eat cardboard if it had sauce and cheese on it.”

“Yeah, I know, but tomatoes unless it was sauce he doesn’t like,” the vampire shrugged.

Cordelia sat down at the table and pulled a slice of pizza from the box. They still had some time before everyone else got here so she could eat in peace. She looked up at Angel. “There is some blood in the fridge. I picked it up on the way back from the wave park.”

“Thanks.” He moved to the fridge and got the blood out. Getting it, he opened the jar and took a drink. Cold wasn’t as good as warm but it wouldn’t clot as fast.

She seemed wholly unaffected by his blood drinking. It was something she had gotten used to. It was no different than any other daily routine. She ate her pizza, quiet for the moment. It was mostly because she was too focused on eating than anything else.

“So, how’s the kids doing with their new charges,” he asked, thinking it would be a safe subject. He sat across from her as he took another drink of his dinner.

“Ian loves the new puppy. I got a small mutt. I didn’t want another disaster like Connor with his black lab. So glad he keeps that thing at the school now. I helped Kat wash the kitten with baby shampoo and she is purring more than the kitten. That was nice of you to do that for her.” She continued to eat. Safe topics were always good in these cases. It kept him from sticking his foot in his mouth and from her hurting his feelings.

“Dingo isn’t that bad,” Angel said about the lab. “He’s just a very smart dog that gets bored when left alone.”

“And I am glad that we put him over at Academy. All the girls can entertain him and play fetch. And he can run the obstacle course with the girls.” She shook her head. “That is still on my holding a grudge list. When Angel brought that thing home for Connor’s birthday…” Her voice trailed. She didn’t need to tell him. He had all of Angel’s memories after all.

“Yes, but you had your revenge when you found that motion activated parrot and put it in the closet,” he reminded her. “That was really mean, you know that?” But he was smiling as he said it to show here that there were no hard feelings.

Cordelia smiled as she thought of that memory. She got Angel really good that time. She looked down at her slice of pizza, picking the pineapple off it to eat it. “I thought it was hilarious. I still have the video of it someplace. I am not sure what is funnier, that or Wes in his red Speedo.”

Angel made a face like his blood was sour when she said that. “Please, I thought I’d never get that image out of my head and now you put it right back, along with the one of him wearing the tights and the Speedo over those.” He shuddered.

Cordelia was about to say something else before they were interrupted by the front door opening. She turned in her seat to see Gunn and Faith enter through the doors, Wes and Fred not far behind. “Connor didn’t come over with you guys? He still at the school?”

Gunn just shook his head in answer to Cordelia’s question. He never knew what was up with the kid. He elbowed Faith when he saw and smelled the pizza. Faith wasted no time in opening one of the boxes and grabbing out a slice. “Oh hell yeah, not a meeting without pizza.”

Wesley frowned as he came down the steps. “We thought he’d be here,” he said as he approached the table.

Fred followed after Wes. She couldn’t hide the concern that was on her face. “I’ll run upstairs and check on him. Maybe he was just taking a nap or…” Fred’s voice trailed as she blushed very pink. It wasn’t hard to tell what she was thinking that Connor and Lillian were up to.

“So,” Wes said as he looked at the table and the pizza. “I see this has started without us.” He watched as Faith ate. One never wanted to get in-between Faith or Connor when reaching for food.

Cordelia rolled her eyes at Wes. “I knew that if I didn’t get some pizza now, I wouldn’t get any thanks to the Hoovers we have working here. We haven’t been talking about anything more than you and your Speedo.” She grinned at Wes as she handed him over a slice.

Gunn took a seat next to Faith, who was inhaling that pizza like it was going out of style. He reached for a slice and then gave a nod of his head to Angel.

Angel glanced around at everyone. “Connor isn’t in the hotel.”

Like clockwork, Fred came down the stairs, shaking her head. “Connor isn’t up there. Lillian said he left this afternoon, said he was going to the school. But we were at the school all day, he wasn’t there.”

Angel stood. He left the table and grabbed his coat. He pulled it on. He knew exactly what his son was doing and he was going to stop him if he could.

Cordelia got up from the table when she saw Angel was getting up. She moved so that she was blocking his path. “You aren’t going alone.” She knew what Connor was up to. He was going to be an idiot like his father and try to save the day alone. She looked back to Wes. “How do we kill this thing?”

Angel looked down at her. He wasn’t going to wait long. He didn’t speak but the tenseness of his stance told he was wound tight.

Wesley sighed. “From what I can ascertain, the breeder is interdimensional. We need to bind it then with a series of incantations and mystical herbs it can be sent back to where it is from. At present we can’t kill it. We let it get full strength to become solid in our dimension, we’ll be too late.”

Cordelia moved over to the weapons cabinet to get what she would need. “And we just cut the heads off the bodies it is taking over?” She started to pass out weapons to everyone. Most had their favorites in their cars but who knew what they would need.

The vampire moved to the cabinet and reached around to get the sword he always favored. Now he was heading for the door to go down to the GTX. “I’ll be damned if I’m going to let some ghosty demon take my son.”

“Angel. Just wait for two seconds.” Cordelia’s voice was firm. She didn’t want Connor dead anymore than Angel did. But they need to know how to kill the army before they went charging in. She looked back to Wes, waiting on the answer.

“Angel,” Wes spoke and stepped towards him. “This is where you need to be careful. Behead the bodies but the things inhabiting those bodies are going to want a new host.”

Angel looked back to Wesley. “And they take dead bodies. Great. Makes me feel special.”

“How are they getting into the bodies? Can he cover his mouth or something?” There was a surprising great deal of concern in Cordelia’s voice for Angel. It was much more than having to do with the twins, that much was clear. She finished passing out the weapons as the rest of the group waited on Wes’ answer.

“I’m not sure there is a way to stop them,” the ex-watcher said. He looked to each of them.

“Then I guess we are crossing that bridge if we come to it. We know how to do exorcism and if Angel gets infected, I can try to force it out with my oh so nifty healing powers. The four of us, Gunn, Faith, Me and Angel can cover you and Fred as you do the spell. Sound like a plan?” She glanced to each person in turn, waiting for an agreeing nod or not.

Angel glanced around at each of them to see if there were going to be any disagreements.

Wes didn’t reply. He didn’t like this because they were so ill prepared. If only Connor hadn’t went rogue on them.

Gunn and Faith just nodded. Both of them seemed a little too eager to get out there and kick some ass. Faith had her treasured crossbow back and Gunn had his axe. They were both ready to go.

Fred looked to Wes, waiting on his reply. He wasn’t saying a thing so she just merely shrugged her shoulders in means of a response.

Cordelia glanced to Angel. She reached into her pocket and tossed him a set of keys. They were to the GTX. She grabbed a short sword out of the cabinet and started for the basement door.

As Angel drove to the dehydration plant, he was quiet. His face showing no emotion and his eyes remained ahead on the streets. The only sign of anything in him were the muscles working in his jaw.

Cordelia kept her eyes straight ahead for the most part. Every so often, she would glance over at Angel to see that jaw working. He was no doubt pissed about Connor. She looked back away from him. “Like father, like son.”

“Connor is confused,” he said. “He acts the only way he knows how to deal with it.”

“He isn’t confused, Angel. He is hurting. He wants to save those girls, his girls. The Academy is the first really normal thing he has ever done. Well, normal for our lifestyle. And he will do anything to protect what he sees as his family. Does that sound remotely familiar?” She looked back at him as she spoke, watching his face for that reaction.

Angel remained silent for a few moments. “My son is coming out of there alive,” he finally replied and turned into the parking. He looked in his rearview to check to see if Gunn was behind.

She just shook her head at him. Did he really think that she, of all people, would let anything happen to Connor? He was just as much her son as Ian was. Once Angel parked the GTX, she got out. She grabbed her sword from the backseat and handed him his. “Don’t get killed this time.”

Angel looked at her as she handed him his broad sword. His left hand reached out and pulled her to him. He leaned down and kissed her. As he did, his grip loosened so if she wished, she could pull away.

Cordelia could understand why he was kissing her so much. He not only had her Angel’s memories but there was a very good chance that they might die tonight. They had never dealt with anything like this before. She didn’t want her last memories to be fighting with this new Angel so oddly enough, she returned his kiss. If nothing else, if he lived and she died, he could tell the twins that moments before, they had reconciled and for a brief moment, things were as they were before.

Angel broke the kiss as the others pulled up by the Belvedere. He kept his eyes on hers for just a moment. “We’ll get him and be rid of this thing,” he said to her in a whisper.

“I know. Its what we do.” She pulled away quickly from him as the others pulled up. The last thing she wanted to do was have to explain her actions to any of them. She did not explain actions. She could only imagine what Wes or Gunn would say if they found out they spent the day at the water park. Fred would no doubt be ecstatic and Faith would wonder if Angel felt her up. They were a little too scripted at times.

Gunn got out of his truck, followed behind by Faith. He raised a brow at Angel as he watched Cordelia pulling away quickly but he didn’t say a damn thing. Faith, on the other hand, hit Angel in the shoulder and gave him a big grin. “Way to go, big man. Getting a little tongue action before the big fight. I am more of a “after the fight action” kind of girl. Ain’t that right, baby?” Faith swung an arm around Gunn, still grinning like an idiot.

Wesley got out of his SUV. If he’d seen anything he wasn’t going to comment, now wasn’t the time. He went to the back and opened it. He handed Fred the book while he started mixing the binding powder and herbs.

Angel didn’t reply to Faith’s comments. He knew as well as Cordy did what that kiss was and what it was for. He glanced back to Wes wondering why that just now was he mixing these things.

Cordelia just shot Faith a look at her comment. It was a look that would have whither any human in range. Faith was lucky in that not only was she a Slayer, she was tough. But still, that look was enough to sting. Cordelia was the mistress of the look.

Fred took the book from Wes and she opened it up to the marked page. She watched him while he worked. “Wes, you forgot to add in the Bitter Root.” Fred reached for it, handing it to him. She held the book open, flashlight shining down on it, so that he could read.

Faith had a good idea of what Angel and Cordy would say the kiss was but damn if her eyes didn’t tell her something else. You don’t lean into someone like that if you are kissing them “just in case”. She kept her eyes on them for a moment before she spoke. “We all just going in through the front door?”

Wes took the small jar. “Thank you,” he said between his chant for the spell for the binding powder. Finally done he put all of what he needed into capped jars and into a satchel. “Ready.”

Angel nodded. “Let’s go kick some ass then.” He started for the door of the plant.

Cordelia fell in line behind Angel, then Faith, Gunn, Fred, and Wes to finish it off. They all had their weapons at the ready. No one really knew what to expect once they descended those stairs into the pit of the plant. One thing was for certain, with spirits running around in dead bodies, its wasn’t going to smell good.

No sooner then they were down in that pit of a floor one of the things jumped out at them. Angel immediately went on defense before attack mode kicked in. That familiar broad sword cut the air and the blade sang, as all well-balanced blades should.

Faith was right at Angel’s side with her crossbow lifted up. In the dim lighting, it was hard to make anything out until her eyes adjusted to the light. “Would have been nice if we didn’t rush off without getting some flashlights.” She gave a pointed look at Angel before she fired a bolt off, hitting one of the zombie-like creatures right in the middle of the head.

Gunn went straight forward ahead and swung the axe to behead the thing that was coming for him. He glanced quickly back to Wes. “You going to start that spell or what, English?”

Cordelia had taken up next to Angel’s side to keep an eye on him in case any of those spirit things tried to invade him. Not that she would be able to tell but it gave her a sense of security to watch him. She called to him as she raised her sword, ready to attack. “You okay?”

Angel stood ready looking around. He had no problem seeing in the dark plant. “So far only me,” he told her. “Gunn, you have a gift for understatement. We…” Before he could finish Wesley’s name, he looked up to see something that struck fear in him. Up on a catwalk was Connor. He was chained, his arms outstretched.

Cordelia heard that pause but she wasn’t sure why. She looked up after Angel did but in the low light, she couldn’t see. “What is…” She didn’t get her sentence out either as she was tackled by one of the former girls, Madison. She hit the concrete hard; the sound of her back cracking against it and the wind going out of her body finished her sentence for her.

Gunn and Faith were pretty much occupied in taking down the seemingly endless line of possessed bodies that were coming at them. “Damn! I feel like I am playing real life Resident Evil.” Gunn shouted to Faith as he took the head off another.

Faith yelled back to Wes and Fred. “You think you two could light a fire under each other’s asses to get going here? Looks like they raided the county coroner before we came!”

Wes began the incantation to bring forth the demon. He had instructed Fred to take over once it materialized and while he was pouring the powder.

Fred knelt down beside Wes and kept the book open, flashlight on it so that he could read the words. She was really worried about what this thing was going to look like. She had done all sorts of calculations about the size that it would need to be to span dimensions and none of the visuals she calculated were very good looking.

Angel was managing to dodge the hapless spirits that seemed mindless, just like they were in the bodies they possessed. He dispatched another creature that had once been human. He ran and took a leap to get hold of the rail of the landing just below Connor.

Cordelia put a knee in the chest of Madison, or what used to be Madison, and shoved her off her. She got to her feet quickly and looked at the girl. It felt so strange to be standing here; staring into the face of a young girl that only a few months before, she was buying purses with. She swallowed and stepped back before swinging in a wide arc to dispatch Madison. She felt instantly guilty for doing it but it had to be done.

Wes continued the chant then in the area below the catwalk Connor stood on seemed to shimmer and roll. A low moan and screeching could be heard.

Fred glanced over to the area and then she reached up with one hand to cover her ear. “Why do these demons always have to be so loud? We should have thought to bring some earplugs. If I had time to run the probability of noise factors, I would have known that”. Fred frowned because this operation was a rushed job. There was no way they were all going to get out unscathed. She yelled though, as a few of the army broke in on the right side, heading for her and Wes. “Charles!” She yelled out his name.

Gunn turned and he saw the few shambling towards Fred and Wes. The little bit of light from Fred’s flashlight helped him make out faces. He was glad that there weren’t any of their girls. He had no problem taking off the heads of two of them, the third one making an attempt at a tackle. Gunn hit it with the end of his axe right in the middle, sending it stumbling backwards.

Connor didn’t appear conscious. The creatures were surrounding him. They had made carvings in his chest and down his arms. They looked up, saw Angel, and hissed in some demon tongue at the vampire. Angel advanced on them. The first one met with his sword and its head fell to the floor below. The wisp of demon energy flowed from it and swirled around trying to seek another host.

The form started becoming more visible. Wesley got up and grabbed the jar with the binding powder and headed for it knowing Fred would pick up the chant. He started pouring the red contents around where the thing was taking shape.

Fred immediately started to chant where Wesley had left off. She kept glancing at the words and then back up at him. When she first was rescued, she never would have imagined Wesley to be capable of this but now he was becoming more adept at the magics than anything else. She only hoped that Gunn, Faith, and Cordelia could keep the army away from her. If she broke in the chanting, it could be deadly for all of them.

The trio left down below were busy fighting their way through what seemed like an endless sea of walking dead. Cordelia had no idea where Angel was. She didn’t have time to look around for him. She knew the moment she turned her head, that is when she would end up gutted by one of these things. She had seen Shaun of the Dead; she knew how zombies operated.

The huge demon materialized and it screamed when it found it was imprisoned. Wesley pulled the jar of herbs from his satchel. “Don’t let anything break the circle,” he called out hoping they could hear him.

It was hard to hear over the screaming of the demon but Gunn and Faith both heard it. Now, instead of protecting Fred, they shifted their attention towards keeping the shambling horde away from Wesley and his circle. Most were moving that way since the demon could sense that it was in trouble.

Then as the creature screamed Connor did also. Angel looked at his son. Now he understood what was happening. The last demon/zombie came for him. He dispatched it. But in doing so the demon energy zeroed in on him.

Cordelia heard Connor’s scream cutting through that of the demon’s. She just knew it was him and could separate it. She knew it was coming from above so that is where Angel was. She looked to Fred. “Use your flame thrower thing if they come near you.” She didn’t wait for Fred’s response before she grabbed up the flashlight and went to try to find a way up.

Angel staggered back and took an involuntary gasp as it hit him. He grabbed the rail and went to his knees. He closed his eyes feeling this thing in him.

Cordelia made it to the top and the catwalk. She saw Angel on his knees but her concern was for Connor. He was still chained up and bleeding. Angel could handle himself. She moved past him and went to Connor. The zombies up here were gone, thanks to Angel, so she just had to worry about unchaining the screaming boy.

The vampire looked up at her, strain on his face. “Cordelia,” he said in a raspy voice, “don’t…Don’t…”

Cordelia stopped what she was doing and looked back to Angel. She didn’t understand why he wanted her to hold off on unchaining Connor. She saw the strain on his face and she knew he wouldn’t be able to explain. She had a choice now, to help Connor or help Angel. It only took her seconds before she was at Angel’s side. “Where?” It was a simple question. She needed to know where he was hurt before she could help him.

Angel gritted his teeth and reached out a hand to her shoulder. He struggled to try and speak. “Connor,” he spoke, sounding like he was strangling, “Wes…Demon…First.” Then his face morphed to his demon and that tiger-like sound came from him. He shoved back from Cordy.

Wesley held up on jar of mystical herbs. “That which has come must be put back and doors opened, closed for good,” he said as he tossed herbs around the feet of the demon. With each handful thrown at it, it shrieked.

Cordelia nodded her head because she understood what he was saying, even if it was in so few words. He was a man of few words. She had a pretty good idea that he had gotten taken over by one of these things as well. “Angel, don’t. Don’t move away. You need me to help you.” She held her hand out for him, waiting for him to take it.

Angel was fighting that thing in him. Sure he was dead but he already had a demon in him. These essences were apparently too mindless to tell. He didn’t move further away from Cordelia but he didn’t reach out either. His energies were directed to the fight in him.

Since he wasn’t moving away, Cordelia scooted closer to him. She only hoped that the demon in Angel, now merged with his soul, would be stronger than this thing. Her body started to take on that soft glowing aura as she reached her hands out to his face. “Quit being an idiot and let me help you.”

He looked up at her. Shadows of that pure demon that came forth on Pylea seemed just under the surface. He was hearing Cordelia but it seemed like she was at the end of a long tunnel calling to him. Beads of blood droplets formed on his brow and he trembled.

Below Wes continued and with each circle he made it seemed like the demon got smaller, as if it was drying up. It tried to lash out but the binding circle prevented it. Connor convulsed in his bonds as the demon fought.

Cordelia could hear Connor behind her as his chains rattled and shook against his convulsions. She swallowed hard because she made her choice for the time being. She couldn’t help Connor. She put her hands against Angel’s face and closed her eyes. She just had to treat this like a poison. She had drawn poison from Angel a dozen times before. He was always getting himself stuck with something or other that was deadly. She took in a deep breath, working slowly to draw the thing out little by little.

The thing in him fought back but that demon in him was always up for a good fight. As the two fought Cordy could feel the savagery that was in him, that he always fought to keep under control, even having a soul.

She didn’t even flinch as she felt it. His demon never bothered her. It was a part of who he was. It was no different than Fred’s love for tacos, her love of shopping, Wes being a geek, Gunn’s streetspeak. It was what made Angel who he was. She scooted closer to him, still using her rather unique demon power to weaken the thing little by little and draw it out.

Angel let out a last roar then collapsed as the demon energy fled him with his fighting and Cordelia’s powers.

Cordelia moved herself so that she could catch and support Angel as he collapsed. She was weak now. Taking that thing out of Angel had drained her to a point where she felt like she had low blood sugar and just donated blood. She called out, hoping Wes could hear her. “Wes! Is it almost…Done?”

Just as Cordelia called out there was the sound like a cork from a champagne bottle…Pop. Wes sighed. “It’s done,” he said as he watched the zombie Slayers drop around them.

Cordelia called out once again. “Gunn, Faith, need some help up here. Angel and Connor are passed out.” She didn’t mention that she was almost there herself. Faith would at least get her wish of getting to drive the GTX, though there would be three unconscious passengers.

With the zombies fallen to the floor, Gunn and Faith could stop fighting. Gunn heard Cordelia and moved quickly to get up on the catwalk. Cordelia had Angel so he went right to Connor to unchain the kid. Gunn shrugged off his jacket to put around the kid once he got him down. He lowered Connor to the catwalk and looked to Cordy. She was in no shape to heal Connor.

Faith was hot on Gunn’s heals on getting up to the catwalk. She paused for a brief second as she saw Cordy and Angel. She was right about that kiss. She loved being right. She hurried over to Gunn. “He needs a damn hospital for this blood loss.”

Wesley had to sit for a moment. The amount of energy he had just used on the magic was exhausting. He lowered himself onto the concrete floor.

Fred moved over to Wesley so that she could check on him. At least he was conscious. She started to gather up the leftovers from the spell and put them into her satchel bag. “You did a great job, Wesley. Never seen anything like that. Don’t know what we are going to do about the girls though. Guess the morgue is wondering why they are missing bodies so maybe we can call in an anonymous tip.”

Wesley glanced around him. “I doubt many of these bodies made it to the morgue, Fred,” he said as he finally managed to stand. He glanced to the spot where the demon had been sucked back to its own dimension for good. “I must say, that was very anticlimactic of it to just pop.”

Angel moaned and started to stir. He started to sit up and immediately regretted it. He was having the same feeling as he remembered the hangovers he used to get from long back when human. “Connor,” he said in a hoarse tone. “Connor, how is…Is he okay…” His hand came to his forehead.

Cordelia answered Angel as she watched Gunn and Faith get Connor down. Gunn had no problem picking the young man up, holding him. She looked back to Angel. “Gunn and Faith are going to take him to the hospital. He’s still alive.”

Fred nodded in agreement with Wesley for the time being. Her eyes went up to the catwalk. It looked like there were far too many bodies down up there. In the low lighting, she couldn’t make out who was who. She looked back to Wes. “We should get this stuff in the car and then go up there to help. If you think you can help. Are you still feeling kind of not all there and like you might pass out? You know, we might be able to come up with a way to focus your magic a little better so it leaves you less blah feeling.”

“I’ll be okay, now,” Wesley said. “Maybe I should drink a high protein supplement from now on before hand.” He started for the ladder to climb the catwalk.

Angel finally grabbed the rails to the side of him and Cordy to pull himself up. “Wes needs to see those marks,” he said and staggered a bit on his feet, still holding the rail.

Cordelia got to her feet and moved to help Angel get to his. “Wes can look at them while we take Connor to the hospital. We have camera phones, he can take pictures. You are in no shape either.”

“Yeah, well, I had a couple good things going for me,” Angel said as he watched the team work on getting Connor down.

“You would have been that demon’s bitch if I hadn’t gotten up here.” She leaned against the railing. With the rest of the team up here, helping Connor, she could at least take a moment. She was weak and that was clear but she could fake it well enough. Cordelia looked to Wes. “Angel says take pictures of the wounds. We will meet you at the hospital.”

Wesley glanced to her and nodded. “Just what I intended,” he said. “They are rather curious and probably what gave him the link to the demon.”

“Take care of him, guys, ” Angel said. It was hurting to see his son like this. It seemed like everything evil wanted Connor.

Cordelia gave one last look to each of the four in turn, Gunn, Faith, Wes, and Fred. Angel’s words went for her as well. She moved so that they could go down the catwalk and then down to the ground. Getting Connor out of here was priority one.

Faith took one side of Connor while Gunn took the other side. Faith looked to Gunn, nodding her head. They both lifted him up and made their way down the catwalk. Faith was fully planning to put Connor in the back of Wes’ SUV.

Angel wanted to help the group but he was too unsteady. He’d burned a lot of blood tonight fighting the demon energy in him and trying to keep his own demon in check. He stood there and watched them as they passed.

Once the foursome was passed, Cordelia looked to Angel. “Can you make it down there on your own? And don’t lie to me, I will know.” She offered her shoulder to him but to be honest, they were probably going to have to lean on each other if they wanted to get down and back to the GTX.

Angel stood there, or rather leaned on the rail, a moment longer then he reached for her. He knew she wasn’t in good shape herself. This was as much for her as him. The big scaries of the world, or several worlds just weren’t going to give them a chance. The Slayer Academy was safe now but Connor was in danger. He allowed Cordy to guide them down the walk and outside to leave.

As much as she didn’t want to admit it, both her and Angel needed a day to recover before they went to see Connor. Cordelia didn’t fight with him when he climbed into bed with her; both too tired to do anything but sleep. However, the next morning, she didn’t find herself curled around his body, which she was just slightly disappointed in. She didn’t have time to think about that though as it was all about quick showers, quick breakfasts, and then quick driving to get to the hospital. She waited on the ward for Angel to meet her after taking his usual daytime route through the sewers. She was half tempted to go in to see Connor before he got here.

Worry over Connor was foremost in Angel’s mind. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Connor wasn’t supposed to be in this hospital bed. He stepped off the elevator into the lobby. He hated hospitals, even though once upon a time he used to slip into them to get his blood before the rats, before the deli/coffee shop.

Cordelia turned when she heard the elevator door. She had been turning every time it opened or she heard the stairwell door open. She just looked at Angel for a moment. She nodded her head towards the hospital room. She stepped inside and moved off to the side, waiting for Angel.

He stepped in and paused seeing his son on the bed, unconscious. He moved to the bedside. He looked down at Connor trying to will him to wake. Of all his powers being a vampire, none could make his son well again.

“You want to watch the door for any signs of nurses while I do this?” She moved over to Connor’s bedside. She was too weak last night but now she was feeling fine. She pulled the sheet down off Connor and starting to peel his bandages off. She frowned because at the very least, the wounds should have started to scab or heal over. They were still as open and fresh as they were last night.

Angel frowned. Connor’s healing ability was like his own. “Cordy, this isn’t right,” he said. “I don’t think you should try.”

“I have to at least try.” She liked her little family, thank you very much. She wasn’t about to let some so called big bad demon ruin what she had going for her. Connor wasn’t the best kid but he had been through a hell of a lot so he got a bit of a pass. She already lost Angel; she wasn’t about to lose Connor too.

Angel put a hand on Cordy. “This isn’t normal for him,” he reminded her. “Connor’s healing, those should be nothing more then closed up wounds.”

“I just can’t stand here and do nothing.” Cordelia gently pulled her hand away from him. “If it’s mystical, I have mystical healing. I can do this.” She moved her hands to place them on Connor’s arm. She could feel the wounds still oozing blood onto her palms. It was something she had long ago gotten used to. She closed her eyes so that she could concentrate on healing Connor.

He waited anxiously. He kept his senses alert for nurses, doctors or for anything that could go wrong with Cordelia.

There was nothing at first. Cordelia could tell that she wasn’t healing Connor. It was like his body, those wounds, were pushing her energy back at her. She frowned but she pushed harder, trying to break though. She didn’t feel the burning on her hands at first, the way her hands were cracking and blistering from the heat of the energy.

Angel smelled it then saw. He grabbed her and pulled her away from Connor. “Cordy,” he said. Then he pulled her over to the sink to put her hands in cold water.

She blinked because she was in some kind of trance now. She kept blinking as she was pulled over to the sink and her hands thrust under the cold water. She finally snapped herself out of and looked down at her hands. “Damnit…and I just got a manicure.”

“We’ve got to see if Wes has found anything else about those marks,” he said. “Are you okay?” He looked at her hands worried.

Cordelia turned her palms up and nodded her head. “Yeah. Some gauze would be good so I don’t get looks. I can heal it as soon as I eat something.” She could see the concern on his face and hear the worry in his voice. For a split second, she thought maybe he actually did love her. She shook it off, chalking it up to the fact he had her husband’s memories. That is all she was seeing, just that reflection of the memory of love.

Angel moved to the cabinets and found some pads and gauze wraps. He came back. “Sit down,” he said indicating the chair.

She frowned at him. She hated the orders, especially in these kinds of situations. “Saying please, usually goes a long way. You want to get your brood on about Connor, fine. Just don’t do it around me or the kids.” She sat down in the chair, despite his lack of please.

He started bandaging her hands. “Cordy,” he said softly. He looked up at her from his kneeling position. There was heavy worry in his eyes.

“I can’t stand it when you do that whole trailing off thing. I might have psychic powers but I can’t read your mind.” She kept looking over at Connor. She needed to call Wes as soon as possible and tell him what happened. He was the only one that could figure this out, she was sure of that.

“It wasn’t so much as a trailing as it is,” he said, “as to being worried.” The thing is he did love her. He loved her even before he came here. He’d found his soul mate in, at first, the most unlikely. But Cordy had first became his friend, then his best friend.

“Wes will find out what is wrong with Connor and we will fix it. Don’t we always? Its what we do. We fix things. Make the world a better place. I think we need to put that as a slogan for a new commercial.” When Angel was finished with her hands, she stood up from the chair. “I’ll go see Wes if you want to stay here.”

“Thanks,” Angel said and then he leaned down to give her a kiss on the cheek.

“Just…don’t be a brooding jackass to Lillian when she pulls herself together enough to come here. She is having blame issues.” She gave him a look to show that she was serious. Lillian was dealing with enough as it was without adding Angel in Broodcon 5 to the mix.

“I’ll be on my best behavior,” he replied and made and X over his chest. “Cross my heart and… Uh…scout’s honor.”

Cordelia just gave him a look. “Be on your best Wesley behavior. Or even better, best Giles behavior. Ask yourself, what would Giles do? Hmmm, that is catchy.” Cordelia paused for a moment to contemplate that before shaking the thought off. “I will be back in a bit with Wes so we can figure this out.” With that said, she turned and exited the hospital room. Her first plan was to get some food so she had enough energy to heal the burns on her hands. She never had that happen before. That would be something strange for the books to tell Wes.

When she left, he frowned a bit. “What would Giles do,” he spoke aloud but quietly. “I don’t think I’d do anything the way Giles would.”

It was nearly an hour after Cordelia left that Lillian came to the hospital. She had been up all night, crying, unable to sleep. She was still wearing her pajamas from the night before as she stood in the doorway of the hospital room. She just stood there, completely silent, looking at Connor in that hospital bed. She didn’t even notice Angel sitting there.

Angel heard her. He closed the book held been reading and set it aside and stood. “Lillian,” he said softly to her. He could tell what she’d been doing. He read the signs, her body language, and her heart rate.

Lillian looked away from Connor when Angel spoke and then she just looked back to him. When she finally spoke, her voice was rough as sandpaper. “Has he woken up… At all?”

He stepped over to her. “No,” Angel said. He reached out for her. “He needs his family now.”

She was so numb that she didn’t react when Angel reached for her. Her eyes were still glued on Connor’s form. She wanted to help him but she was uncertain how. She didn’t have any demon powers like Cordy or know-how like Wes or Fred. Her training wasn’t nearly up to par with Faith or Gunn. Even her Slayer strength was no match for Angel. She was helpless in this situation.

“What he needs, Lillian, is our love and support,” he said as he walked her to the bed. “Cordelia went to talk to Wes because she couldn’t heal him even just a little. They should be back here soon.”

Lillian reached down and took Connor’s hand. She couldn’t take her eyes off him. He looked so pale and bruised. Seeing him like this, she started to cry again.

Angel placed a hand on her back. “He’ll get better,” the vampire said to her. “We didn’t fight so hard to get him back from Quor’toth for nothing.”

Lillian turned her head to look at him, tears rolling down her cheeks. “I shouldn’t have let him go. He told me he was just running out to pick something up. If I knew… I had no idea… Why wouldn’t he just tell me the truth? I could have gone with him. I could have helped him.”

“Well, he’s stubborn, hard-headed, and Irish. Have no idea where he gets it from,” He said with just a slight smile. “When he was born, I was so scared. He was so helpless and depended on me. I’d never had anything depend on me like that.”

Angel really had a knack for saying the wrong thing at wholly the wrong time. At the talk of Connor as a baby, she burst into tears anew. These were not silent tears but tears of pure grief. She sunk to her knees by Connor’s bed, still holding his hand. This was her first real experience with loss outside of her own parents.

“Lillian,” he knelt by her. “He wouldn’t want this…” Suddenly, he realized something. He sensed it. “Lillian, this isn’t good for you. And I want you to know… I’m going to bring him back to this family. I’ve not fought as hard as I have to loose him and I’m not going to.”

“I was going to tell him last night. As soon as he got home. I had a card and I made dinner. I should have told him before. He never would have left if he knew.” She was rambling now. She was so caught up in her own emotions that she didn’t realize she was pouring information forth. But she had always thought of Angel as the father that she never got to know. Even if this wasn’t the Angel she knew, he was still in a way.

“And by week’s end you’ll have your dinner,” Angel told her. “I’ll even cook it for you. Or go to the restaurant of your choice… I’ll buy.”

She still just looked up at Connor, laying there. She didn’t move from where she was on the floor. “If he knew… If only he knew… I know he wouldn’t have done something as stupid as run off alone. This is all my fault.”

He pulled her up to turn her to look at him. “None of this is your fault,” Angel said trying to fix her gaze with his. “Connor would have done this regardless. He’s a demon hunter. That’s how he was raised. But Lillian, never doubt his love for you. He was never so happy as when he found out you… And he… And you both…Yeah, I knew. And I want you to know you’ve done more to make him feel happy then he’s felt all his life.”

Despite the tears, she blushed. The thought of Angel knowing when her and Connor were intimate was a bit creepy to her. She would never tell Angel that to his face though. She only held his gaze a moment before her eyes went back to Connor. “He still has so much pain on the inside. I was hoping… I know this baby would change everything for him. He’d understand. Finally.”

“He’ll know,” Angel told her. “He’ll be around for this baby to drive crazy and for me to spoil and send home to you two.”

She so wanted to believe that but looking down at him, the condition of his body and his face, she wasn’t so sure that he was going to make it back to her. “Do you mind if I have some time alone with him?”

“Only if you let me go get you something to eat,” he said. “That’s my grandchild you’re carrying.”

Lillian nodded her head. She usually had an appetite but when you find out the man you love, the man who’s child you are carrying, is comatose in a hospital with strange markings all over him, remembering to eat goes out the window.

“I’ll be back,” Angel said as he stepped out the door. Angel walked down the hallway to the elevator. Nurses, aids, doctors, family and friends of those infirmed passed him but he really wasn’t seeing them. He was still trying to wrap his head around the fact that he was going to be a grandfather. Him. Not a grandsire, but a grandfather. The only other times he had this awestruck, deer in the headlights feeling was when Cordelia had the twins.

Angel was grabbing Cordelia’s things. He grabbed her packed suitcase and bunny slippers. He could not forget those. Using his vampire speed, he had it down to the car and the car pulled around in no time. Luckily, it was night outside when the twins had picked to come out into the world. He was back upstairs in an instant to get Cordelia.

Cordelia was round and straining with the weight of the pregnancy of the twins. She had a hand on her lower back, her other hand against the wall as another contraction hit her. Her nails dug into the wall, cutting through the paint and some of the plaster. Her teeth and eyes were both gritted. She only experienced pain like this once before and right now, a piece of rebar through her stomach was looking better and better. She screamed out, “ANNNNNNNNGEEEEEL!”

The vampire was there and he picked her up. “I’m here,” he said. “I’m here. The car is out front. We need to get you to the hospital.”

Hearing the noise, Connor came down from his room. “What is it? Is it time?”

“Yes, its time! This pair of pants is ruined because its time!” Cordelia snapped at Connor. She didn’t even protest when Angel picked her up. She looked over at him. “What are you waiting for, an engraved invitation? I am having these kids NOW!”

Angel looked to Connor. “Let the others know. We’re so out of here,” he said as he started up the hall for the stairs. Then in a few seconds, they were out at the car. He sat her over the door into it. “Don’t worry, we’ll make it.”

“We better or I swear, I will have these babies in the back seat and ruin your upholstery!” Thank god that all the Lamaze classes were at night so she and Angel could go together. Oh, she had to drag him bodily there as he tried to get out of it with pleading killing demons. He helped make these babies, albeit, sort of, so he was going to help with their birth!

He leaped in the car and started it. Pulling on out in traffic, he honked at a car as he hit the street. The GTX was weaving in and out of traffic heading for the hospital.

Cordelia grabbed the door with one hand as she has another contraction. She used her other hand to grab Angel’s thigh. She cried out once more. When this is all over, she is going to kill Angel. Her mind was made up.

Angel pulled the car into the emergency and got out. He went around and reached in for Cordy. “We’re here,” he said as he pulled her up and headed into the hospital. He looked around for somebody, anybody.

She grabbed Angel by his shirtfront and she hissed at him. “When this is all over with, I am staking you!” She let go of his shirt. She called out so that she could get a wheelchair at least. “Lady having a baby. Can I get a little help?”

Finally, a nurse came up with a wheelchair and Angel sat Cordy down in it. He kept hold of her hand. “Just think, soon we’ll be holding our babies,” he told her, trying to say something positive.

“Oh yeah, then months of changing diapers, and screaming, and breast feeding. I can’t wait!” As she had another contraction, she squeezed Angel’s hand so hard, it probably would have broken a human male’s hand. She shrieked, “Get these kids out of me!”

Wheeling her up the hall, he was right by her. “It’s our family,” he said. “A family and little lives that are part of us.” As they came to the delivery room, a nurse stopped him when they wheeled Cordy on in. The nurse held up scrubs for him to put on. “Oh, yeah,” he said and quickly put them on.

“I want to see you carrying twins for nine months and then say that, Angel! Let me open you up and treat your kidneys like bongos!” Her voice trailed off on the last few words as she was wheeled into the delivery room. These kids wanted to come out and they wanted to come out now. They weren’t going to wait for much longer.

The nurse looked up at him. “Don’t worry, sir,” she said and patted his arm. “Most expecting mothers say things like that.”

“Yeah, we were told in class,” he said. But he thought to himself, ‘How many of those women could probably find somebody to do the magic to make some to those threats come true…or actually open up the father and play bongos on their kidneys and them be conscious for it.’

Cordelia barely got into a gown herself and up onto the table before those kids made another break for getting out of the womb. “Where are my drugs?!” She looked over at Angel, almost a pleading look on her face. “Angel… Please… Come here…” Her voice was soft and it sounded almost like she really did need him.

Angel left the nurse, hearing the tone of Cordy’s voice, and he was at her side. He leaned down to her. “What, sweetheart?”

She reached up and grabbed the back of his head, yanking him down so they were face to face. “You want to have another kid, I want you to try shoving a watermelon out your nose! Then you will understand what you did to me!” Though, she did it to herself, with Fred’s help. She wasn’t about to let logic enter into this.

Cordelia’s doctor finally pushed the doors of the delivery room open and came inside. He spoke quickly and quietly with the nurse to get the stats before he went to Cordelia. He smiled behind his mask. “Seems these babies want to come out and meet their parents.”

Cordelia finally let go of Angel’s hair and she shot the doctor a look. She was glaring daggers at him as she rode out another contraction.

“And we want to see our children,” Angel replied to the doctor as he stood from that grab.

“Okay, Cordelia, on the next one, I want you to push.” Dr. Grier said as he moved to be in front of Cordelia. He glanced over at Angel. The guy took classes, so he better be ready for this.

It was not something Cordelia was looking forward to. She should have just scheduled a C-section or something. She should have just not gotten pregnant in the first place. But she wanted to experience being a mother and what she wanted, she got. As the next contraction hit, she pushed. The sooner this was over with, the better.

“Cordy, babe, just keep calm and remember the breathing…And focus. Focus on what it was you picked,” he said leaning down to her.

Cordelia turned her head and glared at Angel now. “I am focusing on a giant elephant coming out of your back end. That is what I am focusing on.” She tried to do her breathing but she had to stop during the actual push thanks to the pain and the work.

Angel winced. That would be painful. But the wince could only be seen in his eyes since he wore a mask at the nurse’s insistence. Really wouldn’t be good to tell her he didn’t breath so it really didn’t do much good.

Cordelia put her head back on the pillow once the contraction passed. She knew the next one was coming and it was coming fast. She wasn’t going to have a break here. This was definitely high up on her stupid things she had done meter. She turned her head to look at Angel, narrowing her eyes at him. “Breathe with me, damnit!” She was going to force him to breathe, or rather, pretend. It was a small victory but one nonetheless as she pushed on the next contraction.

Leaning down to her ear, he whispered. “Cordy, I’m… I’m not really good at that,” he said. He glanced up at the doctor, who was busy behind that sterile sheet. Then he caught a glimpse in that mirror and if he could throw up, he would have. He had seen demons and slaughter but this was, this wasn’t the same.

She turned her head to look at him, her teeth gritted. If he thought that was a scary sight, it wasn’t going to compare to what she was going to do to him if he didn’t make with the fake breathing. “Your kid is kicking its way out of my body so you are going to fake it!” She whispered low to him.

He blinked away from the sight in the mirror and he started trying to breathe. It wasn’t easy to make his lungs work this way.

“Just make the damn noises!” She always had to tell him everything. She barely heard the doctor as she pushed again, her whole body lurching forward with it.

“That’s it, Cordelia, that’s it.” Dr. Grier pulled back some before cries filled the delivery room in addition to Cordelia’s rather acidic remarks towards her husband. He passed the baby off to the nurse to get him cleaned up and looked at Angel, beaming. “It’s a boy!”

Angel knew what they were, but that didn’t stop that grin behind the mask. He looked down at Cordy. “Boy, babe… It’s a boy,” he leaned over and kissed her cheek. Nobody would take these babies from him. Nobody.

“Okay, Cordelia, you get a little bit of rest time before the second one. So just keep up your breathing.” Dr. Grier moved back so that he could get ready for the second arrival.

Cordelia fell back once more against the bed, breathing heavily. She was done now. Could someone please get her out of here and into a spa day? She was too tired for the moment to tell Angel that she was going to be removing his boy parts when this was over.

Angel had to look over at his son. He smiled at the sight of the baby. He wanted to make sure he was perfect.

“I think it’s just about time for the second baby. I know you are tired but I still need you to push, Cordelia.” Dr. Grier looked over at Angel. He lowered his voice as he leaned in towards the other man, or what he thought was a man. He never could tell these days. “It would be a good idea if the coach gave some encouragement here. The first baby was tough.”

“Uh…,” Angel said looking from the baby to the doctor then, “Oh, yeah… I just wanted a look.” He was right back with Cordy. “He’s perfect, Cordy… And he has all his fingers and little toes. He has that same funny little toe that you have… It’s so cute…”

Cordelia looked exhausted. The thought of having to go through that again was not something she wanted to hear. She just looked over at Angel. Those weren’t exactly the kind of encouraging words she needed to hear. She gave him a “you have to be kidding me” look.

“Sweetheart, there is another little Irish person ready to come out as say hello to mommy and daddy,” he said. “Remember, they are going to serve a steak dinner tonight. Now, let’s get our family all here.”

She didn’t exactly look like she wanted to eat, in any way, shape or form. “Remind me that if you ever talk me into this again, I will give you a script.” Cordelia growled. She knew another contraction was coming and as before, she pushed on this one. She was weaker though so it was harder for this second baby.

“C’me on,” he said, “Cordelia Chase. You never do anything halfway and you know it. You never let anything best you. Now… Push…”

“About freaking time you realized that. I only had to push a bowling ball through the eye of a needle for you to get that!” Cordelia pushed again. This baby was coming a lot easier than the first, who fought the entire way. With one last push, she knew it was over before the doctor even said anything.

Dr. Grier pulled the second baby free, smiling at both the parents. “Its a little girl!” He handed the crying baby off to a nurse to get cleaned. He grinned. “You did great Cordelia. We just need to get them cleaned and then someone will bring them up to you. Your room is all ready.”

Angel moved to where the babies were. The boy was cleaned and checked. He took the baby from the table and brought him over to his mother. “This very special lady here just brought you into this world.” He looked down at Cordy to see if she was ready to see the first of two babies.

How did she know that when it came to the twins, Angel was never going to follow the rules? She gave a little weak smile. “No pictures. I look like crap right now. I just had two kids.” She pulled herself up so that she could take a look at the baby boy. “Hey Ian…” She said softly.

He would dare anyone to try and make him follow the rules when it came to his kids. He handed the baby over to her. “They’re still cleaning Katharine.”

She took the baby from Angel and cradled him in her arms. She grinned at him. “I am going to spoil you so bad. It’s going to make your dad so jealous.”

Angel pulled the mask off and reached over and opened the blanket over Ian’s tiny feet. He showed Cordy that little toe.

She frowned as she looked at the toe and looked back to Angel. “I do NOT have a weird little toe. I am completely perfect, just like our babies. Isn’t that right, Ian?” She looked back down to the baby who was throwing little fists in the air now.

Angel turned to see it they were finished with their daughter and seeing they were he wasn’t going to let them keep him from her. “Excuse me,” he said as he stepped over and took Katy and brought her back. “And here we have Lady Katharine.”

“Uh…” Dr. Grier finally spoke up. “We need this delivery room for another woman.” The doctor paused though as he saw the couple with the twins. “If you two like, you can carry them upstairs and a nurse can accompany you.”

Cordelia looked over at Kat with a smile. “Hey, Kat. Welcome to the world. Can’t wait until you are old enough to go shopping. We can steal your dad’s money and go to Rodeo.” Cordelia looked up when the doctor spoke and nodded her head.

He looked up at Dr. Grier. “Thanks,” he said with a smile as they pushed Cordy out holding Ian. Angel carried Katy. As they stepped out of the room; cheers, balloons, and love greeted them. The family had come to see the new editions to the clan. Angel smiled at them and nobody could have been any prouder then he was of his new babies.

Angel paid for Lillian’s food as he shook himself from that memory. It had been so happy and so perfect. He nodded his thanks to the cashier then headed back up to Connor’s room with Lillian’s food.
Chapter Twenty-Five

Cordelia stood outside of Wesley’s apartment door. She hadn’t bothered to call, hadn’t bothered to alert him. She just showed up. She lifted a bandaged hand up and knocked on the apartment door. Impatient, she called out through the crack. “I know you are in there!”

Wesley made his way to the door, pulling on his pants as he did. When he opened it, his hair was mussed and he was shirtless. “Cordelia,” he said.

She brought one of those bandaged hands up and turned her head away at the sight. “Oh, yeah…no. It’s bad enough when I have to see you in a Speedo. Whatever freaky freaky stuff you and Fred were doing can wait.”

“Freaky, as in sleeping,” he said. “Fred made me go to bed just a couple hours ago. I’d been up all night with my books.”

“You better open them again then.” She pushed Wesley back and went into his apartment. She turned so that she could look at him. She held her hands up. “I tried to heal Connor.”

“You tried,” he said and then looked at her hands. “What happened?”

“I don’t know. I was doing my usual thing and then it was like I was in a trance. I couldn’t even fell my hands burning up. Angel pulled me off and put my hands under cold water.” She frowned as she looked around for the books. Spotting them on the table, she moved over to them so that she could start looking as well.

“Extraordinary,” Wesley spoke and moved to the table. He turned on a small light there and sat.

“Have you found anything out at all? Angel is back at the hospital with Connor. So tell me everything you found.” Cordelia gingerly reached for a book and pulled it closer to herself. She opened it up so that she could start searching.

“From what I can tell we have to heal the brands on him,” Wesley told her. “The brands were, and still are, binding Connor to this creature. It’s drawing on Connor’s…uniqueness and could possibly still reach through to our dimension. But healing him isn’t going to happen with conventional medicine.”

“Okay…” Cordelia took a moment to take this all in. Just for once couldn’t demons leave Connor alone because he was unique and go after the normal people? “What do we do, Wes? I know this is a ‘time is of the essence’ situation.”

Wesley sighed. “Legend has it there is a crystal with certain curative powers.”

“You care to elaborate a little more on that? Like where this crystal is? Or what we need to do to get it?” Cordelia was getting a little impatient here. She knew Wes was trying his best but this was family, best was not good enough.

“Do you remember the key Angel found to take him to free Billy,” he said leaning back and looking at Cordelia.

She just gave Wes a look. “I am sorry, Wes, I was kind of indisposed at the time considering I had boils, claw marks, and burns all over my body.”

“Yes, well, ” Wes went on, “it seems that key opens several other doorways and behind one of those is the crystal.”

“So its like Price is Right for dimensions?” She rolled her eyes. “If I have to put on a chicken suit, I am so out of here.”

“The doorway is through the Oracles’ chamber,” he said. “That means Angel has to go.” He waited for her to protest this. He’d tried to find another way but there wasn’t any.

Cordelia frowned when Wes said this. “First, the Oracles are dead so who knows if Angel can even get there. Second, I am not letting him go anywhere alone. He and I already had this conversation and I am not about to have it again with you.”

“The Oracles maybe dead but the doorway is still there,” Wesley told her. “If he can’t open the chamber…” His voice trailed off.

“If he can’t open the chamber, then what, Wes? I really don’t have time for this beating around the bush, stiff upper lip thing that you have going on right now. Life has been pretty shitty for the past few weeks so you might as well put the cherry on the top of the sundae.” Cordelia was quickly reaching the end of her rope. Between her husband dying, this new Angel with his memories, the school, the demon, Connor, she was worn out. She just wanted to know what needed to be done so she could do it

Wesley sighed. He stood and walked a few paces away from her. Keeping his back to Cordy, he finally spoke. “Connor must be…” he paused. Finally, after a moment, he continued. “Connor is going to have to be destroyed.”

“Well, that just isn’t going to happen.” Cordelia said rather matter of factly. If she said it was going to be that way, it was going to be that way. “We aren’t losing another member of this family, of this team. So give me all the information to give to Angel so he and I can go play Find The Magical Door.”

He turned back to the table and pulled out a piece of paper. He wrote down instructions, then handed it to her. “Angel has to open the door to the chamber,” he told her. “Anybody else tries and it could be disastrous.”

“I think I got it. Angel opening it, good. Anyone else, bad. That doesn’t mean I can’t go with him. I just can’t open any doors.” She took the paper from him. She folded it up and put it into her jeans. “Anything else? I love you and all, Wes, but we don’t really have time for small talk and tea.”

“Cordy, I don’t know if you can go through or not,” Wes told her. “Doyle couldn’t even go through from my understanding.”

“Doyle also took no for an answer. All the time.” She looked right at Wes. “A Champion goes through, right? Well, just as much as Angel is a Champion, so am I. So are you. We all are. If The Powers don’t get the team thing by now, they shouldn’t be Powers.”

“Just be careful,” he said again. “As you said, we don’t want to loose another member of this family.”

Cordelia gave him a small smile. “When was the last time I wasn’t careful? Careful is my middle name. Cordelia Careful Chase. See how it just rolls off the tongue?”

The ex-watcher just gave her a look with that statement. He didn’t need to say a word.

She moved towards Wes and gave him a hug. “Thanks for everything, Wes.” She probably didn’t say or do that enough. She knew what he had given up for Angel and her to be happy. She had yet to tell anyone what Wes had sacrificed. If the Powers hadn’t shown her, she wouldn’t have known.

He hugged her back. “You better go find that crystal before its too late. We don’t have much time.”

“I am moving…I am moving…” She let go of Wes and then made her way to the door. She let herself out. She pulled her cellphone from her other jeans pocket to dial Connor’s hospital room. She only hoped that Angel would have the brains to answer it.

Cordelia was waiting outside of the dead letter office, checking her watch every few moments. The sun was down because it took her longer than she thought to find that stupid key. Wes’ filing system of used artifacts made no sense to her what so ever. It was a key to get Billy, it should have been under B but no, it was under P for Portal Key. What kind of insanity was that?

The GTX pulled up and parked. Angel got out and came up the walk to the front of the office. “I’m here,” he said. “You said there was a way to cure Connor in the chamber?”

Cordelia reached into her jeans to pull out the piece of paper Wes had given her. He did tell her the instructions were on there. She handed it to Angel. “I already picked up the key we needed from Wes’ super secret storage, which is really just a custom built vault in the basement.”

Taking the paper, he read it as he listened to her. “Yeah, I know. I remember Gunn and I building it for him,” Angel said. “Okay, I can do this. I have to do this.” He folded the paper and started around for the alley by the dead letter office.

She frowned as she followed him. “YOU and Gunn didn’t build it for him. Angel and Gunn did. It’s not the same thing.” She was never going to get used to this guy having her husband’s memories. She couldn’t be as easily accepting of him as everyone else seemed to be.

Stopping at a door, he glanced around to make sure nobody else was in the alley. Then he pulled out a small case, opening it with a set of lockpicks. He pulled one out. Inserting it in the lock, he worked it until it clicked. Pushing it open, he stepped in.

She just rolled her eyes at him. It wasn’t only the whole spy thing but it was also the not addressing what she said thing. She didn’t really like to be ignored. She still had the key in her pocket so it was her trump card. She stepped inside after him. She was serious about coming along, whether she could or not.

The vampire was in obsession mode now. His focus was on healing Connor. Coming to another door marked emergency exit, he opened it and there was a set of stairs that led down. It was starting to look more like a dungeon entry. “I don’t know what’s going to happen without the Oracles,” he said in a hushed tone.

“I brought a weapon.” She always had a weapon on her. Living in this world for so long, being a Champion alongside Angel, it was second nature. She had invested in a lot of long jackets to conceal swords and stakes. She just followed right behind Angel.

Angel came to the small alter with the firepot. He picked up the magic powders and herbs and started putting them into the pot. He started the spell that he remembered Doyle had said the first time he had brought him here. Then he pulled out a lighter and lit it. A smoke cloud burst from the pot.

Cordelia covered her mouth and nose with her hand because it didn’t exactly smell that nice. She had to wonder how long those herbs had been sitting there and it they were any good anymore. She coughed as the smoke cloud burst out.

The door appeared and he turned to her, held out his hand. “The key, Cordy,” he said to her.

She frowned at him because she had a feeling she was being left behind. “No way. I am going through that door with you. Wes said it was in the chamber. Once we are in the chamber, then you get the key.” Wes had said only Angel could go through that key’s door. But they weren’t even to the chamber yet.

“Cordelia, I don’t know what’s on the other side now,” he pleaded with her. “I can’t risk losing you…again. That’s not an option for me.”

“And it’s not an option for me to let you go through there and face what is on that other side, alone. Whatever is on the other side of that door, we are facing it together. ” The tone of her voice was perfectly clear that she was not going to budge on this. Deep down, she didn’t want to lose him, for a myriad of reasons.

Angel looked at her for a moment. Then he reached for her hand and held it as he turned for that door to step on through. On the other side was another room. It was big and empty. The long corridor seemed to go on for eternity on the far side. He still held Cordy’s hand as he looked around waiting for something to come out at them.

Cordelia allowed herself to be lead for this portion of the tour. She looked around, taking in the big and the empty. “Seems like the Powers didn’t bother to replace the Oracles after they got killed.” No visions yet and she assumed that the Powers would send her one if they were going where they weren’t suppose to.

“I guess when you got your demon thing going they decided they didn’t need these liaisons anymore,” he said moving to one side and looking over the wall and the inscriptions. He ran his long fingers over the glyphs, as a blind man would read Braille. His hand stopped then turned back to Cordy with his hand out. “Its here,” Angel said. “The key.”

“They really need to get an efficiency expert up there then. It takes them almost two years before the demon thing happened. And that wasn’t them. Though at least they warned us what was coming.” She stopped when he did. She didn’t like this at all. She didn’t want him to go in there alone. She reached into her jeans, pulling out the two pieces of the key to give to him.

Angel took the key. He slid it together and instead of the same notch he used to go find Billy with he slipped it all the way up. He inserted it into the hole in the glyph then turned the disk, locking it in. A low hum sounded and then the key began to glow and the glow spread. He backed away watching.

Cordelia stepped back as well. She had this feeling in the pit of her stomach that something was going to blow up or cause them harm. She knew that things like this were never just as easy as putting a key into a lock. “You know, by this point, the light shows just don’t impress me anymore.”

“Yeah,” he replied still watching. “I know what you…” Suddenly, it burst bright. When it did he fell back with a scream, and then quickly covered himself with his coat. The pain shot through him like fire and the smell of singed flesh hung in the air around him.

That was the last thing they needed, for this door to open up to some dimension on the surface of the sun. When he fell back, she was right there to catch him. The irony of the metaphor wasn’t lost on her for the moment. She moved quickly so that she was covering him from the light. “Okay, dimension of sunlight. I don’t think you are going through those doors.”

Angel started to try and move to the corner where the light wasn’t hitting. Even under the coat and Cordelia blocking he could tell where safety was. With each movement the pain hit him. This wasn’t supposed to be. He was supposed to go get that crystal. The vampire’s body started to tremble from burned, exposed nerves.

Cordelia moved with him so that she could try to keep as much of him blocked as possible. He had his coat so that was some more protection. She moved him to a darkened corner before looking back to the light streaming out from the door. “Why can’t it ever be easy?”

He pulled down his coat and the left side of his head and face was burned. His left hand also. He looked to that entry. “It’s not Pylea,” his voice was raspy. He tried to pull himself up to stand.

“I would say not.” She moved so that she could help him up. “Angel, you can’t go in there. You will be burnt to a crisp. And I don’t know how to work these crazy demon powers without my hands. I haven’t been able to heal myself yet.”

Angel leaned against the wall. “Connor’s cure is on the other side,” he said. “He’s lost to us without it.”

“You can’t get it back here if you are ash on the other side.” Cordelia paused for a moment as she thought things out in her own mind. “Is the tent still in the trunk of the GTX?” Her and Angel had taken the twins camping months and months ago. How many times had she asked him to take the tent out of the trunk but for once, his so called forgetfulness might pay off.

He thought for a moment then shook his head. “Yeah, its there,” he said to her. He didn’t forget. It was just one of those might need it sometime type thing.

“That is pretty thick. We could wrap you in and unzip one of the windows so you can see. It has that protective netting. That should be enough. Right?” She wasn’t sure if this was a plan that was going to work or not. In her head, it made sense. They could mummy him up with the unpitched tent since it was made of heavy material.

“It’ll have to be,” he told her. “There’s also a cooler in the back.” He knew he didn’t have to tell her why or what was in it.

She frowned just a bit when he mentioned the cooler. A small cooler wouldn’t be able to hold enough pig’s blood to heal his burns or his eye. “You have to come with me. You are the only one that knows how to get back in here.” Cordelia started to look around to see if there was a way to avoid the sunlight.

Angel looked at the light from the doorway. It went from the door to the wall and was about five feet wide. To anyone else it might seem like nothing but to a vampire…it might as well been the Grand Canyon.

Cordelia was seeing it too. She was quick witted though. She thought of the tent, she could think of a solution to this. It only took about thirty seconds before she was shrugging her coat off. She handed it to Angel. “Put this over your head and then give me your hands.”

He took her coat and put it over his head then held up his hands to her. He waited to see what she was going to do.

She turned so that his front was facing her back. She lowered his hands. She looked at her jeans. Her pockets were too tight for that. So against her better judgement, she slipped his hands under her shirt. “Just follow me and don’t pull your hands out and don’t lower that jacket. And keep your hands above the equator but below 45 degrees. Stay in the tropics.”

This was interesting. It almost made him forget the pain. He had to lean down and he put the right side of his head against hers. His thumb did brush up under her breast as they walked. He had long fingers, accidents happen.

“I said tropics.” Cordelia said, turning her head just enough to say it back to his coat covered face. She faced forward again. “I am starting to walk now.” She put her hands over his to keep him against her as she started to walk. She went slowly at first so he could get used to her rhythm.

“Sorry,” he said as they walked. “Its just…well, a bit taller here.” He winced talking as it did hurt. But then being this close to her he could push the pain away, mostly.

“We are almost past the sunlight portion of our tour.” Cordelia had to move slowly to get past the sunlit section. “You can’t feel it, can you?” She just kept telling herself that without Angel, they couldn’t save Connor. But deeper down, she knew she didn’t want to see him hurt either.

“Yeah,” Angel replied. “Well, feel it, sort of smell it. It’s hard to explain.” His mission here was to save Connor, he had to tell himself. But being this close to Cordelia, touching her bare skin, smelling her scent. He winced with a bit of pain from his wounds that caused him to stiffen his posture just a bit. His hands moved under her shirt slipped upward again to her breasts.

She had to remind herself that they were here for Connor and that this was not her husband. Then again, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, but she had to push that train of thought of her mind. She moved his hands from under her shirt once they were safely past the sunlight. “I am going to grab that key. Who knows what kind of weird conditions we have on this whole crystal grabbing mission.”

He pulled the coat off his head and leaned back against the wall. He nodded to her. “Turn the disk to the left,” Angel told her and he swallowed. “It should release then.”

Cordelia moved towards the sunlight. She had to shield her eyes and her fingers fumbled blindly for the key. She got her hands on it and turned it to the left. She pulled it free. She put it back in her pocket before going back to him. “Quick trip outside and we should be ready to go.”

Angel turned for that door and headed out, slowly. He did his best to ignore the pain as he walked. He paused at the bottom of those stairs a moment then with his right hand reached for the rail.

She followed by him and when she saw she was having trouble, she couldn’t help herself. She moved so that she could help him. “Don’t bullshit me. Can you get up these stairs or not?”

“Well, maybe the first…couple…” he paused then sat down on the step. “Its never been this bad. I’ve been burned before.”

She sat down on the step with him. The longer that it took, the longer Connor was going to suffer. She didn’t want anything to happen to her “son”. Biology didn’t matter with this group. “And you won’t be booking any Men’s catalog covers soon with that scarface.”

“That bad, huh,” Angel said as he looked down at his hand. He knew it would heal, but it would take time. If his face was anything like his hand, it was a wonder he had a face at all.

She let the quiet settle over them for a few moments. “I feel fine. So don’t make any excuses. My hands hurt but I can’t fix that until Connor is better.” She said as she pulled her hair away from her neck.

He turned and looked at her from his good eye. He watched as she pulled her hair back. “Cordy,” Angel said looking back at her face. He knew what this offer meant and what it took for her to do it.

She didn’t look at him. She kept her eyes forward and her hair pulled back. “That’s my name. Just…make it quick. And none of the feel good kind of wiggins. Straight forward.”

Angel knew her blood would heal him much faster then the pig’s blood in the car and right now Connor was priority. He leaned to her and didn’t let his demon surface until his face was pressed to her neck. With the burns, he probably would have looked hideous. He sank his fangs in gently and he did slip her a little of the feel goods so the pain wouldn’t be there. Then her warm, rich blood flowed into his mouth and he swallowed. He felt it course through his body.

Cordelia took in a deep breath at that first bite. She just had to remind herself over and over that this was for Connor. She closed her eyes, listening to her own heartbeat, her breathing, anything so she wouldn’t have to focus on the sounds of him feeding from her.

He pulled away from her after closing her wound. He felt himself getting stronger now. There were subtle signs even of his healing starting. He looked over at her. “Are you okay?”

“I just want to get that crystal so we can help Connor and I can get my hands back. I mean, what if I wanted to play the piano?” She pulled her hair back over her neck before getting up from the step.

Standing, he turned to her and reached down with his good arm to help her up. “I’ll get you a baby grand then,” Angel said with the best smile he could muster considering.

The fact that his face looked like melted plastic didn’t phase her. She had seen a lot worse in her life. The smile was heartbreaking though. “We need to grab that tent.” She moved away from him, going up the stairs to exit and go out to the GTX.

Back in the Oracles’ chamber, Angel stood there as Cordy worked on the tent, wrapping him in it. “I feel like I’m in a cocoon,” he said, his voice muffled.

“You look like a cocoon too. Too bad I don’t have a camera.” She secured the tent around him with the tie-downs. She reached up and unzipped the window so she could see his face. “Is that dark enough?”

“Its good,” he said. “I don’t think its going to make the fashion shows in Milan.”

“Are you kidding me? Once this is all over, I am starting my new line. Tent is the new black.” She patted his chest gently. She pulled the key from her jeans pocket and handed it to him. “Can you grab this with your tent-hands?”

He took the key with a nod. “Now, let’s save our son,” he said as he turned for the wall and with difficulty moved to it. Putting the key back in the hole, he turned it and the door came open again.

Cordelia remembered Wes’ words that she couldn’t go through that doorway. She stood off to the side, just watching it. She called to Angel. “If you catch fire, just throw the crystal out. I will catch it.”

Angel was moving through the bright light as she spoke. When on the other side he paused. He looked around. It looked like an alien landscape. Here it was dark so he ripped himself out of the tent cocooned around him. Now he knew why Cordy couldn’t come, there was no oxygen on this side.

She didn’t like the quiet or being left out of the loop. She started to move towards the door, calling out again. “You still alive?”

Angel couldn’t hear her. He pulled out Wesley’s instructions, read them over again then looked up and headed to the right. It only took a moment before he saw what he wanted The Crystal.

All Cordelia heard was silence. That wasn’t a good sign. She didn’t care what Wes said; she was going to do this. She took a deep breath and started walking into that sunlight. It was so bright; she had to shield her eyes against it.

Angel stood before it. It sat on what looked like a pedestal. Looking it over carefully he then reached for it, snatching it from where it rested quickly. As he did suddenly the ground rumbled. His eyes widened and he stumbled back. From the place where he took the crystal, the ground cracked. What he thought was a pedestal turned out to be like a horn on the end of a snout. It was a snout that had a big mouth under it with long sharp teeth. It looked like a dragon, or what he would call a dragon.

Cordelia was about halfway through the light, though she wouldn’t have known it. She called out again; wondering if Angel was as lost as she was in this light. “ANGEL! ANGEL!” Her voice was leaning more towards the pissed off wife tone than the concerned escort tone.

The vampire stumbled back from the thing as it rose from the ground. Fighting wasn’t an option now. Connor was what was important. He gathered his strength and ran for the portal, then his eyes saw a shadow in its frame. He wanted to yell at her to stop her but couldn’t. There was no oxygen here to take in to speak so he sped up. He felt the creature behind him but as he passed the place where he stripped off the tent, he grabbed it up. Wrapping himself in it quickly he dove for Cordy to tackle her back into the chamber.

She was just about to set foot out of the light when something tackled her. She was about to start fighting back when she felt the tent material under her fingertips. It was just Angel tackling her. This was the second time since coming to this world he had done it. Before she knew it, his speed of tackle sent them both skidding along the ground and into the chamber. The only thing that stopped them was when they crashed into the wall.

“THE KEY,” he yelled from under the tent. “PULL IT OUT! HURRY!”

“That is hard to do when you are on top of me!” She yelled right back at him as she shoved him off her. She scrambled to get up and run over to yank the key free of the glyph. The sunlight blinked out as if someone had merely turned a switch to flip it off. She slid down the wall, looking at him. She thought he might have bruised something in the tackle.

Just as that door shut, something big hit it from the other side. The wall shook but it held. Angel came out from under the canvas of the tent.

Cordelia winced as whatever it was hit the wall behind her. She moved with the wall as it shook. She was not getting up for a little wall shaking, not until she got her breath back. She looked at Angel. “What did you do that for?!”

“I assumed you like breathing,” he said as he stood. Yeah, there was pain, but not as much as there could have been. Pain was good, sometimes.

“And broken ribs are so much better.” She got up slowly, wincing. They had to take care of Connor so she could take care of her injuries. “I thought something happened to you. I was going to make sure you were okay.”

Angel moved over to her. “You stepped over there you would have died, Cordy. There was no atmosphere.”

“It takes a lot more than a lack of atmosphere to kill me, Champ.” Cordelia straightened up and looked at him. “You get the crystal?” She had her priorities and while she might have given Angel a tingle of hope with her comment, now she destroyed it in revealing it was all about the crystal.

Reaching for her with his right hand, he helped her up. “Yeah, well, if the lack of breathing didn’t get you, what hit that wall might have,” he said, nodding. “Yeah. Reddish thing that sparkles with purple?”

“Wes didn’t tell me what it looked like or what we have to do with it.” She took his help just because it was easier and faster if she didn’t argue. “I will call him on the way to the hospital.”

Angel followed her on out of the chamber and onto the car so they could get to the hospital.
Most of the gang was gathered around Connor’s hospital bed. He was still out, only breathing thanks to the machines he was on. On one side of the bed stood Wes with Fred, both looking exhausted from not only the fight only twenty four hours earlier but also from the research to try to save Connor’s life. On the other side were Cordelia and Angel, both looking like they had been through hell and back. Angel’s face and hand were still burned from retrieving the crystal while Cordelia suffered from the pain in bandaged hands and some bruised ribs. They all had enough sense to send Lillian out of the room. None of them knew exactly what was going to happen. Cordelia’s eyes went from Wes and then back to Connor. They were here, they had the crystal, the curtains were drawn, and the door was closed. “What’s the hold up, Wes?” Cordelia finally said, her thoughts now spoken aloud. They were all thinking it, she knew that.

Wesley looked over at Angel and Cordelia. He held out his hand to them. “Crystal,” he said in that soft tone of his.

Angel pulled it out of his pocket. It seemed to glow with a life of its own. It was translucent red and seemed to give off a purple glow from within. He handed it to Wesley, trusting his friend could save his son.

Cordelia watched carefully as Angel handed over the crystal. She only hoped that what had taken them a while and a lot of trouble to retrieve was going to be the answer to their problems. “Now what?” She asked, rather impatiently.

Wes pulled back Connor’s sheet to expose his chest. He placed the crystal on the unconscious boy’s chest. He looked up at both Cordy and Angel. “You both need to stand on either side of the bed,” he said. He stepped back as Angel stepped around to where Wes had been.

“Now, you are his parents, therefore the ones closest to him. Reach over and each place one hand to cover the stone then hold hands.” Wes told them.

“If you make me sing Kumbaya, Wes…” Cordelia trailed off. She would do it for Connor, even if she didn’t want to. No one wanted her to sing. She took a breath and put a bandaged hand over the crystal. She reached out to offer the other to Angel. “Don’t hold it too hard. It still hurts.”

When the two had done what he instructed, Wes pulled out a parchment and unrolled it. He started speaking in a demon tongue.

Soon after Wes spoke Angel started feeling the crystal grow warm. He looked across to Cordelia.

Her eyes weren’t directed to Angel. They were directed down towards Connor. She watched him for any sign that he was getting better. She wanted this stupid crystal thing to work and for him to wake up the same surlypants young man that he had always been. She was holding her breath too, as if that would help things along.

Wes continued his spell casting. He looked from the scroll to Connor’s chest. He could see the crystal’s glow intensify under Cordy and Angel’s hand. He laid the scroll down. “The rest is up to the three of you,” he told them. “Divided you can’t save him.”

“Wes, really don’t have the time of the patience to go around playing riddle me this. Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” Cordelia said as she briefly pulled her eyes away from Connor to look at Wes now. Why couldn’t this be one of those easy missions where you staked a few vamps and went home?

“You both have to put aside everything between you,” he said. He turned to Fred and took her by the hand and started for the door. “Stop hiding and denying.” He opened the door for Fred.

Fred followed Wesley out. She paused though long enough to give them both a small smile. She only hoped that they could work it out, for Connor’s sake. She pulled the door shut behind her.

“Wes…what the hell…” Cordelia didn’t even finish before the door to the hospital room was shut. She yanked her hand out of Angel’s. “This is stupid. What kind of crazy spell is this? I am trying again.” She began to unwrap her hands as she looked at Connor.

“Cordy,” Angel said to her, “Please, for Connor.” He looked down at the crystal and its glow started to dim when she pulled her hand away.

“Please for Connor what? I can’t change how I feel inside. I can’t fake it, even if I wanted to so we could save Connor.” Cordelia tossed her bandages aside. Her hands had gone from the angry red of her earlier burns to blackish blue dead flesh now.

“Our son needs us now, Cordy,” the vampire said looking back up at her. “We can set everything aside for now for him.” This was as close to pleading that Angel had ever come. The pain of possibly loosing Connor was worse then the pain Markus had inflicted on him several years ago.

“You don’t think this mystical crystal thing is going to know we are lying?” Cordelia raised her brow at him. It wasn’t just as easy as setting everything aside. She knew that. It was never that easy.

“What I think is,” he said to her, “that it will know the truth, even if we don’t. It was starting to do something, Cordelia, I felt it.”

Cordelia sighed and moved to put her darkened hand over the crystal. It hurt like hell without the bandages when she took Angel’s hand as well. She just stood there, weight resting on one hip, waiting for something.

Angel looked to his son when Cordelia came back. Soon the crystal started glowing brighter again and it became warm. He felt a tingle in his injured hand and he looked to it. The glow started to engulf his hand as well as Cordelia’s. At the same time Connor’s life signs started getting stronger. Angel didn’t need the monitors to tell him this.

Cordelia could feel it working and to be frank, she didn’t understand why. Wes said that they had to be united, not divided. And she certainly wasn’t feeling united with this Angel right now. She took in a breath, hoping that Connor would open his eyes.

Connor’s head started to move slightly, though any hope of him making a noise at present was impossible having a ventilator in him doing his breathing for him. He started to pull on his restraints just a tiny bit.

Angel noted this as he looked at Connor’s face then he looked back to his and Cordelia’s hand on the crystal. He could see new flesh growing an accelerated rate on their hands.

Cordelia kept one hand on the crystal but she reached down with the hand that was holding Angel’s to start to help Connor with his restraints. “Angel, get a move on. Get the other one.” Cordelia shook her head at him.

“Cordy, wait,” he said. “He comes too with the ventilator and all in him, he’s liable to try and pull it out. Just give it a few more moments and we’ll call the nurse.” He hoped she understood what he was saying. The restraints were there for Connor’s safety so he didn’t pull the hoses out along with his lungs.

Cordelia paused for a moment and looked at him. She didn’t like the idea of Connor being strapped down. She just frowned but took her hand off the restraint. She did speak to Connor though. There was no harm in that. “Connor, listen, don’t fight. I know you want to. You always want to jump right to the fighting. But you have to just stay calm.”

“Connor,” Angel spoke softly, “relax, let the machines breath for you until we can get a nurse in.” He leaned down closer to his son. “You’re coming back to us, but do it slowly. Relax. Center yourself.”

Connor’s eyes slowly opened. The moved from Cordy to Angel then closed again. Angel felt Connor’s hand move, brushing up against him. He looked down and Connor’s wrist was turned up. His hand in a fist but that middle finger was straight up. Angel couldn’t help but grin.

Cordelia looked at that and she had to smile just a bit too. “Nice to see you are feeling well enough to make obscene gestures at people.” She looked over to Angel. The crystal might have healed his hand but his face was still burned. Her hands, however, felt good as new. “So…we should probably hide this crystal before the nurses get here?” She was also asking if they were done here.

Angel pulled his hand from the crystal and it was now black as a piece of coal. He picked it up, looked at it a moment then slipped it back into this pocket to give to Wes.

“Connor, we are just going to step outside to let the nurses do their thing and get all those tubes out of you. Be back in when it’s done.” She moved around Connor’s hospital bed and grabbed Angel to drag him out. The nurses certainly didn’t need two extra bodies in here while they helped the miracle kid.

Wes saw the two come out and he stood. His eyes asked it all, he didn’t have to speak. He moved to them to meet them.

“He’s awake,” Angel said, that happy father tone. He pulled the crystal out and handed it to Wes. “I thought you might want this.”

“He’s fine. He flipped Angel off.” Cordelia gestured back to Angel with a hook of her thumb. If anything, that should prove that Connor was completely fine.

Wes took the blackened stone and gave a tired smile. “Well, it he has enough facility about him t