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09 November 2006 @ 12:24 am
Walking In My Shoes (31/?)  

Title: Walking In My Shoes (31/?)
Author: Kelly and Mike (collaborative writing team)
Posted: 11/8/06
Rating: Chapters range from PG to NC-17
Chapter: Chapter Thirty-One rated PG
Email: jjsoapchat AT yahoo DOT com
Content: Its just fluff really
Scenes include: Cordelia, Kat, Ian, Lillian, Connor, Wesley, Fred, Lilah
Summary: Written for a challenge proposed on the Stranger Things message board. Challenge By rousedower. An AU/TT Challenge: Angel goes to another dimension, hence AU, somehow. And in this dimension he is married to Cordy and they have kids. But something happened to the other Angel (he's missing or dead), so there's mad tension and what not between this Angel and AU!Cordy. She knows he's not her Angel, but the kids (a boy and girl) are pretty young and think he's their father. I imagine a scene where their little daughter asks him to read her a bedtime story/tuck her in with Cordy trying to explain to her that he's not her father (really), and he does it.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made. 
Distribution: AO, ST, FSB, LJ. Whoever wants it, can have it, just credit
Notes: Cast List: Kelly writes for Cordelia, Gunn, Lorne, Lillian, Kat, Illyria/Fred, Lilah, Eve, Faith, Gwen, Harmony, Vail, random shop owners/demons. Mike writes for Angel(us), Connor, Wes, Ian, random filler chars. 

Cordelia stood outside of Wes' office door, even though that it was closed. She knew that when it was closed, it meant that he was working. Frankly, this was a little too big to keep from him. She didn't even knock. She just opened the door. "You are taking me out to lunch." Cordelia said with the same confidence and self-assuredness that she approached every situation with.

Wesley looked up from his study. At first he wasn't sure what to say. This was the old Cordelia that came in. One he hadn't seen in quite sometime. She was the brass girl that seemed to expect the world to kneel to her. "Lunch," he said. "Actually I wasn't expecting to take a lunch."

Cordelia just frowned at him. Wes was like a brother to her but he was so damn dense sometimes. She tapped her ear and pointed up towards the ceiling, up towards the apartment. "You are taking me out to lunch. So grab your coat and come on." She stepped more fully into his office. She went over to the bookshelf to quickly scan the titles. She grabbed a book off the shelf. "How about The Ivy? I want to feel like a movie star."

His bow knitted together as she mimed then he looked up at the ceiling and back at her. His eyes went wide and brows went up. His lips formed an "oh". "Yes, yes," he said standing and moving over to grab his jacket. "Lunch is good."

"Yes, I enjoy the whole eating thing too. It keeps me alive." She tucked the book against herself and started out of his office. She waited for Wes before she headed down to the parking garage so that they could take his car. She didn't feel like driving. Besides, if she was playing the role of pampered diva, she needed to be driven!

Using the remote he unlocked the Grand Cherokee. He got in, put the keys in the ignition and looked to Cordy as she got in. "What is this all about?"

"I will tell you over lunch." She put the book in her lap and she pulled the seatbelt across to belt herself in. "The Ivy has pretty tight security inside for all the celebs. We won't be overheard there."

Starting the SUV Wesley pulled it on out. "This is all so Bondish," he said. "Secretive meeting in a high profile establishment. I feel I should have worn my tux."

"Well, this is a matter of international security." Cordelia looked over at him and it was clear that she wasn't joking about this. She looked back ahead for only a moment before she reached over to change radio stations. "How can you listen to that junk?"

He glanced at her changing his radio. "Pardon," Wesley told her, " I don't get in your car and change the radio." Though this wouldn't do any good. Cordy would do it anyway. That was just Cordelia.

"First, you never ride in my car. Second, your music is no good. If I wanted to listen to funeral music, would go to a funeral." She finally found a top 40 station and she left it there. She sat back in her seat. She knew that Wes wouldn't change it.

"I take it things between you and Angel are going swimmingly," he said as he turned to get into the valet lane for The Ivy.

She smiled as she thought about Angel. "Things are good right now. I know it took me forever to process everything and come to a point where I could accept things. I saw him though, really saw him, that night in the alley when I broke my back. It just clicked then." Cordelia paused for a moment. "He wants to get remarried but I nixed that idea. Connor and Lillian, you and Fred. Let someone else play the bride. I compromised on a second honeymoon though so hope you don't mind babysitting."

Before Wesley could answer the valet was at the door, opening it. He got out and let the boy get in. "Careful now, the accelerator pedal is rather..." He didn't get a chance to finish. The boy drove off, the tires squealing slightly.

Cordelia barely got out the door before the kid was popping wheelies. She yelled at the retreating Cherokee. "Excuse you!" She looked back to Wes, shaking her head. "No tip for that kid." She moved up the walkway and in to the restaurant. She had already made reservations under Dr. Wyndam-Pryce. It sounded a little more formal and they had a better chance to get a good table. She followed the maitre'd back and waited for him to pull out her chair before sitting down. She put the book on the seat next to her.

"Doctor," he said with a raised brow. "Now is that M.D.? Or of Letters?" He took a seat. "Are you going to explain or do I have to wait for our salads?" He picked up the glass of water and took a drink.

"Well, if they gave degrees in stuffy and impatient..." Cordelia trailed off. She smiled at the waiter. She did love this place; it made her feel like the star she was. Wes picking up the tab was nice too. "Just a water please, little twist of lime." She opened the menu to look it over. "How about we order first and then we can talk?" She didn't want anyone else to overhear this conversation.

After they ordered and got their salads Wesley unfolded the napkin, placing it on his lap. "So second honeymoon. Planning another trip through Europe?" He took a bite of the salad. Then his eyes went to the book on the seat between them. "I'm assuming this has something to do with our talk."

"We are going up to the ski resort that Connor took Lillian too. You know how that kid likes to rough it. All growing up in a Hell dimension and everything." She paused as her eyes went to the book. She nodded her head. She set her fork down and looked across the table at Wes. "The Powers, sent me a vision. And it was a doozy, Wes."

Wesley's chewing all but stopped. He wiped the corners of his mouth with the napkin. "What was it," he said with deep concern. "Why didn't you want Angel to know?"

"Because it involves Angel and the prophecy thing. It involves you too, Wes. I know we aren't a Chinese massage parlor, we don't expect a happy ending. But..." Cordelia's voice trailed for a moment but she spoke again, this time lower. "They showed me. They showed me the happy ending. Not perfect but still... It was happy."

"Maybe it will help if you just tell it to me," he said. "Prophecies, as we know aren't always what they say they are." Wesley pushed his salad bowl to the side.

"I know how you can get out of your contract with Wolfram and Hart to take Bernie's place. There is some mystical loophole that Bernie can only take unfettered apprentices. Its something called the Code of...Wallawalla or Wallanassa. I knew that you would know. It’s in this book." She tapped the book that was sitting on the chair between where she and he were sitting.

"Wallan'asia," he said. "But if I do the imbalance could be catastrophic."

"I know. It would reverse the cure. Angel would be cursed again. But that isn't going to matter because I know how to make the prophecy come true. Well, come true as much as the Powers will let it." Cordelia moved the salad around her plate for the moment before she took another bite of it. She was waiting on Wes.

Wesley was intrigued but he had to be convinced. He tried to think of all the possibilities in his own mind on how this could work and he shook his head. "Cordelia, this is all sounding too good to be true and extremely dangerous. Forces of magic don't like to have their agreements shattered."

"Wes, The Powers didn't send me that vision so that we could sit here and discuss who is going to have their feelings hurt. Wolfram and Hart hates us. So what if they hate us a little more? I mean, they were probably not banking on The Powers sending me a vision of some obscure loophole. Besides, they are lawyers, they should be admiring this." Cordelia wasn't about to let Wesley give up that easily. She had this way to make their lives happy or as happy as they could be when you save the world daily.

"My major concern is Angel," he said with a sigh. "We've done so much magic, and strong magic to assure his soul is anchored so that he and you can be happy. I also might add so that he can't go on a rampage to try and suck the Earth into Hell again." He paused for a moment. "I'm not worried about Wolfram & Hart. I'm just...worried."

"Really, when have I steered you wrong? Sure, The Powers love to screw us, me especially. And once you break this deal, don't worry, no touchy touchy getting groiny again. No more Angelus." Cordelia grabbed the book off the seat and moved over to it so she could be closer to Wes. She opened it and started flipping through it, looking for the right page.

Wes shifted in his seat to wait for her and to hear exactly what this all would entail.

She flipped several pages and then turned the book to Wes. She pointed at the copy of the etching that was there. It looks jarringly familiar, even the glow surrounding the body. "Right there. I know you can read that demon tongue but I can too now. I can read it to you."

Raising his brow he looked from it to Cordy. "Please do," he said wanting to see if she was able. It was ancient, tricky with many words that were the same but meant different things.

"I am not going word for word. I am just going to paraphrase." She turned the book back towards herself. She scanned it quickly. "So basically it says that the Healer, that is me, has to prepare the Vessel through the B'ha'ran Ritual. Which is some herbs like let's see..." Her finger ran over the page. "We have the basic salt, cinnamon sticks, some primrose oil. And then some other weird stuff like a root from a redwood tree and the scale from a fish less than one year old."

"Actually it from a Koi, butterfly Koi. Preferably yellow," Wesley said glancing over at the page a moment then up at her. "Sorry, habit."

She gave Wes a rather incredulous look. "I said I was paraphrasing." Her eyes went back to the text. "So I do this ritual then Angel and I do what we do best. When he wakes up, it’s done. Happiness, here we come."

"When do you plan on starting this ritual and are you going to tell Angel," he asked her point blank.

"I want to start it right after Connor and Lillian get back and no, I am not going to tell Angel. I am going to surprise him when we go on our second honeymoon." She closed the book and put it in her lap. "You are the spells, rituals, and otherwise magical stuff expert. I need your help, Wes. And when I get up to the cabin, I will drink the potion or whatever we are suppose to make during the ritual."

"You'll drink it," he said with a nod. "You'll drink then he'll...well, you know...These spells are often the same in result or process though different in chant and ingridiants," Looking back at her, he continued, "This will be a big step and a big change for him and you."

"Yeah, I know. He will drink it, we will make with the groiny, he will vamp out and then it will be fixed. When we come back, you can break the contract with Bernie. Everyone gets a happy ending." She moved back to her seat, putting the book down on the chair where it was before. "I know. Seer here. Link to The Powers. They already showed me."

Wesley nodded. "I still don't see how I can get out of my agreement, however. That leaves Bernie stuck. He is a friend of mine after all."

"Don't worry. He is going to find someone else. It is Wolfram and Hart's problem. Plus, I think you will be pleased with who your replacement is going to be." Cordelia just smiled. She had told Wes she had seen it all and she had. She reached into her purse and handed him a piece of paper. "When Lilah comes to see you, just give her that. She'll know what to do with it." On the piece of paper was written an address and a name.

Taking the slip of paper he read it then looked up at her not saying a word. He pocketed it. "She might know, but she's not going to be happy about it."

She shrugged her shoulders. "And you care about Lilah being happy because? I know you two had a thing but come on. You have Fred; you have a wedding coming up. All the girls at the Slayer school love you. Things worked a little better than when you were all Wes, rogue demon hunter or Wes, dark knight."

He straightened in his chair. "I managed to take care of a demon or two while I was a rogue demon hunter," he said then relaxed. "But I'll never understand how Angel can stand to wear those leather pants. They were a bit binding in areas that shouldn't be bound."

Cordelia put both of her hands up quickly and shut her eyes super tight. "Stop! Please! Before I lose my appetite! " She shook her head as she lowered her hands. "I am telling Connor when he gets back. He should know his father is going to have this big change."

When their lunch arrived they sat and ate talking of other things like wedding plans, kids, and the first grandbaby for the family. Most of this group were not related by blood, but blood does not make a family and they were all just as much family as any out there.

When finished Wes picked up the check and paid the waiter then they went to get the his SUV so they could head back to the hotel to get ready for what was going to be the biggest change this family had ever had in it.

Lilah waited until Winifred Burkle left Wesley's apartment. It was pathetically cute how the young woman wanted to sleep at the hotel until her and Wes were officially married. That wasn't going to happen, not if Lilah had any say in the matter. She made her way to Wesley's apartment door, giving three quick raps against it. She waited for him, checking her manicure. No chips on her nail polish, that was a good thing.

Wesley looked up from his books. He'd been going over the ritual and the potion recipe again. He knew things had to be perfect because if they weren't they would have big problems again with no hope of being able to correct them as they had before. Pulling off his glasses Wesley stood and walked over to the door and opened it. He raised his brows at seeing who was there. "Lilah," he said simply.

"Wes." She said as she stepped through the door. She wasn't about to go discussing things of such importance out in the hallway. The first things she caught sight of were the books. So her intelligence wasn't wrong. She knew what they were planning.

"Yes, why don't you come in," he said after she had entered. He closed the door then turned to her. "And how is it I may help you?"

"Its not how you can help me, its how I can help you. Word is that you want to get out of your contractual obligations to Bernie." She turned so that she could look at him now. Word traveled fast, especially when one had Wolfram and Hart to head up their intelligence.

Walking back to the table where the books were he laid down his glasses and started closing them casually. "And you are wishing to help in what way?"

"I made the deal for you, I can break it. Or at the very least, get you out of it." Lilah glanced quickly at the books before Wes had a chance to shut them all. She had seen enough to know what book and what page she would be looking up later.

Wesley moved to the small kitchen and put on the teapot. "Tea," he asked her. He was English and it was in his genetic make-up to be polite. He wasn't saying anything to her more then he had to but he did want to hear what she had to say.

"I really didn't come here to stay and chat, Wes. I came here to make a deal with you." Lilah followed him into the kitchen. There wasn't any use to beat around the bush. "We know what your little group is planning. Its not going to work and you are going to end up worse off than before."

After turning the heat on under the kettle he turned to her. "For you to come here it must have everyone worried all the way to the Senior Partners," he said. "That is if we are up to something."

"Don't jerk me around. We know the Seer is going to try the ritual. That is what you get for having lunch at a restaurant we have a controlling interest in." She just stood there as she looked at him. She was waiting for the inevitable denial.

"And if it is successful it will cause a huge problems for Wolfram & Hart," Wesley told her. He knew that if the Senior Partners weren't worried she wouldn't be here. Yes, once Lilah and him had something and it would have probably led to more but they both were on opposite ends of good and evil.

"I am not here for Wolfram and Hart. I am here for you. Your little group has no idea what kind of magic you are dealing with. This is universe altering sort of stuff. You should have sent Angel back where he came from when he got here. It’s only going to end up with all of you dead." Lilah was lying, just the smallest bit, about being there for him. She was worried about saving her own ass. She had too many screw ups on her record since this new Angel had come to town.

"If it has so little chance of working it should be in your favor, Lilah," he said. He knew what would happen if it didn't work and they all might wind up dead or worse. "Cordelia isn't going to back out of this."

"Would I love to see this come back to bite Angel, Cordelia, and the rest of the Mouseketeers in the ass, yes. But I never wanted you dead. If I did, you would be dead already. I don't have a no kill order from the Senior Partners for you." She wasn't sure just how desperate she was willing to get here. Whatever she did in this apartment wouldn't compare to what the Senior Partners would do to her if she failed.

"To show that I can be concerned with what could happen with you," he pulled out a folded piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to her. The kettle whistled and he got his china cup with packed tea ball then poured the hot water over it. "He will be taking my place with Bernie."

She took the piece of paper from him. She unfolded it and looked at the name and address written there. She frowned deeply. "How did you find Lindsay?"

Putting the tea ball in a saucer he picked up the tea and drank. He wasn't going to answer that question just as he would have expected she would do the same.

She folded the piece of paper and slipped it into her jacket pocket. "This doesn't change a thing, Wes. You are putting all your faith and trust in a man who destroyed the world he came from. And helping him, you are going to bring the Apocalypse down on this place as well."

"Somehow I feel from the files I read provided to me from Wolfram & Hart are edited to fit what the Senior Partners wanted us to believe. He has admitted to what he had done," Wes spoke very calmly. "He also told what had happened to lead up to the circumstances, which were not all his fault alone."

"If that is what you want to believe..." Her voice trailed for a moment. "That book of yours, it isn't edited. And you know the consequences if you fail. You know I can't let you succeed."

"Yes, I know, because either way it goes, you're screwed." Wesley said that so calmly and matter of factly. He knew this was something the Senior Partners didn't want to happen on either scale. "Prophecies are such a bitch, aren't they, Lilah?"

"I don't know, Wes, you tell me. You were the one that couldn't tell a real one from a fake one and it cost Angel his son. You never were good at spotting a fake. Are you really so sure it exists?" She raised a brow as she looked at him.

"I guess that will be a question left to be answered." He finished his tea and put the cup on the sink after rinsing it. "But finding that long lost fugitive should put a little good light on your case."

"We will see. Only this time, when you screw up and your friends abandon you, I won't be there to help you pick up the pieces." Lilah moved out of the kitchen. She was heading for the door. She knew Wes would balk on his contract and this slip of paper would allow her to find a suitable replacement. Lindsay always did want that bit of power.

He watched Lilah leave. She was scared on more then on level. If this spell worked she would have the Senior Partners to worry about. If it didn't she'd have the Senior Partners and more after her and she knew it...so did he.

 

Cordelia was growing more and more impatient as the days passed. It had been two weeks since her lunch with Wes and four days since the kids had gotten back from their Honeymoon. Cordelia had called the kids and asked them to meet her at the local park. She had the twins and was keeping a careful eye on them as they played. She had to avoid talking openly at the hotel at all costs. She didn't want Angel to figure out what was going on. She wanted it to really be a surprise.

Connor came with Lillian, holding her hand as they walked. He saw Cordelia and indicated to his new bride the bench where the woman he thought of as his mother sat. As they approached he glanced to the twins at play. "So, what's up," he asked Cordy as he let Lily take the seat next to her. He stood, hands in pockets.

Lillian lowered herself down onto the bench. She still had a bit before Annabelle was born but she was starting to really show. Coupled with the fact that the baby was always moving and she was getting winded going up the stairs, Lillian was happy to sit down. She gave Cordelia a smile. "I don't know how you carried twins."

Cordelia tossed a shirt at Connor. "Now you and your dad match." It was just a simple T-shirt that said "World's Best Dad". Cordelia knew that Angel sometimes wore it under his black shirts and she caught him in it sleeping before. She saw Kat light up at seeing Lillian so she called out. "You can talk to the baby in a second, Kat." She looked over to Lillian and Connor. "I don't know how I carried two of them either."

He caught the shirt and looked at it. It put a grin on his face. "Hey, I'm not as bad as he is," he said, but as he talked he was taking of his shirt to put on the T-shirt.

Lillian watched so that she could see what the T-shirt said. She smiled as Connor finally pulled it over his head. "That is cute. I like that." She looked back to Cordelia, giving her approval. If Cordy hadn't done it, she would have. In the months since she told him she was pregnant, Connor had changed completely.

Cordelia waited for Connor to pull the shirt over his head before she spoke again. "Sit down. We have a lot we need to talk about." Her voice turned serious now. She wasn't sure how long they had until the twins came over or the sun set and Angel showed up to play some with the kids before he went on patrol.

Connor frowned when Cordy seemed to change in demeanor. "What is it," he asked. "Somebody sick? Something going to happen?" He took a seat. He didn't like it when Cordy got serious like this.

Cordelia nodded her head. "Something is going to happen. Something big. And it’s going to affect all of us." She reached into her bag and got out copies of the translated ritual. She passed a copy to Connor and one to Lillian. "I wanted to wait until you two got back before I went through with it."

Connor took the pages and began to read. First he frowned then his brow raised. His eyes kept scanning the words.

Lillian did the same as Connor. First, she frowned but then her brow started to rise. She looked up at Connor for a moment. "I know I am not up to speed on my rituals but will this...I mean...woah." That was all that Lillian could think to say.

"This will be a big change, alright," he looked up at Cordy. "You think this will really work? Its like...I don't know what its like." Then he looked to Lillian. "I'm not either. Never been really liking the boogied stuff."

Cordelia paused for a moment as she looked at the two kids. Who ever thought that she, not even close to 30, would be referring to these two as kids. "I had a vision. The Powers showed me the book, showed me what to do. The demon tongue it was written in, I speak it fluently now. It’s just like...there."

Lillian slowly lowered the papers to put them in her lap. It was going to be a huge change, to put it as the understatement of the year. "I take it we aren't suppose to tell Angel since you wanted to meet away from the hotel?"

Connor just looked to Cordy to wait since Lillian asked the obvious.

Cordelia nodded her head. "I want it to be a surprise for him. If it doesn't work, I don't want to have to deal with the brooding disappointment. Better he just never knew this was an option if it fails. I also need you guys to take the twins for that week we are gone. And..." Cordelia paused for a moment. "Connor, after this, if it works the way The Powers showed me, you are going to have a lot more siblings. Hell, if it works out, it’s going to be like bunnies around here."

"And you're okay with that," he asked with a chuckle. "I mean there is already a woman in Arkansas that stays pregnant. Going to compete with her?"

Cordelia just raised a brow at Connor. "Uh huh...no. I am not planning on thirteen kids. Or twenty. Or however many she has now. But Fred, within a year. And Faith too. If you can believe it. I am not even going to tell you how many you are going to end up with. Better start saving up to get a house." She just smiled at Connor, almost hoping that comment would make him pale a little and get him back for his joke.

Lillian just gave a bit of a nervous laugh at Cordy's comment and then looked over at Connor. She was kind of hoping that since Slayer's healed faster, they would also gestate faster but there was no such luck there. She was stuck at nine months like everyone else. To be honest, she was really starting to miss going out and killing some vampires.

"Yeah, well, I guess we'll see," he said looking to Lily then back to Cordy. "I guess the Powers think to fill their need for champions we're their breeding stock."

Cordelia waited a beat and then looked right at Connor. "Mooooooooo." It was short lived before she started cracking up. She shook her head. "If The Powers think I am their broodmare, forget it! You two have at it. Slayer and a prophecy kid. They have to be ALL about that."

Lillian was the one turning just the tiniest shade of white here considering that Connor wasn't more serious about the no more babies thing. They hadn't exactly been careful before and now, knowing this. "Who is going to watch all these kids? Someone has to still teach at the school and then go out and kill the big bads."

Connor took Lillian's hand. "Don’t worry. With as many uncles and aunts and cousins our kids will have...I don't think there will be a shortage of sitters."

Kat heard her mother laughing and truth be told she had been inching her way towards the adults the entire time. She smiled at them as she finally made it over to the bench. "What is so funny?" She knew Ian wouldn't be far behind so she was asking now, before he broke in with his demands for food.

"Funny," Connor looked at his little sister then stood up and grabbed her up. "Funny is when I throw you up so high you'll find the cloud where Jack found the golden goose."

Kat giggled as Connor picked her up. She covered her eyes as she giggled harder. "Connor! You can't throw that high!"

Lillian smiled as she watched Connor with Kat. She could see him doing the same thing, playing the same games, with their little girl. She put her hand against her stomach, content to just watch the two play.

Ian came running as fast as his short legs would bring him. "Throw me! Throw me," he said. "I want to find the goose! But can I have a hot dog first?"

Cordelia got up as soon as she heard Ian. She could hear him coming before he even showed up since he always started yelling. She swept him up into her arms. "Oh hey. Watch out there. Its Kat's turn first. You and me, we can go get some hot dogs for everyone. How does that sound? You can be mom's big helper."

"Dogman is over there," he pointed. He could find the hotdog vender anywhere in the park. "I want chili and cheese with relish and onions." He looked back at his mother as he said it. "Oh, I found this," he said struggling to pull something from his pocket. It was a flat, mummified frog. Probably ran over a few months ago by a cart one of the workers drove around.

Cordelia pulled back as she looked at the dead thing. That was really not something she wanted Ian to be playing with. "How about we just...put Mr. Frog down while we eat?" She took the frog from Ian, holding it between two fingers by the leg. She set it on the bench and looked at Connor. It was the "get rid of it look". She kept Ian in her arms and got the wipes out of her purse. "Here you go, clean up while we walk over to the hot dog guy. I need your help to carry all those dogs."

"I'm gonna frame my frog," he said as they went across the grounds. "I'm gonna make it look like a monster and draw Da running his sword through it!" And to emphasis this Ian tried to make a grrr face at his mother.

Cordelia just laughed as Ian did that. "I know something that would be a lot better than that. Your dad and I are going to go away for a few days and you are going to get to stay with your brother. What about...if I told Connor to take you to the pet store and get you a live frog to take care of? You have been doing really good with your puppy." Cordelia was ready to do anything to keep Ian from keeping that dead, flattened...thing.

"Cool," he said. "I want the pacman frog!" Pacman frogs look just like what they are named. They get big and round and are mostly mouth with little razor sharp ridges in their mouths. When they get full grown a person, if brave enough, to handle one would wear a heavy leather glove.

"How about we start out a little smaller than that." It wasn't a question, Cordelia was telling the young boy. "I was thinking when Dad and I get back, he could help you build a really nice Koi pond outside. We can call Uncle Xander to come down to help with construction. And... Maybe we can ask Uncle Xander about helping with your own room." She set him down once they got to the hot dog cart. She pulled out her wallet, ordering enough hot dogs to feed a small army.

"Koi pond," he frowned. "What is a Koi?" He looked up at his mother. "Can I pet it? Is it a kind of big lizard like a gator?"

"They are a kind of fish and you can put your hand in and stroke them gently. Your dad can tell you all about it." She handed the vendor the money for the hot dogs. She handed Ian down his. "I need you to be on your very best behavior while Dad and I are gone and when we get back for a while. Can you do that?"

Taking his hotdog he looked at it then back up at her. "Going someplace? Where? I wanna go too!" Ian started looking worried. Mom and Da just didn't leave them like this. They always went as a family.

"Dad and I are going on a special vacation so we can show each other how much we missed each other and love each other. You know how Connor and Lillian left after their wedding; well this is like our second wedding and second leaving. We will be back." She took the tray of the rest of the hot dogs. She handed Ian an orange Popsicle and whispered to him. "Don't tell Connor I gave you that."

Taking the Popsicle he went to work on it. He still wasn't happy with thinking about his parents leaving for longer then overnight. He followed after his mother silently.

"Don't brood. You remind me too much of Angel when you do that. I promise to bring you back presents. See, now I know you are my kid because you love presents as much as I do." She carried the food with her, back to where Connor, Lillian, and Kat were playing.

When they got close Ian turned quickly still licking his Popsicle so that Connor couldn't see him.

Connor put Katy down. "Mom has dinner," he told her. They walked on over. "Man, hotdogs, how much better can it get?"

Cordelia thrust the container of hotdogs at Connor. "Its all yours, kids. I am just glad that I had something that I could identify as meat before I left the house." She chuckled and went over to the small cooler bag that she kept the kid's juice in. "Apple or grape, guys?"

"Whatever you grab first," Connor said after handing Katy her hotdog. He then got his own.

Kat took the hot dog from her brother and then she sat in the grass. She smiled at her mother since she got it just the way Kat liked it, a lot of mustard and relish. "Thank you, mommy. May I have some apple juice? Annabelle would like apple juice too." Kat crossed her legs and waited for her juice. When Cordelia handed it to her, she was careful to take the straw off and put it into the juice box.

Cordelia handed a grape one to Connor, an apple one to Lillian, and a grape one to Ian as well. He knew the young boy would want the same as his big brother. She grabbed a bottle of water before sitting down.

Lillian took the offered apple juice with a smile and waited for Connor to hand her one of the hot dogs. "I am starving. I think I am going to make you take me to the Golden Dragon buffet after this, Connor." Lillian had a big appetite after she was called, but it was doubled thanks to the pregnancy.

Handing Lily her hotdog he then sat on the grass. "So, when do we get our orange Popsicle?" He looked up at Cordy with a sly grin.

Cordelia raised a brow as she looked at Connor. "When you walk over there and get it yourself. You don't look crippled to me." She smiled just a little bit when she said it. She looked over at Ian and then Kat. "How are the hot dogs?"

Ian tried to answer but his mouth was full. His cheeks looked like a hamster's.

Cordelia cracked up when she saw Ian like that. He did that all the time but every time, it was funny. She knew that was all Angel coming through. Her laughter faded into a smile as she imagined Angel doing that. He was just dorky enough to do it.

From a distance the family group was being watched. A figure in the concrete access to the underground utilities stood there in the shadows. Angel watched his family. He smiled, but it was a sad sort of smile. The sight of them made him happy but also knowing he could never join them in moments like this. Picnics on a beautiful day without becoming a pile of ash. After a moment longer he turned to enter back into the utilities access to make his way back down into the sewers.

 

Cordelia stood outside of Wes' apartment door, juggling the fish bowl in her arms with trying to give a knock on his door. She knew that they couldn't perform the ritual and get the potion ready at the hotel. Angel would know for sure. Unable to shift enough to avoid dropping the Koi in the bowl, she kicked on Wes' door. Around her shoulder was a satchel filled with other ingredients Wes had sent her to Chinatown for. She was just happy that she was able to distract the twins with the promise of a night with their father. She told Angel she was going to pick up some last minute items for their trip to the cabin. She hadn't lied about that. She kicked the door again, waiting for Wes to answer it already.

Wesley came to the door. He had been readying the table for putting the potion together. Opening the door and seeing Cordelia he took the bowl with the Koi and raised it to look at it. "I'm sure he won't mind us borrowing a scale," he said then led Cordy to the dining table. "Just set the sack on the chair."

When she sat it down he looked at her, very serious expression on his face. "Cordelia," he began, "I want you to totally understand what it is we're going to do and what will happen if it fails. This will have such an impact on the demon world that...Well, Lilah paid me a visit. She's scared. The Senior Partners are worried. Doing this spell if it works won't bode well for them. If it fails Lilah knows her chances of getting killed, and quite possibly the rest of us as well, is high."

"It’s not going to fail." Cordelia said simply. "When have my visions ever failed us? When that Power was going to jack my body, didn't The Powers tell us how to stop it? I know they dropped the ball about Connor and plenty of Wolfram and Hart plottings but they have steered us in the right direction for the most part." She paused for a moment, standing there to look at Wes. He was probably one of her oldest friends, which was rare for her. He was like the brother she never had. "Wes, this is what I was meant to do. Another check in the column for being demonized."

"I just want you aware," he told her. "Aware if this doesn't work there will be no Angel and you will be too weak to help yourself." Again he just wanted to make sure this was what she wanted. That this was the right thing. "And there will be no amount of magic that could undo it."

"I know. If this fails then Angelus will kill me or turn me because I won't be able to fight back. And we won't be able to restore Angel's soul. I read the same book as you." Cordelia reached into the satchel and pulled out a stake. She handed it to him. "If it fails, don't let us get near the kids. You are the only one outside of Gunn that I trust to do what is necessary."

"I have plenty," he said as he moved to the bag and started pulling out the ingredients she brought. "I can do this and bring it to you." He looked at one bottle that read skunk wart. "It’s not going to smell very pleasant. I'm hoping if we add a little lemon or peppermint it won't taste just as foul as it will smell."

She rolled her eyes at Wesley. "It was symbolic." She dropped the stake onto the table. She started to pull things out of her bag as well. She had been running all over Chinatown in an effort to get the ingredients. "Did you have that friend of yours send the bark from the redwood?"

Wesley stopped and looked at Cordy like she just insulted him. "I don't believe you just asked that question."

Fred let herself into Wesley's apartment using the key that he had given her. She wasn't going to move in officially until after the wedding. She gave Cordelia a smile and a bigger one to Wes. "I got the Pulsatilla and Lobelia from the health store. I put them far away from each other. Don't want you to accidentally take the Lobelia and get sick." Fred snickered. She started to put her own items down on the table to join the others.

He looked up seeing Fred. He stopped to watch her enter. He never go tired of watching her. She was everything he could ever want in a friend, lover and wife. "I'm about ready to start putting this together."

"I don't know. Its not like we can talk at the hotel and you never answer your email!" Cordelia shook her head. She looked over at Fred, giving her a smile. "I really hope you didn't have as much trouble as I did getting stuff together. I think Wes sent me for the crazy stuff on purpose." Cordelia turned her head to look at Wes. "Seriously, tiger penis?"

Fred giggled as Cordelia said that. She put a bottle of black currant juice on the table. "We can add this to the potion so it doesn't taste so bad. It should mask the taste at least. The gritty texture, I haven't worked that out yet. I don't think putting it in the blender would make it fine enough. We can't strain it because that grit is what is going to make it work." It was as if Fred had been reading Wesley's mind in relation to the potion. She knew they would need something to mask the taste and smell.

Wesley started arranging the ingredients and measuring them into individual bowls. He never looked up at Cordelia as he replied to her. "Oh, the tiger's penis is for something entirely different. I just figured while you were out you might as well pick it up for me."

"Why didn't you just send me to the supermarket to get your groceries while I was out?" Cordelia threw her hands up and shook her head. "Where should I go change? I know this one is all about the symbol painting. At least you don't have to carve anything into me like that demon did with Connor."

"The bedroom is that way," he indicated the door. He turned on the electric burner and put the pot on it. He got the bottle of water and poured some in the pot.

Fred watched as Cordelia left the room. She looked over at Wes for a moment. "Do you really think this is going to work?" She hadn't voiced her doubts before. She wanted so much for this to be true. It would free Wes and it would give Angel something he had always wanted. She thought it was just too good to be true.

Wesley stopped and looked at Fred. "I hope so," he said. "For all our sakes I really hope so."

Fred moved to help Wesley set things up for the potion and the ritual. She sat down at the table and started grinding up various herbs and mystical seeds to form the paste to draw the necessary symbols. She was never one to be quiet while she worked though. "I am developing a new type of folding sword that will be lighter and easier for the girls to carry. They can just flick their wrists and it will expand out and lock. I have Ginger and Jaeda testing it."

"Good," he replied. Then he started adding the ingredients and with each he chanted in the demon tongue. This was the point of no return. On the third ingredient the liquid in the pot turned red.

Fred pulled back a little as it turned red. She almost expected it to combust and shoot into flames. She was expecting something. She checked the book quickly and then double-checked her ingredients. The paste was ready as soon as Cordy was. She grabbed a piece of chalk and grabbed the book. Moving to the center of the room, she knelt down and started copying the circle design out of the book.

Cordelia stepped out of the bathroom in the same bikini that she had worn the day at the water park. She figured it was fitting given what they were about to do. She just watched Fred and Wes a moment. "Where do you want me?" She watched Fred drawing on the floor and assumed that is where she was going to be stuck standing.

Wes was going to let Fred direct Cordy. He was busy with the brewing and couldn't stop even to chat. Everything had to be timed to get it right. This wasn't Minute Rice, perfect every time.

Fred pointed to the blank circle that was within the circle. She stayed on the floor, moving around the circle as she drew the right symbols on it. She knew that Wes had to concentrate so that is why she was keeping quiet. It was tough, very tough, but she was doing it!

The final ingredient put in gave the result Fred was waiting for, the flame came up with a ‘whoof’ sound. As it died down, Wes got a ladle and dipped some out of the pot. He poured the potion into the paste that Fred had ground up. He took up the bowl and a brush as he moved over to Cordy still chanting the mantra.

Cordelia did as Fred wanted. She stepped into the circle. She just looked at Wes with a raised brow. She really hoped that wasn't going to be hot. Somehow she knew that burns on her skin of a mystical kind might be a dead giveaway for Angel.

Wes knelt in front of her and took the brush coated with the potion, now a glowing, dark purple, and painted a heart then circled it on her stomach. He stood and on her chest painted a star. His chanting never ceased. He backed away from her and as he did each of the symbols Fred placed on the floor flashed and vanished. They reappeared in the heart and the star.

Cordelia really felt sick to her stomach. She wasn't sure if that was the fear or if it was the actual spell. She swallowed hard against the rising vomit in her mouth. She closed her eyes. She made the right choice and she was standing right by it. She felt a tingling spread across her stomach and then her chest as the symbols soaked into her skin.

Fred stood back and watched with rapt fascination as the ritual took place. They had done a lot of rituals in their time but none like this. It was fascinating to behold. Fred grabbed a notebook off the table, along with a pen, and started to document these phenomena.

The marks soaked into Cordy's skin and vanished. When they did Wes went silent. He backed to the couch and sat. These major spells always drained him.

Even though Wes was done, the spell had just started for Cordelia. As the symbols sunk into her skin, she could feel a tingly burn just under her skin. Then she felt it in her bloodstream. It raced through her body as where it did her veins and arteries started to glow. Not her usual whitish glow but rather, a deep purple, until every inch of her skin was covered. She collapsed to her knees, panting heavily. The marks started to slowly fade but the purple concentration over her heart pulsed in time with her heartbeat.

Wes set forward and waited. He watched making sure it was all going as it should. He picked up the small bowl and took the brush out and stood. He moved to Cordy and knelt. "Drink. You must drink now and then just before the act of transmutation."

Cordelia reached with a shaking hand to take the bowl from Wes. She nodded her head as she got a hold of the bowl with both hands. She brought the bowl up to her lips and drank the entire contents in one long gulp. She dropped the bowl to the floor as she felt the potion coursing down her throat and into her stomach. It hit her like a sharp pain but then, it was over as quick as it came. She felt...well she felt better than fine. She stood up slowly. "Can I get dressed now or you want to look at my figure in this swimsuit for a bit more, Wes?" She smirked as she said it.

Fred resisted the urge to run to Cordelia and help her once she fell. She knew that if she broke the circle, all would be lost. Wes had the mystical energy and the potion so he was able to cross but she didn't. She breathed an audible sigh of relief as Cordelia stood up. She was looking and acting like the same old Cordelia.

"Yes, please do," Wes told Cordelia as he went back to sit. He looked back to Fred. "Sweetheart, can you pour the rest of that potion into the jar there on the table?" Wes then leaned back and closed his eyes. He could see where using too much big magic caused wizards to seem to shrivel and become malformed. The energy it took to complete these tasks was unforgiving.

Fred watched Cordelia as she headed back to the bedroom. She nodded her head and went over to pour the remaining potion into the small vial on the table. She kept looking over at Wes, making sure he was okay. "Do you want me to call for some food? Or get you an energy drink? I was thinking maybe we could develop a ray or something to concentrate your power so you feel less drained."

"The drink would be good," he said in a strained voice. "I have no idea if something of that nature would work."

Fred nodded her head. She went to the kitchen and opened the fridge. She grabbed one of the energy drinks out and came back. She popped the top before handing it to Wes. "We could try it. It would be worth a try."

Sitting up Wesley took the bottle and smiled at Fred. With his other hand he took hers and pulled her down to sit with him. "I have what I need here to help me get my energy back."

Cordelia came out of the bedroom after changing in time to hear that line from Wes. "You want some crackers with that cheese, Wes?" She shook her head. She moved to the table to grab the small vial with the rest of the potion in it. "I am leaving now, not that it matters to you two humpbunnies."

Wes looked to her. "Remember, drink that before...well, you know," he said to her. "You might want to send Angel on an errand just before just incase you glow again. And, well, the smell. He'll pick that up in an instant if you open it with him close."

"I was planning to send him out for firewood to build a nice romantic fire." Cordelia gave Wes a smile. "I never do anything without thinking it through. But I am really going to leave you two to...yeah. Any other words of advice before I go home and pack?"

Wes smiled. "Have a good time and....good luck."

"Thanks. Both of you." She gave Wes and Fred a smile in turn before she left the apartment. She double-checked to make sure she had the vial before she left. She made her way down the hall and to her car. She got into it, sitting there for several moments. It was do or die, Cordelia. Or maybe do and die. It was really hard to tell. But she trusted The Powers, she had to. This was all their chance for a perfect life. She started the car up and pulled out of the parking, heading back for the Hyperion and her husband.

-TBC-