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01 July 2006 @ 08:38 pm
Walking In My Shoes (17/?)  
Title: Walking In My Shoes (17/?)
Author: Kelly and Mike (collaborative writing team)
Posted: 7/1/06
Rating: Chapters range from PG to NC-17
Chapter: Chapter Seventeen rated PG
Email: jjsoapchat AT yahoo DOT com
Content: Angst
Scenes include: Connor, Lillian, Ian, Angel, Cordelia, Fred, Wesley
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:
Notes: Cast List: Kelly writes for Cordelia, Gunn, Lorne, Lillian, Kat, Ian, Illyria/Fred, Lilah, Eve, Faith, Gwen, Harmony, random shop owners/demons. Mike writes for Angel(us), Connor, Wes, random filler chars.
Feedback: Yes, please. Tell us how we are doing!
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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.

-TBC-