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19 July 2006 @ 07:12 pm
Walking In My Shoes (19/?)  
Title: Walking In My Shoes (19/?)
Author: Kelly and Mike (collaborative writing team)
Posted: 7/19/06
Rating: Chapters range from PG to NC-17
Chapter: Chapter Nineteen rated PG
Email: jjsoapchat AT yahoo DOT com
Content: Cuteness, Fluff, and some Angst
Scenes include: Angel, Fred, Kat, Ian, Cordelia, Lillian, Connor
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, Vail, 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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Fred had managed to talk to Cordy and convinced her that she needed a night off from the kids. After taking them to see a Disney cartoon, they were now in the park, enjoying an ice cream cone each. Kat sat slightly off by herself on the swings while Ian was trying to see if he could climb the spider bars and keep his ice cream in his hand. Fred sat on a nearby bench, an eye on the two but also keeping an eye out for a certain vampire.

Angel came out of the shadows, doing that vampire thing of now-you-see-him-now-you-don't. It was such second nature now so he forgot now and then. "They look happy," he said as he sat down next to her.

Fred jumped just a little and she almost spilled her ice cream all over. "Angel, I thought I warned you about that. You can't come sneaking up on me. Especially not when I have a double scoop of Rocky Road Delight. I remember one time Charles scared me so bad that I dumped a whole ice cream cone on my shirt. I tried to get it out the normal way but it stained so I made a paste of acid and a low pH base to put on it to eat through the stain but it ended up eating right through my shirt!" Fred grinned at him before tilting her head to eat the dripping ice cream.

"Sorry," the vampire said as he sat down by her. "Its like breathing for you, I guess. Do it without thinking. So, Haagen Daas?" He says because he remembered him and Fred always used to go. She always insisted that he get an ice cream too, though he couldn't taste it and he'd have to rid himself of it later since he didn't digest.

She shook her head. "No. Connor found this little place that is right near the Slayer Academy. They know us all by name now. You should see the girls after a fight, all they want to do is eat. They closed down restaurants before but if they do well on a training mission, ice cream for everyone. Which, if you stop to think about, really makes them seem kind of like dogs. Which I don't think is a good thing. But maybe it is because we are training them and all."

"Everything responds to rewards for good jobs," he said as she sat back on the bench. "I used to cook breakfast for everyone when we completed a good night's work." He watched the kids play. It felt weird to think they were his but yet they weren't.

Kat was ever observant. She watched as Other-Daddy went to Aunt Fred and sat down next to her. She wasn’t sure how she felt about this. Her mother told them that he was not Daddy but Other-Daddy and to make sure they were not alone with him or went anywhere with him. But he was sitting with Aunt Fred so she wasn’t sure what to do.

She caught Angel's eye as he watched herself and her brother at play. Her face mirrored her own confusion. She was having a debate with herself to either go over there or stay at her swing. In the end, the curious part of her nature won out. She walked with cautious steps away from the swing, approaching Angel and Fred.

Fred was trying to keep an eye on the kids but at the same time, she wanted to talk to Angel too. She was about to launch into some little tangent about chefs on the Food Network when she saw Kat start to approach them slowly. "Hey Kat, did you have fun on the swings? When I was a little girl, I used to try to go over the bar. Thought if I did, I could bend space and time to travel to another world. Then I found out that you really can do that but not by going over the bar on the swings."

Angel leaned forward as Kat approached. He leaned on his elbows on his knees. "Hey, Shortstack," he said with a slight smile.

Kat raised her chin. She wasn't one that enjoyed the nicknames. She had made that clear at their first meeting. "Its Katharine or Katy or Kat." She said with the same defiant tone that her mother had. It wasn't disrespectful, she was just telling the adult how things were going to be.

"Kat..." Fred spoke up. Sometimes the kids were so spoiled by their parents, that they completely forgot their manners. "You should ask people please to call you Katharine, Katy, or Kat. Its not nice to just tell people. You don't want to be mean, do you? Especially not to Angel. Not to anyone."

"Sorry," Angel said. "Everything that has gone on I guess I forgot." He reached into his pocket as he spoke to Fred. "Its okay. She told me before but I just forgot." He pulled a small box out and handed it to Katy. "I wanted to give you a little something."

Kat kept a little distance between herself and Angel. Her eyes, however, were on the small box. She wanted to take it. She looked to Aunt Fred first, who, for a change, didn't say a thing. Fred merely nodded her head. She took the box from Angel, sitting in the grass in front of the two adults. She put her ice cream down into the grass, the vanilla ice cream going right down into the green and dirt.

Angel watched her as she opened it. Inside was a locket on a chain and in the locket was a four-leave clover on one side and a picture of her mother on the other. "I've carried both of those for a long time in my wallet. I saw that locket and decided I knew a girl that it would look pretty on."

She had gotten jewelry before from her Daddy. This was Other-Daddy though. So much like her mother, at times a present was all that was needed to turn the tide. She lifted the locket out, gingerly touching it as if it might break. "Thank you, Other-Daddy."

"Welcome. Want me to help you put it on," he asked her. He had no idea what Cordy would say if and when she saw the necklace. If she'd let Katy keep it or what. He was hoping she would. He'd carried that four leaf since he bought the hotel. He'd found it out in the old garden and it just seemed like a sign.

Kat was about to say something but the force of nature that was her brother Ian interrupted her. He came running at Angel full tilt, arms spread, and sticky fingers flexing. "OTHER-DADDY!" He screamed as he launched himself off the grass and at Angel. He knew, somehow, that he could be caught safely in Angel's arms.

Angel caught the boy in his arms. He chuckled at the bundle of energy. "Oh, man, you're getting strong," he said as he felt the boy's arms around his neck. It was a good thing he didn't breath.

Fred watched as Ian tackled Angel. She figured that it would be okay to give them some alone time. She got up from the bench to give Angel a wide smile. "I better go get some cleaning supplies out of Wes' SUV. You two are looking sticky. And you know how Uncle Wes gets when you get his car all sticky. Don't think you want to miss Saturday morning cartoons to clean the car." Fred didn't wait for Angel's protest, though she knew it wasn't going to come.

Ian's hands were sticky as they clung to Angel's neck. He pulled back after the hug to look at Angel with a big smile. "I got Tutti Frutti ice cream and it had gum!" Ian pulled the piece out of his mouth so that he could show Other-Daddy. He had already chewed whatever elasticity the gum had so now it was just a hard little ball. "You want some? I will share!" Before even getting an answer from Angel, Ian started to break the gum into two pieces.

"No, Ian, its okay," he said to the boy. "But I do have something for you." Sticky of this kind wasn't a bother for him. It would shower off. From his pocket again, he pulled out a box. It was just a little bigger then Kat's box.

“Yes! You should share my gum. Kat doesn't like gum." He turned enough so that he could stick his tongue out at his sister. He turned back to Angel and pressed the half of gum against his lips. "I give you a present, you give me one. That is how it works."

Kat just watched as her brother approached Other Daddy with the same enthusiasm that he approached everything with. She was skilled enough that she could put the necklace on by herself. She put the charm to the back of her neck and fastened the clasp in the front before she moved it around. She frowned as she watched Aunt Fred go, turning towards her. "Mom said we aren't to be alone with Other-Daddy. Or go anyplace with him!" She spoke up to Fred

Fred looked back to Kat, halfway on her way to the parking lot. "I am not leaving you alone. I am going to be right there at Uncle Wes' car. I can see you from there. See." Fred pointed as if to emphasize her point. She waited for the little girl to relax her posture before she started off for the SUV.

Angel had the gum in his mouth regardless of if he wanted it or not. When Ian opened the box, inside was a watch. But it was also a compass and told the moon cycles. It told military time as well as regular time. He had spent a good deal on it but he didn’t bat an eye because it was for Ian.

Ian took the box from Other-Daddy and he gave it a good shake. He always shook his presents. That was why he always got things that couldn’t easily break. He brought it back down and sat in Angel's lap so he could open it up. He pulled the watch out, holding it up. Rather than use it for what it was intended, he started to move it through the air, making airplane noises. "It’s an alieum spacecraft. Take us to your leader!"

The vampire chuckled as he watched Ian. "Let me see your wrist," he said. He put the watch on Ian’s wrist. He pulled up his own wrist. "See, it’s like mine and the time is set just the same."

Ian frowned as Angel put the watch on his wrist. He struggled to get it off. "That is no fun. It don't do nothing." The young boy didn't understand what all the bells and whistles were for. He knew how to tell time but what was the point? When its dark, its night. When its light, its day. That is all he needed to know.

"Now just a minute," he told Ian. "Its really important to know what time it is. All superheroes and monster hunters have good watches to tell them when its time to save the world or take a nap."

Kat wasn't looking at her brother and Other-Daddy. She was sitting silently in the grass. She was watching intently as a group of ants came to claim her forgotten ice cream cone. There was enough light in the park that she could see the line and how they swarmed around it, leaving just little patches of white vanilla here and there.

Ian spoke up as he finally figured out how to unsnap the watch from around his wrist. "I know how to tell what time it is. Its night time now." He was just as stubborn as his father, that same look to his face. He brought the watch up close to his face, inspecting it.

"But it has a hidden secret," he whispered to Ian. "Now that nobody is looking you want to see it?" He glanced around again like this was going to be super secret stuff for two champions.

Ian was still convinced that if there wasn't a laser beam in this watch, he was going to pretend it was Dr. Ookalook's secret doomsday device. "What?" He sounded very skeptical about the entire thing.

"Press the button there," Angel said, pointing to the one on the upper right side. He waited for Ian to do so. When the boy did there was a beeping sound but it wasn't from Ian's watch.

Ian did as he was told, pressing the button. He frowned when it beeped but not from the watch. He brought the watch up to his ear and he shook it again. "It’s broken." He frowned. He shook the watch again, as if it would make it work correctly.

"No, it’s not broken." Angel held up his wrist and his watch was the one beeping. "If you are ever in trouble you, your sister, or your mother are in trouble you push that. It will beep my watch. I'll be there as soon as I can."

Now this was something that Ian could get behind. He reached for Angel's wrist, grabbing it with those sticky fingers, smudging the face of the watch as he pulled it closer to himself. "Coooool..." He drew the word out as he brought Angel's wrist up to his ear to hear it.

"But now you have to promise, Ian," Angel said, "For emergencies only. Champion's honor?" He held up his hand to get the boy to high five.

Ian still held Angel's wrist against his ear but he reached out with one hand to give Angel a gummy high five. He pulled the wrist away with a grin. "How is your gum? Mine is all gone. I swallowed it!" He sounded so proud of that fact. He opened his mouth, putting it near Angel's face to show him proof.

Kat was used to being ignored in favor of her brother. She had developed a quiet, thoughtful personality, able to escape into her own world when her brother's larger than life personality demanded the attentions of all those around him. She had found herself a stick, taking a glob of ant covered ice cream and moving it several feet away from the original. She was curious as to what the ants would do once they were separated from the group.

"Ian, you're not supposed to swallow gum," he told him. Angel was keeping one eye on Katy as she played.

"That is why I do it!" He laughed, clasping his hands over his mouth like it was the funniest thing in the world. He leaned back in Angel's lap. He was threatening to spill off it. He pulled himself back up. "Other-Daddy! Wanna race me to the top of the spider bars?"

"What about your sister? We going to leave her out," he asked. He wanted so just to be able to pick the two up and carry them home, back to the hotel. He knew that soon Fred was going to come and take the twins on back home.

"She doesna like to race. Let's race, Other-Daddy. I wanna race." He was near bouncing in Angel's lap at this point now until he bounced down onto the path in front of the bench. "Are you ready? You ready?"

"Oh, and you think you can beat me, huh?" he raised a brow at Ian. "You really think you can do it?"

"Yes! GO!" The little boy shouted the command and started off for the spider bars. He was too it in an instant, moving faster than your average kid. He was climbing up them like he was part monkey.

Angel sat there for a few minutes then looked down at Katy. "Want to help me win?" he asked her as he watched Ian start to climb.

Kat looked up at him. She studied him with those dark eyes. "No, thank you." Her eyes went back down her ant experiment. She was separating them into groups of blobs of ice cream further and further apart to see if the ants could find their way home.

"What are you doing with the ants," he said, still watching the boy giving him that lead. Katy was a bit of an enigma. But yet he saw a lot of his little sister in the girl. She was quiet and studious.

"I want to see if they can find their way home. Ants make trails. That way they can go home. I am moving them away from the trail." Kat was quiet because she learned long ago that she could, in no way, compete with her brother. She also felt the world around her differently than he did.

Angel saw that Ian was just about at the top. He got there and went up the other side. He was looking eye to eye with Ian, waiting for the boy's next move. He grinned at him. Now Ian, he understood. Ian was a lot like he was as a boy before his father decided it was time to shove him into that family mold.

Kat frowned as she was once more left alone in favor of her brother. She had tried the crying for attention thing but that had only gotten her scolded. She frowned deeper now as she watched the ants’ struggle. She started to feel bad for them so she carefully picked each wayward one up and put them back on their path.

Ian grinned right back at Angel at the top of the spider bars. "I was king of the mountain first. I win!" Ian locked his legs around the bars and then threw his arms up in a triumphant pose.

"Man, I just knew I was going to win," Angel said. He was tempted to stand on the top and pick up Ian. He wanted to put him on his shoulders but then thought better of it since he didn't want the boy to try standing on them himself. Climbing back down, he looked back up at Ian before walking back to Katy. "How's the experiment?" He so wanted some way to break through her reserved manner.

"I felt bad for the ants so I am moving them back to their family." She was delicate as she picked each ant up with her small fingers. She didn't seem to flinch or wince as they sometimes bit her. "You let Ian win."

"Why don't you make a trail with the ice cream for them to follow back?" He sat on the grass next to her and looked at her when she said that about her brother. "Yeah, this time," he said. "Not exactly fair for me to really race him, I'm sure you know that."

Ian watched as Angel walked away from him to talk to Katy again. He tried to stand on the bars, yelling out. "Other-Daddy! Watch me...watch what I can do!" Ian squatted down and slipped his legs around one of the bars. He hung upside inside of the spider bars and then dropped. He turned in mid-air, coming to land on his feet like a cat. He stood up, grinning wildly. "Did you see it? Did you see it? Did you see what I could do?"



Angel looked up as Ian called. "I saw, but you better be careful." All he'd need was for the boy to get hurt and Cordy find out he was here when it happened.

"My daddy used to let me win at checkers." Kat sat up on her knees and used her stick to make a river of ice cream from the small piles she made back to the larger pile and cone. "He was teaching me the game with the horseys and little men. Mommy doesn't know that one." Kat cringed when she heard her brother's voice, screaming for attention. "You should watch him or he will cry."

"Chess," he said with a nod. "Tell you what, if Aunt Fred says its okay maybe next time I'll bring a chess set and I'll teach you. Chess really helps you think." Yes, he could do that with her. One thing he found in common now.

"Watch me again!" Ian yelled out once more. He started to climb the inside of the dome now so that he ended up upside down on the inside. He saw Fred by the SUV and yelled to her, momentarily distracted from Angel "Aunt Fred! Watch me! Imma do a flip!"

"My daddy said that too. We were reading a book together but now..." Kat's lower lip quivered just a bit but she kept her eyes on the ants. She usually wasn't prone to crying unless she had some crippling emotional pain building up inside of her. She stabbed the stick into the ground, as a means of dealing with what she was feeling.

Angel picked up on this from her. He stood, took the stick from her and picked her up. "Its okay, sweetheart, its okay," he said in a hushed tone. "Crying is sometimes good. It helps us deal with things."

This was the second time that he held her while she cried. She turned her face against his shoulder but she was quiet. Her tears were silent as they slipped out of her eyes and wet his shirt. She clung tightly to him, as if she could bring her father back if she did so.

He got up and sat on the bench holding her to him. His gaze went for a minute to Fred, hoping she'd realize this was a moment that Ian didn't need to upstage. Katy was finally releasing her feelings, in her own way, and it was needed. He started to softly hum to her ‘Sweet Molly Malone’ as he rocked her a little.

Fred did see it and she moved over to Ian at the spider bars. She leaned on them, smiling at him. "Ian, how about a race around the park? We can stop at the exercise stations. I bet I can beat you on the chin ups."

Ian came out from the spider bars dome and he was off before Fred could even finish the sentence about beating him on the chin-ups. The kid had too much energy. Fred jogged after him, keeping him in sight though. This place was a little too public, too many people around, for Wolfram and Hart to do anything. But there was always the danger of humans who weren't all quite there.

"I miss my daddy." She said softly to him, her little voice hiccuping as she cried. It was mostly muffled as she kept her face against his shoulder. Truth be told, Kat was an enigma to most everyone at the hotel. Not even Wes or Fred, who were suppose to be the brains, could understand the little girl at times.

"I know, Katy," Angel whispered to her. "I know and it’s hard. It’s hard to understand why things happen like they do."

"Mom said he was in heaven and we should talk to him everyday..." She shook her head against his shoulder, starting to cry anew. "I want him here. Who will read to me?"

"Do you have a book in Uncle Wes' car?" he said as he stood. "I'd love to read to you here at the park." He wanted to be able to take her home and read to her after tucking her in. He really hated The Powers right now for all of this.

She nodded her head against his shoulder once more but she didn't move her face. She had plenty of books in the little book bag that she carried with her when she left the hotel. She put Ian's drawing supplies in it too. She could count on him to be quiet for a bit if she gave him his crayons and his pad.

Angel carried her back to the Cherokee. He opened the back door seeing the book bag. "What one do you want," he asked as he reached for it. "We could get in the back and you can lay down by me while I read."

"Don't wanna let go." She said softly. Inside the bag was a collection of books that no five-year-old should have. They were dusty volumes from Angel's own collection: Dickens, Shakespeare, Tolstoy. But the inside covers were littered with stickers and Katharine's name in her own handwriting under her father's name, newly written. A project done together as they picked out the books to read together, decorating each one so everyone knew that they belonged to them.

Angel pulled out Dickens. He recognized the book from his own library. He'd had a vast collection of the old classics. He'd always loved his books, even as Angelus. Good poetry reading tended to sex a girl up back in the day. He opened the cover and saw the names and the stickers. Normally he wouldn't have liked seeing his books all defaced like this but this put a lump in the back of his throat and he swallowed looking at it.

Kat turned her head just enough so that she could see which one he had picked out. "I like that one. I like Pip." She turned her cheek and rested it against Angel's shoulder but she didn't let go of him. She was worried if she let go, then he was going to leave. She didn't want to lose another daddy, even if this was Other-Daddy.

"Okay, so Pip it is," he said as he turned the page to start reading to her.

It was at least a half-hour before Kat was asleep, her arms still held tightly around Angel. The adventures of Pip, Miss Havisham, and Estella were a little too much for her to concentrate on after her emotional upheaval. Like her mother, she snored softly, using Angel for a pillow.

Closing the book, the vampire sat it aside on the seat. He sat there holding Katy while Fred was off with Ian. He heard her little heart beat calm down as she drifted off to sleep. She seemed calm now, peaceful and content. He looked down at her and then gently kissed the top of her head. He could sit here like this for as long as it took to comfort Katy.

Fred came back with Ian in tow. He was looking a little more worn out, as Fred had to help him get to the car. She opened the door, glad to find Angel there with Kat. She had no doubt that he would be here but admittedly, when she didn't see them by the bench she got a little worried. She breathed a sigh of relief as she helped Ian into the car. "I need to get them back now, Angel. I shouldn't have kept them out this long. I am expecting an angry phone call any minute. I don't know how they are going to go to school tomorrow. Might have to take a day off to recover." Fred was chattering away, not noticing that Katy was dead asleep in Angel's arms. Not that it would have mattered anyway.

Angel slid out of the car still holding the girl then he started to put her in the seat. "I understand, Fred," he replied. But when he tried to put Katy down it was proving to be more difficult then it should have been.

Kat let out a little bit of a moan as she struggled to stay held onto Angel. "Don't wanna let go." She said again, half in sleep and half awake. She had the mumbled, tired voice of a child who just needed five more minutes.

He looked at Fred. "It won't hurt for me to ride back. I mean I can leave through the sewer down in the garage and Cordy doesn't need to know I was there." He gave Fred those eyes, the puppy looking ones.

Fred was already pressing her luck since Cordy would know from the gifts that the kids had seen Angel. She wasn't very good at making with the lies. Fred just sighed. "Angel, you really owe me for this. We are even now for you getting me out of Pylea. Then again, we were even on that when I figured out how you could have kids. But don't be asking me for any more favors until you save me from another dimension again." Fred got into the driver's seat and waited for Angel to get back into the back seat before she started the car. Ian still had a bit of energy left him in so he immediately reached for the radio dials to find something to listen to.

Angel got in and settled with Katy clung to him. He was just as good at any seatbelt if something happened. He'd use his own body to shield Katy. "It’s okay, just a little longer, okay," he spoke to the sleeping girl. He looked up to Fred as she drove. "She broke down, Fred. She's not handling her loss like she should."

The hotel wasn't that far from the park so this wouldn't be a long drive. Fred pulled out of the park, taking the SUV onto the street. She wasn't sure what to say to that but she glanced back at Angel in the rear view mirror, even if she couldn’t see him. It was so he could see her eyes so he knew she was talking to him. "Everybody is handling in it in their own way. I don't know if there is a right way or a wrong way to handle this sort of thing. None of us has ever really had a member of this family die." Fred looked back to the road, hands tightening slightly on the wheel. She was dealing with it by desperately trying to replace Angel and get her family back together.

"Cordy and I have," he said to her. "Doyle." With that, he stopped talking and started humming softly again for Katy. It seemed to comfort her before to have her ear to his chest and hear the humming...if only she could hear a heart beat also.

Ian let the adults talk because he was ready to have some fun. He had the glove compartment open and was digging through the various items there. He pulled out a large dagger, staring at it. “Coooool!” he said.

"Ian...settle down. It’s only a five minute car ride." Fred had no idea how his parents put up with it. She reached over to close the glove compartment to keep the child out of it. She sat back up and glanced in the rear view again. She could use a little bit of help here, even if Angel did have Kat clinging on to him for dear life.

He caught the look. Reaching with a free hand, he tapped Ian on the head. "Listen to your Aunt Fred," he said. "You're in her car and you follow her rules just like you do when you go to somebody else's house."

Ian reached up and put his hands on the top of his head. "Oww..." It wasn't a hard tap but he felt it was enough to warrant an ‘ow’ sound out of him. He put on an apologetic look and the puppy dog eyes. "I'm sorry Aunt Fred."

Knowing she couldn't see him in that mirror, only Katy, Angel spoke. "Boys are a bundle of energy. Just need reminding now and then."

Fred pulled the SUV into the underground parking of the hotel. Ian was already out of the car before she even put it in park. He was rushing upstairs to the lobby, calling out in his loudest voice. "MOOOOOOOOOOOOM!"

Fred got out of the SUV and then moved around the back to open the backseat door. She looked in at Angel. "We better get her off you fast before Cordy comes down. Should have told Ian to play the graveyard game. That is the one where he has to lay down and be as quiet as possible. If he makes a sound, he loses and has to start over. Something Cordy came up with to keep him quiet for a couple of minutes a day."

Angel nodded and got out. He again tried to disentangle himself from Katy and it was proving just as unsuccessful as earlier.

Fred moved over and tried to pry the young girl's hands from around Angel's neck. She just wasn't going to budge. She frowned at the situation "I don't think some WD-40 would work in this situation. What about some lotion or butter or carmex or something? I used to use that Vaseline lip therapy sometimes to grease gear parts."

"I think we're going to have to just fess up on this, Fred," Angel said. "Cordy isn't going to start anything with the kids and I'll take full blame. Tell her I saw you in the park."

The only thing was that Fred knew that Cordy wouldn't believe that. She nodded her head. "You don't mind if I just...get back in the car and drive back home and don't stick around for the fallout, do you? I could lie and said I had some big experiment cooking but I just really am in enough trouble as it is."

"I'll tell her I told you to go," he replied. "I'll tell her if there is any fall out it is on me, nobody else. These children are hurting and if my being around helps them then she's going to have to understand."

Fred just nodded her head and she hoped that Cordy could understand that. She waited for Angel to move around from the car before she got back inside. She pulled out slowly, checking back on him every few seconds before she was gone.

Angel took the stairs up, walking softly. Times like this vampire stealth was a good thing. He finally entered the lobby knowing Cordy was there. Ian's announcing their return took care of that. He only hoped that Cordy would see how Katy was and just hold off on anything until he got her settled down.

Cordy was kneeling in front of the front desk with a handiwipe in her hand. She was cleaning up around Ian's mouth and his face, which were sticky messes. "I don't know how you get so gross. Its like I have to pre-wash you before you take a bath!" Cordelia had yet to sense Angel there thanks to his stealth. But she wasn't looking well herself. Her tan had faded, leaving her looking pale and mottled in parts. Dark circles had taken up residence under her eyes, which were looking duller by the day. She had lost at least fifteen pounds, pushing her into the emaciated supermodel category of women. She was doing her best to be strong, like always. Anyone that knew her though, one look, they could tell that she was destroyed.

Angel stood there a moment. Holding Katy was no effort for him. He hated seeing her like this. He hated Katy in the state she was in. Something had to come to a compromise here, even if it was just for the good of the children. "Cordelia."

She heard her name and raised her head. That was the last person she has expected to see standing there. There was a momentary flash in her eyes, grief coming to the surface before she shoved the wall in front of it. He looked so much like her husband in that pose, holding their daughter, that it was almost too much for even her defenses. She looked back down at Ian, going to work on cleaning his hands now. "Angel."


"I'm sorry," he said standing there, "but they saw me at the park. Katy... Katy wanted me to bring her up to bed. I couldn't tell her no." He waited for Cordy's response.

She was quiet for a few seconds as she washed Ian's hand. She was trying to decide what to do. She didn't want to fight in front of the kids. She was quite tired also. She finally spoke. "You know where their room is."

"I'll take Ian up also if you want, get them ready and tucked in," Angel offered hoping to take that chore off her.

"Ian needs to take a bath. He is going to be a while before he is ready for bed." She stood up and tossed the dirty handiwipes in the trash. She looked down at Ian. "Go upstairs, pick our your jammies. I will be up in a minute to run the water." She stood there, hands on hips, clear that she wasn't going to take any of his gruff tonight. Ian looked up at his mother for a moment and then back to Angel. He was almost waiting for Angel to tell him he could stay up and play video games.

"Ian, do what mommy tells you," he said. "You look like you brought half the park home with you." His look told Ian there was going to be no fussing about it. When the boy ran upstairs, Angel looked back at Cordy. "I just thought it could be a help if I did tonight so you can go ahead to bed."

"Thank you for offering but I do it every night." She turned away from him. She didn't want to look at him as he stood there holding Kat. She could go to bed but it would do her no good. She wouldn't sleep. It felt strange, after all these years with someone, to be alone in her bed.

Turning, he started for the stairs to take Kat up. "I'll get her down and leave as soon as I can," he said as he started up.

"Thank you." It was hard to tell if she meant the thanks for putting Kat down or for leaving as soon as possible. She wanted to wait for him to climb the stairs before she followed to give Ian his bath.

Angel got Katy ready for bed, even with her passed out. He gotten a washcloth and cleaned her up. He put what looked to be one of his t-shirts, that was laying over the back of the chair in the room, on her. He leaned down and kissed her forehead then stood.

While Angel was busy with Kat, she managed to get Ian into a quick bath. Some nights, the warm water was the only thing that calmed the child. She came back in, carrying Ian as best as she could into the twins’ room. She hadn't witnessed the kiss but she saw Angel standing there. She didn't say a word as she put Ian into his bed.

Angel moved to the door and waited for her to step on out. He had thought about just leaving but he wanted to tell her about Katy at the park.

Cordelia kissed each of her children in turn and then stepped out, closing the door behind her. She was too tired to be venomous, which should be a clear indicator of how much pain she was in.

"How long has it been since you had a good meal," he asked the concern showed in his features. He wasn't liking this at all: Her, the kids... It wasn't healthy for any of them.

She reached down to pick up the toys that were littering the hallway between the kids' room and the master bedroom. "Are you accusing me of being a bad mother now? I cook a balanced dinner for the kids every single night. It’s not anything amazing but it has the four food groups." She had interpreted it that he was trying to suggest she wasn't taking care of the kids. She was doing the best that she could given the situation.

"I am talking about you," he replied. "You're looking a lot like I must have when they pulled me up from the bottom of the ocean."

"I am fine." She got to the playroom, her hands full of toys. She dumped them into the toy box before going to clean up the toys that were on the playroom floor. She didn't want to tell him that she felt such guilt and grief that the mere thought of food was something she couldn't stomach.

The vampire stepped in and started helping her. He started placing stuffed toys in the net and cars on the shelves. "No, you're not fine," he said turning to her, holding a pink bunny. "Part of being what I am I can tell fine on many levels and you're not on the shelf."

She took the pink bunny from him. "I just lost my husband and my best friend. No, I am not fine. But I will survive. Its what I am, a survivor." She turned so that she could put the bunny up in the net with the other stuffed toys. She folded up the plastic easels, putting them in the corner.

"Katy broke down tonight," he said. "She cried. You need to let them see you grieve, Cordy. You can't keep this up."

"Can you spare me the lecture and the advice? I have too much to deal with right now." She stepped out of the room, having this feeling that even despite what she said, he would trail after her. When Ian was sleeping or gone was the only time she could do not only her mom chores but the things she needed to do to keep Angel Investigations going. She went into the home office, grabbing a few books from the huge bookcase against the wall.

"Why don't I go get one of those pineapple and Canadian bacon pizzas you like? My treat?" He was hoping that her favorite pizza would do the trick. She needed to eat and she needed to grieve. He knew much longer and she was going to be in the hospital and that wouldn't be good on the kids.

She turned to look at him. She thought it was just very much a ploy. "What do you want? Do you want to come and go as you please? You want us to just accept you back into the team? Just be honest instead of... This whole "Hey, I want to be your friend" thing. I'm just not in the mood and I am not looking for an Angel replacement, like Fred." She knew that was what Fred was doing. She wasn't stupid, far from it. She was observant enough to notice the missing the clothes, the missing photos, the way Fred would disappear near morning.

"What I want is for you to be here for those babies in there," he said to her stepping up to her. "The rate you're going now you won't be in sight of a week. I'm not thinking of me in this, Cordy." He hoped he was getting to her some way on this. She was looking like a zombie here.

"I find that kind of hard to believe." She stepped around him. She had an armload of books and she was going to sit down at the research table to get a few hours in before her body just gave up. If she slept on a copy of "Demon Factions and Leaders" at least she was sleeping.

"Why is it hard to believe," Angel asked as he took the armload from her. "Why is it so hard to believe I'm concerned for you and for the twins? If you would have seen Katy tonight."

"Because you've pretty much proven that you are pretty selfish." She took the books back from him. She could carry them herself. She put the books down on the table and lowered herself into the chair after she pulled it out.

"Selfish," he said with a raised brow. "How do you figure that?" He would really like to hear this. They'd really never talked this out when he wasn't captive and it was him listening to her.

Cordelia grabbed the pad of paper and pencil she had left there from the night before. She opened one of the books, checking the index before turning the page. "Do I get to use the files or am I stuck with examples from your last month or so in our world?"

"Will you consider where those files came from," he pleaded and sat down across from her. "Is there a reason I haven't been able to look at those files too? Wolfram & Hart would love nothing more then to make sure there wasn't a Champion in any dimension. My coming here probably screwed up their Christmas."

"You want to see the files, they are downstairs in Wes' office. Or you can just go ask Lilah for a copy." She said it rather matter of factly as she wrote down a few notes from the book. "They might have been from Wolfram and Hart but you basically admitted that you were the CEO and all your family was dead because of it. Fred thinks the reason we couldn't send you home was because your world was destroyed in an Apocalypse. Tell me when I am wrong."

“I took it over because I wanted to give Connor something he wanted more then anything, first of all, a normal life. Second, I felt I could take Evil Inc. down from the inside, but I lost my mission... I admit that. But my Cordelia came to me and set me back straight and I knew then what I had to do."

Cordelia just sighed. They already had this discussion when he was caged up. She was too tired to rehash it now. She kept her head down as she wrote something else. "You should listen to yourself when you talk. Even saying it out loud, it’s a recipe for disaster."

"It’s easy to look from here and say that, Cordy," he said. "Being where we were at the time. We lost you to a rogue Power...Fought it...And I wanted Connor to forget all that. Forget...." His voice trailed off.

"That's life, Angel. It’s full of pain and disappointment. Everyone wishes they had a magic wand to erase everything bad and start over. But most people don't go out and get the magic wand. They deal with it. Connor here isn't the best-adjusted kid. He has anger issues, he has trouble connecting. But we would never make him forget because when you erase the bad, you erase all the good too. And I defy you to sit here and tell me that every single moment with Connor was bad. He is a good kid, deep down."

"He was more then that in my dimension, Cordy. And you were more to him, but it wasn't you and he didn't understand that when it was all said and done," Angel finally said as he looked away. "And he wasn't dealing well at all with any of it. I was coming close to thinking I was going to have to take drastic action." He didn't want to say what the action was.

"There are always options other than going to the dark side. You'll never convince me otherwise. In this world, Willow is the most powerful being. Even more powerful than the men who made the first Slayer. If things were that bad, there was nothing that Wolfram and Hart could have done that she couldn't. You can keep talking all you want but you won't change my mind. I made a deal with the devil once and it would have destroyed the world if we didn't catch it in time. Sounds like you made a deal with the devil and it did destroy your world." Cordelia said bluntly.

"Willow is still human. The Senior Partners aren't." He paused then continued. "My Cordelia before she died passed me her visions and I saw what I had to do and I couldn't have done it from where I was. My dimension was going to be destroyed whether I did what I did or not." He raised his hand and rubbed his face

She put her pencil down, looking across the table at him. "You are the most stubborn man that I know. You can't even admit that you made a wrong choice. You have to rationalize it to the point of being ridiculous. You've made a ton of mistakes in the past like say, oh I don't know, going into an alley with a certain blonde or getting groiny with another certain blonde. But you've never have a problem saying hey, know what, I was wrong. Obviously, weren't right about it or you wouldn't here and your world wouldn't be gone."

"Cordelia, from my vision, what was going to happen was going to regardless. It was coming and people were going to die and demons were going to rule. It all was set to motion long before I took Wolfram and Hart," he was trying here. "From Connor's birth to Skip giving Cordy her demon half...It started long before."

She was already exhausted and he was just making it that much more pronounced. She rubbed her temples, her eyes closing, making her pale skin and dark circled eyes even more noticeable. She was chalking this up in the selfish column. He just invited himself in, sat down. She didn't want to throw him out and run the risk he would turn around and do the same to her. "Whatever."

Standing, he looked down at her. "Sorry," he said. He turned for the door then stopped and looked back. "Just remember your own advice about being selfish and remember those children across the hall. Remember what you are doing is also affecting them."

She didn't turn around to look at him. How could she after what he said? "You just don't get it and you never will. You talk to me like this is something I want, like it’s a choice. You'll never understand. I don't think you can."

"What is it you do want, Cordelia," he asked. "What is it that can be done that would help?"

"A magic wand, Angel. I want to be able to go back to a time where I could sleep in my own bed because someone I loved and who loved me was there. Back to a time where I could get through a day without being weighed down with grief and guilt because my husband is gone and I cheated on him with his twin, bringing about a monster that we didn't have the time, energy, or resources to fight. I want my husband here to sit with me and be here to help me like he promised me over and over again. That is what would help."

"If I could make things right for you," Angel spoke softly, "I would." With that, he turned and went on out.

Cordelia pushed the book aside and laid her head on the table. It didn't take long before she was crying, like she had done so many times when she was left alone with her own thoughts. She would cry herself to sleep, for yet another night in a row.

Angel waited in the shadows and listened. When he could tell she was asleep, he slipped into the master bedroom. He turned her bed down then went back to pick her up gently. He carried her to the master bedroom and laid her in the bed. He removed her shoes and then pulled the covers up.

Angel took one more look in on the kids to find them sleeping after having put Cordelia to bed. He moved down the darkened corridors of the hotel and down the stairs. So many times he has walked these halls and stairways and had never once felt like a stranger in his own place. Now he did and was. He stopped on the upper landing, hearing the doors that led from the garage open into the lobby.

Lillian leaned against Connor, laughing as she playfully shoved him once they were in the lobby. "I can't believe that part either. I was so not expecting the shopping cart and...." She paused then though. She felt something, those spidey senses of hers tingling like you would not believe. She went quiet as she saw Angel standing there at the bottom of the stairs.

The smile on Connor's face faded when he saw the dark figure on the landing. He stepped forward. "What the hell are you doing here," he said in a low, even tone.

The vampire stepped on down. "Katy saw me at the park and she refused to come home without me bringing her and tucking her in," he said. He looked from Connor to Lily then back. "I put Cordy to bed also. She's not doing well, Connor. She needs to eat and rest or she'll be in the hospital soon."

Lillian moved so that she was a little behind Connor now. She reached down and took his hand for support. She wasn't sure what she should say or do in this situation. After all, Angelus had attacked her, almost killed her, molested her. That was Angelus though. Plus, the Angel before them wasn't even the Angel they knew.

"And you expect me to believe that," Connor said. "Expect me to believe its all concern and not stalking mother and my brother and sister?"

"I would like you to believe it, Connor," Angel said. He was now standing in front of Connor, well within striking distance. But if that spell worked the same here as it did in his dimension Connor would be in for one helluva headache if he tried.

Lillian looked past Connor's shoulder to Angel. Well, that was a nice night ruined. "Angel...maybe you should just go." She kept a hand on Connor, trying to keep him from going full tilt at the vampire before him.

Angel's eyes went to Lillian then nodded. "I intend to," he replied, "but I'm warning you both Katy and Cordy are in bad ways now. Katy broke down in my arms at the park and I think it’s probably the first time she has. She doesn't need this fighting and blaming now. She needs love and support."

"We can handle it just fine," Connor growled. "Besides who is the one responsible for this to start with?" Connor's muscles in his arms tighten as his fists ball up.

"Connor...Don't. Not here." Lillian said softly to him. She was trying to calm him down. She had to admit that at times, his anger frightened her. It frightened her almost to the point she doubted their relationship.

"Get out of here," the younger man told the vampire. "Get out of here and stay out."

Angel took a last look at them then he headed for the door to leave. Since it was still dark, he went out the front.

Lillian pulled her hand away from Connor's shoulder now that Angel was gone. She only hoped that he wouldn't go running after Angel.

Connor turned and moved to the door. He locked it, like it would do any good, it was just the fact that he could. But what he'd much rather do is kick that door and hear the glass shatter.

Lillian looked at Connor as he stood at the door. It was almost like she knew what he was thinking. She didn't like those thoughts one bit. She finally spoke up, her voice very quiet. "Connor...You know he is right."

Connor turned to look at her. The muscles in his jaws worked. "He'll never be my father. He'll never be part of this family. He comes around here again and I'll dust him."

Lillian kept her distance from him. He looked like a snake, all curled up and ready to strike out at the nearest thing that moved. There was real fear in her eyes as she looked at him. "Connor...You need to calm down..."

Ian was never one for sleeping much. Once he found out that Kat and Mommy were asleep, he had snuck upstairs to see Connor. Not finding him, he came downstairs in time to hear his older brother. "Who you gonna dust, Connor? Can I help?"

Connor looked up to see his little brother. He then looked at Lillian. "Ian," he said, "We're not going to dust anybody tonight. We're just...Talking." Connor did start to calm himself with the boy now present. "What are you doing out of bed. Mom won't be happy if she wakes and finds out."

"I couldn't sleep. I miss daddy and Other-Daddy. Look!" Ian came down the stairs, his arm thrust out to proudly show off his new watch. "Look what Other-Daddy gave me! I can make him beep but its only if I am in trouble. We super secret promised."

Connor's eyes went to the watch and that fire flickered in his eyes again. "He gave you that," he said. He wanted to rip it off the boy's wrist.

Lillian moved to sit at the bottom of the stairs. She gave Ian a small smile. "Here, lets see that watch, Champ." She pulled Ian over and put him in her lap. She held his wrist, looking at it. "This is a very nice watch." Lillian was trying not to look up at Connor. She could tell from the tone of his voice how the emotions were raging inside him.

Ian looked up at his big brother and smiled at him as he nodded. "Yeah. He gave Kat a necklace. And he was gonna get mommy pizza." It was clear that Ian had been listening, at least partly, to the adult's conversation. "He watched me on the spider bars. I did a backflip!"

"Ian, the watch is really cool and all," Connor spoke up, "but its not a good idea to take presents from strangers like that." Connor was going to do his best to influence Ian to not take anything else from Angel.

Ian laughed at Connor. "He isn’t a stranger, silly. He is Other-Daddy. Maybe he will come to the park tomorrow." Ian sounded hopeful before he broke away from Lillian. "Connor...Will you make me some hot chocolate? Please?"

"Sure," Connor said. "One hot chocolate coming right up." He headed for the kitchen. He was really going to have to talk to Mom about this. Letting the kids call Angel “Other-Daddy” was not even close to right in his book.

Lillian looked at Ian with a smile. "How about you go get Uncle Gunn's video games all set up in the break room? We will be in with your hot chocolate in two shakes." Ian nodded his head eagerly and took off for the break room. Lillian moved into the big kitchen, watching Connor. "We need to talk."

He was waiting for the water to boil. Ian was a picky little snot about it. He wanted the water boiled on the stove and not the microwave. He seemed to always know. "Talk about what," he said as he got the hot chocolate mix from the large cabinet.

She sighed softly as she watched him. "You know about what. Your temper, your rage. He was right, Connor. No one needs the fighting and the blame right now."

After tearing the packet open, Connor poured it into a cup then tossed the packet away. "He almost killed you, you know."

"That wasn't him and you know it. That was Angelus. And yes, I do remember that Angelus tried to kill me. He molested me too. But I realize that there were all sorts of circumstances, Connor. And I realize that everyone is hurting. We don't need more pain by pointing fingers and trying to kill each other."

"Yeah, and I think we'd all begin to heal a lot faster if he wasn't around." Connor grabbed the kettle, poured the hot water in, and stirred it. Then getting the marshmallows out. He put a couple in the mug. He popped one in his mouth.

"Connor...Why don't you try to understand all sides of this equation. What would happen if the Council called me on some super secret mission that I had to go alone on? And you felt, deep down that I was gone. But then I show up here. Only, it’s not me. It’s me from a world that is pure hell. And here, it is bliss. Would you kill me too? For wanting to love you? Is that so horrible?" Lillian tried to plead with him.

"I don't even think that would be the same thing," he replied. "This guy didn't have an anchored soul. He was CEO of Wolfram & Hart. He destroyed his own world for god's sake."

"Maybe he just wanted to believe. To believe in something pure and good. You haven't even talked to him. Or even given him a chance. There are reasons, reasons why people do the things they do. Like...If Lilah came in here, right now, and said to you that either you could work for Wolfram and Hart or they would destroy your whole family in a blink of an eye, before you could stop it, what would you do?"

"From those files nobody threatened anybody. He saw a chance for power and he took it," Connor answered to that. He looked down at that steaming hot chocolate.

Lillian was blocking the door so that Connor couldn't leave. "Those files came from Wolfram and Hart. The same place that tried to kidnap you. That has tried to kill your family for years. That did horrible things to numerous to mention to everyone here. Now, couldn't there be a small, tiniest possibility that those files are altered?"

Connor didn't answer to this. He didn't want to answer. He didn't get along with his father that great before why the hell should he get along with his poser?

"You...You have so much hate in your heart. I don't think there is any room in there for love sometimes. And that bothers me. I love you, I do...But all this rage...You scare me in those dark times. More than anything in the world."

He looked up at Lillian. "You think I would hurt you," he said. "I could never do that. I love you, Lillian." He couldn't believe she had just said this.

She looked at him for a moment and then she nodded her head. "You just in such a rage...I worry that one time you are going to go to that place and you are never going to come back. I am going to lose you forever to this hate you carry with you."

"Yeah, well, I've never felt Angel was my biological father. Maybe I've been right all along," he said. "Maybe my true father is Angelus." He had thought this for some time. He has always felt he had more in common with that evil demon.

"If you...If you really feel that way..." Her voice was breaking, cracking as she spoke. She wasn't sure what else to say to him.

“ Ian's chocolate is going to get cold," he said to her.

Lillian nodded her head and she stepped aside so that he could leave. When he walked past her, she touched his shoulder. "For what its worth, Connor...I don't think Angelus is your father. You are a good person, I know that. Its just...This hate is poisoning you."

When she spoke, he paused and looked back over his shoulder at her. But he didn't say anything to that. He headed on out to give his little brother his hot chocolate and try and coax him back to bed.

-TBC-