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30 August 2006 @ 06:37 pm
Walking In My Shoes (21/?)  
Title: Walking In My Shoes (21/?)
Author: Kelly and Mike (collaborative writing team)
Posted: 8/30/06
Rating: Chapters range from PG to NC-17
Chapter: Chapter Twenty-One rated PG
Email: jjsoapchat AT yahoo DOT com
Content: Friendship, Kid cuteness
Scenes include: Cordelia, Wes, Gunn, Faith, Connor, Lillian, Fred, Kat, Ian
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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The lobby of the Hyperion had been converted into a war room for all intents and purposes. The large poof that had been used so many times for people to collapse on was pushed to the side. In the middle of the lobby was a large folding conference table, chairs all around. The table was covered in books and crumpled pieces of papers, notes from the various members gathered. At the head of the table stood Wes, framed in front of a giant white board, covered in various handwritings. Cordelia sat to his left, Fred to his right. Gunn, Faith, Connor, and Lillian completed those assembled. Off in the corner, Ian and Katharine were quietly drawing.

Most heads at the table were down, flipping through books. Cordelia paused though. She raised her head. She still looked unwell but she was getting better with her family's help. They, not Angel, had convinced her that Angel wouldn't have wanted her to wither away. She was taking her own advice about fighting in memory of him. "What about Branaki? It says here that they are skilled at making weapons and firearms?" She looked up at Wes, waiting to see what he had to say.

Wesley pulled off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "It could be or it could be other factors," he sighed. "With none of us having had a good look at what is doing this we could be dealing with humans, demons or a combination of both. There are factions that have joined both sides for ill-gotten gains."

Connor stood up and walked over to get a cup of coffee. "He means organized crime," he said as he poured.

Wesley raised his gaze to the young man. "That's what I said, Connor," Wes interjected. "Problem is, we've yet to grasp that one tangible lead. Well, Angel..." His voice trailed at the mention of the vampire's name. "Angel had mentioned something but never gave me specifics. What attacked us at the convalescent home was not a single race of demon but several."

Faith had one booted foot up on the table and was pushing her chair back so it was on two legs. She was busy cleaning demon blood off one of her favorite knives. "So what? You think the old folks home and all the attacks on the school are related? Why would a demon group want to take out old people AND Slayers? Doesn't make sense."

Gunn was watching Faith but that was only because his own mind was trying to figure out possibilities. He looked over at Wes. "Unless they were doing a test run. We got the plans for the home? If it’s got the same layout as the girl's dorm, there you go. Used to run those all the time with the crew, only we used targets instead of real vamps. Can't exactly get them to stand still or not run once you put them someplace."

Wesley shook his head. "I don't know," he said. "Its been puzzling me also. And it wasn't just elderly people in that place. There were constant needs children and that was the one the demon was going to eviscerate."

Lillian, who had remained quiet in this discussion, shifted just a bit in her seat. She hadn't really felt like part of the group yet. She was just "Connor's girlfriend". She glanced to Connor for a moment before she spoke up, very quietly. "Well, not all Slayers in the world are at the school. Couldn't it be possible that Willow's big spell activated the Slayer mojo in people who maybe are in wheelchairs or had physical and mental problems before the spell?" She sounded very unsure of herself as she put that possibility on the table.

Wesley nodded. "A very good possibility to look into, Lillian."

Then, from the door, came another voice. "No. It was a tactic that did just what it was meant to do," Angel said as he entered. "Where are there more defenseless innocents to draw the Champion out? Put him in the place of saving the innocent and having to sacrifice himself to do so?"

When Angel entered through the front doors, all heads turned to look at him. He suddenly had seven pairs of adult eyes on him and two sets of children's eyes. Fred smiled just a little bit at him but quickly hid it before the others could see. The topic of "Other Angel" was still a sore sticking point for most of the people that were gathered here.

Ian, however, was unaware of the tension that was mounting in the room. The only thing that he saw was Other Daddy. He set his crayons down and picked up his piece of paper, rushing over to Angel. "Other Daddy! Where ya been? Lookit what I made for you." He held the drawing up. It was of Angel and Ian, standing triumphant on the top of the spider bars.

When the boy came to him, Angel picked him up and looked at the picture. He smiled. "I've been busy, boyo," he said. "I've been trying to find these bad guys so we can make the school safe." He put Ian down, handed him the picture back. "Now let me talk to the adults." He ruffled Ian's hair.

Ian laughed as Angel ruffled up his hair, ducking his head down to try to avoid it. He hugged Angel's leg before he ran back off to lay back down on the floor with his crayons and paper. All eyes were now on Cordelia to see what she would do. She hadn't told anyone about the evening when Angel had showed up with Kat clinging to him, or the conversation that followed. She wasn't looking at Angel, however. Her eyes were turned down at her notes for the time being.

Connor put that coffee cup down. The hate in his eyes was the only emotion that showed. When he spoke, his voice was even and low. "You're not welcome here, asshole," he said as he walked up to Angel.

Angel didn't flinch from Connor's approach. He'd dealt with Connor's anger before. The boy had issues. "Connor," he said, "shut up and sit down...Now." Angel took on that commanding tone he'd used so often on his son.

Connor looked like he was about to hit the vampire but instead he took his seat back next to Lillian. There was a time and place and that would come soon.

No one wanted to get involved in the middle of a Connor and Angel fight. Most of the group just kept their mouths shut when it came to Connor and his laundry list of problems. Secretly, Cordelia and Angel had been looking for some kind of demonic therapist to take the kid to so he could speak freely and work out his issues. When Connor sat, Lillian reached under the table to take his hand. She wasn't sure if it was going to be enough to calm his rage or not. She could only take so many more of these outbursts before she left for good. He had to know that by now.

With that crisis averted, Gunn turned his head back to look at Angel. He had his new headlights, a wash and a wax, so he was cool with the other man. Couldn't say he wouldn't have done the same in his situation so can't fault him for that. "You going to take a seat or just stand up there like you are the star of the show all night?"

"What I want to do it help," Angel said as his gaze went to Cordelia. "If I'm welcome to. We all want the same thing. This gang sought out and dealt with." Angel was careful to leave out what he had received for Connor's job.

Cordelia didn't turn around to look at him. She saw him once and that was more than enough. She could feel his eyes on her but she couldn't bring herself to do it. He was Angel but not and looking at him only made her hurt that much more about the loss of her husband. She looked up at Wes. He was in charge now. It was his call. If he thought they could use this Angel, then fine. If he thought not, then fine.

Wesley looked from Cordy's eyes then to Angel. He stood. He might as well voice what he felt. "As much as it pains me to say this," he said, "I'm afraid we do need you."

Angel nodded and moved to an empty chair next to Gunn. "I know this is going to be hard. Hard on us all because in the world I remember I've lost all of you and you were, in my long years, the closest to what I ever had as a family. In turn, I know what I remind you of. But we can work it to an advantage here. They think they did away with what they targeted as the major threat. They aren't considering what they think as mere humans a problem."

Cordelia's eyes went back down to the book. She knew, inside, that they needed a Champion. She just wasn't sure if this Angel was up for the job. She finally did turn her head towards him though and spoke. "And let's just one thing straight here. You aren't in charge. Wesley is. If you don't like that, you can leave now."

"Cordelia," Wesley spoke, "quite all right. The fact is, he's right. They think they have us crippled."

"I know who's in charge," Angel nodded to Wes. "But I still have certain skills..."

Connor scoffed. "You aren't the only one here with those skills."

Faith slammed her knife into the table and looked between the three men. She was a little fed up with this. She had ended up in the hospital and her girls, her charges, were dead. "You think you three can stop playing whose dick is the biggest so we can focus on the big picture here. Girls are dead. Good girls. Girls who left their families and trusted us. So when it’s all over and these demons are dead, I will get out the damn ruler and we can see who is biggest. Okay?"

Gunn knew this whole situation was serious but he had to grin as Faith put her foot down here. It was true. They had to go and focus on the big picture.

Wes cleared his throat. "Faith is right, we need to focus here and leave the personal baggage outside for now." He looked to Angel then Connor. "What we were trying to do was pool what we know."

Faith yanked her knife out of the table before she sat down again. She started to clean out her nails with it. "We know it’s not The First. No Hellmouth. No Ubervamps. No appearing as dead people. Has to be just some group that wants the school gone. They aren't going after Red or Giles or the New Council. Attacks are just here." She wasn't sure if Angel had gone ahead with the deal with the devil so she was filling him in.

Angel looked over to Faith and nodded. "I was out earlier information gathering," he said. "There's a new gang in L.A. and their first order of business is to show whose in charge."

"Then we already dealt with this before." Gunn said. He glanced over to Wesley and then back to Angel. He didn't know if Angel went through with the deal either. "Last year. Had some vampires and demons uniting to try to take the twins. Thought they could negotiate with them. Trade the kids for...Angel" Gunn paused just a moment there. It was odd talking about Angel to Angel.

Angel listened to Gunn, but he already knew this. There was a pencil on the table in front of him and he reached up and picked it up. He remained silent for a long moment then without looking at any of them he spoke. "This gang isn't like anything any of us have encountered. These demons were once human." Now he raised his gaze to look at each of them. "Many of them are the dead slayers. Bodies unaccounted for in clean up are no longer unaccounted for."

Fred peeked her head up now. This was something that she hadn't heard of before. She was avoiding all the fighting and the posturing by pretending to be working out some grand plan but really, it was more like she was doing differential equations over and over again. "What do you mean? Like vampires? Or are we talking some kind of possession? How can they be using the Slayer bodies if they are dead? Is it zombies? I bet it zombies." Fred nodded her head as she looked to the rest of the group

"Technically," Angel said, "I'm dead." He looked at them all then to Fred, Gunn, Wes, and Cordelia. "You remember in Pylea what my true self looks like unbalanced and unchecked? The same is happening here. Incorporeal demons are being given bodies and the body of choice are the slayers."

Cordelia didn't look to Angel but instead she looked to Wes. "What about that spell we used before? Could we do that large scale and push the demons out of our girls? I really don't like the idea of something walking around, wearing their bodies like this was Men In Black or something."

Faith was quiet during this whole time. She wanted to kill these things, whatever they were. Not that she didn't want them dead before but now, was even more so. They were using the bodies of the girls. She turned her knife over in her hands, waiting for The Queen to finish talking. "I just want to kill the things. How do we kill them?" She turned to look at Angel now.

"I'll have to do some research," Wesley said. "But this is totally something new...and the girls looked no way human."

The vampire leaned forward, his arms on the table. "I'm guessing find the leader or the queen, whatever you want to call it. Kill it because these things seem to have a hive mentality. But in turn they aren't just hijacking the slayers, it’s other demons. Only thing they can't take are vampires since we already have a demon in us."

"So..." Fred interjected now. "It doesn't matter how many times we might strike down the bodies, because these demonic energies will just find another corpse to go into. See, I told you it was like zombies. Only they aren't eating flesh and they aren't as slow moving as some of the ones that we have dealt with before. I know once we take off the heads, they stopped moving before. Like when they attacked the school in February."

Gunn kept a careful eye on Faith. She was tightly wound and the slightest thing was going to make her pop. Gunn looked back to Angel. "Where's the Queen then?"

"There's a set of books in Wolfram & Hart," Angel spoke softly not knowing how this would be received. "If we could get to them they'd tell use everything we want to know and how to kill these things."

The entire table went quiet because they were all well aware how this Angel knew that Wolfram and Hart had those books. It was quiet for what seemed like an hour after that statement.

The corner of Connor's mouth turned up in a snarl. "And he wants to takes us into the lion's den to get killed." He stood up quickly.

Lillian reached up, trying to pull Connor back down before he leapt across the table and tried to kill Angel. She could very much see him doing it. "Connor..." Her voice was soft, trying to stay very calm. It wasn't working though as that hint of fear crept into her tone.

Wes looked over at Connor. "We know about the books. Connor, we need to look at all avenues, even the ones we don't like if we are going to take care of this problem."

"I am not going to let any of our people go to Wolfram and Hart, Wes." Cordelia looked right at the Englishman with the kind of look that she used on the kids when it was really time for bed. "We already made too many deals with them and it cost us too much." There was a rather knowing tone to her voice but one that only Wes would catch.

Angel didn't even seem to look upset. He kept his seat and just looked up at Connor. "Last resort," he said, "if Wesley can't find anything. As for the queen I'm not sure where its at but I'm sure its where it can consume and replenish itself considering the energy its expending to create its babies."

Fred was writing things down, making calculations. "What does it feed on? Energy? Or something more physical?" She was posing the question to anyone who wanted to answer seeing as her head was still down.

Wes frowned. "We know most demons expending energy use the primordial to help sustain themselves."

Gunn leaned back just a little bit in his chair. "How about putting that in English so the rest of the folks at home can understand what you are saying?"

Angel looked up at Wes. "The distillation plant."

"Exactly where I was thinking," Wes nodded. "It is large enough and it is right on the coast to bring in sea water." He looked at Gunn. "Warm, damp, and a lot of salt."

Faith looked across the table at Connor and Lillian. "You two want to come with me and Shaft here to do some recon work then?" Faith was itching to get out of the meeting and go do something, anything. Even if it meant creeping around a distillation plant for clues"

"That might not be a good idea," Angel said. "It better be me to go there. Most it can do is dust me."

Faith looked back over to Angel but she was already up out of her chair. "Don't worry, Chief. We aren't going to go down there and fight it ourselves We are just looking around. We got it." Faith kicked Gunn's chair to get him to stand up. She looked back to Connor. "You coming or going, Con-Air?"

Connor stepped away from his chair still glaring at Angel then he turned and headed for the door, not saying a word.

Lillian got up from her chair as well. She gave Angel a little apologetic smile and then followed Connor out to the door. Faith and Gunn pulled up the rear. They were all smart but they were hardly the brains when it came to figuring out the hows and whys of this thing.

Fred glanced to Wesley for a brief moment. "Maybe we should go hit some of the bookshops and see if we can find anything about demonic energies that take over demons and Slayers? Has to be something." Fred slowly pushed the chair out, hoping that Wesley would take the hint. She knew what Angel had done since she was just about the only one that was in regular contact with him. With her gift of gab, she had told Wesley as well. Keeping it from Cordelia had been a struggle though.

Wesley stood and pushed his chair in. He just gave first Angel then Cordy a nod and followed after Fred. This wasn't going to be easy. He could already see the difference in the vampire. Fred at this point wouldn't have even had to have told him.

Cordelia found herself relatively alone with Angel in the lobby now. She could smell a set up when she was being forced into one. She got up from her chair to move over to where the kids were playing. She kneeled down with them, wordlessly taking a pad and some crayons. She gave Kat a little smile as Ian was fairly engrossed in his drawing of a large, green demon that looked like Satan-possessed Shrek.

Angel stood. He wasn't sure what to say to Cordy. He wanted to tell her that it was him. He was back. That his very last thought before he was dusted was picturing her face and the children laughing. "Everything been okay," he asked for the lack of being able to think of anything else. He stepped around the table and only part of the way from there to where her and the kids were.

"We've been better." She responded. She was trying to be civil towards him. He had given them a great deal of information tonight that would go a long way towards helping stop this thing. That is what she wanted. She didn't want to lose anymore lives.

Ian looked up and over at Angel. He held a sheet of blank paper out for him, along with a crayon. "Come color with us, Other Daddy! The big stuff is over. I drawed another picture for you." He tried to hold the paper and crayon in one hand while he got his other drawing. The paper or the crayon kept slipping from his small grasp. It almost hit the floor but he always managed to stop it before it did.

"Better ask your mother first, Ian," he said. "She might would rather I go help Uncle Gunn and Aunt Faith."

Cordelia didn't really have much of an art talent but it was something to do with the kids. So sadly, her picture was looking more like a Picasso abstract than the horse she had intended it to be. "If the kids want you to stay, its fine." She answered quietly though. The kids had been missing their father and they were too young to understand the fights of adults. It wasn't fair to them not to transition slowly into the grieving process.

Angel moved and sat down with the kids. He reached for some paper and a black crayon. He smiled at the kids then he started drawing and before long he had a picture of Katy drawn and he laid it down for them.

Once Angel had put his drawing down, Ian was once more climbing him like he was a jungle gym. "Do one with me, Other Daddy. Killing a big demon. I want a big sword. And a horse that has fire coming out of his nose." Ian hung on Angel's back, his small arms wrapped about the vampire's neck.

Katy looked up from her own drawing to look at the one that Angel had put in the middle of the misshapen circle they had fallen into. She looked up at him for a moment before she went back to her own drawing. "Not wrong anymore. Not Other Daddy." She said softly, more to herself, as if she was clarifying the point.

He had started drawing one for Ian as he requested but he stopped on hearing Katy. He didn't look up; only paused then went back to work again.

Ian pointed down as he watched the work, hanging off of Angel's back. "No! Make the demon bigger. With more teeth. Lots of yellow teeth."

Cordelia paused in the drawing of her own blob. She had almost missed what Kat had said because of Ian. "What was that, Kat? What did you say?" Kat so rarely spoke that on the occasions she did, Cordelia felt it was her job to try to draw more out of her.

Kat kicked her legs around in the air as she laid on her stomach. "He is not wrong anymore. He isn't Other Daddy. He is Daddy."

Angel paused again then he did look up, but not at Katy, at Cordelia. His lips had drawn in a tight line.

Cordelia's eyes went from Kat and then back to Angel. She looked at that expression on his face. She looked back to the twins. "How about you two go to the big freezer and get out some fruit popsicles? Just one each though." This was the safest way for her and Angel to speak in private. Cordelia watched as both of the children got up and bounded off for the hotel kitchen. She could hear them if they got into any sort of trouble.

The vampire looked back down at the drawing. He didn't say anything. He was going to let her open this dialogue.

"Katharine feels and sees things that no one else understands but her. She sees the world differently. Ian, he almost kicked himself out of my womb because he is stronger than other children are. So I know that there is some validity to what Kat just said. She might not know how to put it to words. You might as well tell me what happened inside of hiding it." Cordelia finally said.

"Yeah, they are both very special and beautiful children," he replied. Angel just really wasn't sure how to say it to her.

"I got that. How about telling me something that I don't know now?" She just looked at him. She couldn't see any apparent change in him. She couldn't really trust her demon powers either considering they thought he was the real deal when he first arrived. Or rather, she had convinced herself he was the real thing.

"I...I found out the information about the demons," he said. "I couldn't let it continue. Slayers or not, they were humans getting murdered."

"That has nothing to do with what Kat said. I heard her. She said you were wrong anymore, that you weren't Other Daddy." She leaned forward, closer to him. She was looking into his eyes with her own two critical ones. Could they have put their Angel's soul back in this Angel's body? Was that possible?

Angel kept his eyes locked with hers. "The last thing I remember before...Your beautiful face smiling and the sound of the kids laughing." He swallowed. "I'm sorry, Cordy."

Could it really be that they had put the souls back wrong? She reached out to touch his face gently. "Oh god...Angel...is it really you? Are you really back?" Her voice was cracking, breaking because she was going to cry if it was true. She would cry if it wasn't true.

He nodded. He wasn't sure how she'd accept this. With those memories he was this Angel as well as the one from the other dimension. The memories, anchoring the soul...he was Angel. He was her husband and father of these children.

She threw her arms around him, moving against him now. She touched the back of his head softly. She held her face hard against his shoulder as she sobbed. "I'm sorry...I'm so sorry...why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you tell me we put you in a new body?"

"Cordy, we're both...the memories have made us one," he said to her. "I had Vail give me the memories so I could learn about the demons. That's why they targeted the home. They knew that be a good place. So many innocents in there..." His voice trailed and he trembled.

Her hand on the back of his head tightened into a fist, clasping a good chunk of his hair with it. She pulled away to look at him. Her entire face was puffy, her eyes red from crying against him. "You did what?" She was shaking now. She wasn't sure what to make of this. She shook out of fear, out of ignorance, out of grief.

"Cordy," Angel reached up to touch her arm. "It's why I was killed. I learned this information and they didn't want it brought back to everyone else here. Please, I'm here. I know what's been happening," He pleaded with her hoping she could understand.

"You...you weren't killed though." She finally pulled her hand from the back of his head. Lucky for him, she didn't rip his hair out. She looked as though someone punched her in the stomach though; all the air escaping her and that deflated look to her body. "You...you stole a man's life...his memories...he..." She needed Wes. She looked around as if he would walk through the door at any moment. She needed someone to make sense of this because it was senseless to her.

Angel shook his head. "No, Cordy. It’s not like that. I have no way of describing it," his voice hoarse. "The school and the students...I had to do something. And then the memories of the last moments...of the birth of the twins...of our wedding. Never had I been more frightened in my life then that day."

"I didn't marry you. I never married you. You killed your friends, you took over Wolfram and Hart. No..." She started to get up from the floor. She had gotten the tiniest shred of hope and it had been cruelly taken away from her.

"Cordelia, I'm here too," he stood. "I'm here." If only she could understand that it was him.

"How? Tell me how you can be two people at once? How can you be the loving husband and Champion I knew and be this...monster from this other world?" She stepped back away from him. Why was it suddenly pouring on her? The last few months had been one horrible thing after another.

Angel looked away when she said the word monster. He was a monster, he was a vampire, but to hear that word come from Cordelia was like a stake in the heart. He looked back up at her. "We are the same, Cordy," he told her. "The same soul. The same being. The only thing that differed was the divergence of timeline. Here we didn't have a fallen Power manipulate things where in that other dimension we did...and there it used you to cause unspeakable evil even unleashing Angelus. Things occurred there that didn't here to make choices that could only lead one way." He paused again trying to place into words what had happened.

"When I was killed at the convalescent home, I was brought through that portal here. I was brought here to keep this world from being destroyed by this creature doing what it is. But all the choices made in that other world were not mine alone and that is what you have to understand. You've read what are in those files Wolfram & Hart turned over. Do you really think that they would give you the truth?" He stepped to her a bit closer. "Yes, but just enough of the truth to make everything else seem plausible. Cordy, look into my eyes, you of all people know me better then anyone. Look into my eyes and tell me I'm not Angel. I'm not the one that loves you and our children."

Cordelia stood where she was, not moving closer to him as he spoke. She didn't want to allow herself that glimmer of false hope again. When he stepped closer though, she took a step back. When faced with adversity, she always did come out stronger on the other side. It was trying to wade through that was difficult, that she would only allow herself to deal with in private. She had already cried against this stranger. She wouldn't give him the satisfaction of giving in, doing what he wanted. "No." That was it, that was her answer. She knelt down so that she could start to clean up the art supplies from the drawing. She knew the kids would be back soon.

Angel didn't say anything more. He just bent down and helped her pick up the art supplies. He didn't want to crowd her. It was a lot for him to take in. He had thought the memories would be just that but it was more, especially since they were his, except just a different dimension.

Kat came out from the kitchen with her popsicle. Ian wasn't trailing far behind. She looked up at Angel with those chocolate colored eyes, so much like his own. "Daddy, will you read me a story after my bath?" Unlike most children, she didn't protest when it was time to have a bath.

Angel paused in picking up the supplies. "Only if you're mother says its okay, Katy," he said. He looked at Cordelia for only a moment then carried then picked up the box.

Cordelia had gotten most of the crayons picked up when she heard that. Kat had been having trouble sleeping since the death of her father. The only good night sleep that it seemed any of them got was the night Angel returned with the kids from the park. "Not a real long story. No more of those whole acts of Shakespeare, deal?" She gave Kat a little hint of a smile. Cordelia was good at hiding her true emotions behind a well-crafted wall.

Kat beamed as her mother gave into her demands, or rather, her single demand. She started to help with the pick up. The sooner they got things picked up, the sooner her and Ian would have their bath, the sooner she would get the story read to her.

Angel couldn't help the feeling he got when he watched mother and daughter. "I'll finish up here," he said, "Why don't you and Mom head on up and get Ian. I'll be up by the time you're done."

Cordelia called out. "Ian! Come on...bath time, buddy. I will get the action figures for you to play with." It wasn't but moments before Ian was running out of the kitchen. He was sticky from the popsicle mess so he really did need that bath. He ran right to Angel though, threatening to put those sticky hands all over his clothes. "I want to play Superheroes!"

"Listen to your mother, Ian," he told the boy. "It’s late and you need to get ready while I finish up down here. That way we kill two birds with one stone and by the time you're done, I'll be up there and we'll have more story time."

Ian's face fell. He wanted to play. He was wondering just how much he could get away with now that this was Other Daddy. He didn't believe it was Daddy. He didn't believe Kat. "Please! Just a little longer. I want to play Superheroes!" Ian turned to look at his mom. "Pleeeeeease?"

Angel was not going to give in. Cordy had told the boy what to do and with Ian you gave an inch and he took ten miles. "Ian," was all he said in that no more messing around voice.

Ian knew that tone all too well. His father used that tone on him all the time. His little face fell. He started to trudge up the stairs, hand on the railing, making it all sticky. He was trying to his best wounded puppy. He kept looking back at his mother and Other Daddy to see if one of them would bend.

Cordelia reached down to pick Kat up. She looked to Angel briefly. "Thanks...since...since his father died, he has been out of control." That was all Cordelia was going to say on the matter. She started up the stairs so she could give the children their bath.

Angel finished cleaning up and then he headed upstairs to the kids’ room to wait on them. He sat in the rocker and just looked at those little beds. It felt good to be here with his kids again and that was exactly how he felt.

Ian came running in first, wearing Spiderman pajamas. He took a running leap and then jumped onto his bed, bouncing around on it. He bounced in circles, like a dog that was trying to settle for the evening. Kat wasn't far behind, wearing just pink pajamas. Behind them was Cordelia, the front of her shirt soaked. Ian had gotten a bit too enthusiastic in his bombing of his ship tonight.

Standing, Angel looked at Cordy. "Are you sure they got the bath?"

It took her a minute before she realized what he meant. She looked down at her shirt, pulling it away from her body. "Yeah...happens most of the time. I should just wear a rubber apron." She just had to remind herself to be civil to this Angel. He had her husband's memories, which meant he knew more about her than she liked. He also helped them a lot in regards to the demons attacking the school. They would need him if they wanted to succeed against the attacks. She glanced over at Ian. "Hey! Stop jumping on the bed. Are you a little monkey?"

Ian paused on his jumping on the bed. "I am not a monkey! I am a hero." He stood up on the bed but he faltered and fell right back down on it. Kat, in the meantime, had already quietly gotten into her bed, ready to be finished being tucked in by her parents.

"You know, I could stay the night," he said to her. "You could get some rest and I'll take care of these house monkeys." He paused then walked over to Ian. Grabbing the boy up in one arm, he turned the bed down with his free hand.

Ian screamed with laughter as he was picked up in one arm. He looked at his mom with a giant grin. Cordelia couldn't help but smile back. She had to admit, he was good for the kids. Kat seemed to be less withdrawn since the night in the park. But the staying the night, the smile she had for Ian faltered. "I don't think that is a good idea. We don't have a spare room here. The only guest rooms made up are across from Connor's place."

Angel had Ian over his shoulder like a sack of grain or as he remembered calling the boy in this position "A Sack of Taters" Finally putting him down, he tucked the boy in. He then tuned to Katy and pulled back her covers. "You know, I really don't need a room. Night time here. Vampire. Once they are asleep I'll just get a book myself and read," he said. "Chair up here or even couch down in the lobby."

Ian sat up in his bed now, looking at his mom. "We can play camp out! I will go get my tent." The little boy was already throwing the covers of himself to get out of bed. He knew exactly where mom had put the little one-person tent and the sleeping bags. Before either of them could say no, he was already running down the hall at a breakneck speed.

"Ian...I..." Cordelia didn't have a chance to finish her words and instead finished with a sigh as the young boy ran off to fetch his camping supplies. She wasn't sure what to do in this situation. She knew that she wanted to call Wes and that would be harder with the two kids keeping her up. She reached over and turned on the baby monitor. "I will hear if you try anything funny."

"Not up to anything. Just story time and making sure these two get to sleep because they have lessons tomorrow." Angel was moving the chair between the two beds.

Kat turned her head so that she could look at him. "Which book are we going to read tonight, Daddy? Pick one before Ian comes back." She knew that if Ian came back, he would insist on an X-Men or Batman comic. Kat yawned just a bit. It wouldn't be long before she was asleep.

"Well, I thought I'd give you two choices. Rob Roy or Gone With the Wind," he said to her as he sat.

Kat smiled at him. At least both of those had some action so that Ian would keep quiet. "I like Rob Roy. Will you do the voices for me?" Kat looked up at him expectantly. She knew this was her father and she knew that he would know what she meant.

"Well, I don't know," he said, "been some time since I did a Scottish accent. Maybe with some help I can do it." He kissed the top of her head giving her a smile.

Cordelia moved back to the door so she could stick her head out and see if Ian was getting into trouble in the hallway closet. He was just pulling his tent out, his little tush in the air. Cordelia was inwardly relieved that Kat didn't pick Gone With The Wind. That was sort of hers and Angel's thing. Odd how he had picked it for their date night though. Maybe he just knew it from his Cordelia. She moved out of the room to help Ian with his tent and two sleeping bags, one for him and one for Angel. "Here, let me get those, kiddo."

Ian looked up at his mom with those big hazel eyes. Kat got Angel's eyes, Ian got hers. He held one of the sleeping bags up for her to take. "Why won't you let Daddy sleep in the big bed with you?"

"It’s complicated." Was all of the answer that Ian was going to get in that regard from her. She wasn't sure she should go around trying to explain this complex situation to such a young kid.

"Why is it com-plee-kated? Its Daddy and Daddy sleeps in the big bed with you. And we aren't appose to sleep there unless we get a bad dream. I don't understand." Ian wrapped his arms around his own sleeping bag, still looking up at his mother.

"Because..." Cordelia said as she reached for his tent. "That isn't your Dad. That is Other Daddy, remember? I explained it all to you?"

Ian shook his head. "No! It’s not Other Daddy. Its Daddy. Kat told me. She told me he isn't wrong. She said his head was full with us now." He started to head back to the bedroom, carrying his sleeping bag.

Cordelia merely sighed because she wasn't sure how to explain this to Ian. Mostly because she didn't understand it herself. Once the kids got settled, she was calling Wes. She didn't care if he was in some run down bookstore downtown, he was getting a Cordy Call. "Do you know how to set his tent up?" She lifted it up as she spoke about it to Angel.

Angel looked up at Cordy when she asked. "Yeah, sure," he replied. "We're big boys we can handle it." But he remembered the last time they tried it. It fell on them. But then he remembered Cordelia laughing so hard, she had to go excuse herself to go to the bathroom.

Cordelia set it just inside the room, putting the adult sleeping bag next to it. "I will be in my bedroom with the monitor. I'll hear if anything goes wrong."

Looking at Kat and then Ian, they all three looked at her. The perfect innocence on their faces. "What could go wrong," Angel asked with a raised brow.

She gave them a rather tight-lipped expression. "I'll be in my bedroom." That was all she said before she turned and headed down the hallway for her own room. She grabbed the monitor off the dresser, turning it up as she put it by her bedside. She grabbed her cellphone from the bedside stand but hesitated for a moment.

Cordelia sat on the bed, looking at the phone in her hand. Wes could wait. She wanted to hear this guy with her kids, when no one was around. Usually after a few minutes, most people forgot about the baby monitor and started acting naturally.

Ian grabbed the tent from where his mom had left it. He was bouncing around the room, sing songing to himself. "Caaaaamp! Oooout!" He fell to his knees and started to pull his tent out from the bag that kept the parts together. He was making up a little song, singing to himself. "Fight the monsters, in the forest. Cause them is mean. I fight them good. Keep the Princesses safe."

Angel looked at the boy for a moment before he opened the book to begin reading. "Chapter I. How have I sinn'd, that this affliction should light so heavy on me? I have no more sons, and this no more mine own--My grand curse hang o'er his head hat thus transformed thee!--Travel? I'll send my horse to travel next. --- Monsieur Thomas." He read the intro to the chapter.

Kat gave her brother a glare when their father started reading and it quieted him up quickly. She laid back down, turning so that she could face her father in the chair. She put her hands under her head, just listening to him as he read.

Angel read to Katy, making the voices and accents for the British lords, Scottish nobles and peasants. He even changed the octave of his voice for each character for her.

It wasn't long though before Kat felt her eyes go heavy. She shifted a little in her bed to get more comfortable. "No more tonight, please, Daddy."

Ian was sitting crossed legged on the carpet now, looking up at his father. This was the kind of story that he liked. Better than the girly ones that Kat was always picking for bedtime.

Closing the book he stood and leaned over and gave Kat another goodnight kiss on her forehead. "Okay, Katy, sleep well." With that he turned to Ian and the tent. "You know we won’t live this down if we get tangled up in this again."

Kat curled up and gave just a little bit of a smile as Angel kissed her on the forehead. Her Daddy was back and that was good enough for her. He promised her tea parties and readings and taking her to see pretty pictures in museums. Now he was back to do that. She could sleep through a lot with Ian for a brother so she slipped into sleep.

Ian looked over at the tent. "We don't hafta put it together. We can sleep on the floor with our sleeping bags."

"Yeah, well, you know that's how we did it back in the day," Angel said. "We didn't have tents and if we didn't have blankets, we'd bury ourselves in leaves." He grinned and tossed Ian his sleeping bag.

Ian's eyes got all wide as he caught his sleeping bag. "In the leaves?! That is so cool! I want to sleep in leaves. Can I sleep in the leaves, Daddy?"

"Maybe one night we can all go camping in the real woods, okay," he told Ian as he rolled out his bag. "Now get in your bag because monster hunters need good rest."

Ian unrolled his own bag next to Angel's and then went to get the pillows off his bed. "Are we still gonna go up to the cabin for Christmas? I want to go skiing!" He wasn't suppose to know about that. It was going to be a surprise for the family but Ian had been nosy and seen the pamphlets about it.

Angel pulled off his shoes. "That's up to your Mom, kiddo. But you've let the cat out of the bag. That was a secret."

"Nobody told me it was a secret!" He puts the pillow down at the head of his sleeping bag and then puts the other one at the top of Angel's sleeping bag. He frowned as he looked at his father. "How come mom gets to pick? When is it my turn to pick?"

"I'm sure you'll still get to go. You, Katy, Mom, Connor and Lillian." He also took off his shirt and hung it on the back of the chair. Under it, he wore his typical wife beater.

Ian didn't understand this. He frowned again as he stood there, looking at Angel. "No. Why won't you come with us? The sun is cloudy. I saw pictures."

"Ian," Angel tried to think how to say it, "things aren't that simple with adults. To make things right and good for you we have to talk things out and try to get along first. It wouldn't be good to have Mommy and me fighting and we couldn't have fun. Mommy and me, we both have a lot of things to work on. But never...never doubt that we both love you and your sister and Connor."

The small boy was still having trouble grasping this concept. "You both say you are sorry and then you buy something nice for each other. That makes it all better."

"Maybe," he said. "Maybe that will work over time. Now then you better close your eyes and get to sleep. I don't want Mommy saying I kept you up all night." He slipped into the bag, though he didn't need to. He leaned over and gave Ian a light kiss on top of his head.

Ian was still frowning though because he didn't understand this. He got into his sleeping bag and he just watched his father for a long time. It was a good thing he was starting to feel tired or he would have been up all night with this problem. Eventually, though it took a while, his eyes started to close with sleep.

Angel laid there staring at the ceiling. He was far from sleepy. This was his day, but these were his children. Cordelia was his wife, his best friend. He wanted that back and how could he get her to understand that he was back.

Without seeming to have gotten up from bed, Kat was standing there by his sleeping bag. She clutched a worn stuffed unicorn in her arms. "Daddy?" She said softly, trying to get his attention.

Looking up at her, he came up on his elbow. "Katy, what's wrong," Angel asked the child.

She buried her head into the unicorn, holding it tighter to her chest. "I had a bad dream." Her voice was very soft and small sounding.

Angel unzipped the sleeping bag and held it open. "C'me on here. Bad dreams aren't allowed down here." He waited for her to lay down then covered her up.

Kat crawled into the sleeping bag and moved so that she could hold her father. She didn't care of he was cold. He was her father. "It was about Connor. He got hurt real bad and he..." Her voice hitched in her throat and she whispered the next. "he died."

He wrapped his arms around her. "Its okay, it was only a dream," he said softly. "Remember when you had that bad dream that somebody took Sunny?" He indicated her unicorn. "You came to mommy and me that night and we all laid there and Sunny stayed safe?"

"This was different, Daddy. It was..." She lowered her voice once more to a whisper. "One of those dreams." She balled herself up even more against him, putting her face against his chest. She was scared. This was more than just dreaming that someone took her most treasured stuffed animal

"Its okay, Katy," he assured her. "I'm not going to let anyone hurt your brother. Now close your eyes and dream happy dreams. Of the park. Of Disneyland..."

-TBC-