Chapter Title: Lucky #8
Author: Baby Blues
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, except for the children and the story.
Summary: Angel gets a visit from Whistler, and another 8 teens. And he thought Connor was trouble.
Dedication: To Hayden, just cause I miss him and he’s gonna be sending me postcards while he’s in the Bahamas with the others. *pouts* Spring Break’s gonna suck.
~Whistler: . . . You have no clue how much these kids need you.
~Angel: I’m afraid to ask why.
~Whistler: Because they’re your children.
“So . . . who’s who again?” Cordelia asked in wonder as she stood back in her prim and proper Prada outfit of a short black silk skirt and a charcoal grey blouse, gazing at the eight unfamiliar faces who stared back at her with various expressions ranging from boredom, curiosity, indifference, and suspicion.
“And here you thought filing folders was a nightmare,” Lorne mumbled more to himself than the ex-cheerleader.
One of the older boys rolled his eyes and sat back on the lobby couch. “Maybe we should walk around with those sticker tags that start off with ‘Hi, my name is.’ Maybe that’ll help your petty inadequate mind, which was probably caused by too much bleach seeping into your brain, learn to figure out our names,” he commented sarcastically.
Cordelia frowned at him and growled, “I don’t like you already, mister.”
“Feeling’s mutual,” he replied nonchalantly.
“Down, Aiden,” Whistler scolded lightly, amusement in his expression and tone. The boy with the short golden curly blond hair and piercing icy blue eyes had the same spark as his mother and father combined. Angel was going to have a field day with that one.
“When are they coming back?” the youngest, Ariella, asked, her voice trembling slightly from anxiety.
“Soon,” Fred softly answered her in her most reassuring tone as she watched the small girl hug herself tighter in fear and exhaustion.
Silence permeated the lobby of the Hyperion Hotel as wandering eyes jumped from one person to the next in apprehension.
“It’s a lovely home,” one of the other males broke through the stillness, his curious brown eyes studying his surroundings.
“It’s a hotel,” Aiden rolled his eyes and gazed absently around, “Not a home. A dark, depressing hotel that needs more than just cleaning,” his eyes fell on the Seer and with a mischievous glint in his eyes added, “It needs sanitizing.”
“I am so close to smacking you,” Cordelia said through gritted teeth.
The boy smirked. “Bring it on,” he dared her.
Cordelia stepped forward and Aiden stood up in all his 6’1 male grandeur, glowering down at the faux blonde’s already tall form. She gazed up at him with blazing brown eyes. “Are you actually going to hit a woman? Do you have any morals?”
He gave her an almost sadistic chuckle. “My dad did it.”
“Angel would never do that,” Cordelia murmured.
Aiden chuckled again. “I never said he was my father.”
“Shut it, Aiden,” Whistler warned, shaking his head. “No need to drop the bomb when the target isn’t even here yet.”
The boy looked at her once again with a leer. “Guess I’m gentleman enough to do that.”
Cordelia stared at the short demon. “What did he mean by that?” she demanded.
“Listen, Princess,” one of the older girls said in a bored yet irritated tone, “It’s none of your business, so shut the blow job cavern and let it go.”
The older woman stared in shock and absolute horror at the tiny girl with the bright blue eyes and platinum hair. “Are all blondes this mouthy?” she asked, looking from Aiden to the girl who looked a bit similar to him. “And I do NOT give blow jobs, you little brat,” she cleared up.
“Right . . . and you really are a blonde,” the girl mocked her with a sweet yet sardonic smile on her pretty face. “And call me a brat again and I’ll . . .”
“What the hell is going on?” a voice boomed in the doorway.
Everyone stood still and mute as they gazed at Angel’s tall dark form looming in the entrance doorway with Gunn behind him. Whistler finally stepped forward and lifted a hand in greeting. “Hey, kid,” he smirked, “Welcome home.”
“Daddy?” Ariella asked wearily before jumping onto her feet and running up to the stunned vampire who caught the sobbing young girl in his arms. He stared down at her shiny brown head and gawked at Whistler with wide eyes full of questions.
When the demon did nothing but shrug, Angel tentatively patted the girl gently on her back. “Ammm . . . ” he mumbled, not knowing how to respond to the tiny girl’s hysterics. He glared at Whistler who stood smiling at him with something akin to sheepishness. “Whistler? Wanna explain a few things to me?”
“Sure. Uhh . . . Amelia?”
“Ariella,” the girl glared fiercely at the demon who had brought her here, her scowl almost the same perfect copy as Angel’s.
“Right. Sorry,” he shook his head, “Too many damn children here to remember.”
“Excuse me? Children?” the mouthy blonde asked, arms crossing over her chest in an intimidating manner.
“Young teenagers?” Whistler weakly offered instead.
“Umm . . . hello? Still waiting for an explanation here,” Angel interrupted, waving his right hand in the air as Ariella stepped back, but still keeping an arm wrapped around his waist.
Whistler sighed and motioned to the other seven young strangers. “They’ll be staying here for a while. A rather . . . long while actually,” Whistler said, waiting for the vampire to blow a gasket.
“What? Huh? Why? . . . Why?” Angel questioned, wanting to pull himself away from the little girl but not having the heart to do so as he watched her from the corners of his eyes.
“Maybe we should talk in private?” Whistler asked, looking around the room at all the different individuals who stared at him expectantly.
Angel motioned towards the kitchen and moved away from the young girl. She looked up at him with wide teary eyes, fear at being left by him apparent in her child-like features. He stared back at her in wonder as he studied her face, stunned as he admired her mismatched eyes of one blue and one green. He hesitantly touched her cheek as he concentrated on where he’d seen her before. She gave him a trembling smile as he slowly came closer to recognition . . .
“Angel?” Whistler questioned, pulling Angel away from his thoughts.
“Yeah,” he said, taking back his hand. He frowned lightly and turned to walk towards the kitchen with his ex-mentor right behind him, not wanting to ponder over the familiarity of the young girl’s looks. He somehow knew that if he uncovered the truth, he would either be frightened or ecstatic.
The short demon, dressed badly in a green silk buttoned up shirt with white swirl designs all over it, a leather jacket, a pair of black pants, loafers, and a derby hat, helped himself in Angel’s kitchen as he looked through the cabinets and grabbed a mug before pouring himself some steaming hot coffee.
“I need this,” he told the vampire who sat down on the kitchen table, waiting patiently for him to begin. “You have no idea how tough it is to drag around eight hormone driven teenagers.”
Angel shook his head. “I have some idea,” he said, thinking about Connor who was still locked up in his room . . . probably . . . hopefully.
Whistler took a seat across from him, emptying spoonful after spoonful of sugar into the mug. “Want some coffee with that?” Angel asked sarcastically.
The demon frowned at him, “I told you I needed it, right?”
Angel sighed. “So . . . can you please tell me what’s going on now? I’d really like to know why there are eight strangers in my hotel lobby looking as if they hadn’t slept or eaten a good meal in days.”
“Because they hadn’t,” Whistler confirmed.
“And here you are drinking coffee as they sit out there starving and tired?”
The other demon stared at him, completely oblivious to the vampire’s point. “I didn’t starve them. Beef jerky and milk is like a five star meal.”
“To you, yes! Jesus, Whistler, that’s child abuse! Fred!” Angel called out in exasperation.
Whistler stared at him dumbfounded.
A jittery brunette peeked her head in. “Yeah?”
“Can you order in some Pizza Hut and Hoong’s? And make up nine rooms up on my floor. Ask Wesley to watch them while Gunn and Lorne help you, and if possible, get Cordelia,” Angel said.
She nodded and disappeared through the door.
“One for you.”
“How thoughtful, but I won’t be staying.” Whistler sighed and rubbed at his eyes wearily. It was the first time Angel ever saw his long time demon friend looking so haggard and worn down. “Listen, Angel,” he began, “It’s been a long month for me. The Powers recruited me to specifically find these kids and bring them here . . . to you.”
The vampire shook his head. “I don’t understand. Why?”
“They’ve been through a lot,” Whistler explained, “Each one of them. Some of them have lost their families, one of them didn’t even have any. Others had to be saved from the life they were living and the rest have been alone for quite a while now. They have no one else. They need guidance . . . people they can call their friends, their family. They need stability.”
“I still don’t get why they were sent here . . . to me?” Angel questioned more than stated. “I mean, I have a feeling that The Powers know about all my troubles with Connor. Leaving eight other teenagers in my care will drive me to an early death.”
Whistler lifted a brow.
“You know what I mean.”
Whistler nodded and sighed. “I don’t know what they’re up to.”
It was Angel’s turn to lift a brow.
“Okay, so maybe I have a little idea, but that’s not the point. You have no clue how much these kids need you.”
Angel became quiet, remembering the way Ariella had jumped into his arms calling him Daddy. “I’m afraid to ask why,” he finally mumbled out.
“Because they’re your children,” Whistler said, finally dropping the bomb.
The vampire began laughing like a madman.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“Bet you all twenty that he shits or pisses his pants,” Aiden smirked, talking to no one in particular after Whistler and Angel disappeared into the kitchen.
“Vampires can’t do either,” one of the older boys, Liam, reminded him in a monotone voice as he stared into space with empty blue eyes. His twin sister, Eliza, looked at him worriedly before placing a comforting hand on his arm. Brushing back a stray strand of his jet black hair, she gazed at him questioningly. He said nothing and she sighed and rested her head against his shoulder, feeling a bit of her tension leave her body at her brother’s presence.
“Bet you a hundred that he’ll end up tossing around the short demon like a rag doll by the end of the night . . . that or kill him,” the mouthy blonde named Brooke retorted.
“My dad would never do that,” Ariella protested, walking back towards the group with a frown marring her young face.
“Ohhh,” Aiden smirked, “Little girl’s gettin’ defensive. Sorry to burst your bubble, chicklet, but your father’s not an angel . . . despite his name, and that’s the awful truth about it.”
Ariella’s lower lip trembled.
“Oh, geez, here comes the waterworks,” Aiden sighed inaudibly.
“Leave her alone,” Eliza said, frowning at the blonde.
The young male glared at her in return. “What are you gonna do about it?”
“C’mon, guys,” the oldest, Austin said, a small smile on his face as he stared into each seven pairs of eyes, “I know that we’re all tired and more than a little confused about what’s happening here. But if we’re gonna get through this, we all need to stay off each other’s throats. It’s bad enough we’re in such an unfamiliar place but . . . I think it’ll do us all some good if we just calm down a bit and let this all play out. Remember, everything happens for a reason, and I know we’re all here with different purposes and it's just a matter of time before we find that purpose,” he said, his comforting grin putting everyone a little bit at ease through their defenses and doubt. “So until then, let’s try and not kill each other.”
“Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” Aiden rolled his eyes and slapped the other boy on the back, “Quit with the melodramatic, Aussie. You’re making me tear up with all this Chicken Soup Memoirs,” he added as he mockingly dabbed away false tears.
Austin sighed and shook his head lightly. He had been the first person Whistler picked up from his quest to search for the eight of them. Aiden had been next, so the two of them ended up spending more time together. And during that time, Austin had concluded a few things about Aiden: he was cynical, completely arrogant with the attitude of a punk rocker clashing with that of a stuck up French male model. He also had a rebel’s heart in him.
“I agree,” Brooke added. “We don’t need any more of your ‘grasshopper’ wisdom shoved down our throats.”
Austin smiled. “ ‘It requires wisdom to understand wisdom,’ ” he told her.
Brooke’s glare was cold enough to freeze fire. “Would you quit with the Sigmund Freud bullshit,” she demanded through gritted teeth, “I’m so sick of your philosopher, Chinese proverb psycho babble. And did you just insinuate that I’m stupid?”
“No . . . not really, and the quote was actually from Walter Lippman. He also says that . . . ”
“Give me one more historical line from people who are long dead, and I will have to hurt you,” she warned him.
Austin was quiet before giving into his needs and saying, “ ‘If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred years of sorrow.’ ”
A look, mad enough to kill, stared back at him with enormous contempt. “You won’t live for another minute if you keep this up, Socrates,” she said through gritted teeth.
He smiled as though he had no worries in the world and that Brooke’s comment gave him pleasure instead of fear and distress. “I’m sorry,” he apologized sincerely, “I had to say it.”
“Damn. And I thought our never ending banters here are pretty bad,” Gunn commented on the strangers’ verbal spats. All eight teens looked at him. “Just sayin’,” he said and backed away slowly.
“Feisty bunch, aren’t they?” Lorne smiled, a bit impressed. The green demon admired anyone who had some fire and spark in them.
“More like evil bunch, but feisty can work too,” Cordelia mumbled.
“Cute,” Aiden laughed heartily before suddenly stopping in the midst of it and crudely saying in a monotone voice, “Your lack of humor is giving me the hives. Tell me, does Angel get a hard on when your unentertaining hilarity flips on?”
“Stop it, Aiden,” Liam advised quietly.
“Shove it, Broody Jr.,” Aiden warned, pointing a firm finger at him.
Liam clenched and unclenched his jaws and kept quiet. The two of them hadn’t been getting along throughout the whole trip with Whistler and the others. Maybe it was both of their whole male egos trying to be the alpha male of all eight of them.
Aiden looked at Cordelia. “Listen, Jolly Blonde Giant. Why don’t you go elsewhere? Perhaps Rodeo Drive or something or another? Even the ‘Hooker Alley’ I noticed a few blocks from here will do ’cause . . . you’re really starting to bug me,” he nodded to stress his statement.
“I’m starting to bug you!? That’s a laugh,” Cordelia said derisively, hands on her hips. She glared at Aiden. “What the hell is your problem, kid?” she commanded, “I don’t need this abuse from you. You don’t even know me.”
Aiden looked bored before shooting the tall woman a malicious expression. “I know you,” he guaranteed her, nodding. “What?” he asked, “Finally getting a taste of your own medicine, Queen C?”
“What are you talking about?” Cordelia demanded in confusion.
“I’ve read up on you,” Aiden explained before Austin noticed his blue eyes cloud over a bit with something akin to sadness, “In my mother’s diaries. Cordelia Chase. Grade-A Bitch and then some, right?”
“I’ve grown up. I’m no longer her,” she shook her head.
Aiden laughed. “You’ll always be her,” he snarled.
Before Cordelia could reply to that, the youngest and quietest boy of all the males within the assembly finally spoke up, “Someone should call her. She needs to be here.”
“Who?” Wesley asked, his eyes finally lifting up from the book he was reading.
Tristan stood up and walked towards the opposite entrance doorway, gazing out into the night. “Her . . . ”
“You have to be more specific than that, sweetheart,” Cordelia said.
Angel’s shout from the kitchen caught all their attention, except for Tristan who continued to look outside. “To you, a demon, yes! Jesus, Whistler, that’s child abuse! Fred!”
Fred jumped a little before rushing towards the voice.
“He says jump, the girl practically asks ‘How high?’ ” Aiden grumbled disgustedly.
“Your snide remarks are really starting to piss me off,” Cordelia grinded out.
Aiden ran his tongue along the edges of his upper teeth. “How much?” he asked spitefully.
“Good. Happy to hear it. Now, how much of my cruel comebacks will it take for you to get outta my face?”
With a growl, Cordelia stomped off upstairs just as Fred came back and picked up the phone.
Aiden laughed and sat back on the couch triumphantly. “Guess it was that much.”
“Serves the bitch right,” Brooke and Eliza mumbled together. They stared at each other in surprise, blue eyes meeting brown ones. The two girls hadn’t really talked much during their arduous journey. Hesitant looks and the occasional stares occurred between the two females.
Aiden sighed. “I don’t know about you kids but . . . a basket of buffalo wings and a bottle of beer sounds mighty fine right now,” he said with his head thrown back and his eyes assessing the dark ceiling.
“Well . . . pizza and Chinese is on the way,” Fred told him softly as she passed around bottles of clean, spring water.
He smirked. “Not exactly five star but you won’t hear me complaining. Food is food . . . and if it’s free, then that’s even better, ey?” he asked, smacking Austin on his shoulder as the older boy gazed at him curiously.
Lorne quietly studied the boy, “You know, I sense a lot of bitterness in you.”
“Keep it to yourself, Green Jell-o. I don’t need your wisdom bull slash aura readings. If I ever need one, I’ll call Madame Cleo,” he assured the fashion victim demon. He then raised his bottle and said, “To our future, gang. And lets all pray to God or whoever it is up there that we survive to see it one day,” and brought it to his lips, taking a large gulp of water.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“Throughout all this time, your humor never ceases to amaze me,” Angel chuckled.
Whistler sighed and shook his head. “I wish to the PTB this is all a great big joke, but it’s not, Angel,” he said, his eyes serious and his whole body slumped tiredly and wearily. “They want you to take care of these kids and protect them with your life.” His eyes met Angel’s and held it, “The end is near. Our side needs soldiers . . . fighters. Capable ones, ones that hold power in their blood and will learn straight from the best and only the best.”
Angel stayed quiet as he took in all this information.
“The End of Days will arrive slowly . . . but surely and with a force. All 8 of them will have to be there to fight, to help. And they will, Angel, they have to be there,” the demon nodded as though he knew for certain. “You need to not only train them for the upcoming war, but to assist them with their own personal battles. Without these kids by your side, by our side, all will be lost. Quite literally,” Whistler continued on, rubbing his face exhaustedly, “They’re destined to be warriors. All of them . . . and you need to help them, teach them how to get there both mentally and physically.”
Angel still said nothing as his gaze landed on a spot on the table.
Whistler took a deep breath, the next portion of his well-planned speech taking its toll on him with its somber subject. “But they not only need an instructor on the finer points of martial arts or kick boxing . . . they need a father,” Whistler held his breath and then whispered, “ . . . as well as a mother.”
Angel’s eyes shot up in fear.
“You’ll need to call Buffy.”
Angel shook his head in denial. It was one thing to turn over 8 teenagers into his care, but Buffy’s too? No. That was more trouble than it was worth to have her working alongside him once more. Like the formidable team they used to be. There would be too much tension and unsettled differences. For God’s sakes, he was trying to move on. Didn’t the Powers understand that? He wanted to put the wistful memory of Buffy behind him and store it in the back of his mind and heart where he can smile fondly over it but not have his heart breaking every time he remembered her smile, her grace, her beauty, and just everything else about her. He needed to move ahead with his life . . . er . . . unlife. Whatever.
“No. I can’t.”
“You can and you will,” Whistler urged with a force.
Angel stood up and began pacing. No. He feared even the idea of Buffy coming to LA to stay , even just for a little while. If what Whistler was saying was true, they had children. Together. As in, the two of them . . . copulating to create these offspring of theirs. Even the thought, the image of it caused a riot with his soul and his undead heart, which he had thought had already began to forget . . . or suppress was more like it. The awkwardness of it will only cause more trouble, and the longing of it will cause havoc with his mind and body. He may be 250 and plus years old, but his virility when it came to Buffy was as strong as ever. And he could never risk it. “You don’t understand.”
“No. You don’t understand,” Whistler said, closing his eyes. “All those kids out there? They’re all hers. Straight from her flesh and blood.”
“They’re mine too.”
Whistler sighed. “Three of them aren’t fully yours,” he grumbled.
Angel stopped in his tracks. “Fully?” he asked slowly, “You said they were mine. What are you trying to say?”
Whistler met his gaze. “Three of them are Spike’s.” There was the bomb and Angel’s face grew enraged.
Whistler sighed again and nodded. “Yup.”
“The PTB actually allowed Spike to have offspring?” Angel continued in his fury, “And from Buffy, too? Are they insane? Do they not know or . . . or understand that he’s a soulless killer with nothing more in his mind than blood?”
“Angel . . . ”
“No, Whistler,” Angel shook his head, his unfair jealousy at the thought of Buffy with Spike driving him as he went on with his tirade. The thought and the image of Buffy with Spike. Together. Doing the dirty deed was just . . . wrong. Spike being blessed with children. No. “This is Spike we’re talking about. William the Bloody. Don’t you remember him? Used to drive railroad spikes through people’s body while they cried out in anguish. And the PTB actually blessed him with children?”
“And who the hell do you think you are judging anyone? Least of all, my own father?”
Both demons looked up to find of the teens standing in the doorway, her arms crossed firmly against her chest as she glared daggers at Angel.
“Paige, go back . . . ”
“How, dare you,” she continued on, her teeth clenched together as she held onto her rising temper, “Who are you to criticize my father like you’re some kind of God’s gift?” she demanded with contempt in her voice. “You may not approve or even like him, but he is a good man. A man who made amends for his past transgressions in any and every way possible. He deserved the life he received after the Hellmouth closed and he got his Shanshu. He deserved every bit of happiness he received from my mother, me, and everything else in his life.” Her blue eyes became glassy as she went on to spit fire and scorn, “And I will not stand by while you drag his name through the dirt and wash it in blood like you were any better before you, yourself, got a shiny soul,” she tilted up her chin and added, “And trust me . . . he’s better than you . . . and definitely more of a man than you’ll ever be.”
Haughty laughter emitted behind her before Angel could stutter a lame reply to her rather admiring monologue about Spike. Aiden appeared, clapping loudly as he smirked and threw a careless arm over Paige’s tense shoulders. He chuckled for a few more seconds before staring at both demons. “Although I don’t really agree with her, you gotta hand it,” he said rather proudly, “The chit’s got spunk. And balls to spare!” he said, making an obscene gesture with his hand.
“Aiden . . . ” Whistler began but was quickly interrupted by another arrival.
“I don’t understand why you guys have to bully my dad. You’re in his house. You need to respect him,” Ariella suddenly joined in, frowning at the two blondes as she stood in the opposite side of the doorway.
Aiden laughed and leaned carelessly against the other side, arm still around Paige’s as the pair stared at the small skinny brunette. “Damn. For a tiny brat, you’re hella hostile. Kinda like a Chihuahua. Big dog in a little rat-like body. Think they can take on a pit bull when in reality they can only fight off a cockroach,” he chuckled.
“Leave her alone,” Liam said, joining into the fold as well, causing Whistler to throw his arms in the air in defeat.
“Ohhh, Poofy Jr. to the rescue, awaay!” Aiden said mockingly and then pulled lightly at his shirt, “You wearin’ your special tights under there? Big Kid Pull-Ups over some pink leotards?”
Aiden’s laughter was quickly joined by Brooke’s as she came forward and joined the group. It was two to three now. Buffy and Spike’s brood against Buffy and Angel’s, and the two ‘adults’ felt it had only just begun.
Liam’s jaws clenched as Brooke chucked him lightly under the chin. “C’mon, Lee. Don’t be so uptight. Loosen up a bit,” she said, moving her shoulders to emphasize the point.
“I will,” the boy said, still glaring disdainfully at his opponent with a mixture disgust and annoyance, “when he grows up and quits picking on a young girl half his size like he’s 12 years old.” Liam smirked humorlessly, “Takes too much after Spike . . . all his unpleasant qualities anyway. Next thing you know, he’ll be drawling an English cockney accent, donning on a black leather duster, and smoking up a storm from here to an early grave,” he mocked, but he wasn’t done, “Good luck with that. I’m sure Spike’ll be very proud . . . and especially Buffy, right?”
Aiden’s amused expression turned cold, his full lips set grimly as his jaw muscles flexed beneath his skin. His blue eyes darkened and his fists clenched in his sides. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stop right there,” Aiden growled through gritting teeth.
Liam smiled, knowing he was manipulating a weapon no one would dare use. After a bit of a tiff with Whistler and a few other little information through conversations and brought up subjects throughout the entire month they had been together, Liam had observed him and concluded a few things about the cocky blonde: Aiden had father issues. Serious ones that ranged from loathing to revulsion. And more importantly, Aiden felt a deep hurt whenever it came to his mother.
Liam knew it wasn’t fair to use Aiden’s family problems against him, but the boy needed to be taken down a notch or two. Plus, Liam was far from sick of him and it was high time he retaliated with his own barbs, no matter how more cutting they seemed to be.
“I wonder what happened?” Liam speculated sarcastically, “Did she up and leave you and your Dad’s sorry ass?” Liam shrugged an lifted a brow. “Wouldn’t be surprised. Her son’s father’s a drunken lout who gamble with kittens like he has nothing else to do with his unlife . . . not to mention . . . her kid turned out to be just like him and so much more. She would be so proud, don’t you think?”
Aiden nostrils flared as he kept short rein on his temper. “Fuck you.”
Liam continued on as if he didn’t hear him, power urging him on at bringing the arrogant bastard to his knees. With a killer smile that he inherited from his father, he went on, “Maybe she left to only make up for her mistake of having you . . . ”
A hard punch to the face stopped Liam from saying anything else, but he laughed. A laugh that brought chills to everyone in the room and worked its way down their spines, especially Angel who knew that laugh better than anyone else. It was like Angelus had been brought forth through this boy, and Angel feared him.
Liam’s gaze fell and connected with Aiden’s once more. “It felt good, huh?” he asked him, “To be a real man for once.”
Aiden threw out his arm to punch him again but Austin caught it and grasped it in his surprisingly strong hand. And for once since the day they all met the easy going young man with the comforting smiles and the laid back attitude, Austin looked madder than hell.
Eliza came forward and squeezed Liam’s arm to warn him about what he was doing and saying. He shrugged her away and continued to glare at Aiden. She then looked up, her eyes locking with Angel’s as he noted her anxiety and her plead. For what? He didn’t know, but something about her expression tore at his heart and somehow made him a bit uneasy . . . as though beneath all her innocence was a certain danger she couldn’t hide . . . or run from.
“Quit it, Aiden,” Austin frowned, coming between the pair and lifting his arms out to keep them apart. Liam smirked and Austin shot him a glare. “That’s enough, Lee,” he demanded. “You guys are acting like a bunch of toddlers.”
“That or two bitches on a PMS trip,” Brooke grumbled loud enough.
Austin ignored her. “This ends here and now,” he told both hostile males. “We’re all on the edge here and ready to tear each other’s eyes out. It’s understandable. It’s been a month since we’ve all been together. There hasn’t been a minute in which we weren’t stuck with each other. Tension can run high. And it’s also been a month since we’ve had a good meal and a good rest. We’re all pissy and tired, but beating the crap outta each other is not gonna help us any.”
Everyone kept silent, even Angel and Whistler who listened intently to the young man as he tried to wear down the sharp edges of everyone’s antagonistic and defensive manners.
“Whether we like it or not, we’re trapped in this dimension with one another. Yeah, it sucks and you all wanna go home or go elsewhere, but that’s not gonna happen ‘cause our destiny lies here in this place. Hate it and fear it as we might, we have a greater purpose here,” he said, staring at each one of them, “And we can either return to the past and reminisce over the good or bad times and sulk about it, stay in the present and stubbornly stay here and do nothing about our lives, or we can all move forward and make the best of our situation.”
Aiden looked and way and lowered his arm, hating the smug look on Liam’s face. But he swallowed his pride and tilted up his chin.
“Life is not hearts and roses, kids, and I have a feeling we all know and understand that,” Austin said, lowering his own arms as he took a step back from them. “So what’s it gonna be? End this now, get some food in our stomachs and rest up? Or are you two gonna continue this and brawl it out like children and have us sit and watch and then later tend to your wounds and never get to eat or sleep?”
Liam and Aiden kept silent.
“Don’t pick on her again,” Liam warned.
“Don’t compare me to Spike,” Aiden countered back before spitting on Liam’s black shoes and stomping off.
Liam tensed, but Eliza laid a hand on his shoulder and shook her head, “Please, Liam, just let it go.” Liam’s violent stance finally melted into weariness as though he had been possessed throughout that whole time. Eliza led him back towards the lobby and the others dispersed, following them as well.
Austin’s tired gaze met Angel’s and pride surged through the vampire’s body. He knew, as he studied the tall handsome young man with the short brown hair and the deep set brown eyes that this was his flesh and blood. There were subtle traces of Buffy on the lad’s face, but he was definitely a replica of Angel.
Austin gave him a crooked smile and left quietly.
“You should be proud of that one,” Whistler said, “Proud of them all.”
Chapter Title: One By One
Author: Baby Blues
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, except for the children and the story.
Summary: Angel gets a taste of each individual. More drama.
Dedication: To Tina, 'cause I think she's super awesome and 'cause I love her. Whohoo! *start singin'* hip, hip, hop . . . what was that again? *lol*
~Angel: You can't just leave them here and walk out . . . There's eight of them out there!
~Whistler: They're only children, Angel . . . And plus, they're not evil or anything. They're not here to try and kill you in your sleep if that’s what you're worried about.
~Angel: Well that just puts my fears aside.
The demon nodded, sighed, grabbed his mug, gulped down the rest of his coffee, and moved towards the coffee pot to get some more. “Austin’s the oldest at 21. Also the wisest. He grew up with the Powers.”
“The Powers? The Powers That Be?” Angel frowned.
“To make a really long story short, remember the Forgotten Day?” Angel nodded hesitantly, already knowing what he was about to say. It didn’t take a genius to find out, but Angel still dad to hear it. There were so many memories of that day, so many. And he had taken it all back. And with what Whistler was telling him . . . “You and Buffy conceived a child that day.”
Angel collapsed on his chair, gripping the table so hard that the edge broke off in bits of plastic and wood. There was the news he feared. He fought back the tears and the growing pain that consumed his body, engulfing him in torrent waves of grief. Not only had he given back Buffy for the good of the future . . . he had also given up his son as well.
Whistler shook his head and turned to look at Angel. “I know what you’re thinking, Angel. Don’t mentally beat yourself up over this. You had to do what you had to do.”
“But she died anyway,” Angel said in a low and dangerous tone.
“But she came back. That’s what matters.” Whistler returned to his seat and once again poured more spoons of sugar into the concoction than necessary. “Austin didn’t suffer there with the High ‘n Mighties. They treated the kid like a prince. The boy even had servants.”
Angel stared at him. “But he could’ve been here . . . with me, with his mother,” he said, trying to fight off the many images that attacked his mind; Buffy holding a baby in her arms while she rocked him to sleep, Buffy, Angel, and a handsome toddler in a picnic in the park, Angel dropping off a rambunctious little boy off to school, Buffy and Angel teaching a 16 year old teenager how to drive . . . Angel paused. Okay, that thought wasn’t as pleasant, but the idea of watching that teenager grow into a man and graduating college at Harvard more than made up for it.
Whistler folded his hands on the table. “And what would you have done? Stayed home and change his diapers while Buffy fought on the night?” He shook his head and went back to his coffee, “You would have been completely powerless. Austin would have been dead before he could say ‘Mama.’ ”
“Well, he didn’t, did he?” Angel snapped. Whistler sighed and the vampire frowned. “Are you saying that what I did was supposed to happen? That I did the right thing? For myself? For Buffy . . . for Austin?”
“As corny as it sounds, Angel, everything happens for a reason,” the demon replied. “Austin was destined to be with the PTB. He was treated like a God without it ever getting to his head, and he grew up with wisdom and knowledge beyond your imagination.”
Angel grew angry. How dare the Powers try to take his right as a father? He fought for them and they took away his future with Buffy and the son he never knew. Four years, the child would’ve been three by now if he hadn’t turned back the clock on that day.
Whistler read his thoughts. “He watched you every moment he could get. Watched moments of Buffy’s life as well as yours.” Whistler smiled, “He may not have been here with you physically, but the boy was here. He had cried, laughed, and shared moments with both his mother and father . . . whether they were together or apart. He saw your victories and defeats, your lives and your deaths. He saw it all and experienced it all with you.”
Angel sat back on his chair, some of his anger diminishing. “And now he’s here.”
Whistler nodded. “And to stay for good. Austin will definitely be one permanent fixture you won’t mind having.” He paused, “He’s a good kid, Angel. You’ll really be proud of that one. Even tempered and kind with the ability to take control . . . as you clearly saw.”
Angel couldn’t help but smile. It sounded all too familiar. “Like Buffy.”
Angel’s smile widened. He saw it in the boy. The gentleness, the spark, the sincerity. It spoke volumes of who he belonged to.
“He’s here because he needs a family. A chance to make up for lost time. I have a feeling he won’t give you much trouble. After all, he has the wisdom of the Powers. But too smart for his own good. Reminding me of someone else I know,” Whistler said pointedly.
Angel laughed lightly at that. “How about the others?”
Whistler took a deep breath and let it out. “Aiden.” One name said it all, and Angel already had an idea. “He’s a handful.”
“Yeah, and friendly too.”
“Don’t condemn him for that, Angel,” Whistler said stoically. “Aiden lived a hard life. I feel like I have no right to tell anyone about his past. I want to give him the chance to one day tell you or even Buffy what had happened. The least I can give him is that. The chance to say it in his own time.”
“It’s not gonna be pretty, is it?”
Whistler nodded. “Fate has handed him bad cards throughout his 19 years. He may be a Mini Spike . . . egotistical, proud, and as cocky as hell but . . . beneath all that is one hurt kid. Don’t let him push you away. And once Spike gets here . . . ”
“Whoa . . . ” Angel said, hands up in the air, “Spike? I’m still trying to get used to the idea of Buffy being here and now you wanna throw Spike in there as well?”
“Just listen, Angel,” Whistler said. “A lot of things will happen in the upcoming months. Let me just warn you now while I’m still here. You can have your pity party later . . . when I’m well away and gone.”
Angel glared at him but nodded, uncertain.
“Spike, at this moment, is on the brink of self-destruction. He doesn’t need to be blamed by a child from another dimension who was raised by another Spike. A Spike who’s a world different from himself. And he needs to know that.”
Angel rubbed his face and looked at him. He had sensed Aiden’s troubles. His personality more than made it clear. It was like a big neon sign in Vegas. And the thought of having to deal with that was not just terrifying, but exhausting. “As I told you before, I’m already having difficulties with Connor. Another reproduction of Spike will kill me. Permanently.”
Whistler chuckled. “You’ll do fine with him,” he assured, even though he didn’t know himself. “He may be a dick sometimes but his humor will amuse you if not drive you insane once in a while.”
“That helps a lot.”
“He needs a father figure, and I have a feeling he’ll be turning to you more than he’ll turn to Spike,” Whistler informed him, getting up for more coffee, “There are just some things that can’t be healed. Sometimes it scars, and it leaves a reminder. That will be Aiden’s biggest fault.”
“What about Buffy? His mother?”
Whistler shrugged. “I’m not really sure what happened. From what I gathered, she left him and Spike when Aiden was only a baby. At least, that’s what I’ve concluded.” Whistler smiled. “Buffy’s gonna find herself with a big fan when she gets here.”
Angel frowned. “Why do you say that?”
“If Buffy did leave him and Spike, Aiden was never bitter about it, surprisingly. He never knew her except from his prized collection of her journals he considers as Bibles. He’s put her on a pedestal. She’s a goddess to him, the epitome of good and everything sacred. He’s gonna be a Momma’s Boy. I can feel it,” Whistler smiled at the thought of Aiden, an arrogant son of a bitch, bending to Buffy’s will like a slave. Somehow, it just sounded too good to be true.
Angel smiled. “I understand how that is . . . completely.”
Whistler chuckled and returned to his seat.
“The next ones are Liam and Eliza. Twins.”
“There’s something about the two of them that I can’t seem to put my finger on,” Angel confided.
Whistler became silent and his gaze wavered from the vampire to the coffee cup and finally just staying there, seemingly having a sick fascination with the steam rising to disappear in the air.
“You’re fighting to tell me something.”
“I don’t know all the gritty details of how or even why but . . . ” Whistler sighed and gazed at the door as though he was waiting for them to suddenly appear, “ . . . They’re not exactly yours either.”
“Whose are they? Xander’s?” Angel chuckled lightly at the thought. Buffy may have strayed in a few dimensions with Spike but . . . Xander? He mentally laughed again. No way . . . Whistler said nothing and Angel’s amused expression fell faster than a dress on prom night. “Please tell me it’s not Xander,” he begged, wanting to get up from his seat to kneel on the linoleum floor.
Whistler shook his head, almost looking disgusted as well. “No.”
Angel sighed in relief, but was still tense as he asked, “Then whose are they?”
“Buffy and . . . Angelus.”
“Dear God,” Angel whispered.
“That’s what I said.”
Angel stared at the table with shock written all over his face. No wonder he felt more than just deja-vu, but sensed a tiny bit of dangerous familiarity that gave him the chills and sent his blood freezing with a tinge of dread. He didn’t know how to make of this new twist. Angel knew he was different from his demon, his soul changes his body . . . even if it was only in the slightest. But Angelus’ blood ran in those kids' veins. Pure demon blood, and Angel wondered what that meant for the two teenagers.
“Buffy killed Angelus before he found out she was pregnant. This was during Season 2,” the demon’s eyes widened when Angel gave him a questioning look. “I mean, it was during that whole thing with Acathla. Buffy and Angelus gave into some unbound desires. You know how that goes.”
Angel frowned. The thought of Buffy falling into Angelus’ bed made him shiver . . . and jealous as hell, but now was not the time to get all hussy over it. Nothing happened here, in this dimension . . . or so he remembered . . .
“Anyhow, Buffy raised them in LA as best she could . . . but died when they were eleven,” Whistler said sadly, and causing Angel’s stomach to churn painfully, Buffy’s death just that summer still fresh in his mind and heart. “The Watcher’s Council got a hold of them after that,” the demon shook his head, “They kept them for two years for ‘observation.’ They didn’t want Mini Angeluses running around,” he snorted. Angel clenched his fists in fury. The Council had struck again. “Giles finally got a hold of them and brought them to Sunnydale. They’re 18 now.”
Angel turned his head, his troubled eyes looking out the door as though he could feel their torment. The death Buffy had been hard on them, he could sense that in their weary eyes. But what bothered them the most, he could tell, was the fact that Angelus was their father. It left doubts and fear. Angel couldn’t blame them, he felt the demon’s presence in him all day.
“They’re inseparable. I sometimes worry that they depend on each other too much,” Whistler voiced his concern, “It’s not healthy even though they’re twins. They need to trust and let in others once in a while.”
Angel nodded in agreement.
“Brooke is another youngen of Buffy and Spike’s. Though definitely not as bad as Aiden,” Whistler declared. “In her world, Buffy and Spike divorced when she was 8. A year later, you and Buffy married. Brooke never really got over that,” Whistler said disappointedly, feeling pity towards the girl even though he would never voice it out. Brooke had too much pride for that. “In her eyes, Buffy betrayed her father, and you helped her.”
“So I shouldn’t be surprised if she calls me a Poof,” Angel said, almost smiling at the thought of the petite blonde who reminded him too much of Buffy calling him every nickname Spike has been known to give him.
“Yeah. And better watch out for Aiden too. He tends to be more lippy when it comes to that,” Whistler smirked, but quickly sobered, “She’s bitter, Angel, and pissed off like no other. She wanted that normal life Buffy had always dreamed about, but to her, it was taken away by Buffy, herself.” Whistler looked serious, “Buffy loved you there, even after she married Spike who became human by chance. But when you got your Shanshu, you weren’t going to stand by and hope another lass would capture your heart.”
“I know how that is.”
“So did Buffy . . . as well as Spike.”
“Spike?” Angel asked in surprise.
Whistler nodded. “He loved Buffy that much and understood that he would hurt more if she did love you and continued staying with him just because it was the right thing to do.”
Angel couldn’t blame him. No matter how hard it would be, he would’ve done the same thing.
“Brooke doesn’t understand the matters of the heart. That’s one of her faults, and one thing she needs to learn . . . that love is love . . . there’s nothing in between, and there’s no way around it.”
“There’s no gray in her world,” Angel concluded then.
“Only white and black,” Whistler confirmed. “And her father’s her hero.”
“And I bet Spike’s done everything in his power to make sure that Buffy and Angel were seen at a bad lighting,” Angel smiled sardonically.
Whistler unexpectedly shook his head. “He didn’t have to. Brooke has her own mind, Angel. She didn’t need her father for her to come up with her own opinions and conclusions. She just needed excuses. Any excuse down from Buffy being too much of a lovesick schoolgirl to you having too much of a big forehead.” Angel glared at him coldly. “You have no idea what divorce can do to a child.”
“I have some idea,” Angel said, remembering the time when he had watched Buffy crying dejectedly in the bathroom while her parents fought about her going out with Tyler. He knew, even though Buffy never talked about it, that her parents destroyed a part of her. Part of that security and love a child needs that could only come straight from his or her parents. Buffy may not have reacted exactly the way Brooke did, but the result was the same.
“But beneath all that, she’s too much like Buffy,” Whistler smirked, “And the best part is . . . she doesn’t even realize it.” Whistler sipped his coffee. “When I found her, she was beating the crap out of a Lyxus demon. Man, does she have some quips to put Buffy to shame.”
Angel laughed at that, remembering Buffy’s tendency to talk to her kill as though they care what she's saying. Especially vampire fledglings who are too young to really understand anything beyond eating and killing whenever they’re on the hunt.
“She’s an awesome fighter. Almost staked my ass too,” Whistler shook his head, “Took me a while to convince her that I wasn’t there to cause any trouble. I think I still have the bruises to prove it.”
“Is she gonna be a handful too?” the vampire naively asked.
Whistler chuckled. “They’re all a handful, Angel, but yeah,” Whistler paused for a moment, thinking of the rights words to describe the little blonde firecracker, “Just think ‘Buffy’ and add a dose of a . . . a female ‘Spike’ . . . like . . . like Faith.”
Angel groaned. Yup, she was definitely gonna be a handful.
“Paige is another Buffy and Spike love child.”
Angel looked fiercely at him for the description.
“She’s the only one out of all the Buffy/Spike offspring that came from a normal home,” Whistler explained. “There are no longer any demons in her universe, only the ones that come from within.”
Whistler nodded sadly. “Yep,” he answered and paused to look at Angel, trying to gather up the nerve to tell him why, “In Paige’s dimension, you didn’t exactly survive that whole ordeal with Darla coming back from the dead. You were too far down to have been saved . . . by anyone . . . even yourself.”
Angel closed his eyes, remembering that time of his unlife. It was the lowest he had ever been since receiving his soul. “Who . . . who killed . . . me?”
“Not Buffy, if that’s what you’re thinking,” Whistler replied and then paused once again, “It was Faith.”
Angel nodded, not knowing how to react to that.
“Anyhow, the rest of the A.I. Team went to Sunnydale after that. With their help, Buffy won and survived all the Apocalypses that was thrown at her. Seven years later, The End of Days was over and she lived Happily Ever After with Spike and had three kids, Paige being the oldest.”
Angel frowned. “Why is she here if her life is so . . . absolute?”
“The underworld will be throwing a curve ball around the time she returns to her dimension, just a few seconds after she left. There was no way Buffy or Spike would let me borrow their eldest to be trained to fight demons and other little nasties that go ‘bump’ in the night, and there’s also no time there for her to prepare. That’s why time has paused in her world so she can be tutored and trained here. The PTB hope to return her there in a year or two, until then . . . her physical appearance won’t be changing, and she won’t be dying anytime soon.”
“So her presence here is only temporary.”
Whistler nodded. “She’s a tough cookie. Willing and eager to learn,” the demon continued, “I didn’t learn much about her throughout the whole time she was with me since she was always so quiet . . . except for that little tirade you witnessed. But I think it’s only because of the fact that I took her from her home and threw her into this hell.” Whistler shook his head desolately. “It wasn’t fair for her, but we both know how that goes.”
Angel nodded in agreement.
“She’s gonna have a tough time here, and a tougher time when she returns to her world.”
“How old is she?”
“Just turned 16.”
Angel closed his eyes.
“Just when she’s only supposed to get her driver’s license and worry about boys and passing Algebra.” Whistler sighed, “But she’s ready to get started, and she knows and understands what she needs to do. She has a feeling if she gets this over and done with, learn a few Karate moves and kill a few demons and vampires, she’s up and ready to go back home and kick ass by herself.”
Angel snorted. “She has a lot to learn then.”
Whistler nodded and moved on, “Tristan is yours and Buffy’s.”
“I don’t think I saw him.”
Whistler shook his head. “He doesn’t like getting involved in the others’ tiffs.”
“He’s definitely my kid then,” Angel smiled, pleased at the thought.
Whistler laughed heartedly. “You have no idea,” he said, then slowly became solemn, “But that’s not the only reason why.” Angel looked up at him, waiting for him to explain, and he had the distinct feeling he wasn’t going to like what he heard . . . more than hearing about Paige’s happy parents as well as Liam and Eliza’s true blood sire.
“Tristan’s a loner with the intelligence of 10 Einsteins and then some. A real child genius if I ever saw one. He could put Willow and Oz to shame,” Whistler smiled slightly, rubbing his neck tiredly before a yawn escaped through his lips. “He’s a silent observer with a keen sense of the feelings and thoughts of others. He’s very much like Austin, but a mute compared to the older boy.”
“And that’s saying much, right?”
“Yep,” Whistler verified. The demon then paused, his eyes turning somber and dream-like, “Tristan . . . whenever I look into his eyes, I see the ocean, and . . . and he’s standing alone on the beach just staring at the waves like it’s talking to him . . . taunting him. And I picture him walking to that blue ocean . . . and drowning in his personal misery.” Whistler paused and Angel frowned at the sinister portrayal of one of his own sons. The other demon suddenly burst out laughing, “I know . . . it’s madness but . . . it’s there and I can’t seem to get rid of it.”
“Did something happen to him?” Angel asked curiously, knowing he was gonna flip once he hears his story as well. Was there no happy ending for any of his children in any dimension?
“He was conceived on Buffy’s 17th birthday.” Angel looked up, startled, and Whistler only nodded, “And he was originally named Alan Patrick.” Angel remained silent as he recognized the Gaelic origins of the name as well as the connection to one of his dearest friends. “Acathla came earlier over there than it did here . . . and Willow never got to finish the Gypsy spell before Buffy sent Angelus to hell.”
“And no spells can reach the hell dimension.”
Whistler nodded his head in reply. “Buffy ran away to L.A. and spent the rest of her pregnancy there. Angelus returned just when you came back in this dimension.” Angel looked up, alarmed. “They were fine for 6 years until Angelus finally came looking. He mentally tortured her with the usual stuff; nailed puppies on her door, left her boss’ hand in her microwave, not knowing the whole time about Tristan, which is quite surprising considering how smart your demon is.” Angel glared at him and Whistler cleared his throat and took a gulp of his coffee. “He finally came to her one night and began to turn her . . . Buffy shoved a knife into her heart right when Tristan walked in.”
“Oh, God . . . ” The image of Angelus in game face, blood dripping from his lips, and holding Buffy’s limp form came crashing through his brain. As well as the visualization of a young 6 year old walking in and watching in horror as his mother killed herself. Angel felt like he was gonna be sick.
“Angelus couldn’t save Buffy . . . and after tearing down her apartment, he finally took the boy and left.”
Angel gulped. “Angelus raised him.”
Whistler nodded somberly. “And changed his name to Tristan which means . . . ”
“Sad . . . in Gaelic,” Angel finished for him.
Whistler took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “The demon didn’t abuse him, he actually raised the boy with the best tutors, took him everywhere from Hawaii to France and even Indonesia . . . But he’s also seen a lot. Angelus might have seemed like a saint when it came to the boy, but a demon could only go so far.”
“He killed in front of him,” Angel deduced without qualms.
Whistler nodded again. “And maimed and tortured. Threatened and raped.” Angel stared at the ceiling, fighting the tears. What he must have gone through. “Angelus never did it on purpose, of course, but Tristan would come home early once in a while or walk into a room without knocking. But Angelus never hid it either. You know how he is. He did what he wanted whenever and wherever he wanted it. It was impossible for Tristan to be oblivious for the 9 years he was with the demon.”
Angel blanched. “Nine years?”
“Making him 15 years old.”
“He’s too young . . . to have seen what he, undoubtedly, saw.” Angel looked mad enough to kill. “God! . . . Why?”
Whistler could only shrug. “It was the way it had to be.”
“My son didn’t deserve it,” Angel growled threateningly.
“And now, you’re gonna make up for it.”
“Nothing can make up for what happened to him,” Angel said angrily, getting up on his feet and pacing like a caged tiger. He couldn’t believe the PTB would do this to a child. Even if they give him that ‘everything happens for a reason’ bullshit they can’t seem to get tired of. An innocent child was thrown into a world that belonged to fallen angels.
“No, Whistler, shit happens . . . this, what happened to him? Doesn’t happen to everyone,” Angel ranted on.
“But he’s here now . . . and he’s safer here. He has your protection.”
Angel finally stopped pacing and breathed out a defeated sigh. “He is safer here.”
“Yeah, I know. Now sit down. There’s one more.” Angel did so and waited. “Amelia . . . ”
“Ariella,” Angel corrected with a stiff glare.
“Right,” Whistler sighed and shook his head, “Can’t seem to remember her name most of all.” He shrugged, not really caring. It wasn’t like he would be staying long enough to need to know her by name. “Anyway, she’s very much like Paige. Grew up in a normal family home in a beach house in the outskirts of LA. Her house didn’t exactly have a white picket fence but the enormous pool with the built-in Jacuzzi and the ocean-view front more than made up for it.”
Angel lifted a brow, quite impressed.
“She’s a spoiled brat, Angel,” Whistler sighed, “She’s the youngest at 13 years old and going through her early pre-teen dilemmas. She’s also a model.” He rolled his eyes and almost groaned at the experience of traveling with a young girl too high maintenance for her own good. “I swear, if this trip had been longer, I would have tied her down and shoved an apple in her mouth and threw her into a pit filled with Fyarl demons.”
Angel glared at him. He was talking about his daughter here, even though she wasn’t . . . exactly . . . technically.
“But I didn’t,” Whistler quickly saved himself. “She’s as boy crazy as the next 13 year old with an appetite for Justin Timberlands and Ashton Ketchup.” He paused, frowned, and then mentally waved it off as one of his ‘weird’ things. “You may want to look into them . . . I think they may be demons.”
“Possibly,” was Angel’s only reply.
“She thinks chewing gum is unladylike and Hanson was ‘so five years ago.’ Her favorite color’s pink and she thinks Britney Spears’ a slut . . . Oh, and you might want to look into her too, she may also be a demon. A succubus perhaps. She loves Chupa-Chup, whatever that is, but I have a feeling it may be taffy . . . or a new nickname for Skittles. Anyway, she’s not much into books but she likes reading fashion articles and her horoscope in Seventeen Magazine, which she modeled for a few times. She thinks her dad, that’s you, looks like a cross between James Dean and a Romance Novel hero.”
Angel cringed, thinking of Buffy WAY before she became The Slayer. She may have been cute with an unbound soul and a heart that told all, but he had to admit, she was quite a Valley Girl. And when did he start looking like James Dean and trashy novel characters?
“But those were the better moments I had with this girl, when she let herself smile and laugh. The times between these?” Whistler almost cried at the memory, “It was filled with complaining, weeping for you and Buffy, and, more importantly, she bothered the hell outta the others which made THEM pissier than usual, and so everyone ended up complaining and angry too.”
He shook his head. “Good luck with that one,” Whistler grumbled.
Angel stared at him. “Does she have ANY redeeming qualities?”
Whistler thought about it for a moment. “She does have a pretty smile and an infectious laugh, other than that . . . ” the demon shook his head aggressively, “No, I can’t think of a thing.”
“You’ve never really been fond of children, especially young ones like her,” Angel pointed out, wanting to defend his own flesh and blood, even though it wasn’t technically true.
“And you wonder why.”
“And is she also here temporarily?”
“Yes, and you can thank the PTB for that later when you realize what I mean,” he mumbled out as though it was some big secret, “Amelia . . . ”
“Ariella,” Angel corrected once again.
Whistler continued on, ignoring him. “In her dimension, the existence of demons have remained a folk lore since time began. But that’s about to change, and the girl needs to be ready to return and fight to save her world.”
“That’s a lot to ask for a little girl,” Angel said worriedly.
“She’s her world’s only hope.”
Angel understood how that was. The girl would gain so much here, but also loose more: her innocence, her vulnerability, everything that made her 13 years old. And Angel felt guilty for he will be one of the reasons why that would disappear. It wasn’t fair for her, he realized, but not much in this world, or any other world for that matter, was fair. As Austin had said, life in every dimension wasn’t ‘hearts and roses,’ unless they were really lucky and ended up in a place where money grew on trees, evil didn’t exist, and Michael Jackson didn’t get enough plastic surgery to put 20 women with breast implants to shame.
“I have a feeling she’s gonna have the hardest time getting with the program. She was sheltered and thought her father was a God . . . ”
“And I’m nothing of the sort,” Angel said glumly.
Whistler nodded and sat back and stretched with a yawn. “And that’s all 8 of them.” The demon stood on his feet, rubbed his eyes, and grinned at him. “Good luck with that. Have fun. Don’t let any of them die. And . . . smile, Angel, smile.”
The vampire stood up in a panic. “You can’t just leave them here and walk out,” he raved, “There’s eight of them out there!” he exclaimed, motioning towards the lobby with an exaggerated wave of his hand.
Whistler chuckled. “They’re only children, Angel . . . And plus, they’re not evil or anything. They’re not here to try and kill you in your sleep if that’s what you’re worried about.
The vampire threw his hands in the air, “Well that just puts my fears aside.”
“Listen, Angel. I know how this seems to you. You’ve been handed 8 teenagers, each differing from the next like the colors of the rainbow. The only way to do that is by getting help. Call Buffy. Put your petty problems aside and work together. Figure it out and take care of them.” Whistler stretched and began walking towards the door with Angel right behind him.
“You can’t just do this!” Angel exclaimed, not noticing the eight teenagers who now had his full attention as they ate pizza and Chinese quietly.
“Bye, kids!” Whistler waved at them, eager to leave before the vampire went even more ballistic than he already was with the fear of having to take care 8 virtual strangers. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” he warned.
“Eat dick!” Aiden shouted at him in return.
The others chuckled and laughed softly.
Whistler frowned at the boy.
Angel paled even more.
“Good luck,” the short man grumbled, and within a second, the demon disappeared through the door and straight into the darkness, leaving Angel with doubts that it wasn’t Whistler at all but an evil copy of Whistler that had just dumped 8 of his bastards in Angel’s care.
He turned around and found 8 pairs of eyes gazing at him with curiosity. He looked at each of them and his heart new the truth he couldn’t deny. He saw Buffy in all of them . . . her kindness in Austin, her love of life in Aiden, her pride in Liam, her humbleness in Eliza, her spark in Brooke, her sincerity in Tristan, her eagerness in Paige, and her beauty in Ariella. They all came from her and held a part of her body, blood, and soul . . .
Angel vomited up blood on the floor.
“Eeww . . . ”
“Ahh . . . ”
An eruption of haughty laughter.
“That’s so gross.”
“Ammm . . . ”
And someone puked along with him.
Chapter Title: White Stucco Finish
Author: Baby Blues
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, except for the children and the story.
Summary: It’s the morning after, chaos ensues in the bathroom and kitchen. Angel gets to know his new wards and Connor meets his new housemates.
Dedication: To Marco, who finally returned my dad’s shirt and tie. Thanks, baby.
NOTE **Please Read**: I’m not gonna go for canon on Angel. A lot of the things on that show just bothered me this season and am not able to write down anything resembling to the whole AtS deal no matter how much I try and force myself to do so. Also, note that Vincent Kartheiser won’t be playing Connor. I’m sorry, I just don’t find him greatly attractive and Angel’s children, as well as Buffy’s, will always be beautiful in my world. So . . . Cordelia and Connor do NOT have a thing, Cordelia and Angel do NOT have a thing either, and Cordelia is NOT having a baby. End of story. It’s my fic so accept it or move on. ^__~ And also, the Buffy story line will stay true as much as possible.
~Aiden: Hey, Good Lookin’! . . . We all know people whose hair grows straight up needs a gallon of gel each day, but that doesn’t mean they need to hog the bathroom the entire morning either. Now open the door before we smoke you out!
Liam stared at the ceiling in silence and contemplation as the sun rose timidly in the horizon, casting the room in a bright orange and pink light with a cool breeze blowing quietly through the open window.
A few weeks ago he had been in Sunnydale, getting ready for school right about now, finishing up homework as soon as he and Eliza got home, training with the Giles after that, and sparring with each other for a few hours just before dinner. They had no mother, no father, no other family, they were just two orphans taken in by their mom’s old Watcher.
Now, they were starting all over again with nothing more than their past and a bag of belongings. In this universe they had a father . . . well, a vampire who was as close to their own real father as he’ll ever get, and a mother . . . who was alive and well from what he understood from Whistler.
“What do you think she’s like?” Eliza asked from the other side of the bed. She had snuck into his room right when he woke up.
“Same, I would guess,” Liam replied, not really knowing if it was true or not.
It has been 7 years seen they had last seen their mother. Buffy Summers had been 28 years old, still looking so young with her golden hair, sparkling hazel eyes, and a smile that always reminded Liam of home . . . of safety. It has been 7 years since she left them with Mrs. Brown in the apartment next door and gone out hunting as she usually did almost every night. She had been wearing a tanned cashmere sweater, a pair of faded blue jeans, black boots, and an old black leather jacket. ’Your father gave it to me,’ she had told them when they were maybe five or six.
Liam had a suspicion that Angelus wasn’t the type of demon to give anyone a leather jacket. The vampire might have had an attraction towards his mother but from what he had learned from the Watcher’s Council, Angelus had probably given her his signature blood red roses instead. At least it hadn’t been the dead bodies of her friends, which was also one of his favored and more grotesque signatures.
Liam slowly closed his eyes at the thought.
“Probably still burning the French toasts even as we speak.”
Eliza laughed at that, the sound reminding Liam too much of their mother. “She did have the tendency to do that, didn’t she?” Liam smiled and Eliza sobered and looked at him thoughtfully, “I miss those mornings when we’d get burnt French toast and a glass of sour orange juice to go with it . . . I actually miss it.”
Liam continued to stare at the ceiling.
“Do you think she’ll like us?” she almost chocked out, not knowing if she wanted to know or not.
Liam reached for her hand and took it in his. “Do you want her to?”
“I want her to love us . . . in the way she used to before she . . . ” Eliza couldn’t finish the sentence, but then she didn’t have to.
Liam couldn’t meet her eyes as his own thoughts finished the sentence for her: Died, Eliza was about to say. He knew what she felt because they went through every momentous occasion in their lives together. He was there with her when the police came to Mrs. Brown’s door the next morning and gave her the news of their mother’s death. The two of had been standing right behind the old woman, hiding . . . crying. He remembered Eliza clinging to him as she sobbed and begged him to bring her back.
“Liam? Where is she? Where’s Mom!?” she had asked him in a voice filled with panic and, her face buried in his shoulder. “She can’t be dead, Liam! She can’t!”
He stood there, tears silently falling from his eyes.
“Make her come back! Make her come back!” she had screamed when he replied with nothing. She then crumbled to the ground, sobbing brokenly at his feet with a hand grasping strongly at his jeans. “Liam . . . ”
“Liam? . . . Liam?”
“It’s different here, Eliza,” he finally answered, his thoughts coming back to the present, “We’re not hers. Not really.” He finally looked at her in the eyes and wished he hadn’t. He felt like he had just kicked a puppy. He closed his eyes and stared at the ceiling again.
He had always been Eliza’s protector as well as her twin brother. He didn’t want anything wounding to touch her, whether it was mental or physical. He wanted her to be always safe from harm. Why? Because he didn‘t want his last remaining family hurt or dead. The loss of her would be too great for him to survive. He would have no one left in the world. No one but himself. What would his purpose be then?
Eliza clung to him now, and Liam wished he could keep her from this. “I know what you’re thinking, and I wish you would stop thinking it. I’m not 11 anymore, Lee,” she said, sadness in her eyes. He always did this, as though protecting her from the truth, the world, will heal and shield them both in ways that was impossible. She clutched his hand tighter. “Tell me the truth. Do you think she’ll love us the way she used to when we were kids?”
“No,” he answered.
The hand holding his went limp.
Liam became angered. She wanted the truth, right?
“Did it make you feel better?” he asked cruelly.
“No,” she replied.
Liam sighed and pulled his hand away from hers and ran it through his mused dark hair. “You know that we’re not hers. Not literally. We may be part of her blood, her body, but we’re not part of her soul. We were never inside her, she never watched us grow up.”
“I know . . . but she will love us.”
“Eliza . . . ”
“No, Liam,” she shook her head and sat up on the bed, her back leaning against the headboard. “Whatever dimension we’re in, Mom will always know the two of us are hers.” She looked down at him and sensed his wariness. He couldn’t . . . wouldn’t have faith in anything or anyone. It was sadly one of the things he quickly had to learn and accept after Mom died. He had no hope. In his opinion, nothing good ever came without a price. And whether that price was too high or too low, it was a bargain Liam didn’t risk gambling with. Eliza had to prove him wrong. “A mother never forgets. Isn’t that what she always said?”
Liam gazed back at her. He remembered, but that was usually when they would steal cookies from the pantry and try and convince her that they brushed their teeth when really they didn’t. But he wasn’t about to tell Eliza that. Their mother, their real one, was dead and gone. The love she gave them went along with her.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Angel gradually woke up with a painful headache accompanied by an excruciating throbbing twinge in the back of his skull. He groaned and rolled over, arms splayed out across his down comforters. The pounding and the ache in his head grew as his hearing cleared through his waking grogginess. The sounds of shouting and knocking outside his door enhanced the hurt in his brain. He groaned again and stared at the ceiling with blinking eyes, trying to get a hold of his surroundings and his memories.
After the teens inhaled the food Fred had ordered, and Ariella throwing it up soon afterwards, all 8 went straight to bed with Lorne showing them their rooms. Angel followed shortly afterwards, too tired to talk to them and make them feel at home in this new dimension. He didn’t even know how to deal or talk to even one teenager, and now he had a house full of them he had to care for.
A knock sounded at the door again.
“What?” he grumbled.
He heard the door creak open, letting in the distant sounds of arguing. “Angel?”
It was Lorne.
The demon closed the door, shutting out the noise along with it. Angel let out a sigh of relief.
“Some of your kids are raging a campaign outside that will soon transform into The Battle of Saratoga.”
“The bathrooms in 7 of the rooms aren’t working. The toilets aren’t running properly and they’re not getting any hot water. Gunn and Wesley are trying to look into it. But your eldest, Austin I believe, is the only one with a working bathroom and the kids are lined outside it.” He shook his head, getting a headache as well. “Might want to get out there. It’s like a freak show. Very disturbing.”
“Can’t you do something about it?” Angel almost begged.
“I tried. Now, I don’t want to anymore. They’re your kids, Angel Cakes, your responsibility. And boy, am I glad I’m not you,” he almost laughed.
Angel groaned and prayed for some sort of peace for an entire day, not just for a few hours. What were the Powers were thinking when they gave him 8 more teenagers to go with his already troubled son and insane family was beyond him. Not only that, but they expected him to call Buffy too?
“You okay?” Lorne asked worriedly.
Angel shook his head.
The green demon sighed. “I know how this is . . . ”
“No, you don’t,” Angel denied.
Lorne lifted a brow but then shrugged. “Yeah, you’re right, I don’t,” he said cheerily.
Angel wanted to hit him.
But Lorne slowly turned somber when he noticed that this was really getting to the vampire. “What I do know is that there are 8 kids out there who’s had a hard life, and some of them, if not all, will have an even harder future. They’re here for a reason, Angie, and the Powers aren’t about to hand them to you if they don’t know what’s best for those kids . . . what’s best for you.”
“I don’t know how to raise children,” Angel looked at him.
Lorne smiled. “As you can tell, they’re not children anymore. And who ever said you had to do this alone? Get Buffy. The sooner, the better. She needs to know, she deserves to know,” he advised.
Angel shook his head and rubbed the point between his eyebrows. “I can’t. I’ve talked to Willow. Buffy’s got too many things going on in Sunnydale already. I can’t interrupt her life now. She doesn’t need anymore complications . . . especially not from me.”
Lorne frowned. “How about those kids out there? They need their mother.”
“They have enough family here, Lorne. There’s me, you, Gunn, Fred . . . Cordelia,” Angel added hesitantly, almost wincing at the though of Cordelia being a mother to these teenagers.
Lorne cringed too. “I’m sorry, Angel Cakes, but we both know that Cordelia is way out of her league when it comes to young people who don’t exactly . . . know her or . . . understand her . . . as we do. In other words, she’s no Mother Goose.” He sighed and shook his head at the thought of Cordelia as a stepmother to those 8 kids, and that‘s not even including Connor. “The Slayer may have a lot of things going on in her own town, but as those kids’ mother, she needs to know, not only for her sake, but for everyone else’s. You have 8 souls to concern yourself with . . . you have to worry about them more than yourself or even Buffy.”
Angel was silent, knowing full well that what Lorne was saying was true. Buffy needed to be here . . . to know. And those teens . . . As the green demon said, this was not about him or even about Buffy, it was about 8 lonely children who were taken away from their home, from everything that was familiar to them and thrown into a dimension unlike their own.
“Tell me you’ll call her,” Lorne said.
Angel looked at the demon and finally, slowly nodded. “Yes. I’ll call her.” ‘Even if it kills me,’ he added silently.
Lorne let out a sigh of relief. “Good. Now you can go fix the petty bathroom problem outside.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“Hey, Good Lookin’ !” Aiden yelled, banging against the bathroom door in Austin’s room as Brooke, Ariella, and Paige waited impatiently behind him. “We all know people whose hair grows straight up needs a gallon of gel each day, but that doesn’t mean they need to hog the bathroom the entire morning either. Now open the door before we smoke you out!”
“I’m almost done!” was Austin’s reply.
Aiden clenched his jaws and punched the wooden barrier. “C’mon, man! I gotta piss an ocean!”
The door finally opened and Aiden pushed his way through the door, causing the girls to groan and curse him. Austin shook his head and gently checked his hair before slowly moving away from the hostile glances the remaining femmes to use the bathroom were tossing at him.
He walked towards the little breakfast nook that stood by the window and sat down on the chair, throwing a quick glance towards the bed where the twins quietly sat and looking at nothing in particular. Although, Eliza was busy throwing a bright red apple from one hand to the next. She stopped and looked at her brother and held out the fruit, offering him a bite. He stared down at it and then solemnly shook his head. Eliza shrugged and bit into it, a bit of juice dripping down her chin.
Austin envied them. They had each other to help deal with this entire situation . . . they will always have each other if and when this all ended. How many of the others can say the same thing?
His gaze then moved towards Tristan who stood outside on the balcony, staring at the morning sun and at the buildings that surrounded the perimeter. Austin frowned and stood, walking towards the younger male whose eyes studied everything around him with sharp eyes.
“Hey,” Austin greeted, bending over so his arms leaned against the railing.
Tristan turned his head and gave him a small smile before looking at the street below, his motions languid, graceful . . . silent. He reminded Austin greatly of a patient, black panther, harmless and on the prowl, not for prey, but . . . for enlightenment, it seems. He was like a jungle cat . . . just watching a village of humans, not wanting to be part of their whole society, but not wanting to be exiled from them either. So all he can do was watch in the outskirts with perceptive eyes.
Austin became silent.
Tristan was the youngest of all the males, not to mention the quietest as well. He often wondered what went through his mind, what went on behind those blue eyes of his as he examined and dissected people with a quiet calmness that veiled an intensity that surprisingly never got the attention of those he watched.
Tristan observed, stored information, and remained silent. What he did with that information, Austin wasn’t sure.
Austin prided in being able to read people, but he couldn’t read the boy to save his life. But whenever he did see a little hint of something, he saw and felt and incomprehensible force that was beyond anything, even all the power he was surrounded with when he was still among the Powers.
“What are you doing out here?”
“Watching,” was Tristan’s simple reply.
Austin smiled. “I grasped that. But WHY are you out here?”
“I like watching the sun rise,” Tristan finally explained, his eyes never leaving the dim ball of fire in the distance, “Tomorrow I might not see it again.”
Austin frowned and was about to reply when a small commotion inside the room caught his attention. He watched his father cautiously walk in, fear and nervousness in his stance as his gaze wandered to and from Liam and Eliza who gazed back at him with a bit of awe and tension, as though they were ready to jump and run if he moved too quickly. His attention then turned towards the girls waiting for their turn in the bathroom, their things clutched in front of them as their eyes studied him in return.
“Morning,” he greeted.
“Morning, Daddy,” Ariella smiled up at him, causing him to smile at her in return. She was so adorable and vivacious as though nothing could tear down her little bubble. So much like Buffy when she was younger, a fresh innocence that Angel missed having around him.
“Morning,” the others mumbled in return, except for Brooke who rolled her eyes and with irritation knocked on the door, shouting at Aiden to get out before she picked the lock.
“What are you doing in there anyway?” she asked through the wooden barrier. Her eyes suddenly widened as she started turning the knob and pulling at it.
“If you’re jerking off in there I’m gonna kick you from here ‘til next Sunday! We need to use the bathroom too, and I certainly don’t wanna to see or touch anything grody when I get in there!”
“Shut it, Brooke, or I’ll take even longer in here!” Aiden yelled back in response.
Angel sighed. “My bathroom’s open.”
Brooke glared at him, wanting to tell him where to stick it . . . but her bladder quickly responded with a churn and she quietly groaned and marched off toward his bedroom with her chin held high, too desperate to use the bathroom for her pride to get in the way.
“There’s also another bathroom down the hall with only toilets and a sink. You girls can use it and come back and use the shower.” Ariella and Paige quickly raced towards it, causing Austin to smile a bit as he entered the bedroom with Tristan a few steps behind him.
Angel felt like bolting too. Four of his kids were staring at him . . . waiting for something. He had no idea what.
“Eliza, right? A-and . . . Liam?”
The twins nodded slowly.
The vampire cleared his throat and looked at the other two. “Austin and . . . Tristan.”
“Morning, Dad,” Austin greeted cheerfully with a wave.
Angel stood there stunned for a moment. The eldest had just called him ‘Dad’ . . . like he had been doing it for years. Connor couldn’t even bring himself to admit he was his father and this young man who he had just met only a few hours ago was already calling by a name reserved only for those who had a relationship that exceeded 10 hours.
Austin gently nudged Tristan and the younger boy nodded his own greeting with silent reflection.
Angel sighed. This was going super well. “I know this is awkward for all of you . . . it’s a bit more awkward for me. You have to understand I . . . ” he took a deep breath and scratched the back of his neck. This was harder than he thought. Just telling them his thoughts and feelings felt like he was stripping down to his boxers in front of them. “I’m not exactly good with people.”
“Yeah, just an anti-social with bad teeth,” commented Aiden who now stood at the doorway with a white towel wrapped around his lower half and water dripping from his hair and body down to the floor.
Angel frowned at him. “Thank you for that uplifting description.”
The boy shrugged and leaned against the door, waiting for him to continue.
The vampire sighed. “I’ll be calling Buffy later today.” He watched as all their eyes grew wide with anticipation and he smiled. Maybe things WILL be easier if Buffy was here. She had the most impact on most of the older teens’ lives, and it seemed as though they needed her more than they needed him. A thought that quickly punched him in the gut . . . But maybe with her help and her presence (that had the ability to always put him more at ease if not leave him even more in love and frightened) he can be more open to not only the 8 of them, but to his own real child.
“Do you think she’ll come?” Liam asked.
The others stared at him as if he had just asked if the moon was square. But his somber face never wavered as he looked Angel in the eyes for the truth.
“Geeze, Liam. Can you be anymore depressing? Get over the doom and gloom and bask like the rest of us,” Aiden threw his dirty black shirt at him. The other boy caught it and threw it back.
Angel stared at the boy. “There’s no reason why she wouldn’t.”
Liam said nothing, and he watched silently and without emotion as the vampire gradually realize his fear. He was, after all, the child of the demon Angelus. Nothing could ever change that, and Liam dreaded Buffy’s reaction to the news that the demon who had tortured her for months and did everything in his power to make her life miserable had gotten her with twins in another dimension. What would she say, do when she realized that Angelus’ blood flowed through his veins as well as his sister’s? Would she run from them? Terrified at what would happen if their own demons came out? Would she stay, but fear them? Just waiting for the moment when their own real demons came out to play.
“Buffy will come. I’ll make sure of it,” Angel said, locking his eyes with Liam’s.
Aiden frowned. “You’re talking like she won’t come at all. Like you’ll have to force her here . . . Dragging her kicking and screaming all the way from Sunny-D to LA,” he said, an undertone of command in his voice.
Angel sighed. “She’ll come here in her own free will . . . it’s just that . . . there are some things going down in Sunnydale that I know she can’t abandon at the moment. It might take a few days, even weeks until she’s able to get here.”
Austin shrugged. “It’s not like we’re going anywhere anytime soon.”
Aiden glared at him. “Why don’t we all just drive over there now and help her with the big Hellmouth problem. We can be more useful there than here . . . just sitting on our asses watching the Cheerleader’s hair grow roots.”
The others became silent, contemplating his words, and Angel knew they all agreed with him.
He shook his head. “There’s no possible way.”
“Why not?” Aiden demanded, blue eyes blazing in rebellion.
“We can’t just go waltzing into Buffy’s town like we have free reign. That’s her territory,” he told them. It would be unfair, just like it was unfair for him to have gone there during Thanksgiving, suddenly appearing in her life and leaving again just after he had left it. He shook his head, clearing away the memories for the moment as he continued on, “And I can’t just show up in her front door with 8 teenagers claiming to be her kids. She’ll have a seizure before you can say ‘Hi, Mom,’ ” Angel explained. He then sighed and rubbed his face wearily. “She’s got her own worries. She has too many lives to fret about and take care of. She doesn’t need us getting in the way.”
“Who says we’ll be in the way?” Aiden countered back, angered that this vampire was keeping him away from the one woman he’d been wanting to meet since the day he would remember, “I said we should go there and help, not be thorns in her ass.”
Angel stared at him, “But that’s what we’ll be. You don’t know Buffy like I do, Aiden. You don’t know how she gets . . . and when she finds out that you’re hers, there’s no way she’ll let you go and patrol cemeteries and graveyards alone or even by her side . . . not if there’s breath still left in her.”
He watched as Aiden’s eyes softened as respect for the woman he never knew grew more fiercely within his blue orbs.
“I’ll call Buffy later,” Angel went on, not wanting to argue with him any longer, “I’ll try and explain the situation here to her as best as I can. She’ll come when she can . . . But until then . . . how about breakfast?”
“Wow, he can fight evil and cook. Will wonders ever cease?” Aiden mumbled sarcastically. “Next thing you know, you’ll tell us you’re a hermaphrodite,” he added, shutting the bathroom door to get dressed.
Angel glared after him in disapproval.
“Don’t mind him. He insults everyone within his proximity,” Austin assured him, “It’s in his nature. You can’t take it away from him.”
Angel could only nod, still unable to believe that this young man was treating him like . . . a father instead of an absolute stranger, which he virtually was. It was a wonder, like discovering a priceless treasure or receiving a gift from God. This boy was his . . . his blood and his body. They ALL were. And it finally hit him . . .
He was their father, maybe not in the typical sense but . . . the feeling of fatherhood came to him easily as he looked at each of them in a new light, and he couldn’t help but marvel at it. He now had 5 new children he can claim to be his . . . he can claim to be his and Buffy’s. He beamed at that. He had children with Buffy. Will wonders ever cease indeed . . .
“Umm . . . Dad? You’re kinda freaking us out here with the loopy Cheshire Cat grin,” Austin said with a quirked eyebrow and a smirk of his own, “I mean, I know what Thomas Paine said: ‘I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow brave by reflection,’ but . . . truthfully? It’s a little weird. No offense, old man.”
Angel laughed for the first time in 24 hours. “I’m sorry, it’s just that . . . you guys are mine . . . and Buffy’s,” he said, his brown eyes twinkling. “I never thought I would see the day, but have always dreamed of it . . . and here it is.”
The others couldn’t help but smile at the giddiness and the utter radiance that showed clearly on his face . . . until a loud scream echoed down the hall.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Connor stared blindly at the ceiling as his alarm clock rang like a siren next to his bed. He reached out an arm and slapped the Off button. He grumbled out a few nonexistent words and rubbed his eyes sleepily with a fist.
He had slipped out of his bedroom last night for a quick patrol. He had grown restless just pacing his bedroom waiting for absolutely nothing so he went out and killed a few demons in the other side of town, well away from his father’s usual hunting grounds. He had just returned to his room a mere 4 hours ago, bruised and aching, falling onto his bed, asleep before his head even hit the pillows.
He grumbled again and sat up on the cushions, wincing at the twinge of pain on his upper back and neck. Gently pulling the covers away, he got up and walked somberly towards his bathroom, stretching his arms in the air to get rid of the slight discomfort in his shoulders.
Yawning, he threw off his clothes and stepped into the shower, at first making it nice and cold so he would be able to wake up from his early morning fatigue. He shivered and turned the knobs, sighing as the water gradually turned hot to relieve some of his pain. After just standing under the hot stream for about 20 minutes, he finally got out, grabbing his towel and wrapping it around his waist.
Opening the mirror, he grabbed his toothbrush and scoffed at the empty tube of toothpaste. He snatched the offending object and frowned down at it, wishing it to hell. With an agitated growl, he threw it in the trashcan and stomped off in search of toothpaste. He stood in front of Angel’s room and knocked anxiously. No answer came so he casually entered, searching for his broody father with curious blue eyes.
“Yo, Dad?” he called out, knowing Angel would still be sleeping at this time.
He shrugged and then walked further into the room, stopping in front of the bathroom and noticing that the shower was on. He knocked softly on the door, hearing the water shut off. “Dad? I’m just gonna grab another toothpaste,” he said and shoved the door open.
Brooke snatched up the nearest towel and covered up her wet naked body. “Get out!” she screamed, grabbing a bar of soap and throwing it at him.
Connor stood aghast for a moment, shocked and taking the scene in with surprise. He then smiled and leaned against the doorway, arms crossed over his bare chest and looking rather amused as he studied the girl who stood before him clutching a small white towel to cover her petite form from his interested gaze. “Don’t tell me you’re Buffy?” he smiled.
When all he saw was fire in her eyes, he straightened, “Please, don’t tell me you’re Buffy?” he almost begged, not wanting this hot sexy, little firecracker with the wet platinum blond hair clinging to her face and the aqua blue eyes staring up at him with contempt to be the infamous Slayer who had stolen his father’s heart. And if she was, he could see where his father was coming from.
“No,” she fumed and shoved him out the door with her right hand, causing the towel she held to ride down a bit to expose more of her breasts.
He smirked at that and then frowned, grabbing her wrist in a firm hold. “Then who are you?”
“Your worst nightmare if you don’t get your ass out of here!” she practically screamed, wanting nothing more than to beat him into a pulp and bang his head repeatedly against the porcelain sink, and shove him down
the stairs just to make it even more bloody.
He just smiled down at her in utter amusement.
She growled her fury.
“What the hell is going on? Connor!”
They both turned and saw Angel running into the room. Brooke shoved him again and Connor faltered back before she slammed the door closed, locking it this time. “Keep that asshole away from me!” she yelled, “I’ll kill him if he comes near me again!”
“Connor . . . ”
“Who is that?” he asked his father with a smirk.
The others followed behind Angel and he frowned.
“And who the hell are they?”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Ten pairs of eyes studied each other silently as the clock in the kitchen ticked by. There was the distant sound of their breakfast cooking in the background, accompanied by the continuous dripping of the faucet.
Aiden sighed and rolled his eyes. “Are we just gonna sit here and play Mona Lisa or what?” he scoffed, agitated by the utter stillness that enfolded them after Angel explained to his son what all 8 of them were doing here. One would think that Connor would say something, but nooo . . . he was, after all, Angel’s son and he’d rather sit there like a zit on a nose and stare at everyone.
The blonde stood up in frustration, walking towards the stove and sniffing the sizzling omelets, bacon, and sausages. His stomach grumbled. Glaring at Connor who continued to sit there, Aiden asked, “Questions? Concerns? Comments? ‘Cause I’m kinda hungry here and would rather eat than sit there and wait for you to say something.” He flipped over some fluffy pancakes, “You could at least grunt or . . . do some sort of shoulder motion,” he smirked towards the table, “Maybe ogle Brooke some more.”
Her reply was a flying spoon to his back.
“Be glad it wasn’t a knife.”
He glared at her and returned to checking over the food.
Connor stared at a crumb on the kitchen table. “What am I suppose to say?” he asked seriously, not really knowing how to react to all this. Yesterday, he had been the only child of the vampire . . . now he had a brood of siblings? He couldn’t even get along with his father and the rest of his wacky family and now he had another 8 strangers to socialize and deal with? He laughed humorlessly and sat lazily back on his chair adding, “What CAN I say?”
Angel shook his head sadly, “Nothing. I just wanted to explain all this to you.” And deep inside, the vampire feared his son would retreat from him even more just when he was making progress. Connor deserved so much more than this, ALL of them deserved more than this.
“Then there’s nothing to say,” his son replied with a shrug.
Aiden rolled his eyes again, waving a spatula in the air, “There’s always something to say.”
“Yeah, to a big mouth like you,” Brooke tossed at him.
“Hmm, funny, Brooke. Really. Har, har, har,” Aiden responded sarcastically.
Connor sighed. “Is it always gonna be like this?”
Austin laughed and nodded, brown eyes lit with merriment as he looked at his companions fondly, much like a brother would with his brothers and sisters, “It gets rather amusing once everyone gets even more riled up.”
“Whatever,” Aiden sighed exasperatedly, “Can we eat now?” Without waiting for a response, he grabbed a plate and began stacking food onto the surface as though he hadn’t just eaten an entire box of pizza alone last night.
Some of the others stood and followed, leaving Ariella, who was still a little sick from last night’s scene with Angel vomiting blood, and Tristan, who was discreetly watching Connor as though he would learn the boy’s entire life story just by staring at him.
“When are you gonna call my mom? I’d really like her to be here. I’m sure she’d like to know about me. Maybe the two of us can go somewhere together. Back at home, we used to go shopping every Wednesday and Saturday, sometimes Friday too, and Dad sometimes even joins the two of us and we’d end up eating at a 5 star restaurant like Chaya Brasserie in Beverly Hills. Dad really likes their wine selections there. Wouldn’t it be nice if all three of us can do that here too?” Ariella asked with a sincere smile, her mismatched eyes locking with Angel’s.
The others froze.
Aiden glared at her. It was the way the child said it that had bothered all of them . . . as though Buffy was hers and hers alone. “Well, Princess, guess you’ve staked your claim, and making plans already. Can we come, chicklet?”
“Yeah, where do we fit in that little picture of yours?” Liam asked with a frown.
“We’ll probably be carrying the bags and driving and opening the limo,” Aiden sneered. “Serving the caviar and asking if they want more water,” he added.
The little girl blushed and sadly looked away. “I’m sorry,” she apologized, not understanding how they seemed so offended by what she had said. She just wanted to share a memorable story from where she came from, not only with her father, but the others.
Angel read her thoughts. Ariella was too young and too naive to understand the others’ response to her monologue that sounded rather selfish to those who weren't as blessed as she had been. He could tell that she was an only child and had no experience ever having to share her parents or even communicating with teens older than her.
“We’ll we get tipped, too?” Aiden asked coldly.
“That’s enough,” Angel growled.
The boy glared at him. “Just ‘cause she’s your kid.”
“No, it’s because she’s 13.”
“And a spoiled pain in the ass,” Aiden mumbled.
“Like you, right?” Liam retorted.
“Me? Spoiled?” Aiden scoffed and dug into his plate, “Get a brain, Junior, and while you’re at it, get a pair.”
“Fuck you,” Liam fumed.
“I said, that’s enough!” Angel shouted, slamming a hand against the table ad causing everyone to jump and stare at him in surprise. He was sick and tired of their bickering, the way they tried to intimidate one another as though it would greatly help their situation. “Is this what Buffy’s gonna be seeing and hearing when she gets here? You want her here so badly? Then grow up,” he said, indicating mostly at Aiden and Liam.
“Screw you, you’re not my father,” Aiden shot back and pointed at Liam, “You're not even his either.”
“Shut up, Aiden,” Liam growled, unconsciously mimicking Angelus.
“No, I’m not,” Angel said truthfully, “But you do want Buffy here, all of you do. But if you're gonna act like this, I think she’d rather take on an apocalypse than waste her time dealing with all of you.” It was untrue, these were her children, and she would stay and become a permanent fixture in their lives if she could help it. But at this point, he was willing to say anything to stop the madness.
“All of you eat some breakfast, I’m gonna call Buffy now.”
Chapter Title: Beyond the Milky Way
Author: Baby Blues
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, except for the children and the story.
Summary: Angel calls Buffy and the teens make use of the gym in the basement. Some of the kids bond . . .
Dedication: To Lupe, we finally passed Bartending College ^__~ Remember, never bruise Manhattans or Rob Roys! Golden Dream= GTO, Cape Cods always gets a LIME garnish, and Blow Jobs are topped with whip cream . . . no flaming . . . unless you don’t want any eyebrows! Oh, and we also have to find a job. ^__^
~Austin: Then what is it you fear?
~Paige: Disappointing my family . . . watching them die if I fail.
All 8 teens stood silently by the open doorway to the office in a mute fascination as they watched Angel sit in his desk, staring intensely at the black cordless phone as though it would give him the answers to solve all his problems.
“How long do you think he’ll stare at the phone before he actually picks it up and dials her number?” Liam asked, not taking his eyes away from the unresponsive vampire that continued to gaze at the inanimate object.
Austin tilted his head to the side, “I’m not sure.”
“Then how long will it take before he actually gets the nerves to talk to her?” Eliza added in.
Austin and some of the others shrugged in unison.
“Well, let’s just hope it’s before I turn 30,” Aiden commented with a sigh, “He may be immortal, but I’m not.”
“What’s going on here?” Gunn asked, walking up behind them and curiously wondering what had their attention. When all he saw was Angel sitting there like usual, he frowned in confusion.
“Your boss’s having a staring contest with the phone. We’re betting on who’ll blink first,” Aiden said seriously.
The others remained silent.
“Brooding in his room,” Aiden replied, and then turned back to look at older black man, “It runs in the family, you know.”
Gunn shook his head. “Why don’t you guys make use of the gym downstairs. The floor mats and punching bags are gathering dust.” He shrugged, “Plus, it might do all of you some good to burn your breakfast calories.”
Brooke glared at him. “We range from 13 to 21 years of age, we’re not gonna get obese from greasy bacon and sausages.”
“To be young again,” Gunn muttered in a sigh, feeling old among all these attractive and gorgeous teens that were fit enough to pass off as a group of Abercrombie Models.
He blinked his eyes, steering himself away from that sad thought before finally noticing that the assembly of teenagers had taken his advice and were making their way towards the basement. “Have fun . . . and don’t kill each other,” he called after them.
They mumbled a few replies before disappearing through the door. He sighed, looked at Angel pityingly, and made his way to the kitchen, praying that there was still some food left.
Those kids would be good for him, and even for Connor. To have a few people around his age to mix and bond with will help him not only open up, but teach him how to socialize with those his age. And maybe with the return of Buffy, a few things will develop differently between everyone, especially concerning Angel and Connor. Gunn only hoped it will all turn out well . . . but who really knew except the Powers?
And with that last thought, he scrounged out the remaining pancakes and omelets before sitting at the table and eating silently in peace.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“Hey, check it out,” Aiden smiled impishly as he grabbed a crossbow that hung on display against the wall. “It’s an antique too . . . made in 1845 and was owned by a Slayer named Justine Lumias. Hmm . . . must be French.”
“Or Itallian,” Austin suggested, causing Aiden to shrug in reply.
Brooke scoffed at them and turned to Aiden. “How would you know?”
“It’s engraved on the handle, Blondie,” Aiden shot back before pressing on the trigger and letting the ammunition fly towards the target on the other side of the basement, piercing the silhouette of a man on the paper straight through the heart. He smiled cockily, “Beat that,” he dared the others.
Brooke snatched it from him, loading the weapon before aiming at the target with one strong arm. A single pull and the arrow went straight through Aiden’s shot, splitting the wood in half.
“How Robin Hood of you,” he mumbled.
She smiled smugly at him.
Austin was impressed as Brooke handed him the crossbow. “Not bad,” he commented, testing and studying the weapon with gentle hands and inquisitive eyes. He then held it up and directed it at the mark. A beat later, Brooke’s shot was split in half, crumbling to the ground along with Aiden’s previous shot.
“Show off,” Brooke muttered.
Liam stared at the floor and smirked. Taking off his shoes, he circled the blue mat that overtook almost the entire space of the underground floor. “Who wants to spar?” he asked to no one in particular, “Little one on one.”
Aiden smirked and took off his shoes as well. “I’ll take you on, Broody Jr.,” he said, lifting off his shirt and throwing it to the floor, leaving him in only a pair of black sweatpants. He flexed his muscles, his abs clearly rippling as he did a few stretches. “No crying and no bitching that it hurts, got it, punk?”
Liam grinned and threw off his sweater, leaving his upper body in a white muscle shirt, and gray sweatpants. “Got it . . . did you?”
Aiden laughed and then quickly stopped, flipping him off.
The others stepped back to give them room with Eliza off on one side of the mat, looking at her brother with a worried frown. “Don’t be an idiot, Liam,” she said, wanting nothing more than to take him on herself for this utter stupidity he was presenting without any qualms. “This is possibly the most barbaric way to solve your petty problems with each other,” she told both of them honestly.
Liam shot her a scathing look, sick and tired of the Mother Hen act she often pulled when it came to him. She was his twin sister, not his keeper, and she needed to know it. “Back off, Eliza.”
“Yeah, shut up over there,” Aiden added, “No one asked you, so lay off and let the boy become a man and grow a few pairs . . . to have some extra in storage,” he teased, sticking his tongue out playfully to the side. He then sent a teasing sneer towards Liam, “If I didn’t know any better, Lee, I would’ve though you was her bitch or somethin.’ ”
Liam threw him a hard, cold glance that gave a few of the others an uneasy chill, including Aiden. “Keep talking, Soap ‘N Bleach, I dare ya to keep talking.”
The other boy just chuckled impersonally in reply.
“This could be interesting,” Brooke pointed out as she stood next to Eliza with an excited grin and glint in her cerulean eyes.
The three younger teens sat silently on a backless bench with Paige watching on in uninhibited curiousness, Ariella feeling trepidation and uncertainty as she looked on, and Tristan, once again, scrutinizing the situation with a blank expression on his handsome face.
“A few rules to abide by. Please,” Austin interrupted in an almost begging tone, walking in between the two males who were ready and itching for a fight. It was too dangerous to leave the pair of males brawling with nothing holding them back. There was too much tension between the two of them, and the older boy feared that without a few regulations, someone would end up seriously hurt or, God forbid, dead. And knowing all the enraged testosterone between these two individuals, someone will definitely end up in the hospital or in a grave.
Aiden jeered at him. “Rules? Get over it, Aussie. I’ll kick his ass in any and every way I want.”
“You wish,” Liam sneered.
Austin sighed and prayed for more patience. “That’s just it, guys. We just got here. We don’t need anyone going to the ER anytime soon,” he mentioned, locking eyes with both of them to make sure they were listening and understanding what he was trying to say. “This isn’t going to be a fight to the death. No weapons. You fight clean. When one of you goes down, this’ll be over. Got it, gentlemen?”
The two paused.
“Got it!” Austin commanded.
“Got it,” they mumbled finally.
“Yeah, you two better get it. I’ll jump in there and kick both your asses if I see anything shady. Got it?” Austin demanded.
“Got it,” the two answered.
“Let’s keep it clean,” Austin said, hesitantly backing away as Aiden and Liam began circling each other like two lions fighting for leadership of the pride.
“I bet twenty on Aiden,” Brooke whispered.
Eliza smiled at her and then stared at her brother with pride, mentally pushing away her worry at the amused and dangerous gleam in his eyes. He was at his strongest when he got like this, but also on the verge of destructive and even animalistic. But Eliza had faith in him, and with the help they both received from Giles, they had learned to control the urge to draw blood from their enemies. The old man wouldn’t have approve of this fighting, but Eliza knew that Liam thought he needed to prove himself to the Spike prodigy, and she couldn’t do anything to hold her brother back. “I’ll raise you twenty more on Liam.”
Brooke lifted a brow, surprised that the quiet brunette would ever take on her wager, but she took out a twenty from her back pocket anyway and waved it before the girl’s face, “Show me the money,” she dared.
Eliza did the same and both girls handed the bills trustingly to Tristan who unofficially became the gambling holder. The young boy took it silently and folded it within his hand.
Everyone became silent and eagerly watched on.
Aiden was the first to move and Liam blocked off his hits fluidly, his bright blue eyes not straying from his opponent. A few seconds later, the tables turned and Liam was in the offense as his attack towards the blonde were blocked each time.
“Is that all you got, Lee?” Aiden goaded as he ducked a punch and tried to hit him back.
Liam arched forward, barely missing the hit intended for his abdomen. “I feel you’re holding back on me, Aiden. A girl can do better,” he goaded back, “Or is this how you really fight.”
“That’s good. Impressive talk for an Angelus rip-off. Not to mention it’s doing wonders in booting up my drive to kick your sorry ass even more, Wonder Kid,” Aiden growled and lifted his leg, kicking Liam against the chest.
The other boy faltered back and almost fell back on the mat, but he quickly caught his footing and grinned menacingly. “Now that’s more like it,” Liam breathed and charged, kicking the blonde across the face before bending down and punching him in the gut and spinning to kick him again.
Aiden saw it coming and did a back flip to move out of his rival’s reach. He landed gracefully on his feet, arms stretched out to block off anymore approaching moves. He then faked to the right and punched Liam across the face. The male reeled back from the force and Aiden swiftly took the opportunity capture one of his wrists to pull it behind him. Liam clenched his teeth but didn’t let out any sound of pain or discomfort.
“Say Uncle,” Aiden demanded in his ear, feeling rather amused at Liam’s unavoidable downfall.
But the other male growled deafeningly, escaping Aiden’s hold before lifting the boy up on his shoulder with a surge of strength and dropping him down on the mat with a loud thud. Liam then kneeled next to Aiden’s sprawled form, holding him down on the padding with a surprising force that surpassed even Aiden’s freaky strength. For a second, the blonde stared up at Liam’s eyes, shocked to see it shift from the usual color blue to an eerie glowing yellow.
“Game Over,” Liam said through clenched jaws, continuing to hold him down.
Austin finally butted in and lifted him off of Aiden, who stepped back, panting and frowning at the other male. “What are you? An X-Men reject or something?” he asked.
Liam shrugged, shoulders and chest heaving slightly from the skirmish as he stepped off the mat, not wanting to look at his sister who he knew was now looking at him with disappointment written in her eyes. He couldn’t blame her. Sometimes, the demon in him just liked to come out and play. It was a natural effect whenever he got violent.
“That’s so fuckin’ wrong,” Aiden spat viciously, wiping the sweat on his brow with the back of his hand, “He was using his super powers or something,” he insisted.
Brooke rolled her eyes. “Yeah, and next you’ll tell us he turns into a great big green monster. Get over it,” she shot back in anger, grabbing the forty-dollars from Tristan and handing it to Eliza who took it without a word. “You lost me a twenty. That’s the last time I ever bet on your pathetic ass,” the blonde girl pledged.
“Eat me, Blondie,” Aiden barked in return. He then turned to Austin, motioning violently at Liam who sat quietly on the bottom of the stairs, his forearms resting against his thighs as he watched Aiden continue to rage on at the unfairness of his life and the world. “The prick was totally cheating. Didn’t you see it?” he claimed.
Austin shook his head truthfully. Aiden always had a way of making even the smallest things turn into a big drama. He will nag and complain, pout and rant until no one can stand him any longer.
“I say we go at it again.” Aiden turned to Liam and pointed at him, “And this time, no usage of any sort of freaky supernatural strength, got it?”
“As I said before, get over it!” Brooke yelled, flopping down next to Tristan, “You’re a sore loser, Aiden. You’re just jealous ’cause he has ‘super powers.’ He won. You lost. End of story.”
“Shut the trap, Brooke.”
“What’re you gonna do about it?”
“Okay, that’s enough,” Austin said, coming in between the two blondes who were shooting daggers at each other with their piercing blue eyes. “And no, no repeat of the fight. You agreed on one and that was that,” he told Aiden who continued to seethe at his loss. “The best we can all do is save our strength and aggression when we start patroling. Got it?”
“Got it,” the others muttered in reply.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Paige watched her surroundings with keen interest as she gathered up her long, slim legs and sat Indian style on the bench in between Tristan and Ariella. Eliza had moved with Liam over at the stairs, sitting a step behind him with her cheek resting against his shoulder. Their eyes stared at nothing as they became lost in their own hidden world. Brooke was on the balance beam in deep concentration, doing flawless flips and cartwheels on the sturdy bar with her arms stretched out to prevent herself to keep her poise.
Aiden had begun venting out his anger and frustration on a poor, defenseless punching bag off in the corner of the basement. Sweat poured down from his forehead and chest as he pounded the bag with his fists.
Paige stared at him for a moment, still in wonder at how much he looked like their father. Everyone here had different similarities to their parents, Austin had Angel’s eyes, Tristan and Liam had Angel’s broodiness, Brooke had their mother’s eyes, but Aiden took the cake. There was no question on who he belonged to with his short, curly blonde hair, intense blue eyes, full lips, and playful grin.
It was strange to think of him as her older brother, but he was. The same blood ran through their veins, but then . . . they were so different. Along with Brooke, no one would ever guess all three of them had the same parents except for their parallel coloring. The older two had attitudes large enough to overtake the hotel, along with a temper that was precariously held by one fine string as thin as a piece of hair. They also had mouths that spat off one insult to the next to anyone and everyone who came near, especially Aiden.
Paige wasn’t sure if she should admire him or fear him. He was so . . . unique, it seemed. She wondered how he came to be like this. Her own father was gentle and loving. Yes, he had a temper, and he also had the tendency of running off with his tongue and saying things he didn’t mean, but in the end, he was still a caring man who put his family first.
Whatever happened to Aiden with his father, it tore him up badly.
“You guys wanna start doing a few exercises and moves? Get a head start on kicking some demon ass . . . butt?”
All three of the younger teens looked up at Austin who smiled gently down at them. Paige smirked knowingly at his pathetic attempt to cover up the word ‘ass.’ She liked him most of all out of everyone. He handled everything with tenderness, whether it was a person, an object, or even a situation. He was the easiest to get along with, his tolerant manner and compassionate smiles drawing people to him without them realizing it. In her opinion, he was the one person they can all trust the most . . . If only the others would realize it.
Paige looked at the other two and noted their silence. She expected it from Tristan, but when it came to Ariella, she knew the younger girl would be talking everyone’s ears off by now on how she might brake a nail. But surprisingly, the girl remained quiet as she wearily shook her head before looking at the floor.
Paige shrugged. “I’m all up for it,” she said, standing up and following Austin on the mat. The quicker she learned all this Kung Fu or whatever, the better chances she has on leaving this dimension sooner.
It wasn’t that she wasn’t fond of them all in her own way, but she just wanted to return home to the life she loved, a life where everything was right and normal. She missed her mom and dad and the way they used to cuddle and kiss whenever they thought no one was looking, she missed their morning picnics in the backyard, and most of all, she missed Scrappy and her two younger siblings, Paul and baby Andrew. She missed her aunts and uncles, her cousins and her grandfather. She just missed home and the comforts it always provided.
“What’s with the long face, Paige?” Austin asked, stretching his arms across his chest.
The younger girl followed, mimicking his movements. “I miss my home.”
Austin smiled. “It’s understandable.”
“How about you?”
He chuckled and shook his head. “No, not really. I miss the five star meals and a few of my teachers, but other than that . . . no,” he admitted with a shrug, “This is my home now. This is where I belong.”
Paige nodded. “I sometimes hope that in the end, all of this wasn’t put on my shoulders, that I don’t have to go back and fight for my life and for everyone else,” she confessed, “I selfishly wish that my parents would take care of me and save me from having to take care of them and the whole world.”
Austin nodded. He understood her concerns, her fear most of all. His own mother from this dimension was barely fifteen when she began fighting evil. He knew how unfair it was for someone as young as Paige because he had seen his mother go from a carefree sophomore to a vampire Slayer in one day. He also remembered the time when Buffy overhead Giles and Angel talking about a prophecy that declared her death. His Mom’s reaction had been upsetting to say the least, and he knew what Paige was going through was much worse since she hasn’t even seen a real vampire yet much less killed one.
“I sometimes get nightmares that I’ll die,” Paige choked, fighting the tears that threatened to spill from her hazel orbs, “And . . . failing in saving my dimension.” Paige whispered, taking a step away form him to try and get a hold of herself.
She then gazed up at him, straightening her back as she drew courage from somewhere deep within. Taking a deep breath, she swallowed back her tears. “It’s not death I fear. I can accept that because . . . we die at some point in our life, right? Might as well die doing something useful . . . like saving the world. I don’t fear death because I’ve already accepted it,” she said, smiling weakly up at him.
Feeling troubled that such a young woman at 16 can acknowledge her demise so easily and freely, Austin asked softly, “Then what is it you fear?”
“Disappointing my family . . . watching them die if I fail.”
“Paige . . . ”
“No,” she shook her head, crossing her arms as she stared down at the blue mat. “I remember climbing on Grandpa Giles’ lap when I was a child as he told me heroic stories of when Mom and Dad used to fight the forces of evil. He told me how they succeeded and won every battle. He looked and sounded so proud.” She shook her head and began toying with a strand of her blond hair, “I want my father to be able to do the same thing to my kids in the future.”
She breathed deeply and stuffed her hands in her pockets, kicking at the mat with her white tennis shoes. “I’m the daughter of the greatest Slayer in the history and her champion, the en-souled William the Bloody. I should be good at this. I should be able to take on anything that comes at me and win in the end, right?” she looked up hopefully at Austin for the right answer to her question.
“Doesn’t seem to me it matters very much how you start out,” Austin assured her, “It’s what you make of yourself . . . and what you are now that counts.”
Paige chuckled, her mood lightening. “That’s smart. Who said that?” she asked, knowing it was from one of his quotable heroes.
Austin smiled back at her. “None other than the en-souled William the Bloody, of course.”
He watched contentedly as her face brightened, leaving her features glowing from humor and amazement. She began to chuckle, and he knew when the tension began to slowly lift from her body.
“Whether or not you fail, Paige,” Austin began, “You’ll always be Spike and Buffy’s daughter . . . nothing can ever change that. And I have a feeling that they’ll be proud of you no matter what happens in the future.” He laughed, running his fingers through his thick brown hair, “And I highly doubt you’ll fail in saving your universe. You’re Mom’s kid after all, and her genes are the best out there.”
She laughed, nodding at the truth.
Austin chucked her under the chin. “So, let’s get started. First we’ll do some respiratory exercises. This’ll help you while you fight . . . ”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Ariella watched interestedly as Austin began tutoring Paige in the finer arts of . . . breathing. The older girl moved easily as her chest rose and fell in a deep, even rhythm. Austin made a few encouraging comments, and Ariella watched as his blonde pupil smiled at his words. She should’ve gone up there to join her but she was still presently punishing herself for her early morning monologue that left some of the others a bit miffed and irritated.
She turned towards Tristan who, as usual, remained silent as he watched everyone with probing blue eyes. He was . . . strange. Sometimes she wondered if he was mute or deaf with his lack of talking.
Sighing, she turned back towards the mat where Austin and Paige continued on with their exercises in hushed unison. But finally sick of the silence, Ariella turned back to Tristan and smiled at him. “Hi,” she greeted dumbly, cringing a bit at her perkiness that would surely piss off the others if they had heard it.
His gaze went to her and he grinned lightly in reply.
She sighed disappointedly. “You’re not much of a talker, are you?”
“I like to watch instead,” he admitted.
Ariella looked around, eyes wide and noting that no one was doing anything spectacular. “Watch what, exactly?”
“Their souls . . . and yours,” he answered before standing up and heading for the stairs.
Ariella frowned as she watched him climb up the steps in a languid pace as though he had all the time in the world. He passed Liam and Eliza with a short glance and continued on, disappearing through the entryway before he softly closed the door behind him.
She wondered what he had meant. He watched souls? It didn’t make sense to her, but then . . . not a lot of things did in this dimension.
Ariella’s thoughts then went to her father as she clutched her legs to her chest, resting her chin between her knees. She hoped that he’d called up their mother. She needed Buffy to be here.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“They’ve finally arrived, my lord.”
“Where are they?”
“Los Angeles . . . with the vampire.”
“And the Slayer?”
“She has yet to make an appearance.”
The man paused, thoughtful as he swirled the scotch in his glass. “We’ll wait until she arrives. Until then, continue to keep watch on all of them. Report all happenings to me.”
“Yes, my lord.”
The minion left quietly, leaving the lone figure in the darkness of the immense office that looked out into the bright lights of London. The time has finally arrived; his calling, the reason why he had lived through all these centuries.
He stood from his soft leather chair, gazing out the window. “My love . . . we’ll finally meet again,” he whispered into the night.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The phone began ringing, and Angel kept himself from hanging up for the 100th time since that morning. He took deep calming breaths that made him more dizzy than relaxed for some strange reason.
“ ‘Ello? And if you hang up again I will hunt you down and tear you limb from limb, got it, shmuck?” said the clearly irritated voice of Spike . . .
“Spike?!” Angel exclaimed in anger and surprise. He knew, from Willow, that the bleached vampire was hanging around, aiding the Scooby Gang in their fight if not annoying them to madness. But just the fact that he was there as the vampire who helped in the name of Buffy made Angel jealous and more than a little aggravated.
“Oh, it’s you,” the other vampire sighed as though he had better things to do than talk to his Grandsire. “What’dya want, Peaches?”
“What are you doing there?” Angel growled.
He could practically picture Spike grinning cockily at the phone from ear to ear, “Takin’ care of what you left behind, of course,” he answered, knowing he’ll get a rise out of the older vampire.
Angel took even more deep calming breaths. “Put Buffy on the phone.”
“Why would I want to do that?” Spike continued on, enjoying this little tiff with the Poof.
“Spike . . . ” Angel growled warningly.
“Keep your pants on,” Spike rolled his eyes, “What do you want from her?”
Angel sighed. “I just need to talk to her. Now put her on the damn phone.”
“Testy, testy,” Spike sneered, “I’m not gonna give her the phone until you tell me what you want, Peaches.”
“Spike . . . ”
“Yeees,” the younger vampire practically sang out.
“Give her the damn phone!” Angel finally yelled, fighting the urge to slam the receiver down and drive all the way to Sunnydale to beat the arrogant vampire down and shove the phone down his throat.
Then there was the sound of a shuffle, and a familiar female voice urging Spike to hand over the phone. “Hello?” a young womanly voice said breathlessly as the other vampire raged in the background about how she was out of her ‘bloody’ mind.
“Oh, hi, Angel,” she said cheerfully.
The dark vampire sighed in relief. “Is your sister home?”
“Yeah, she just got outta the shower. Hold on . . . ”
This was it . . . the moment he had been dreading . . . the moment he had been waiting for . . .
Chapter Title: Blue Sapphires
Author: Baby Blues
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, except for the children and the story.
Summary: Finally, a glimpse through Tristan’s eyes and a few moments in his mind. And Buffy heads to LA.
Dedication: To ToriBlue, whose e-mail drove me to write the next chapter as fast as I can. Thank you so much for loving and understanding Buffy’s children and enjoying my 8 original characters. Your perception of each teen gave me a happy. ^__~
Note: There are a lot of foreshadowing in this chapter. Hope you guys catch them all because they’re really important for future references. If you don’t want to be surprised, of course.
~Brooke: You sure told her.
~Aiden: I’m not a big fan.
Blue and vibrant . . .
Alive . . . with energy.
. . . There was so much life up there.
Tristan continued to gaze up at the late afternoon sky, shifting slightly on the bench in the hotel’s unkempt garden as his eyes searched the heavens, studying every cloud that languidly drifted by. He blinked once, twice . . . and decided that it would rain within 3 hours before the sun even began setting.
His blue orbs slowly traced a passing cloud, noticing the way the wind manipulated the contours so easily as it swept by.
Like smoke . . .
The smoke of a lit cigarette.
His eyes then shifted over to a tall building across the street from the Hyperion Hotel. It was a small factory. A simple red-brick building with two open, gray chimneys that read King Mattress with smoke emitting from the cavities and curling its way towards the blue sky.
Blue and active . . .
Brilliant . . . with a gentle force . . .
. . . When it was kind.
Suddenly, the large cloud covering the sun glided on through, and the intense rays caught him off guard. Lifting his hand up to cover his eyes from the brightness of the large yellow ball of fire, he rolled off the bench, his gaze swiftly landing on the clear doors that led inside the hotel.
He watched mutely as Cordelia passed by the glass doors towards the office area of the lobby. She looked, as always and forever will be, bewitching. Dressed to kill in a satin gray skirt that went down just above her knees, a pink top that showed a fair amount of cleavage, strappy black shoes that made her even taller than she already is, she looked ready to pose for a Vogue Magazine shoot.
It was still her everyday hope to be seen by someone who wasn’t a vampire or a demon, someone who would make everything right again for her.
Tristan saddened, yet his face remained impassive as he stared down at the cobbled ground, watching a group of marching red ants make their way around the front of his scuffed, black boot. He moved his feet away, folding his legs under him on the bench, tilting his head slightly as he diligently watched the small curve of their trail gradually straighten.
His eyes went back to the tall blonde as she made her way across the lobby once more, this time with a cup of coffee in one hand and a slim folder in the other. She was radiating loneliness in small waves that stabbed diminutively at his soul.
Tristan’s eyes zoomed closely on garden snake that slithered down a patch of grass, withered leaves, and dry twigs. It slowed and looked at him with black, beady eyes, its forked tongue flickering shamelessly through the air. Harmless as it was, it quickly moved on to continue its search for small insects, disappearing amongst the greenery with barely a sound.
His gaze went back to the glass doors of the Hyperion, searching patiently for his subject who had now disappeared in his line of vision.
A bird chirped nearby and his gaze followed it as the small animal went from one plant to the next, gathering what looked like lunch for its bundle of chicks. He smiled, his grin small and crooked like his father’s. The red breasted robin took off in a graceful flight with a quick flap of its wings and disappeared through the gates.
He then noticed Cordelia staring at him through the doors as though he belonged in a bedlam. She rolled her eyes, clearly muttering to herself about ‘damn weird kids’ and ‘what is Angel thinking of, bringing 8 strangers into their home?’
How misconstrued she was.
The only child of two spoiled parents that found money and their position in high society more important than the value of family and raising their little girl with true and important morals that went beyond the perfection of oneself. With a mother that contributed to charity only to suit the purpose of making her look like a saint among her peers, and a father that believed hard work and golf was the way of life, Cordelia never grew up in an environment like the ones her other ‘friends’ had.
She was led to believe that money got a person anything and everything they wanted, self-esteem was gained by putting everyone else down, and name brand clothes let those around you know your high status.
A distant voice from the past talked to him softly in his mind, velvety and smooth like satin, the smell of a rich perfume accompanying it, “People say that vanity is another form of destruction . . . that true beauty lies within one’s inner self. Tell that to your husband or your boyfriend, or your agent who can’t find you a job because you’re no longer twenty-one, tell that to your friends who have Botox parties in their 40th birthdays. Beauty is what makes us stand out better than all the rest.”
Cordelia had to learn true friendship and family principles when she moved to L.A. With nothing more than a few hundred dollars in her pocket and suitcases filled with expensive clothes, she had to start from scratch in a very unfamiliar way. A woman who was born with a silver spoon in her mouth now had to take care of herself with a little more than nothing.
It had been hard for her, and she was trying . . . even if she was moving slowly and at the pace of a snail. She was stubborn and prideful as much as she was blunt and insulting. Yet through the years, she still managed to change, if not dramatically. No longer a young woman who cared about nothing but herself, she was now part of a troop that she can call her family. And she cared about them, more than she probably realized.
Yet she still sometimes conceal her grown qualities with her usual Cordelia-like coldness and brutality. It was what made her Cordy, but it was also a trait that went against her. Her own malice, as unkind and sometimes a bit humorous, was what people used to tweak her nose in exchange. She comments on something with her usual cat-like retorts and someone snaps back with something even grittier in return. And more often than not, she wasn’t able to handle what she began.
And Aiden was and will be more than happy to be her adversary.
With Brooke off to the side as backup.
And Liam not far behind to help as well.
Tristan stood from the bench and began making his way towards the hotel doors with quiet, unhurried steps. He stopped only once to pick off a pink flower sitting alone at the edge of the stairs. Twirling the green stem, he lifted it up to his nose, noting without a facial response the smell of rain emitting from the soft petals.
Entering the cool lobby with the blossom in hand, his eyes explored through the massive room. Finally locating who he was looking for, he casually began walking towards her as she sat comfortably on her office chair, drinking her coffee and reading through her files.
Cordelia looked at him with suspicion above the rim of her mug, as though blocking him away with the small object. “What do you want?” she snapped with irritation, trying hard not to throw a fit if he did something remotely infuriating.
Without a word, but just a small gentle smile, he placed the pink bloom on the edge of her desk. He gazed into her surprised brown eyes and turned on his heels, making his way towards the kitchen where the smell of fresh, baking bread was sweetly drifting from.
He didn’t look back. He didn’t have to . . . because he already knew that she was picking it up with hesitant fingers, drawing it to her lips before noticing the fragrance of the morning dew on the blossom. He then felt her gaze on his back, and he smiled. She was coming around. Slowly . . . but surely.
She needed a friend for the upcoming obstacles in her path.
He stopped on his tracks just outside the doorway to the kitchen, looking into the lighted room as he hid quietly in the shadows.
Ariella sat at the counter eating an apple as Austin chopped a whole batch of them next to her small, miniature form. They were both magnificent and inspiring in their brightness as they laughed hysterically at something together.
Tristan’s gaze went to the window, watching in the distance as more clouds drifted towards the city. Gray and heavy . . . like smoke . . .
His eyes went directly to a boiling pan of water on the stove, the white steam rising towards the ceiling in small white ringlets.
“Hey, Tris,” Ariella greeted with a wave.
He smiled in reply and stepped into the room.
How fresh and untouched she looked in her plain white top and cut-off jeans. She was barefoot, her feet dainty and delicate as her hot pink toenails glittered under the florescent light.
“Pink - it's my new obsession. Pink - it's not even a question. Pink - on the lips of your lover. Ohhh. 'Cause Pink is the love you discover. Pink - as the bing on your cherry. Pink - 'cause you are so very. Pink - it's the color of passion . . . ,” a voice of a woman sang in his mind as a young girl giggled in the background.
How bright and innocent she appeared with her happy smile and careless laughter . . . yet deep inside, how fearful she was, how nervous.
His insides curled, yet his calm appearance remained.
It hurt to see it, to feel it. She was what made this world better, with her glowing aura, her untainted purity. She was everything all other seven wanted to be, wanted to go back to when they were still young and everything was all right with the world . . . where four leaf clovers existed at every patch of grass, Bugs Bunny cartoons were on every Friday night, fairytales always had a happily ever after ending, and chocolate fudge popsicles never ran out. Other than her fear, she was still uncontaminated. So much more unsullied than the others can or ever will be again.
“Sup, Tristan?” Austin’s greeting followed.
“We’re making jelly for the bread we’re baking,” Ariella offered.
The younger boy just nodded and took a seat at the table, folding his hands across his lap. He continued studying her as she and Austin went on with their cooking with much zeal.
Blue and green.
Ocean and Land.
The entire world was separated in Ariella’s eyes.
She was being threatened by this place, and Tristan wanted nothing more than to shield and protect her from the upcoming terrorization that was clearly making its way west of the United States and into their lives and in the places around them. But he knew that defending her from the reality of this dimension was futile. No one was safe . . . not even a person as beautiful and clean as she was.
“Innocence is a delectable delicacy at its finest . . . when you witness it, you’re at once awed, but once you conquer it, the taste is even more inspiring,” a voice laughed throatily in the back of his mind.
He closed his eyes and ignored it.
“You know, I’ve never made jelly before . . . let alone bread,” Ariella professed.
Austin smiled at her. “Well . . . now you have.”
She giggled. “Mom would have keeled over if she ever saw me kneading dough. I mean . . . ,” she shook her head, “Easy Mac isn’t so easy when you’re not sure how to work the microwave.”
Austin looked at her curiously, but not disdainfully like most people would have gazed at her with that bit of trivia she just shared. “How is that possible?”
She took another bite of her apple. “Our maid, Ester, usually makes our meals, including my snacks,” she explained with a touch of awkwardness and embarrassment in her tone.
Growing up as the only child of Buffy and Angel, she developed in a home of sweet luxury others would have killed for. Yet through all that, she still managed to have the genuine love and devotion of her parents and those around her. She was spoiled in materialistic and everyday things, but also in affection.
And suddenly having 7 other siblings will be a harsh lesson for her to discover.
Ariella never had to fight for her parents’ attention, and she now had four other brothers and sisters to share them with and three half brother and sisters to divide her mother’s interest with. Not to mention another half brother that the Angel in this dimension was truly a part of. It will be tough for her to learn that it’s no longer all about her anymore. That will be her ultimate challenge, and something that’ll be hard to understand and accept for someone as young and as sheltered as her.
Tristan’s gaze went back out the window at the gathering clouds above. Someone was coming . . . and with it was danger. And that wasn’t even the menace arriving later on. This was new, different . . . and it will bring chaos as much as a sense of peace amongst all of them.
Hell will break loose . . . and the past will come running towards the present.
But there is calmness after the tempest . . .
“It looks like a storm,” Austin said beside him.
“How fitting,” Tristan murmured.
Austin smiled and nodded.
Tristan turned and studied him as he directed Ariella in the finer arts of boiling water and making jelly.
Austin was an ocean of zen. The peacemaker and diplomat if there ever was one. They would all need him in the upcoming months, maybe even more for his wisdom and reassurance.
Tristan just wished it wouldn’t be so hard on him.
The Powers had been kind to Austin. They gave him everything from servants, personal tutors, and anything and everything a kid could ever want in life. But what they failed to provide for him was the love that only parents could supply. While the PTB had been benevolent and gentle with Austin’s upbringing, they had also been aloof when it came to personal emotions. After all, the Powers were known for their formality and their ironic way of twisting and turning the lives of those on earth, not in their friendliness and their way of making things easy and simple.
Where Austin got his laid back manner and consideration for those around him came from watching his parents’ lives like a movie or even a TV show, staying tuned as much as he can as Buffy and Angel went through their lives without even realizing that their own son was watching their every move. Austin observed them, and he suffered when they suffered, he laughed when they laughed, and most importantly, he learned through their mistakes as well as their triumphs.
Knowing that, if Austin had grown up without being able to watch Buffy and Angel as he did, he would’ve been very much like the Powers, distant, cold, and calculating.
Even now, Austin was taking their situation with confidence and faith. Making the best of things and keeping everyone from killing each other. He was truly taking his position within the group seriously. As the eldest, he found himself responsible for each and everyone of them.
The pressure of it will surely take its toll.
“There is no such thing as perfection. Humans are created to make errors and live to survive it. To try to grasp and hold onto excellence means more than just failure, it means the destruction of one’s true self,” the frail, yet sharp voice of an old man reached softly into his mind.
Austin’s future looked bright, but the bleakness in the distance looked threatening. It was still miles away, but how cruel to know it was there. And as Tristan continued to look into Austin’s deep brown eyes, he knew the older boy felt it too if not completely realized it yet.
His gaze went back out the window. The robin he saw outside in the garden flew across his view.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“Nice top. Where’s the rest of it?”
“Eat me, Bleach Job.”
Aiden shrugged and motioned towards her own locks with a nod of his head. “It’s more natural than yours will ever be,” he grinned becomingly.
Cordelia gritted her teeth. “Don’t you have somewhere else to be? Someone else you can annoy?”
He shrugged again. “No,“ he shook his head, “I’m enjoying myself immensely right here. But thanks for asking.” He smiled, “I didn’t know you cared that much considering how non existent you heart is,” he shot back in reply as he circled her desk, picking up mundane little trinkets. “Who’s this from?” he asked, his fingers circling the stem of the flower one of the boys had given her.
“Give it back.” Cordy tried to yank it from his grasp, but Aiden tugged it back, causing the petals of the blossom to scatter around him. She gasped in shock and stared at him in disbelief.
“Whoops,” he said casually, and tossed the remainder of the flower in the trash next to her desk. “It’s not like you care, right? I bet you get plenty of flowers from anonymous men with colorful backgrounds,” he said derisively.
Coming out of her shock, Cordelia watched his hands move through her other possessions strewn across her desk. She grabbed a framed photo of herself with some of the others from his greedy little hands and placed it back on her desk. “Don’t touch my stuff.”
He quirked a brow. “Your crap, you mean.”
“Get. Lost,” she demanded, on the brink of jumping up from her chair and throttling the kid to death.
He smiled and waved a finger at her as though he was scolding her, making Cordelia even angrier at the manner in which he was treating her. He continued with his browse through her things and picked up another photo.
“Homecoming Queen 1996. Sunnydale High. Freshmen Year,” Aiden read out loud as he stared at the picture of Cordelia in a fashionable gold and white dress, a glittering crown upon her head, and a big wide smile across her young face. He looked up and locked eyes with her livid ones. “Those were the days, eh? And look at you now. Sitting behind a desk, killing demons in your free time, and wishing for another tiara and Brad Pitt,” he laughed and stared back at her with the same intense venom she was giving him, leaning forward as he whispered spitefully, “Bad karma . . . and payback’s a bitch.”
Chuckling at the confused and maddening expression on her face, he put the picture back down on the table and left the office, meeting up with Brooke who stood by the doorway with a semi-smug look on her face.
“You sure told her,” she said as the two of them made their way to the kitchen.
“I’m not a big fan,” Aiden confessed.
“Mom saved her ass more times than I can count,” Aiden said, his face harsh and stoic, “The least the bitch could do was thank her.”
Tristan watched silently as the older boy stalked into the kitchen, his blue eyes dark and furious as he flopped onto a seat. How passionate Aiden was when anger was the source of it.
Fate had been unkind to him. As the only child of a vampire too depressed and grief ridden to raise his only son properly, Aiden was left mostly to tend for himself, even as a child. Growing up in a harsh neighborhood in Sunnydale, he was considered an outcast among his peers and even the children of demons and other oddities living in the Hellmouth because of his father’s peculiarity and history, his mother’s strange absence, and most of all, Aiden’s own cynical and solitary demeanor.
No one cared.
No one ever gave him a chance.
Even the Scooby Gang didn’t know what to make of him or even how to help him, their own bitterness about the past like a brick wall blocking their vision to see what was really important. And his father was barely a help.
The smell of cigarette smoke reached his nostrils as a voice mentally told him, “Life’s a bitch . . . that’s why I’m dead.”
Things could only get better for him.
“We’re making fresh bread and jelly,” Ariella told him brightly, her good mood too infectious to ignore.
But when it came to Aiden . . . “That’s great, Small Fry, just don’t burn anything.”
Ariella’s face fell . . .
And the room became silent.
Austin’s eyes darkened as he stared daggers at the blonde. Even Brooke, who sided with Aiden more than anyone else, was glaring at him in the same way.
Ariella jumped off her perch on the counter and practically ran from the kitchen.
The fierce looks of the others became even colder.
“Can’t wait until you have kids of your own,” Brooke shot at him.
Aiden sighed, rolling his eyes in irritation. He had never been around anyone as young as Ariella before. He knew he couldn’t treat her like the others, and it was hard for him to remember that she was still a child who may not completely comprehend or appreciate his sarcasm. “I’ll apologize later. Will that make you all happy?”
“Not really, but it might work for her,” Brooke retorted.
Aiden’s jaw clenched in frustration, but in the end, his conscience won out and he got up from his seat, following Ariella’s troubled trail. His heart was warming up, after all.
“I don’t understand why he’s gotta be an ass all the time,” Brooke shook her head, sitting down on the chair Aiden had just occupied.
“That’s Aiden for you,” Austin replied.
Brooke looked back at Tristan. “What do you think?”
Tristan’s calm expression never wavered at the question suddenly thrown at him. “I think he’s only getting used to the fact that he has 8 other siblings, if you count Connor as well.”
She looked surprised that he actually answered, knowing he rarely talked, if ever. “Wow, a whole sentence. Impressive.”
Tristan just smiled at her, his eyes zooming in on a spider that hung precariously from the corner of the ceiling, it’s web attached securely onto the walls. A Black Widow. Deadly with one unmistakable strike.
Brooke silently followed his gaze, squinting a bit to see what had his attention now. “What is it?” she asked, not knowing what exactly he was staring at or what she was looking for.
Tristan just smiled at her once again and turned to watched the doorway. Brooke frowned and stared at it him questioningly, wondering what he found so fascinating about the entrance to the kitchen. When he failed to provide her with an explanation, she stared at the door with him. Seconds later, Liam and Eliza walked in.
Brooke was barely able to hide her shock, but did not comment.
Rude, cunning, and with a weakness for chocolates and the cute and cuddly, Brooke was her mother 3 times more brutal with her own puns, physical strength and agility. She exuded confidence and a laid back attitude that made some people uncomfortable, but deep inside she was frail and wounded, hurt too many times by those she loved.
“You can’t choose who you love. Fate just does the picking for you. And to fight it is suicide,” a voice explained in his head.
Her life could have been “normal” if Buffy and Spike had stayed together in her universe. But destiny had other plans and the two blondes were just not meant to be. And Brooke’s denial and resentment over that reality was strong, and it was destroying her.
She always fought her urges to cry. To her it was a sign of weakness, of defeat. And whenever she saw her mother and Angel showed each other affection by kissing and holding hands or whenever her father went out on dates with strange women, she was reminded of the normality she was denied in her youth . . . and she did not cry. She never cried, not anymore.
Sure it had been 10 years already, but life wasn’t the same after Buffy divorced Spike and married Angel, moving only down the street and into the Crawford Mansion. The betrayal, the hurt, it was all still there like a corny tattoo on her arm. But what bothered Brooke the most was the fact that no one seemed to mind at all. Her own father barely cared that his wife had left him . . . as though he had been expecting it all along. And that thought troubled her even more.
Tristan’s eyes caught a small mouse scurrying against the wall in fear for its life. It paused just by the doorway and gazed at him curiously with it’s shiny black eyes.
Slowly, as to alert anyone, Tristan picked up a crumb from the table and dropped it by his feet. The mouse’s nose twitched and stared at the scrap that had just been freely offered to him. With hunger as motivation, it and scampered forward, sitting by his shoes it munched on the speck of toast silently with a gusto before dashing out of the kitchen satiated for the time being.
“What’s for lunch?” Eliza asked curiously.
“Bread and wine,” Liam answered with a tiny smirk after he checked on the heating bread.
“Where’s the wine?” Brooke asked with a small chuckle.
“I bet Austin knows how to make a barrel,” Eliza joked, gently jabbing the older male with her elbow as she grabbed an apple and bit into it.
“Grapes and time,” Austin replied unconsciously.
The other three shot each other knowing looks.
“Why am I not surprised,” Brooke smiled, shaking her head at Austin’s vast knowledge of all things trivial and essential. Without his wisdom, he just wouldn’t be the same person.
Tristan’s gaze went back to the platinum blonde. Brooke had her dreams and aspirations. She wanted more in life than to be just another Scooby Gang member trapped in Sunnydale for the rest of her life. She wanted to travel, to see the places she had only seen on TV, heard about from her father, or read about in books. She wanted to see Spike’s version of England, she wanted to open up a pastry shop in Paris, she wanted to meet and marry a foreigner who owned a vineyard.
She wanted so much more in life than what her mother had. She craved for a chance to live a normal life and do what she wanted to do rather than be burdened with a destiny she would rather abandon if she didn‘t have a ethics.
And now, to her, every one of her desires seemed hopeless and too far away to ever reach. Her future happiness had been shattered by what she saw as a careless and selfish act. Life to her could have been different if Angel had just stayed in LA and never bothered their lives.
Brooke couldn’t let go of the past completely.
She didn’t know who to blame the most . . .
. . . And she couldn’t forgive.
“I need a few more things,” Austin announced.
“What things?” Brooke asked with a slight yawn.
“And for what . . . exactly?” Liam followed.
Austin smiled brightly. “I’m going to make an Italian feast.”
The others paused and stared at him as though he was out of his tethers.
Brooke chuckled. “You’re kidding, right? Do you honestly expect us to gather around at the table and have a big family dinner?”
Eliza nodded. “Yep, you’re insane.”
“Can you just picture Aiden and Cordelia sitting next to each other sharing a basket of garlic bread?” Brooke laughed and gave him two thumbs, “Yeah, that’ll go well.”
“Family dinner from hell. I’d rather fight off 50 demons than deal with that. No offense there, Austin,” Liam sighed with a small smirk of his own.
Tristan stood up from his seat, grabbing a pen and a pad of paper from the other side of the kitchen counter. His pen poised on a blank sheet, the young boy asked, “What do you need?”
Everyone gazed perplexedly at him. Tristan hardly ever said a word, they all knew that, but to agree on something and side with someone was beyond their understanding of who he really was. He was an enigma they couldn’t quite capture or explain.
Recovering from his shock first, Austin quickly answered, “Fresh shrimp, garlic, parmesan cheese . . . ” he went on with his list, Tristan attentively writing it down with smooth, sure strokes of his hand.
“Oh, and can you get some juice too, please?” Eliza added.
“And tampons. Tampax Pearl,” Brooke inserted with a sly grin.
Liam fidgeted awkwardly, Austin coughed twice, and Tristan wrote it down.
“I’ll ask Dad for some cash,” the youngest male said and started for the door. But he paused at the entryway and looked out the kitchen window, just gazing at the horizon . . . and he knew, he felt her coming closer . . .
Mom was coming home . . .
. . . And the sky was still blue . . .
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Buffy silently hung up the receiver and stared blankly into space.
“Amm . . . Buffy?” Dawn asked worriedly, taking the cordless phone from her sister’s limp grasp and quietly placed it on the coffee table. “What’s wrong? What happened?”
Buffy shook her head. “Nothing . . . nothing big,” she answered with a small pout. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and tried to calm herself from the alarming news Angel had just shared with her over the phone. “I . . . I just have to get to LA.”
“What?! Why? Now?” Dawn questioned hysterically, shocked that her sister would leave at a time like. And to LA of all places.
“Listen, Dawn,” Buffy said, grasping her younger sister by the shoulders, “Something happened in LA and I need to be there. It’s really important . . . other wise, you know I wouldn’t leave now.”
“No,” Dawn shook her head, not caring if Angel was having some major crisis that needed the aid of a Slayer, or even if the Pope was asking for her. “You need to be here, you have obligations here in Sunnydale. The SIT’s, Spike . . . you can’t just leave now. Too much is at stake here, Buffy! People may die if you're not here to protect them.”
Buffy touched her cheek and gave her a small, forced smile. “I know, but just trust me when I say I have to be there. Please . . . understand,” she begged, “I’ll talk to Giles and the others and explain everything to them as best as I can, but once you hear what I have to tell you, you’ll tell me to get my ass there too.”
Dawn sighed, but hesitantly nodded. She didn’t know what Angel wanted, but she was sure he wasn’t going to call for absolutely no reason. And if Buffy needed to go to LA, she needed to go. “When are you leaving?”
“Today . . . now.”
Chapter Title: Trail Towards Home
Author: Baby Blues
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, except for the children and the story.
Summary: Buffy’s drive to LA, and Tristan, Eliza, Liam, and Brooke reminisce and get in trouble at the grocery store. Ariella and Aiden talk.
Dedication: To James Marsters who’s just . . . WAY too sexy. I’m so happy to know he’ll continue on AtS next season because I just couldn’t survive without seeing him on TV for a few more years.
~Brooke: Mommy! You’re fat!
~Buffy: . . . Oh, God . . .
“Hey . . . I brought you your shoes. You don’t know what’s lurking out here. Broken glass, bugs . . . broken glass,” Aiden repeated idiotically, placing Ariella’s pure white Sketcher shoes on the grass next to her.
She barely acknowledged him as she crossed her arms tighter around her bent legs and stared at the grass with glassy eyes.
He sighed and sat down next to her, not knowing what to do or even say, which was particularly strange considering he always had something to share with the whole class whether or not they wanted to hear it. He regularly had some comment to impart on an unfortunate individual, and whether it was cruel or malicious, it didn’t matter to him one bit.
Now it seemed that his tongue was stuck in the roof of his mouth as he racked his brain for something witty to verbalize.
Ariella had been the third person they had picked up through their journey through the dimensions. And during the time Aiden had spent with her, he had done nothing but tease and insult her mercilessly. It wasn’t as though he did it on purpose, which is a lame excuse all around, but it was his natural response to anyone and everyone near him.
He was bad and rude. He couldn’t change that. Not even if he wanted to.
“Look, chicklet . . . I’m sorry,” he began hesitantly, not sure how to make an apology since he had never really done it before. He never had to make amends for his actions. He was who he was and he didn’t apologize for being himself . . . and especially with what came out of his mouth.
Ariella remained quiet.
Aiden sighed again.
He watched silently as a lady bug landed on her crossed arms. She did nothing, she didn’t flick it off and start screaming like a little girl, she didn’t jump up to her feet to swat it away, she just gazed at it intensely as it scampered across her forearms, fluttering its small wings.
“I don’t understand you,” she said, finally speaking up.
He frowned. “What’s not to understand? I am who I am, and you should already know that. I’m a bad, evil man,” he replied, trying to keep the ruthlessness from coating his tone. It was the truth, and it angered him.
Ariella shook her head and turned her head to look at him as the lady bug flew towards the broken fountain, frightened away from her sudden movement. “You think your are . . . but you’re not.”
He scoffed. “What the hell are you talking about? You’re starting to sound like Tristan and it’s giving me the creeps.”
Now it was Ariella’s turn to sigh. “You’re not bad. You’re not even evil. You just think you are so you act out on it . . . and it’s disrespectful and it pushes people away,” she added in a huff.
Aiden didn’t know how to retort to that.
Ariella chewed on her lower lip and looked at him questioningly. “I don’t get it. This Spike guy is your father, right? And looking at you, I have a feeling that in my dimension he would be my Uncle William ‘cause you look just like him.” She brushed away a strand of her light brown hair and began twirling it between her fingers in a habitual manner. “I know how Uncle Will is like. He’s crude, bad-mannered, ill-tempered, and likes to hit on Mom a lot . . . but if you hate him so much, your father I mean, why do you act exactly like him?”
“I do not!” Aiden exclaimed in shock.
Ariella rolled her eyes. “You do.”
Aiden snorted at her and ran frustrated fingers through his short, curly blond locks. “I came out here to apologize and you have the guts to compare me to my father when you don’t even know anything about me?” he stood up and glared down at her with blistering cerulean eyes, “And what do you know? You’re just a spoiled, little 13-year-old brat who doesn’t know how to work a freakin’ microwave to save her life,” he bit out vehemently.
Ariella’s lower lip trembled and Aiden wanted to hit himself.
God, he was so bad at this.
“You are such a jerk!” she shouted, getting up on her feet as she stared at him with teary blue and green eyes. “I was just pointing out the obvious! It’s not like I’m the only one who sees it. I may be a spoiled, little 13-year-old brat but I’m not blind or overly dumb. I’ll have you know, I went to the best private schools in Los Angeles County and have the reading proficiency of a college student!”
Clenching his jaws and fists tightly, he closed his eyes and quickly counted to ten. He forced a smile on his face. “You know what, coming out here to talk to you like a mature person was a big mistake. I can see that now.”
“Like you know how to be mature, Aiden,” she shot back.
He wanted to smack her.
Her features suddenly softened as her anger slowly ebbed away, but her eyes were still glassy with tears that threatened to spill. She sniffled and rubbed at her eyes. “Look . . . I’m sorry too,” she sobbed, the tears finally flowing down her cheeks in tiny streams. “Like you, my Mom is Buffy, and I sometimes tend to run off with my tongue and ramble on like her. But . . . ” she stared at him with something akin to tender, “ . . . you’re my brother . . . ”
Aiden stared at her as though she had just struck him a hard punch against his stomach. He shook his head lightly. “You-you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”
Ariella frowned. “You ARE my brother. My half brother, but still my brother,” she assured him, “We all have the same mother in Buffy Summers. That makes us a family . . . all of us.”
Aiden looked away from her and turned to stare at the closed doors of the Hyperion Hotel. A family? What the hell did he know about families? He grew up practically taking care of himself. He had no family, not in his father, not in the Scooby Gang. He didn’t even have any friends . . . no one to call an ally or even an aunt or an uncle. He was a loner with no one significant in his life. HE wasn’t important in anyone’s life.
So how did someone become part of a family when that someone didn’t know how to?
“You should go back inside,” he told her softly, “Looks like a storm.”
“Aiden?” Ariella asked worriedly.
He sighed. “I . . . I can’t talk right now. Tell them I’m out for a walk. I’ll be back after night falls. I need to kill something,” he explained as he backed away from her, quickly getting lost in his private thoughts.
He made his way towards the massive black gates in silent contemplation, his frown masking his face. Unlocking the latch, he slipped through the metal gateway and disappeared behind the hedges.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“The Slayer is approximately 35 minutes away from Los Angeles at this moment, your grace.”
The minion paused, staring at his superior restlessly.
“Your eldest son arrived a few hours ago.”
The man growled and slammed his palm against his desk, causing his underling to jump and step back in fear of his wrath. “I told him to stay home.”
“He says he may be of help,” the follower said nervously.
That caused the larger man to pause. “Send him to me. In the meanwhile, call the warlock. I want the spell done before the Slayer reaches Downtown LA.” His face hardened in the darkness, “And if he fails me again . . . he’s as good as dead.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“One Of These Days” Hotel Paper Michelle Branch
The 2-hour drive to LA was uneventful as Buffy swerved through the semi-empty highways towards the City of Angels later that afternoon. The most interesting part of the drive was wincing every time an innocent bug splattered against the windshield of her car, leaving green-like mush and gunk over the surface.
Making a sound of revulsion as she turned on the windshield wiper, her thoughts quickly went to Sunnydale, praying to the higher beings to take care of her family until she came back.
~I didn’t notice I didn’t care I tried being honest But that left me nowhere~
Buffy thrummed her fingers against the steering wheel to the slow beat of the song as she zipped through the road, her thoughts returning to the present or future situation, however one looked at it.
“Buffy . . . ”
“Angel . . . ”
“Ho-how are you?”
“I’m good . . . You?”
Buffy closed her eyes. He sounded so nervous, so . . . sexy. She had missed hearing his voice, that deep rumble that traveled its way from deep within his throat and through his thin yet luscious lips.
Her stomach clenched uncomfortably at the remembrance of his rich tone that vibrated through the air in sensual waves. She was still hopelessly in love with him after all this time they had been apart. All it took was the sound of his voice coming from the back of her mind, the perfect shade of brown on a piece of chocolate, and the cold touch of Spike for her to be reminded of him and make her feel like she was 16 all over again.
~I watched the station Saw the bus pulling through And I don’t mind saying A part of me left with you~
“Are you busy? I can call back,” he assured her uncertainly.
“No. Just came out of the shower.”
A long pause in his part. “I have to talk to you.”
“Okay . . . as long as it’s not anything about an apocalypse ‘cause I’m kinda busy with the one here,” she tried to joke through the uneasiness.
“Not really . . . ”
And then came the bomb he dropped on her through the phone, and she felt ill.
~So one of these days I won’t be afraid of staying with you I hope and I pray Waiting to find a way back to you ‘Cause that’s where I’m home~
“How? Why? How?” she asked him in quiet shock.
Angel sighed. “I don’t know.”
“I’m sorry,” he apologized sincerely, “I don’t know much either . . . They’re just here, left in my care . . . OUR care.”
“I think I’m gonna throw up.”
~Did I make you nervous? Did I ask for too much? And was I not deserving One second of your touch~
“How are they? Are they ok?” she demanded in a flurry of questions. “What do they look like?” she asked curiously, “Perfect? Healthy?”
Buffy wanted to cry when she heard him whisper that word . . . as though he was describing her through them. And the way he said had caused her heart to beat a little faster and her breath come in short puffs.
“How many are there?”
“Eight,” he answered and then added, “And they’re all yours.”
“All mine,” she echoed. Just as I wish you were all mine . . .
“You need to come here, Buffy. You need to be in LA,” he said, “They all need you here right now . . . ” He took a deep unsteady breath and then added in a soft whisper, “I . . . I need you.”
And with those words, her tears began to fall.
“I’ll be there . . . ”
~One of these days I won’t be afraid of stayin’ with you I hope and I pray Waiting to find a way back to you ‘Cause that’s where I’m home~
The buildings of Downtown LA came into view, tall and massive. There was a certain comfort in being back to her hometown, to the lights, the madness, the chaos . . . the shoes.
She smiled at that and then sighed wearily.
Eight children, teens to be exact. My God, she could barely handle Dawn and now she had 8 more kids to care for, each going through coming-of-age dilemmas and rampant hormones.
It was during these moments that Buffy wished her mom was still alive, giving her comfort and words of maternal wisdom.
How was she able to be a mother, a mentor, a teacher to these 8 when she, herself, was still a bit of a child herself . . . not fully an adult yet. This was worse than becoming a teen mother. She had skipped through the conceiving process, the pregnancy, the labor, and all the good and bad stuff that a mother experienced with her children. She escaped almost every vital part of parenthood and is now going through the teen phase without even a warning.
She frowned and once again felt ill.
~What would you do if I could have you? Oh, if I could I’d let you feel everything I’m thinking Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t that be nice?~
The future looked unclear, and she had her fears, her doubts, her reservations . . . But when was anything ever easy, especially when it came to a Slayer? She’ll fight the demons that lie ahead, she’ll care for those she loved, and she’ll tend to these kids like they were truly and really hers.
With a new sense of peace at that thought, she drove on . . .
~And one of these days I won’t be afraid of staying with you~
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“Hey there, honey. Looking for a bit of a rough and tumble?” one of the whores lurking in the alley asked huskily.
Aiden smirked cynically. “Maybe next time.”
“Suit yourself. I’ll be here all week if I don’t get shit on by the pigs.”
Aiden laughed cruelly and waved, stuffing his hands in his pockets as he wound his way through the streets of LA, not particularly caring where he ended up and what kind of creature he’ll meet. He was looking for trouble and eager to kick some ass, yet it looked as though it was a dead late afternoon. If he was back in Sunnydale, he would’ve killed at least 2 demons by now.
He scratched the back of his neck and leaned against a redbrick wall of an abandoned building, watching pedestrians walking by, deep in thought and lost in their own world. Probably worrying about money, agonizing over their love life, stressing about their family . . .
He paused mid-thought.
How strange that sounded . . . in his mind, on his tongue.
“Family,” he tried it out, the word sounding foreign and raspy coming out of his mouth.
He knew nothing about having and being in a family. Spike had barely been a father to him so he never considered the vampire family. The demon was more like an acquaintance who housed him rather than the person who sired him the old fashioned way.
The reality of it all was that he didn’t have any family, had no inkling of what a family was all about. He had no clue what it meant to have a real place to call home, to have parents who genuinely cared for him, and annoying brothers and sisters who wouldn’t leave him alone. How did one interact with a family? And more importantly, how did one get along with them?
He didn’t know.
From the moment Aiden could first remember, he had always taken care of himself. He made his own bed every morning and cleaned up his own room without being told to while Spike drunk himself into an oblivion, he even made his own snacks and sometimes cooked his own meals while his father watched old reruns on TV until he passed out on the couch.
At the age of 5, when Aiden realized that there was such a thing as school, he begged his father to put him in kindergarten with all the other kids and even demons. When Spike refused, saying that he could handle teaching his own son how to read and multiply, Aiden quickly turned to Willow for help. At FIVE he was already making his own choices, his own decisions, and begging people who don’t seem to care the least bit about him for help. It was also the first, last, and only time he asked the redhead for anything.
At 11 years old, he got his first job. Spike hadn’t wanted to waste any money for some of his necessities, so Aiden began working at Joe’s Bar, washing dishes for $4.50-an-hour just to earn what he can for some of the things he wanted, such as books and little things that made life more pleasant . . . like chocolate and classic, black and white movies they showed at The Old Matinee theater.
He even began killing vampires when he was just 13 years old. He had taught himself how to fight by watching action films, brawls that occurred often in the streets, spying on the Scooby Gang while they patrolled together, and mostly from his own experiences just so he could guard Sunnydale and take over what his mother had left behind. And he did so for years on his own, killing vampires and demons alike at night while he went to school during the day. Spike barely noticed and was never troubled by the late nights and the bruises. He thought he was just out partying like the rest of the teenagers in Sunnydale and fighting for the fun of it.
Aiden snorted. Right, getting beaten up at 1 in the morning by a Kulivias demon was uber fun.
He once even died at 16 in the hospital from blood loss, only for a few minutes before the doctors revived him . . .
No one had been there to worry over him and keep a vigil outside his hospital room, no one visited him to see how he was doing . . . no one seemed to care.
And Aiden did it all on his own with barely any help from the vampire he lived with or the people who his mother considered family, he did it all by himself with a developed sense of dignity, pride, and mature wisdom that a person his age had yet to learn or go through. To be on your own, to have absolutely nobody in your life was an existence few should suffer.
So . . . what WAS family?
. . .
Can you really blame a guy who has never known such a thing?
Aiden stared at the cars lined up like cattle in front of him. His gaze fell to a gorgeous blonde sitting in a dark green jeep, lost in her own reflections. And the only thought that came to his mind and out of his mouth was, “Mom,” before the car drove away.
“Mom!” he yelled after it.
He stood on the sidewalk, his heart beating rapidly as he stared after it, watching it disappear around the corner. Quickly coming out of his shock, he ran to follow, charging his way through the crowds that stood in his way . . . And not once noticing the demon that lurked in the shadows of an alley.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“What the hell do you want!?”
The person on the other line sputtered for a few seconds at the rather rude greeting before finally answering indignantly, “The spell . . . for His Grace.”
“Yes . . . ” the voice from the other line paused, “Are you . . . intoxicated, monsieur?”
“Of course not! Are you bloody insane?” an angry voice replied in an offended tone.
“Well, no matter. The spell needs to be performed within 25 minutes, before the Slayer reaches the Hyperion Hotel,” the other man said, his French accent rolling off his tongue in haughty waves, “So I suggest you get it done immediately and correctly . . . otherwise you know what will transpire if His Grace is not satisfied. Good day to you, monsieur.”
Ethan Rayne slammed the phone down in irritation, instantly regretting it when his head began to pound even more. He stared up at his hotel ceiling, his vision spinning as he tasted the bile rising from his throat.
He was so screwed.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“Tomato: fruit or vegetable?” Brooke asked as she held up one for the others’ inspection.
Liam frowned and thought about the question intently. “Fruit. It has seeds,” he answered as he pushed the grocery cart along the cool aisles of the grocery store that stood just a few blocks away from the Hyperion Hotel.
“Bananas don’t have seeds, but they’re still fruits,” Eliza reminded him, opening a clear plastic bag as Tristan picked out the freshest tomatoes and gently placed them inside.
“Bananas have seeds, right? The trees have flowers or whatever and the seeds come from there,” Liam told her with an unsure look on his face, not knowing if that statement was only a bald-faced lie on his part.
“Well, we’re not talking about bananas, we’re talking about tomatoes. Fruit or vegetable?” Brooke asked, changing the subject to the first topic at hand.
“Vegetable,” Eliza answered confidently.
“It’s a fruit, Liz,” Liam disagreed.
Brooke quirked a brow at the arguing pair before turning to Tristan who was putting all his focus on finding the freshest and ripest tomatoes with his sharp, knowing eyes and gentle grip. “What do you say, Tris?” she asked curiously, knowing he would have the right answer.
Without missing a beat, he grabbed a basket of mushrooms and a bag of orange carrots before answering, “It’s a vegetable, according to the US Supreme Court and the horticultural system.”
Eliza shot Liam a triumphant look.
“But, if we’re talking in terms of the botanical structure, a tomato would be in the fruit category,” Tristan added as he gathered onions and potatoes and placed them in bags, tying the bag openings securely before moving on.
Now it was Liam’s turn to give Eliza his own triumphant smirk.
“For both of your sakes, we’ll just leave it at that and pretend I never even brought up the subject,” Brooke said.
They proceeded down the meat section of the store, Tristan looking over the ground beefs in silence while the others hung out in the background and pushed the cart along in a leisurely pace.
“Remember when Mom used to take us grocery shopping?” Liam asked his sister as they continued down the aisles to the dairy section where Tristan searched for a good chunk of aged parmesan cheese.
Eliza laughed softly. “She always let us ride in the carts, pushing it really fast until one of the managers kicked us out for running over an old lady and knocking over boxes of Triscuits and Hamburger Helpers.”
Liam chuckled lightly with her at the memory before they moved along to the dry goods section where he grabbed a bag of Cheesy Chips, dumping it in the cart along with the other items.
“And she always bought the best junk-food.” Brooke joined in the conversation while adding her own stack of snacks in the cart, “Bags of Doritos, chocolate fudge mint chip ice cream, butterscotch cookies . . . ”
“Oo, and those Tootsie Pops,” Eliza added.
“And half of all the groceries were already prepared meals,” Brooke continued.
“The best Chef Boyardee and frozen meals can offer,” Eliza chortled.
Brooke nodded with a smirk.
“Well, yeah . . . Mom? Cook?” Liam snorted. “Three-fourths of the things she tries to make end up burnt, and too hazardous to eat by anything living. Even the stray dogs kept away from our dumpster.”
Brooke chuckled at that. “She once burned down half of the kitchen while cooking. Of course, Dad went nuts and banned her from there for the rest of eternity,” Brooke shook her head.
“Oh, my God . . . you’re kidding!” Eliza exclaimed with a laugh as the other girl shook her head.
“Yep, that’s Mom,” Liam sighed.
His gaze went to Tristan who remained silent and stoic during their whole conversation. The calmness that always surrounded him lessened and was replaced by something akin to misery. He grabbed bags of uncooked pasta, and Liam shot the other two girls a silencing look. They quickly understood and said nothing further.
Tristan hadn’t been one of the more unfortunate ones like Aiden or Austin who had never really known their mother. While the youngest male had been borne from her, had been with her, had been a part of her life, but he did still lose her at an early age. Six years worth of blurred memories of Buffy was measly compared to Liam and Eliza’s eleven years, and even more to Brooke’s eighteen years.
Tristan smiled ironically as he finished and began heading towards the cash registers. “Everyone suddenly quieted,” he said as the others helped him pile everything on the counter, “You don’t have to tread around the waters when it comes to me,” he told them. “I like hearing your memories with her.”
Silence hung in the air as the other three tried to think of what or how to reply to that.
“What are the things you remember about your mother?” Brooke asked softly.
Tristan stared into space for a few moments, lost in contemplation as he considered her question and thought of the best way to answer it. “Little things,” he replied as the cashier began to ring up the items. “I remember the silkiness of her hair, her scent of vanilla and baby powder.” The others were silent as they listened to him reminisce, “Her mouth . . . her voice when she talked to me. The way she laughed,” he paused, “Her love, her strength . . . her determination.”
“That’ll be $86.37, please,” the impatient cashier interrupted as she rolled her eyes and chewed popped her gum.
Liam paid quickly as Eliza loaded the cart with their bagged groceries. Brooke looked at Tristan for a moment, sympathetic to his pain if not able to completely comprehend it. Her parents may not be together anymore, but she was lucky that she still had both of them . . . well, sometimes anyway.
Liam pushed the cart along when a loud resonating sound echoed through the store as the florescent lights flickered on and off. A loud crash and then the sound of a fight.
“What the hell?” Brooke asked, a frown marring her face.
“It’s coming from the entrance.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Ethan stared tiredly into space as he chanted the words to his spell, hoping against all odds that he was saying them right through his slurred speech. He then searched through the floor, patting through the many bags and containers that sat beside him and holding them up in front of his face as he scrunched his eyes to read the labels more properly.
Finally finding what he hoped to be the right set of herbs, he tossed a pinch into his little makeshift fire. It gave out a bright spark and an acidic smoke that smelled like rotting flesh and cheese.
He continued chanting the Latin words to the spell, waving his hand in the air to steer the smoke away from his face. He paused and then burped, causing him to laugh giddily before passing out completely onto the floor, vomiting as he did so.
And not once noticing the smoke from the ashes turning red and then black.
He was so done for.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Buffy struggled against the hold of the demon as he raised her small body in the air. She closed her eyes, knowing what was coming next. With a load roar, the gigantic creature that resembled one of those Beast Wars characters threw her against the wall, right by entrance of the grocery store, the impact leaving a dent on the plaster-finish.
Her body slid precariously to the ground as she groaned in pain.
She looked up from her rumpled form on the floor and stared at a familiar looking teenager, no older than twenty with platinum blond hair and blue eyes. He gazed back at her as though he was looking at a ghost.
“Spike?” she choked, trying to ignore the twinge on her shoulder.
Before he could say anything in return, the huge monstrosity that had popped out of nowhere from the streets and nearly stepped on her car smacked the poor boy, causing him to fly across the air to land on a few unfortunate individuals running towards the scene.
Buffy got up on her feet and stared at the teens who were gazing at her in disbelief. “Go! Get outta here!”
Grabbing the sword she had dropped, she went after the demon who stood three to four feet taller than her. It stared down at her mockingly, daring her almost through its disfigured face of protruding teeth and beady little eyes. It’s black leathery skin promptly reminding her of Spike’s favored pair of scuffed combat boots.
Ducking away from its punch, she knocked over a barrel filled with toys, causing the demon to trip and land on its stomach with a snarl. Swiftly raising the sword in the air, she sliced his head off with a loud grunt.
The lights once again flickered as the demon remained still.
Breathing raggedly, she dropped the sword to clatter onto the floor as the lights continued to flicker on and off throughout the store. She sighed and took a deep, long breath. Searching for the teenagers she hoped had been smart enough to bolt, she stepped over the large head and looked through the empty store. But instead she found herself staring at 5 young children between the ages of 2 to 6, the youngest one sniffling and rubbing his nose as he stared at her with big blue eyes and the oldest on the brink of tears, himself, as he gazed at her in amazement.
She stepped forward and gawked at them.
A little blonde girl around the age of 5 stepped forward and stared at her in shock. “Mommy! You’re fat!” she exclaimed, pointing her small finger at her.
Buffy frowned and looked down at herself. To her astonishment and incredulity, her belly had grown tremendously over the past few seconds . . . huge and enormous as though she was . . . pregnant. “Oh, God . . . ”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“My lord? You called for me.”
“The spell? Did it work?” he asked, getting to the point.
“About that, your grace,” the minion stuttered in fear, inching towards the double doors for a quick get away if his master went violent over the news he was about to reveal to him.
The large form of the daunting man slowly turned around, cold eyes staring deeply into the poor Frenchman as though he could kill him with just a stare. “What happened?”
“The warlock succeeded . . . somewhat. The Slayer now carries the child within her. And the demon you sent for arrived . . . ”
“But . . . ” the dark male urged him continue, his anger held on tightly but thinly.
“But the Slayer managed to kill the demon before it could hunt down the others and . . . ” The Frenchman paused, nervously wiping away at the sweat that beaded on his wrinkled forehead, “The warlock then turned the other seven into children between the ages of 2 and 8, I believe. Each 13 years younger than they were before.”
“Then they’re not dead.”
“No, your grace.”
The looming form of the larger man visibly shook with rage. “Find that warlock. I want him killed,” he said through clenched teeth, “We will continue on as planned. If the rest of those kids aren’t dead, they might as well just be out of the way. Get a jet prepared and send Loki to me.”
“Yes, my lord.”
Chapter Title: Hyperion Daycare
Author: Baby Blues
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, except for the children and the story itself.
Notes: I just want to thank all of you for your support and patience. I realize it's been a while but the chapter is finally here so we can all rest a little bit easier now. Especially me! Feed back!
Summary: The teens have turned into children and the Bat Pack end up babysitting 7 rowdy kids and one very pregnant Buffy.
Dedication: To Chad who helped me through finals and everyone who's been sticking by me, especially after the computer crash. Love you all!
Notes: There's a bit of Spuffy madness in this chapter. Not a lot, but it is there in all it's flaming/hateful (however you may look at it) glory. I can't and won't apologize for it nor will I take it back. A lot of B/A fans out there are completely against B/S and I understand, but the thing is, Spike, I believe, is a great and wonderful character to begin with. He's gone far through the seasons and I admire that. Between Spike and Angel are different pros and cons on who Buffy should end up with, but for now, for the sake of the story and to keep everything rolling . . . Buffy's feelings will remain torn. Hope everyone understands but I promise . . . they'll live happily ever after. ^__^ Just trust me. Have I ever let you guys down? *cough* Never mind, don't answer that . . . * lol* ^__^
~Brooke: My dad can beat up your dad.
~Buffy: Let's not go there, sweetheart.
~Angel: Yes, please.
"Mommy, where are we?" the little, talkative, blonde angel asked from the backseat of the jeep, "And where's, Daddy?"
Buffy's eyes met the child's and felt her world shake and tumble suddenly around her. It was eerie and rather alarming looking at those big baby blues. It felt like Spike was the one who was gazing back at her, the cerulean specks possessing a mischievous glint and an unmistakable overconfidence that Spike or a Spike-offspring could only contain. "This is Los Angeles, sweetheart . . . a-and Daddy's still back at home in Sunnydale," she replied uneasily.
The child looked at her in question. "What's Los-Los . . . "
"Los Angeles," the little boy next to her with the mop of brown hair and clear silver blue eyes answered in Buffy's stead, "It means the city of Lost Angels. * Mom* taught me that," he said smugly.
The little blonde girl pouted at him. "Stop calling her your mom, she's *my* mom." She then met Buffy's eyes through the rearview mirror and whined, "Mom! This *boy* keeps calling you his mom! Tell him to stop!"
"My name is not *boy*, it's Liam Patrick Summers. It means nobleman and determined guardian. It's also Celtic or Gaelic," he stated proudly and then pointed to the girl next to him with the long brown hair and matching chocolate eyes that were the exact duplicate of Angel's: dark, mysterious, tender, and soulful. "She's Elizabeth Anne Summers, her name means consecrated to God and gracious. They're Hebrew names though. She's also my twin sister."
The girl squirmed next to her brother and frowned at him with blushing cheeks and scolding him with a look that said, `Stop it!'
The blonde little girl rolled her eyes. "Well I'm Brooke Sheridan Summers, I don't know what my name means but you're really starting to bloody bore me. So stop talking. Mom! Make him stop!"
"That's enough, Brooke," Buffy said with an exasperated sigh.
Brooke grumbled her discontentment and sat back pouting with her arms crossed tightly against her chest. "He started it," she mumbled.
The adorable blonde had been quite the domineering little child since Buffy had gathered all five children (along with her huge Buddha belly) from the store, safely tucking them in her car with the utmost care and acute paranoia only a mother could possess.
It was rather strange of how protective she was of them already and how she knew who they all were. Angel told her bits and pieces of all 8, their names, ages, their basic profiles . . . but it just felt like an immediate instinct to know who was who.
It was a foreign sensation to experience this remarkable new fondness and love over these five children she had just met, and even for the baby residing within her.
"And your name means stream and wild. You're a Wild Stream . . . that's what your father wanted for your personality." Buffy stopped short and looked stunned. And she knew this how?
Ugh . . . this whole thing was getting weirder by the minute.
"Mommy!" Tristan cried out, arms held out to her in desperation as he struggled against the prison of Aiden's arms who sat quietly on the passenger seat, staring at Buffy as though she was his entire world.
"Hungry," the toddler whined, slumping in defeat against his older half brother but definitely compensating at his earlier attempt to cling to her by just looking utterly pathetic, his dark, blue eyes teary with loss. "Milk . . . milk!" he demanded with passion, and Buffy felt herself fall even more deeply in love with the tiny boy.
"We'll get you milk once we're home," she assured him before she froze at the word.
Home? Los Angeles was not home, neither was the Hyperion Hotel.
Sunnydale was home with Dawn, Giles, Willow, Xander, even Anya, and eew . . . Andrew and . . . and of course there was also Spike. She swallowed the lump in her throat and forced her thoughts to end at that path. She was *not* going to go there. Not today, not when Angel was waiting for her.
She shifted uncomfortably on her seat, her belly nudging against the steering wheel. Her eyes became glassy as her emotions suddenly became askew.
This really wasn't happening, was it? Here she was, pregnant with six kids in her care who were supposed to be teenagers. Her hormones were in a riot, her bum was getting sore and Brooke had started an argument with Liam once again. Not to mention the fact that she was trying to fight off some serious feelings for Spike before she meets face to face with Angel whom she also still had feelings for. God, why did her life have to be so damn complicated?
"M-mom?" Aiden asked softly and hesitantly, "A-are you alright,"
Buffy turned to look at him and gave him a quivering smile. "Yeah, just a little emotional with the bowling ball I'm carrying. Women who are pregnant tend to be a little weepy." She gently chucked him under the chin and said, "Don't worry about me. It's normal. I promise . . . I'll be fine."
He gave her a wavering grin in response.
Buffy watched as the hotel came into view. Her heart began pounding against her chest. This was it. The moment of truth has arrived . . .
"Mom? Are we there yet?" Brooke piped up.
* * * * * * * * * * *
"Maybe it was something in the water?" Gunn offered hesitantly.
"Or something they ate?" Fred recommended timidly, "Remember the first time I ate Hoong's? The chicken wasn't fully agreeing with me" she added nervously.
Lorne nodded his head in agreement. "It wasn't pretty either."
"Possibly a spell of some sort," Wesley said wonderingly as he searched through his books and notes with apt focus. "Do you think one of them had been meddling with magic or spells?" he asked to no one in particular and added, "We should lock some of these books up, Angel. You don't know what might happen if one of those kids get their hands on a Levamina spell," he laughed at his own joke.
The others stared at him in question as the crickets began to chirp in the background.
The ex-Watcher coughed and became silent, putting all his energy back into researching.
"Whatever or whoever it was, it wasn't me," Connor quickly followed after, "Just to get that straight."
Angel shot Connor a small frown and the young man shrugged as father and son turned together in unison to stare down at the pair sitting on the couch of the Hyperion Hotel.
"Well . . . they were adorable as a 21 and 16-year-old but they just the cutest little Gerber babies now," Lorne tried to keep upbeat through the chaos that was presently occurring. "It's like Buffy and Angel Jr. . . . But without all the drama and heartache and melancholy tears."
Angel glared at the green demon in response. "I can . . . only imagine because . . . you know, I was never there to begin with," Lorne coughed and grinned tightly, trying to placate the angry vampire.
Little Paige cried harder as she clung to Austin more fiercely, like a little monkey clutching its mother. The eight-year-old boy embraced her in return, a gentle smile on his young face as he pacified the toddler in his arms by smoothing a hand through her blond curls.
"It's alright," Austin murmured softly, his smile never fading. "No one will hurt you. I promise."
Paige only whimpered in reply.
Even at 8 years of age, Austin still acted like he was beyond his years. Within his childish eyes was the wisdom and intelligence of a PTB as well as a soul as warm and giving as Buffy's. It both surprised and pleased Angel to know that his son had so many endearing qualities that will surely lead him to success, whether it was fighting for his life in an Apocalypse or getting a job . . . maybe in the presidency.
Paige's hazel eyes, glassy with tears, gazed innocently at her half brother and then at the adults. Her lower lip quivered, "I want Mommy!"
"Shhh . . ." Austin crooned into her ear.
"What the hell is going on!" Cordelia hollered from up the stairs, causing Paige to bury her face against Austin's neck, bawling out her terror.
"Keep it down, Cordy. You're scarin' the poor kid," Gunn reprimanded as the brunette walked down the stairs like a regal queen.
She stopped mid-step, her gaze falling to the pair that sat on the lobby couch. She lifted one delicate brow and sighed offhandedly. "I won't even ask," she rolled her eyes and returned up stairs. "I'll call you if I get a vision of some sort," she called carelessly over her shoulder.
Angel shook his head. He loved Cordy, he did, but no matter how much she had changed from the shallow and vain high school girl he had known years ago, she still retained a lot of her more . . . original and primary qualities such as her usual bitchiness, her incessant whining, and the verbal abuse she often spat out without really considering them at first.
"I'll be back, ok?" the vampire assured Austin before walking off towards the kitchen. Deep in thought, he opened the fridge and filled two glasses of water for the two children.
It had been hell trying to make sense of things from the moment he found the blond 3-year-old. After hearing her ear piercing scream that had emitted from the basement, he had almost killed himself trying to get downstairs to the gym to find out what had happened. He had then discovered Paige huddled in the corner, behind the punching bag, her pink shirt hanging loosely over her delicate and tiny form. She had been in tears, shivering from absolute panic and dread.
"Amm . . . Hi there . . . little person," he greeted awkwardly, causing the young girl to cry even louder. He had flinched and mentally hit himself. "Ugh . . . this isn't good," he sighed.
He rubbed his face wearily and called out for help, "Gunn! Fred! Someone! Help me!" This ultimately caused the tiny girl to cry even louder.
In the end, it had been Austin who had come charging in followed closely by a very shocked Lorne. "I found him in the kitchen after I heard plates breaking!" the green demon explained. "What the hell is going on?"
Angel ignored him and stared at the boy in bewilderment.
"Hello, Dad," the adolescent youngster greeted brightly, his eyes shining in awe as though he had just met his idol.
Angel knew those eyes, that hair. It was like . . . looking at himself when he was still a child. "Austin?" he asked in utter astonishment.
It was then, at that moment did the tiny, blond imp choose to scream her confusion and discomfort even more stridently, causing all other three present to stare at her. And it had been the young version of Austin with his kind and patient words whom Paige had immediately trusted.
"Hey, what's your name?" Austin had asked.
Sobbing she answered with a lisp, "Madison Paige Williams."
"That's a pretty name . . . Madison," Austin had said, crouching a few feet away from her.
She shook her head in response, her blond curls flying gently around her small head. "My daddy calls me Paige," she whimpered, rubbing a fist against her watery eyes.
Angel shook his head clear, coming back to the present moment and returning to the lobby and handing Austin and Paige each a glass of water. He watched avidly as Austin sat his down on the floor to help Paige drink hers first.
"Slowly," he urged the toddler who had spilled some water on her shirt due to her eagerness.
Angel grinned with pride and Connor snorted impatiently.
"I know this isn't exactly the time to bring another load of insanity but . . . where are the others?" Gunn brought up.
Fred gasped, her hands clasped in front of her mouth in alarm. "The grocery store!" she exclaimed.
"And Ariella?" Lorne brought up, adding to the growing pandemonium.
"She should've been here . . ." Fred said anxiously.
"Let's go," Angel ordered, grabbing his keys and jacket as he quickly headed towards the door. "Take care of them," he indicated the two children to Lorne and then turned to Wesley who was barely paying attention to his surroundings, "and keep researching."
But before he could leave, the door burst open revealing a haggard looking young woman hauling five kids with her. "Looking for these particular five . . . maybe six?" Buffy Summers indicated her jutting, round belly.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Don't disappoint me, Loki," the large, dark man said as he gazed out his large office windows. "I do not accept failure, especially from my own flesh and blood . . . most *especially* from you."
The younger man rolled his eyes in exasperation and sat more comfortably back on the leather recliner. "Have I ever let you down, Father?' he asked arrogantly.
"Don't get cute with me, Loki," his old man growled dangerously.
"Never," he smirked.
His father turned on his heel, his look solemn and sinister. "This is not a game. This is the rest of our immortality."
Loki rose on his feet and glared at his father in return. "You don't think I know that? I understand how important this is." He paused and stared at the portrait that his father never went without. "She was important to me too."
"She still *is* very important to me . . . even after all these centuries I've been apart from her," his father said, looking at the portrait with a wistful look on his handsome face. "I care a lot about you, son, along with your younger brother and sister, but she was and always will be my entire being . . . my soul . . ."
"I know, Father. I do," Loki said honestly. "She's my mother after all. I know how it goes."
"Good." The man then turned to gaze out of the window once more, watching as his minions prepared the helicopter that would take his son to the airport where a private jet waited to take him to California.
"Aren't you going to wish me luck?" Loki grinned as he fixed his jacket with an egotistical grin on his face.
"If you needed luck, Loki, you wouldn't be my son," the older man teased in return, a rare laugh escaping through his thin yet sensual lips.
Loki smiled in amusement at the unusual show of humor coming from his old man. "Until then, Father," he said then gazed once more at the smiling portrait of Buffy Summers hanging on the wall. "I told you, Mother," he whispered, "I told you we'd see each other again."
With one last lingering look at the painting, he exited the office.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Buffy . . ."
"Angel . . ."
Their eyes met, and Angel felt his world spin suddenly out of control. They hadn't seen each other since the day they met after Buffy returned from the dead. It seemed like a lifetime ago. But here she was, looking more beautiful than ever with her face flushed pink and her skin covered by a thin film of sweat. She was dressed, as always, beautifully even as her large belly, tanned and taught, showed clearly in between the hem of her lacy, pink shirt and a billowing, black skirt.
Buffy wasn't doing so well either. Because of her imbalanced hormones, she wasn't sure whether to laugh in gratitude or cry in relief at seeing Angel standing there. She felt as though she had just been saved, and she wanted to run to him and just cry against him until his entire shirt was soaked with her tears. Not only that, but damn he looked good. No longer was he the lean vampire she had first met long ago. Angel was now fuller, his muscles filled out, his shoulders broader. His was the type of body that she can definitely drown in.
"Hello there! I'm Lorne. It's so good to finally meet you," the green demon greeted cheerily as he grandly came forward, interrupting the passionate and sparking tension that suddenly overflowed the atmosphere of the hotel lobby. The Host then stopped dead on his tracks as he finally detected her enormous stomach.
Buffy looked sheepish as she lifted a young two-year-old on her hip in a more comfortable position. "I know. I have no idea how it happened," she said, leading four older kids deeper inside. "I found a noticeably hefty demon running towards the grocery tore and went after him. There were these teenagers there and when I killed the bastard I found them . . . well, like this," she said, her eyes on Angel.
"Oh . . ."
"Mommy!" Paige cried, climbing down the couch from Austin's hold before running towards her mother at full speed.
Buffy caught her, letting out a little `oomph' as the toddler used her belly as a ladder.
"Buffy!" Angel rushed forward in worry.
His brown eyes met her hazel ones and time stopped once more. The attraction was still there, and so was the affection, it seemed to rekindle back to life as though they had never been separated. Maybe it was the presence of the children that made everything seem blissful and well. Maybe it was being surrounded by such vulnerable innocence and childish playfulness that was getting to them both.
"I-I'm fine," she assured him, struggling to keep both Tristan and Paige on each hip while her stomach stuck out in between them. Liam and Eliza stuck their heads from behind her while Aiden clutched at her jeans, still gaping up at her with his mouth hanging open.
"He's been like that since we left the store," she explained.
Angel walked towards her until they were only a few feet away from each other. "How've you been?" he asked softly, taking in her glow.
She chuckled lightly, breathlessly. "I'm ok," she sighed, "Pregnant, confused . . . but ok," she smiled at him.
"Mommy, I'm hungry," Brooke whined, tugging at her shirt with a pout that, given with time and practice, could turn into a deadly weapon that, thankfully for now, only Buffy could execute well.
Angel helped her out by taking Tristan who came willingly into his arms, astonishing him with the unexpected trust the child willingly gave. The teenager was usually so quiet and solitary, but then again, this toddler hasn't spent nearly a decade in Angelus' frightening care.
"We'll get you something to eat," Buffy assured the child before looking helplessly at Angel. "I gathered that the older version of them had gone grocery shopping. I packed all the things they got at the back of my car."
"I'll get it," Gunn volunteered.
"Oh, and Austin was baking bread before he turned . . ." Fred indicated the young boy who had now stood up and was staring at his parents in awe. "I-I'll get some for them," the young, scrawny woman smiled and rushed into the kitchen.
"And maybe some clothes," Lorne added, "I mean . . . look at `em. It's like a group of street children," the green demon said sadly at all seven who only wore t-shirts that hung limply from their small bodies. "They look more like orphans from the dark alleys rather than a brood belonging to a Slayer and two en-souled vampires."
Angel glared at him at the reminder that three of these children weren't his as well as the insulting description of his offspring. The words `street orphans' weren't exactly flattering. "It wasn't like I knew they were gonna turn into children, Lorne," he said.
"There's a Gap Kids a few blocks from here. We can get some things for them there," Fred said with a plate of fresh bread.
The kids paused only for a few beats before running towards her in delight as they each snatched a few slices for themselves and heartily munched on the warm bread with the appetite of a herd of starving cows.
"I'll go with her," Connor volunteered, not exactly wanting to be around the Hallmark moment that was currently taking place before his very eyes.
Angel nodded and took out his wallet with Tristan still in his arms. Handing Fred his credit card, he watched with a slight frown as his son and friend disappeared through the doorway just as Gunn was returning with two bags of groceries in each arm. The vampire shifted the child in his arms. He needed to have a private discussion with Connor soon.
He then noticed Lorne staring at him in riveted wonder.
"What?" he demanded with a frown, finally leading Buffy to the couch where she would be more comfortable in her state. Austin, who had waited patiently there during the entire spectacle, smiled at her in greeting.
"There's just something really . . . heartfelt seeing you with a baby on your hip. It's like Madonna with her child, except that you're a vampire. Devil with his child. It's rather ironic, in a disturbing sort of way," the green demon said, tearing up at the picture he made with Buffy standing right next to him, pregnant and carrying Paige.
Angel shook his head as the older children finished with their snacks and hurried back to Buffy's side where they all sat chatting with their mother and each other. He then turned to Wesley who was still busy going through his books. "We need to know what the hell is going on and more importantly how we're gonna fix this."
Everyone turned to look at the ex-Watcher. He gazed at them in return and stepped back. "I'm still searching!" he exclaimed indignantly. "And it's not like any of you are helping."
"I can help!" Brooke jumped from the couch and headed towards him. "I'm a very good reader. Daddy, Auntie Red and Grandpa Giles taught me." She grabbed one of the old and smaller tomes on the desk and began flipping through the pages. "A va-vam . . . a vamp-yre can only b-be k-killed by a s- stay-ke th-thr-throo the he-heart, sunlight, o-or be-be . . . be-heee . . . be-head . . . beheading!" she finished triumphantly. A frown suddenly crossed her pert features. "What's beheading?"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
It had been a babysitting job from hell.
After leaving Wes and the others to deal with the research, Buffy and Angel decided to take on the care of the children by themselves. They never imagined it would be torture and worse than a slow and painful death.
Buffy flopped tiredly down next to Angel on a seat out in the balcony of his large apartments on the second floor of the hotel. The rain that had began only a few hours ago continued on beyond the protected terrace, and the cool breeze filtered out the Los Angeles heat, making the atmosphere cool and relaxing.
"And here I thought taking care of Dawn was a nightmare," Buffy sighed, silently admiring the man next to her who was presently holding the sleeping twins in his arms as they drooled all over his shirt. "Patrol has never been as tiring as 7 rambunctious kids. I think I can sleep until the next year."
"I know what you mean," Angel smiled and leaned back against the cushions of his chair, stroking the soft hairs of his children. He then shifted his head and looked her over, a frown forming on his chiseled face. "Are you sure you're alright?" he asked worriedly. It had been a long and hectic day and she had stuck it out through the disorder like a trooper.
Buffy nodded. "Surprisingly, I feel fine. A little tired, but I'm okay. Have gone through worse," she paused, "Well . . . maybe have gone through things just as worse." She shrugged, "Maybe it's the Slayer strength."
"Maybe." Angel smirked. "A normal woman would've collapsed within the first two hours."
Buffy laughed and rubbed her belly unconsciously. "Good thing I'm not a normal human." She sighed. "But whatever it is . . . I'm just thankful."
The vampire stared out into the blanket of the night as he listened to the soft snores of Liam. He had been concerned that Buffy couldn't handle the pressure of being a mother. After all, she was still a child herself, battling against the forces of evil and having to take care of her little sister. It didn't seem fair. But here she was, pregnant with 7 kids and she was glowing with joy.
It made Angel's heart clench knowing that he couldn't really give her any of this.
Austin was really theirs until he took that day away. . . .
"I feel like they're really mine, Angel." Buffy let out a breath and turned to her ex once more.
Angel looked a bit startled and she smiled knowingly.
"I know. It seems . . . unreal. But I can't help but feel the bond that I have with each of them. I might not have been there to give birth to them in the literal sense, but I feel like they're really mine. Don't you feel it too?"
He didn't answer quickly as he looked down at Liam and Eliza. They were truly Angelus' but he still considered them his. But how was he sure that he genuinely felt that way?
He clutched the twins closer to him. He felt the same sense of warmth when he held Connor in his arms when his son was still a baby. It was the same feeling of fatherly love he felt for these two along with the others. "Yes . . . Yes, I feel it."
All was quiet for the first time in the Hyperion Hotel since the teens arrived. There was no screaming echoing through the halls, no little pairs of feet running to and fro, no sounds of childish bickering, and no shattering of priceless objects. It was tranquil and serene, at least for now.
Earlier that day, they had collected the children into the kitchen to feed them proper food after their persistent whining of being hungry, and, to quote Aiden's dramatics, `starving to death.' So while Angel tried to cook, the 6 youngest children went on a rampage.
After turning the stove to a medium boil, Angel had gone in pursuit of Eliza who had been chasing Liam across the kitchen in an incredibly impressive speed. The pair had climbed onto the kitchen counter together to try and grab the cookies from the top cabinet. He captured them both by the waists before they could get their dirty hands on the sweet treats.
"Don't think so," he muttered, carrying them over to their chairs as they grumbled their disappointment.
Quickly getting over it, Eliza asked, "Mom? Are you gonna have a baby?"
Buffy stared down at her little girl, not really sure how to reply to such a blunt question. "Y-yes . . . I am," she answered, meeting Angel's eyes.
He shrugged helplessly and went back to his cooking. He couldn't bring himself to look at her for long. The more he gazed at her, appearing so striking and tempting even in her pregnant state, the more his libido made all kinds of jumpy.
He was starting to sound like Gunn.
Shaking his head, he began to chop the potatoes.
"Then how come your stomach wasn't that big yesterday?" Liam followed with a frown. "I know for a fact babies don't grow that fast."
"Do you really?" Buffy laughed at the expression on his young, handsome face. "It's magic." It was a safe answer, one that they would all believe. As children, anything was possible.
After Angel handed each child a bowl of soup, all became quiet as the parents watched the kids avidly slurp down the chowder. Paige had quickly fallen asleep by her bowl, a thumb stuck in her mouth as she drooled onto the kitchen table. The others chuckled at her before Buffy quieted them down with a motherly look that said, `Behave.'
"Mom? How come all these kids are here? And why do they keep calling you their Mom?" Brooke continued on with the subject from the car ride over.
Being the only child so far in her short five years has spoiled her with all her parent's attention. Having 6 other brothers and sisters, not to mention one more on the way, was getting to her.
Buffy looked at Angel for the appropriate answer to tell, not only Brooke, but all of the others.
He shrugged in response. He had no idea either.
All seven children, along with the vampire, stared at her expectantly, waiting patiently for the answer in a tense silence that made her feel nauseous and caused her bladder to churn.
"Why don't we look at it as sort of a game?" Buffy said hesitantly, not really sure where she was going with this, "Sort of like . . . the woman who lived in the shoe."
Angel smiled at the lame attempt to make sense of this whole fiasco to a group of children.
Buffy glared at him in return. "It's not like you're helping."
He coughed and kept his face straight. "Sorry."
Brooke lifted one delicate brow, imitating all the times her mother looked at her father when he said something she found strange. "We don't live in a shoe."
"She meant the nursery rhyme, ding dong," Aiden shook his head with a roll of his blue eyes.
"Don't call me ding dong! Who are *you* to call *me* ding dong!" Brooke exclaimed, and the subject of Buffy's pregnancy was promptly dropped as the pair began quarrelling.
"Well you're acting like one!" Aiden argued.
"If I'm a ding dong then you're a butt munch!" the blonde girl screamed.
"Brooke!" Buffy scolded.
"Butt munch?" Aiden guffawed with gusto.
"He started it!" Brooke complained before finally lapsing into silence after Buffy gave her and Aiden one of her looks.
"Say you're sorry."
The girl just pouted and looked away from her mother. Aiden glared at her but said nothing either.
"Fine. Then don't." Buffy sighed and shook her head. She had no idea what she was doing. She could barely care and order about Dawn and now she had seven kids, not including Ariella, she had to discipline and nurture like any other good mother would do.
Austin cleared his throat. "I'm finished."
"Me too," Eliza happily said.
The older boy smiled and took his dish along with hers over to the sink so he could wash them.
Finishing his soup next, Liam's eyes suddenly fell on Buffy and then to Angel. His gaze continued to dart between the two of them as though he was watching a tennis match. "What's wrong, sweetheart?" Buffy asked.
The little boy paused, scarping his spoon against the porcelain of his bowl, causing Buffy to cringe at the noise. He then stopped and lifted his blue eyes as he asked, "Is he our Dad?" in a soft whisper, even though Angel could clearly hear him.
"Yes, he is."
He nodded, as though he was taking that bit of news like a man. He then turned to Angel, gazing at him as though he was the father and not the son. "Dad, where ya been? Mom said you went away somewhere. A business trip."
Angel said the first thing that came to his mind, "Europe."
"Where in Europe?" Eliza asked softly.
"Paris," Buffy answered for him.
The twins were quiet for a while. "Are you gonna stay this time?" Liam asked, not meeting the vampire's gaze.
Angel's heart clenched. "Of course I am."
Eliza gave a squeal of delight, hoping down from her chair and jumping into Angel's arms. He looked stunned.
Buffy chuckled at the picture the pair made while she tried to soothe Tristan with reassuring words and a cup of warm milk as he started crying out his misery from his sore gums and growing teeth.
Aiden, still ravenous, decided to make himself more lunch by grabbing the nearest knife to make a sandwich. Buffy almost had a heart attack at seeing her six-year-old carrying a steak knife, a jar of mayonnaise, lettuce, and ham over to the kitchen table.
The young boy looked confused. "It's okay, Mom. I make my own lunch all the time," he guaranteed her with a bit of pride in his tone.
Cradling Tristan against her side, she helped her child with the making of his food as he gazed at her in awe and a blinding smile that nearly broke her heart. She couldn't understand why a Buffy from another dimension would leave her own child. It didn't make any sense. She would never abandon anyone, especially her own flesh and blood, no matter what the situation was.
At this point, Liam and Eliza began chasing each other once more with Brooke joined into the mix, waking Paige from her sleep as she screamed her anger at being disturbed. Buffy passed Tristan onto Austin who eagerly took the boy as she went over to Paige to calm the young girl.
Buffy and Angel's eyes met.
"This is madness, Angel," Buffy had sighed wearily.
He nodded his agreement as he caught the twins in his arms and placed them once more on their chairs, Liam still arguing with Brooke.
"My dad cane beat up your dad," she said haughtily.
Buffy looked shocked. "Let's not go there, sweetheart."
"Yes, please," Angel grumbled, knowing for a fact that Angelus could take Spike on anywhere, anytime.
After Tristan spilled his cup of milk all over Austin's lap, the Slayer and the vampire finally gathered all seven children into Angel's apartment suit where he dragged a few more beds inside for the others.
"The suite next door is connected here," Angel told Buffy as she helped Tristan in a brand new pair of pajamas, "You can take that room unless you want to crowd in here with the rest of us. You can take my bed."
"Yeah, okay . . . but . . ."
"And don't even tell me you can deal with one of the twin beds," Angel argued before she can, "You're pregnant. Take the big bed."
"Aren't you two supposed to share beds?" Liam asked suspiciously.
"Yeah," Eliza agreed, "Moms and Dads are supposed to sleep on the same bed together. Molly, from school, told me so."
"But he's not *my* dad!" Brooke scoffed.
Before an argument could brew between the two girls, Buffy spoke in a tone her mother used a lot. "No more. I'll share a bed with my two little babies," she smiled at Tristan who was nearly falling asleep nearly on his feet and Paige who smiled up at her. With a small nuzzle against their soft necks Buffy placed the two-year-old and three-year-old on Angel's bed.
"I thought I was your baby," Brooke said, her tone sounding offended even through the grumbling.
Buffy chuckled and kissed her pink cheek. "You're all my babies," she said, her face glowing and Angel felt his cold blood run hot.
This had to be a dream. Watching Buffy tuck in the two youngest kids as Brooke and Aiden chose their own individual beds and Austin curled up on his sofa reading one of his books felt all too normal to him. This seemed to be what life was all about, Buffy pregnant with his child and a butt load of children that drove him crazy yet he still all loved. And he did . . . he really did.
"I'm glad you're here, Buffy," Angel smiled at her over the tops of Liam and Eliza's sleeping heads.
"Astonishingly enough . . . me too," she replied with a grin, her hand caressing her huge belly, her face flushed at the thought of Angel's baby growing inside her. A few years ago she had been crushed with the news she wouldn't be able to have a baby with Angel, but now that she actually and literally was seemed to make up for it . . . even if it was only a little bit.
"I don't think I would've made it through the day without you," he said with a deep sigh.
Buffy laughed. "This coming from a guy who helped fight off apocalypses?" She shook her head. "You would've survived them all," she said, looking over her shoulder to check on the sleeping children as well as Austin who was still keenly reading his book like a little scholar that he was.
The vampire took her hand without a second thought and kissed her knuckles. "I mean it, Buffy. I'm happy you're here for them . . . but most of all, I'm happy that you're here . . . for me."
Chapter Title: Kingdom of Kings and Queens
Author: Baby Blues
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, except for the children and the story itself.
Notes: Writing a chapter is always hard in the beginning. When I look down at the empty space just after the introduction, I tell myself "Why do I even bother? Nothing's coming to me." But once the ball gets rolling, everything starts coming together. ^__^ And yes, I have just realized this.
Summary: The teens remain children, Ethan Rayne pleads for help, and Buffy is going through some serious pregnancy blues.
Dedication: To Nicky, my evil half who brings out the blonde in me. Connected at the hip and demented in the brain. We're so screwed. *lol* Also, this goes to Hannahbee for agreeing to host "Our Sons and Daughters"! Thank you so much. As I said before, you're my hero. ^__^
~Angel: You better start talking, Rayne.
~Aiden: You better do as he says . . . He might cut off your tongue or rip out your guts . . . OOo! Can I watch?
~Gunn: I fear for this kid.
Maybe it was the thunderous footsteps that echoed out in the halls, accompanied by shrill screaming then quickly followed by cheery giggles and a stern and weary voice that belonged to his father that pulled him out of his slumber. More likely it was the slight weight on his chest and the soft snoring that woke him up. But whatever it was, Connor never expected to open his eyes to find a blond haired pixie curled up in a ball on his chest and mewing softly like a little kitten.
He groaned and rubbed his eyes, willing his drowsiness to fade away.
The little girl woke with him and made a faint sound before blinking up at him with brilliant blue eyes. "Good morning," was the first thing that came out of her mouth.
"How and why are you here?" Connor grumbled out a bit crankily.
"I got scared when I heard thunder last night," she explained hastily as she sat up on his torso, crossing her legs, "But Mommy was already with Tristan and Paige, Uncle Angel was taking up his entire bed, Eliza and Liam were already with each other, Austin fell asleep on the couch, and Aiden was snoring too loud," she ended in a whine.
He lifted a brow at her. "You could've tried getting over it."
She climbed off if him and stared at him inquisitively. "Getting over it?"
"Yeah. Get over your fear of thunderstorms," he said and ran his fingers through his brown locks. "It's a waste of time fearing something that can't really hurt you. The thunder is just a big noise. Like the sound of a grumbling, empty stomach but a million times louder. Lightning, on the other hand, is a whole different story."
She frowned. "I don't understand."
He sighed exasperatedly and shook his head. He forgot he was talking to a child for a minute there. "Never mind." He then looked at her quizzically. "Which one are you?"
"What do you mean?"
He smirked. "Your name, Blondie."
"It's not Blondie that's for sure," she huffed indignantly as she crossed her arms across her chest and glared at him with fiery sapphire eyes. "It's Brooke."
Connor smirked. "So you're her," he said, remember the spitfire he had come across in his father's bathroom.
A knock on his door brought him out of his reminiscing. "Yeah?" he answered.
"Ammm . . . hi? It's Buffy," a tentative voice answered from the other side, "I'm looking for a missing kid. She's short, around 3ft tall, blue eyes. Please tell me she's with you."
He smirked and looked at the wide eyed imp still sitting on his bed. "Depends. Is she also blond with a big mouth?"
"Hey!" the small girl glared daggers at him. "I do not have a big mouth!" She crossed her arms again and raised her chin haughtily up in the air, "Dad says I'm just objectionable like him."
Buffy laughed at the other side of the door. "That'll be her."
"She's in here."
The door opened and Connor tried not to stare so openly at the woman whom his father couldn't seem to disregard. And Connor now understood why. Buffy Summers was lovely. There was just something awe inspiring about her with her dazzling smile that radiated a sense of innocent allure full of strength and pride. And with her pregnancy, she seemed to blossom even more and exude a comforting sort of motherly presence that soothed his soul.
"Mommy!" Brooke shouted as she lunged for her mother.
"What are you doing here, sweetheart?" Buffy asked as she perched Brooke on her hip.
"I got scared from the thunderstorm last night."
"Aww," Buffy winked slyly at Connor. "Thanks for taking care of her."
The young man shrugged, blushing slightly from her open gratitude. "I didn't even realize she was in here until I woke up."
"Well, breakfast will be ready in a few. Make sure you come down and join us, alright?" Buffy asked.
Connor nodded slowly. A family get-together with seven boisterous children, the AI Team, his father, and the pregnant woman he loves? Sounds like an upcoming episode of Jerry Springer. He'd rather jump out of his window.
Buffy nodded and smiled one last time and headed for the door.
"Bye," Brooke bid him farewell as she gazed at him with her big azure eyes, innocent but still full of passion for life that would only intensify as she got older.
Connor grinned crookedly in response as she perched her chin on her mother's shoulder and gave him a small wave.
He returned it and chuckled lightly, getting up from bed and heading towards his bathroom to get ready for the day.
As Buffy closed the door behind her, Brooke stared intensely at the wooden barrier as she cuddled closer to her mother. "Mommy?"
"I think I'm in love."
Buffy stopped dead in her tracks and stared at her daughter and then back at the closed door of Connor's bedroom. "Please don't do this now," she pleaded in a groan, "Can't you wait until you're a bit older? Like . . . when you're 25 before we start talking about love?"
Brooke giggled and kissed her cheek with a loud smack. "You're silly, Mommy," she said, placing a hand over her jutting belly.
And the subject of love was swiftly dropped.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The knock at the door and the putrid odor surrounding him woke Ethan up from the cold linoleum floor of the stingy apartment he currently resided in.
He awkwardly scratched away the dried vomit on his chin and unsteadily got on his feet, flinching at the bright rays of the sun that lit the room through the bare windows. "I'm comin'!" he grumbled, tripping on a few of the materials of his spell as a pounding headache began to make itself known.
He threw open the door, eyes blood shot and squinting. "What!"
"Hello, Rayne," a deep and overly conceited voice greeted him.
Ethan's eyes then widened as though he had just seen the hounds of hell before him. He stepped back shakily, swallowed the bile in his throat, and spoke fearfully. "L-Loki . . ." he stuttered.
"In the flesh," the handsome man on the other side of the doorway grinned cruelly, green/gray eyes blazing intensely as he walked through doorway like a proud king, the arrogance in his step wicked and a bit mocking.
Ethan stepped away even more as dread grew inside the pit of his stomach, causing him to choke over his next words. "I-I performed the spell." He pointed down at the makeshift pentagram on the floor and the supplies he had used. "The evidence is there."
"Yes . . . we know," Loki's expression darkened, "The spell worked."
"Then I don't understand why . . ."
"I'm here?" Loki finished for the terrorized fool. "Because you screwed it up, Rayne. Badly," he said in an exaggerated tone. "And let me tell you," the young man continued on with a shake of his head, "My father's not happy with the results."
"B-but . . ."
Loki flicked Ethan's nose to silence him. "You can't pull yourself out of this one, Rayne," he ground out venomously as his minions gathered out in the hall awaiting further instructions. "My father gave me strict orders and I've traveled a very long way to meet out those commands."
"Wait . . . Loki. Let me just fix it! No!" a piercing scream rented through the air.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"What! What is it!" the vampire jumped from his chair, spilling a plate of soft, boiled carrots, peas, and a small handful of Cheerios onto the clean kitchen table and floor.
Wesley stood breathless at the doorway as Tristan's lower lip quivered at the juice his father had spilled all over his Blues' Clues shirt.
"Did you find anything?" Angel demanded, trying to calm the toddler down by drying off the small boy's shirt with a paper towel.
The ex-Watcher, appearing ragged and out of breath, looked as though he was near tears. "Two little girls playing tea party in the office spilled water all over my precious books," he said through clenched teeth as he held up a large tome dripping with huge droplets of liquid at the edges.
Eliza, followed closely by Paige, came up behind the man with shamed looks on their faces. Hazel and brown eyes brimming with tears gazed at Angel sadly, for both girls sensed the upcoming punishment they were sure to receive.
"I'm sorry, Daddy," Eliza sniffled, "We didn't mean it," she insisted softly, her hands clasped behind her back as she traced unknown patterns on the floor with the toe of her shoe.
Angel's heart nearly broke to pieces at the utterly adorable sight.
"I'm sorry too, Uncle Angel," Paige wept faintly with a lisp.
"Oh! And wait! I have more news," Cordelia pushed her way through the crowded kitchen doorway, her face red with anger and her hands filled with the shirts of Aiden and Liam. "These two brats ruined my shirt!" She threw Angel a silk blouse the color of champagne, "Gucci! MY Gucci shirt!"
The shirt landed deftly on the vampire's head as the two little devils began chortling ardently, giving each other high fives for a job well done.
Angel sighed. `Well . . . at least the two young enemies had finally found peace,' he thought silently as he peeled away the piece of silk from his skillfully gelled hair.
"Girls," the vampire sighed at the pair of cute little angels that stood waiting by Wesley, "Why don't you play in here instead. You can use the little table over at the corner and you two can play tea party all you want."
The two girls nodded, staring with wide-eyes at Wesley who looked ready to rip his hair out at the unfairness of the situation.
"This is lunacy, Angel!" Wesley yelled out causing the two girls to hug each other close and inch away from him and towards the vampire. "I've been researching this entire thing yet I can't seem to do so with all these . . . these . . ." he motioned helplessly to the children that gazed up at him with wide innocent eyes. "Brats running around!" he ended.
Tristan's lower lip quivered before he began crying in earnest at the strange man with the skewered glasses, rumpled hair, and wrinkled shirt. This was quickly followed by Paige's own heartfelt tears and then more of Eliza's sniffling.
"Hey! You big dope!" Liam rushed forward and kicked Wesley hard in the shins, "You made my sister cry!"
A look of pain washed over Wesley's face as hopped at the kitchen doorway, grasping his sore leg. "Angel, please . . . can't you lock them upstairs for now?"
Cordelia snorted in disgust. "My shirt, Angel!"
"It's just a shirt, Cordy," Buffy drawled as she entered the kitchen with Brooke on her hip. "It's not like you can't get another one."
Cordelia stood back on one leg, crossing her arms as she snootily looked at the Slayer up and down. "This is just great. The Slayer's here and look . . . she's pregnant," the brunette snootily crossed her arms, "Whose is it, Buffy? Xander's or . . . Spike's?"
"That's enough, Cordelia," Angel growled threateningly.
"Oh, so you're defending her? Don't you care at all that she's pregnant! Possibly with some anonymous punk from Sunnydale." She laughed sarcastically and stepped closer to the small blonde, bending over to look spitefully into Buffy's hazel eyes. "And you still have the guts to come here? Trying to rub it in his face, aren't ya?"
Buffy tensed, her lips tightening into a line as Brooke openly glared back at the seer with extreme dislike from her mother's tight hold.
"Stop it, Cordy," Angel said stoically as he stepped in front of Buffy as to protect her from the verbal abuse, "It's mine."
The ex-homecoming queen stood there in shock. "You're kidding, right?"
Angel's expression never wavered.
"You know what, I'm not even gonna ask," Cordelia gritted her teeth, "I'll send you the bill for a new Gucci shirt." She shot Buffy a scathing look and stomped off.
"Cordy," he called after her and Buffy balked at him.
If he tried to placate the bitch, she was going to take her kids and leave.
"What?" the brunette forced a sickeningly sweet smile at the upcoming rejection the Slayer was about to get.
"If I hear you say anything like that to her again, I suggest you start packing your things and leave," Angel said softly.
Cordelia cackled offensively. "You're pulling my leg, right?"
But the grave and solemn expression on the vampire's face told her how serious he was.
The cheerleader shook her head in disbelief. "I can't believe this," she said, "She comes back into your life and you turn into her bitch all over again."
"It's your choice, Cordelia," Angel said, looking at Buffy straight in the eyes.
Cordy snorted. "I really can't believe this," she said, looking at Angel disgustedly before angrily stomping off.
"I don't like her," Aiden frowned after the woman, "She has big teeth."
Buffy placed Brooke on the floor.
"A-are you okay?" Angel asked her nervously.
The Slayer smiled and shrugged offhandedly, but the hurt in her eyes defied her casual attitude towards the situation. "I'm used to it. It's Queen C after all."
"Hey, Angel?" Gunn asked from the doorway, "There's a half dead guy that just came through the door looking for you."
Buffy and Angel looked at each other before rushing to the lobby with Wesley limping hurriedly at their heels.
"Ethan Rayne," Buffy growled as they came upon the beaten form of the aging Englishman.
"Oh, Buffy," the man smiled through his bleeding lips, "I'm glad you're here. I have so much to tell you."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"I do hope you know what you're doing, Master Loki," the Frenchman said as they watched Rayne run across the street.
"It's fine. Let him go," the young man replied, wiping away a bit of smudge from the apartment window they were looking out from. "I want to see her."
"Yes," Loki answered, looking around the small complex in disgust as the Frenchman handed him one of his handkerchiefs. He nodded his thanks and cleaned hid hands soiled with blood and dirt. "Plus, it's not much of a challenge to kill a man with a hangover."
"If I may be so bold . . ."
"In which you always are," Loki grinned.
The Frenchman smiled hesitantly before following him out the apartment door. "Your father sent you hear to kill him, not to play cat and mouse games with him."
"My father's not here, Frenchman, and I'll do as I please."
"I really do hope you know what you're doing, Master," the older gentleman groaned lightly.
Loki chuckled. "Lighten up, Frenchman. We'll get to kill Rayne, dance in his remains, capture the pregnant Slayer, return to Father, and be back in our dimension within a week's time."
"You make it sound so easy," the second-hand muttered.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"You better start talking, Rayne," Angel growled as Ethan finished drinking a glass of water Fred had handed to him.
"You better do as he says," Aiden warned as he watched Gunn and Wesley tie the man to a chair. It was like a spy movie in the making and he was enjoying every minute of it. "He might cut off your tongue or rip out your guts." The young child suddenly got excited and looked up at Buffy and then the vampire, "OOo! Can I watch?"
Gunn frowned down at the small boy. "I fear for this kid."
Lorne nodded his agreement.
Buffy sighed and looked over at the eight-year-old sitting quietly on a couch reading a book. "Austin? Why don't you take the others to the kitchen."
He smiled and nodded, pulling a struggling Aiden behind him. "Hey! What's the big idea! I wanna watch! Mooom!" the child whined as he clasped the doorway with his small hands, refusing to leave without seeing some action.
With a deep sigh, Austin pried Aiden's fingers loose and shut the kitchen door behind them.
Angel looked back at Ethan. "Talk."
"What do you wanna know?" Ethan said, his slightly condescending tone aggravating the others.
"You want us to throw you back outside?" Buffy said through clenched teeth.
"From the beginning, Rayne," Angel demanded.
Ethan sighed. "Let's just say that I screwed with the wrong family," he began. "A few days ago, after a spell mishap and a run in with a group of Lotus Demons, I ended up in a dimension called The 12th World."
"The 12th World?" A haggard looking Wesley asked as he went to his books.
"It's a gorgeous dimension, if I may so myself, with soft blue, lavender skies, trees taller than skyscrapers, and rivers that ran blood."
Buffy and Angel shared a look but said nothing as Ethan went on with his story. "A world ruled by demons and mainly by two specific species that are considered to be the first demons ever created within that universe, the vampires and the werewolves."
Utter silence enveloped the room as the AI Team listened intently to the injured Englishman.
"These two species are also considered to be the most civilized. Think 18th century Europe . . . with the ball gowns and everything. They're the kings, queens, dukes, duchesses, viscounts, lords and lady while the others are lowly peasants. If you're not a vampire or a werewolf, you're nothing but a slave, or a servant. Humans, on the other hand, are nothing but food to them all."
Ethan took a deep breath and rubbed his sore jaw gingerly. "Anyway, I got caught up with underground rebels made up of both humans and demons. In the middle of a raid, I was caught and taken to the vampires where they tried to torture information out of me." He laughed bitterly. "Too bad I didn't know anything useful to them."
He closed his eyes at the memory but kept going. "I was there for days and quickly became delirious from a fever. I guess I started talking because next thing I knew, I woke up in a soft bed with 12 gorgeous female vampires around me, half naked, and carrying around trays of food and the finest of wines I have ever had the honor of tasting. I was nursed back to health," he shrugged, "Why? I'm still not sure. But whatever I started babbling in my fever- state, I was released . . . but my payment was my complete submission to whatever they wanted."
"Who are these vampires?" Angel growled, grabbing Ethan by his shirt collar.
"I don't know," the beaten man ground out. "I only know one of them. Loki is his name, and he's my vital connection to what the demons in the 12th World call an Eternal. The Eternal is the reason why I'm still here."
"The Eternal?" Gunn asked.
Ethan nodded. "According to the 12th World's history, when the hell gods created the first demons within that dimension, they created two Eternals who would live forever, who would rule over the two superior species for eternity."
"So then they're just immortal. Like Angel and any other vampire here," Lorne said, not really understanding what the big deal was with this `Eternal.' It seemed to be just a title a conceited demon would name himself.
Ethan shook his head in negative reply. "Vampires here and in that dimension may be immortal but they can still be killed. However, The Eternals, one the lord of the vampires and the other the lord of the werewolves, can never die or be killed by anything or anyone."
"They're invincible," Wesley breathed and Ethan nodded in reply.
"Nothing and no one can be invincible," Buffy said gruffly.
"You've never met these Eternals," Ethan smirked at her.
"Who is this Vampire Eternal you ended up with?" Gunn asked with a frown.
"As I SAID," Ethan exaggerated with irritation, "I only know Loki. I've never met the Eternal," he responded in truth for maybe the first time in his life. "It's said no one has ever really seen him except only for a special few."
"How about this Loki guy? You said he was your connection to this Eternal," Buffy demanded.
Ethan nodded. "Of course," he replied," Loki is the Eternal's son after all."
"But he's . . . a vampire," Wesley said in wonder.
"Different dimension, different rules," Ethan explained, "The demons in The 12th World prowl in the day and the night and they can conceive children. Everything varies with every reality."
Angel shook his head. "I don't particularly care about this dimension's history or regulations. What I want to know is what these vampires want."
"And why the hell am I pregnant?" Buffy followed.
"I don't bloody know!" Ethan declared.
"Liar!" Buffy screamed, her emotions getting the best of her.
"I'm not given any details about anything, just orders," Ethan ensured them all. "I only do what they tell me to do. They said to perform this spell to make Buffy pregnant with some kid by the name of Ariella and so I did."
Buffy's temper snapped and she stepped forward and grabbed Ethan's shirt with one tight fist as she punched him hard across the jaw with the other. Angel grabbed her gently by the hip and pulled her back as she struggled through his hold. "I'm gonna kill you," she bawled in a scream.
The Warlock panicked, sweat beading on his forehead. "It wasn't like I had any choice! My life is in their hands."
"Buffy, it's okay. Everything's fine."
She suddenly turned in the vampire's arms, throwing her arms around his neck. "No, Angel! Look at me!" she yelled in his ear as her shoulders shook with sobs, "I'm fat! And it's all his fault."
"You're not fat," Angel assured her, fighting off a smile as well as a laugh. It was rather adorable. Here she was, worrying about her figure rather than the new enemy just beyond the horizon.
"Yes I am fat!" she wailed, "I look worse than a beached whale! I'm a beached . . . cruise ship!"
"Buffy . . ."
"Hormones," Wesley provided for the others who stood back aghast.
"And you all thought I had problems," Cordelia grumbled and left, disappearing up the stairs.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Quit listening at the door, Aiden."
The little blond boy glared at Austin who sat on the kitchen counter, his nose still stuck in a book. "Eat me, Einstein Reject," he spat but moved away nevertheless.
"What's going on anyway?" Brooke inquired in a bored tone.
"It's none of our concern," Austin replied gently.
Aiden frowned. "How old are you? Fifty instead of eight?"
Austin only smiled.
"He's just a weirdo," Brooke grumbled and sat on the kitchen table, swinging her small legs to and fro.
"Weird or not, Mom said to keep all of us here. I'm just following orders," Austin explained.
"Whatever, G.I. Joe," Aiden grumbled as he leaned against the ledge of a window, pouting.
Austin's attention then shifted over to the table area where Tristan, who had been quietly sitting on his high chair and happily tossing around Cheerios, was currently being mauled by Eliza.
"Isn't he cute?" she gushed to her twin brother as she gently pinched the toddler's chubby, pink cheeks.
Liam lifted a brow at his sister and Austin winced as Tristan's eyes began to swim with tears.
"Amm . . . I wouldn't do that if I were you, Eliza," the eldest boy said nervously. He could deal with Aiden or even Brooke's fiery attitudes, but he did not want to have to deal with waterworks.
"Yeah, leave the poor munchkin alone, Lizzie," Liam said, pulling his twin sister away, "Look. You scared him."
The little girl glowered at him. "I did not."
"Oh, stuff it," Brooke spat out and then rolled her eyes, "You're such a baby, Liam."
The dark haired boy glared at the pixie with unchecked animosity. "You have a really big mouth, Blondie. Someone should really wash it out for you and then sew it shut," he spat out violently, causing his sister to frown and Austin to step back a bit at the powerful waves of fury emitting from him.
"Blondie?" Brooke grouched, ignoring everything else he had said to her. "What is it with that stupid nickname?" she demanded and then pointed at Aiden, "He's blond too. And how about Paige? She's blonder than me," she said, her finger turning to the little girl who sat quietly in the corner pretending to hand out cookies to a pair of stuffed bunnies.
Aiden smirked lazily and stared out the window, watching as the cars sped by. This was one crazy bunch, his half brothers and sisters. He wasn't exactly sure if this was all just a psychotic dream, but his mother was in the other room, and he'll take what he could get. Whether this was only in his mind or he had just died and gone to heaven, it didn't matter. Not when she was here.
He suddenly became aware of a shiny, black SUV parking itself across the street, then another one a block away, and one more just around the corner.
He crouched low as strange people began to emerge from the cars.
"This is too wicked," he smiled, eyes wide with anticipation. It really was like a spy movie. But when he noticed the guns hiding beneath their coats, his smile quickly evaporated and he stepped back in fear. "Oh, God . . ." he whispered in shock, "Austin? You might wanna come look at this."
"What?" Austin frowned but went to where Aiden stood.
The eldest boy quickly noted the strange men but remained composed. "Eliza?"
"Yes?" the girl answered, turning away from her conversation with Paige. "Take her and Tristan and sneak down to the basement."
She stared at him in confusion. "What? Why?"
Austin smiled at her gently. "No questions. Just do it. Make sure Mom, Dad, and the others don't see you," he said, "Brooke, go down with them."
The blonde girl stared at him as though he had sprouted another head. "Who died and made you boss?"
"Just do it," Aiden snapped as he helped Austin carry Tristan from his high chair.
"Ugh! You're such a pain!" Brooke growled.
"Can you carry him?" Austin asked as he handed the two-year- old over to Eliza's waiting arms.
"Yeah, it's fine. I'm stronger than I look," she replied, hugging the toddler to her chest as a look of worry crossed her face.
"Want Mommy," Tristan mumbled.
Eliza just smiled and gently caressed his brown locks.
"Austin?" Liam asked, wondering what was going on.
"C'mon, dude," Aiden pulled him to the window, discreetly showing him what was transpiring outside as to not alarm the girls, "Let them go. Einstein knows what he's doing."
Austin pulled Paige to her feet and led her towards the door where Eliza and Tristan waited. His expectant gaze then fell on Brooke. "Go," he said solemnly, "No questions asked."
Expecting another argument, Brooke surprised them all by agreeing, although rather grudgingly. "Fine. C'mon. Keep up."
Liam watched as the strange men began to mill around, a few had already headed behind the building.
"They have a lot of guts," Aiden said to him.
"Why do you say that?" Liam asked.
"It's daytime. They can be seen by civilians."
Liam lifted a brow. "Look around. No one's about. Well, I see some bums but I think they're too drunk to care . . . or too drunk to know what's going on. The cars passing by will probably think it's just a movie being filmed . . ."
"Your really are an LA Kid," Aiden concluded.
Austin opened the kitchen door and led Brooke and the others out. "Lock the basement doors. Don't let anyone in unless it's someone you know. Understood?"
The two eldest girls nodded.
"Good. Take care of yourselves and use any weapon you see if any strangers come near you. Now go," Austin ordered and watched them as the silently crept along the wall towards the basement door that just stood a few meters away.
"What's going on out there?" Austin then asked the two younger boys who still continued to watch the happenings outside.
"They've surrounded the area," Aiden informed him.
"What do we do now?" Liam asked.
"Inform Mom and Dad that we have company," Austin said.
The younger boys nodded in reply.
"What are you gonna do?" Liam frowned.
"Kick ass," Austin smirked, unclasping the window locks.
The pair's mouths dropped to the floor.
"Are you insane?!" Aiden exclaimed in a harsh whisper.
"Yeah, Austin, that doesn't sound like such a good idea," Liam followed uncomfortably, "Mom and Dad won't like it."
"I can take care of myself," he assured them as he carefully climbed out, "Now go."
The two younger boys exchanged looks before Aiden broke it and ran towards one of the drawers and drew out a knife. He ran back towards the window and handed it to Austin who now stood outside staring at him and the blade in bewilderment. "Here. Take it."
"Now it's my turn to ask if you're insane," Austin said.
Aiden gaped at him. "They have guns, dude. What weapons do you have? Except for the ones the Power Rangers on your undies are holding up?"
Austin grabbed the knife, glared coldly at him, and left.
"That was cruel," Liam commented.
"Eh, he needed it," Aiden shrugged and grinned.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Okay, so these vampires from The 12th World are here? In THIS dimension?" Gunn asked.
"It seems so," Ethan replied.
"Why are they chasing you?" Wesley's question followed after.
Rayne looked nervous and cleared his throat. "I failed in doing the spell correctly they said," he explained. "But they were too busy beating me into a pulp to explain how I botched the bloody thing."
"Did they say anything about turning the other 7 teens into kids?" Gunn pried.
Ethan frowned. "Well . . . no actually."
"Then there you go," Angel mumbled.
Ethan began to chuckle to himself. "That's the last time I get drunk before chanting a spell,"
"That's kinda . . . frightening," Fred retorted nervously.
"Indeed," Wesley agreed.
"Tell us more about this Loki," Buffy mumbled against Angel's chest. The name seemed so familiar. Of course, she knew of the Norse Mythology concerning Loki, the God of Mischief. Hours spent researching and studying with Giles and Willow did pay off a little bit.
"Well, as I said, he's the Vampire Eternal's son. He has the body of a young man in his early twenties but the mind and soul of a demon around 4,500 years of age," he laughed bitterly, "He's also a sadistic bastard with a penchant for torturing people with chains and knives."
"He must have some serious issues," Lorne muttered.
"I hear he's a saint compared to his father, so I try not to complain too much," Ethan confessed.
"This is getting us no where," Gunn said in a bored tone, his gaze on Angel, "Want me to try and beat more out of him?"
The vampire nodded his consent, his arms still full of the Slayer . . . not that he was complaining.
"No! Wait" Ethan cried out in fear, his face and entire body still throbbing with pain. "I know one thing and one thing only," he said solemnly, his eyes fixated directly on the Slayer and vampire, "They want Buffy, and they want her bad."
"Not gonna happen," Aiden commented with a frown.
"Sorry, Mom, Dad, but we have a problem outside," Liam said quickly.
And just as he finished his sentence, all the windows to the first floor of the hotel shattered loudly, the sounds of breaking glass echoing stridently through lobby and offices. Shards of glass rained threateningly on everyone as they all took cover under tables and behind counters.
Angel hugged Buffy to him, pushing her against the wall to shield her seemingly fragile form with his own body.
"Oh, bloody hell!" Ethan exclaimed, struggling from his chair to get away from the masked strangers who had entered the hotel with deft quickness and efficiency. "Let me lose!" he yelled out, scooting across the floor before one of the front legs of the chair caught, causing him to topple to the ground and onto his face.
"Get up, Rayne!" a stern voice ordered.
"Loki . . ." Ethan gasped.
Angel looked over his shoulder, eyes blazing yellow as he gazed contemptuously at the figure that stood tall and proud over Ethan's tumbled form. The stranger returned the vampire's stare behind a white mask, painted only with black lashes and blood, red lips.
"Frenchman, take care of Rayne," the masked figure snapped imperiously, his attention still on Angel. "Hand over the Slayer, Vampire, and we'll leave your companions unscathed."
"Over my dead body," Angel growled, turning on his heels to protect Buffy.
"I have so many quips to follow that up with, but I don't have time. So why don't you be a good little demon and hand over the Slayer," the voice behind the mask mocked crudely.
"No . . ." Angel growled in warning.
"Angel . . . maybe we should just do what he says," Buffy whispered hesitantly. It wasn't that she wanted to go with cocky bastard who would probably try and kill her, but two of her offspring were watching with fear in their young eyes while the others were currently waiting in the kitchen. If more of Loki's minions were in there with her children . . . "I don't want any of my kids getting hurt," she said desperately.
"I don't want YOU to get hurt," Angel growled at her in return.
"Hmm . . . I hope this doesn't fall on your conscience, Vampire," their unwanted visitor laughed sadistically as he tilted his head to the side.
Angel followed his gaze and clenched his jaws to control his anger and his demon that had begun to shake his mental cage. Struggling against Loki's minions were Cordelia and Connor being dragged down the stairs of the hotel.
Angel's growling grew fiercer.
"Get your paws off of me!" Cordelia yelled as she pushed away the imposing hands on her person with a repulsive frown on her face.
"Your choice, Vampire."
Angel looked at his son and felt his heart bleed at the desolate expression on his face. Connor gazed blankly at his father as though the young man was expecting a rejection.
Only a fool would think his father would choose him over the love of his life.
The muscles in Angel's cheek twitched with pain and rage as he unconsciously held Buffy closer.
"Pick, Vampire," Loki ordered impatiently, "The woman you left all by her lonesome or the boy who still can't call you his father," he stated arrogantly.
"How `bout neither for your life and we'll call it even?" a voice interrupted at the doorway. The figure drew a knife; the blade glinting fiercely as it flew towards Loki with precision and hitting him right in the shoulder.
"Master Loki!" The Frenchman cried out in obvious worry and dread.
Loki fell to his knees, the blade halfway through his right shoulder.
The minions acted quickly, but not as swift as Austin who speedily ran across the floor and towards the fallen form of their unwelcome guest. Miraculously back to his 21-year-old self and dressed in only a pair of black pants that suspiciously looked like the ones Loki's cronies were wearing, he ripped out the knife from Loki's flesh, causing the bleeding demon to cry out in agony.
"Tell your men to drop all their weapons," Austin demanded as he threateningly held the knife across the throat of the fallen fiend, backing towards the wall so Loki blocked his body from any sort of missile that may come towards him.
Loki just choked in reply, his mask falling half way, revealing only a bit of skin, curly brown hair, and a part of his eyes.
"Tell them to drop their weapons or this knife will get even bloodier."
Loki hesitated. He had gone on missions harder than this and had succeeded. Kill Rayne, get the Slayer. It had sounded so easy. He had forgotten he was going up against individuals whose blood runs in his veins too.
His father was going to kill him. "Do it!" Loki barked, and his minions placed their guns, swords, crossbows, stakes, and knives on the floor.
"Your cohorts have a lot of toys," Austin said amusingly, "Now tell them to leave. Even the ones outside."
Loki gritted his teeth. This wasn't happening.
"Do it!" he ordered.
His minions eyed each other cautiously.
"Don't stand there like fucking idiots! Go!" Loki yelled.
They did so quickly.
Those who had been holding Connor and Cordelia left as well, lingering at the doorway before the Frenchman motioned for them to depart.
Austin watched them with sharp eyes. "Leave Ethan here."
Ethan nodded enthusiastically.
Loki snorted through choking sounds.
If he couldn't obtain the Slayer, he was at least going to get Rayne and kill him for making him go through all this. "No!" he whispered harshly.
Austin pressed the knife closer to his neck. "Yes."
The Frenchman quickly dropped Rayne at Austin's feet, knowing his priorities and, more importantly, the significant consequences if anything happened to Loki. His death wouldn't be the only outcome, but centuries of torture by His Grace's hands.
With a disgusted snort, Austin threw Loki at the Frenchman who caught him in his arms.
Gunn, Lorne, Wesley, and Fred rose from their hidden places, each holding up weapons towards the remaining two.
Breathing hard, the masked form gazed at Austin, an air of hostility renting the air. "You and I have unfinished business, boy," he spat out, "You'll pay for this."
"Bring it on," Austin sneered.
Loki gazed at Angel and then Buffy. "We're not going to stop until I have her, Vampire," he threatened, his stare intense on the petite blonde Angel held protectively close to him. "You will one day realize that not only do you not deserve her, but she belongs with us," he finished mysteriously, getting up on shaky legs.
"This isn't over." And with a strength born strictly out of his pride, Loki walked across the lobby with his head held high, his shoulders straight, his back stiff, and his shoulder leaving a trail of blood on the floor.
"Well . . . that was fascinating," Lorne breathed a sigh of relief when they finally disappeared through the doors.
"We'll check the grounds if anyone's still here," Gunn told a distracted Angel as he and Wesley grabbed more weapons.
"I'll come with you," Connor said, coming down the stairs.
"And I'll be up in my room, taking a long shower," Cordy followed.
"Wow! It was totally like a spy movie!" Aiden cheered as he gave Liam a high five, the pair laughing giddily at the excitement and danger of everything that had happened.
"Buffy? Are you alright?" Angel asked worriedly.
The Slayer shook her head violently, her eyes wide.
"What? What is it!" the vampire roared in concern.
"I think my water just broke!"
Chapter Title: Deeper Than Blood
Author: Baby Blues
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, except for the children and the story itself.
Notes: I've just estimated that if I keep writing one chapter a month, I'll be able to finish this Season in another 3 years (I have 44 chapters planned so far). Knowing me, I'll skip out a few times so . . . 3 years and some odd months? God help us all. ^__~
I'm also not too happy with Chapter 8. The more I read through it, the more I hate it the last parts of it. As you can see . . . I'm not very 'action-like' so I apologize if the ending of the chapter kinda sucks. Hopefully I can fix that later. ^__^
Summary: Buffy's in labor and the entire hotel is in an uproar. Aiden's past comes spilling out in distressing waves, causing Buffy to despair over a son she couldn't help.
Dedication: Surprisingly, I'm going to dedicate this chapter to my parents. I know I sometimes you give you guys a hard time, but I am grateful. Especially for putting me through college and . . . just putting up with ME all around. ^__^ Okay, I'm over the Hallmark moment. On with the show. *lol*
Last Minute Dedication: To Chris, the straight one, for being the quiet, sometimes shy bad boy of the C&OD class. I'm sorry it didn't work out and will probably never work out. This also goes to Josh who I hope I didn't misjudge. I hope my instincts aren't wrong about you. ^__^
~Austin: Dad? Are you okay?
~Angel: Would you believe me if I said yes?
~Austin: No . . . not really.
Loki sat straddling a dining chair in a posh hotel in the midst of Los Angeles, his face perfectly stoic and his upper body bare as a private doctor tended to his gaping wound.
Injured by a mere child. How could he have stooped so low? Yes, he and Austin were considered to be around the same age in this world, but he was 4,798 in his dimension. At 21, Austin took up a measly .4% of his age.
Loki's jaws unconsciously clenched at the stinging feel of his skin being sewn shut, but that barely compared to his hurt pride. And that was what it all came down to. Pride. He could've easily killed Rayne at the apartment, but he had let him go. His ego had been overflowing at the knowledge that this simple mission couldn't be any harder than lifting a finger. But he had shortly forgotten that this was Buffy, and all those who loved her would put down their life for her, especially Angelus.
But he just had to see her. The Slayer. Buffy Summers. His mother.
She was much thinner, even in her pregnant state. Her cheeks looked a little hollow and her collar bone seemed more prominent against her skin. She appeared happy, but there was a hint of emptiness that was dulling her usually glinting eyes. It just proved how melancholic she really was and, more importantly, how much she didn't belong in this world.
A distant ringing sound brought him back to reality and he cringed, apprehensive of the person who was undoubtedly on the other line. Living for 4,798 years made you an experienced learner. Especially when it came to family.
"It's your father," the Frenchman said gravely as he held up the cell phone with slightly shaking hands.
Loki winced and waved away the doctor.
"But sir, I'm not finished treating your wound . . ." the man sputtered as he gently held on to the needle and thread that was still connected to Loki's flesh.
"Just leave it," Loki brushed him off and violently grabbed the cell phone as the Frenchman pulled away the still stammering doctor.
"You have a lot to explain," his father growled threateningly in the other line.
"Things just got out of hand," Loki said defensively, getting up from his seat and staring out into the city. "I won't fail next time, Father," he vowed passionately.
"There wasn't supposed to be a next time, Loki!" the angered voice of his sire yelled fiercely through the phone. "I ask you to do a simple thing, kill Rayne and bring me the Slayer."
"There were circumstances . . ."
"There will always be circumstances!" his father continued to rage, "After almost 5,000 years you still waste time playing mind games."
"I learned it from you," Loki gritted.
"Don't you dare use that tone with me! Amuse yourself with whatever you find entertaining but not about this," the voice said, the tone dropping in volume as it spilled vehemently with deadly venom, "Stop. Screwing. Around."
"I'll plan our next strategy as soon as possible," Loki pledged.
"Not until you return here."
Loki recoiled. "What?"
"Don't question me, boy," his father said ominously, "I want you here by tomorrow morning. Understood?"
Loki's jaws clenched rhythmically. Almost 5,000 years old and his father demanded he act maturely, however he continued to treat him as though he was still a child.
"Loki. Do you understand," the voice continued harshly.
"Don't keep me waiting, boy." And with that said, his father hung up.
"Get the jet prepared, Frenchman," Loki said, smashing the phone against the wall and causing his shoulder to throb in pain as blood dripped from his wound and down his back like crimson tears. "My punishment awaits."
"We're going to have to head to the store for some of this crap," Gunn stated as he looked through the list Ethan had compiled for the spell to turn the kids back to their older selves.
"And since when did bourbon become a major element for a reversal spell?" Connor asked.
"It's an offering to the Gods for all their brilliance and sense of humor," Ethan provided with a smirk and then rolled his eyes as Connor glared coldly at him. "Since the person who will be performing the spell was beaten into a bloody pulp," he disclosed through gritting teeth.
"I'm crossing that out. You don't need any more alcohol. It's the reason why we're in this predicament in the first place," Gunn stated.
"Sounds like a catchy anti-alcohol commercial," Lorne commented, "Don't drink or else you'll be thrown into Kiddy Hell where you'll be chasing five-year-olds and changing dirty diapers until eternity."
Fred's lips twitched into a smile, "Then maybe you should get rid of the martini you have in your hand right now."
Lorne gazed fondly at his glass as though it was an old friend. "I did say a great anti-alcohol commercial. I never said anything about actually adhering to it," he pointed out before carefully sipping the concoction.
Gunn smirked and grabbed the car keys.
"I'll drive," Connor lunged for the jingling set of metals.
Gunn sidestepped the eager teen. "Yeah, right," he snorted in amusement, "Angel would shit even bigger bricks than he's shitting right now."
Connor began to grumble as they headed out the door.
"You know . . . I keep wondering how Austin and Paige turned into their older selves without the spell," Wesley said as the doors closed.
"Maybe they got lucky?" Lorne offered, sitting down on a chair.
"Highly unlikely," Wesley looked at Ethan for a reply.
"Don't look at me! I have no bloody idea. I was a bit off my rocker, 'member?" the confined man shrugged as best he could being tied up.
"Paige?" Wes asked, turning to the 16-year-old who sat on the lobby couch tending to Tristan and flipping through a book. No longer a toddler with blond curls and big hazel eyes, she was now turned back to the young, teenage version of her mother and father.
"Well, I'm not exactly sure." Paige paused and thought for a long moment. "I mean . . . I remember huddling in the corner with the others when I heard the glass breaking. I freaked a bit and voila. Alice In Wonderland, with the speedy growth from small to big but sans cookies or weird tonics."
"Maybe it was because she wasn't supposed to age in the first place," Fred offered helpfully. "Didn't Whistler say she wasn't going to change in appearance anytime soon?"
"Hmm . . ." Wesley skimmed through his books, his forehead creasing in deep concentration before he looked at Paige to study her closer. "It's a possibility. But that still doesn't explain why Ariella didn't turn back as well."
"Maybe because if she did, she would've popped the Slayer open like a zit on a juvenile's chin," Lorne joked.
"Ugh, that's just . . . vulgar," Rayne complained disgustedly.
"No one asked you," Lorne huffed.
"Hmm. That may work . . . It could also very well be because of Ethan's intoxication and state of mind, the spell had a brake, a clause throughout this entire time," Wesley reasoned with himself out loud. "And how about Austin? Hmm . . . this is all very confusing."
"And something finally stumps the ex-Watcher," Lorne joked, earning a glare from Wesley.
As if one cue Austin emerged from the kitchen with a cup of coffee and his usual never-deflating smile. "I've concluded that the spell was broken because, first off, it was only temporary because the spell was quite weak."
"Who are you calling weak?" Rayne asked resentfully.
Everyone ignored him.
"Lasting only a few weeks or months at its best," he informed everyone, "Not only that, but right before I turned back, I was captured by one of the assailants from outside. He was about to break my neck so my anxiety went up to the max, and then I turned back."
"Fascinating," Wesley breathed in awe. "Austin's near death experience and Paige's terror of hearing the breaking glass. The intense strain might have sped up the brake in the curse."
Austin smiled in agreement and headed up the stairs, ruffling Aiden's blond hair as he passed him by.
"If only they were put through extreme stress?" Fred asked pointedly.
"Well, maybe we should all hang the rest of them upside down from the rooftop ledge and see what happens," Lorne grinned.
Wesley shrugged sheepishly. "I was only saying."
"I'm worried about Mom," Eliza suddenly popped up next to Wesley, looking at all the adults for an answer. "Is she gonna be okay?" she questioned, her big brown eyes watering at the thought of her mother getting hurt.
"Don't be stupid, Liz," Liam admonished from his station on the bottom step of the stairwell. "Mom'll be fine. She always is. Always," he insisted more to himself than to his sister.
"Yeah, Mom's a fighter," Brooke said proudly, "Plus, she's a warrior. Duh!"
"She's not gonna be fine," Aiden finally spoke up from his spot by the doorway leading to the garden.
"Aiden!" Lorne reprimanded.
"What? Don't say that!" Eliza panicked and began to sob, fists pressed against her tightly closed eyes.
"She'll die. She's too stressed," Aiden persisted, "She'll end up going through labor for hours and then dying from the loss of blood . . . as though a vampire had drained her."
"Quit it, Aiden," Brooke said angrily from her seat on the office counter.
The little boy turned to look at them and they all finally saw the tears that smeared his cheeks. "That's what the baby will be forever . . . a vampire who drained its mother dry."
Liam's temper rose and snapped. "You've been watching way too many alien movies! Stop talking before I beat you!"
"You!" a distant voice shouted at him from the past. "You! You did this!"
Aiden stared up in shock at his father who was currently staggering through the living room with an empty beer bottle clasped loosely in his hand. Semi-dried tears were smudged all over his face, a sign of his sheer distraught and unclear mind.
"Dad, please," Aiden begged and cried helplessly as he huddled against the kitchen counter, fear and alarm making him tremble.
He didn't understand what was going on. He had just fallen asleep in his room before his father came barging in like a madman, drunk beyond reason, and raving about his mother. The vampire had then dragged him out of bed, pulling him into the living room area where they have been for a mere five minutes. But to Aiden, it seemed more like a lifetime.
"You made her go away!" Spike screamed in agony.
"I didn't mean it," Aiden cried honestly, his guilt almost choking him.
"Nothing can make her come back. Nothing," Spike said as he dejectedly fell to his knees, palms pressed tightly against his eyes as he tried to will his tears to go away. But it wouldn't, and he sobbed openly on the floor like a broken demon he was. A demon who had lost his entire life that was packed in one little blonde by the name of Buffy Summers.
"I'm sorry . . . I'm so sorry," Aiden cried harder as his hard sobs caused his chest to ache, "I'm sorry . . ."
"I'm sorry." Aiden's face dissolved into complete anguish before he broke down and screamed, "I'm so sorry!"
The others stood back in shock at the unmitigated pain completely visible on his young face. It was the kind of pain and grief no child should ever suffer through at such an early age.
"Mom! I'm sorry!" Aiden yelled and ran screaming up the stairs.
"Dad? Are you alright?" Austin sat down on a sofa he had pulled out onto the hallway, and handed his father a cup of steaming coffee.
Angel grinned crookedly in thanks as he took the hot cup and let it warm his cold and slightly trembling hands. "Would you believe me if I said yes?"
"No . . . not really," Austin chuckled lightly just as another piercing scream traveled its way from the vampire's suite.
Angel took a large gulp of the scorching coffee and began to feel a bit dizzy. How was this possible for a creature that didn't even breathe? He wasn't sure.
A few days ago everything had been . . . so normal. He was running a private investigation firm with his good, reliable friends, he had one son who he was starting to make a connection with, and life was as perfect as it could get for an undead vampire with a soul. Now, he had the care of 5 of his own children from different worlds. Five children he never had the opportunity to experience the whole conceiving process with the woman he loved. What fun was that? And to add to that, 3 more kids belonging to Spike and said-woman were thrown into the blend to formulate this demented cake mixture.
Everything had happened so fast. First, the 8 teens were there and then there was the Slayer in all her splendor. Not to mention pregnant and a little hormonal.
Another shriek and Angel's thoughts focused even more on Buffy. Ever since she came walking through the hotel doors they had been friendly with one another, joking and teasing. But there was still a wall between them. Even though they were friendly with one another, there was still a strain politeness that made a few occurrences and moments uncomfortable.
"I don't feel good."
"Don't puke, Dad, please," Austin teased with a comforting smile. "It didn't go well the last time."
"I don't think allowing a voodoo priestess to act as mid wife was such a good idea," Angel divulged worriedly.
"Madame Taisha's well trusted by the Powers. We were lucky she was here for the week. Mom can't be in better hands," Austin assured him.
Angel just ran his fingers through his brown locks until it stuck up every which way.
Buffy had been in his suite since yesterday morning. The labor was taking much longer than anticipated. Worried didn't even come close to what Angel was feeling. It was more like stark, raving, mad-like anxiety that made his head spin and his heart ache. If anything happened to Buffy or Ariella . . . .
Just then, a young boy the age of five ran haphazardly up the steps of the hotel, tears streaming down his cheeks as a 16-year-old Paige followed close behind. Liam, Eliza, and Brooke trailed after her, their faces solemn as everyone took in the site of Aiden banging fiercely at the door.
"Mama!" he cried pathetically as he continued to beat the door down. "No! I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!"
"I don't know what happened," Paige said, confused and bewildered as the other two. "He was just standing by the door and then he just snapped."
Aiden gazed up at the redheaded woman who stared back down at him, smiling brightly and sweetly as though she was looking at a cute little bunny. "Hello," she greeted warmly.
He immediately lifted his arms. "Dad told me to give these books to you. They're the . . . Ak-Aklam books he took," he mumbled shyly.
"Oh . . ."
"Who's at the door, Will?" Aiden's ears perked at the sound of his Uncle Xander's voice followed by his Aunt Anya.
Xander's eyes hardened as he looked down at him. "Where's your dad, kid?" he asked with revulsion.
Aiden could only shrug before he turned and left.
"I want my mom!" Aiden continued to scream and looked around helplessly at invisible people who couldn't possibly help him. "Open the door! I want mom!"
Austin acted quickly and reached for him but Aiden shoved his arms away and began banging intently on the door again with fierce determination.
Hysterical and frantic, Aiden seemed to have gone mad. "You can't let her die," he muttered through his tears, "You have to kill the baby. It's the only way."
Aiden stepped off the porch and gazed up at his mother's house looming quietly over him. Movements in the living room quickly caught his attention and he watched as Xander, Willow, and Anya sat on the couch. He cautiously walked up the steps and shuffled closer until he reached the windows that looked into the living room.
"You have to let it go, Xander," Willow said quietly.
"She's gone, Will."
"That child isn't to blame for that!" the redhead exclaimed in Aiden's defense.
Xander laughed bitterly. "Who am I to blame then?"
"No one," Anya answered sadly.
"Don't punish him, Xander," Willow pleaded, "He needs us."
"He's Spike's kid! Let him take care of the brat!"
"You're being irrational. You're in pain . . ."
"Don't get all Sigmund Freud on me, Wills. My pain doesn't come even close to my anger!" Xander yelled, his deep brown eyes swimming with unshed tear. He crumbled on the couch, his face full of agony, "Buffy's gone! And nothing, no one can make her come back this time!"
"No! Mom!" Aiden cried, his small fists now bruised, the angry red marks on his hands and arms began to turn into green and purple shades. Austin made a move again, this time succeeding in getting a hold of the small child.
"It's alright," he told Aiden comfortingly.
The sudden sound of wailing emitted from the bedroom and all became silent.
"Buffy," Angel chocked.
And Aiden screamed.
His jaws clenched as he took the hard punch to his face like a man. "You're late," his father growled.
"My handy, dandy teleporter wasn't working," Loki gritted out facetiously.
His father chuckled darkly. "Keep talking, boy, and I promise this'll take even longer."
Loki gulped into silence.
His father was quiet as he walked over to a table at the corner of the library and poured himself some liquor. "How is she?" he asked throatily.
Loki got up from his kneeling position on the floor and wiped away the blood from the corner of his lips. "Thin as a rail . . . despite the enormous belly."
The dark man's lips twitched. "She too was like that when she came to our world. Skin and bones, so frail," he whispered, eyes seeing a past Loki had never witnessed.
Loki took a seat on one of the leather chairs and stared at the ceiling, painted with fat cherubs playing harps and flutes.
"Does she look happy?" his father asked, his tone sounding almost afraid of what the answer might be.
"On what?" he demanded.
"She looked happy enough."
"Happy in contentment," Loki clarified.
The dark man laughed before gulping down a glass of scotch. "It's not what she needs . . . what she deserves. Contentment's for fools who don't know pure happiness," he looked at his son with blazing eyes, "And what the two of us had certainly was pure happiness."
"Of that I have no doubts," Loki replied.
"Who hurt you?"
"One of the children," Loki nearly spat as Austin's face flashed across his mind.
The older man quirked a brow in silent derision, "My son injured by a pup? Don't tell me you're losing it, Loki. Your blood is thousands of years old, not to mention I raised you better than that."
"It's only a scratch."
The dark man threw his glass against the wall and stalked towards Loki who stood up, waiting for more abuse. The punch came swiftly and painfully, and Loki did nothing but receive it without so much as a sound of pain. "Scratches don't draw nearly as much blood as I know you've lost," his father gritted out. "I can smell it on you. That boy did a number."
"I can take care of myself."
The older man snorted and drew away. "Your mother was once wounded by a fledgling vampire from her own stake."
Loki's ears perked up with interest. "She never told me that."
He laughed "Of course not. Defeats aren't exactly praise worthy, are they?"
Loki shrugged. "No," he said a little petulantly.
"Figure this out, Loki. Just don't let me down."
"They took back the day. The child they conceived . . . what will happen to him?" The eldest of the PTB's looked thoughtfully at the glowing ball of energy drifting before him. It was only a soul of a child that couldn't be borne but was still important to the future of its world. "We'll care for him."
"What do we know of raising a child?" one of them argued fiercely.
"Nothing . . ." the eldest smiled.
"What do we name him?"
"What would the Slayer and vampire have named him?"
"Austin . . . Austin Brian," the eldest replied.
"Revered and strong . . . it will suit him perfectly."
"I am not changing any diapers," the second one argued again.
. . .
"Wait . . . there's another one in there!"
"What!" Buffy exclaimed, sweat beading on her forehead as she struggled for breath.
"It's alright," the nurse tried to calm the young mother down as she began to cry. "This happens more often than you know."
"I can't push anymore," Buffy shook her head vehemently, eyes wide with panic as she stared directly at the nurse.
"Well . . . you're gonna have to since there's another one about to come out," the doctor informed her.
"Ahhh!" Buffy screamed at another contraction.
And Buffy obeyed, biting into her lower lip so hard she drew blood.
"It's a girl!"
Buffy collapsed on the bed in utter exhaustion. "Congratulation, Mrs. Roarke. You have two healthy, twin babies."
Buffy sighed and stared down at her two little angels, all pink-faced with a nice set of strong lungs. Tears formed in her eyes as she held them both in her slightly trembling arms.
"What are their names?"
"Liam . . . and . . . Elizabeth," she replied breathlessly.
. . .
"Screw you!" she shouted.
"Six weeks after this baby comes out," Spike joked with a nervous chuckle.
"We're almost there, luv. Just a few more pushes," Spike promised.
And Buffy screamed even louder.
"C'mon, pet! You've conquered and won hundreds of apocalypses. Giving birth can't be as bad."
A punch to his face was his answer and Spike toppled to the ground.
"Buffy!" Willow chided her best friend gently.
"He was pissing me off!" the Slayer defended herself through gritted teeth.
Spike struggled back to his feet and glared at his wife.
"It's a girl!" Willow exclaimed, presenting the hollering child to its proud parents.
"What'll you name her?" the redhead asked.
Buffy smiled at her baby and gazed at Spike. "Yeah, Daddy. What's her name?"
"Brooke Sheridan," Spike whispered in awe, "She'll be our wild stream."
"She's gonna be a hellion," Xander commented from the doorway.
"Damn right," Spike chuckled.
. . .
"Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Williams," the doctor smiled through his mask, "You have a healthy baby girl."
"Oh, God . . . Buffy. She's beautiful," Spike looked at his child and then Buffy.
"I want to see her," the new mother said, the cloth that covered her view of her belly during the C-section a hindrance to her child.
Spike waited until the nurses had blankets wrapped around the child before handing her over to the bewildered new father. Spike walked cautiously to where Buffy was and held the crying infant towards her view with a proud smile.
Buffy looked at her baby and then her husband thoughtfully, her chin quivering. "I love you."
"I love you too, pet," he said sincerely, kissing her lips.
"Her name?" the doctor pried.
Buffy looked up at her family standing close by and smiled tiredly. "It seems like Madison Paige won the vote."
And Willow, Xander, Giles, Anya, Andrew, and Dawn gave a loud cheer.
. . .
"Hang in there, Miss Summers," the doctor said to the almost unconscious woman. "He's almost out."
"I'm so tired," she cried softly.
"One more push, girl," the nurse urged, throwing a worried look towards the doctor who returned it full force.
"I can't!" Buffy shook her head. "Angel!" she screamed for a man who fathered her child . . . a man who would never know he had a son, a man who would never see that son grow, a man who was long dead.
"It's a boy! But . . . we knew that already," the doctor laughed.
Buffy chuckled tiredly, tears streaming down her cheeks.
"What's his name?" the nurse asked quietly, her heart aching for the mysterious young woman.
"Alan Emanuel. My handsome, baby boy . . ."
. . .
"It's a girl, Mr. and Mrs. O'Connor," the doctor announced as a screaming mass of wet, chubby flesh was presented to the two of them.
"She's perfect," Angel whispered in awe as he was handed their child. "Hello Ariel Love, welcome to the world."
"Perfect," Buffy echoed and then began to cry in earnest.
Angel frowned and caressed his wife's face as he tried to soothe his little girl at the same time. "Sweetheart? What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Buffy sobbed.
"Come on, Buffy. Everything's fine. She's absolutely healthy," Angel told her.
"That's not it," Buffy whined.
"Then what is it?" he asked quietly.
Buffy's sobs made her breathing labored as she tightly closed her eyes. "Her head's shaped funny!"
The entire hospital room collapsed into fits of laughter.
Angel chuckled. "It won't stay like that, sweetheart."
"It won't?" Buffy sniffled.
"Oh," she gazed at her baby and smiled, "She's perfect then."
. . .
"Hang in there!" Willow cried.
The pain was excruciating.
"Oh God," Giles looked away, his face as pale as Buffy's.
"I can't see this," Dawn cried and ran out of the room.
"He's almost out."
Buffy gripped Willow's arm tightly, panic in her eyes. "Aiden Matthew . . ." she gasped, "That's his name, Will . . . Aiden because he's fiery . . ." she smiled lovingly, "And Matthew because he's my gift . . . my gift from God . . ."
. . .
An insistent voice asked in the distance, "Buffy!?"
The Slayer's eyes fluttered open, eyes quickly locking with Angel's.
"What happened?" she asked, her voice raspy and raw.
"You passed out," Angel replied, pushing back strands of her damp hair away from her face.
"Ariella?" she asked, trying to get up.
"She's fine," Angel assured her, pressing her back down on the bed gently. "They're getting ready to perform the spell to turn them all back."
The vampire nodded, staring into her tired hazel eyes and trying so hard not to drown in them. "It's for the best. They're completely vulnerable like this."
Buffy nodded, looking down at her left hand Angel was currently holding tenderly in his grasp. "I understand," she said, her eyes watering.
Angel looked surprised and gently pulled his hand away. It was dangerous to get too close to Buffy again, even now he was trying hard to hold himself back from trying to kiss her and pounce on her like a wild animal.
"Can't we keep them like this a little bit longer?" she asked hopefully, pulling Angel out of those hazardous thoughts.
He smiled slightly, reading her immediately. Both Slayer and Vampire had become rather fond of these tiny tots with their never ending screaming, whether playful or not, their nonstop bickering with one another, the infinite sounds of their pattering feet down the halls and lobby, their absolute silence after they had just broken something priceless, and their overall adorableness beyond their wickedness.
"Not unless we can childproof this entire hotel under 2 hours," Angel grinned.
The sound of childish gurgling caught him off guard.
Angel met her eyes. "Would you like to see your daughter?"
Buffy pressed her lips together and nodded eagerly, her tears finally falling down her cheeks in fat streams. Angel got up and took Ariella from her makeshift crib made out of a wooden drawer from a dresser covered with the hotel's best and softest blankets as well as some stolen silk shirts from Cordelia's closet (provided by Aiden and Liam).
Angel stared down at his child as he walked back to Buffy. It was still a wonder he could hold this tiny baby in his hands as though he was an expert at it. Parental instincts seem to be bred in him as a vampire, and for that he was grateful or else he would've broken down and cried by now.
"She's beautiful," Buffy whispered softly, her lips trembling slightly as she watched her ex-boyfriend with their child.
"She gets it from her mother," Angel said as he handed her their little girl.
"Is it selfish of me to want to keep all of them this way?" she asked, her eyes still on Ariella who yawned and then hiccupped.
"No," Angel answered, "And I think they're easier to control as children. Honestly, I'd rather worry about packing school lunches and bed wetting than driver's licenses and teenage pregnancies."
Buffy eyes widened with sudden fear.
"Not that any of that will happen," Angel quickly assured her.
"Who was screaming for me outside the door?" Buffy asked curiously.
"Aiden. We weren't sure what was going on with him but when Madame Taisha assured him you were still alive, he calmed down a bit."
The soft knock on the door interrupted their family moment.
"Sorry to disturb you but we're about to begin," Wesley announced.
Buffy looked at Angel and then down at her baby. Yes, she wanted to keep all them as children. Austin would grow up with his parents, Aiden would never grow up thinking his mother had abandoned him, Liam and Eliza wouldn't have be passed from the Council to Giles, and Tristan didn't have to see his mother kill herself and grow up with a sadistic demon known as the Scourge of Europe.
"Thank you, Wes," she finally whispered. But just as Angel had said, it was for the best.
"What are you doing here?"
"Came to watch the show," the voice behind answered with a smile.
Loki clenched his teeth as he kept his gaze to the city bathed in darkness and dancing with lights. "You're cockier than I am."
"Because I can be. I'm the youngest thus I don't have to be the most responsible." The younger man made himself comfortable on the ledge next to his older brother. "Father said you screwed up big time," he laughed.
"Go away and play with your toys, Phillip," Loki said in a monotone voice, "I hear the maids all need a nice fuck."
"Haven't seen to them yet, have you, Loki? You really are losing your touch in your old age."
Loki's eyes blazed but he kept his composure as an evil grin spread across his handsome face. "I'm like fine wine, little brother, I get better with age. You, on the other hand, are like milk, one that'll inevitably turn into cottage cheese."
"Ouch. Really," Phillip laughed, not at all offended. "Just say you missed me, Loki, I know you have. Who wouldn't?"
"What are you really doing here, Phillip?"
The younger man suddenly became serious, the city lights reflecting in his blue- green eyes. "I want to see her."
"Get in line."
"How is she, Loki?"
The oldest boy shrugged. "I don't know for sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if she remembered everything, packed up her things, and came home with us."
"Father . . . he seems to be going mad," Phillip said worriedly.
"Aren't we all? It's this dimension. Everything here is maddening."
"Hmm . . ."
"Where's our dear sister?" Loki asked.
"Begging Father for a new set of baubles. Preferably of the emerald kind and still attached to the head it belonged to."
"We leave in an hour. Father doesn't want us to stay," Phillip said regrettably.
"That really breaks my heart."
Phillip laughed. "Good luck here, Loki. I know you'll do well."
"Your faith in me is enlightening . . . and rather disturbing."
Phillip just chuckled and got on his feet, heading for the balcony doors.
"Where are you off to?" Loki asked curiously.
"To the maids of course."
"Who's next?" Liam inquired curiously.
Back to their older selves, everyone, except the two youngest girls, were huddling in Austin's bedroom like scared little children about to meet their fate.
Paige and Ariella were already with Buffy, chatting up a storm about shopping, boys and normal girly stuff the female species loved talking about.
"It's like waiting for our damn executions," Aiden grumbled.
"Oh, shut it," Brooke rolled her eyes, "At least we weren't the ones screaming for 'Mommy' like someone had hacked off one of limbs."
"Fuck off, Brooke," Aiden spat.
"What was that all about anyway?" Austin asked.
"None of your goddamn business," Aiden growled, on the defense.
The other looked at each other before Austin cleared his throat and pulled a name out of a glass vase. "Aiden, you're up."
The Spike look-alike scoffed ferociously and glared out the window like a sullen child he was only a mere hour ago. "This is stupid. Why can't we all just go in there together?"
"And maul her like a pack of hungry wolves?" Brooke snorted.
"Everyone needs a bit of one on one time with her," Austin explained, "It's only fair."
As if on cue, Paige and Ariella came skipping in through the door, laughing at a joke only the two of them understood. Aiden pushed against the wall he was leaning on and stormed out of the bedroom with everyone staring curiously after him.
"That guy has some serious issues," Liam mumbled.
"Issues that you both seem to share," Tristan commented mysteriously before heading out to the balcony.
Liam glared after him and the room fell into silence.
Aiden stopped dead in front of the door to his mother's room, his heart racing like pattering raindrops from a storm. His mind was blank as sweat began to bead on his forehead and drip down his face in small streams that reminded him of tears he hadn't cried for years. His mother, a woman he had never met, was just through this door.
He let his forehead fall against the frame of the doorway, his eyes closed.
He had caught site of her after he had turned back, but due to all of the teen's naked states, everyone, including him, went running for cover. After quickly getting dressed, Buffy was already talking with Austin up in Angel's suit and everyone decided to hang out in his bedroom to await his return for some serious drilling. But instead, Aiden snuck behind the slightly open door to watch them.
"The PTB's . . . they treated you well?" Buffy questioned, twiddling her thumbs a bit nervously.
Austin nodded. "Yes, of course," he replied and kindly grasped her hands in his to calm her down, "It was like having a lot of grandparents, grumpy but wise."
Buffy chortled at that and fell into a deep conversation with the democrat of the group.
The oldest of all eight was completely at ease, laughing and joking with her as though they were friends who went way back. And Aiden watched, completely in awe, as she touched Austin's cheek like a mother would and kiss his forehead tenderly. It was an affectionate moment that punched him in the gut.
How would he be able to converse with her like that? What the hell would he say? He snorted at himself and talked to the wall, "Hi, Mom. Can I call you mom? I'm not sure I have the right to since you . . ."
The door suddenly opened and Aiden found himself staring into hazel eyes.
Buffy gave him a concerned look. "Aiden? Are you alright?"
His throat seemed to have closed up as his chest began to ache. His entire past unexpectedly came rushing forward like a gigantic tidal wave, pulling him into a rough sea that was bent on drowning him. His eyes began to swim as he stared at his mother, looking so beautiful and perfect, just the way he had always pictured her.
"Aiden?" she asked again.
This was it . . .
"You never left," he finally choked out.
"What?" Buffy frowned.
"You never left, Mom," he told her angrily, silent tears now flowing freely from his bright blue eyes despite how much he tried to keep them at bay. "Everyone here thinks you left Sunnydale. Ran away from your duties, your life . . . your responsibilities . . . but you never did."
"Aiden . . ."
"You died, Mom!" he practically yelled out, wanting her to understand and waiting for the look of utter disgust and hatred that would surely fall across her face. He looked down at the floor and clutched at the door when he felt his legs begin to collapse under him. "You died!" he gritted out, closing his eyes tightly as the memories came surging through his mind like a lava flow, searing his brain and his heart.
"What do you want, kid?"
"I want to know the truth about what happened to Mom."
Xander's jaws clenched but opened the door to his apartment wider for Aiden to enter through. The young boy did so quietly and without looking around to study the man's residence. He didn't want to look too closely at the little things that made a place a real home, the pictures, the smell, the little trinkets scattered here and there.
"What did Spike tell you?" he asked, heading for the kitchen.
"I get a different version every time I ask."
"How old are you now?" Xander suddenly asked, half of his body hidden behind the open door of the fridge.
"Thirteen," Aiden replied.
"Do you know what rape is?"
"Y-yes," Aiden replied slowly, his growing suspicion making him ill.
"Well that's what your father did to Buffy," Xander spat viciously, slamming the fridge door closed, gulping down a bottle of water as he kept his back towards Aiden. "He left Buffy on the bathroom floor that same night to get his 'soul' and a few weeks later, Buffy found out she was pregnant with you."
Buffy felt her own tears forming at the sight of him, looking so lost and broken. She grasped him by the arms and held him carefully against her. She wasn't sure what was going on but Aiden was fighting to keep a hold of himself and failing miserably. She knew how strong he always tried to be and she wanted to offer him some consolation, to hold him in her arms and to make him realize that he didn't have to hold the entire world on his shoulders . . . that he didn't always have to be strong.
"It's alright . . . tell me," Buffy urged him.
"Spike raped you, he ran away, and you became pregnant with me," he said softly in defeat, clutching at her as though he would fall to his knees. "Eight months into your pregnancy, a gang of demons attacked the house. You defeated them with the help of the others."
Buffy's eyes went wide with horror.
Oh God . . . no . . .
"But the entire incident forced early labor," he growled and then looked at her with miserable eyes, "You died giving birth to me that night!"
Buffy embraced him tightly in her arms as a memory, not her own, crashed through her mind like a tsunami.
She was on the kitchen floor, staring down at her large belly as Willow kneeled over her, worried and trembling. A pool of blood surrounded her, soaking her jeans and sweater.
"He's coming!" Buffy gasped in pain, clutching at her stomach. "Dawnie, call Giles and someone get Spike!"
"What?" Xander exclaimed as though she was out of her mind. "It's the pain that's talking, you're delirious. Or maybe I am cause I thought I just heard you call out for Spike," he tried to convince himself more than anyone else.
"He needs to be here! He's in the school basement. Please, Xander!" Buffy screamed out her friend's name as a painful contraction overtook her body.
Xander looked lost and gazed at his best friend's little sister for some reasoning. Dawn only shrugged and lunged for the phone after shaking herself out of her initial shock. Xander shook his head but quickly left to get the demon the Slayer demanded to be there.
Buffy gazed into Willow's eyes and knew, she felt it in her heart and soul . . . her baby was going to come into this world just as she would leave it, and she felt her insides begin to break. She would never be able to raise her baby, to watch him take his first steps or be there when he starts going to school . . .
"Oh, God, Will," Buffy sobbed brokenly, "I want to see my baby. I want to take care of him and watch him grow. Will . . . I-I want to live. I want to live for him."
"Oh, Buffy," Willow whispered, almost in tears.
"I'm sorry, Mom. I'm so sorry. Please," Aiden cried desperately, holding onto her as though he never wanted to let her go. "If I could I'd give my life for you. I never wanted you to die because of me."
And something suddenly overtook Buffy, as though someone had pushed her to the backseat of a car, taking over the driving. She felt herself grasp Aiden's face between her hands, pulling him so she could look into his eyes. "It wasn't your fault, never your fault," she found herself saying, "Aiden . . . I would give my life to you over and over again."
"Mom?" Aiden looked into her eyes and saw his real mother.
"I love you, Aiden Matthew," Buffy smiled tenderly at him, "You're my fiery gift . . . my fiery gift from God."
And he embraced her tightly as he cried openly against the crook of her neck. They slowly slipped to the floor with her comfortingly caressing his back.
Buffy felt herself take over her body once again, her tears flowing just as hard his. "Shh . . . it's alright," she assured her son. A son she couldn't help through his life, but a son she would take care of and love from now on.
Chapter Title: Nature of the Beasts (Part 1)
Author: Baby Blues
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, except for the children and the story itself.
Notes: Because this chapter is so long there will be 2 parts to it. ^__^ Also, Men are so complicated, I can't get enough of Aiden, and I think I'm suffering through serious Buffy and Angel withdrawal.
ALSO, I'll also begin updating on fanfiction.net again soon until I can get a site up once more. My pen name is under Baby Blues at ff.net.
Summary: Buffy spends some more time with her other children, Connor makes a decision, and there are no such things as good-byes.
Dedication: To Chris, I guess it did work out after all. I can't believe it all worked out in the end. I love you a butt-load and I'll be immensely surprised if we make it another 6 months. *lol*
~Tristan: Do what your instincts tell you because you know, as well as I do, you can't grow here. Not in this setting and not with these people
~Connor: This is my home now . . . These people are my family.
~Tristan: But not your destiny.
Connor stared disgustedly at the assembly before looking out the window with a revolted snort. It was like watching an episode of The Real World or some other annoyingly vexing TV show that had a cluster of exasperatingly beautiful people in it with a `Woe is me' attitude.
While the girls droned on about Collin Ferrell, nails, and shopping, the boys went on about sports and politics. He didn't know how much more he could take. If he heard one more thing about the finer points of hair care or some infamous game play he was going to go insane and run out of the hotel screaming with blood streaming from his eyes and foam forming around his mouth.
"I thought Denver would get play this year. Griffin kicked butt," Austin said disgruntled.
"Ass, Aussie, Not `butt,' ass. Be a man dammit," Aiden corrected then scoffed while rolling his blue eyes cynically, "And that little short stop who doesn't weigh more than a bag of chips? I could run him outta the field back to Kansas."
"Oklahoma," Liam corrected.
"He's a hottie though," Ariella giggled.
"Yeah, but I could probably brake him in half if I so much looked at him let alone touched him," Brooke commented dryly.
"Too much info, Blondie," Aiden shook his head.
The other Spike offspring only shrugged in reply.
Connor could take no more. Growling under his breath he stood up and stormed out into the garden, slamming the door behind him with an audible snarl. The sound of the glass reverberating dangerously behind him held no comfort as he began pacing the cobbled-stone path, breathing harshly as he tried to regain his patience.
"Are you okay?" a soft voice asked by the fountain.
He didn't stop his pacing, nor did he look at her. To do so would only let her know he had been completely oblivious to her presence. And that didn't flatter his ego. He had been trained from a very early age how to hone his senses; the fact that he totally missed her being there didn't sit well with him. His focus was off and he needed a few seconds to get back on track, in that state of mind in which he knew more about what was happening around him than the average human being.
"I'm fine," he mumbled, aggravated.
"Doesn't seem like it."
He smirked sarcastically. "What? Are you gonna share a great bit of your wisdom with me, oh, Great Slayer."
Buffy gazed at him with her big hazel eyes and stood up from her seat at the fountain edge. Connor couldn't help but step back a bit, mentally incredulous at how a woman of her small stature could emit such an intimidated response from him.
"No wisdom. My brain's too muddled for that I'm afraid," she smiled hesitantly, "Just support."
He stared at her for a moment, hoping to find a hidden agenda written somewhere on her face. "You don't even know me."
"But I feel for you," she said sincerely, surprising him, "I can't imagine how things are for you . . . but I do know what it's like to feel so alone even though you're surrounded by friends and family. I know how it is, standing in the midst of them all . . . screaming bloody-murder . . . but no one seems to hear you."
Connor's jaws clenched. "You don't know what you're talking about."
She chuckled. "Maybe," she said and dipped her fingers into the water fountain, causing ripples to form around her touch, "But your eyes say something else entirely. I realize I don't know you, you don't know me, but I've always believed that life is all about trust."
"You want me to trust you?" he asked unbelievingly.
Buffy smiled. "You didn't let me finish."
"Then do so `cause I'm getting bored really fast," Connor gritted out.
She sighed and pulled her hand away from the water. She understood his doubts and suspicions. A boy his age as well as the way he had been brought up was very much different from her own. But whenever she looked into his eyes she saw Angel, and the way he hadn't been able to trust anyone, even himself, for a very long time. "Life is about trust that forms from instinct. Deep in your conscious and unconscious mind, deep in your soul, your heart . . . you know." And with that said she moved past him and into the hotel.
Connor gazed after her, completely stunned and skeptical. Who was she to come prancing in here, lecturing him about trust. There was no such thing. Trusting others left a person open for hurt. Vulnerability was a weakness, to show it meant either inevitable death or pain.
The voice threw him off guard and he jumped as he spun around to gaze into the blue sapphire eyes of one of the teenagers. "Jesus, Stealth Guy," Connor muttered, irritated, "How long have you been there?" he asked the boy who stood barely unseen in the shadows beneath the garden foliage.
"A while," he replied, "I was watching Mother."
Connor looked at him guardedly. There was something eerie about the boy who continued to stand in the shade where only a bit of light showed his bright cobalt eyes and silhouette. "Why aren't you mingling with your crowd?"
"I don't do well in crowds."
Connor chuckled mockingly as he took at seat on the garden bench. "What? Shy?"
"No, just introverted."
Connor shrugged. "Same thing," he said, "Which one are you again?"
The other boy was silent for a moment before he finally stepped away from the shadows. "You should consider what she said to you . . . about trusting her."
Connor's relaxed manner turned tense as he glared at the boy. "I didn't ask you so stay out of it."
"I know," Tristan answered as a butterfly flew trustingly on his nose. Not at all startled or disturbed, he held out his right hand and the butterfly landed on his outstretched forefinger. "But I know your destiny lies somewhere that's not here."
"Trying to get rid of me, are you?" Connor sneered disdainfully, "Can't handle another competition for dear old Dad's affections. You can rest assure that you have nothing to worry about."
Tristan smiled secretively as the butterfly continued to flutter its wings on his finger. "If it was only that easy," he replied mysteriously, "Your fate doesn't rest here in LA, Connor."
The older boy shook his head. He couldn't believe the audacity of this kid. "So tell me . . . where does it lie?"
"I think you know."
"Don't talk as if you know me," Connor gritted out angrily.
"Oh, but I do," Tristan answered as the butterfly flew away and over Connor's head, "I know that you've finally realized that Angel cares about you more than you could've ever imagined. You've finally accepted him as your father . . . but you just don't know how to show it. I know that you're restless and that you hate this city. You hate the bustle, the lights, and the madness. I know you can't stand it anymore and feel the need to move on . . . somewhere else."
Connor stared at him, stunned. Of course he's had those thoughts. Over and over again but not once had he ever tried to confide in anybody about his change in feelings. And for this . . . child to know about thoughts he had barely delved into made him irritated. "What are you?"
Tristan only shook his head with a small smile as he began walking towards the hotel doors. "Do what your instincts tell you because you know, as well as I do, you can't grow here. Not in this setting and not with these people."
"This is my home now," Connor called out, "These people are my family," he said, almost choking on the words.
Tristan stopped on his tracks and looked back slightly with a small smile. "But not your destiny."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Liam watched as his mother returned from the garden with keen brown eyes. He noted her radiance through her tired eyes and weary posture. It was subtle, the flaws that marred her form at the moment . . . but they were still there, a mark of the stressful days she had here in LA.
"We should make her some coffee," Eliza whispered next to him, reading his thoughts as only a twin could. "She looks as though she's about to drop."
Liam nodded. "Half a cup of whole milk and three tablespoons of sugar," he replied, remembering how she always took her coffee.
Eliza smiled. "Mom's known for her sweet tooth and her maximum dairy intake."
"Not to mention the greasy burgers and pizza," Liam grinned as they surreptitiously left the chatting group to follow their equally covert mother into the kitchen.
"You two really do take after your father," she said without turning around.
Liam paused and watched her turn on the coffeemaker. "I don't think it passed on only to us . . . Buffy."
She turned quickly to gaze at him and he looked away, not able to meet her eyes as he began to blush profusely. He couldn't do it, couldn't bring himself to call her `Mom.' To do so would betray his real mother's memory, and that he couldn't do.
Eliza looked upset as she searched Liam's face for answers. When she couldn't find one she remained silent as she opened the cabinet for the sugar.
Buffy hid her tightly closed fists behind her back in hopes of regaining composure. She wanted so badly to walk over to him and take him into her arms but she couldn't. He had been so strangely distant in their one on one talk. His answers and questions were so clipped and short as though he wanted nothing to do with her. What hurt her most was that he couldn't look into her eyes for more than a few seconds, and when she tried to hold him he always staggered back as though she would burn him. He was the only one of the teens she hadn't touched or embraced.
Eliza took in the moment and felt the need to leave as she pulled out the milk from the fridge. It was essential for Liam to have a few minutes with Buffy without the pressure of a time limit like they did earlier. Of course it wasn't going to be easy for him. He was so distrusting, so skeptical it wounded her to see him so distant from their mother. Yes, he was right, they weren't really hers . . . but the feeling was still there, as though they truly did belong to Buffy . . . someway, somehow. But Liam just had to realize that feeling . . . and inevitably trust it.
She dropped her eyes to the ground and scuttled off quietly.
The distance between mother and son seemed like miles away with Liam standing by the window and Buffy by the stove. The silence was like a sharp knife stabbing into his gut. How could everyone speak so freely with her while he behaved as though she was a prevalent stranger?
Hazel eyes stared back at him and he looked away.
"Momma, why are my eyes blue when yours is all green and brown?" he had once asked her when he was six.
Eliza had looked up from her seat at the table with the same questioning look, bread crumbs, peanut butter and jelly all over her young pretty face.
Buffy had laughed gaily as she poured him and his sister some apple juice. "You probably got it from my mom, your grandmother. Why?"
"Cause you have very pretty eyes, Momma," he admitted with a slight blush.
Buffy stood there for a moment, beaming at him. "I think you have very handsome eyes as well . . ."
"Liam . . ."
"Please . . . don't say anything," he said through clenched teeth as he fought back the tears. Looking at her reminded him too much of the past, both painful and happy times. "I just . . ."
"Tell me," Buffy urged him to continue.
Liam tightly closed his eyes and turned to face the window instead of her. "We were so young when Mom died. We were at the pinnacle of being teens when she went away," he almost choked out, "And I know I seem selfish considering Tristan lost her when he was only six and Aiden and Austin never had their own mother but . . . the loss for me was just as great if not even greater because next to Eliza, my mom was my whole life. She was everything I wanted to be: strong, independent, and a survivor."
Buffy remained silent as she watched him struggle to tell her and trust her with his thoughts and feelings.
"When she died I made a promise during her funeral," he said, finally looking into Buffy eyes with drained silver blue eyes, "I made a promise that I'd be strong for her, that I'd care and protect Eliza at the expense of my own life if necessary and that . . . I'd love them both the best . . . always."
Buffy stared at him for a long time and finally understood what he wasn't able to tell her. He felt as though that if he accepted Buffy he'd be breaking his promise to his real mother.
She stepped forward until she stood only a few feet away from him. "Liam . . . I know that I'm not really her," she began slowly, "And I want you to realize that I'm not trying to take her place in your life . . . I just want you to able to trust me enough to-to take care of you and love you . . . in my own way."
Her earnest look almost killed him and he shook his head, feeling a headache coming on as well as a sense of severe, growing anger. His demon was ready to come out and play and he feared for Buffy and her reaction to the monster that resided within him. "I-I don't know. I really can't . . . think or-or talk about this right now."
"Liam . . ." Buffy whispered, reaching for his shoulder.
"Don't," he barked, quickly stepping back as the beast inside him stirred and boiled. "Don't come near me." And with that said he stumbled out of the kitchen with Buffy watching him with worried eyes.
Eliza caught up with him just right outside the door. She pulled him into her arms as she led them inside the offices where Liam could get a hold of his intense emotions as well as his inner demon that had been stirred by his sudden turmoil.
His eyes flashed yellow then red before he tightly closed his eyes, his body trembling slightly from his inner battle.
"It's alright," she soothed him, his body still shaking as his breathing grew harsh.
"I can't do it, Eliza," he shook his head, "She's not Mom." He laughed resentfully, "Even the demon in me knows it."
She looked at him sadly but said nothing. What could she say to make him think otherwise? He was as stubborn as their mother and she couldn't change that. Liam had to think and decide for himself, but she prayed he would make the right decision.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"What are you doing here," Loki demanded, clearly displeased.
"Came to see you," a soft feminine voice stated, "And Phillip was getting rather annoying next door. The screaming and the grunting I can go without. You're a bad influence on him."
"Someday he'll learn."
"It won't be for some time. The women and drinking has turned him jaded."
Loki gulped down the rest of his brandy and slammed it down on the hard wood table. "What do you really want, Chandra? I've gotten enough from Phillip I don't need any shit from you either."
"Hmm . . . `shit.' How entertainingly barbaric. I never thought I'd see the day when you'd stoop so low as to use such a vulgar word that a commoner would use . . . from such a primitive dimension no less," she teased lightly. "What else have you learned because I would love to know more. Maybe in a week or two I'd be able to start going to . . . what do they call them? Oh yes, bars and strip clubs."
"She's fine. Tired, gloomy . . . but fine," knowing the hidden question behind her arrogant tirade.
"I know," she smirked.
"Then what are you doing here if you didn't come to inquire about Mother?" Loki demanded.
"I came to see how you were," she said sincerely as she took a seat on a fine leather sofa, "I know Mother's alright because she's persistent, a survivor, an immortal in her own way. I don't worry about her as much . . . but I do worry about you . . . because I know you, Loki. You'll torture yourself until you get a mission done."
He turned and glared at her warningly. "Fuck off, Chandra."
"When was the last time you slept?"
"Get off my back, Allechandra. I do NOT need this from you right now," Loki said threateningly.
She stood up from her seat and walked towards him, deep sadness in her russet eyes. "Get some rest, Loki. Stop drinking and go to sleep; you're going to need it."
He snorted. "You're not Mother."
Her eyes flashed yellow as her hand shot out and slapped him across the face. Her breathing was harsh as Loki kept his face turned from the force of her blow. Chandra was delicately beautiful, but behind her fragile appearance she was just as strong and powerful as her two brothers.
"Don't you dare, Loki," she spat, tears threatening to spill from her eyes, "You know me more than anyone else in this world. I know that I'm not Mother . . . but once in a while someone has to act like her. Otherwise this family would have perished in their personal desolation a long time ago," she said through clenched teeth.
She crossed her arms, hugging herself as she stepped toward the windows to look outside into the shrouded night. "You might not like it, Loki, but ever since Mother went away our family has gone literally insane. Father has done nothing but obsess about her, living and breathing her memory like a drug. He lives his life not because of us or his kingdom but because of the past and what he has lost."
Loki watched as his sister grabbed a stem of cheroot from his own personal collection, lighting it with deft fingers and inhaling in the deep smoke with slightly shaking hands. He understood her bitterness and aggravation. Their father had always been present in their life . . . but ever since their mother disappeared he had abandoned them in the most important way. No longer was he their mentor, their protector, their parent he had become their commander, their leader, their chief . . . their king.
"To add to the chaos Phillip's become a cynical womanizer suffering from insomnia, you've turned into a perfectionist and an overachiever with a drinking problem and a stick up your ass, and I hate to admit it, but even I realize that I've become an insufferable and spoiled brat who wants to be the center of everything," she ground the cigarette in the ashtray like it was the bane of her existence.
He closed his eyes and realized his mistake in trying to put his sister in her place. "Chandra . . ."
She held up her hand to stop him from continuing and gazed at him thoughtfully. "We're all trying to keep ourselves afloat, Loki. So be it if Father thinks living in his own misery will help him achieve his goal in gaining Mother back. So be it if Phillip believes losing himself between a woman's legs can make him feel alive . . . and so be it if you feel like struggling to win and achieve missions like a good little soldier will help you stay in Father's good graces. So be it if I play the intolerable little girl just so Father would notice me and baby me like the princess I am."
Tears were so close from streaming down her eyes but she held them at bay. "I realize I'm not Mother . . . but sometimes someone just has to do it . . . to keep all of us a little bit sane."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
He wasn't sure what had called him to the basement, but when Liam reached the bottom step of the underground gym and found Tristan on the other side of the room meditating on a blue mat he knew the mysterious boy had something to do with it.
He watched him for a moment, wondering how a youngster his age could be so intelligent, so at ease with himself and his surroundings, and so inscrutable. Liam always took pride in being able to read people, knowing when they were curious of him, when they took no notice of him, and when they feared him. But whenever he looked at Tristan he got absolutely nothing. It wasn't because Tristan had impenetrable walls like Aiden and himself . . . but it was like he wasn't strong enough or wise enough to read what was there, as though Tristan was more than human, more than demon . . . but a superior being that couldn't be described by simple words.
Liam shook his head. "I don't know how you do it," he sighed, "Analyzing souls, talking to minds, reading auras, looking into the future." He came closer, noting the way the younger boy just kept still as though he had not just interrupted him.
"It must be hard."
Liam frowned. "What?"
"To lie to yourself like that."
Lee shook his head. "I think I missed something."
Tristan finally opened his eyes, meeting Liam's gaze directly before gracefully getting up on his feet. "It must be easy," he then said, grabbing a bottle of water and slowly drinking from it, "Using your demon as an excuse for everything."
Liam stopped short. "You don't know what you're talking about," he gritted his teeth.
Tristan nodded calmly. "Okay," he replied and dropped the subject. "Would you like to spar?" he asked, motioning towards a pair of fighting sticks.
"Don't change the subject," Liam scoffed, capturing the staff Tristan had thrown towards him.
"You're the one who stated I didn't know what I was talking about . . . so I stopped talking about it," Tristan answered neatly.
"Don't be a smartass," Liam spat, twirling the stick with his hand.
"Not trying to be," Tristan said, following his movements before continuing on with a masterful form of the weapon, "Since I obviously don't know what I'm talking about."
"Don't patronize me either," Liam said dangerously.
Tristan shrugged. "No need to."
Liam retorted back with an attack that Tristan blocked with inhumane precision and without breaking out into even one drop of sweat.
"Why do you give me the hardest time out of everyone? You give me more shit than Aiden who deserves it more than I do!" Liam yelled as he continued his blows.
Tristan attacked in return, bringing Liam into defense mode. The older male struggled to keep up with the fast moves he was being served by his younger brother. "Because he still lives his life despite what he has gone through. When you look at Aiden you don't see a miserable young man in fear, you see passion in his eyes and a motivation to prove himself to the world. It's either you accept him or you don't and he's fine either way because he will live his life despite what you think of him . . . despite what you do to him. But you . . . you live in total fear of your demon," he stated honestly, "Everyone has them, Liam, yours is only stronger because you let it overcome you."
"You stray in the edges of society like a leper, bringing your sister with you."
"I do it to protect people!" Liam argued, continuing his onslaught now driven by anger and hatred.
"Do you?" Tristan wondered, finally knocking his opponent's stick away from his grasp and lifting the end of his weapon to Liam's throat, "Or is it really because you're afraid to let people witness all the sides of you?"
"Wouldn't you?" Liam finally admitted, not moving and his breathing harsh, "You don't know what it's like to have this thing inside of you, baiting you and making you feel dirty and sinful."
"No, I don't. I guess I never will," Tristan said, pulling away and returning the fighting stick to its original place against the wall, "But one thing you need to understand, Liam, no matter how much the demon has whispered to you in the back of your mind after all these years . . . you have still retained control."
"I'm waiting for the day when I won't be able to."
"And until then?"
Liam became quiet, not knowing how to answer his question. For years he had been conscious of the evil that resided within him. He had always known that it was there, waiting for the opportunity to take control.
"You are much stronger than that," Tristan said, as though he had read his mind.
"Right," Liam laughed almost madly. "It speaks to me. Even now it's telling me to slit your throat and dance in your blood."
"Then why don't you?"
Liam became silent.
"You have more power over your demon than you think," Tristan said, walking up to weaponry cabinet and taking out a prized Samurai sword. He returned to Liam and handed it to him. "Do it. Go ahead. Slit my throat."
Liam stared at it, beads of sweat forming on his brow. Do it, it goaded, He wants death. He's asking for it. You'll be doing him a great favor.
He clutched at the sword.
Don't be a pussy! He won't even know what hit him, the demon continued, Just do it. Take it out. Slice him open. Prove him wrong. Prove to him that you have no control . . . that you and I are the same.
In the end Liam disgustedly threw it down with a dismayed noise.
He gazed up at Tristan in defeat.
"Don't let your demon keep you from living your life and seeing what's before you. You're too caught up in your own personal misery to realize that this is your chance."
"My chance to what?" Liam spat.
"To take what you've always wanted," Tristan told him.
"Look at everyone around you, Liam," Tristan said, "Look at the young men and women who are trying to be a part of your life, who want to be your friends if not your family, look at the man who wants to be your father, look at your sister who wants to help you in every way . . . and the woman who wants to love you like a son. Look at all them and realize they're here for you." He shook his head, "Forgive the past, put it all in the back of your mind, reminisce over them like faded pictures and finally move ahead to the future."
Liam stared at him dumbfounded.
Tristan grabbed a towel and began heading up the stairs before throwing over his shoulder, "You might not get another chance like this . . . a family to belong to, a life with love. You've let your demon control your life in almost every aspect. Not once have you gone to a birthday party, a social dance at school, not once have you had a girlfriend. It's time to live, Liam. Fate has given you a second chance. Don't let your demon take it all away from you."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Mom . . . honestly," Austin began, gazing at the open suitcases splayed out the bed, "Did you really need to bring your whole closet for a few days in LA."
"Sweety, this is LA. Plus," she shrugged lightly, folding a camisole and a pencil skirt, "stuff like this can last for days, weeks, even months."
Austin lifted a doubtful brow. "Mom, I know you more thank you think. You brought your entire wardrobe and half of Aunt Dawn's to make sure you looked cute every moment of the day for Dad."
Buffy glared at him before he gave her a small smile of pure innocence. "Don't look so smug. And soooo not true," she denied.
"Oh, really?" he lifted up a red piece of silk, satin, and lace cloth from one of her suitcases, "When did it occur to you that you might have to wear a cocktail dress to a patrol."
She snatched it from his hand. "Under cover work," she replied, stuffing it deep in one of her bags.
Austin laughed and got up from his seat, hugging his mother to him as he kissed the top of her head. "You know I love you, Mom. I was only teasing."
"Yeah, well it's not cute," she grumbled though a small smile tugged at her lips.
"So how's everyone at Sunnydale? The last time I left off Giles had just arrived with a bunch of girls."
"Giles is coming?" Buffy asked in awe and then frowned, "With girls?"
Austin looked sheepish. "I guess time hasn't gone that far here yet."
"No, but thanks for the warning," she said, feeling nauseas at the prospect of Giles' imminent arrival with . . . girls. If he had turned into some sort of British pimp she would put her foot down and demand he return to the States so they could all watch over him and fix his sudden shift from Watcher to man whore.
Buffy shivered and then shook her head.
She was being silly. Giles? A man whore? She snorted.
The question brought Buffy back to reality as though someone had thrown a bucket of ice water over her head. "E-excuse me?"
"He's been kind of out of it."
Buffy nodded, folding up more clothes. "He's doing fine," she answered and then chuckled ironically, "As fine as he could get considering he has a soul and has apparently gone wonky . . . a bit."
"He's lost . . . confused," Austin tried to explain, "And he's hurting."
"I can only imagine," Buffy mumbled.
Austin gave her a small smile before taking out the pictures Buffy kept secretly in her suitcase pocket. He remembered seeing it there the last time she visited LA to see her father . . . and Angel. She always kept pictures of friends and family with her wherever she went. They were reminders of who she fought for always.
"It's hard," Austin spoke softly, watching his mother's eyes widen as he took out the photos, "Living only a few decades and some odd years as a wholesome young man who loved his mother unconditionally and wrote poetry before turning into a demon and living a century of sin." He went through the pictures, admiring the smiling faces of his mother and her friends, of his grandmother and aunt, of Giles and Angel . . . and of Spike.
"I don't how that got there," she clarified hastily.
He grinned and nodded, handing her the candid picture of the blond vampire standing outside the Summers' residence smoking a cigarette.
Buffy took the picture and stared at Austin in wonder. "And suddenly after years and years of destroying and killing you turn a new leaf, fighting for the side of good. And then you fight for your soul . . . for the person you love, not realizing what kind of pain and torture it would bring along."
"Austin . . ."
"He did it for a reason, Mom," he continued, "He did it for you."
Austin looked at his mother who was in the brink of tears. His heart wrenched and he paused, searching his brain for the reason as to why he was telling her all this. She was already hurting at the memory of Spike, of the attack . . . but he couldn't stop himself. It was in his nature to see the good in every being and to give everyone second chances.
And that was what he had learned and admired his mother for. Her ability to look past people's mistakes always surprised him. When Giles drugged her during her 18th Birthday and she fought a maniac vampire without her Slayer abilities she had been upset but ultimately forgave her only father figure in the end. It was the same with Faith, she inevitably forgave her sister Slayer for all of the things she had done to her and those she loved.
If he ever faltered, if he ever failed, he would want another chance to prove himself. He wished to be forgiven. He believed everyone deserved that chance.
He also knew that he would've done the same. Not for the same reasons or in the same way as Spike, but he would have sold his soul to the devil for her, sold his very being for her life.
"He's in pain," Austin continued, "For what he had done . . . and most importantly what he did to you."
"I've already forgotten it," she told him earnestly.
"But have you forgiven him?"
She stood up from the bed, shaking her head. "That's asking too much of me."
He said nothing and nodded. "Don't think I'm not on your side, Mom," he told her softly, "I watched in horror what he had done to you . . . what he almost accomplished. I couldn't do anything then but I want to do something now."
"By making him the good guy?" she demanded.
"No, by making you see past your anger to the hurt man he is now," he replied. Austin was silent for a moment. "You've always been able to recognize the difference between Angelus and Angel . . . the demon and the soul. What's the difference between Spike the demon and Spike with the soul?"
"That's not fair," Buffy gritted.
"You never blamed Angel for his actions as Angelus . . ." Austin stopped there and let his mother take in the rest of the words unsaid. "It doesn't matter," he shrugged, "The choice is yours."
Buffy became silent as she stood up and looked out the window. "I know what you're saying. I've thought about that over and over again . . . And I don't blame him. Spike with the soul I mean." She then looked up at her eldest son, the son that should've belonged to her in all the important ways. "I see the way he looks at me. Before he would look at me with adoration mixed with this desire to torture me, but now . . . whenever he looks at me . . . I just see pain and a longing to die."
She laughed slightly and gave him a questioning look. "But am I wrong? Am I sick? That even after all he has done to me and those I love . . . I still care so deeply about him?"
"No," Austin shook his head, "Only human." He smiled easily and pulled his mother to him before softly kissing her temple. "I love you, Mom. I love your light, your darkness, your humanity . . . your soul."
"I do too . . ." a quiet voice stated at the doorway.
Austin's smile widened, squeezing his mother to him before letting her go. He walked towards the door and patted Liam's shoulder as he left the two of them alone.
Chapter Title: Nature of the Beasts (Part 2)
Author: Baby Blues
Chapter Title: Nature of the Beasts (Part 3)
Author: Baby Blues
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, except for the children and the story itself.
Notes: I’m so sorry for the super long wait. What can I say, it’s been quite hectic. I just want everyone to know that I haven’t given up on this epic and that I just hope you all continue to stick it through with me. Love you, guys!
**Wow! We can all breathe a sigh of relief that this intense 3-part chapter is done and we can all now move on. Yay! Just a reminder to you guys, feedback is greatly appreciated and is the key to inspiration. Thank you!
Summary: There’s always a price for power. Buffy and Angel worry over Tristan as the children wonder what had happened in the lobby.
Dedication: To the people who continue to keep the BTVS fandom alive. Without you guys, I would’ve let myself fade away in the fanfiction world.
~Buffy: . . . I could never fear you. You’re my son.
Loki turned off the video camera with a resounding click. A frown marred his handsome face and a strand of hair fell across his blue eyes as he continued to watch the scene play out before him.He had just watched in amazement as one of the boys Whistler dumped in this dimension snap off Kaz’s neck like a toothpick. Silently handing the camera to the Frenchman, he lifted his foot to rest against the stone parapet surrounding the roof of a building across the street from the Hyperion. A thoughtful scowl grew on his face as the night air blew across his cheek like a gentle caress. His hair ruffled as his eyes grew dark with intensity. He had ordered the demon to take both Buffy and Ariella without injuring them. He knew there were going to be problems --death, carnage, the works-- but he never expected the demise of his family’s most prized soldier. Kaz had been bred for strength and dexterity. He had agility and a cleverness that not a lot of demons were gifted with. He was produced to fight and kill, the perfect specimen of a warrior. His father was not going to be pleased, not only for their third failure but for the death of Kaz. The demon had been in his family for centuries. He had taken down many of his fathers foes, and he was exterminated by a mere child. “Something wrong, Master?” the Frenchman asked. “The boy,” the young man said as he took out a pair of binoculars from his jacket pocket. “The youngest boy. What’s his name?” The Frenchman motioned towards the shadow behind them. His assistant silently stepped forward and handed him a file. “Tristan Devril Aerilous,” he replied, “Raised by Angelus in his dimension. No mother.” Loki looked at him expectantly. “Anything else?” The Frenchman scanned the papers. “He’s a psychic.” “And?” Loki urged impatiently. The second-hand shook his head. Loki tapped his fingers against the roof railings, looking through the binocular lenses. “I want more information on the boy by tomorrow.” “Yes, sir.” Loki frowned again. “That child is more than just a psychic.”
“There are a couple of British upstarts downstairs,” Connor said as he reached the top of the 2nd floor.“They must be from the Watcher’s Council,” Wes said, heading for the lobby. “Hopefully to take Raine,” Gunn sighed, just a few steps behind the ex-Watcher. “Good riddance, the looney,” Aiden grumbled just as they heard Ethan scream out obscenities below. “I refuse! I refuse!” the manic wizard yelled. Austin stared at the door of the room his parents, the physician, and Tristan were currently locked in and felt sick to his stomach. So much had happened in less than a few days time that it was hard to take it all in, especially with this unexpected turn of events. Tristan had conjured something powerful in the hotel lobby, powerful enough to kill a rather potent demon in less than a minute with the strength beyond anyone’s comprehension. “I existed from all eternity and, behold, I am here; and I shall exist until the end of time, for my being has no end,” he whispered to himself. “What?” Austin looked at Paige who sat next to him and then at all the others. “That’s what Tristan chanted before he went after the demon.” “What does it mean?” Eliza asked. “I don’t know. He said it in ancient Sumerian,” Austin frowned, his brows furrowed together in deep thought. “Is it a spell of some sort?” Connor questioned, finally putting his own two-cents in. “Maybe,” the eldest replied, wracking his brain for an answer. Liam sighed. “I don’t know what happened down there but . . . .” he paused, looking at his siblings, “I just . . . I don’t know what to think of it.” “Join the group, junior,” Aiden shrugged, “All I know is there’s more to Tristan than he’s willing to share.” “What do you mean?” Eliza asked with a frown. Aiden scoffed at her. “Did you not see him?” he asked her. “The kid was floating like a day-old balloon with some freaky X-men eyes,” he said, his own blue orbs bulging and his fingers wiggling to state his point more clearly. Brooke snorted. “You’re such a wimp.” “Oh shut it, Stream Wild,” Aiden scoffed in return, “Like you weren’t psyching out too.” She flipped him off and then looked away in a quiet huff. “Yeah, I’ll admit I was a little freaked. Who wouldn’t be? Tristan’s the quiet one who pretty much gets along with everybody and spouts off random stuff that digs a little too deep. Yeah, he’s kinda creepy sometimes but gimme a break, Aid!” she shouted back. “You lived in the Hellmouth. You’ve seen stranger things happen. It’s probably some whacked out witchcraft shit he learned from his dimension.” “Yeah, from non-other than Angelus,” Aiden nodded and looked at the others pointedly. “Whatever that kid has, it’s dangerous.” “You make it sound like he has some sort of disease,” Austin glared at him. Aiden looked at them all straight in the eyes, tapping his right foot nervously against the floor. “Are we forgetting that Angelus, Scourge of Europe and tormentor of the Slayer --our mother-- raised him?” he reminded everyone, “We don’t know what lies under Tristan’s tranquil exterior.” “He’s never done anything to hurt any of us,” Paige said softly. “Yeah, for now,” Aiden replied. “I can’t believe I’m hearing this,” Austin growled menacingly. The others began talking among themselves, arguing and adding on their own opinions to the discussion at hand. Aiden waved a hand in the air to get everyone’s attention. “Hello? Are you all forgetting that he snapped that demon’s head right off? Not to mention he almost lost all his fingers pulling out its tongue that’s sharp enough to split hairs?” Everyone grew silent. “I have to agree with him,” Liam piped up, looking directly at Aiden. “Lee!” Eliza gasped. “Glad I’m not the only one who’s wondering about the possibility of Captain Enigma’s darker side,” Aiden grinned smugly. Liam looked at his clasped hands, his silver eyes dark and intense. “Angelus is a vicious killer and Tristan grew up with him since he was six years old. Almost 10 years in the hands of a demon like Angelus?” Everyone paused to guiltily think of the possible scenarios. Liam shook his head and continued on. “Who knows what Tristan is really like. He could be a psycho killer underneath it all,” he said, clenching his jaws tightly. “Not Tristan,” Paige insisted, hugging herself closer as tears pricked at her eyes, “I just can’t fathom the possibility.” “She’s right,” Brooke agreed, “I don’t feel threatened by him.” “Which is probably what he wants us to believe,” Aiden rolled his eyes. “Good ‘ol Tristan, he’ll give you a bit of good advise, help ya when you’re down then stab you in your sleep.” Austin angrily stared at the blond before growling, “You’re full of it, Aiden.” “He can read our thoughts,” Liam interrupted, staring at the floor so forcefully he could’ve left burn marks on the hard wood, “He knows things about us and our past we haven’t dared share to anyone. Who’s to stop him from using that power against us? Against Mom? He may very well be in league with this new enemy.” “I don’t believe it,” Eliza shook her head, her eyes glassy. Her twin gave her a fierce look. “You should know better than anyone else, Liz. You live with a demon in you too. Imagine yourself at six-years-old, bright eyed and innocent, being taken in by that demon that sired us? Imagine how evil we’d be. And knowing that, you honestly think Tristan got out of it unscathed, uninfluenced?” The young brunette still shook her head in denial. Connor sighed in frustration. “It doesn’t make any sense. If he’s some sort of evil pawn from our latest addition to the list of things that want to kill us, why hasn’t he taken us all out by now? We were all here for the past few nights. Why not slaughter us then?” “It could be a mind game,” Liam offered, “After all, Angelus was known for it.” “I hate to be the optimistic one here but I need to point out the fact that we’re all alive and intact. Tristan’s in that room right now possibly at the brink of death, and we’re here, still standing...and talking about him like he's the enemy.” Brooke eyed everyone before glaring at her older brother. “Hey! I’m not denying the fact that he saved me from a few bruises!” Aiden agreed. “A few bruises?” Eliza sneered. “Okay! Fine, he saved my life but did you see what he did to that thing?” Aiden yelled, “If he can do that to a demon imagine what he can do to us!” “I just can’t accept it,” Eliza said, glaring at Aiden and her twin brother, “Tristan doesn’t seem to have a violent bone in his body.” “ ‘Seem’ is the operative word here, Liz,” Liam growled. Voices began to rise all over again as the quarreling intensified. “It doesn’t matter!” Ariella yelled through the growing arguments. Everyone stopped to stare at her. “I can’t believe I’m hearing all this!” the young girl shouted at them all. “He saved our lives! Without him Mom would’ve probably been taken at the price of some of our lives. He saved us all and all we can do is sit here and talk about how dangerous he may or may not be?” “Listen princess . . . .” Aiden began. “No! You listen!” Ariella shouted, causing the older boy to recoil back as though he had been bitten by a butterfly. “Is that all you can think about?” She demanded, her blue/green eyes darting from Aiden to Liam, “The danger he may pose? The threat he may bring?” She shook her head. “He saved us all,” she whispered, her voice shaky, her soft pink lips trembling, “I don’t think an evil person . . . an evil BOY would have the ability to sacrifice his body . . . his life for anyone unless he loved them.” She clenched her fists at her sides. “Did you even look at him? Did you see his back?” she sobbed, furiously wiping at her tears. “I couldn’t see an inch of his skin because there were so many bruises, so many cuts . . . and-and so much blood . . . There was blood everywhere!” She looked directly at the blond boy with misty eyes. “How did he get those, Aiden? Who saved you in the kitchen? Who pushed you to the floor to take the full brunt of the attack meant for you?” The others fell into deep silence, their gazes straying uncomfortably on inanimate objects in the hall of the 2nd floor. “Tristan has been nothing but nice to me . . . to each and every one of us,” Ariella laughed bitterly, “I could be dead without him. We may ALL be dead without him.” The doors to the bedroom opened quietly and they all stopped to stare at the doctor, a Fierlo demon with light sea green eyes and a scatter of silver scales on his forehead and arms. Austin stood and greeted him. “What’s the news, doc?” He sighed and rubbed tiredly at his glasses. “Well . . . ” he replied, “I cleaned up all his wounds and bandaged them up.” “Will he be okay?” Ariella asked eagerly. The doctor smiled. “Yes. He’s lost a lot of blood and is very weak. A good day of rest and plenty of fluids for the rest of the week should do wonders, and then he’ll be up and running in no time.” Austin nodded. “Thanks, doctor.” “Can we see him?” Paige asked. “No, not at the moment,” the doctor shook his head, “Just let him rest before you all infiltrate his room like a pack of hyenas,” he teased with a wink. And with a nod and a small, gentle smile the doctor left.
Tristan’s head was hurting. There were too many thoughts zipping past and through his head like annoying mosquitoes.He could hear so many voices, so many thoughts. He could sense fear, fear of HIM, and it tore at his heart like little repetitive scratches, slicing and tearing at the tenderness of his soul. “Do you really think they’ll accept you, son?” a voice asked him in the distance. The little boy opened his eyes, looking up to find an elementary school building through the tinted windows of a limo. He watched in awe as the kids played in the sun, their laughter and shrieks floating through the air like a melodious song of a faraway childhood he could never return to. “You’ll never be like them,” the voice continued to whisper in his ear as he gazed longingly at the playground. The boy watched as Ariella slid down the slide, hand in hand with Paige. Aiden was climbing a sturdy tree, precariously hanging upside down from a branch while Austin reprimanded him and demanded he get down before he broke his neck. Liam and Eliza were playing chase around Brooke as she built a castle from the sand. “You’re my child,” the voice continued, “You’ll be more than what they are, mere humans with special powers . . . you’ll be a God.” “But, Papa, I don’t wanna be a God,” the boy admitted. That caused the man to laugh darkly. “Don’t you want to be just like me?” The boy nodded enthusiastically, looking up into the dark, sinister eyes of his father. “Then you’ll be a God, a powerful one,” Angelus said, his tone turning serious and almost deadly, “Just like me, Tristan . . . just . . . like . . . me . . . .” Tristan’s eyes shot open, his thoughts tangled and his eyes unfocused. “Tristan? Honey?” A voice called out. “Mom?” he whispered before pain sliced through him and everything went black again.
That pained whisper from Tristan’s lips was the last straw for Buffy as she dropped her head and cried quietly, her heart aching inside her chest. Her soul was ripping apart for her youngest son.This wasn’t fair. It was like finding her mother dead on the couch, but this time it felt much worse. Though Tristan wasn’t dead, seeing him like this was killing her bit by bit as the minutes ticked by. This was her child. This was her son. Buffy closed her eyes, wishing to God she could take away his pain. She finally understood what her own mother must have felt whenever she left the house and disappeared into the night to save the world, risking her life night after night. The worries and the doubts, how did her Mom cope with such feelings? She could still remember only the day before holding Tristan in her arms as a teething toddler, smelling like baby powder and milk. He had been so small and innocent, and she had loved him then and she loved him even more now. It tore her to see him at this state, and killed her that even as a mother she couldn’t transfer his pain to herself. Angel swallowed the lump in his throat as he stared at her, sitting so sullenly at the edge of the bed, her fingers gently tracing the wraps on Tristan’s back. “Buffy . . .” “Angel,” she choked, unable to meet his gaze, “I’m sorry . . . I just can’t talk right now.” He nodded, understandingly since he didn’t know what to say either. So they sat together in silence, staring down at the prone and pale form of their baby boy.
It was during the middle of the night when Eliza came sneaking into Liam’s bedroom. He knew she was going to come. Eliza didn’t like to argue or put up a fight with him in front of others, she would rather do it in the blanket of the night.She sat quietly on a chair by a large dressing table, her eyes adjusting to the dark as she watched Liam stare blankly at the ceiling. “What was that all about?” Liam didn’t even bother pretending he didn’t know what she was talking about. “Do you honestly think Tristan went unaffected by that demon?” Eliza was quiet. “I think you’re jealous.” Liam scoffed at her, turning so Eliza only saw his back. “You’re delusional.” “You’re jealous because if you were in his shoes . . . you would have easily fallen prey to his influence, melted like butter to his words, his attentions.” Eliza gritted her teeth, her temper flaring. “You’re just jealous because you know that you wouldn’t have turned out the way Tristan did: kind and gentle. You would’ve ended up just like HIM, a vicious and twisted killer.” Liam growled, feeling his own temper rise. “Get out.” She didn’t say anything else as she got up and returned to her bedroom, leaving him simmering and hurt by her words . . . because they both knew it was true.
Loki was tired. His muscles ached, his legs were ready to give out beneath him, and his eyes were weary and blood shot. His entire body was begging him to rest and get some much needed sleep but his mind refused. Not yet, it said, there was still much to be done.Mind over body, he mentally chanted to himself. He drank more coffee and continued to look through the papers and pictures that were scattered all over his office desk. The mystery of Tristan Devril Aerilous was nagging at him badly like an infected wound that wouldn’t heal. His past was shrouded in obscurity. While the other teens’ personal history and other background information had come easily, Tristan’s had been hard to come by. It was like the boy barely existed. That and the Angelus from his dimension had been very judicious about any details about the boy leaking out to the underworld. Usually there were demons everywhere more than willing to talk after a few threats or small bribes but they had come across only empty leads. There had to be a good reason why they had only gathered a few little facts about Tristan. The boy was a psychic, that much was obvious, and he was also a soothsayer. It was very little information on a boy who could very well be the downfall of this mission. With Tristan on the White Hats side, things were bound to get more difficult. That boy was powerful. Too powerful, and thus Angel and his crack team had further advantage over Loki and his family’s cause. “Sir?” “Yes,” he replied with a frown. The Frenchman entered, followed closely by an old woman with a weather beaten face and deeply hunched back. She teetered inside clutching a polished mahogany cane, her expression mirthless and her mouth tight. Loki narrowed his eyes, noting closely the black pit where her left eye should be. “Madame Luwina,” he greeted, standing from his chair in greeting and respect. The old woman’s mouth tightened further as she stood before him, her chin high in the air. “I know what you want, Devil Child,” she said, her voice raspy and deep. Loki said nothing. “You want me to read someone for you.” She took out a glass ball from her pocket and popped it into her empty left eye. “I see you want to question me about a boy.” She scoffed, “Unfortunately, I don’t help the likes of you.” Loki smirked, deeply amused. “Hmm . . . that’s interesting because you have no choice in the matter.” “I will always have a choice,” she said with pride and conviction, “I’m an old woman. Do your worst. I expect nothing less from a fiend like you.” Loki’s sneer never faded. “As I said before you have no choice in the matter.” With a slight nod to the Frenchman he turned to look out the large suite windows that overlooked LA, his eyes darkening as the woman screamed.
Austin wasn’t sure what woke him up in the middle of the night. Maybe it was the palpable tension that was currently smothering the atmosphere of the Hyperion. Maybe it was the fact that every one of his siblings except Tristan was still awake.Getting up from bed he crept quietly out of his bedroom, his eyes adjusting to the darkness of the hallway. With his heightened senses he heard Liam and Eliza conversing in one of their adjoining bedrooms, he heard the soft sniffles of Ariella and Brooke’s silent pacing. Even Aiden was up tonight, out on his balcony, the telltale scent of cigarette smoke lingering in the air. There would be no rest for his siblings tonight. Too many emotions were wound too tightly. He crept down the stairs, a single lamp in the lobby his only source of light. Making his way to the kitchen to get a glass of water, he stopped short on his journey at the sound of fists meeting leather. Frowning, he walked quietly down to the basement, and found Paige beating an innocent punching bag, tears streaming down her cheeks as she kicked and pummeled without any sort of technique or discipline. “Paige?” he asked softly. The little blond looked up at him, her lips trembling slightly as she whispered his name and then collapsed onto the floor with a broken sob. Austin watched her for a moment as she hugged her self, swaying her body back and forth in order to simulate a rocking motion that comforted all human beings. He approached her carefully, knowing very well how confused and vulnerable she was. “Paige?” he asked again. With a strangled cry the young woman lunged at him, clinging onto him as though she was in danger of drowning in a sea of grief. “I’m trying to be strong!” she cried out, “But Tristan almost died in front of me.” “I know,” he whispered. “I'm scared, Austin,” she sobbed. “I'm so scared that if anything happens I'll just freeze. I want to go back home. I'm not ready for any of this!” Austin held her more tightly against him, sensing her vulnerability along with her fear. He was glad that she could finally admit it. He knew that she had been lying when she had told him, on this very mat, that she wasn’t afraid of dying. He hadn’t believed her then. Everyone had a fear of death no matter how brave they believed themselves to be. “Destiny never waits, Paige.” “I don't want to do this....” “I know.” Austin smiled, “But you will, because it's in you.” He smoothed long golden stresses as he let her continue to cry in his arms.
Aiden stared at the door, dreading the scene behind it. His mother was currently in the shower while Angel was downstairs in the kitchen making coffee, which was his lame excuse to brood alone for a moment or two.He opened the door into the dark room. There were no sounds except for the raspy breathing of his injured young brother who lay motionless on the large bed. Aiden swallowed hard and stumbled a bit when he realized he was not alone. “Ariella?” he asked. She looked up from her perch on a small seat by the bed. Aiden could clearly see the glistening tears on her face and her small hands that held Tristan’s much larger ones. “He looks so . . . ” she didn’t finish the sentence before she broke down into a fresh new wave of sobs. Just like a typical male, though he may try and deny it time and time again, Aiden was helpless against a female’s tears, especially that of a young girl who looked as broken as the young boy who lay motionless on the bed. “Hey,” he said, feeling awkward and unsure as he crouched down next to her and slipped a strand of her brown hair behind her ear, “None of that now.” “I can’t help it,” she wailed quietly, not wanting to disturb Tristan’s sleep, “He could’ve died. I don’t want him to die. I don’t want anyone to die!” “Hey,” he said and then awkwardly hugged her close. “I don’t think Tristan would appreciate you crying over him. Knowing him he’d want you to be strong. Gotta keep that chin up, you know.” Her sobs slowly quieted into small hiccups before she got off the seat and curled up in Aiden's arms. He uncomfortably settled on the hardwood floor of the bedroom, gently patting her head as her tears continued to flow and soak his shirt. “I’m afraid,” she suddenly confessed. “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” he replied honestly, because he knew that everyone, including himself, would do whatever it took to keep her safe. “I’m here. We’re all here, and we’ll take care of you...and each other.” And that was how Austin and Paige found them. Aiden glanced up at their entrance before Ariella stood from his embrace and lunged at the pair. Paige broke out into tears and Ariella clung to her. And they held onto each other, crying. Austin and Aiden exchanged a look. Aiden rolled his eyes and sat back on the chair Ariella had occupied, his hands folded against the back of his head. Austin patted Ariella on her back and all remained silent until door suddenly opened revealing an irate looking Brooke pulling along a stunned Eliza with Connor right behind them, a sleazy kind of smirk on his face. “Why are you so angry?” The young man asked. Brooke faced Connor, a deadly finger stabbing at his chest. “You're stalking me and I don't like it.” “Stalking you?” Connor scoffed. “You're kinda full of yourself, aren't ya? You're the one who bumped into me.” “You were right outside my door.” “Yeah, talking to Eliza who was making her way over here.” “Shut up. You don't get to talk anymore.” “Oh, well, excuse me-” “Hey, can we not bicker right now. There's a sick boy in need of his rest,” Austin demanded. “Yeah, seriously,” Aiden piped up. “The two of you should just make out already and spare us all this childish foreplay.” “Go to hell.” Brooke crossed her arms but ended the argument by taking a seat on the bed near Tristan. She ran gentle fingers through his dark hair. “Is he gonna be okay?” Austin sighed. “Looks like it.” Eliza's soft sniffling led Ariella and Page to her and the three girls held onto each other and cried softly, Eliza murmuring quiet words of comfort. “I knew you'd all be here.” They looked to the doorway and found Angel with Liam right behind him, looking uncomfortable and avoiding eye contact with everyone. Ariella let out a soft cry and ran after him. Liam caught her in his arms, looking shocked and unsure as she wailed against his chest. He cleared his throat. “It's -it's okay,” he whispered. Angel placed a large hand on her head. “Everything's going to be fine,” he smiled awkwardly. “Tristan's going to be fine.” “I hope so,” she sobbed, clutching at Liam as she gazed over at Tristan's still form. “I love him so much. And he makes the best pancakes ever,” she ended in a wail. Everyone smiled. Ariella gave her love so freely that it was difficult not to love her back in return. Despite her numerous faults, she was joy.
Tristan was back in the limo with the tinted windows, staring out into the sunlight at the elementary school building. He watched his siblings as they continued to play, their laughter and happiness evident as they enjoyed the afternoon sun.“Do you really think they’ll accept you, son?” a voice next to him asked again. “You’ll never be like them,” it continued as he continued to gaze longingly at the playground. He watched as Ariella slid down the slide, hand in hand with Paige. Aiden was climbing a sturdy tree, precariously hanging upside down from a branch while Austin reprimanded him and demanded he get down before he broke his neck. Liam and Eliza were playing chase around Brooke as she built a castle from the sand. “You’re my little boy,” the voice said proudly, “You’ll be more than what they are, mere humans with special powers . . . you’ll be a God.” Tristan continued to gaze outside, longing to join the games . . . the warmth. “But, Papa, I don’t wanna be a God.” The man to laugh intriguingly, “Don’t you want to be just like me?” Tristan paused and then shook his head before looking into the dark, sinister eyes of his father that now looked angry and confused. “No, Father. Not this time,” Tristan said confidently. “I want to be just like them.” He didn’t wait for Angelus’ reaction as he pushed open the limo door and ran out into the sun. The others looked up from the playground, laughed and called for him. The little boy grinned and ran towards them. Tristan woke feeling like he had been run over by a semi truck a million times over. His head pounded, his mouth was dry, his throat parched and his vision blurred. For a moment, he thought nothing in his life had changed. He was still on his father’s ship, sailing the waters of the seven seas, but as his eyes adjusted he realized that he was on steady land, in a brightly lit bedroom . . . with his mother crouched next to him sleeping. He smiled tiredly, pushing weakly at a strand of hair that covered her eyes. Buffy Summers was a beautiful woman, even as a young child he knew and understood that his mother was stunning . . . but here, in the light of day, she was the image of perfection. This was how he imagined his mother always. Bathed in the morning sun, hair flowing about her in gentle waves, her lips slightly parted as her mind drove away the nightmares for a few hours to give her only sweet dreams. He had missed her, so very much. After she had died and his father took him to a life at sea, he had cried for her always until he learned in a very painful way that Angelus did not approve of any show of weakness. His father never physically abused him, but when he cried, someone died. He had quickly mastered his tears after watching the death of his nanny. That woman's death haunted him still. Buffy’s eyes fluttered open and met his open and alert eyes. “You’re all right,” she whispered, her sleepy green eyes beginning to pool. He could only nod and swallowed the lump in my throat. He stared at his mother, fearing her thoughts of him. “A-are you scared of me?” Buffy looked stunned for a moment and began shaking her head. “Of course not,” she said softly, running her fingertips on his cheek. “I could never fear you. You're my son. Always.” The tears began to flow and Tristan shut his eyes hard before opening them to look into his mother's loving gaze. “I love you, Mom.” “I love you, sweetheart. I love you so much.”
The breakfast table was eerily quiet the next morning. Angel stared at the tired faces of his wards and knew they had barely gotten a wink of sleep last night. He understood how they felt. After finding the assembly in Tristan's bedroom he kicked them all out, demanding they sleep. He had then stayed up throughout the evening with Buffy as they kept a quiet vigil next to their son's bed.The two of them had barely said a word to each other last night. It worried Angel. Even when they had been together as a couple he had done most of the listening while she ranted away about inconsequential things. And yet during her stay at LA they had scarcely gone past the niceties. Angel frowned. They had never been the type of couple that really sat down and tried to resolve their issues, but they had always been able to talk in a relaxed and comfortable manner. Things were never easy with Buffy, and he knew things could never go back to the way they were. He only hoped their relationship could grow from that. After all, they had children now. Austin placed plates of sausages, eggs, toasts and bacon on the table but no one reached for any helpings. Even Aiden who was the bottomless pit of the group just sat and stared blankly at the steam rising from the hot food before them. “The bacon’s too well done,” he commented in a bored tone. Austin didn’t even bother to reply. “Did someone die?” Everyone looked up to find Tristan sitting comfortably on a wheelchair, a baby blue blanket tucked around his legs, a slight grin on his pale but alert face. Buffy stood behind him, pushing him through the kitchen doorway. Angel grinned. “No quips?” Tristan teased. Ariella was the first to move as she got up from her chair and lunged at him. The injured teenager groaned from her tight embrace but didn’t complain as he grinned at all her gushing. “Oh, Tristan,” she said, her voice muffled slightly against his neck, “I’m so glad you’re okay.” She cried loudly, her tears running down the back of his neck and soaking into his shirt. He smiled awkwardly at the foreign and tumultuous emotions that surged through him at her obvious distress. He rested his cheek against her fragrant hair and smiled. “I’m okay.” “Go easy on him, Ella,” Buffy said, gently pulling away her daughter from her hard grip. The young girl sobbed again and threw herself at her mother. Buffy smiled and hugged her close, caressing her back in a soothing rhythm. “You had us worried, you bloody bastard,” Aiden glared, getting up from his chair and moving closer to him, “The next time you pull some crazy stunt like that the least you could do is let us know before hand . . . like a hand signal or some kind of twitch.” Tristan blinked. “Good morning to you, too.” Aiden’s glare deepened as he flicked him lightly on the forehead. “You have some explaining to do but that can wait later. You hungry or what?” Tristan hid a grin as he watched the blond pivot and grab a plate. Buffy looked at Angel and motioned towards the door. He nodded silently and followed her into the office where he quietly closed the door. She looked around the private space, noting the black and white pictures on the green walls along with the oak desk and the piles of books everywhere. He surreptitiously cleared his throat. “You wanted to talk?” She turned around and nodded, eyes cast down. “I realize we have a lot to talk about but we just haven’t gotten down to it,” she began and then laughed, “So much has happened in just a few days and . . . I know we’re not necessarily known for our communication skills . . . .” “I-I know,” Angel interrupted, stuffing his hands in his pocket before he followed the urge to touch her. “So much has changed,” she continued, eyes straying everywhere except for him, “But I never wanted it to be like this.” Angel looked up in surprise and felt his heart contract. This was it. Buffy was having second thoughts about the children. He could barely come to grips with the notion but at the same time he could understand. Buffy was barely 22 years old with the fate of the world on her shoulders. She didn’t need eight teens on that load . . . didn’t need him either. “It’s fine . . . .” “No.” She shook her head, “I-I . . . .“ she stopped and stared at him with sad hazel eyes, “I-it hurts me to see us like this. For the past three days we’ve barely talked or even looked at each other.” She released an uncomfortable chuckle, “I might’ve pictured a lot of circumstances in which the two of us were stuck in but not this. Not where it’s so weird between us,” she said. Angel’s mind stopped working. What was she trying to say? That she still loved him and that they could make things work? “The kids deserve better than that.” Angel’s heart plummeted and he looked away quickly before Buffy saw the flash of pain in his eyes. “I mean . . . they deserve parents that can get along. And I want us to be able to put aside our differences for them. I think we can do it . . . right?” “Yes,” he said roughly and then cleared his throat, “Yes, of course.” She smiles. “I’m glad.” He gave her a small but pained smile. So this was it. She wanted to be friends. He smiled as they returned to the kitchen where some of the teens had begun fighting over the last few bacon strips left. He watched as Eliza got up to make more. Buffy laughed and kissed Tristan's forehead. Children and friends with Buffy. He sighed and smiled at her as she came forward with a mug of blood. He took it and drank. This was more than what he deserved.
The blood dripping from Loki’s hand wasn’t an unusual occurrence. As his father’s right hand man he was often left to do the dirty deeds that called for the vital fluid that now ran down his fingertips onto the expensive antique rug beneath his leather shoes. But the fact that he was staring at the deep red stain with bewildered eyes, as though he had never seen it before, was something that was uncommon.“Sir?” “Take her home,” Loki said, finally taking out a handkerchief from his breast pocket to wipe away the blood from his hands. “But-but she has yet to say anything valuable,” The Frenchman said, surprise lacing his voice. “We have enough,” Loki growled, throwing away the stained linen on the desk. “I f-forgive you,” a trembling voice said behind him. He whipped around, blue eyes cold and enraged. “I never asked for your forgiveness, old woman,” he snarled deeply and with such contempt. Blood dripped from the corner of her mouth as she stared weakly at him with her one wise milky gray eye. “But you shall receive it,” she said softly, eyes fluttering, “Bruised hearts like yours need mercy . . . because without the soothing balm of compassion it will continue to fester.” “Your concern is wasted, madam, for I no longer have a heart,” Loki said through gritting teeth. “So you believe,” she whispered. Before anyone could blink, he swiftly grabbed the sword by the Frenchman’s hip and stabbed the gleaming steel into the woman’s chest. She gasped, eyes widening before her glass eye fell and broke into pieces on the wooden floor. Loki dug the sword deeper, his face inches from hers. He felt her warm gasp on his cheek as blood gushed out of her mouth in a bubbling flow. “Do I still deserve your compassion?” he gritted out, his eyes gleaming yellow. “Yes.” She smiled, eyes fluttering closed. “And I still forgive you.”