EARLY DECEMBER, 2017 - HUXLEY,
Jakob Finn pulled absentmindedly at the strings of fabric hanging off of the old recliner as he took another drink from the slightly warm beer and tried to concentrate on the basketball game blaring on the TV. His dad would kill him for messing with his chair. He loved this recliner.
No, scratch that. His dad *would* have killed him for doing that. As it was, his dad wouldn't be doing anything - ever again.
He was dead.
His death was the reason Jake was hiding out in the garage rather than sitting in a classroom. Jake admitted to himself with disgust that he would rather have been in class, if only so he could play basketball on Friday night. That however, wasn't going to happen. He also knew he would be bombarded with pitying glances from his teachers and classmates if he went to school. Everyone would act weird around him, whisper things behind his back, talk about what a tragedy Riley's death had been and how he'd only made it worse.
Home wasn't any better. The house was swarming with concerned friends and neighbors wishing to offer their condolences. How exactly was bringing by a casserole supposed to make anything better? Jake couldn't sit there like his mother did and accept it all with grace. He knew at seventeen that he was too old to be shirking his responsibilities, but he really didn't care. He'd gone out to the garage to hide. The knowledge that Riley would have been deeply disappointed with his behavior didn't serve to improve his mood either.
The garage had been his dad's safe haven, his private office. The structure's only real allure was the private room in the loft that had been hooked up with cable. The space heater, recliner, dorm sized fridge and TV made it a comfortable hiding place. Its appeal might have had something to do with the fact that no one would look for him here, and his dad couldn't yell at him anymore for messing things up.
The funeral would be held Friday. All of the arrangements were made. They'd been in place for almost a year, ever since his dad’s condition had been diagnosed as terminal. Riley had done everything necessary himself, not wanting his wife and son to be burdened with the painful task. Somehow he hadn't managed to die so that his funeral wouldn't conflict with the weekly basketball game, Jakob noted ruefully.
The former soldier had felt responsible for his own death, and maybe he was. Years of drug therapy, gene replacement and meds that did who knows what, had all taken their toll. His body had just disintegrated while they all watched. Nothing helped. When he'd finally died, he'd been so doped up on morphine he hadn't known what planet he was on. Towards the end, he hadn't recognized either his wife or son.
The last part had probably been for the best. Jakob had always been at odds with his father and as Riley had gotten sicker, Jakob's behavior had gotten more and more out of control. Riley had been so upset by his son's actions that the doctors wouldn't even let him talk to Jake after the boy was arrested for beating up another kid.
The early morning visit from the sheriff notifying them of Riley's death had been a blessing of sorts. At least now he had peace, something that had been lacking in his life for a very long time.
Looking out the kitchen window towards the garage, Buffy sighed heavily. She knew Jake was out there. She also knew that he was probably drinking beer out of the stash he kept in his father's old refrigerator that he didn't know she knew about. She comforted herself with the fact that at least she knew where he was, for once.
Jakob was a good kid at heart, he just had a lot of issues. He got in a lot of trouble, skipped school, drank, ran around with a bad crowd. The saving grace was his obsession with basketball. At least for several months out of the year, Buffy could be assured he'd actually go to school to avoid being ineligible for the team.
"You need help with that?" Willow asked, pointing to the plate, Buffy held in her hand. The former Slayer shook her head 'no' and the witch smiled sympathetically.
"He'll be all right, Buffy. Jake's a strong kid. He'll get through this," Willow said gently.
"I hope so, Will, I really do."
"Have you talked to him yet?"
The former Slayer nodded 'no' again. "I'm going to wait until after the funeral," She said quietly. "It would just be too much to deal with right now."
The dream came to him like all of the others. They weren't normal dreams, more like memories. Over the years, they had become progressively more intense, but the basic theme never changed.
Darkness. Horror. Terror.
It wasn't a nightmare. Nightmares were populated with unknown monsters. In this dream, Jakob knew the monster. It was himself. He heard wailing in the distance, fear. Somewhere people were terrified ... of him.
Inside the dream/memory Jakob looked down at his bloody hands. He was crouched over Riley's lifeless body, the dead man's eyes staring blankly. A disembodied female voice spoke, "He must wake again," or maybe it was "You must wake again," Jake couldn't quite make it out exactly.
Jake woke with a start, sitting up in bed, taking ragged gasps of air until he regained his bearings. Episodes like this had haunted him since childhood, but they still left him feeling deeply shaken and alone. He'd never told anyone about it, afraid people would think he was crazy. How could you explain that you had memories of things that hadn't happened? How could you tell them you knew there was darkness inside of you just waiting to get out?
He laughed hollowly to himself. Sometimes it wasn't *waiting*. Sometimes the darkness inside him was out in full force.
Jakob was thankful that the doctors hadn't allowed Riley to know all the details about what happened the night he got arrested. The odds that his father would have been happy to know that he'd blinded that moron Steve weren't good.
Jake hadn't meant for it to happen, not really. He'd never gotten along with the kid and for some reason the idiot had chosen that night at the football game to taunt him with the gossip that he wasn't really a Finn. Jake had simply stood there while Steve accused his mother of being a whore, his father of being a cuckolded fool, him of being a bastard.
Then all hell broke loose.
Jake wasn't even sure what had really happened, his first coherent recollection was that of two cops and a few guys from the bleachers pulling him off of the bleeding kid. It had been a disaster. His attack left Steven Simms legally blind in one eye. Buffy had pulled in every favor, every bit of pity over Riley's condition to get him off with probation and community service.
Willow picked up the phone in Ames, Iowa. She hadn't been able to find a place to stay in Huxley, so she was in a hotel room thirty minutes away. She hated being so far from Buffy when her friend needed so much help, but she didn't want to add to the Slayer's burden by imposing upon her for a place to stay. Buffy wasn't looking good. She was extremely thin and had an air of perpetual exhaustion. It was time for drastic measures. Well past time, in fact.
The phone was answered on the third ring.
"Why aren't you here?" she asked bluntly, not in the mood for pleasantries.
The silence that followed was deafening. Being a witch gave her a good deal of insight into what people were really thinking. She was sure, however, that even if she'd been blind, deaf, and comatose, she would have sensed the overwhelming turmoil on the other end of the line.
"What makes you think she would want me there?" Angel asked quietly.
"Because you two still care about each other whether you will admit it or not."
"Willow, Buffy and I haven't spoken in more than eighteen years, and the last time we did, it didn't go too well. We agreed to stay out of each other's lives."
"Do you want to hear how awful she looks? Do you want to know about all the awful things people here are saying about her?"
"Don't do this to me," Angel pled on the other end.
"No," Willow hissed, suddenly enraged, "You don't do this to her. Again."
There was only the sound of his breathing on the other end.
"You're not going to come are you?" she asked, defeated.
"You know I can't."
"You're human, Angel. You're just a man ... and Buffy is just a woman now. No Slayer and vampire titles to get in the way."
"Her ... husband ... just died," he said, almost choking on the word. "I can't just show up and expect her to take me back. I don't know if she even wants to see me again."
Willow ground her teeth together. "This isn't about her taking you back," she snapped. "This is about you being there because Buffy needs you."
The defeat in his voice almost made her feel sorry for pressing so hard. "I can't Willow," he said very quietly.
The following evening, Buffy knocked quietly on the door to her son's bedroom. At the muffled reply from within, she pushed the door open, leaning against the frame. Jake didn't look up, trying desperately to appear distracted as he read some sports magazine. At the funeral he'd been forced to socialize with people wishing to pay their respects. When they'd returned to the house, he'd made a hasty retreat to the sanctuary of his room.
"You can come downstairs now," she said quietly. "They've all left."
He grunted noncommittally. She frowned, moving into his room and sat gingerly beside his sprawled form.
"Can I talk to you for a minute?" she asked.
He looked at her, his face the usual expressionless mask he tried so hard to cultivate. "Sure," he said, turning his gaze back to the article.
Carefully she extricated the magazine from his grasp, forcing his attention to her face.
"Are you happy here?" she asked him seriously.
"What do you mean?"
"Here. In Huxley?"
Jake shrugged his shoulders, unsure of what exactly she was getting at. Buffy sighed again, afraid of the negative consequences this conversation could bring. She had no desire to uproot her son's life, but she didn't see any way around it.
"You don't seem very ... comfortable here, Jakob. You never have."
"What, you mean in this bustling metropolis of two thousand?" he asked sarcastically. "How could I not *love* it?"
She blinked at him, nonplussed. It was hard to treat him like a man when he acted like a child.
"I don't think I've ever tried very hard to hide the fact that we've stayed here because of Riley. He loved this place so much, this farm, everything. I've never felt ... settled here. I grew up in L.A. and I miss it, a lot."
He looked at her in disbelief. "Are you thinking about moving back to L.A.?"
"I don't know. That all depends on you. I know you're restless here, but you're already a junior in high school. You'll go to college soon. If you want to finish here in Huxley then we'll stay. After you graduate I'll move. It's whatever will be best for you."
"I don't know," he answered truthfully. "I mean nobody *ever* gets out of Huxley. I hadn't considered it. This is where ... he graduated from."
Buffy swallowed. She didn't want to have this conversation, but she knew that though Jakob tried to pretend that nothing ever affected him, he had heard the talk.
"I don't think this is the best environment for you anymore, Jakob."
"What?" he snorted, "just because everybody here thinks I'm nothing but a thug and they all blame me for his death."
Oh yes, he'd definitely heard the nasty gossip.
"It's not true, Jakob. Don't you believe it for one second," she said seriously, looking him directly in the eye. "Riley was sick, very sick, and there wasn't anything anybody could do about it."
"Yeah," he said ruefully, "but I really didn't make it any easier on him, did I?"
"Probably not," she answered bluntly, "but you getting into trouble wasn't what made him sick. I know a lot of people around here thought that you should have spent all of your time playing dutiful son instead of ... "
"Instead of getting arrested and generally being worthless," he supplied flippantly.
She stared at him until the force of her gaze caused him to look away in shame. "You aren't worthless, don't you ever say that. And yes, I'm sure you getting in trouble didn't help the situation, but it sure as hell didn't kill Riley. He and the government took care of that all by themselves."
"That's not what people say. That's not what grandma says, " he answered in a near whisper. He sounded so young that Buffy longed to pull him into her arms. She didn't, knowing it would wound his pride.
"It doesn't matter what people say," Buffy hissed bitterly. She hated her mother-in-law and had tried to keep her son away from the vengeful woman. "None of them know the whole story, not even your grandmother. They don't know about the experiments Riley was involved in. It's none of their damn business. Unfortunately, in a town this small, no one ever minds their own business."
Jakob shook his head, taking in everything. After several long minutes he raised his gaze to meet hers and asked, "You really think moving to L.A. might make a difference?"
"Maybe," she said hopefully, "I don't know, but at this point I don't think a fresh start would hurt either of us."
"What would we do?"
"We have the insurance money and the government settlement. We'd be okay, for a while. You will - of course," she said in a menacing tone, "finish school, and I'm not sure what I'll do yet."
"You really think we could make it?"
"Yes," she said honestly, "we’ll have to downsize, but we won't be living on the streets."
Time for the big revelation. Buffy took a deep breath and said, "There's a school in Los Angeles. A private school. They sent a scout out last year to watch you play basketball. They've offered you a full scholarship to play for them."
"Last year?" Jake asked.
"Yes. The coach, Dave Williams, was an old friend of your father's. They were on the team together at Wake Forrest. Riley had a lot of faith in your talent, Jakob. He asked Dave to come down and take a look at you as a favor. He apparently liked what he saw."
Jake forgot himself and smiled, then quickly suppressed it. He had never gotten along with his father, they were total opposites, always butting heads. Basketball was the one interest they shared. They both loved it and were very good at it. The fact that his estranged father had taken the time to call a scout in to look at him smoothed over a bit of the issues he still had with the dead man.
"Riley loved you, Jakob. He only wanted the best for you. He knew that when he was gone that you and I would probably leave Huxley. He wanted you to have every opportunity in the world."
Jake nodded, but didn't say anything. Leaning over, Buffy ruffled her son's dark hair and placed a kiss on his forehead. She handed him some literature on the school and a video the coach had sent especially for Jake.
"Think about it, sweetheart," she said as she rose to leave.
Jake didn't have to think about it for very long. Within minutes of the offer, he'd made the decision to leave the small Iowa town. He'd left a lot of things unsaid in his conversation with his mother. He didn't see the need to upset her any further, considering she probably didn't know he was aware of just how scathing the local gossip could be.
He'd avoided mentioning the fact that half of Huxley pitied poor Riley not only because his son was such a screw up, but because they didn't believe Jake was Riley's son at all. Jake's paternal grandmother had been that theory's biggest proponent, especially when Buffy had failed to produce any more children after Jakob was born.
Riley had always defended his son's parentage, assuring anyone who had the gall to ask that yes, the boy was his. Whether or not he really believed that, Jake would never know, but publicly he had always claimed Jakob.
The boy's thoughts wandered back to his dream from the night before. The feel of the dream had been the same as the dreams that had always haunted him, but the latest one held a relevance that the others never had. His father's dead body and the echoing words, "He must wake again." Jakob shook his head to clear his thoughts. Riley wouldn't wake again, he was dead. Perhaps if he left this place behind he could leave the dreams behind as well.
FIRST WEEK OF JANUARY, 2018 - LOS ANGELES, CA
Angel stood stone still on the roof of the Hyperion, allowing himself the luxury of watching the sun set. Buffy was near. He could feel her, not her exact location, but a definite sense of her presence. He'd wondered if he would still know when she was near after becoming human, but it appeared that some things never changed.
He wondered where she was and knew that with his connections as a private detective that it would take only minimal digging to find out, but he didn't. He couldn't allow himself to think about her, to wonder if she was alright or not. It was still too painful.
He couldn't bear the thought of visiting Buffy and seeing her there with Riley's son. He knew it was selfish and petty, but he just wasn't that strong.
Jake took a deep breath as he stood on the step of the school administrative building. The incestuous air of Huxley had always driven him nuts. He was intensely private, a loner, but in a town like Huxley, no one had any secrets. You couldn't blend in. There was no crowd to get lost in. Surveying the teeming crowds spread over the large campus that compromised his new high school, he didn't think that would be a problem anymore.
Had Jakob been a bit more objective, he would have found the undeniable truth that he would never be able to blend in anywhere. He was a startlingly handsome young man with dark hair and intense deep brown eyes. He was tall, almost as tall as Riley, standing just over six feet three inches. He was young, but he didn't display the awkward nature often common in boys of his height. He was an infinitely graceful creature, a gift his father assured him was directly inherited from his mother. He still had a very boyish look, but it held the promise of the man he would grow into. His quiet, lone wolf demeanor only heightened his appeal.
It had been these very traits which had set tongues to wagging back in Huxley, but as he stood there in a new city, a new state, Jake promised himself that his mother would never again feel shame on his account.
Buffy spent the first few weeks after the move wondering if she had lost her mind. She was in Los Angeles again, after more than two decades. What had she been thinking trying to start her life over at thirty-seven? She admitted to herself that it wasn't her life she was trying to start over, it was Jakob's. She had hoped that the change of location would help him start fresh, but when he came home at the end of his first day of school, things were exactly as they had always been.
She smiled wryly as she surveyed the pile of homework that he probably wouldn't even start working on until twenty minutes before it was due. Her son was nothing if not a creature of habit. She just hoped they had left some of his less desirable propensities in Huxley.
He still wore the sweat drenched clothes from his first day of basketball practice. She watched as he leafed through the mail for one of the many sports magazines to which he subscribed. Finding one, he read it as he rummaged through the refrigerator for a can of soda and a sandwich.
"Supper will be ready in twenty minutes," she said, watching him stuff half the sandwich in to his mouth.
"I know," he said around a mouthful. "Don't worry. I'll still be hungry. Growing boy."
He placed a quick peck on the top of her head as he walked down the hallway of their tiny apartment to his bedroom. She said a silent prayer to any deity that would listen that Jakob would find some peace in their new life, possibly even put some ghosts to rest.
Jake stared at the stack of books in his cramped locker. The coursework at his new school was challenging, far more so than in Huxley. He didn't mind, he was actually excited about it. He knew he would still excel academically, but at least now he wouldn't be the only one in his class to do so. Not that people tended to make fun of him for being a bookworm, he was too physically imposing to be a target for jest.
"You gonna dig your head out of there sometime today, Finn?"
"Hey, Charlie," Jake said in greeting to the only friend he'd made at school. Swinging his backpack over his shoulder, Jake ran to catch up with the younger boy. School had just ended and if they didn't hurry, they were both going to be late for practice.
After being paired together on Jake's first day of practice for defensive drills, he and Charlie quickly became friends. The lanky freshman was an amazingly talented athlete who could have easily gotten a scholarship like Jake's to play for the school, but it was apparently unnecessary. Charlie's family was loaded. His mother was a successful Hollywood actress - one Buffy had never particularly cared for - and his father was a businessman. Charlie and his two other siblings had never wanted for anything.
The Finns had always been comfortable, a solid middle class family. Riley had never hedged about paying exorbitant prices for Jake's basketball shoes or for a new video game he wanted. They had certainly never gone hungry, but Jake couldn't really imagine the lifestyle Charlie had grown up in. He was well aware that if it weren't for the scholarship, his mother could never afford to send him to this elite school.
Most of Jake's peers were hyper aware of their social status, taking every opportunity to remind him he was not one of them. Charlie didn't do that. He was born into the upper echelons of society, but he had somehow managed to remain unaffected. He treated Jake as an equal.
"Jakob, do you have a calculator?" Buffy called.
She was sitting at the kitchen table paying bills and leafing through the want ads while Jake and Charlie played some obnoxious video game in the living room, working their way through a whole box of Twinkies as well.
"Backpack," came his terse reply. She doubted it took that much brain power to play some stupid video game, but both boys seemed unable to speak and play at the same time.
Charlie wasn't what she'd expected her wild child to bring home. He wasn't like the hoodlums that Jakob had been friends with in Huxley. Charlie was an outgoing, charismatic little flirt, but there was an innocent and playful nature to him that all of Jake's previous cohorts had lacked. He was definitely likeable and very bright, but there was a hint of inner restlessness and adventure that no doubt had been what first attracted Jake to him. She knew her son was in need of a proverbial partner in crime.
At least she hoped it was proverbial, the last thing she needed was Jake getting into more trouble, especially in L.A., where the Finn name would mean nothing to the cops. Then again, Charlie looked mischievous but not necessarily felonious.
Buffy had been surprised at the fact that Charlie was only a freshman. Jake had always associated with a much older crowd. Maybe Charlie could teach Jake to lighten up a little. She smiled as the two boys yelled loudly in the next room, apparently celebrating their victory. A loud knock at the door startled her.
"That's my dad," Charlie announced, throwing down his controller and grabbing his backpack.
Buffy headed for the door. Charlie had been over to the apartment several times, but this was her first opportunity to meet either of his parents. She opened the door, looking forward to possibly making some new friends for herself.
"Hey," a handsome black man said, "I'm Charles Gunn, is my brat around?"
Buffy smiled at his friendly demeanor and nodded, stepping out of the way to allow him to enter the apartment. Out of habit, she did not verbally invite him in, but he entered nonetheless.
"Yes he is. I'm Buffy Finn, it's nice to meet you Charles," she said, firmly shaking his hand.
"None of that," he said with a smile just like Charlie's. "Call me Gunn, he's Charles."
As the two boys made their way towards the front door, Buffy said to Gunn, "I don't believe you've met my son, Jakob."
Gunn stared at the boy for a long moment, cocking his head to the side as if he were trying to decide something. "Uh ... no," he said distractedly, "We've never met. Hello, Jakob."
After shaking the boy's hand, Gunn turned to Buffy and continued, "Me and the wife are throwing Charlie a sort of birthday party in a few weeks, hope you'll both be able to come."
Buffy smiled nervously, she wasn't sure about the look Gunn had thrown Jakob. "Um, I'm not sure right now, I'll see how things work out. Please give my regards to your wife ..."
"Cordelia," Gunn supplied nervously, "my wife's name is Cordelia Chase, or was, that's her stage name now."
Buffy swallowed visibly. She knew without a doubt why Gunn had looked at Jakob so strangely. She also had a pretty good idea of why Charlie had been so friendly towards Jake in the first place. Cordy and Angel were still close friends and she'd heard through Willow that Cordy's husband and Angel were business partners. Fabulous, just spectacular.
Gunn could almost hear her thoughts, and gave her a reassuring smile that Buffy hoped meant he would keep his silence.
"L.A. can be an awfully small place at times," he said quietly.
Buffy nodded as Charlie moved past the pair into the hallway. In a second, Gunn grabbed him by the back of the neck, stopping him.
"What do you say?" he chastised.
Sheepishly Charlie turned around to Buffy. "Thank you for dinner, ma'am," he said, ashamed of his rudeness.
"Kids," Gunn said under his breath, releasing his son.
"Don't worry," Buffy assured him and then looked pointedly at Jakob, "I understand how difficult it can be."
Gunn smiled sadly, "I'm sure you do."
"So?" Charlie prompted his father once they were in the car headed home.
"Yeah," Gunn said, biting his lower lip. "I'll admit I thought you were feeding me a line, but you weren't."
"Do you know Jake's mom?"
"No," Gunn answered. "Your mother talks about her sometimes and Angel has a few pictures of her around the office."
"If Jake - ," Charlie started.
"No," Gunn said sternly. "This isn't our business. It is not our place to go sticking our noses where they don't belong."
"But if he's Angel's son ... "
"No, Charlie. You already told me that the man Jakob considers his father just died, right?"
Charlie frowned deeply. "Yes."
"And now you want him to find out that the guy he thought was his dad for the last seventeen years isn't?"
"Well ... "
"It's not our place. If Buffy wants to tell her son, that's her business. I don't want you mentioning anything about Angel to him, you hear?"
Charlie grunted noncommittally. Jakob hadn't really said anything about his "father", but Charlie got the definite impression that things hadn't been good between the two. His uncle Angel was like the coolest guy in the world and if he really was Jake's dad then surely they both had a right to know.
"Promise me," Gunn said to his son, "you will not say anything to him about Angel, understood? And don't say anything to Angel about it either." He added as an afterthought.
Reluctantly, Charlie said, "Okay."
"Good," Gunn said, then sighed deeply. "Now, how the hell am I going to get your mother to keep her trap shut?"
Buffy began to relax after several weeks passed without Jakob skipping classes or getting into any other kind of trouble. She was glad she'd decided to take the chance on moving so far away, maybe Jakob had just needed a clean start.
When the time for Charlie's party arrived, Buffy begged off, but told Jakob to go and have a good time. She'd seen Gunn several times in the intervening weeks and was fairly certain that he wasn't going to meddle in her or Jakob's lives. She was not, however, prepared to face Cordelia. She also didn't trust Cordelia not to invite Angel along.
Jake had mentioned, however, that Charlie's parents had been fighting a lot. She guessed it was probably due to the fact that Cordelia wanted to jump in the thick of things and Gunn didn't approve. Buffy just hoped Gunn would win.
"How was the party?" Buffy asked, truly curious when her son returned.
"Okay," he said absently. "It wasn't a party. We went to a Lakers game. The game was sort of lame, but Gunn had these great seats, almost courtside and there were all these famous people there."
"That must have cost a lot," Buffy mused wryly.
"I guess," Jake shrugged.
"Were there a lot of people there?" Buffy asked nonchalantly.
"Just Charlie, Gunn and a couple of other guys from the team and their dads," Jake offered quietly.
Buffy wanted to kick herself. She hadn't realized that all of the other kids' fathers would be present. Jakob had undoubtedly been the only one there without a dad. So much for him having a good time.
"I need to do some things," Jake mumbled, clearly wanting to avoid the conversation he could feel brewing.
"Okay, sweetheart," Buffy said, unwilling to press the matter just now.
He was brooding and she knew it would be impossible to talk to him about anything. At times like these, Jakob reminded her so much of his father. Sitting down on the couch, Buffy allowed herself to think of things she always kept buried.
Jakob reminded her so much of Angel. She didn't know how or why, but Jakob was definitely the son of her first - and only - love. When she'd found out she was pregnant, she had assumed it was Riley's baby. They were lovers at the time. They had been careful, but nothing was a hundred percent effective. She figured they'd had an accident.
She'd been so horrified by the idea of trying to raise a child on the Hellmouth that she had regretfully but firmly abandoned her calling. Unwilling to risk her son's life or leave him motherless, she'd said yes when Riley proposed. She had moved to Huxley with him to try and build a new, demon-free life.
Everything had gone relatively smoothly until Jakob was born. Though Riley had never let on that he suspected anything, but she had known from the first time she held the babe that he was Angel's son.
Buffy's friends had also known.
The first time Willow had seen the child, when Jake was less than a year old, her jaw nearly hit the floor. Before the witch's visit, Buffy had been telling herself that Jakob's resemblance to Angel was all in her head, a product of her wishful thinking. It wasn't. Buffy didn't have any answers to Willow's shocked questions, swearing that her one and only physically intimate moment with the dark vampire had been on her seventeenth birthday.
When the Finns had returned to Sunnydale just after Buffy's twentieth birthday, for the sad occasion of Joyce's funeral, Giles, and Xander, had similar reactions to Jakob's appearance. The former Slayer had avoided allowing Spike to see her son for fear of what he would do with the information.
As Jakob aged, there was a smattering of gossip in Huxley suggesting that Riley wasn't his father. Buffy knew it was the work of her mother-in-law and largely due to the fact that she didn't get along with the woman. Whether he had any of his own suspicions or not, Riley had valiantly defended his wife and son.
For what it was worth, if any of the residents of Huxley had ever seen Angel, the debate would have been over regardless of Riley's claims. Jakob didn't bear what one would term a “resemblance” to the former vampire. Jakob was his mirror image. At times, Buffy could find bits of herself in her son, his eyes weren't quite as dark as Angel's and his manner was more flip, but she had no idea if that was from her or if Angel had been like mannered in his youth.
As they promised, Buffy's friends had never breathed a word to anyone. As far as the world was concerned, Jakob Finn was the natural, and only child of Riley and Buffy Finn. After Jakob, the couple had attempted to have more children, but it wasn't fated. Riley had accepted it without question saying that if God intended for them to have more children, he would provide.
God didn't provide. Buffy hadn't been so accepting and submitted to a battery of infertility tests without Riley's knowledge. As it turned out, the problem conceiving wasn't hers. In retrospect, Buffy suspected that Riley's guinea pig days had left him sterile.
At times, Buffy was grateful they'd never had anymore children. Riley's relationship with his "son" had always been rocky. When Buffy saw just how much his strained relationship with Riley affected Jakob, she wondered if it might not be time to tell her son the truth. Perhaps Jakob could still salvage some sort of relationship with Angel. Maybe it would comfort him to know just how much like his father he truly was, in all sorts of ways. Jakob had always been painfully aware of how different he was from Riley. She saw the way he looked at Gunn and Charlie sometimes.
Would it help him to know how much he was a dead ringer for his real father? He had Angel's deliberate gentleness, his brooding manner, his intellect, even his uncanny ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And then, of course, the fact that he looked just like him. Now that they were living in Los Angeles, Buffy considered it more and more.
In one of his rare forthcoming moments, Angel had told Buffy about his shaky relationship with his own father and about how much trouble he'd caused in his youth. No doubt the former vampire would be able to relate to Jakob better than Riley, the eternal Boy Scout.
She sighed heavily. Jakob was such a complicated kid. He was so closed up most of the time, not due to shyness, but intentionally. He didn't like people getting close, even her. They'd never really talked about the night he got arrested, but it was the first time Buffy had given any thought to supernatural aspects of his heritage. She had been a Slayer, Angel had been a vampire. Jakob was very athletic, and *very* strong, just like his parents. The beating he'd given that stupid child was testament enough to that fact. She doubted he had any idea he could even inflict that level of damage. Surely it had scared him. How could it have not?
Buffy felt like such a failure as a parent. There was so much she should have sat down and discussed with Jakob, but she hadn't. She'd hoped that issues would resolve themselves. They hadn't. She wanted to laugh and cry and scream with the unfairness of it all. She'd done everything in her power to give Jakob a normal life, and it seemed he was fated to end up just as messed up as she was. Buffy wouldn't let that happen, she wouldn't let her son fumble his way through the darkness the way she'd been forced to. Picking up the phone, she decided to get Willow's opinion on how to proceed.
When Jake came out of his room later that evening, his mother didn't hear him. She was on the phone in her room with the door slightly ajar, talking to his aunt Willow. She no doubt assumed he was asleep. Knowing he shouldn't, but not really caring, he listened carefully.
"I know, Will, it's just that sometimes he's so much like Angel," Buffy said, her voice full of tears. "I just wonder if I should tell Jakob, but I don't want to hurt him. I mean, Riley's gone now, and Jake deserves the truth. There is so much about himself that he doesn't know."
Jake froze. Angel? Who the hell was Angel?
Afraid of being discovered, he crept quietly back to his room. Angel. He'd never heard his mom mention that name before, or his dad. What had his mom meant by "Jake deserves the truth"? Truth about what? And what would his father being dead have to do with anything? And what didn't he know about himself?
"So much like Angel", the words rung in Jake's mind. Turning, he looked at the picture on his desk. It was a family portrait of sorts, the last picture they took before Riley got really sick. He picked it up, studying it carefully.
He looked at his image, studying himself minutely. As with every other time he'd done this, he could see hints of his mother in himself. The way his mouth curved, the line of his jaw all came from her. He looked at Riley. They were both tall, but that was the end of the comparison. There was nothing of his father reflected in him.
That concept went so much beyond just the physical. In thinking and temperament he was nothing like his father. Riley had always been outgoing, a team player, a pleaser. Jakob wasn't. Even in childhood he had always held his own counsel, been intensely private, quiet, introspective. As he'd gotten older, his behavior had become progressively more disruptive. It was no great secret that Riley couldn't begin to understand his son.
What if he wasn't Riley's son?
Jakob knew about the gossip that said Riley had been suckered into marriage. His mother had never mentioned any old boyfriends, if that was indeed who Angel was. Jake had done the math once and figured out his parents had been married because they "had" to. Had his mother conned his father into claiming some other guy's kid? Jakob smiled ruefully. That would explain a lot of his father's animosity towards him.
The dream, but more vivid than it had ever been. Once again, Jakob was crouched over what he *knew* was his father's body, blood on his hands. Only this time, it wasn't Riley who lay on the ground before him. He couldn't see the man's face, he was lying on his stomach, facing away from him. He was bare from the waist up and an intricate tattoo decorated one of his shoulders.
There was more screaming, it echoed off of walls he couldn't see. The darkness pressed around him and the voice said, "He must wake again." That was how his ears heard it, that was the sound echoing off the walls, but in his mind he heard, "You must wake again."
"This is ... nice," Willow said cheerfully.
"It's a crackerjack box, Will," Buffy answered glumly, looking around her tiny apartment.
When they had initially moved in, she had thought it temporary, but money was disappearing much faster than she had anticipated and they couldn't afford to be moving any time in the foreseeable future.
"I take it Jake is still giving you the silent treatment," the witch surmised.
Buffy nodded. Willow was visiting for the week, mixing the small vacation with the first of a series of guest lectures at UCLA. The former Slayer was silently thankful that the witch had opted to stay at a nearby hotel rather than in the cramped apartment, if only because of the current uneasiness between herself and her son.
"Yeah," Buffy said with a sigh, comforted by her friend's painfully insightful nature. "I have no idea what the problem is now, but he hasn't said a word to me in three days."
Patting her friend's knee, Willow assured, "Kids are like that, Buffy. Don't you remember being mad at your mom over stupid little things. He'll get over it."
"I hope so,” Buffy said wistfully, feeling a bit awkward about taking child rearing tips from someone without kids, but it was Willow. “He's going through so much and he won't let me in at all."
"He needs time, Buffy. Telling him about Angel when he's already in a state of agitation like this probably wouldn't be the wisest thing."
Buffy nodded in agreement. She knew Willow was right, but Jakob's unapproachable mood seemed to be almost constant. She was never going to find the right time to talk to him.
"You aren't planning on going psycho evil boy again anytime soon are you?"
Angel's pained expression made itself visible as he lifted his face to stare at the dark vampiress.
"Pardon?" he asked, more for a clarification of what she had meant than for a repetition of the painful words.
"You know," Faith said, gesturing wildly with her hands, "evil, psycho, Angelus."
Angel winced as she sat down cross-legged in one of his expensive leather office chairs, the thick soles of her work boots scuffing the supple surface.
"You want to give me some background here?" he asked, trying to avoid looking at the damage she was inflicting on his expensive furnishings.
Faith made a face and then reluctantly explained, "Dru has been-"
"Dru?" Angel yelled, cutting her off. "You're hanging out with Drusilla? Are *you* nuts?"
"No," Faith said sheepishly, "it's just that where Darla is, Dru usually tends to follow."
Angel scowled at his friend. "I warned you about hooking up with Darla, Faith. She's dangerous."
"Yeah ... well ... she's my Sire," Faith blustered. She sighed heavily, dropping her gaze to her lap for several long moments before once again meeting his eyes. "And I'm *bored*! You're such a goddamn stick in the mud, and being a vampire with a soul really cuts down on my choice of friends."
Angel shot her a wry glance.
"Oh, I guess you've been there, huh?" she said meekly.
"Yeah, and I never once went to Darla looking to alleviate my boredom."
"Oh really?" she snorted, cocking an eyebrow. "That's now hot she tells it."
Angel scowled again, "We're losing sight of the subject here."
Faith shrugged. "Okay, so I'm with Darla. I mean we're not like real *buds* or anything, but she knows how to have fun and she's a riot in bed and well ... you know ... *Sire*."
Angel wasn't about to get into a discussion of Darla's bedroom talents with the Slayer turned ensouled vampire, or delve into the Sire/Childe dynamic. "What does this have to do with Angelus and Drusilla?"
"I don't know. That's why I'm here. For the last week or so, Dru has been acting extra nutty. She's been having visions all the time, just ranting about the stars talking to her, yada yada. Anyway when she's at her most coherent, she keeps blabbing about 'daddy' coming home."
Angel listened in silence, his face an inscrutable mask.
"That would be you, right? You're her 'daddy'."
"Angelus, to be correct. I'm nothing to her, especially now. I'm human. I don't even register on her radar except, well, as food."
Faith frowned. "Normally I wouldn't pay any attention to the psycho, but Darla seems to think she's on to something big. She's actually been listening to Dru. I'm worried. Darla is still way pissed at you and if there's any way she can get around the 'no vamping Angel again' clause in your humanity, she'll find it."
Angel smiled. Faith was a grade A screw up, but her heart was in the right place. "Don't worry about me, Faith. I can't be vamped again, The Powers That Be saw to that. I'm human and I'm going to stay human."
Faith smiled, but it was obvious she wasn't completely satisfied. "Just be careful, okay?"
"You have my word."
In the week following Buffy's phone conversation with Willow, Jake had gone through his mother's address book, bank records, even her Christmas card list, and found not one mention of an "Angel" anywhere. As a complete last ditch effort, he started going through a bunch of musty old books that she kept hidden at the back of her closet in an old wooden crate.
He'd discovered the crate as a small child in Huxley. Buffy had ordered him to keep out of it saying he didn't have any business looking at its contents. Well-knowing her son's curious and persistent nature, Buffy hadn't trusted him to do as he was told and she had apparently hidden the crate and its load of books somewhere good. In the intervening decade, he'd failed to relocate the mysterious stash. However, when they had moved, the books had reappeared, and, as luck would have it, she hadn't gone to her previous lengths to keep them hidden from him.
As he started leafing through the tomes, it quickly became clear they were various histories and accounts of demons. Buffy had always reassured her son that there were no such things as monsters, but Riley hadn't been of the same mind. In several of their rare bonding moments, Riley had come clean about his former government involvement. He'd explained how various "monsters" were very real, even given him detailed records and accounts when the boy hadn't believed him.
Jakob couldn't figure out why his mother would have had these books, his father had been the one involved with monsters, not her. As he put the book down and continued to dig through the boxes, he came across a government file similar to the ones Riley had shown him ... only this file wasn't about a monster, it was about Buffy.
Hours later, after he gone through the reports again and again, Jakob still couldn't believe it. His mother was a ... Slayer. He knew that she was strong and athletic, but according to the charts in the file, she was damn near a superhero. Or at least she used to be. Putting the file down, Jakob picked up the books again, looking at them with renewed interest.
It was late when Buffy made it back to the apartment after her extended dinner with Willow who was in town once again. The two had a lot of catching up to do, but hopefully now that they were living in the same state again they could stay closer.
Willow was still with Tara and the two were living in San Francisco where Willow was a professor and Tara ran a book store specializing in occult texts. The two had never had children, but were still as close as any couple Buffy knew, and still deeply in love. Buffy envied her friend's relationship. It would be nice to curl up next to someone you loved at the end of the day, someone who was your other half. Buffy pushed away the thoughts. She had long ago resigned herself to an Angel free existence.
Though the light was off, Buffy slowly opened Jakob's door, smiling when she saw that he was sound asleep. Apparently, happily ever after just wasn't fated for the former Slayer, but at least she had Jakob. Some part of her true love would always be hers.
Jakob was still awake when Buffy opened the door to check on him, but he feigned sleep. He needed to sort out so many things for himself before he could talk to her.
After hours of digging through books, he still hadn't come across any mention of a man named Angel, but found lots of information on Slayers. They were supernatural creatures, tightly associated with demons.
It didn't take a huge leap of logic to figure out that Buffy and Riley had an "office romance", both of them being demon hunters, his father by vocation and his mother by blood. Maybe it had been a similar story with Angel. After all, a Slayer would have trouble dating a normal guy, right? He decided that he'd do a bit more digging into her history.
"I'm being deafened by the sound of you not asking," Cordelia snapped.
Angel regarded her carefully before putting the casefile down and walking over to the coffee pot to pour himself another cup.
Kate raised an eyebrow at the actress. "I know I'm not going to get anything out of him, so why don't you fill me in."
Cordelia scowled. She still wasn't overly fond of Kate, but after nearly two decades of near constant exposure, a tenuous and grudging relationship had formed.
"Buffy," came her one word reply.
"Buffy?" Kate asked quizzically, "as in Buffy the tiny little blonde girl he keeps pictures of hidden in his office?"
"The one and only," Cordelia said with a smile, thoroughly enjoying talking about Angel as if he weren't in the room. It would eventually drive him nuts. It always did. Sometimes, her former boss was just so incredibly easy to handle.
"What isn't he asking you about her?" Kate inquired.
"Anything," Cordelia replied in a completely exasperated tone of voice. "He's known for weeks that she moved back to L.A. and not so much as a peep out of him. He also knows - thanks to Willow - that Buffy's son and my son Charlie are friends, but does he ask? NO."
Kate shrugged, "Maybe he's over her."
"Fat chance," Cordelia spat out. "If he's so over her, then why hasn't he found somebody else?"
Kate’s eyes took on a mischievous glint.
"Well, Cordelia," Kate said with mock seriousness, "he's not as young as he used to be. Maybe he's intimidated by women these days, you know." She lowered her voice conspiratorially, "Maybe he has performance anxiety.”
Smiling with wicked glee, Cordelia joined Kate's game. "Oh, I hadn't thought of that. You're probably right. He's what ... almost forty now? Could be. Maybe without all that vampiric stamina -"
Angel had finally had it, he slammed the coffee cup down on the desk and glared at Cordelia. "Enough! I'm not a monk, Cordy. I go out on dates, quite a few of them as a matter of fact."
She rolled her eyes at him. "You go out on a lot of *first* dates. You always find something wrong with them. They're too short, too tall, too loud, too quiet. The real problem is that none of them are Buffy. And now she's back in town and she's *single* and you won't even call her."
"Her husband just died!" he exclaimed, obviously irritated.
"Oh, please," Cordelia said, waving off his histrionics. "You're just a coward."
"I'm not a coward!" he said forcefully and then added in a more even tone, "and I'm thirty-eight years old physically, *not* forty."
"What's wrong with you?" Charlie demanded.
Jake looked up from the notebook he was studying, not pleased with having his research interrupted. "Nothing," he grunted.
Jake scowled. He really wasn't in the mood to discuss this with anyone. Who the hell was going to believe him anyway? Trying to divert Charlie's attention, he asked, "You ever heard of a store called The Third Eye?"
Charlie gave him a confused look. "The bookstore?"
Surprised, Jake answered, "Yeah." He hadn't actually expected Charlie to have any idea what he was talking about.
"Yeah, I go there sometimes with my dad. Why?"
Jake shot him an incredulous look. "Why do you go there with your dad?"
"Why do you want to know where it is?" Charlie countered.
"I need to ... do some research," Jake said, foundering.
"You researching demons?" Charlie asked flippantly.
"As a matter of fact, yes, and why do you want to know?"
"You're serious?" Charlie asked, sitting down on the step next to his friend.
"Yes," Jake answered quietly. "I'm serious. Now tell me why you and your dad visit that store."
"We don't go there a lot," Charlie answered, "only when he can't find a specific book or something. But between him ... and Wesley, I'd think they have every book on demons out there."
"And why is that?" Jake asked seriously.
Charlie looked around making sure that no one in the lunchtime crowd of students was paying attention. "That's what he does," Charlie explained quietly.
"He does what?"
"He hunts demons, him and Wesley. My mom used to help, but since the acting thing took off, she pretty much stays out of it." He left the part about her not being a seer anymore out. Talk about one supernatural being could lead to talk about another and he had promised his father he wouldn't mention Angel.
Jakob didn't say anything and Charlie wondered if he'd just made a huge mistake. He'd never told anyone before what his dad really did, but he had been sure Jake would understand.
"You don't believe me?" Charlie asked, sure that wasn't the case.
"No," Jake answered. "I believe you. My dad was a demon hunter too."
Charlie startled for a moment and then realized Jakob was talking about Riley, not Angel.
Angel sat in his office after hours giving serious thought to the conversation he'd had with Faith a few weeks earlier. Darla had been pretty quiet for the last couple of years, but he didn't doubt that if she found a chance to get revenge upon him she would take it - at any cost.
He hated the fact that Faith was involved with Darla, but there wasn't much he could do about it. Faith had managed to redeem herself, returning to her calling after Buffy's departure. It hadn't lasted long, the younger Slayer had been killed only a year after taking over. In a rather sick twist of fate, Darla had stumbled upon her death scene. Looking to get back at Angel, and perhaps to amuse herself as well, Darla turned the dying girl. Knowing full well how unstable turned Slayers could be, Faith's Sire had left her to her own devices.
Faith had kept her soul as all turned Slayers did, but unlike her sister Slayer counterparts that had been brought over, the experience didn't crush Faith. She was a great deal more relaxed than most Slayers, with a much more cynical view of life. She accepted her vampiric status in stride, noting that at least she wouldn't age. There was a certain appeal to looking twenty-one for the rest of your unlife.
After her death, a new Slayer was called and Faith turned over the reigns. She'd come to work with Angel for several years and still helped out from time to time as she was needed. Mostly, however, Angel and Faith were just friends. Angel was an expert on being a vampire with a soul and Faith was often in need of guidance. It had wounded Faith deeply when Angel was given his humanity, but they remained close in spite of it.
Due partly to her status as ensouled vampire and partly to her own free nature, Faith saw everything in shades of gray. Nothing was completely good and nothing was completely bad. This allowed her to become Darla's lover with no ill effects to her conscience. That relationship was also facilitated by the natural bond between Sire and Childe. Angel despised the thought of his Sire getting her claws in Faith, but knew that Faith was a big girl and more than responsible for her own actions. Also, the fact that she was occasionally close to Darla gave him the ability to keep tabs on the vengeful vampiress.
As Willow had predicted, Jakob once again was speaking to Buffy, sans explanation for his earlier cold shoulder. However, he still seemed to be withdrawn and rather preoccupied. It had Buffy worried.
Almost to her relief, spring break was upon them and Charlie had invited Jake to stay over at his house on Friday night. In his usual style, Jakob informed her he would be going, rather than asking for permission, but she couldn't really blame him. He was almost eighteen. Almost a man.
"Are his parents going to be home?" Buffy asked her son, knowing she sounded like a smothering parent.
"Yes," Jake responded in an exasperated voice. "Of course, they did say that we could go ahead and have a kegger with prostitutes and drugs."
"Very funny," Buffy admonished. "Just try not to be any trouble, Jakob."
"Come on!" Jake barked at Charlie when the younger boy started hedging about walking down the dark alley.
"Are you sure about this?" Charlie hissed in the darkness, apparently unimpressed with his friend's choice of entertainment.
"I already told you that if you don't want to come, I'll go by myself!"
Charlie frowned, thinking to himself that he should have just kept his mouth shut about Caritas. He didn't want to be wandering around in downtown alleys in the middle of the night, but he wasn't about to leave Jake alone. His friend was a hell of a fighter and definitely not lacking in bravery, but he was new to town and he had no idea what he was getting into.
Not that Charlie had much better of an idea, his previous forays into illicit activities included having a few beers, hacking into the school computer system to change his grades, and kidnapping a rival school’s mascot. Running, he quickly caught up with Jake.
"This must be it," Jake said with more bravado than he really felt as he looked at the dark stairway leading to the heavy steel door.
"I don't know," Charlie said uneasily. "I don't read Greek." He'd heard his father and Angel talk about Caritas, but he'd never actually been here before.
"Yeah, well, how many bars are there around here with names that look like math problems? Let's go."
The inside of the bar wasn't what either of them had expected. Their imaginations had conjured up an other worldly dungeon, not a ... Vegas lounge. Looking around, Jake decided it looked much more like a motel bar than a demon refuge. Except of course for the fact that it was populated almost exclusively by demons. Luckily, there were enough regular human customers that no one took any notice of the two newcomers.
Almost no one, that is. One of the bar's occupants had been watching the door, waiting for their arrival.
Jake was busy trying to locate the emcee, Lorne, that Charlie had told him so much about, when suddenly his view was blocked by a very large demon. Jake tried to step around him, but the demon mirrored his movements. Looking up, several feet, to meet the demon's piercing red gaze, Jakob swallowed visibly. Beside him, Charlie tensed as well, there was no mistaking the demon's malicious intent. Jakob jumped as the demon was pushed roughly to the side.
"Go away," the petite blonde barked.
Much to Jake and Charlie's surprise, the demon complied wordlessly, intimidated by the woman. Turning his gaze back to the blonde, Jakob found her slowly, blatantly assessing him from head to toe. As their gazes met, her mouth broke into a large smile that for some reason made him shiver.
"Hello," she drawled sweetly. "Why don't you tell me your name, dear boy."
Jakob licked his suddenly dry lips. The voice seemed to curl around his mind. It was the voice from his nightmares, the one that had haunted him for as long as he had existed.
"Jake," he rasped.
"Jake," she said, her voice caressing his name. "I'm Darla."
He looked at her carefully for a long moment and then parroted, "Darla." The name felt funny on his lips and a sense of foreboding surged through his body.
Her lips curled up in a smirk and she asked, "What are you doing here, little boy?"
"L-Looking for something," he stammered.
"And what would that be?" she asked, holding his gaze steadily as she inched closer.
"Jake, man, maybe we should go," Charlie said nervously. This wasn't going well and his dad would probably kill him if he ever found out about this.
Turning to face Charlie, Darla said in a voice that left no room for argument, "Why don't you wait here."
She shot a glance to a woman who was obviously her companion. Faith immediately grabbed Charlie by the arm, leading him towards the bar. Charlie didn't resist, reading the seriousness in the turned Slayer's eyes. He knew Faith. They weren't close, but he knew his father and Angel trusted her and that was enough to ensure his compliance. Turning to face Jake, Darla grabbed him by the wrist and led him over to a booth in a dark corner.
Jake tensed as Darla ran a blood red fingernail along the prominent vein in his neck. She was a tiny woman, much smaller than himself, but for some reason she set him on edge with a confusing mixture of attraction and repulsion.
"What," she prompted sweetly, "are you looking for in a place like this? You don't belong here ... not yet."
"What kind of answers?" Darla asked.
For some reason, Jake responded with total candor, almost as if he couldn't help it. This was a voice he'd known for eternity.
"Answers about who I am."
"Who do you think you are, my sweet little ... angel?" she whispered into his ear, her voice resting heavily on the last word.
Jake pulled back in shock, looking at her.
"I don't know," he answered honestly.
"What's going on, Darla?" the brunette asked her Sire as soon as the two boys had fled into the night.
"It's none of your business."
"Why are you messing with Buffy's kid?" the turned Slayer asked pointedly.
Since Buffy had moved back to Los Angeles, Faith had checked up on her from time to time, never letting Buffy know what she was doing. Just as Gunn had known, Faith had figured out who Jake's father was, but she too had chosen to keep her mouth shut and let things take their own course, not wanting to get caught in the crossfire.
"Buffy's son?" Darla asked, her eyebrow arching as a huge grin spread across her face.
Faith silently cursed herself. Darla hadn't known.
"Well that just makes the whole thing that much richer now doesn't it?" the elder vampire mused. "I was talking to him because he's my boy's son and it's my right as Sire."
"Yeah," Faith snorted, "so he looks like Angel, but the kid's what, eighteen? Angel's only been human for a dozen years. How could that be his son?" She was trying desperately to dissuade Darla from taking a vested interest in the boy.
"I don't know," Darla answered honestly. "And I don't care. He has my Angel's blood running through his veins. I can smell it. I'm sure he'll taste just as sweet as his daddy."
"Dru knew this was going to happen. She knew he'd show up. That's why she told us to be here tonight, right?"
"Who knows what the hell Dru knows," Darla said harshly, irritated with Faith giving Dru credit for discovering the boy.
"She's been talking about daddy coming home," Faith prompted, knowing Darla was deliberately keeping her in the dark.
"Yes," Darla answered with a devious smile. "But we both know that can't happen. Part of that horrid humanity Angel was cursed with came with the stipulation that he could never be given the dark gift again."
Faith watched her lover for several long moments before it hit her. If she had needed to breathe, she would have found herself unable. For some reason, it shocked her that Darla could be so sadistic.
"But if you vamp his son ... ," the brunette said almost to herself.
"Yes," Darla said her smile widening even further. "My mate is just waiting to be reborn."
Faith frowned, trying to find a way to stall Darla. "He's ... young. Not that he isn't cute, and everything, but he isn't quite the piece of meat that Angel is."
"Yet," Darla qualified. "He just needs a little time."
"And while you wait?" Faith prompted, relieved that Darla wasn't planning to turn the boy immediately.
"In the mean time, I make sure he has the proper education."
"How are you going to do that?" Faith asked. "You just let him walk away."
"I gave him my number. He'll call. He's a curious little kitten, just like his father."
Faith looked apprehensive. "Buffy's not just going to sit back and let you have her kid, you know."
"I don't expect her to," Darla purred with obvious amusement. "I expect her to fight. I want her to fight ... and then I want her to find out what it's like to die at the hands of her beloved child, just like I did."
"What did she say?" Charlie demanded as he and Jake made their way back to the car.
"Nothing," Jake answered honestly. "She didn't say anything, she just asked me a bunch of questions."
"Like why I was there."
"Why were we there?" he asked pointedly. "All you ever said was 'demon research'. Could you be a little more specific? I mean if I'm going to get killed in some alley I'd at least like to know why."
Jake sighed. He hadn't intended to tell anyone, but Charlie was right, he had a right to know. "I'm looking for information on someone named Angel," he answered seriously.
Charlie swallowed. Jake was looking for Angel, but he'd promised his father he wouldn't say anything.
"Oh," he said lamely.
Jake didn't miss the way Charlie's posture immediately became nervous. "Do you know anyone named Angel?" he asked on a hunch.
"N-No," Charlie stammered.
Jake nodded, but knew that Charlie wasn't telling the truth. He didn't know what exactly Charlie knew, but it couldn't be good.
Jake woke from the dream disoriented. He was sleeping on the floor of Charlie's room. He concentrated on calming his breathing, trying to hear if he'd woken Charlie. When he heard the soft snore, he calmed, satisfied that his friend still slumbered obliviously.
The dream was getting more intense every time he had it. This time he'd been crouched next to Angel - he knew without a doubt that's who the man was though he still couldn't see his face. His hands were still stained with blood, he didn't know whose. Darla was there. She was the one who whispered into his mind, "You must wake again."
He turned to face her and she looked at him with her demonic face to the fore. He didn't flinch. He'd been expecting to see it. He knew she was a demon. He knew she was dangerous, and yet he wasn't afraid. Darla loved him, wanted him, needed him - or more appropriately the darkness within him.
The screaming had started again, but this time it had a definite source. Tearing his gaze from Darla, he looked and saw his mother huddled against a stone wall. She was staring at him screaming, obviously hysterical. She was terrified of him.
The next afternoon, Jake sat alone on the couch contemplating a myriad of events. He'd been planning on staying at Charlie's all weekend, but had come home early. His mother didn't know about the change of plans and was out looking for a job. He knew she only did things like that when he wasn't around, not wanting to worry him with financial concerns.
Jakob's mind wandered back to the previous evening. Charlie knew something about Angel, but he wasn't going to spill. Why? Darla also knew something about Angel, she'd made a point to call him that the previous evening.
Jake didn't like Darla, and he didn't trust her, but he got the distinct feeling that she would tell him who Angel was when no one else would. Why she would do that remained to be seen. He doubted she had any altruistic intentions. Her information would come at a price.
"You want to know about Angel?" Darla asked Jake as she sat down on the couch next to him. Just as she'd predicted, he'd made his way to her lair in search of answers.
"You know who he is," Jake said, it wasn't a question.
"Yes," she said, her lips pulling back into a smile. "I know who he is ... and was."
Jake studied her carefully. She wasn't bluffing, she also knew a lot more than she was saying.
"Is he my father?" Jake asked, unwilling, and unable, to draw it out any longer.
"Yes," she answered softly. "You are so much like him, Jakob. Did you know that? So much potential."
Jake swallowed. He had to admit to himself that he'd known that truth for weeks. He hadn't known who Angel was, but something inside of him had always know. Now the knowledge had crystallized, become an unavoidable reality.
"Are you a vampire?" he asked, studying her face.
"Yes," she answered honestly.
It was all falling into place. "And Angel was a demon hunter."
She smiled again, quelling the urge to laugh outright. This was going to be so much fun. Leaning towards her prey, she gently caressed the side of his face, not missing the involuntary flinch on his part.
"Angel was a drunken, whoring Irishman the first time I met him," she said softly. "That was right before I turned him, more than two an a half centuries ago."
Jake felt like someone had punched him in the stomach. Angel was a *vampire*. How the hell was that possible?
Noting his peaked complexion, Darla continued like the finely tuned predator she was, "He was one of the most vicious creatures to ever walk the earth, Jakob. He was a legend among legends. You should be proud of your heritage. He is known by the name Angel, but more often than not, he is referred to as Angelus. You shouldn't have any trouble finding the information you are looking for."
Jakob stumbled blindly down the hallway towards his mother's room. Buffy was still out, he didn't know where. Heedless of the mess he was creating, he pushed her clothes aside and pulled out the crates of old books again.
As he skimmed through them, he wondered how he had missed it before. There were scores of references to the demon Angelus. He admitted to himself that he hadn't been looking for a demon named Angelus, he had been looking for a human named Angel. Too bad.
Darla hadn't been embellishing. The atrocities committed by Angelus were beyond words. His heritage. Hundreds upon hundreds of victims killed in a myriad of gruesome ways. At the bottom of the pile, he came across one of the journals of his mother's watcher and leafed through it once again.
The diary wasn't complete, a large portion of it had been ripped out, but there was enough for Jake's needs. No mention of Angel, but Angelus had definitely been in Sunnydale. He had murdered Giles' girlfriend and left her body for him as a morbid present.
The demon had spent months tormenting Buffy and her friends, including a young cheerleader named Cordelia Chase - Charlie's mother. No wonder his friend had paled at the mention of Angel. He'd known the entire time who the vampire was and that Jakob was likely his son, but he couldn't tell Jake the truth. How do you tell your best friend that he's a monster?
A monster like his father.
Inside the journal was a tracing of the tattoo on Angel's right shoulder, it was a perfect match for the one Jakob had seen in his dream. Something inside of him was bound to the demon, part of it even. How could he fight something like that?
Jakob was suddenly seized by guilt. For weeks he'd been thinking his mother tricked Riley into claiming him as his son, but it seemed the truth was much more horrifying. Surely the creature had raped the Slayer, that was the only explanation. She wouldn't have been willingly involved with such a vicious monster. There was no mention of any sort of relationship between Buffy and Angelus, but a large portion of the text was missing. Perhaps his mother had been too ashamed to even allow the words to exist. Surely she’d destroyed part of the journal in an attempt to avoid the horrors of her past.
Jakob cradled his head in his hands. He was like this creature. Buffy had said as much on the phone to Willow. Darla, the vampire who had created Angelus, echoed the sentiment. The people in Huxley had been right. Jakob was a monster, or at least on his way to becoming one. No wonder Riley had been so disappointed in him.
He was an abomination.
Jakob was suddenly assaulted by memories of the scar on his mother's neck. She'd always brushed him off when he asked about it, saying she'd had an accident. She hadn't. It was a vampire bite. Angelus had marked her in yet another way. Jakob felt as if he'd been marked as well. All of the darkness inside himself that he constantly tried to hold at bay rose in an overwhelming tide, and he was helpless to stop it. Images of Steven Simms lying broken and bleeding on the ground filled his mind. He was an animal.
Fate had a way of making sure certain things happened in a certain manner. To that end, Cordelia Chase had agreed to accompany her husband while he made a quick stop by the office to check on a few loose ends.
It was more convenient that way.
The Powers That Be had no intention of allowing the seer to hurt herself when she was hit with the vision, and since Angel was the only person who ever managed to catch her before she ended up on the floor, it was imperative he be present. He didn't disappoint.
As Angel cradled his unconscious friend, he frantically addressed Gunn, "I thought she didn't have visions anymore."
Bewildered, Gunn answered, "She doesn't ... I mean she hasn't for years. But ... even when she had them all the time, they weren't this bad."
The force of the vision had rendered Cordelia completely unconscious.
"She's still breathing, and her pulse is returning to normal," Angel said as he held his fingers to her throat.
Buffy was worried the second she reached the front door and found it slightly ajar. Long repressed Slayer instincts returned immediately as she slowly crept into the room. Her first thought was that she had been robbed, but upon closer inspection, only the pile of books in her closet had been disturbed. Everything else was in order. Leaving her room to do a second sweep through the apartment, she called out to Jakob and received no answer.
She'd noticed his backpack on the couch when she came in, and had been expecting to find him, or at least a message as to his whereabouts. There was nothing. Something was very wrong.
Returning to her room, Buffy took a closer look at the books strewn over the bed and floor. She recognized one of Jakob's notebooks, page after page covered in his handwriting half buried among the books. Picking it up, she began to read.
As Cordelia regained consciousness, she made a concerted effort not to vomit all over herself. The vision had been unbelievably intense ... and BAD. After several moments, Cordelia realized that she was in Angel's arms and that he was talking to her. Concentrating, she listened to him.
"Cordelia, are you okay? Tell us what you saw."
Cordelia blinked and a single tear rolled down her cheek as she studied her dearest friend's face. Turning her head to her husband who stood close by, she croaked out a single word.
Gunn's face dropped and he immediately ran for the phone. He knew that Jakob had gone home earlier in the day ... After several minutes, he turned back to face Cordelia and a very distraught looking Angel.
"No answer," he said morosely. "We should go over there and ... check."
Cordelia crumbled, leaning heavily against Angel, her body shaking with the force of her sobs. As he rubbed her back, Angel tried to remain calm. He knew without a doubt that Jakob was the name of Buffy's son. If he was hurt, or if Buffy was hurt, Angel would track down whatever did it and rip them limb from limb. He also knew what Gunn had meant by "check". He had meant see if there were any bodies.
The front door to the apartment was still open when Gunn, Cordy, Angel and Wesley arrived on the scene. The ride over had been completely silent. Angel hadn't spoken a single word on the ride, concentrating instead on remaining focused and calm. He wouldn't be of any use to anyone if he went into a rage. He needed to find out if Buffy and her son were okay.
The apartment looked shockingly normal. Gunn had been expecting to find complete chaos, but things inside were neat as usual, if a bit cramped. There was a light on in one of the bedrooms and the group made their way towards it, preparing themselves for the worst.
Buffy was sitting on the floor clutching a notebook to her chest, almost catatonic when the others walked in. She didn't acknowledge the intruders. Her state explained why there had been no answer when Gunn called. She probably hadn't heard the phone ring.
Angel stopped breathing when he saw Buffy. Her proximity hit him like a physical blow and he was overwhelmed for several moments. She was all right, at least physically. Not that she looked good, she looked awful. She was too thin and her fatigue was palpable, but she didn't appear to be physically injured. Mentally, she looked about as far from okay as a person could be. Something had happened, something bad and he was going to make sure that whatever was responsible was going to die slowly and painfully.
Cordelia stepped forward, kneeling in front of the statue still woman. Slowly, Buffy raised her gaze to meet the seer's tear stained face. They wore identical expressions of misery. The former Slayer didn't fight as the seer pulled her into a tight embrace, chanting over and over, "I'm sorry, Buffy."
For long moments, Buffy was rigid in Cordy's embrace. All at once she seemed to find her way back to herself and broke down, sobbing hysterically in her former friend's arms.
"Cordy, he's gone," she wailed pitifully, choking through her tears.
"I know," Cordelia said gently through her own tears. "We'll find him."
Turning to face her husband, Cordy said, "We should go back to our house and work from there."
Gunn looked around nervously, "Maybe someone should stay here in case Jakob comes back."
Cordy shook her head. "He won't come back here."
They could have stayed at Buffy's apartment, or gone back to the Hyperion, or gone to a park for that matter, but Cordelia *needed* to be home. Faced with the reality of Buffy's missing child, she desperately needed to see her own children.
Slowly, Cordelia helped a somewhat calmer Buffy to her feet. For the first time, the former Slayer seemed to notice that there were other people in the room. Her gaze flicked from Gunn to Wesley, finally coming to rest on Angel. Buffy's expression cracked again as she saw him and she started crying again. Her world was falling apart. How was she going to explain to him just how badly she had messed things up?
Without thinking, Angel stepped forward and pulled her into his arms, holding her firmly against his chest as she wept. Cordelia looked at him gratefully as he gently comforted Buffy. He was undeniably upset now, but she cringed at the thought of what would happen when he found out just who Jakob really was.
Somehow the group made its way outside and into Gunn's monstrous SUV. They were greatly aided by the fact that in the interest of time, the former vampire had picked up the distraught former Slayer and carried her outside. Buffy and Angel piled in the backseat with Wesley. Given the size of the vehicle, there was plenty of room for everyone, but Buffy remained firmly glued to Angel's side. He did nothing to persuade her to move away from him. She was silent on the entire trip to Gunn and Cordy's except for an occasional hiccupping sob.
When they reached the house, Gunn went off in search of Charlie and any information he might possess. Cordelia was busy tracking down her two younger children, Jessica and Chase. Wesley strategically decided to make tea, leaving Buffy and Angel alone in the large living room.
"Somebody should call Willow and let her know," Buffy noted absentmindedly.
Angel nodded as he held Buffy, gently stroking her hair.
"Later. Do you want to tell me what's going on?" he asked softly, not at all certain she would say anything.
Buffy looked up at him with an expression both wary and guilty. "How much do you know?" she asked bluntly.
"I know that your son is missing, and probably in trouble," he said truthfully.
Buffy swallowed hard. She was still clutching the notebook. Pulling back from Angel's embrace she looked around and found her purse, silently thanking Cordelia for having the presence of mind to bring it along. Grabbing it, she riffled through the contents as Angel looked on in confusion. Finding what she was looking for, Buffy handed the picture of Jakob to Angel.
"This is Jakob," she said quietly.
Surely, she wouldn't have to explain it any further. Angel was human now and had been for quite some time, Willow had informed her of that much. He had to look in a mirror everyday. He couldn't deny the truth.
Angel studied the photograph intently. Buffy didn't miss the fact that his hand started shaking. Putting the picture down, he looked at Buffy, and then pulled her into his arms again as she sobbed with relief.
"Why didn't you tell me he was mine?" he whispered into her hair, his voice strangled with emotion.
Buffy ruefully wondered if she was ever going to be able to stop crying. "I don't know," she sobbed, "I don't know *how* he's yours, but he is."
Angel cringed. Of course she didn't know. No one knew but him. But this shouldn't have been possible. The Oracles took back the day. They shouldn't have been able to create a life - but they had.
Jakob. *His* son. He'd stayed away for years, unwilling to deal with the pain of seeing his love with Riley's son. Jakob wasn't Riley's. Angel berated himself for having been such an ass.
Pulling Buffy fully into his lap, Angel rocked her gently. He thought about the son he'd never known existed. The son he had with his mate. The son ... he hadn't been able to protect. A ragged sob wracked Angel's frame as the last thought hit him. It was all his fault. He should have been there.
Cordelia joined her husband, son and Wesley at the island in the kitchen. Motherly instincts still on overdrive, Cordy gently placed a kiss on top of her oldest child's head before taking a seat. Wesley automatically handed her a large cup of tea which she took gratefully. Charlie didn't look at her, she didn't take that for a good sign.
"Well?" she asked her husband.
Gunn smiled weakly at his wife. "They're still talking," he said quietly, motioning towards the living room.
"I'll bet," Cordelia said glumly. "Not like they don't have a few *thousand* issues to sort out."
"You know *how*, don't you," Buffy said bluntly to Angel. It wasn't a question.
He nodded slowly. "I promise I'll explain everything, Buffy, but right now we need to go in and talk to the others ... figure out what's going on."
As Buffy and Angel made their way into the kitchen, hands clasped tightly together, everyone migrated from the island to the breakfast table. When they were all seated, Wesley took charge of the meeting.
"I suppose a brief overview would be in order to make sure we're all on the same page," the former watcher said, looking down at a few notes he'd made on a small tablet. Angel suppressed a smile. Wesley could play demon hunter with the best of them, but underneath it all, he was a Watcher at heart.
Clearing his throat, Wesley began his synopsis, "I feel it would be most beneficial to start from the *very* beginning. It appears that a good deal of what is wrong has to do with both whom and what Jakob is fundamentally. Now then, when Buffy discovered she was with child, her boyfriend at the time, Riley Finn, assumed the child was his and proposed. Correct?"
Buffy nodded. It was definitely an odd sensation to have the most monumental events in her life described in such a sterile manner, but - she reminded herself - Wes was a Watcher and they just tended to operate like that.
Wesley continued, "You were married and moved to Huxley, Iowa, where your son, Jakob was born. I'm assuming the boy was raised as Riley's natural son."
Buffy nodded again and avoided looking at Angel.
"When you were pregnant, did you believe the child was Riley's?" Wesley asked the Slayer in a much more gentle tone of voice.
"Yes," Buffy answered honestly.
"When did you know he was Angel's son?"
Buffy swallowed. "The first time I held him."
Angel was shocked. She'd known from the moment Jakob was born that he was his child. He felt warmed by that fact in spite of the dire situation they were currently in.
Clearing her throat, Buffy elaborated, "Only myself, Will, Giles and Xander ever knew the truth. Riley may have suspected, but he always claimed Jakob. There was some talk in Huxley. A few people suspected that Jakob wasn't Riley's son, but I ... I never discussed it with Jakob. There was so much turmoil, especially after Riley got sick. Jakob's behavior became so erratic, and then when Riley died ... it never seemed like a good time to talk to him about it ... and now ... "
Buffy wiped fresh tears from her eyes with the back of her hand. How much of this could have been avoided if she'd simply spoken to her son about it? She placed the notebook she still held on the table in front of herself.
"He knew," she said quietly. "Jakob knew that Riley wasn't his father. He knew his real father's name was Angel, although the journal doesn't say where he came up with that bit of information. He ... ," she started and then broke down in tears again. "He got it all wrong. If I'd just talked to him about it instead of being such a damn coward."
Angel placed a gentle hand on her shoulder, and quietly tried to reassure her, "It's not your fault."
Disgusted and angry with herself, she shrugged off his touch and turned to face her former lover. "It *is* my fault," she said emphatically. "If I had just *told* him the truth. There was so much he thought, so many assumptions he made that were just *wrong*!"
Her voice caught as she sobbed violently. "Oh, God, Angel ... He thinks he's a-a-a ... monster."
Angel's expression hardened. Why on earth would Jakob think that he was a monster?
Buffy concentrated on calming down. When she was able to breathe normally again, she continued, "He's had prophetic dreams his entire life and I never knew. He never said anything to anyone about them. He thought something was wrong with him. He doesn't call them nightmares in the journal, he calls them memories. In them, he's a monster."
She cradled her head in her hands. "How could I have been so fucking blind? It's not like I didn't go though the same damn thing. I just ... I don't know what the hell I thought. He and Riley were always at each other's throats, then Riley was told his condition was terminal ... Jakob started getting in lots of trouble. I thought he was just acting out. It was right there in front of me and I didn't even notice there was something very serious happening to my baby."
Angel watched her berate herself knowing full well there was nothing he could do to make it better. She thought she'd failed as a mother, but he knew that wasn't the case. For the first time in a number of years he gave very serious thought to the turmoil he had caused his own mother.
Reluctant to disturb Buffy further, Wesley spoke softly, "Perhaps you could tell us what else is contained in the journal."
Buffy looked up. She knew it was time to get down to business. She couldn't be breaking into hysterics at every turn or they'd never get through this. Straightening, she took a napkin from the table and wiped her eyes.
"It's not really a journal," she explained. "It's more of a random collection of thoughts, notes on a few things. Jakob was told by someone - he doesn't say who - that his father's name was not Angel, but Angelus."
Beside her, Angel paled. Jakob was *his* son, the demon didn't have any claim on him. He'd been human the day that Jakob was conceived.
"Jakob went on the assumption that he was Angelus's son. Someone made certain that he believed that. He thinks he was a mistake, an abomination. And now he's gone."
Wesley nodded and turned to Cordelia, "What did you see in your vision?"
Cordelia shrugged noncommittally. "Nothing really. It wasn't like the other visions. I just got a sense that Jakob was in a lot of trouble and a lot of pain although I don't know if it was mental or physical."
"Well," the Watcher said dejectedly, "that was our only lead."
"Not quite," Gunn said, looking pointedly at his son who was studying something extremely interesting on his shoe.
"Charlie," Cordelia said gently, leaning in towards her son, "do you know where Jakob is?"
Charlie didn't meet her gaze, but he shook his head 'no'.
"You know something," Gunn snapped, losing patience with the boy. "Now tell us so we can go and find him before something happens."
Charlie looked up. "I ... we ... Caritas. We went to Caritas last night."
Wesley looked at the boy, thoroughly puzzled. "Why on earth did the two of you go to Caritas?"
"Jake said he wanted to do some 'demon research'," Charlie admitted. "I didn't know until later what he was really doing. As soon as we walked in, we got jumped by this scary chick ... I mean she wasn't nasty looking or anything but she just made my skin crawl. She was all over Jake, drug him off into some corner to talk to him alone. Faith was with her so I didn't get too crazy about it."
"What did she want?" Buffy asked, thoroughly confused. What would anyone want with Jakob?
"Jake said she just asked him who he was and what he was looking for," Charlie answered honestly. "After he told me that, then *I* asked him what he was looking for. I told him I didn't buy the 'demon research' line. He said he was looking for information on a man named Angel. He asked me if I knew anyone named Angel ... I froze. Dad made me promise not to say anything, and so I told him I didn't, but I don't think he believed me. He knew I was lying and he just started being really quiet."
"Who was the woman with Faith?" Cordelia asked, trying not to glare at her husband. She’d deal with him later. If he’d just let her meddle like she’d wanted to, all of this could have been avoided.
"I don't know. I've never seen her before, but I think she was probably a vamp. She said her name was Darla."
Buffy's insides turned to ice. "Darla has my son," she breathed, reaching instinctively for Angel's hand and gripping it tightly.
"We don't know that," Wesley stated quickly. "All we know is that he talked to her."
"He's lost and confused and hurt. He's not thinking clearly. She's using him to get back at us," Buffy said, looking at Angel.
Wesley took off his glasses, gently massaging the bridge of his nose. "Perhaps we should all get some rest. It will be dawn very shortly."
"That's probably a good idea," Angel agreed, looking at Buffy's clearly exhausted form.
The sky was just beginning to turn gray when Jake arrived at the posh apartment building. The doorman only gave a nod as he walked past and entered. He'd spent the entire night wandering around Los Angeles. He'd debated returning to Caritas to search out the host and try to find insight into who he was. He hadn't. He'd been too afraid of having his deepest fears confirmed.
His entire life had been a lie. He was angry, but his rage had no direction. He was angry with his mother for never telling him the truth, but deep inside he knew she'd only kept it from him to try and protect him.
He was angry at Riley for playing the fool for the last eighteen years. There's no way he hadn't known he wasn't his father, but he'd played along to the end. He'd probably thought he'd been doing the noble thing, but he hadn't. Riley's actions had just hurt both of them.
He was angry at Angelus for being the sick bastard he was.
He was also angry at himself for being too weak to just end it all.
Without allowing him self time for second thoughts, he knocked soundly on the door. Several moments later it was opened by the sleepy tenant.
"Darling boy," she said quietly in a voice that actually sounded sincere, "welcome home."
Buffy looked around the interior of the Hyperion. She had a hard time imagining Angel living here. Angel living, radical concept. He was fumbling around in the office for something, but she could see him clearly through the open doorway. He was still absolutely beautiful. She sighed heavily, putting her head down on the counter.
Angel was human. He'd been human for a dozen years. Surely he'd built himself a human life complete with friends and, well, ... girlfriends. Angel hadn't mentioned a significant other, but if your ex shows up in town and informs you that the son you never knew you had is in imminent danger, the odds of bringing up a girlfriend in chit chat are pretty slim. Especially for Angel, the king of evasive conversation maneuvering.
"Found it," he said, holding up a file and drawing Buffy out of her thoughts.
Buffy lifted her head slowly as he walked towards her. He studied her with a frown.
"You should really get some sleep," he said gently.
She snorted. "I must look *real* good," she said wryly.
His frown deepened. "That's not what I meant. You're beautiful, but you look exhausted. You need to rest," he held his hand out expectantly.
Buffy smiled and took his proffered hand, allowing him to lead her up the stairs.
Jakob didn't fight as Darla pulled him inside the darkened apartment. She led him down a hallway past huge bay windows covered with heavy drapes to keep out the light. When they reached the bedroom, she gently urged him back onto the bed and removed his shoes.
"Are you going to turn me into a vampire?" he asked bluntly, not caring what the answer might be. He was almost hoping for death, it would simplify his life dramatically.
The vampiress looked at him for a long moment, a smile playing on her lips. "Not today, my sweet."
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to go to sleep. And so are you," she answered in even tones. "Tomorrow we will discuss your destiny."
"Yes, my love, you have such an amazing journey ahead of you," she said with a wicked gleam in her eyes.
"Angel, I can't take your bed."
Angel frowned at her. She'd been fighting this for several minutes. "Buffy, I already told you that although this is a hotel, this is the only room that's made up right now. Please, just get some sleep."
"I'll take the floor," she said, looking around and noticing he didn't have a couch.
"You're not taking the floor," he said in exasperation.
Their conversation was cut short by the phone ringing. Walking over to the nightstand, Angel picked it up.
"What?" he barked into the receiver, it was already past eight in the morning, but he wasn't in the mood to try and get any business done. He needed sleep, one of the downsides to being mortal.
Buffy watched as his entire body tensed. After several long moments, he sat down on the bed, giving terse, one word replies into the phone.
"Yeah," he said after several minutes, "let me get a piece of paper."
Buffy watched as he wrote down a cell phone number. With a short 'bye' he hung up the phone and rubbed his hands over his face. Buffy's heart caught in her throat.
"What?" she said, her voice sounding as if it were made of ice.
He reached out and grabbed her forearm gently, pulling her to sit on the bed next to him.
"It was Faith," he said quietly, not looking at her. "She's been spending a lot of time with Darla lately. She said she's been trying to get ahold of us since Friday night, but hasn't been able to track anyone down. She wanted us to know that Jakob is with Darla."
"Oh gods," Buffy moaned, covering her hand with her mouth as she started to cry again. She'd known the odds of her son being with the sadistic vampire were good, but hearing it confirmed was still a shocking blow.
"Faith is going to stay close to them, she'll do her best to let us know where they are and what's going on, but she doesn't want to let Darla know anything is wrong. She'll call us when she can," Angel explained gently.
The reassurances did little to calm Buffy who pulled her legs up to her chest, hugging them tightly as she rested her face on her knees and sobbed pitifully. Angel was at a loss for what to do. He wanted to comfort her so badly, but didn't want to do anything that might be misconstrued. Luckily, Buffy solved his dilemma, leaning into him heavily until he enfolded her in his embrace. He held her for a long time, until her sobs had subsided and she had calmed.
"Go to sleep, Buffy," he said gently.
She shook her head 'no'. "Not unless you stay with me. I can't be alone right now."
Angel smiled. "Anything for you," he said quietly.
"Where are we going?" Faith asked as Darla herded her and Jake through the apartment building's underground parking garage and into a waiting limo, complete with heavily tinted windows. It was late afternoon, but the sun was still high enough to necessitate the precautions.
Darla stopped walking and looked at her lover. "Do you have somewhere else to be?" she asked pointedly.
"No," Faith answered quickly, afraid Darla would leave her behind and continue ahead with Jake.
"Then shut up and get in," the elder vampire commanded. Her Childe obeyed without question.
Faith looked at Jake and noted he seemed oblivious to everything around him. Odds were he was in some kind of shock. He'd been through hell in the last couple of days and Darla was doing everything she could to keep him as confused as possible. The more muddled he was, the easier he was to control. Faith noted with guarded optimism that at least there weren't any bite marks on his neck. Perhaps Darla would keep her word and allow him to "mature" before she tried anything.
It was near sunset when Buffy woke feeling oddly rested. She'd been completely exhausted before falling asleep, but she knew that wasn't the only reason she'd been able to sleep so well. Angel's still sleeping form was curled tightly around hers, spooning her from behind. In spite of her absolute terror over Jakob, she felt safe in a way she hadn't felt in decades with a sense of hope she feared lost forever.
They were nestled snugly under the covers of his bed, their hands intertwined on her stomach. They hadn't spoken in eighteen years, but their intimacy was instinctual. They were each other's other halves, soulmates. Buffy had been married to Riley in the eyes of God and the law. They had slept next to each other every night for seventeen years. They had countless sexual encounters. Yet, their entire relationship still never came close to reaching what she had lying in bed fully clothed with her sleeping Angel.
Angel completed her. Angel was the father of her only child. Angel was her heart. Riley just passed the time. It had been so much easier to justify the fact that she'd stayed with Riley when she hadn't seen Angel for years. Looking at him now, she knew she'd been living a lie. She'd convinced herself that it was best for Jake, that he needed a solid home environment far away from demons and the supernatural. How wrong she had been. Jakob was supernatural. It was in his blood. He had needed his father, his *real* father, not a stand-in, trying to "do the right thing" who had absolutely no chance of ever relating to the boy.
Buffy sighed heavily as she tried to figure out just how many people's lives her short sightedness had destroyed. The sound woke Angel who seemed to read her thoughts and hugged her tightly in his forgiving embrace. Buffy blinked to clear the tears. She wasn't going to cry anymore.
"So is your girlfriend going to walk in and catch us?" Buffy asked bluntly.
"There is no one in my life. There hasn't been since you."
Turning in his embrace to look at him, Buffy said, "But you're human now, you can ... "
"It was never about sex, Buffy, " Angel answered seriously. "I loved you and I couldn't be with you, so I'm alone."
"Couldn't be with me ... ," Buffy mused. "If you couldn't be with me, how do you explain the fact that we managed to conceive a child on the day after Thanksgiving by arguing with each other in your office in front of Cordy and Doyle for five minutes?"
"You know it happened that day?" he asked in surprise.
"Yes, Angel," she replied firmly. "I know it happened that day."
"It didn't," he explained with his usual cryptic nature, "at least not the way you remember."
"Oh," she said with mock understanding, "well, then, why don't you clear things up for me?"
Faith watched the couple seated across from her in the limo. Jake was staring blindly out the window, oblivious to everything. Darla was grinning like a cat in cream, idly playing with the hair on the nape of the boy's neck, whispering to him in a quiet voice the brunette couldn't make out even with her vamp enhanced hearing. Faith wanted to shove Darla away from him, but she didn't dare. She didn't know what Darla might have already done to him, especially given her fondness for magic as a means of manipulation. Deciding to wait it out and see what Darla had up her sleeve, Faith tried to find another way to keep the elder vampire away from the boy.
"So I've been replaced?" Faith hissed, deciding to play spurned lover. "You've found a new Childe?"
Darla shot her a guarded look. "No," she said slowly.
"Really?" Faith asked cattily. "Looks like you're getting awfully cozy with junior there."
Darla smiled. She loved to be wanted. The idea of her Childe being jealous delighted her to no end. She slowly made her way to Faith's side, gently caressing her face as she slid into the seat.
"I'm not replacing you ... yet," Darla whispered throatily as she captured Faith's lips in a hungry kiss. "You know so many more tricks than he does. Perhaps we can train him ... together."
Angel watched Buffy's face carefully. She had yet to react to his recounting of the day that wasn't. He still held her tightly, partly for comfort and partly because it would make it easier to pin her down if she decided to try and rip his head off. He'd been assured by Wesley several hours earlier that her Slayer strength had diminished to regular human proportions. He could physically outmatch her if he needed to - theoretically.
Buffy, however, wasn't reacting the way he had expected. There was no rage, no angry shouting. She was lying limp in his embrace, staring at the ceiling with a look of consternation on her lovely face.
She had spent a whole day with Angel that had been swallowed by time. She couldn't remember the conception of their child. The part of her that was angry at her lack of memories was quelled by the part of her that was deeply grateful The Powers That Be had taken *only* the memories.
They let her keep Jakob.
For years she had wondered if fate had simply taken pity on her and given her the ultimate gift, a piece of her lover as a substitute for Angel himself. She hadn't imagined anything close to Angel's explanation of events. She had been certain that Jakob was a miracle. She conceded that learning he had been conceived with lots of sweating and grunting, didn't make him any less special. In fact, the revelation made Buffy feel normal in a way she'd never felt before. No divine entities had altered her body or her destiny. She had simply been a normal human girl in love with her normal human boyfriend and they had created a child with their love.
"I know you're human, Angel, so you might as well stop holding your breath before you pass out," Buffy said calmly.
Angel's gaze slitted as he looked at her. "You're not mad?"
She turned her head to face him. He was only inches away on the pillow, watching her carefully, nervously. The urge to press her lips to his was almost overwhelming, but she refrained.
"It's a little late for recriminations, isn't it? It happened eighteen years ago," she said quietly.
He didn't look convinced.
Buffy sighed and began to explain, "I'm not seventeen, Angel. I've known since Jakob was born that he was your son. The forgotten day is the missing detail, but I got the big picture a long time ago. Besides, who am I to blame anyone? I knew he was your son and yet I kept him away from you because I was so hurt by you leaving. I understand now that you were only doing what you thought was right, and it wasn't fair of me. I denied you your son and I denied Jakob the chance to understand who he is because I thought he needed to be 'normal'."
She took a deep breath and continued. "In a way, I did the same thing to him that you did to me. I tried so hard to protect him that I ended up hurting him. I wanted to keep the darkness away from him so badly that I denied it existed. I denied what was happening to him. I made him feel like a freak. Worse, I tried to shove him into a life he didn't fit in. I tried to make him and Riley forge a relationship."
Angel was grateful he was human, because if he'd been a vamp, he wouldn't have been able to tamp down an instinctive growl. He took several deep breaths and then asked, "What exactly was Riley and Jakob's relationship like?"
Buffy smiled. She could tell Angel was being overprotective of the son he'd only just found out he had. That boded well for the future. She only hoped Jakob would be half as receptive as Angel.
"It wasn't good," she said bluntly.
Angel scowled and Buffy backtracked. "I don't mean that the way it sounds. Riley tried, he really did. He did everything he could for Jakob, but it never worked. They were too different. Riley expected things from Jakob that were unrealistic given his personality. There was a lot of conflict between them - nothing physical. Riley expected Jakob to be a Boy Scout, and the more he expected the more Jakob rebelled."
Angel listened carefully. It was a very familiar story. Hauntingly familiar.
"Riley loved Jakob and he did his best by him. I know now that Riley knew Jakob wasn't his son. But in defense of him, he never said anything, never treated him as anything other than a son. Even when they weren't getting along and Riley was so frustrated, he still loved Jakob."
Buffy almost winced at the look on Angel's face. She knew it would have been so much easier for him if Jakob and Riley had just hated each other, but they hadn't. Things had been strained, but underneath all the tension, there had been some genuine affection.
"Jakob wasn't as forgiving as Riley," Buffy continued. "I think he always knew Riley wasn't his father and he never forgave him for it. He used to call Riley by his given name about as often as he called him 'dad', even when he was just a little thing. Jakob isn't the easiest person to get along with. He's very stubborn," she said looking pointedly at Angel. "He's a littler version of you, almost exactly. He even broods like you. You have no idea how much that used to freak me out. He's always been like that."
Angel smiled. He knew Buffy was blaming a lot of Jake's less desirable personality traits on him, but it was a wondrous concept. *His son*. Buffy studied his face carefully, her expression softening.
"He smiles like you," she said softly, then her lips creased into a frown. "But he also happens to smile about as often as you do. Sometimes I just want to kick him in the butt for being so serious all the time."
Angel watched as her composed facade cracked. "I just want him home safe," she whispered, tears in her eyes.
"I know," he said softly. "We'll find him, Buffy. I promise."
Faith helped Darla usher Jakob into the exquisitely decorated lobby. They were in Wolfram and Hart's main office building. Faith had no idea why, as far as she knew, Darla and the lawyers were still on the outs. This wasn't good. Faith had to get Jake out of here, but that would entail defying her Sire. The turned Slayer had never outright disobeyed Darla in the past. She didn't know how far reaching the Sire/Childe bond between them was, or if she would even be able to resist Darla.
Faith silently bemoaned her lack of insight into Darla's scheming. She knew about her plan to try and get Angelus back, but really couldn't figure out how Darla hoped to accomplish the task. Faith had been sure it couldn't be done, but she knew Darla. If it was possible, she would find a way.
Minutes later they were ushered into the reception area of Lilah's lavish office. Darla immediately took Jakob into an adjoining conference room. Faith followed on their heels, ignoring the frazzled receptionist's demands that they stop.
"I'm not going to do anything to him," Darla snapped at the brunette as Faith closed the door behind herself.
"Then you shouldn't mind if I watch," Faith countered, hoping her anger was coming off as jealousy.
Darla hissed, but did not order her to leave the room. Faith watched as she moved the boy's zombie-like form to a nearby chair and pressed him down into it.
"Keep an eye on him," Darla ordered. "I have business to see to."
"What kind of business?"
"Don't worry about it. I won't be long."
"What was it like?" Angel asked quietly.
"What?" Buffy asked, looking at him.
"Everything. Being pregnant, having him, watching him grow up."
Buffy let out an amused snort. "That's quite a bit of ground. Where do you want me to start?"
"Wherever you want," he answered seriously.
Buffy smiled and thought about it for a minute or two.
"He was a big baby," she finally said. "I mean *really* big. Pregnancy was awful. I looked like a puffer fish. I was huge. I couldn't wear shoes I was so swollen. He was born in August and it was *so* hot. I was miserable. The doctors were freaked because I'm so little. They wanted to induce my labor almost a month early because they were worried I would have problems delivering."
"Did you?" Angel asked, really having no idea what the implications would be either way. He knew nothing about the birthing process, well, if you disregarded the conception.
"I didn't," Buffy said. "I was confident that everything would work out fine. I was in this big 'Mother Earth' stage. I figured being a Slayer and naturally more primal it would be a breeze."
Buffy laughed. "No. It wasn't. There were all sorts of complications. The doctors were right."
Rolling over onto her back, she pushed the covers down around her thighs. She was still dressed in a lightweight knit shirt and a pair of stretchy black pants. Pulling the waist of the pants down, she showed Angel the long scar just above her bikini line.
He stopped himself from touching it.
"I had to have Cesarean. So much for 'Mother Earth'. I was in labor forever and then they finally just had to cut me open. But he was fine," she said with a sigh, righting her clothes. "Aside from the fact that he was so huge. The doctors kept looking at me like they were trying to figure out how on Earth he was my kid."
"He was ... okay ... in other ways, though, right?" Angel asked.
"What, you mean because his parents were such normal people?" Buffy asked, cocking an eyebrow.
Angel frowned at her.
"He was ... fine," she said thoughtfully. "He was always a little ahead of other kids his age, but nothing that stood out. He never liked to draw attention to himself. And he was so sweet and even tempered when he was little. It wasn't until he got into junior high that we started having problems with him."
"It started out as friction between him and Riley, and then it just became friction between him and everyone. He had some bad friends and a chip on his shoulder the size of Texas. He wasn't *bad*, but he had so much going on that no one understood, not even me. He hurt one kid in a fight pretty severely."
Angel nodded slowly, internally blaming himself for all of the misery Buffy and Jakob had faced.
"I should have acted sooner," Buffy admitted. "Riley was sick and I felt so guilty. I couldn't leave him. Jakob's behavior just got worse and worse. Then ... we moved here and he was so much better - at least until this whole Darla thing."
"My, my," Darla cooed, "you're not getting any younger are you, Lilah?"
The lawyer shot her an icy look. Her age was a sore point to be sure. The fact that Darla would be eternally beautiful did not serve to elevate her waspish mood.
"What do you want?" she hissed. She was decidedly unimpressed with Darla's unannounced arrival in her offices.
The senior partners would not be pleased to know that Darla was in the building. It was bad enough that she was still animate, they didn't need to be reminded of that fact.
"It's not about what I want," Darla clarified, "it's about what we both want."
"And that would be what?" Lilah asked as she studied her watch, trying to anticipate when the security guards would arrive. She needed to be working, she was busting her ass trying to get things in order for a division review.
"Angelus," Darla purred.
"Angelus," Lilah parroted with a laugh. "Unless I'm mistaken, Angelus is gone for good. Angel is human and he can't be vamped again. No more Angelus. Did you miss the memo? Maybe you're the one getting old, Darla. I know you still look good, but it seems the mind is starting to wander."
Darla scowled. Lilah's pissy mood was getting her down. "Angelus is a demon. He is eternal, but right now he is without a body to animate."
"Nice try," Lilah said smugly. "Angelus may be floating around some demon dimension right now, but the second he's pulled back here to inhabit another hapless victim, he's a clean slate. He'll have to start all over again with absolutely no memory of his former self."
"That is not *strictly* true," Darla countered. "Wolfram and Hart has the power to pull him as he is back into another body on the mortal plain. I'm undead proof."
Lilah studied the vampire for a long moment. "The power, yes, but why would we want to? The tribute required to pull off something like that is astronomical, and all of the effort would be for nothing. Demons don't like to be pulled into new bodies after they've gotten used to one. Odds are it wouldn't work at all the moment the demon realized he was no longer in Angel's body."
"Not if you have the suitable host," Darla said cryptically.
"I don't have time for this Darla," Lilah bit out. "I just told you it won't work unless you have Angel's body and we both know that Angel can't be vamped again, so you have no plan."
"I have Angel's son," Darla said smugly. "It won't be a perfect match, but I think it will be close enough."
Lilah was quiet for a long time as the words sank in. "Angel has a son? Where?" she asked incredulously.
"He's waiting in your conference room," the vampire answered wickedly, her lips curling back into a sinister smile.
Lilah made a face of disgust. "Angel's only been human for twelve years, *please* tell me you're not a pedophile now on top of being a soulless demon whore."
Darla glowered at the mortal. "The boy is almost eighteen. I don't know how he's Angel's, but he is. He looks just like his father, tends to have the tortured soul bit down pretty well too. *And* the best part ... his mother is a Slayer. He'll be perfect."
Faith paced nervously around the room, looking for any telltale signs of hidden cameras or mics. She couldn't find any, but that didn't necessarily mean anything. Unfortunately, she had to take the chance. She pulled her cell phone out of her backpack and dialed Angel's number.
Jakob slowly became aware of his surroundings, as if waking from a dream. He didn't know how long he'd been out of it. The visions had been almost constant since he found the truth in the books his mother had hidden. He only remembered pieces of their trip to ... wherever they were right now.
Rubbing his eyes, he realized he wasn't alone in the richly decorated room, something for which he was very grateful. If he'd been alone, he wouldn't have been sure if it was real, or another vision. He watched the brunette lounging in the chair on the opposite side of the room, she was the same one who had been in Caritas.
"You have no idea what you've gotten yourself into," Faith said quietly.
She had to talk to the boy, had to make him understand just what a dangerous game he was mixed up in. He had no idea what Darla was capable of, and if Faith was going to get him back to his parents in one piece, she would need his full cooperation.
"What would you know about it?" he asked in an acrid tone, not looking at her.
Jake was sick of people telling him what to do, who he was. As far as he could tell, doing 'the right thing' had only screwed up his life.
"I know that you're in over your head. I know that you're acting like a stupid little boy. And I know that regardless of what you might think, you are no match for Darla."
Jake stifled a groan and changed positions in the chair, he was sore from long hours of sitting. He glared at the vampire.
"I thought you were her friend or something. Sounds like you're trying to warn me off," he noted coolly.
Faith smiled. Oh yeah, he was an innocent, no matter how bad he thought he was.
"I may be a lot of things to Darla," Faith said darkly, "but her friend is not one of them. She's my companion, my lover, my Sire. She's also a vengeful bitch and she's very, very dangerous."
Jakob didn't say anything, trying to appear aloof. Changing the subject, he asked, "Who are you and why do you even care?"
"My name is Faith. I'm an old friend of the family," she answered in neutral tones.
"What the hell does that mean?" he bit out, losing his patience for cryptic conversations.
Faith smiled. "I know your parents," she said dryly.
"Which ones," he asked coldly, "my mother and Riley or my mother and Angelus?"
Faith frowned. Darla was doing a number on this boy. "Neither. I never knew Angelus. He was only around this century for a few months. I never met Riley either. I knew your mom and Angel."
Jake didn't say anything. He didn't understand the distinction she was making between Angel and Angelus. They were one in the same.
Faith chewed on her bottom lip and leaned forward in the chair in a pensive attitude. "I was a Slayer before I was turned," she explained slowly. "I worked with your mother. Well, sometimes I worked with her. We had some rough times. I was ... lost for a long time."
"Lost. Saving the innocents wasn't exactly on the top of my 'to do' list. I used my abilities for the wrong purposes. I got in a lot of trouble, did a lot of damage. Made a lot of stupid mistakes."
"Got vamped in the process," he supplied flippantly.
"No," she said calmly. "I got vamped after I'd found my way back to my calling. Slayers keep their souls when they're turned."
"A vampire with a soul?" he asked incredulously. "How is that possible?"
"Happens sometimes. That's what happened to Angel."
"Angel was a monster, they called him The Scourge of Europe."
"Angelus," Faith corrected firmly. "Angelus was The Scourge of Europe. Angel was just a vampire with a soul who got a royal karmic fuck for a bunch of things he couldn't control."
"If you really have Angel's son," Lilah said, "we can't afford to wait. We have to move now."
The lawyer was worried about keeping not only her job, but her head in the next division review. Scoring Angelus would be a huge coup, she might even be promoted.
Darla smiled wickedly. "I thought you said the tribute would be astronomical. You think you can get that together on the spot?"
Lilah regarded the vampire carefully. "The senior partners very much want Angelus on their side," she explained. "It sounds like you actually have a viable way to get him back in the game. With a payoff like that, I'm sure we can get the tribute together quickly."
"He's not ready," Darla said seriously. "The boy needs time to mature."
"Too bad," Lilah said, laughing in amusement. "You think his parents are just going to sit by and let you do this? You think he'll willingly submit to having you rip his soul away? It's now or never."
Darla bristled, she'd always hated Lilah. "If the boy's not ready, then we don't have a guarantee it will work."
"We won't have a guarantee regardless, and this may be our only shot," Lilah pointed out. "Are you in?"
Darla was absolutely still for several long moments before she answered, "I'm always in."
Jakob's body was rigid, he swallowed visibly. "I don't understand," he said quietly, his voice devoid of all its former sarcasm.
"Angelus was an asshole," Faith supplied bluntly. "He did a lot of horrible things and eventually pissed off the wrong people. He killed a young gypsy girl. Her people sought revenge by cursing him with a soul."
"Curse?" Jake asked, his brow furrowing.
"Most definitely. Can you imagine?" she asked lightly. "Three hundred years ago he's just some stupid human guy in the wrong place at the wrong time who decides to try and pick up the *wrong* chick, he gets vamped, his soul goes ... wherever souls go. Angelus, the demon, has a grand ol' time torturing and eating people with his Sire and mate, Darla. Then a hundred and fifty years later the demon who's been rampaging through half the known world eats a gypsy and *bang*, the soul is pulled back to this world and stuck into the body with the demon."
"With the demon?" Jake asked, cocking an eyebrow.
"That's the way I understand it. Angel - the soul - was the one in charge, but the demon was always there. Anyway, Angel is stuck in this demon body with all of the demon's memories of all these horrible things he did, and Angel still is a vampire. I mean he has to drink blood and everything, but the problem is he has a human soul, a human conscience. So he's tortured with guilt for almost a century for all of these things that the demon did."
"They're two different ... beings?"
"Yes. Angel and Angelus shared the same body, the same memories, but they were *not* the same. Angelus was the demon. Angel is a human soul. Angel is a warrior for the cause of good. He's my friend."
Jakob took it all in for a few minutes, staring intently out the window while he tried to sort through things. It didn't take a lot to figure out that Darla had left some pretty important facts out of her version of events.
"What happened between him and my mother?"
"They fell in love. You know, *true* love, the shit that you read about in epic poems, the thing most of us will *never* find. No one knew it at the time, but there was a loophole in Angel's curse. If he experienced a moment of true happiness he'd lose his soul and Angelus would come out to play. He did. He fell in love with Buffy, she made him completely happy. Hello sicko demon jerk."
"That's how Angelus ended up in Sunnydale?"
"Yeah. He was only loose for a few months. Buffy finally got rid of him by sending him to hell. Only it wasn't him. At the last minute before she did it, Willow managed to return Angel's soul. It was too late. Too many things had been set in motion. Buffy ended up sending Angel to hell. She had to, or the whole world would have been destroyed."
Jakob didn't speak for a long time. "She sent him to hell to save the world?"
"Yes," Faith said slowly, amazed that Jakob was as calm as he was. "Angel was released later. From his perspective he spent a couple centuries in Hell, but he was only gone from our time for a few months."
"They got back together?" Jake asked, confused.
"No. The curse was still there. They couldn't be together without risking setting Angelus loose again. Angel left Sunnydale. Riley showed up. I think you know how it went from there."
"So how am I ... "Jakob trailed off. "I mean, I didn't think vampires could ... have kids."
"They can't as far as I know. Also, when Buffy got pregnant with you, she was supposed to have been with Riley. I don't know what happened. You'll have to take that up with your parents. Angel has a lot of secrets. He keeps a lot of things bottled up inside, even now that he's human."
Jakob's head shot up and he stared at Faith. "Angel is human now?"
She nodded slowly. "Yes. It was his reward for helping save humanity, for atoning for all the demon's sins. It was supposed to mean that he could finally be with Buffy, but by the time he was human, she was married and living in Iowa with Riley."
Jake sat in silence considering everything she'd said. His father wasn't a monster, he was a good guy, human even. The realization that he had made a *huge* mistake began to sink in.
"What's he like?" Jake asked quietly.
"Just like you," she said wryly, "only he's even more dense and even more of a pain in the ass. With any luck, maybe you can avoid making all the same mistakes as him although you're not off to a real good start."
Buffy paced agitatedly around the lobby, glancing at her friends from time to time. Everyone had assembled at the Hyperion, including Willow, whom Wesley had called earlier in the day.
"What do a bunch of lawyers want with my son?" Buffy asked Wesley in frustration.
"Hopefully Angel will have a better idea of that when he returns," Wesley said in as optimistic a tone as he could muster. Nobody was exactly sure where Angel had taken off to in the wake of Faith's phone call.
Darla listened half heartedly to Lilah's telephone conversation. The lawyer seemed to be upset about something. Darla didn't particularly care.
Putting down the phone, Lilah addressed the vampire, "We're going to need to put the boy somewhere safe while we arrange things."
"How long will it take?" Darla asked caustically, not relishing the idea of being stuck in a safehouse somewhere for weeks.
"We'll proceed as quickly as possible. It seems your newest Childe has been playing both sides of the fence. She tipped off Angel and the Slayer to the boy's whereabouts. We need to move quickly."
"Well, now, isn't that interesting," Darla said acridly, embarrassed by Faith's betrayal. The girl would be severely punished.
"We need to get out of here," Faith said in a clipped tone. "I called Angel and let him and Buffy know where we are. We need to get you somewhere safe before Darla can do anything serious."
"Angel's ... with my mom?" Jake asked in disbelief.
"Yeah," Faith answered as if it were a given.
"Why? I mean ... they haven't even spoken in years," Jake asked in disbelief.
Faith cocked an eyebrow at him as she headed to the door, resting her ear against it and listening for sounds from the outer room. "I already told you, *true love*. They've been staying away from each other thinking they were both doing the other a favor. Your disappearing act must have brought them to their senses. You think they're just going to let their kid run away with a psycho demon 'ho and not do anything about it?"
Jake didn't have an answer. The realization that his mother was going to kill him slowly sunk in, but why did Angel care? Jakob had never even met him before, didn't even know what he looked like.
"Angel doesn't know anything about me," he said, foundering.
Faith looked at him with something akin to sympathy. She understood what it was like to be so distrustful of anyone who claimed to have your best interests at heart. "He knows you're his son," she said evenly. "That's enough. Now, let's go."
Buffy's head turned, along with everyone else's as a man came stumbling quickly through the Hyperion's doors. It was evident that Angel, who was following closely behind, had pushed him.
"Talk, Lindsey," Angel ordered.
"Kiss my ass!" Lindsey spat insolently, straightening his suit.
Faith was pushed back into the room as the door swung open and an army of security guards rushed into the conference room.
"Run," she yelled at Jake, but there was nowhere to go.
Faith let out a grunt as the guards tazered her multiple times. With a thud, she fell to the floor in a heap. Jake watched as the security guards dragged her from the room.
Backing up against the wall, Jakob frantically searched for an exit as the security guards surrounded him. One of the guards lunged at him, and Jakob caught him in the jaw with a stunning blow. He doubted he could take on all the guards, but he refused to go down quietly.
"Watch it," one of the guards ordered, "he's stronger than he looks."
Jakob shifted his weight to the balls of his feet, preparing to spring. He froze as a powerful jolt of electricity coursed through his body. The pain was incredible. As a club impacted with the back of his head, he lost consciousness.
Buffy and Willow watched in disbelief as Angel walked into his office, grabbed a tire iron, and predatorily closed in on Lindsey. He had every intention of using the weapon to beat information out of the lawyer.
"No!" Cordy, Gunn, and Wesley yelled in unison, rushing towards Angel, trying to disarm him.
Angel attempted to fight them off, his need to rend Lindsey limb from limb overriding everything else. The scumbag lawyer knew where his son was, knew what Darla's plans were for him, and Angel was going to find out what they were, if Lindsey had to die in the process, preferably if he died in the process.
Gunn managed to pry the tire iron from Angel's grasp, but the former vampire broke their grips, ramming into Lindsey, knocking them both to the ground. His hands closed around the lawyer's throat, choking the life from his body.
"Stop!" Buffy screamed in horror.
She didn't have any idea what was going on, but Angel was about to kill the man he'd called Lindsey, the man who might know where her son was. Angel stilled immediately and both he and Lindsey turned their gazes to the distraught former Slayer. It was the first time Lindsey had noticed the blonde woman and he instantly knew she must be the Slayer.
"What's going on?" Buffy asked in a harsh whisper.
"Lindsey is a lawyer," Angel explained, rising to his feet, unpinning his prey. "He works for Wolfram and Hart, the law firm that brought Darla back. There is no way he doesn't know what she's up to."
"Do you know where my son is?" Buffy asked Lindsey, tears standing in her eyes, her terror evident.
Though he wouldn't have thought it possible, Lindsey's heart wrenched at her plea. He'd been informed only a short while earlier of Darla and Lilah's latest scheme. It hadn't particularly interested him one way or another. He was sick to death of Wolfram and Hart's obsession with Angel and Angelus. As far as he was concerned, the further they stayed away from both of them, the better. He did know, however, they planned to try and bring Angelus back using Angel's son as a host, destroying the boy in the process. That hadn't particularly bothered him either. What did he care about Angel's son? Until the moment Buffy spoke to him, he hadn't given a moment's consideration to the boy's mother - to the fact that someone besides Angel might be hurt by the death of the boy's soul.
Despite every bit of self preservation in his being telling him to keep his mouth shut, Lindsey replied, "Yes."
Jakob woke feeling awful, like every nerve in his body had been fried - which, he reflected, they had. He was lying on a cold stone floor in some dank cell, the only illumination coming from a bare bulb suspended from the ceiling. Maneuvering himself into a sitting position, he surveyed his surroundings. The cell was enclosed on four sides by heavy iron bars. He was housed alone. It appeared that his cell was one in a row of many. Faith's still unconscious form was sprawled in an adjoining cell.
"Faith," he whispered. She did not respond.
She was alive, or rather undead. Vampires dusted when they "died". She was still in one piece, so that, at least, boded well. Confused and exhausted, Jake leaned forward, resting his head against the bars of the cell, closing his eyes. How long he rested like that, he didn't know, but as ice cold fingers brushed along his cheek, his head shot up. Instinctually, he scooted back from the bars, stopping when he reached the center of the cell. A dark haired woman garbed in a creamy white babydoll dress watched him intently.
"My little lamb," she said in a sing song voice that set Jakob's nerves jangling.
"Who are you?" Jake asked, but she didn't seem to hear him.
"My daddy is coming home, little lamb, home to stay."
"Dru! Leave him alone," Faith shouted.
Drusilla hissed, bringing her hands up, mimicking claws striking at the turned Slayer. "Nasty creature," Dru scolded, "trying to keep daddy from taking the little lamb. It won't work. Grandmummy and the nasty lawyer will bring him here to eat the little lamb's soul and then we'll be happy again."
Faith's gaze shot to Jakob as the meaning of Drusilla's ranting became clear. "Darla and Lilah actually found a way to bring Angelus back?" Faith asked Dru, frantic.
Dru laughed and began twirling in circles. "My daddy is coming home and we'll feast for days!" she said gleefully.
Faith sighed heavily, Dru was gone into her own world again. She looked at Jakob hopelessly. The boy had no idea what he was in for.
As Lindsey relayed the plans Darla and Lilah had for Jakob, Angel walked across the room to stand behind Buffy, supporting her physically. For once, his presence did nothing to calm her.
Her entire body trembling, Buffy asked Lindsey, "They want to bring Angelus back using Jakob's body?"
The raw pain and fear in her voice was overwhelming and with much shame, Lindsey answered, "Yes. As far as I can tell, that is their plan."
"When?" she asked frantically.
"As soon as possible, probably this evening," Lindsey replied, not pulling any punches. "They can't afford to wait. By now they know you're on to them."
Turning in Angel's embrace, Buffy looked at him with large, frightened eyes. "We have to save him," she whispered.
Angel looked at her for a long moment and nodded. "We will," he said firmly.
"The tribute is almost ready," the guard informed Lilah as she walked into her office.
The lawyer turned to see Darla smiling. The cold gleam in her eye was unsettling. With a nod, she dismissed the guard who had been left to watch the vampire, Lilah had never trusted Darla.
"It seems there have been some new developments," Lilah said to the vampire.
"New developments?" Darla asked, cocking an eyebrow.
"Lindsey is missing. He was last seen getting into a car with a man who matches Angel's description."
Darla's smile didn't fade.
"You're not worried that he knows what's going on?" Lilah asked incredulously.
"I'm absolutely thrilled he knows what's going on," Darla replied cryptically. "I was worried that the Slayer would try and fix this on her own."
Lilah stared dumbfounded at the vampire. "You know that they know, that they're probably on their way here now to stop this, and you don't care?"
"Oh Lilah," Darla said slowly, as if speaking to a slow child, "I care."
Looking up from the book he was using to research demon manifestations, Wesley shook his head 'no' slowly at Angel, his mouth a grim line. Angel cursed softly under his breath and went to find Buffy in the courtyard.
"She's going to do it, isn't she?" Buffy asked without looking at him. "She can actually bring Angelus back."
"Uh ... yeah ... it looks that way," Angel said morosely. "Wes did some research and it looks like as long as they give a big enough tribute to the right demon gods, they can pretty much accomplish anything they want."
"But why?" Buffy said in anguish, her voice cracking. "Why now? Why with our son? If they've had the power to do this all along, why have they waited?"
Angel looked at the ground, shamed. "It's not that simple, Buffy. They've had the power to do it, yes, but not the opportunity."
Looking at him in confusion, Buffy said, "I don't understand."
"They have the power to summon Angelus to this dimension, but without a host to infect, he can't survive here for more than a few seconds."
"And in all this time they've never found some guinea pig they can stick him in?" she raged.
"It wouldn't work," Angel explained. "A demon molds to the form it's used to. Angelus was used to me, my body, my form. If they tried to summon him into another host, it wouldn't work. The demon would reject it and the host would die."
"But you can't be turned again."
"Not against my will, no," he agreed.
"What does this have to do with Jakob?"
Angel sighed heavily and sat down on one of the stone benches that ringed the courtyard. "Apparently, they think he's a close enough match to me physically for it to work ... or they're desperate enough to take that chance. I'm sure they would have a better chance of success if he were older, but they know we're looking for him, they can't afford to wait."
Buffy was quiet for long minutes, letting everything he'd just said sink in. "So if it does work, Angelus will be reborn in our son's body, destroying his soul ... and if it doesn't, Jakob will die anyway."
"As it stands now? Yes, that is what will happen."
"What do you mean as it stands now?" Buffy asked, studying his face. He wasn't looking at her. She knew his posture, he always looked like this right before he decided to do something 'for her own good'.
"They're desperate, Buffy. For whatever reasons, Wolfram and Hart think they need Angelus. Darla's motives are pretty straightforward. They think the ritual has a chance of working, but it is still a gamble. Jakob is close, but he's not me."
"What are you saying?" Buffy asked in a whisper.
Angel raised his head and met her gaze, holding it for several heartbeats. "I can't be vamped again, Buffy ... not against my will."
It didn't take her but a second to read between the lines. "You're not seriously considering -"
"I want to trade myself for Jakob. They'll make the trade, I know it. I've aged, but I'm still a better match."
Buffy stared at him, her face a mask of conflicting emotions as rage warred with anguish. "I just found you again!" Buffy yelled, tears streaming down her face. "Now you want me to let you go - to let you become Angelus again? I can't do it! I can't hunt you down and kill you again!"
He wanted to comfort her so badly, but he couldn't allow himself to. He could not waver on this, it was too important. Taking a deep breath, he stood and braced himself for the pain his words were going to cause her.
"You won't have to Buffy, you're not the Slayer anymore. Would you rather she have to hunt down and kill our child?" he asked, his voice barely above a whisper.
Buffy stared at him as if she'd been struck. All at once, her composure gave way and she was sobbing openly. Instinctively, Angel reached for her, comforting her gently.
"I love you, Buffy," he whispered, "but you have to let me do this. I've lived far longer than I should have already. I have you ... and our son. Jakob is just a boy, he has so much ahead of him."
Buffy cried harder knowing he was right and hating it with a bitterness that made her want to gag. How could she save him if it meant losing Jakob?
"I love you, Angel," she sobbed.
"I know," he replied, trying to memorize everything about the way she felt, the texture of her hair, the scent of her tears.
Against his wishes - and their agreement - Buffy followed Angel to his meeting with Lilah and Darla. She was shocked as he walked up to the front doors of the law firm. Cursing under her breath, she headed around the building, searching for another way in. Angel may have decided that he was going to sacrifice himself for Jakob, but Buffy wasn't going to lose either of them if she could help it.
She also had a score to settle with Darla.
It took several minutes of searching, but Buffy finally found a maintenance tunnel which led under the building. Making sure she wasn't being followed, the former Slayer entered with as much stealth as possible. She ran towards the end of the tunnel, knowing from the quality of light filtering through that it must open up in to a wider space. Had she been thinking more clearly, she would have noticed it was too easy.
Buffy stifled a gasp as she reached the end of the tunnel. It opened up into an enormous cavern. What was this doing in the middle of downtown Los Angeles under a law firm? She stood staring in bewilderment for several long moments. Too late, Buffy noticed she wasn't alone. Her vamp sense hadn't alerted her to his presence. By the time she'd taken evasive maneuvers, the vampire was all over her, pinning her to the ground. Struggling as hard as she could, Buffy was doing nothing but amusing the vile creature.
"Tasty little thing," he hissed in her ear, grinding her body down into the stone floor with his own.
Buffy closed her eyes in disgust, but did not turn her face away. She wasn't about to expose her neck anymore than necessary to this thing. As she had aged, Buffy had known her Slayer powers were fading, but it had been so easy to dismiss the sensations. Being a housewife and mother in rural Iowa, how often did she need to play superhero anyway? It hadn't mattered that she was just a normal human, she'd even enjoyed it to some degree. Now, she would have given anything to have her strength back.
"Lucky for you she wants you alive," he explained with an evil laugh. "It's going to be one hell of a party when Angelus returns."
Buffy bit her tongue. The urge to tell him that if he even thought about touching her that Angelus would rip him limb from limb was almost overwhelming. Buffy knew Angelus hated her, but she also knew he viewed her as his property. He wasn't a demon who would take kindly to others playing with his toys. That tidbit of information, however, would not serve to help her escape this situation. The more bland she appeared, the better. Buffy gave in and quit fighting.
The vampire subdued her with little effort, not even bothering to tie her up. He simply restrained her by holding her two tiny wrists in one of his large, meaty hands as he dragged her down a rough stone corridor that branched off of the main cavern. It looked like it was hewn from solid rock.
"Move," the creature hissed as it continued to pull Buffy along at a rapid clip. He was obviously in a hurry for something. Buffy just prayed Angel hadn't been too late.
They walked for what seemed an eternity, although Buffy attributed the apparent unending nature of the journey to how uncomfortable she was. The vampire held her wrists high, causing her to bend at the waist as she stumbled quickly down the corridor to prevent her shoulders from being dislocated.
All at once, the dragging stopped and she stumbled as she was pushed violently into the cell. She spun around just in time to see the vampire swing the door shut soundly. How was she going to save anyone locked in a cell?
Just when things seemed their most dire, she heard Jakob say, "Mom?"
Buffy whirled around and for the first time, saw her only child sitting in the far corner of the cell. As she watched, he got to his feet as quickly as he could. She ran to meet him, hugging him to her tightly. She noted wryly that although he was her baby, her head didn't even reach his shoulder. When had he gotten so big? When was the last time he'd let her hug him without trying to break away?
Pulling back from the embrace, Buffy immediately began running her hands over his body, turning his neck and checking for bite marks, trying to reassure herself that he was indeed unharmed.
"Mom!" he said, grabbing her shoulders and looking in her eyes. "I'm alright. I swear."
"Oh, Jakob," she said, tears welling in her eyes as she hugged him again. "I'm so sorry I didn't tell you."
Hugging her back, Jakob said, "I'm sorry I took off. Darla lied ... about everything. I think I finally got most of the real story from Faith."
Buffy looked at him again, "Where is Faith?"
Jakob pointed and Buffy turned around, seeing the second cell for the first time. Faith was seated on the ground, she waved in greeting, her face wearing a smile of wry amusement. Two former Slayers and there was nothing either of them could do.
"You want to do what?" Lilah asked Angel. The imposing man was heavily restrained and surrounded by a crowd of guards.
"You heard me," he bit out, not about to repeat himself for dramatic effect.
"But you can't," Lilah said incredulously.
"Actually," Darla purred, appearing in the doorway, leaning seductively against the frame, "he can." Turning to the guards, she barked, "Take him to the chamber."
Buffy wanted to speak with Faith, but as they heard someone approaching, all three went still, waiting.
Drusilla came into sight, a huge smile playing on her pale features. As her gaze fell on Buffy, the smile turned into a scowl.
"Another nasty little Slayer," the dark vampire hissed.
"Lunatic whore," Buffy shot back with a snarl.
Jake's jaw almost hit the floor and his eyes were wide with shock. He had *never* seen his mother act like this before. She was always so prim and proper.
Drusilla sniffed at the air and then hissed at Buffy again. "You smell like that horrible Angel creature," Dru bit out with venom.
Buffy didn't reply, but instinctively maneuvered herself so that she stood between Drusilla and Jakob. Almost a man or not, she was still his mother and she was going to do everything possible to protect him.
"Were you two all cuddled up like two little peas in a pod?" Drusilla asked the former Slayer.
"What do you want, nutcase?" Buffy growled at the vampire.
Drusilla laughed a tinkling happy laugh. "Nothing from you, you nasty little thing," she said, trying to scold Buffy. "Daddy is here and everything will be happy again. That nasty Angel creature will go away forever."
"Great," Buffy bit out, "I'm really happy for you."
Dru's attention was diverted by Faith, who was attempting to pry more information out of the vampire while she was still semi-lucid. Satisfied that Dru was occupied, Buffy turned to her son.
Jake looked at Buffy. "I thought they were taking me. What's going on?"
Buffy looked at him for several long moments, trying to decide how much to tell him. Knowing how much misery her withholding things from him in the past had caused, she decided to be completely honest.
"They don't need you anymore, Jakob."
His brow furrowed as he studied her distressed features. "What happened?"
Buffy blinked rapidly to stall the tears that were pooling. "They have Angel. He traded himself for you. He agreed to let them take him in return for your freedom."
Jakob stared at her blankly for several minutes. "I ... don't understand," he finally said.
"We couldn't ... he couldn't lose you, Jakob."
"He doesn't even know me," he mumbled in bewilderment.
"He's your father," she said quietly, one lone tear making it's way down her face. "He loves you."
The moment was disrupted by an armed guard opening the door to the cell.
The lawyer looked at the blonde vampire skeptically as they made their way to the ceremonial chamber that had been prepared for Angelus' rebirth.
"Explain," she bit out, irritated there was more she hadn't been informed of. She should have known Darla's plan wasn't as simple as it seemed.
"He can't be turned against his will, but if he submits, it can be done. He's trading himself for his son because he knows we're taking a risk on it working with Jakob in the first place. Odds are it won't work and the boy will die. Daddy here can't deal with that. He'll do anything to protect the little bastard he had with the Slayer, even if it means sacrificing himself and becoming Angelus again."
Lilah looked at Angel carefully. It was obvious from his expression that Darla had read his intentions correctly.
"You'd do it all for a son you didn't even know existed until a few days ago?" she asked in disbelief.
Angel didn't answer, he just watched her carefully. He wasn't about to explain his motives or his emotions to some lawyer scum. He could not, however, hide his amazement as they entered the chamber which had been prepared for the ceremony. It was an enormous cave, maybe a hundred feet across and two hundred feet to the ceiling. The shape was circular with a giant fire burning on an elevated platform supported by stilts in the center of the room. A group of a dozen monks knelt in a circle around the fire, their heads bowed.
"Oh, Angel," Darla cooed, drawing him away from his inspection, "always the knight in shining armor. You'll be glad to know you'll be well rewarded for your sacrifice. I have a little present for you."
"You don't have anything I want," he said evenly to the blonde vampire, his disgust with her evident.
Darla didn't even flinch at the cut. "Oh, Angelus. Don't speak so soon. You haven't even seen what your present is."
Turning, Darla motioned to one of the guards that stood by the doorway. He, in turn, motioned to another guard. Several moments passed in which both Angel and Lilah grew impatient. Darla, paced towards Angel as she waited. She eyed him up and down. He was older, but still very attractive. She was confident the transference would work.
With a leer, she pulled at his shirt, tearing it from his body. As his chest was bared, she ran her hands over the muscled planes, leaning forward to sniff him. As her cold tongue snaked out to lick along his neck, Angel flinched, pulling away. Darla laughed.
There was a commotion in the outer hallway, Angel could only make out parts of it, but soon two guards came stumbling through the doorway doing their best to restrain a third person between them, struggling wildly.
"Angelus," Darla said smoothly. "I don't believe you've had the chance to meet your son yet, have you?"
Angel looked at the boy who had stopped struggling when he heard Darla's words. Jakob was staring at him, panting hard from the struggle. Angel looked at his son for the first time and terror like he had never known before gripped him.
"What do you think you're doing you vindictive bitch?" he yelled at Darla, his face contorting in rage. "You were supposed to release him!"
"He's a present ... but not for you, Angel. He's going to be my mate's first meal when he wakes."
A look of horror and anger crossed Angel's face. "I'll die first," he hissed, lunging towards the vampire. He was restrained by several guards who had to wrestle him to the floor.
"Your death was always part of the plan, lover," Darla said in return. "Begin the ritual."
As Angel looked frantically around the room, the monks began chanting in Latin and the fire grew more intense.
"Move it scumbag," Gunn's voice boomed off the walls in the cell room.
Buffy spun, straining to see down the corridor which was at an awkward angle from her holding cell. As she watched, Lindsey came into sight, followed closely by Gunn who was holding a pistol to his back. Wesley brought up the rear.
"Get us out of here," Buffy said, trying not to yell too loudly.
"Workin' on it," Gunn replied tersely.
Wesley searched the room frantically for some sort of key to open the cell doors.
"Hurry," Gunn said impatiently.
"You're not going to find them," Lindsey interjected in bored amusement. "They never keep the keys down here."
"Who said that it was okay for you to open your mouth?" Gunn asked, punctuating his question with a smack to the back of Lindsey's head.
The lawyer growled and bit out. "You're going to be too late anyway. You have no idea where Darla is holding the ceremony. Do you have any idea how big the complex is? You're wasting your time."
As the monks chanted, the fire began to take on an eerie blush tint. The air in the cavern became oppressive, suffused with magic. As Angel stared into the flames he could both see and feel the demon beginning to take shape. Angelus was returning to this world.
Angel looked at his son. It was obvious the boy was terrified, but he never let his gaze wander. Angel smiled in spite of the horror of the situation. Some part of him had feared he would never actually get to see the boy. He mouthed the words "my son". Jakob nodded slowly.
Angel's face took on a mask-like quality. He calmed, turning to face Darla with peace in his eyes. He spoke a series of words in Latin, clearly and loudly.
As he said the words, the color of the fire changed, turning first a dark blood red, and then getting lighter. Darla's brow furrowed and then she realized what he'd done. He'd withdrawn his consent. With a howl of outrage, she lunged at Angel, striking him in the face. The blow broke his nose, bloodying her hand and knocking him to the ground, where he sprawled unconscious, face first.
Grabbing one of the monks, she threw him with brutal force against the wall. "You didn't tell me he could do that," she hissed.
"You didn't tell us you were going to sacrifice the boy," their leader shouted in return. "If you had released the child as agreed this wouldn't have happened."
Darla glared at the monk for several seconds before turning to Jakob. The boy was still held by the two guards, but he was no longer struggling. He was staring intently at Angel's fallen form.
Darla's face was lit by a maniacal grin. With a wave, she dismissed the guards. She approached the boy slowly, closing in on him until her body was pressed against his, her lips at his throat. The boy didn't seem to notice her, all of his attention riveted on Angel.
"You've been here before, haven't you, Jakob?" she whispered, taking his hand in hers. "This is the place from your visions."
Jakob shook his head 'no', but his face displayed such anguish that Darla was certain she was correct.
"You know what you have to do, Jakob. You know your destiny. You must wake again."
Jakob looked at her with wild eyes. How many times had this very scenario played out before in his mind's eye. Out of force of habit, he looked at his hand, where Darla had touched him. It was stained with Angel's ... with his father's blood. He stared at it blankly.
"We can rule the world," she whispered. "It will be ours, yours and mine. We will have everything."
Jakob looked at the blood on his hand again, and then to Angel's crumpled form. The intricate Celtic tattoo on his shoulder was clearly visible. Turning from Darla, he slowly made his way towards the fire to where Angelus waited. Darla smiled.
With a moan, Angel woke turning in time to see Jakob walk towards the fire. His heart caught in his throat. He couldn't lose his son, not now.
Just as he opened his mouth to yell, the boy kicked over one of the bonfire’s supports, toppling the platform away from himself. There was an anguished scream as the demon was pulled back to his own dimension. The cavern began to shake, the earth rolling like waves under their feet. The occupants scattered, but not all managed to escape the large chunks of rock being jarred loose from the ceiling.
Before the demon's scream had faded completely, Darla let loose with one of her own, as she closed in quickly on Jakob. The boy tried to defend himself, but he was no match for an enraged vampire of Darla's caliber. Leaping on him, Darla pinned Jakob to the ground, straddling him as her hands wound around his neck.
Looking around wildly, Angel grabbed a piece of debris from the toppled bonfire. The smoldering wood seared the flesh of his hand, but he didn't let go, making his way towards Darla. With a grunt, he lurched forward, stabbing the vampire through the back, piercing her heart. She erupted into ash. Angel quickly knelt next to his son.
Jakob blinked several times, choking harshly. He held up his hand, and Angel grabbed it tightly. Jakob squeezed it, but without much force. Angel didn't know what to say, there were so many things running through his head.
"My son," he said quietly.
Jakob looked at him with huge eyes that pooled with unshed tears. "Father ..." he rasped out and then to Angel's horror, his eyes rolled up in his head and he was still.
Angel felt frantically for a pulse and found one. Looking him over more carefully, Angel saw that there was blood pooling under the back of his head, probably from where he'd landed when Darla jumped him. Surveying the churning room, Angel cursed. Everything was still shaking, and the entire ceiling looked as if it were about to fall in. Hefting the boy over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry, Angel made his way out of the cavern as quickly as he could manage.
"What the hell is going on?" Buffy screamed as the entire structure jarred with movement.
"Earthquake?" Wesley offered lamely.
"Buffy plus earthquake equals bad," the former Slayer hissed. "Get me out of here."
"Almost got it," Gunn said from where he was trying to pick the lock. There was a huge shift as the earth moved again, Buffy instinctively covered her head with her hands as the ceiling threatened to give way.
"Move," Gunn shouted.
Looking up, Buffy saw that the latest tremor had knocked all of the cell doors open. She raced outside.
"Where are you going?" Wesley asked as she moved to run past him.
"I have to find them," Buffy said frantically.
"You'll never find them," Lindsey explained. "The cavern is deep under the building, it's probably already gone by now."
Buffy ignored his commentary. They had to be alright. She moved to pull away from Wesley, but he held her tightly.
"No," Faith said firmly, clamping her hand around Buffy's other arm. "We have to believe that they made their way out. This entire complex is going to come crashing down around our ears. We have to get outside."
"They're my family," she screamed. "I have to find them."
"No," Gunn said, motioning for the others to physically drag Buffy down the corridor. "Angel knows how to take care of himself. We have to trust him."
It was dark when Faith and Wesley dragged Buffy from the building. The streets were swarming with people flushed from the nearby buildings. There were sirens and car alarms going off everywhere. And there was no sign of either Jakob or Angel.
The powerful earthquake had knocked out phone service for miles. Unable to contact Cordelia, Buffy, Gunn, Wes and Faith were forced to head back to the Hyperion in search of news, gladly ditching Lindsey. It was a slow process.
It was almost one in the morning before Buffy made it to the hospital. The building itself hadn't been damaged, but due to the fact that so many others in the city had been, it was filled to capacity.
Using whatever hunting abilities she still possessed, Buffy set about tracking down her missing mate and son. Cordelia had informed her that Angel had taken an injured Jakob to this hospital, but the former seer had no idea what shape either of them were in.
It took Buffy almost forty-five minutes to find the two, and amazingly enough they were in a real room rather than shoved in some waiting room corner as she'd feared. Creeping into the room quietly, Buffy quickly went to Angel's side. He was seated in an uncomfortable looking chair next to Jakob's bed watching the sleeping boy intently. As he heard Buffy enter, he quickly rose, embracing her tightly.
"Is he okay?" she asked frantically.
Angel nodded for her to go out in the hall, following closely on her heels. Closing the door to the room quietly, he turned to face Buffy.
"The doctors think he'll be fine," he said quietly. "He has a concussion and he had a deep laceration on his scalp that they had to stitch up."
"But he's okay?" Buffy asked, desperately needing reassurance.
Angel nodded. "Yeah, they think he'll be okay."
Buffy let loose all of the emotions she'd been holding at bay for the last several days, sobbing harshly. Without a word, Angel pulled her into his embrace and held her. When she calmed he told her what had happened with the ritual.
"Darla's dead," Buffy said with satisfaction as she studied Angel's bandaged hand.
"Yes, Buffy, she's gone. Forever."
During the night, several nurses and the doctor came to check on Jakob, routinely waking him up and asking him questions. The boy answered correctly, but still seemed disoriented.
Buffy was amused at the way the hospital staff spoke to Angel about Jakob's condition. She supposed it was natural, it was apparent the boy was his son, but she wasn't sure if Angel was prepared for all the rigors of parenting. He looked a little shell shocked. He was composed, but Buffy could tell he was still deeply shaken over almost losing Jakob.
“You’ll get used to it,” she whispered to him as a nurse left the room.
He looked at her with a horrified expression. “Is this a common occurrence for you?”
“Yes,” she said honestly. “Jakob was constantly doing things he shouldn’t have been doing when he was little. You have no idea how much time I’ve spent in hospitals with him for a broken arm or an infected dog bite.”
Angel looked nonplussed. Buffy got the distinct impression that the idea of having to watch his son lie in a hospital bed any longer was Angel’s idea of hell.
“Well, maybe he’ll learn his lesson after this,” Angel said seriously.
Buffy cocked an eyebrow at him. “Don’t count on it.”
Jakob woke on his own just as dawn was breaking. He'd always been a fast healer and this was no exception. He winced slightly as he turned his head. He was going to be sore for a couple of days.
He was shocked at the sight that met him. Angel was asleep in a chair next to his bed with Buffy, also asleep, curled up on his lap, her head pillowed on his shoulder. They looked very peaceful. Jakob was sure he'd never seen his mother do anything like that with Riley. She'd always been very embarrassed by public displays of affection. But together, they looked so ... natural.
Angel blinked several times as he woke before his gaze settled on his son, who was watching him carefully. Angel smiled warmly.
"How are you feeling?" he asked quietly.
The rumbling in his chest as he spoke woke Buffy who immediately turned her attention to her son. When she saw that he was awake, she leapt off of Angel's lap and was at Jakob's side.
"I'm okay," he said slowly. His throat was still bruised and it hurt to talk.
"Well, you have *a lot* more room now," Willow mused as she looked around the lobby of the Hyperion.
Buffy nodded. After Jakob had been released from the hospital, they'd had a long talk. Together they had decided to move out of their tiny apartment and into the Hyperion with Angel so Jakob could get to know his father. That wasn't the only reason. Money was becoming short and Angel did own an entire hotel. They all had their own private rooms, it would have been easy to avoid one another if they wished, but so far they'd stuck pretty close.
It was both satisfying and a little disturbing for Buffy to see Jakob and Angel together. She had known the entire time Jakob was growing up that they were alike, but sometimes it was unnerving to witness them together. Aside from their obvious physical similarities, their brains seemed to process information in the same way. They would laugh at things Buffy couldn't possibly fathom as humorous or say things in tandem.
It wasn't all smooth sailing. Jakob had been without a father for a long while due to Riley's lengthy illness and subsequent death. He'd been used to coming and going as he pleased without having to answer to any male authority figure. He was rather upset to learn that Angel knew what he was up to almost before he had a plan formulated. But much to Buffy's surprise, Jakob didn't balk too much at the parental concern from his father. He tried to take it in stride, something he'd never done for Riley.
Buffy understood why Jakob was infinitely more patient with Angel's meddling in his life than he'd ever been with Riley's. She knew both from observation and from the notebook she'd read that Jakob had felt deeply disconnected for most of his life. He had been adrift, without any sort of anchor. His entire life, he'd been intensely aware of the differences between himself and his supposed father. He didn't have that problem anymore. A lot of people would come to the Hyperion looking for Angel and Jakob often heard the phrase "you must be his son". For someone who had felt strangely out of place, being able to look at his father and see exactly where he got a lot of his physical, as well as mental, traits was oddly reassuring.
He wasn't alone.
And Angel didn't judge him or try to mold him the way that Riley had. After the horrible experience with his own father, Angel was lenient and patient. Buffy was amazed at the way he openly doted on the boy. Most of the time that she'd known him, Angel had been a closed book. You could never tell what he was thinking. He wasn't that way with Jakob. He took Jakob with him on most of his cases and spent long hours going over his school work with him. Jakob humored Angel's interest in his school work though he didn't need any help. Unfortunately, when it came to basketball, Jake was on his own.
Angel walked into the Hyperion's lobby and found Buffy and Willow lounging on a couple of couches, deeply engrossed in conversation. They didn't know he was there, and he took a moment to watch them, or rather her. He never got tired of looking at Buffy. She was still the most beautiful and amazing woman that he'd ever met. The fact that she had given him a son never ceased to humble him beyond what he thought possible.
Having the odd sensation of being watched, Angel turned his head and found Jakob staring at him with an amused look on his face. Angel smiled and the boy returned it before retreating back to the basement where he claimed to be working on some project.
Angel wondered what exactly Jakob thought of him and Buffy. Not that they were a couple or anything. They were ... friends. Friends who lived under the same roof and who shared parenting responsibilities for their son, but nothing more than that. After she and Jakob had moved into the Hyperion, there had been no repeat performances of their shared sleeping arrangements, or their sentiments in the courtyard. For the most part, they tried not to touch. It was too much of a temptation, a very familiar sensation for them both.
Angel admitted to himself that they were both worried about what Jakob's reaction would be if their relationship became something more. He seemed to be doing fine, but his episode with Darla was testament to the fact that he had a lot of problems that he was adept at hiding. Neither of them wanted to see a repeat performance, so they tried to keep everything on an even keel, and that included their friendship.
"Did Willow head back to San Francisco?" Angel asked, as he entered the courtyard just before ten o'clock the same evening.
"Yeah," Buffy said with a sigh. "The last of her lecture series was today so it will probably be a while before I see her again."
"You miss her," Angel commented, taking a chair next to the former Slayer.
"I do," she admitted, "but when I was in Iowa, I would go years without seeing her. Funny that now a month seems like a long time."
"Funny," Angel parroted. He'd gone eighteen years without seeing Buffy and now he was certain he wouldn't be able to function if he couldn't look across his coffee at her every morning.
Angel watched as Buffy reached behind her and slipped on a light jacket she had draped across the back of her chair. It was late May, but the night was refreshingly cool. Her body still moved with a grace that left him longing to see more. He attempted to quell his reactions.
"So what will it be tonight?" he asked.
The question was part of their nightly ritual. Regardless of everything else going on in their respective lives, they always met at this spot at this time and he always asked the same question.
"Unexplained knowledge," she said with a small smile.
Angel cocked an eyebrow. Every night Buffy told him one story about his son. Some of the stories were cute, some were funny, some were horribly upsetting. He couldn't tell from her expression what kind of story the night would bring.
"He was ... I don't know, seven, maybe eight years old. I had this crate of old books from Giles that I kept stored in my closet. There were some other things in it too, stakes ... other things. Apparently Jakob got bored and started rooting through all the closets. He found the crate and dug everything out of it. I don't know why that particular item grabbed his attention. I would have thought he would have been more interested in Faith's knife ... "
Buffy was quiet for a moment, considering what to say next. "I was making dinner and he walked into the kitchen and held out his hand and asked me if I knew anything about the item he was holding."
"What was it?" Angel asked, concerned because she seemed to be getting upset.
"My silver cross," Buffy said, looking him in the eye. "The one you gave me the first time I met you. The only thing of yours I kept when I married Riley."
"Jakob found it?"
"Yeah," she said quietly. "Apparently he was certain it had some significance and he was trying to figure out what it was."
"What did you tell him?"
"I told him that it was very special and that he didn’t need to be playing with it."
Angel nodded. "What did he say?"
"He just looked at the cross for the longest time and then he looked up at me and said 'my father gave it to you'. I didn't know what to say. He wasn't asking me, he was telling me. I just nodded and told him he was right."
Angel blinked several times. "You mean he ... knew."
"Yes," Buffy answered without looking at him. "It was one of those weird little things he did that I always tried to pretend he wasn't doing. He was really unsettled about it and started to get really upset. I asked him what was wrong and he said 'I asked Riley about it and he said he's never seen it before'."
"What did you do?"
"I don't know. I freaked. I told him to go outside and play and I sat down on the kitchen floor and bawled my eyes out. Then I packed up that crate and hid it where he couldn't find it again," she said honestly. "Not one of my more fantastic parenting moments."
Angel took several deep breaths and then looked at his mate. "You did the best you could have, Buffy. How could you have had any idea that he would know things like that? You are a really good mother."
With a snort Buffy replied, "Yeah sure. I was a *great* mom. I knew all about supernatural phenomena, and there one was, staring me right in the face and I refused to acknowledge it. I wanted Jakob to have a normal life so badly that I did everything in my power to ignore the fact that he wasn't."
"You were trying to protect him."
Buffy nodded. "I was," she admitted. "Look at all the good it did him."
"Don't say that."
"I should have told him, Angel. He *knew*. I should have just admitted it, left Riley, let you and Jakob get to know each other and maybe ... "
"Don't do that, Buffy. Don't waste time wondering what could have been. You can't go back."
Buffy sighed, wrapping her arms tighter around herself. Angel ached to comfort her, but he kept himself firmly planted in his own chair.
"It's just that you're *so* good with him, Angel. And the way he reacts to you ... it's completely different from how he was with Riley. He tries so hard. If you two are this close now, just think how different things could have been if you'd known about him when he was younger."
Rising from his chair, Angel walked so that he was standing directly in front of Buffy. He sank down onto his haunches and clasped her hands in his own. She met his gaze with sad eyes.
"Don't torture yourself, Buffy," he said quietly. "You did the best you could. You did what you thought would be best for him. I won't lie and say that I don't wish I could have known him when he was smaller, but do you realize what a miracle it is having him now?"
Buffy nodded, pursing her lips together tightly to keep them from trembling.
"I love him, Buffy. I love you. We're all just going to have to make do with the time we have now."
She smiled, agreeing wholeheartedly with Angel's words, but knowing full well that *they* weren't taking advantage of the time they had together. They spent most of their time denying the fact that they were still intensely attracted to each other ... and it was getting harder every day.
Opening the door to the basement, Buffy yelled down, "Are you going to Charlie's tonight?"
There was no answer. She knew that Jakob was in the basement, but he was probably so engrossed in whatever it was he was doing he hadn't heard her. Rolling her eyes, Buffy took a deep breath and yelled her question louder.
Again no response. She loathed to invade his private space, but she was beginning to get a bit worried. She had no idea what her son spent his time doing in the basement. Needing to reassure herself that he was alright, she descended the stairs, making as much noise as possible.
Looking around the large space as she reached the bottom of the stairs, Buffy did not understand it's appeal. It was dark, dusty and the centerpiece of the room was a furnace. Deferring to Angel's wishes, however, Buffy hadn't said anything to her son about his choice of sanctuaries. If he felt this suited him, then so be it. In one corner of the room, he had a workspace, complete with the new computer Angel had purchased for his son. Jakob was currently reading something off of the display, completely lost in his thoughts.
"Jakob," Buffy said loudly, startling the boy who jumped slightly.
"Sorry," he replied, "I didn't hear you come down."
With a frown, Buffy said, "I stood at the top of the stairs and yelled several times. I didn't want to invade your privacy."
Jakob shrugged. "It's no problem."
Buffy surveyed the room again with her eyes. "What do you spend all your time doing down here?" she asked, trying not to sound judgmental.
"I'm just ... researching things," he answered vaguely.
"Research?" Buffy asked, cocking an eyebrow. The last time Jakob had done "research" he ended up with Darla. "Is it something I could help with?" she asked.
Jakob chewed on his bottom lip in a nervous gesture. "I ... maybe," he said with a big sigh.
Buffy began to get worried, it was obvious that Jakob was upset about something, or at least worried. "What is it?" she asked, going to stand next to her son.
He nodded to the computer display and she began to read what he'd been looking at. Her eyebrows raised in shock.
"Have you been working on this the entire time you've been down here?" she asked, trying to keep her voice even. It wouldn't do Jakob any good to think he was upsetting her.
"Well ... um ... yes," he finally admitted.
"Why haven't you said anything? I thought we agreed to talk to each other more."
"I just ... I'm scared I guess," he said, not looking at her.
Taking a deep breath, Buffy said, "Sweetheart, you know how much Angel loves you. Why are you worried? I think he'd be very excited about this."
"I know," he said, flustered. "It's just that ... I don't know . Riley always did stuff for me because he thought it was the right thing to do ... I just don't want Angel to do anything because he feels obligated."
Buffy bit down hard on her lip to stop it from quivering. Sounding much more composed than she felt, she said, "Then I suggest you talk to him about it."
Buffy almost jumped out of her skin as she turned on the light in her suite of rooms and found Angel sitting at her kitchen table later that evening.
"What are you doing sitting here in the dark?" she hissed, holding her hand over her rapidly beating heart.
It took him a moment to look at her, as if he'd been completely lost in his thoughts. Some part of Buffy's brain registered the fact that she'd received exactly the same reaction from her son in the basement not four hours earlier.
"Thinking," he said absently.
Finally calming, Buffy took a seat to join him at the table. "Thinking?" she prompted.
With a nod, he answered, "Jakob talked to me today about the possibility of me adopting him."
Buffy looked at her mate. Of course she knew what Jakob had spoken to Angel about. "What do you think about that?" she asked evenly.
"I think I don't deserve it," he said bluntly. "But I think I want it more than I've ever wanted anything in my life."
"What did you *tell* Jakob," she asked pointedly, knowing that often times Angel's thoughts and actions were in conflict.
Angel smiled, knowing full well what she was thinking. "I told him that I would love to publicly acknowledge him as my son, but that I needed to speak to you about it."
Buffy looked at him incredulously. "Do you really think I'm going to say no?" she asked.
"No," he said with a snort, "that's not what I wanted to talk to you about."
Cocking an eyebrow, Buffy asked, "What *do* you want to talk to me about."
"Yeah," he said. "I mean now that I'm human, I use Jacobson, but it's not *my* name. It was convenient. I used that alias on jobs when I was still a vampire. It doesn't have any particular significance. Plus ... you know ... Jakob Jacobson. That’s a horrible thing to do to a child."
"Well," she said with a frown, "you do have a name. Don't you? I mean you were human once. I'm assuming you had a name then."
Angel laughed as he looked at his mate. "I wasn't hatched, Buffy. Of course I had a last name ... but ... that's not me anymore. I don't use those names. I don't know who that person was anymore, it's certainly not who I am now."
"So you don't have a last name," Buffy mused, "big deal."
Angel frowned. "It is a big deal, Buffy," he said seriously. "I want my son's last name to mean something, and I sure as hell don't want it to be Finn," he grumped.
Buffy stifled a laugh. She loved it when he got overly possessive.
"So," she asked, "what do you suggest we do?"
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about."
"You want my advice?" Buffy asked.
"No. I want your permission."
Her brow furrowed as she looked at him. "My permission for what?"
"I thought ... maybe we could use Summers," he said quietly.
Buffy didn't say anything for a long while. "You want to change Jakob's last name to Summers?"
"Yes ... and no."
"I want to change Jakob's name to Summers ... and mine ... and yours," he said, watching her closely for a reaction.
Buffy swallowed convulsively. "You want-" she began, and then stopped as her voice cracked. After clearing her throat, she continued, "You want us all to change our names to Summers?"
Angel nodded. "Yes. It would have more meaning to me than the last name I use now."
"And it would make us all a family?" Buffy said, reading the meaning behind his words.
"Yes," he said bluntly. "I know I haven't said much about it lately, but that's what I want. I want us all to be a family. You and me and our son."
"I would like that," Buffy said quietly.
Buffy looked at her mate's frowning face as she handed him a box of cereal. As usual, they were all having breakfast in the Hyperion's large kitchen. She gave Jakob a "what's his problem" look. The boy shrugged evasively.
"Problem this morning?" she asked lightly.
"No," Angel said gruffly.
"What is it?" Buffy asked, not willing to let it drop.
"Gunn just made a comment last night," he admitted.
The previous evening, Gunn and Angel had taken Charlie and Jake to a basketball game. She shot her son a look and found him trying hard not to laugh.
"What did Gunn say?" she asked Angel.
"Nothing," he said with a grunt. That was apparently the end of the conversation as far as he was concerned.
"What did he say?" Buffy asked, turning to her son.
Jakob's eyebrows shot up. His mother was asking him to rat out his father. Angel shot him a "talk and die" look that Jake chose to ignore.
"He said Dad sounds like a porn star with his new name," Jakob said, unable to hold in his laughter any longer.
Buffy frowned and then said aloud, "Angel Summers ... " Several seconds later, she joined in the laughter. "I know," she said, trying to keep a straight face. "I know that legally it's Liam Summers, not Angel but ... "
Angel was torn between joy over the fact that his son had just called him "Dad" for the first time, and the urge to yell at both of them for having a joke at his expense. He settled for scowling.
"Oh come on," Buffy said, poking him in the arm. "Angel Summers does kind of sound like a porn star name ... or a feminine hygiene product."
Buffy let out a yelp as she ran for the door with Angel in quick pursuit. She may not have been a Slayer any longer, but she was still very spry. With ease, she vaulted over a sofa in the lobby and made a dash for the front door.
Unfortunately, Angel too had retained a good deal of his preternatural grace and speed. He caught her firmly around the waist before she made it to the steps. With a grunt, he pulled her back tightly against his chest, using his arms to pin her to him.
Things suddenly weren't funny as Buffy felt Angel's obvious arousal pressing into her backside and his hot breath on the shell of her ear. He too had forgotten about playing. He relaxed his grip enough to turn her in his embrace. Before she knew what was happening Angel's lips captured her own in a searing kiss that shook her to the core. She responded with wild abandon.
"Hello! Child present!" Jakob yelled from the kitchen doorway where he was still holding his bowl of cereal and making a face of disgust. "Being permanently scarred by your PDA!" he added when they didn't immediately stop.
Angel pulled back with an amused look on his face. "I love you, Buffy *Summers*," he said quietly before releasing his mate.
"She likes dancing," Jakob offered as Angel drove his son to Charlie's for the evening.
Turning his head, Angel gave his son a confused look. "Huh?"
"Dancing. You know, music, dim lighting ... and flowers too."
"Your mother likes dancing and flowers?"
"Yes," he said brightly.
"Why are you telling me this?" Angel asked.
"Mom was always griping to Aunt Willow about the fact that Riley never took her out. She said that was one of the things she missed the most from Sunnydale, being able to go dancing."
"And you think I should take her dancing?" Angel asked, arching an eyebrow.
"Well, it would be a good place to start. And don't forget the flowers."
"Dating. I don't know what you two are waiting on. It's pretty apparent you're still way into each other," Jake said incredulously.
Angel laughed aloud. So much for being worried about what Jakob thought.
"What?" the boy asked.
"Nothing," Angel said in amusement.
Buffy gaped at the beautiful bouquet of wildflowers waiting for her on the table in her small kitchenette. They were clearly visible without the lights on due to the dozens of candles burning in the room.
"What's the occasion?" she asked as Angel entered the suite behind her. She knew he was responsible.
"Someone suggested that maybe I should give you some flowers and take you dancing," he said vaguely.
"Someone?" she prompted, grinning at him.
Angel nodded. "Your son."
Her brow furrowed. "You're sure? He's about 6'3", dark hair, answers to Jakob?"
"Yes, Buffy, Jakob suggested I give you flowers and dance with you," he said with a smile.
A matching smile spread across her features. "I never thought he was listening to anything I said," she admitted quietly.
"He's *very* observant," Angel said with a wry smile.
"What do you mean?"
"He wanted to know why we hadn't started dating sooner. As he put it, we're still 'way into each other'."
Buffy laughed lightly and then sobered. "I love you, Angel," she said quietly.
"I love you too," he said, leaning in to kiss her.
~*~ The End ~*~
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