The vampire who was known as Angelus stumbled down the alley, intent on the rat he'd just seen scurry past him. His clothes hung in tatters around his thin body, his face gaunt, his eyes haunted as he squinted in the darkness. He prepared himself to pounce, crouching slightly, as the furry creature paused near a door. With desperation based on hunger, he launched himself at the animal.
Only to crash into someone as the door opened.
He fell backwards with a grunt as who he hit fell in the opposite direction, back into the safety of the house, the invisible barrier between them. With a shake of his head to clear the fogginess from the impact on the hard ground and lack of sustenance, he looked at the person.
"Are you alright?"
The woman scrambled to her feet and out to his side, her long, dark hair curling around her smooth, made up face. The dress she was wearing was low cut, showing off ample cleavage and was cinched tight. Her blue eyes conveyed worry and a tinge of fear as she tilted his chin up to examine his face.
He flinched at her touch, shying away from her by rolling to his feet. That was a mistake. He wobbled unsteadily for a moment, his vision swimming before he felt the remarkably tall woman put his arm around her shoulder, supporting him. "I can see that your not," she said, leading him towards the open door. "Why don't you come in and we'll see about making sure you're alright."
The invisible barrier disappeared at her words and he was led into the back rooms of what obviously was a brothel. Women in various stages of dress came in and out of rooms, sometimes accompanied men. The woman led him down the hall and into one of those rooms, helping him to sit on the side of the bed before returning to the door to close it. She went to a small table and poured water from a pitcher into a bowl, then dipped a cloth in it, ringing it out as she returned to his side.
She put her hand under his chin, lifting his face to her. "My, you're a handsome one," she commented as she began to run the washcloth over his features. "Although you look a bit on the skinny side. Have you been eating, luv?"
He didn't answer her, his brown eyes reflecting pain as she continued her ministrations. He could feel the hunger gnawing at him, the nearness of her warm blood intensifying his forced starvation.
"I saw that rat you were chasing," she murmured, smoothing back his long hair from his face. "Is there something I can be getting you to eat?"
"Blood." The word tumbled from his lips unbidden, his voice strange to his own ears. He hadn't spoken a word since the night of the curse, since the memories of all that he had done bombarded him, eating at his soul.
She arched one delicate brown at him. "Blood, you say? Are you nosferatu?" His eyes widened, his head rearing back in surprise. "I shall take that as a yes. Do not depart, I will return shortly."
She stood and left the room, closing the door firmly behind her. He tried to stand, but found that his legs refused to support him. He gripped the bedpost, straining as he pulled himself up. He was about to take a step when the door opened and the woman returned, a pitcher and glass in her hand.
"And where do you think you be going to?" She asked as she set the glass down, then poured a thick, red liquid from the pitcher. His vampiric visage came forth as the smell of the blood hit him. When she turned, glass in hand, she did not flinch upon seeing him. "Here you are, luv. It is only a day old. We have it on hand so we don't start losing girls left and right from the customers."
He stared at her with his golden eyes, then reached a shaky hand out to take the glass. Once in his grasp, he drained it quickly, the blood sloshing out and running down his chin in his haste. The woman laughed sadly, taking the glass back from him and pouring another. This one he was able to finish less sloppily and by the third he could feel the blood appeasing the hunger within.
"Feeling better are we?" she asked, pouring the rest of the contents of the pitcher in the glass before giving it back. "Poor thing, you must have been starving."
He was able to bring the human mask back into place after he had finished, his expression reflecting confusion. She took the empty glass from him and set it on the table, picking up the washcloth once more and moving to him. He stumbled backward as he tried to retreat from her, falling back onto the bed.
"Don't worry, I am not going to hurt you," she said, helping him back into a sitting position. She wiped the drying blood from his chin. "You have the face of an angel. What is your name?"
He didn't answer, the weeks of not feeding catching up with him, making the blood in his system churn. He could feel tears welling up in his eyes at her tenderness, knowing that it was not deserved. Not for a monster like him.
"Now, don't cry," she said, standing between his knees and pulling his head to her breast in a nurturing embrace. "I will try to make everything alright, or my name isn't Emily Gardenson."
Her comforting embrace was too much for him. The tears turned to sobs as he brought his arms around her small waist and held her close. She murmured comforting words as he stroked his hair until he cried himself out. He raised his head to look up at her. "Why?"
"Because," Emily answered giving him a small smile. "Now, why don't we see about getting you a bath. I don't want to offend you, but you're stinking up my room. Are you certain you don't have a name?" He looked at her painfully, the memories of the stigma attached to his name hitting him. Angelus, scourge of Europe. Killer. Monster.
"Well, then," she said breaking into his thoughts. "I shall call you Angel because that is what you resemble - a mighty, fallen angel with broken wings."
"Angel, what are you doing?" Emily asked, looking up at the vampire on her roof.
"What does it look like?" Angel called down to her. "I'm fixing it up."
"You're making a bloody racket," she said. "The neighbors will be complaining."
"Then they'll be complaining," he replied, hammering another nail. After five years of feeding regularly and physical labor, his strength had returned despite the weight on his soul. Emily had refused to let him leave the night he'd run into her, and she was easily able to refrain him from doing so.
For months she fed and coddled him, even though he didn't deserve it, until he felt in her debt to return her kindness. He began doing simple chores for the women of the brothel, all of them having taken the ensouled vampire under their wings. He didn't speak to any of them, afraid that if he did, he would be allowing himself to forget what he had done before he was cursed.
After about a year, he allowed himself to open up to Emily, telling her of the curse, of some of the pain he inflicted on others. She never tried to assuage his guilt, only listened and let him cry on her shoulder when need be.
"Daddy, your making a little bit of noise."
Angel looked down at the three year old who had come outside the house. His pride and guilt rolled into one dark haired little girl. Vampires weren't suppose to be able to have children, but after months of looking for answers, he figured his daughter was created because he had a soul and the other ‘normal' vampires did not.
He smiled down at her. "Sorry, Little Bit. I'll be done soon," he told her, then watched as she bounced back into the house, followed by Emily. A wave of guilt washed over him as he watched the woman who bore his child and called him friend. He had ruined her life, taken her perfect figure away, burdened her with a child and had no means to support either. She still was employed at the brothel, but was not chosen as often as she was when they first met.
Angel also felt the guilt of giving into her the night his daughter was conceived. Not that he was able to enjoy it. Since vampires frequented the establishment, there was a system set up where a monitor would be in the room, wearing a necklace of garlic and armed with a large cross and small crossbow. The event just added to the fact that he was a monster, soul or not.
And now they had a child, half human, half vampire. Emily named her Kathleen after her mother, and she seemed to have the strength of a vampire but the benefits of being human. She did not drink blood or even need it, she was able to go in the sun, and holy objects did not burn her. She had a rapid healing rate, didn't get sick, could blend into the shadows and was exceptionally strong which Angel figured would increase with age. She grew at the rate of a normal child, so he did not know if she was immortal or not. The only detriments to being half vampire were her fangs. Two perfectly white canines that descended when she became angry. She used them to bite another child one time, tearing at his arm enough that it required seventeen stitches.
Angel climbed down from the roof and sighed. He loved his daughter, but he had destroyed another life in making her. And each time he saw her, he was reminded of that fact.
"Goodbye, Emily," Angel said, laying the rose on the fresh grave of his long time friend. Guilt rose up in him as he thought of her, lying in the bed, her throat slit. He hadn't been there to protect her, had selfishly gone out to get some more blood from the butchers and her customer had killed her. Her blood was on Angel's hands. It was his fault she had died.
"Dad, we should go," Kathleen said, her hands shoved into the pockets of her pea coat against the cold. Her keen sight searched the shadows for unwanted visitors. Human or vampire.
Angel wiped the tears from his cheeks and stood, shoving his hands in the pockets of his own coat. He turned and gave his 19 year old daughter a sad smile. She looked so much like her mother, her long, dark hair blowing lightly in the wind, framing her smooth oval face. She was tall, close to the same height as him, and her dark brown eyes matched his own.
Together, they turned and walked out of the cemetery.
"Dad, I'm 42 years old!" Kathleen yelled at him. "I can go England and help with the post-war clean up if I want!"
"Little Bit, I know you're old enough," Angel said, trying to keep his patience. "But you look no older than a high school senior."
His daughter had not aged physically since the night of her mother's death. As the years passed, they moved from city to city on the east coast to hide that fact. People had a tendency to watch out for the young women, especially ones as headstrong as Kathleen.
"You can't control my life! Just because you ruined my mother's life, doesn't mean I'll let you ruin mine!" With that, Kathleen turned and stomped out of their apartment into the bright sunshine, bag slung over her shoulder.
Angel paled even more than he normally was as her words made the guilt he always carried with him strike him worse than if she'd punched him. Every day he saw Emily in his daughter, and every day he was reminded of what he had done. But to have it thrown back in his face made the pain that much worse. He sat heavily down in a chair and put his head in his hands, silent tears running down his cheeks.
Angel searched the sea of faces in Washington Square, looking for his daughter. She'd written him and said she'd be at this demonstration. He hadn't seen her in close to ten years, not since the conflicts started in Vietnam. After the night she stormed out of their home, their relationship had changed, but not for the worse. Kathleen lived her own life now, visiting him and writing him often with tales of her adventures. She tried everything, threw herself into anti-war and anti- violence movements, and, at night, used her vampiric strengths to protect the streets from the undead and other creatures of the nights.
He turned just in time to catch his daughter as she threw herself in his arms. "I missed you," he said, as he hugged her tightly to him.
"Me, too, Dad," Kathleen replied.
"Let me look at you," Angel said, setting her on her feet and taking a step back. "You haven't change at all, Little Bit."
"Not bad for a 67 year old, am I?" Kathleen asked jokingly, putting one hand up to her waist length dark hair which was woven with beads and flowers. She looked him over from head to toe. "You're still not bad yourself, old man."
"Who are you calling old?" Angel teased.
She reached forward and brushed a cut on his forehead. "What happened?"
"Nothing," he shrugged her off. For years now he'd taken to the streets at night, trying to save people from creatures like him. Each time he was too late, he felt the deaths as if it were him who sank his fangs in their necks. Even the brief patch of light that came when he saw his daughter was blotted out by the weight of his guilt. "Tell me about you. I haven't gotten a letter in close to a year."
"A little bit of this, a little bit of that," Kathleen answered, grinning at him. She'd earned her nickname from him by saying ‘little bit' with every sentence after she'd learned to talk. She gestured to the crowd. "I helped organize this demonstration."
Angel's brow raised in surprise. "I'm impressed."
"You should be," she replied. "Although now I have to try and protect a whole hell of a lot of people from your friends."
He winced at the reference to the vampires being ‘his friends.' He knew she didn't mean it in a cruel way, but it reminded him of how different he really was, even if she was a part of his flesh and blood. "Well, you know I'll help."
"Thanks, dad," Kathleen said. "You're the best."
"No," Angel gasped, the telegram dropping from his fingers. He stood and staggered out the front door, the pain piercing his heart like a stake. He should have stopped her, he should have talked her out of it, he should have told her no. It was all his fault.
‘We are deeply sorry to inform you that Kathleen Gardenson was killed in service of her country..."
Angel rubbed a weary hand over his gaunt face as he stumbled down the street. It had been five years since he'd received the telegram, five years of barely feeding, barely living. He wanted to stake himself, to stay out and see the sunrise, but if he did, all the people he'd killed would be forgotten. And he could never let himself to forget.
A kid ran past him as he leaned back against an alley wall. Suddenly, he smelled the scent of dinner and searched the ground for the rat. He took a couple of unsteady steps, his body weak, then dove at it, scattering the garbage cans in his pursuit. He missed. Angry, he flailed his arms, banging against the cans.
"God, you are disgusting." Angel looked up to see a small man standing there, dressed in a loud shirt and hat. "This is really an unforgettable smell. This is the stench of death you're giving off here. And the look says, uh...Crazy Homeless Guy. It's not good."
"Get away from me," he growled.
"What are you gonna do, bite me?" The man gasped and jumped back in mock fright. "Horrors! A vampire!" Angel looked at him in surprise. "Ah, but you wouldn't bite me on account of your poor, tortured soul. It's so sad, a vampire with a soul. It's so poignant."
"Who are you?"
"Let's take a walk."
Confused, Angel pushed to his feet and followed him. His mind was churning. *How did he know what I am?* He wasn't paying attention to where he was walking and felt himself suddenly being yanked back, a car passing inches from him.
"What are you eating? Like, a rat once a month?"
*If I'm lucky, but who cares,* Angel thought. He was grabbed once again as a car sped by, honking it's horn.
"Hey!" The man shouted at the car before they continue across the street. "Look, you're skin and bones here. Butcher shops are throwing away more blood in a day than you could stand. Good blood. You lived in the world a little bit, you'd know that."
At his words, Angel stopped, anger, guilt and pain slamming into him. *Oh, god, Little Bit.* "I want to know who you are," he said angrily.
"And I wanna know who you are."
"You already do," he said sullenly, the memories of his daughter floating through his mind.
"Not yet. But I'm looking to find out. ‘Cause you could go either way here."
"I don't understand you."
"Nobody understands me. That's my curse," he chuckled. He looked at the street vendor they had walked up to. "Dog me. Mustard." He handed some money to the man and looked back at Angel. "My name's Whistler."
"Here you go," the vendor said, handing him the hot dog.
"Thanks," Whistler said before continuing his conversation with Angel. "Anyway, lately it is."
"You're not a vampire," Angel commented, looking down as a familiar weight settled over him.
"A demon...technically. I mean, I'm not a bad guy. Not all demons are dedicated to the destruction of all life," Whistler told him.
Angel's mind clicked on something the man had said a minute ago. "What do you mean, I can go either way?"
"I mean that you can become an even more useless rodent than you already are, or you can become someone," Whistler answered. "A person. Someone to be counted."
*No!* Angel's mind shouted. *You don't deserve anything. Not after you killed her.* "I just want to be left alone," he said out loud, walking away from the man.
"Well, yeah, you've been left alone for, what ninety years already?" Angel turned back to face Whistler. "And what a package you are. The Stink Guy!"
"What do you want from me?" Angel snarled.
"I want you to see something," Whistler said seriously. "We'd have to leave now. You see, and then you tell me what you wanna do."
"Where is it?"
Los Angeles 1996
Angel looked out the window of the heavily spray painted car. He didn't know why he agreed to come with Whistler. Maybe it was the thought of Kathleen and her curiosity, always taking any opportunity to solve a puzzle. On the long drive across the country, he'd realized that the demon didn't seem to really know about his life, other than the fact that he was cursed with a soul. But Angel wasn't going to correct him.
Squinting, he peered out into the sunlight towards the steps of the school, careful to stay in the shadows of the car. He felt something, almost like a chill shoot down his spine and he searched for the source. When his eyes lighted on the young blond in the bright coat, he was hit with something he'd heard about but never experience other than through his daughter.
It was instantaneous and frightening. He followed the tiny blond later that night to the cemetery, watching her as she staked one of his kind. Then he watched through the window of her house as she cried, her unwanted destiny unfolding before her.
"She's gonna have it tough, that Slayer. She's just a kid. The world's full of big, bad things," Whistler said as Angel met him in the sewers.
"I want to help her," Angel said. "I want...I want to become someone." *Someone who will protect her like I should have my daughter,* he added silently.
"God, jeez, look at you. She must be prettier than the last Slayer. This isn't gonna be easy. The more you live in this world, the more you see how apart from it you really are," Whistler said.
*Tell me something I don't know,* Angel thought sadly.
"And this is dangerous work. Right now, you couldn't go three rounds with a fruit fly."
"I want to learn from you," he told the demon, knowing how long it took the first time to gain his strength back.
Angel looked him over from head to toe. "But I don't want to dress like you."
Angel held Buffy close to him as he kissed her. She tasted like sunshine and heaven, two things that were forbidden to him, that he should not be enjoying.
"I still have to go home and fill out my egg diary," Buffy said as they broke the kiss and started to walk through the cemetery.
"Oh, I told you, that faux parenting gig we're doing at school. Like I'm really planning to have kids anytime soon. Uh, maybe some day, in the future, when I'm done having a life," she said.
He felt as though a freight train hit him at her words. He looked off into the distance, not wanting to, but knowing he was about to do something he promised he'd never do again. Lie to Buffy.
"But right now kids would be just a little too much to deal with," Buffy finished.
"I wouldn't know," Angel lied. He looked at her. "I don't..." *Want to lose another child.* "Well, you know, I-I can't."
"Oh, " Buffy said, looking away from him. He felt his heart constrict, both at the pain of his memories and the pain of her hurt and disappointment. "That's ok, um...I-I figured there were all sorts of things vampires couldn't do. You know, like work for the Telephone Company, or volunteer for the Red cross, or...have little vampires."
*Time to change the subject,* he thought. "So, you don't think about the future?"
"You really don't care what happens a year from now? Five years from now?" Angel asked.
"Angel, when I look into the future, all I see is you. All I want is you," Buffy confessed.
"I know the feeling," he said, pulling her closer for another kiss. *I don't deserve this woman,* he thought. *Not after all I've done.*
Angel looked up at the clear, night sky and sighed. *Such beauty should not house such evil,* he said to himself, his thoughts becoming melancholy, like they usually did after he saw Buffy.
It was painful to be with her and not be able to hold her like he longed to do, especially since the accidental death of the deputy mayor. She was taking his death hard, as if she were the one that killed him rather than Faith. But that was how Buffy was, she cared about everyone. It hurt her each time a new vampire rose, blaming herself for not being able to prevent the person from becoming a victim in the first place.
If only he could love her properly, the way she was meant to be loved, the way he did before...*Don't think about that,* he told himself fiercely as he walked up the long drive to the old mansion. All the wishing and praying would not turn back the clock, could not change what he really was, a monster disguised as a man. He had forgotten that fact once - and it caused him to lose his soul.
With a pain filled sigh, he took off his coat and dropped it on the couch before crouching in front of the fire. He didn't know how much longer he could go on like this, being so close to her, yet feeling a million miles away. He was coming to the point where he could not handle being alone any longer, with no one to talk to, no one to force him to go on like Emily had, like his daughter had.
"Little Bit, I really miss you," Angel said quietly, staring into the flames. "You always knew when to give me a swift kick in the ass. Buffy tries, but it's not the same. I need to be here to support her, not the other way around."
Angel closed his eyes for a moment as the old pain and guilt about his daughter settled in his heart. He then stood and retreated to his room for another day's worth of haunted-dream filled sleep.
"Hello, tall drink of water," Xander said as his conversation with Willow fell to a halt in the school library. His eyes traveled slowly up the long, jean-clad legs, over the dark grey sweater to the smooth, pale face with dark, shoulder-length hair framing it. A brow arched over one amused brown eye as he finished his perusal. "Um...hi."
"Hi," she girl replied dryly. "I'm looking for Buffy?"
"That'd be me," Buffy said, coming out of Giles' office.
*Spike said she was tiny, but this is ridiculous,* she thought looking down at the petite blond who she towered over by almost a foot. "I was told you would be able to help me."
"With what?" Buffy asked.
"I'm looking for someone. His name is Angel. Angel Gardenson," she responded.
Willow gasped, then ducked her head while both Xander and Buffy frowned. "Who told you I knew someone named Angel?" Buffy asked warily.
*Protective little girl, isn't she?* the brunette thought. "Can you help me or not?"
"No," Buffy said firmly. "I don't know anyone who goes by that name."
"Very well," she said, knowing that the Slayer was lying, but choosing not to confront her. By Buffy's actions, she'd given her enough information to know Angel was in Sunnydale. "Thanks for your help."
Buffy watched as the tall girl left the library, her facial expression changing to worry.
"What's up, Buffy?" Xander asked, noting his friend's body language. "Why didn't you tell her you knew Deadboy?"
"There's something not right about her," Buffy answered.
"Vampire?" Willow said, raising her gaze from the computer to the window. "It is dark outside."
"I don't know. She just made me feel...oogy. Like I knew her already." She gave the two a pained smile and grabbed her purse. "Tell Giles I went to tell Angel about our visitor."
"What about Wesley?"
"Tell him to sit on a stake and rotate," she responded with an evil smile.
"Where have you been?" Buffy asked later that night at the Bronze. "I went by the mansion earlier to see you."
"Sorry, I had to go out," Angel apologized, giving her a quick kiss on the forehead. His eyes roamed the crowd at the local club. "It's a good thing..." His gaze caught on someone. "I..." He blinked, but the person was still there. "Did..." He took a tentative step forward past Buffy. "Too..."
"Angel?" Buffy said, her own gaze flitting around the club. "What is it?"
Angel didn't answer as his face became paler than usual. He continued forward slowly, leaving Buffy standing there with a worried expression. Each step brought him closer to what could only be another ghost haunting him, like at Christmas. He was about five feet away when he spoke. "Little Bit?"
The tall brunette looked up from her drink and a huge smile broke out over her face. "Daddy!" she exclaimed, launching herself at him.
Angel caught Kathleen in a fierce embrace. "You're real. You're alive," he murmured in awe, his eyes closed tightly as tears formed. He released his daughter and took a step back, looking her over from head to toe, but not removing his hands from her. "How...why...I thought you had died."
"I thought you did, too!" Kathleen said. "Geez, Dad, you just disappeared into thin air! If word hadn't filtered through the grapevine of a turncoat vampire living in California, I would never have found you." She looked over her father's shoulder and saw Buffy approaching. "Ut-oh, looks like someone's a little bit pissed."
Angel furrowed his brow in confusion, then turned and saw Buffy. "Buffy," he said. The Slayer gave him a ‘who the heck is this' look. "Um, Buffy this is my...Kathleen." Now, it was Kathleen's turn to give him a look. "Little Bit, this is my... Buffy."
"We've met," Kathleen said, wondering what was up with the omissions.
"You did?" Angel asked.
"How do you think I found you?" she replied. "I just followed her to some big old mansion on Crawford Street, then here."
"You were following me ?" Buffy said.
"Wasn't that hard," Kathleen told her. "By the way, nice work with that vampire in the alley. Using that sign was a stroke of genius. I see why Spike was so impressed with you."
Angel frowned at this. "When did you see him?"
"California is kind of a big state, old man," Kathleen said. "I've been hiking around here for close to a year, looking for you. I ran into him in a bar in LA, getting completely snookered." She looked at Buffy with a grin. "Seems a certain blond Slayer had him in a tizzy."
"What?!" Buffy said, her mouth dropping open comically. "You have got to be kidding."
"Nope. He went on for a little bit about you, then finally got to where you guys were, then went on a little bit more about you. Then he tried to have me as a snack, I flashed my pearly whites and he freaked, then passed out," she said, turning her attention to her father. "Being the nice girl that I am, I took him to my hotel, threw him in a cold shower, then told him to get an unlife. In reply he told me to ‘sod off' and told me to tell you to ‘punch the Slayer's skirt one time for him.'"
Angel started to chuckle softly at first, then it grew to an all out laugh as the situation crashed down in his mind. Here, in front of him, was his daughter, who he thought had died, telling him that Spike basically had a hard on for the love of his never ending life.
Buffy looked at Angel worriedly, then at Kathleen, who shrugged. "He gets like this when he's over stressed," she told the Slayer.
"Just how long have you known Angel?" Buffy asked as her non-boyfriend continued to laugh.
"All my life," Kathleen replied. She looked over at her father and rolled her eyes. "Are you done yet?"
"Maybe," Angel said, wiping the tears of mirth from his face. "You don't know how much I needed that."
"By the look on your face and the way you carried yourself, I figured you needed it..." Kathleen trailed off, then gave him a wicked grin. "A little bit."
Angel groaned and grabbed her into another hug. "I've missed you badly, Little Bit. There's so much I want to talk with you about."
Buffy felt the jealousy rise up in her as Angel held the other girl with obvious love and affection. She might look like a teenager, but the Slayer had no doubt that this was untrue. "Angel, I'm leaving. See ya," she said, turning on her heel and practically storming away.
Angel let go of Kathleen and watched Buffy leave with a sigh. "I really should go after her and explain," he said.
"Then why don't you?" Kathleen asked.
"Because she doesn't know about you," Angel told her. "In fact, she barely knows anything about my past, other than the fact that I was evil, then my soul was returned. There's a lot you don't know."
"Well, I have an eternity to listen," she said with a cheeky grin. "Why don't we go back to the hulking mansion that you must be calling home and you can fill me in. I'll even tell you how come I'm not dead."
"Alright, just let me talk to Willow a minute," he replied, nodding at a table where the red head and her boyfriend sat. She nodded, then followed him over to the couple. "Willow?"
"Hi, Angel, girl who was in the library earlier," Willow greeted slowly.
"This is Kathleen. A...an old friend," Angel said. "Little Bit, this is Willow and Oz."
"Hi, Kathleen," Willow said to her.
"Hey," Oz said.
"I think Buffy is mad at me," Angel told the hacker. "Will you let her know that I'll explain when I can, but not to worry?"
"Sure," she replied, looking back and forth between the vampire and the girl. "Um...can I ask how old of a friend?"
Kathleen smirked at her forthright question. She looked at her father, who shrugged and nodded. "94 years," she responded. "Sound about right, old man?"
"February 23, 1905," Angel said immediately. "Born at 5:06 in the morning, just as the sun came up over the horizon. And boy were you a screamer."
Willow's eyes widened at Angel's statements and the blatant pride in his voice. *Where's brooding vampire?* she thought to herself.
"That hasn't changed," Kathleen said with a wink to the red head. "Just ask Spike."
Angel's mouth dropped open as his daughter turned and walked away with a slight swagger. He looked over at Oz and Willow, who showed both expressions of amusement and astonishment respectively, then yelled as he went after her. "Little Bit, you better not have slept with that good for nothing, peroxide...."
"...So I vamped, which as you know made my heart stop and they thought I was dead. They tagged and bagged me, sent me back to the states, then the corpse ‘disappeared' in the shuffle," Kathleen was saying as she and Angel sat on the couch in front of the fire. "And that's the story of my death."
"Little Bit, don't let anyone ever tell you that you lead a normal life," Angel told her with a smile.
"Yeah, well, from what I heard, you haven't been your usual saintly self, either," Kathleen responded. "What happened?"
"I fell in love," Angel answered. His daughter arched on delicate eyebrow at his statement. "There was a clause on my curse. If I attained even one moment of true happiness, it would be broken."
"And that little girl made you happy," Kathleen finished.
"She's not a little girl," he defended.
"Woah, dad, chill," she said. "I didn't mean that in a rude way. I meant little as in short, tiny, petite, ankle biter..."
"I get the picture,"Angel said, glowering at her.
"I take it things are strained between you two," Kathleen said, returning to the subject. "Now that the curse is back."
"Understatement," he answered. "I love her and I know she still loves me, but we can't be together in any way that really matters. I can't touch her or hold her or comfort her. All I can do is watch her back and feel my heart break each time I see her."
"And to top it all off, you had no one to talk to about these feelings," she surmised. She leaned over and squeezed his hand. "I'm sorry I couldn't find you sooner."
"Hey, you're here now, and alive, to boot," Angel said. "That's all that really matters."
"Except for Buffy."
"Yeah," he replied with a pain filled sigh. "Except for Buffy."
"I have a question," Kathleen said, settling back on the couch.
"Why didn't you tell her who I was?"
"I don't think she'd be happy with that bit of news," Angel said. "I told her once that I couldn't have children, because I knew I never wanted to go through the pain of losing another child."
"But I'm not dead," Kathleen said. "And being a woman, I know she's extremely jealous of me already."
"Is it? What happened the last time you talked with another girl, and I don't mean friends?"
"She thought I was kissing Drusilla," he said after a few moments. "And she was mad at me for a week, even though I would never do that with Dru...oh. Never mind. I did. But that was after I lost my soul."
"So Spike said," Kathleen replied. "You know, I'm glad I wasn't around at that time, or I would have had to kick your butt."
"I'd like to have seen you try, Little Bit," he said with a smirk.
She rolled her eyes. "Please. An old man like you wouldn't last a little bit more than a second."
"That's what you think." With that, he grabbed his daughter and started tickling her. Kathleen squirmed and tried to get away, her laughter echoing against the walls of the mansion.
Buffy walked slowly down the steps to the garden. She could hear laughter emanating from within. She crept up to a broken window and peered in. Her eyes filled with tears when she saw Angel's smile and heard his carefree laugh as he tickled Kathleen. With a muffled sob, she turned and ran back up the steps and into the night.