Disclaimer: Joss Whedon owns everything worth owning. I have nothing, or very little anyway.
"I know the place is, well, the same, but business has been kind of slow and I just haven't had a lot of time to look around."
"I understand," the social worker replied. She really couldn't care less about the accommodations, this child had been going to school, she was well fed and clearly not beaten, that was all that mattered.
"Actually," Angel continued, "I was thinking of maybe looking into a boarding school abroad."
"Yeah, well, she...we have family there...in England that is, and Ireland sort of. I've heard there are some nice schools there though."
"I'm sure there are. Of course you should wait until Mr. Gibb's estate has been entirely settled so that the court recognizes your full custody."
"Right, right, of course. How long should that take you think? I mean it's already been four months."
"Sometimes these things take time, especially since he had family and friends spread out across the globe. Anyway, things look all right here. As usual, give me a call if you need anything."
The woman nodded at Doyle who was leaning in the doorframe as she passed. He nodded back politely and watched her leave before turning on Angel. "Boarding school?! Are you out of your bloody mind?"
"You're going to send her away?"
"No, Doyle, I'm going to raise her here, in a cave, all alone."
"You're not alone."
"Look, you and Cordy have been great, but you're not her parents, neither am I."
"But she'll find parents at a stuffy old boarding school."
"You don't know that it's stuffy."
"They all are."
"They are not, some are....the point is that she'd be better off, happier, more...well-adjusted."
"How would you know what would make her happy? You barely notice she's here. In four months you've hardly even spoken to her."
"It's not your business Doyle," Angel said pointedly and pushed past him into the office area.
"The Hell it's not," he responded hot on his heels.
Cordy and Tessa were sitting at the front desk typing up invoices, most of the stuff involving money was left up to the "tiny genius" as Cordy had called her after she was moved up to the high school for her math classes. Since Cordelia had taken it upon herself to train her in the ways of high fashion, high esteem, and high maintenance lifestyles, Tessa only thought it fair to pay her back by teaching her the new accounting program they just bought. After two days in front of the computer Cordy was finally starting to catch on, but the lesson was quickly halted when the two men stormed in.
"You haven't even given it a chance, this whole thing. You just have it in your head that it can't work..."
"It can't," Angel interrupted angrily.
"What can't?" asked Cordelia.
Doyle was the first to respond, clearly overlooking the fact that Tessa was in the room and listening to every word. "He wants to send her away."
"Tessa! He wants to send her away to some awful, gloomy boarding school."
"Why do you always assume everything will be so stuffy and gloomy?" asked Angel while Cordy looked on in confusion.
"Because it's England."
"Wait," she interrupted, "Tessa's going to boarding school? In England?"
"It's just something I'm considering."
"Tessie," Doyle began, "do you want to go away?"
"Doyle." Cordy attempted to caution him, she knew it wasn't a good idea to discuss this in front of Tessa, let alone pull her into the argument. She was only now beginning to open up at all, and was still very fragile.
"Do you?" he pressed on.
She sat quietly looking from Doyle to Cordy to Angel. Her eyes stayed on Angel for a moment as though he would give her the correct answer, guide her, tell her somehow what she needed to say. But that was the old Angel, the one she used to know, used to trust. This one just looked away.
"She'd be better off," he said to no one in particular as he began to leave the room. "She'd be better off."
The three were left in silence, unmoving for what seemed like an eternity until Doyle grabbed his coat and stalked out mumbling something about a cold dead heart. Cordy put her hand on Tessa's to comfort her, but the girl just pulled away and began typing again, entering numbers into the system and explaining everything as she went along.
Doyle didn't come back that night and Cordy left right after the final invoice had printed, so Tessa went about her homework and tried to forget about all that had happened. She had been doing a lot of that lately, pretending Gibb had never died, pretending this move from New York was only temporary, pretending she wasn't about to fail home economics. Too much pretending. She didn't really even care if Angel sent her away, by now she knew that nothing was ever permanent anyway.
"Hey," he thoughts were interrupted by the tall vampire who came and sat at the foot of her bed. "Did you eat anything?"
"You should eat something."
Tessa sat up and closed her English book. "What happened to you?"
"What?" He wasn't sure what to say. For that matter he wasn't sure what she was asking.
"You used to be...I don't know...I guess it was a long time ago."
"Yeah, it was."
"But you were..."
"Yeah, well I was like six."
"Your hair got darker."
"Yours got spikier."
"You talk a lot better. I bet you even say spaghetti now."
"Not yet, but I'm working on it."
He smirked a little remembering how even as a very small child she made him laugh with her smart-ass remarks. When she was three he tried to teach her how to tie her shoes using the bunny through the hole method. She suggested the rabbit simply stay at home and she'd use Velcro. Of course she'd changed, it had been so long, she grew up, at least somewhat. He had spent all those years trying to forget about her and now that she was here in front of him he realized that he truly had forgotten. He ran his hand through her hair and tried to picture himself doing it ten years ago with her tiny form snuggled in his lap. But all he could see was Nat's body, Tessa crying, the alley where he went when all was lost. Isn't that just the way? He thinks of his family and sees them murdered, not smiling happily around a roaring fire. He thinks of Buffy and sees her crying over him, about him, not talking about how much she loves him. He thinks of Tessa and sees only a sad little girl whose mother was dead because of him, not the outgoing kid who always met him with wide open arms.
"I went to Hell," he finally said.
"A Hell dimension. I was there a long time. It sort of changed things. Becoming Angelus again changed things."
"Oh, yeah, I heard about that."
"Kinda big news in the slayer/watcher community. But you're back now."
"But different. Time, ya know, it..."
"It wounds all heals?"
"Something like that."
Slowly, the memories were returning, the dam breaking and good images, the kind you force yourself to repress because they somehow hurt more than the bad, came flooding through. Her hair felt like her hair. She smelled like she smelled. She was the same little girl he once loved like a daughter.
"I'm a vampire."
She looked at him like he was crazy. "I know that."
"I can't go out in the daylight."
She sat staring at him like he was a clean-shaven monkey in overalls.
"If you play sports I can't go to the games."
"Unless they're indoors or at night."
"If you get hurt, I might not be able to get to you, help you."
"You would think that being around as long as you have you wouldn't be so afraid of everything. I mean I'm only 12, almost 13, and even I know that none of us have any control over anything and it's pretty pointless to sit around and worry all the time about stuff you have no control over."
Part of him sat in wonder at this young girl, wise beyond her years, and part of him simply saw her as the same child he remembered, one who at the age of six may have said the exact same thing, just not as articulately. "You wanna stay?"
"I don't know."
"It's up to you."
She watched her feet as they shuffled back and forth making a whooshing sound on the bedspread. "I guess I'd miss Cordy, definitely Doyle."
"Don't say it like that. It's not like I'm in love with him or anything."
"Good, because I think he's a little old for you."
"You're one to talk. How old was the slayer in Sunnydale?"
"How do you know all this?"
"I guess I was just interested in your life, or whatever. Just cause you left doesn't mean I stopped caring."
Again, her gaze shifted uncomfortably to her feet. She may not have stopped caring, but it must have at least seemed like he had. No contact. No checking up. No nothing. "Do you remember what I said to you, the day I left?"
"What'd I say?"
"That you just had to go and someday I'd understand."
"That I'd probably never see you again."
"And that you loved me, and always would."
"Yeah," he said sullenly. "I guess I haven't really acted like that was very true lately."
"You make sure I catch the bus every morning. And you constantly nag me about eating."
"You're too skinny."
He laughed a bit and pulled her in for a hug, the first they had shared in many years. It felt right, comfortable, like snuggling up in an old sweater you've had forever. He lightly kissed the top of her head and said, "I think you should stay."