A long time ago, I wanted to write a sequel to this story, a sequel that I never got around to writing. However, my friend SionnachOghma has adopted the premise, and the story of little Fred and her somewhat unconventional family continues in "My First Apocalypse"
The story will be posted under his ID, and listed under my faves. We opted to also post the first chapter here so that anyone who had this story on alert would know it was continuing.
Author's Note I: As the summary points out, this story is a continuation of Regan X's Tacos and Tea Parties. I'd like to point out for those who read that story when it was originally posted, we made a change to the ending, ***Spoiler Alert – have you read Tacos yet?*** bringing Fred and Connor onto the scene of Holtz' death just a few seconds earlier, allowing him to witness the old goat's final betrayal. Killing Justine for her part in Holtz' plan, Connor made to run away, but was convinced by Fred to return home with her. ***Spoiler Ends***
Author's Note II: On the relationship between Connor and Cordelia as it happened on the show, I have only this to say: Ew. Never.
The afternoon L.A sunshine glared down on Fred and Connor as they crossed the garden of the grounds of the Hyperion. The once ragged and overgrown garden, now frequently tended to by a loosely supervised Fred, who had torn up some of the myriad rows of mangy old roses in order to plant herbs and other small plants for mixing potions – something she did under much stricter supervision – smelled like a cross between an old country kitchen and the first flames of a wood fire. Fred suddenly remembered hearing of wildfires that had begun in Santa Barbara that morning. Though she knew there wasn't much chance that her garden was going to spontaneously combust, at least not by natural causes, she made a note to herself to use more water over the next few days to keep her hard work from drying and dying under the heat wave currently assaulting southern California, making even a normal L.A summer seem chilly and grey.
Connor lagged a little further behind the closer they got to the main doors, where Fred stopped to wait for him. She reached for the handle, but Connor grabbed her hand. "Are you sure they know?" he asked apprehensively.
Fred gave a solemn nod. "Someone would have called them before you left," she told him, her tone sympathetic.
"Maybe there was nobody here," Connor suggested desperately. "Maybe there was a message left, and they haven't…"
"It's daytime," Fred pointed out, as if any reminders were needed, "and even if they had to go somewhere through the sewers, they would have let us know."
Connor pulled a small mobile phone from his pocket, confirming glumly to himself that nobody had sent him any messages throughout the day. "I should give them time to cool off. I'm just gonna take a walk, or something…"
"You grew up in hell, where they called you the Destroyer; and this you're too scared to face?" Fred scolded, trying not to laugh at her elder brother's sorry predicament.
"Well, wouldn't you be?" he demanded.
"You're damn right she would," came a yell from behind the doors, "and you should be too!" Connor took an involuntary step back out of the shade, to be stopped by another furious roar. "Don't even think about it! Get your butt in here now!" Fred gave him a half-pitying, half-encouraging smile, and pushed the doors open.
Angel was waiting at the bottom of the steps just inside the door, arms crossed, his expression furious. Off to the side, the Groosalugg stood by the weapons cabinet, observing anxiously, as if expecting sudden violence and wondering whose side he was supposed to be on, while Darla and Cordelia were sitting next to each other on the circular sofa, with similarly amused half-smiles. Behind the counter, a decidedly bored Gunn held the phone to his ear, distractedly asking the caller why she was so certain a demon was possessing her Pomeranian.
The moment they were inside, Fred dashed past Angel to where Darla and Cordy sat, leaving Connor alone with his father.
Angel waited expectantly for what seemed like a very long moment, but Connor said nothing. "Well?" he demanded before the silence threatened to take physical form a start a fight.
"It wasn't my fault," Connor blurted defensively. "I ignored everything he was saying; I was walking away. Then he just tackled me and started throwing punches for no reason!"
"Fair enough," Angel shrugged, suddenly seeming much calmer. "But you could easily have dealt with him just a little more delicately. Wrist fractured in three places, two cracked ribs, a broken ankle…and I don't think I've ever heard of the victim of a schoolyard fight needing a proctologist afterwards."
"Okay, you make it sound like…"
"You broke his ass!" Angel snapped, shooting a glare at Darla and Fred, who had erupted into sudden fits of giggles. "I figured in my time I'd done pretty much everything you can do to a person; but a broken butt? That's a new one on me!"
"So what would you have done?" Connor shot at him. "You think I should have just put up with it?"
"Of course not, but you have to draw a line somewhere!"
"Or at least make sure the little punk is scared enough to keep his mouth shut when they ask him who beat him up," Darla chimed in.
"Not! Helping!" Angel snarled at her through gritted fangs, before rounding on Connor again. "His parents already called to let me know they were suing us for every penny they can get out of us."
"I'll go empty out that piggy bank in the office," Cordelia announced solemnly. "Eight whole dollars; may it bring them much happiness."
"No, with our luck, they'll probably go hire Wolfram & Hart, after which the best case scenario is we all wind up on the street."
"Well, how about while we're still here we try and get some work done?" Wesley asked, appearing in the doorway behind Connor.
"Real work, or demonically possessed rat-dogs? No, ma'am, I'm sure the pedigree is in very high demand, though I don't think they're all that high on demon wish lists, except maybe as appetizers."
Wesley spared a confused glance for Gunn before handing the thick paper file he was carrying to Angel. "Do you recall the McNamara brothers?"
"Do I recall the jackasses who tossed me into a demon Thunderbowl and forced me to fight other demons under pain of death? Y'know, I think I might need a reminder."
"A tad snippy today, aren't we? Has he been fed yet?" Wesley asked the room.
"I don't know, but he skipped his nap mid-afternoon nap," Cordy told him. "That always makes him cranky."
"Well, it seems that Val Trepkos and several of the other demons who escaped when we put the McNamaras out of business banded together afterwards. It turns out they've been working as muscle-for-hire ever since that night. They kept a fairly low profile, until last night, when they did this."
Angel opened up the file; his face screwing up in disgust at the photograph at the front of the assembled pages. "Charming," he noted, passing the file onto Darla, who briefly flicked through the photos with no apparent reaction before handing it to Cordelia, angling the folder so Fred couldn't see the contents. "Who were they?"
"The Svear priestesses," Wesley explained. "The last descendants of a very powerful line of practitioners in works of protection, the imbuing of powerful magical properties into weapons, tools and talismans, and journeys between the mystical realms. Well known for their ability to banish destructive forces from this world."
"How do you know it was the fight club guys?" Cordelia asked.
"One child survived; hiding in the basement. I couldn't get in to speak to her, but she described the attackers to Kate Lockley."
"Yes. It seems she went into business for herself after being dismissed from the police force. Most of her work involves more ordinary affairs, but she's looked into a few cases involving vampires and demons. And of course," Wesley noted, "her contacts in LAPD are much better than mine. She had no trouble getting in to talk to the girl."
Angel glanced past Wesley. Fred followed his guys, but there was nothing to see. "Is there any particular reason she's not coming inside?" Angel asked.
"She will, once she's done on the phone. In the meantime, I have an idea of where the demons might be found. I called around to a few different spots where a group like this might hang out, or meet with perspective employers. The owner of a bar in Chinatown was a little too evasive, especially when I mentioned the priestesses."
At that moment, Fred saw who they were talking about. A woman stepped inside behind Wesley, her eyes moving slowly around the lobby, pausing ever so briefly first on Darla, her eyes narrowing slightly, then on her. Her blond hair was cut very short, and her left cheek had three long, thin scars, as if she had been scratched by either small claws or large nails, but Fred thought that she would have been very pretty if not for the massive dark circles under her eyes.
"Kate," Angel greeted her. "You look…" he hesitated slightly.
"Like I haven't slept in three days?" the woman responded with a strained smile while trying not to yawn. "Yeah. It's been a busy week."
"Lucky for some," Gunn grumbled, slamming down the phone in disgust.
"Well, if Trepkos and his buddies are running around doing that to people, I think we just got pretty busy too," Angel remarked. "But first things first," he added, rounding on Connor once again. For his part, Connor lost what optimism he'd gained at the thought of hunting a pack of demon mercenaries when he realised he hadn't been forgotten as he'd hoped. "Don't think for a second that being expelled means you're exempt from education. Welcome to the wonderful world of home-schooling!"
Connor just shrugged with resigned disinterest. "Whatever."
"And you're grounded until further notice. That means no going out with your friends…"
"I don't watch T.V."
"…and no hunting."
"Yeah!" Angel exclaimed triumphantly. "See what happens when you break the rules? We're going hunting badass demon mercenaries, and you're staying here with Fred and Lorne."
Kate observed the whole bizarre exchange with a very confused look on her face.
"Got the address for that bar?" Angel asked Wesley. "Right, I know it. Darla and I will take the sewers. There's an alley behind the place that shouldn't be getting any sunlight at this time of day. We'll meet you there. What about the kid who survived? Any chance they'll try to go after her?"
"I doubt it," Kate told him. "There were pictures of the whole family all around the place, and they didn't even try looking for her. I guess whoever hired them was only worried about the grownups. Plus, I know the precinct Captain where they're keeping her. He owed my dad some pretty big favours; I convinced him to keep the part about the kid as quiet as possible."
"You coming with us for this one?"
Kate shrugged. "A whole bar full of demons is a little beyond what I'm used to, but if I can be any help, sure."
"Alright. Knives, stakes, maces, short axes and crossbows," Angel said to the Groosalugg, who was already plucking an armful of weapons from the cabinet. "Leave the long blades; I don't think we'll have that much room to maneuver if things get dicey. Lorne!" he yelled up the stairs. "You're babysitting!"
Fred couldn't make out the reply that came from Lorne's room, but Angel seemed to, and nodded satisfactorily. "Alright, you two, try and stay out of trouble for a couple of hours. No mixing potions unless Lorne's watching what you're doing," he reminded Fred, who nodded, "and no sneaking out," he warned Connor, who sulked.
Five minutes later, Fred and Connor were sitting alone in the lobby, while Lorne was in the office with a client of his who had been upstairs with him before the others left. The mousy young woman finished singing in a low, slightly scratchy voice, and Lorne began talking to her in a hushed tone. Whatever she'd come to ask him about must have been pretty interesting, because Connor, despite being twenty feet from the closed door, seemed to be listening with definite curiosity.
Fred pulled her schoolbooks from her bag and set them down. She opened her math book briefly, but then closed it again, remembering that she'd meant to tend to the garden. "You wanna help?" she asked Connor.
"I'd rather you teleported us to that bar," he suggested. "We could be finished and back here with answers before the others even got there."
Fred shook her head. "They'd know it was us. And besides, Daddy said these guys were pretty dangerous. If they're at the bar…"
"It'll be even more fun than if it's just a few vampires and loser demons."
"You're already in enough trouble. Do you want Daddy to start locking you up every time he goes out?"
Connor grumbled under his breath.
"Well, if you don't want to help me in the garden, I guess you could always just stay in here and read," Fred suggested lightly, knowing that sitting around with a book might well be the only thing that would bore him more than gardening.
"I'll go fill up the water can."
"Thanks!" said Fred, smiling widely.
Connor had no sooner disappeared inside the kitchen when he came rushing back in response to an ear-splitting scream from Fred, who was crouched, terrified amongst the rows of plants.
The garden had spontaneously combusted.