"I'll go catch a quick dinner," Anne said, patting Gunn's hand. "You and Angel can talk."
"Thanks," Gunn said, smiling through his pain. He thumbed the morphine release trigger on the IV drip.
As she left the hospital room, Anne's eyes twinkled or so Angel thought. He didn't realize Gunn and Anne had gotten close but it made sense. Both had a passion for helping street kids. It was more common ground than Gunn ever had with Fred. Angel winced, wishing he hadn't thought of her. He was glad Spike volunteered to keep an eye on Illyria. At least Spike didn't have the emotional baggage of being Fred's 'savior' from Pylea only to fail her here.
Gunn glanced over at Angel, surprise in his narcotic-glazed eyes. "You're really leaving the city?"
Angel nodded. "Something might be happening in New York City that I need to look into."
"Might?" Gunn's lips pulled back into something that could have been a smile or a rictus of pain. "Sounds more like you're throwing in the towel and running."
"What's left to stay for? You and my son, that's it, Gunn. Even Spike is leaving," Angel said, too tired to be angry at the insult. What did it even matter any more if Gunn thought he was turning coward.
"And taking Illyria with him?" Gunn shifted on the bed, the effort seeming to exhaust him.
"Someone has to keep an eye on her," Angel replied, not meeting Gunn's gaze. "I'm too…"
"Tired?" Gunn supplied. "I get it, man, really I do. If I wasn't stuck here, I might go with you."
Angel had been trying hard to ignore Gunn's injuries, the broken legs and hip, the stab and claw wounds. His friend was lucky to be alive and faced months of rehabilitation. "Giles' reports of evil in New York can wait. I can stay here until you're healed, Gunn. I can look after you, find you somewhere to go when they let you out of here. There's nothing left that was ours."
"You don't have to stay, Angel. I'm going to Anne's place. It didn't get trashed. She could use the help and what I'll need most, you can't help me with, like providing transport to and from the physical therapists and all the doctors' appointments during the daylight hours." Gunn smiled wryly.
"You have a point." Angel sighed. "I'm useless, even to you."
"That's not true," Gunn said, an annoyed look pinching his face. "You being here means a lot. I know you have a whole city to be concerned about, not to mention Connor got hurt. I might not remember any of the stuff you told me about the kid…"
"I was hoping you would with the Orlon Window gone," Angel broke in, guilt lacing his words. "But it only seemed to affect those in the room. I'm sorry, Gunn."
Gunn waved him off. "It's okay, Angel. You had your reasons. I'm not thrilled with having my mind screwed with but I understand why you did it. You need to concentrate on Connor. It sounds like there's a lot of work to do there."
Angel nodded, running a hand over his hair. It sounded like such a simple task but it was far more complex. "More than you know."
"Don't worry about me. I'll be all right." Gunn sighed, losing steam as the morphine took affect. "Maybe later I'll look you up in the Big Apple."
"I won't lose touch," Angel said, wondering why that was suddenly important to him. Maybe because Gunn would be the last vestiges of Angel's tenure in Los Angeles. "I've learned how to use e-mail." He flashed a lopsided smile.
Gunn laughed then winced. "Don't make me laugh. It hurts."
Shaking his head, Gunn said in a disbelieving voice, "I can't picture you using e-mail."
Angel held up his hands in surrender. "It is an amusing picture, I'll admit."
"Send Connor here if you get a chance," Gunn said. "My memories might be like Swiss cheese but I'd like to see him. Maybe we can start again. When he wasn't butting heads with me, he was a good kid. I think I remember that. I think he liked Fred, too."
Connor certainly liked Illyria in leather but Angel decided not to share that. "You and Fred showed him what this world was about. The troubles he had had nothing to do with you two. Holtz and I…we were responsible. I never had the chance to say thank you for helping with Connor."
"You're welcome." Gunn tried to pull up his blanket. Angel helped. "We tried our best."
"He appreciates it, I know," Angel said, wondering what Connor really thought. It was just one more thing he didn't know about his son and hadn't bothered to ask.
Gunn didn't address it one way or the other. "How bad is it out there, really?" He gestured to the thinly curtained window. "Anne won't tell me."
Angel paused, debating, then decided Gunn deserved the truth. "Bad enough but we're getting it under control, honestly."
"I wish I could help." Gunn toyed with the IV tubing that ran along his arm.
"You've done more than enough," Angel assured him. "You nearly died. I think you've more than acquitted yourself."
"Thanks," Gunn said, his eyes shutting.
"You get some rest, Gunn. I'll come back tomorrow night." Angel got up.
"Thanks," Gunn mumbled again.
Angel left the hospital, feeling conflicted. He didn't want to leave his friend behind but deep down he knew he couldn't stay here any longer. As Angelus he always knew when to move on. It was a gift his soul didn't seem to possess. He always got it wrong but this time the only thing missing was a neon sign flashing and saying 'move it.'
He hadn't been to New York City in a long time. He had put some things in storage in a few banks there, always managing to scrape together the money for the security box payments. He wondered what some of it was worth; bits and bobs of old jewelry taken from prey, some of it thrown at him when he, in desperation, tried to go home to Darla in the thirties and she wouldn't have him, coins and a few other things. Maybe he could sell some of it. He'd need to find a decent place for them to live, wondering how that was going to be affordable.
"Are you sure you're okay with this, Kathy?" Connor took his sister's hand. His voice echoed in the nearly empty warehouse.
She nodded her head, letting her long hair shadow her face. "Yeah, I have to be, don't I?"
"No, I can stay here in L.A. with you," he assured her. He needed her to know he would do anything for her.
"No, I can't…I can't go back home, not with what happened there." She shuddered at the thought of being in the house where her parents were slaughtered then squeezed his hand. "I mean, you and I have to go back home to pack and that'll be hard enough. It just hurts that we don't know where Aunt Fiona is."
"Riley and his soldiers will keep looking for her," Connor promised, slipping an arm around her.
Kathy brushed back her long hair. "I just thought I could do more for her. I'm not blind, Connor. I know you're all special people here." She gestured around the warehouse. "We already knew that about you after the thing with the van but now you've found others of your kind."
Connor's lips pulled into a lopsided smile, thinking about the Slayers. "More or less. And there'll be some super people looking for Aunt Fiona. You can't help them with that but you might be able to help us in other ways."
Her brown eyes took on a doleful cast. "How? I'm nothing special."
"You're special to me." He smiled gently at his sister. "You can help with the research. We need to know how the demons can be defeated and there are a lot of books to sift through for information. You like history and stuff like that. You'll be a great help. If I know what I'm fighting, I'm more likely to live."
Kathy smiled in appreciation of his attempts to cheer her up. "You're a good brother, you know th"Yeah, but I like hearing it." He laughed then his momentary good mood frittered away. "I know it doesn't seem like it, but things will get better."
Kathy threw her arms around him. "I know you'll do whatever's needed to make it better."
Connor hugged her back. "I'll do my best."
Kathy rested against him for a moment then sat back. "I think I'll go talk to Dawn. I know you have a lot of work to do, more monsters to kill."
"Something like that," Connor agreed and watched his sister go. He only hoped he didn't disappoint her.
"Have you ever been to New York?" Connor lounged on one of the cots. It was daylight and he had been out all night with his father.
Angel shifted on another cot. "Several times. It's a lot like L.A. only colder, greyer and a little less friendly."
"No offense Dad, but L.A. hasn't been friendly to me." Connor made a face.
Considering his son's sour expression, Angel ran a hand through his thick hair. "I guess it hasn't."
"My sister really needs to get away from here." Connor sighed. "She didn't seem thrilled at first, but now she's getting into the idea. It seems less like we're abandoning Aunt Fiona."
"Glad to hear she feels that way. You know about Fiona…" Angel trailed off, a pained expression on his face.
"I know." Connor nibbled nervously on his thumb. "Have you gotten anywhere with Faith and Buffy? I've been keeping my distance from Faith since things are complicated enough."
"I haven't had a lot of time to even try to talk to them," Angel replied, knowing he was actively avoiding them to save them the time it would take to reject him.
"I think they're embarrassed," Connor said contemplatively. "You were right about Giles and since that was more than half the reason they were so bitchy to you, they're humiliated."
Angel nodded. "I'm sure you're right and I can't force them to really apologize or even talk to me. I just have to let them know the door isn't closed to them."
"Waiting for them to come to you." Connor nodded decisively but eyed his father with a shrewd expression. "But what if they don't?"
Angel squirmed on the uncomfortable cot. "Then I guess it ends with them. I've made all the concessions I'm willing to make."
Connor wet his lips. "I get that. I don't blame you. You didn't do anything too wrong this time. You actually asked for help. Maybe you didn't say enough to make Giles understand the danger or maybe he wouldn't have listened no matter what you said. You tried to protect me and your friends. I guess the only thing you could have done to avoid all of this would have been to not join Wolfram and Hart." Connor's brow knitted. "Why did you do that? I know they were your enemies and hell, Lilah tried to have me dissected. I can understand why Faith and Buffy were confused about that."
"I did it to save you. Wolfram and Hart gave you your family," Angel said then glanced over at his son when something the boy had said sunk in. "Lilah tried what?"
"To dissect me. You trusted them to rework my brain and life? And you say I'm brain damaged." Connor sat up on the bed. "I guess you probably didn't have a lot of time to think out something less stupid than trusting Wolfram and Hart after you cut my throat."
"Something like that." Angel winced, trying to ban that image from his brain.
"Why didn't you just let me end?" Connor asked softly. "It's what I wanted."
Angel got up and sat next to his child. He ran a hand over Connor's soft hair. "Because I love you so much and I never had the chance to do right by you. If the adults in your life hadn't screwed up so much, you wouldn't have done what you did. I had to give you a second chance. You didn't really want to die, Connor. You thought it was the only way out and it wasn't."
Connor pressed a fist against his lips. "Some days I almost wish you hadn't done this. Others I'm so grateful to be here. It gets confusing."
Angel pulled his son against his side. "We'll work on things that matter while we're in New York, like being a family, me, you, and your sister. You and I will get another shot. Gunn wants one before you leave. Maybe we can make the days you regret fade away."
Connor smiled faintly. "Thanks, Dad. I'd like that. I want things to get better with you and me. Maybe starting somewhere new will help."
"I think it will," Angel said, thinking that it had to. He had lost most of his friends and his home. The two women who meant a lot to him still barely spoke to him. He had one shot at keeping the one thing he had left, the thing that had defined his life for two and half years. A new life with his son was worth the upheaval they were about to go through. If only he didn't have to leave behind the friends he still had, if only he could repair the rift between him and Buffy and Faith. But that ball was in their court. He had to concentrate on the things he could impact, like the life of his troubled son. He would go into this thinking it would work.
"This house is so wild," Kathy said, running up the stairs of the Queen Anne home Angel had bought.
"You can have first dibs on rooms," Connor promised her then turned to his father. "So you bought us a haunted house."
Angel gestured towards the ceiling of the home. "It lowered the price and this house is at the end of the street with a courtyard in the back, less collateral damage that way if a fight should find us at home and you know it always does." Angel smiled fondly, remembering Cordy's Dennis. "Besides, sometimes ghosts can be helpful."
"When I'm floating five feet off my bed, I'll remind you you said that." Connor's smirk faded. "I am worried about my sister as collateral damage."
"Trust me, I understand." Angel put a hand on the wooden banister. "Something isn't right here in the city."
"I know," Connor said, his eyes flicking towards the big living room window. "You can almost feel it, besides the normal big city creepiness. Didn't Giles say his seers thought New York City was a diversion?"
"I think he might be wrong. When we know more, I'll let him know what's going on."
Connor hopped up on the stairs. "Think any of them will end up joining us here?"
"Spike and Illyria more likely than not, once they get done with Savannah," Angel said. "Spike doesn't do well on his own. He's a joiner. He'll look for me. Gunn might come too, who knows."
"I found my room!" Kathy hollered from upstairs.
"Bet she picked the biggest and the best." Connor sighed. "I only asked about the others because I couldn't help noticing you picked a house that an army could live in without seeing each other. Can we afford it? I know Kat and I will be getting a lot of money from Mom and Dad's wills and insurance but I'm betting most of it will be in trust."
"I wouldn't take your money anyhow, son." Angel patted his arm. "Don't worry about money. I've come into a considerable sum."
Connor's eyebrows quirked up. "Oh?"
"Let's just say there was a little creative bookkeeping at Wolfram and Hart." Angel smirked.
"You embezzled money?" Connor grinned.
"Well, Gunn did, looking ahead to us defeating the firm and them not needing it any more. Just don't mention it to anyone," Angel cautioned.
Connor shot him a 'well, no duh,' look. "No, of course not. How much?"
"Not sure yet but Gunn said we could live well on interest alone."
"Until someone from another branch of Wolfram and Hart shows up," Connor said sardonically.
"We'll worry about that later." Angel wrinkled his nose. He didn't want to think about that. "Why don't you go pick out a room? I'll look into what I'll need to do to convert part of the basement into a bedroom."
"Good luck. Everyone knows the basements are where the ghosts go." Connor beamed.
"No, they like to go for teenaged boys' rooms." Angel grinned right back.
"Well, if she's a girl ghost." Connor shrugged.
"Try not to be disturbing, son." Angel wagged his head.
Connor laughed and headed upstairs. The vampire waited until the ersatz siblings were arguing over who got the biggest room and Kathy was insisting Connor go live in the tower where freaky brothers were supposed to live before Angel headed down to the basement. Oddly, in spite of all the recent misery, he had a good feeling about this.
The stairs were sound but creaked as Angel made his way down them. He remembered Darla approving of creaky stairs; it made it harder for people to sneak up on them and that theory had served him well over the years. Reaching the bottom of the steps, he stood staring out over the expanse. The basement ran the full length and width of the house. There would be plenty of room for him to set up a bedroom. But for the rest of it...
Turning, Angel shouted up the stairs. "Connor! Kathy! Come down in the basement and see this!" He heard a muffled shout of acknowledgement and a few seconds later, the thunderous approach of two pairs of sneakers thudding down the stairs.
"Wow," Connor said. "Creepy."
"It's big," Kathy added, wrinkling her nose at the evidence of cobwebs and dust.
Angel folded his arms, leaning against the wall. "I was thinking we might want to set up a sparring area down here. There's plenty of room and it has the advantages of the neighbors not being able to see in too easily and ask questions."
"Sparring?" Kathy looked up at him.
"A place where Connor and I can practice our fighting skills," Angel said, bending over slightly so he didn't loom over the girl. A memory tugged; Dawn, looking remarkably the same way that Kathy did at this minute. "You could work out with us."
"She could what?" Connor flung a horrified expression at Angel.
"I could?" Her eyes gleamed with an inner fire. "Could I learn to fight demons, too?"
"No. Absolutely not," Connor said, turning his sister to face him.
"Why not?" Her lower lip stuck out and she folded her arms, giving him a petulant look. "I bet I could get good at it."
"Not overnight," Angel said before Connor could get a word in. "It takes a long time to learn how to fight demons. But it's not a bad thing for you to learn how to protect yourself, not just from demons but from regular people."
The boy's eyes flashed wide at the idea that his sister might have escaped L.A. only to become prey to someone normal.
Angel went on. "Besides, learning martial arts can be good for you in other ways. Like, discipline. And building self-confidence." He patted Kathy's shoulder lightly. "If it's something you'd like to learn, I can teach you."
"Why not me?" Connor asked, belligerent. "I know as much about fighting as you do." The 'maybe more' floated unsaid in the air.
He smirked. "You never, ever want to teach a relative fighting, Connor. Believe me. It's a thankless task."
"You tried to train me," Connor pointed out.
"And look how that turned out for me," Angel said sharply. Turning his attention back to Kathy, he asked her directly. "So, what do you say? A training room? Here, in the basement?"
She nodded decisively. "Yes."
"All right, then." Angel clapped his hands together. "Tomorrow, we'll get started cleaning up down here."
"What about today?" Kathy asked. Connor looked up at his father as well.
He smiled. "Today, we find out where the nearest Chinese takeaway is." Dropping a hand on each of the kids' shoulders, he guided them towards the stairs. "I've suddenly got a yen for General Tso's."
Connor smiled up at his father, knowing the vampire didn't eat but there was no sense in cluing Kathy in on that. Angel smiled back, yes this definitely was the start of something.