Author's Note: I am extremely late with this story. I had intended to start it shortly after completing "Belief", but real life, and other stories, got in the way.

Family is the sequel to "Kathy" and "Belief" and is the third, and final, story in my Little Sister Series. If you haven't read these yet, you may wish to do so before you read this - the links are in my profile.

This series of stories takes place in Season Two of Angel, just after Angel fires the team (the team reforms during "Kathy"). For those who choose not to read the earlier stories, Kathy is based on the character of Angel's sister, as seen in "The Prodical" (season 1), who is brought back by the powers that be and, now a grown woman, has come into Angel's life to help him along his path.

Disclaimer: I own nothing connected to Angel the series, unless you count my DVDs, books and memories of a wonderful show.

Rating: To be safe, I'm giving this a T (PG-13) rating, but I don't think it will go much beyond PG.


Family

Prologue.

Firelight flickered through the shadows of the forest. The sound of chanting - a low monotonous hum - filled the air. The air was eerily still, as though lying in wait for something - someone.

She stepped softly on the mossy ground, silence and the cover of night her only guardians. If they found her here, they would kill her. Or worse.

Her foot stepped on a dry twig, concealed by the fallen leaves. The snapping sound it made seemed to reverberate all around the forest.

Silence, save for the beat of her heart thrumming in her ears.

They knew she was there.

Branches snatched at her clothes and flesh as she fled, running as fast as she could through the pitch blackness of the trees. Several times she stumbled, landing hard on the earth, a treacherous root having ensnared her foot. She did not pause to catch her breath, did not wait to see if they were still following her.

She knew they were close behind. She could sense them, just as they could sense her. And this was their forest. They knew it at night as well as by the sun's light.

It was only a matter of time before they found her…

And they would find her. They always found her.

Shadows moved towards her. Hooded figures gathering, circling around her. She was surrounded. Trapped.

They grabbed her, pinned her to the ground. There were so many, she couldn't even begin to count them. But they spoke with one voice.

Vengeance.

They whispered the word again and again and they held her struggling form. Someone stood over her holding a cup of some kind - a chalice, she thought. They held it above their head, before pouring the contents into her mouth, down her throat.

She gagged at the coppery taste. Blood. Warm blood.

Human blood.

Eyes wide, she fought them, tried to get away. As they pulled her down to the ground once more, she saw his face.

Angel.

His arms were tied above his head. Bound to a tree, he could not move. Could not save her. As the sea of cloaked figures swallowed her up, she saw his face in the flickering torchlight morph to his vampire visage and back again. With eyes full of despair, he could only mouth two words.

I'm sorry.

And then she was gone. Swallowed up by the darkness…


Cordelia woke covered in sweat, her heart thumping out it's panicked rhythm.

It took her a few moments to realize that it had all been a dream. She was safe in her own bed, far away from the forest and the hooded mob.

Pain flickered through her head like electric shocks - the aftermath of the bad dream, she supposed. She felt drained, as though she truly had been running through the trees, really had been fighting for her life.

She could still taste the blood. Gagging at the memory, she rushed to the bathroom and spat into the sink, rinsing her mouth over and over again with cold, clean water.

Still the taste would not go away.

The visions had been getting steadily worse for months. Headaches, nausea, exhaustion - they had all been par for the course. Side effects of having the power to see the future and to save innocents as a result. But she was determined to accept the pain and keep going. Even when despair filled her heart and the anguish she experienced during a vision followed her for days, she still kept as much of it from Angel and the others as possible.

This was her mission. Angel had to deal with his curse day after day. I have to deal with this, she told herself.

But these dreams were different, completely unlike the visions she was used to. They felt old, as though she were experiencing something that had happened long ago. But at the same time, they felt tied to her own present and her immediate future, in a way she had not yet figured out.

Whatever they were, she had not yet told Angel or Wesley about them. Partly because she didn't want to worry them. And partly because she knew what Angel wanted to do.

He had brought the idea up several weeks ago, when a particularly bad vision had sent her into a coma. Angel's sister, Kathy, had been able to bring her back, but the damage had been done. Angel now wanted to take a more pro-active approach at dealing with the effect the visions were having on her.

He suggested that Cordelia have them removed altogether.

Cordelia had refused, of course. They were her visions. They were the only thing that connected her to the mission and to the Powers That Be. Without them, Angel would be flying blind.

Angel hadn't been happy with her decision and had tried his best to talk her out of it, but she had stood firm.

Now he monitored her constantly, as though afraid she might slip back into that vegetative state at any moment. And although his over-protective nature irritated her, she also appreciated it more than she would ever let him know.

Climbing back into bed and pulling the covers up to stave off the chill which the nightmare had brought on, Cordelia considered her options. She really needed to talk to someone - someone who could figure out what these dreams meant and why she was having them. But if she went to Wesley, he'd insist upon telling Angel.

Kathy. The solution presented itself in her mind, but she immediately had doubts. Yes, she trusted Kathy, but the girl was also Angel's sister. It was possible that she, like Wesley, would insist that the vampire be told.

Then again, Kathy knew all too well what Angel was like when faced with something he didn't know the answer to - he charged in, fangs first, without thinking of the consequences. She might agree to hold off on telling him until they knew more.

Resolving to make the decision in the morning, Cordelia rolled over and closed her eyes, hoping for just a few hours of dreamless sleep before work.


To Be Continued...