"My only desire here is to discover if a thing such as yourself can be made to pay for it's sins. You're a demon, it's your nature to maim and kill. But you were also once a man. If we beat and burn the demon out of your living flesh will there be anything left? Anything at all? I doubt it. But I'm willing to spend the next fortnight of my life finding out. Either way you have no soul, you can't be saved." – Holtz, "Offspring"
"I shouldn't have left," Fred repeated rocking the baby gently.
"You didn't have a choice Fred," Wesley reassured her. "You had to protect Eoin. It was what Angel wanted you to do. Besides, I'm sure he'll be alright."
"It's been weeks," Cordy said. "I think the chances of Angel turning up alright are slim to none."
"You're not helping Cordelia," Wesley snapped. "It's not Fred's fault."
"I'm not saying it was," Cordy shot back. "If you really think about it, it's all Angel's fault. He's the one that had to go and kill the guy's family back in the dark ages. It's all Angel's fault Holtz wants to kill him and we're all sitting around wondering where he took Angel and how much he hurt Angel before he…"
Fred choked back a sob; picking up on her distress the baby began wailing.
"Cordelia, I said you're not helping!" Wesley yelled. "We don't know that Angel's dead."
"Holtz took him," Cordy shouted back. "What am I supposed to think? We know Holtz is going to kill him if we don't find them and we don't even have a clue where to start looking!"
"Um… no and no," Gunn said staring out of the window.
"What are you talking about?" Wesley asked.
"Holtz and Angel, they'll be walking through the door in about twenty seconds," Gunn said.
"That's… that's not possible," Fred stammered.
"Come here and look for yourself," Gunn replied.
"It's the middle of the day," Fred protested. "Angel can't…"
Before she finished speaking the whole group was running for the door. They slid to a stop in a clump just outside.
Holtz was supporting Angel as the pair haltingly worked their way down the sunny street. Angel was practically unaware of the world around him. He barely seemed able to put one foot in front of the other, but neither the sun shining down on him or the cross around his neck were affecting him.
After a moment's disbelief Wesley and Cordelia ran to take Angel from Holtz.
"What did you do to him?" Wesley demanded angrily, removing the cross and tossing it away from Angel.
"I saved him," Holtz replied, turning and walking away.
Three weeks earlier
"Angelus," Holtz said, satisfaction apparent in his voice.
Angel looked up from his son to see Holtz leveling a crossbow at him. Angel held the baby out to Fred.
"Don't move!" Holtz commanded.
"This is between us, I'm just getting the by-standers out of the line of fire," Angel said.
Nervously Fred took the baby and retreated behind Angel. "His name's Eoin," Angel told her softly.
"They're with you," Holtz said. "Why do you think I'll let them go?"
"Because they're human," Angel replied. "Because if you don't you're no better than I was. Because if you harm them, you become what you hate."
"This isn't your normal line," Holtz said.
"A lot can happen in two hundred years," Angel said making eye contact with the vampire hunter. "I'm sorry for what I did to your wife and children. I wish I could offer you more than that."
Holtz removed a pair of handcuffs from his coat and tossed them to Angel. "I was hoping I'd be able to capture you. I've always wanted to finish what we started in Rome. Put on the restraints; then the woman and child can go."
Angel nodded then snapped the cuffs around his wrists. "Fred go," he commanded quietly.
"But…" Fred worried.
"Take Eoin and go," Angel insisted.
Fred slowly worked her way down the alley, keeping her body between Holtz and the baby; casting numerous concerned glances over her shoulder at Angel as she went.
"Come," Holtz said gesturing with the crossbow once she was gone.
Holtz opened the door to the cell then frowned at the silence.
Angel had stopped screaming a week ago, but there still should have been the sound the holy water boiling as it struck his flesh. Holtz watched with a blank expression as a drop of water landed on Angel's bare shoulder and ran down his back without effect. Holtz pulled a cross from his pocket and pressed it against Angel's side. After several minutes he pulled it away. "It's true then," he said touching Angel's unburned skin. "There is something more to you than the demon."
Holtz draped the cross's chain around Angel's neck, unlocked the manacles around Angel's wrists, sat him against one wall then turned and walked out of the cell, leaving the door open behind him.
"Sahjan!" Holtz called. "Get me one of those 'taxis'."
"What do you want it for?" the demon asked.
"I'm taking Angelus back to his friends."
"What?" Sahjan shouted. "I didn't bring you all this way so you could let Angelus go! You swore you'd show no mercy!"
Holtz glared coolly at Sahjan, "He's purified, it's over."
"It is not over, not till Angelus and the child are dead."
"I am not your assassin, demon," Holtz stated.
"What about your vengeance? Your family? Should he live when you have no reason to? Should his son grow up when your children didn't?"
"The cross no longer burns him. The demon is dead. My quest for vengeance is done. I'm taking him home."
"No you're not, I've worked too long, two hundred and fifty years I've worked. You will kill him. You are my creature, you will do what I tell you to!"
Holtz pulled a handful of sparkling powder from his pocket and tossed it at Shenja, with a shriek the demon vanished.
"I'm no one's tool," Holtz said softly.
"How is he?" Gunn asked as Wesley and Cordelia came back downstairs.
"He was tortured extensively," Wesley said tiredly. "We did what we could but…"
"But he's a total space case and it's not because of being hurt, I've seen him hurt before, r the night after he met you for example, but it was never like this." Cordelia added. "We tried to get him to feed, but he couldn't pick up the mug. He'd reach for it and miss, so I put it in his hand, but he couldn't close his fingers tightly enough to lift it. He'd try to talk, but the words would get all slurred. It's scary."
"And the walking around in the sunlight was pretty strange too," Gunn commented.
"I still need to look into that," Wesley said. "I though his shanshu had occurred, that he became human and that was why Holtz stopped, but that isn't right, he doesn't have a pulse. I don't understand it, yet."
"He's not healing at all," Wesley said softly watching Angel and Fred sitting on the couch across the room.
Fred had helped Angel to arrange himself so that he could hold his child without danger of dropping Eoin. Even so, she hovered nervously; Angel had almost no motor control, it was painful to watch. A month ago Angel had moved with a fluid grace, now he couldn't walk without someone helping to guide his faltering steps. Anything requiring fine coordination was utterly impossible for him; he couldn't pick up a pencil, much less draw. The lack of control extended to every muscle group, leaving his face oddly slack and distorting his speech until it was unintelligible.
But his dark eyes were still expressive and when he held Eoin, the love and happiness he felt was easily seen.
"I believe that the demon which made him a vampire has been completely removed from him." Wesley sighed. "Who would have ever thought that that would be a bad thing? But while his soul controlled the demon, it seems that it was the demon that controlled and maintained his body."
"He's just not used to doing things without the demon. He's like a little kid, he'll relearn everything, given time," Cordelia said.
"He doesn't have time," Wesley said. "Don't you understand? He isn't healing, not at all, not even after two weeks. I've been soaking his bandages in iodine and so far it's staved off…"
"What? Infection?" Cordelia asked. "That not a real concern with him being dead and all."
"Yes he's dead, infection isn't an issue, decay is," Wesley replied.
"Come on, that won't happen," Cordelia insisted.
"The curse binds his soul to his body and it's managed to maintain a semblance of life. But a human soul isn't meant to animate a dead body. This situations is not sustainable, we have to find a way to break the curse."
"No!" Cordelia hissed. "Breaking the curse is bad, beyond bad, the worst."
"The demon is gone Cordelia, once his soul is released there will be nothing left but an empty shell."
"And that's supposed to be a good thing?"
"Most forms of reanimated corpses don't last long," Wesley said. "Without the demon to maintain his body, Angel's body won't last. What's worse, his mind appears to be intact; he'll understand what's happening to him. We have to end this before that happens."
Cordelia pounded on the hotel room door until Holtz opened it, then she stormed into the room. "Are you happy now?" she demanded.
"The demon that murdered my family has finally paid for its sins," Holtz replied. "I am at peace."
"Angel is a good person," Cordelia said. "He's going to die because of what you did. We're going to have to find a way to kill him!"
"Because of what I did his soul may be judged separately from the demon," Holtz replied.
"You don't care at all about all the good he's done; that he would have continued to do if not for you?" Cordelia said angrily. "That there are people out there who he could have saved, and they're going to die now. That doesn't even bother you does it?"
"Are you finished now?" Holtz asked.
"Nothing I say matters to you," Cordelia exclaimed. "Don't you understand what you did was evil?"
Holtz tilted his head to the side acknowledging that he was listening.
"You didn't even have the decency to just kill him, instead you trapped his soul in a dead body and left us to do your dirty work… I'm done now," Cordelia sighed.
"Good day Miss. I'm sorry you got caught up in this matter," Holtz said escorting her to the door. "But I truly believe that the fate of Angelus' soul will be determined by a higher power than either of us."
"I don't know what's wrong with him," Gunn said. "I've looked into all the usual complaints."
"Here," Fred said taking the baby. Carefully she settled Eoin against Angel's chest, a few seconds later the baby's cries tapered off into soft contented noises.
"See, he just wanted his daddy," she said smiling.
Angel's hand shook with effort as he moved it to rest on Eoin's back, the baby's tiny fist closed tightly on a handful of Angel's shirt. For a moment Angel's eyes glowed golden, then his hand slowly fell back to his side.
Eoin began crying again, a soft hiccupping sob.
"Angel?" Fred asked worriedly as she picked up Eoin and rocked him.
Something's wrong," Gunn said staring at Angel's dull eyes. "Wes! Cordy! We've got problems!"
"What is it?" Wesley asked appearing from his office as Cordy hurried in from the kitchen.
"Angel was just holding Eoin," Fred said. "Then…"
Wesley leaned over Angel. "There's a pen light in my desk," he said absently, tilting Angel's head back.
"I'm getting it," Cordy said.
When she returned Wesley shown the light into Angel's eyes. "Nothing," Wesley sighed turning the light off.
"What do you mean?" Cordy asked.
"Eoin was the key to breaking the curse," Wesley said. "I should have realized."
Wesley took off his glasses and wiped at his eyes. "Angel's gone." He took a deep breath. "It's really for the best. There were much worse ways he could have died."
"No," Cordelia said. "No! We would have found a way to fix things. We can find a way to fix things."
"Someone will have to go to Sunnydale. We need to tell Buffy, it needs to be in person." Wesley continued as if he hadn't heard. "You knew her best Cordy. I'd appreciate it if you could talk to her. I'll…" Wes trailed off into silence the thought uncompleted
"Wes?" Gunn asked after a few seconds.
Wesley turned and threw the pen light across the room. "It wasn't supposed to end like this," he cried.