A Devil Put Aside For Me
By Dana Evans

Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters but am grateful to Joss for being allowed to play in his version of the city of Angels.

Author's Note: This was written without seeing "Dad" who's first five minutes were so painfully embarrassingly bad I couldn't watch the rest.

An unholy noise ripped through the hotel, reverberating off the fixtures. Angel edged into the room, avoiding the wide swath of sunlight that knifed in. Cordy had rightly insisted they put the baby in a room with a window but they had set it up so he could get to his son even in the day.

He scooped what Gunn had taken to calling 'Junior' out of the old crib the young vampire hunter had found at a consignment shop. He was totally ill-equipped to handle the squirming bundle nestled in his huge hands. Vampires didn't raise babies. They ate them. He patted the diaper but hell, it was plastic and if it was wet it wasn't leaking. He still couldn't quite bring himself to hook a finger into the diaper like Fred had shown him to see if little Liam needed changing. His nose was telling him nothing.

He rocked the howling baby, crooning a lullaby dragged from centuries old memories, something he had sung to his baby sister all those years ago in Ireland. Liam hushed a bit. Angel stared down at the plump perfect creature, still amazed he could exist. Two days of continued existence with everyone half expecting the baby to disappear or turn into a slathering demon hadn't eased his state of wonder.

Angel brushed his son's cheek. Liam's head turned, rooting for a nipple. Angel turned to go get a bottle when Cordy strode in with one. She smiled prettily at him.

"Do you want to feed him, Angel?"

"I...uh, you'd better do it," he stammered, turning over his son.

Cordy hefted him with more motherly grace than Angel would have credited her with. "You have to learn to do it some day, Angel."

How could he tell Cordy he was afraid? He was afraid of accidentally hurting the tiny baby. What if he held the bottle wrong or got the temperature of the milk incorrect. His skin was so cold, could he accurately judge the heat or did they have devices to do that with now? What if he held Liam too tight or not tight enough in fear of hurting him? And the real truth was he was so afraid of getting even more hopelessly in love with this child. Holtz was sure to try and hurt his child and let Angel live to suffer just like he had done to Holtz. And there were even worse fears howling through him.

"Penny for your thoughts," Cordy said as she held Liam in the sun as she fed him. Angel could see a halo of tiny hairs almost crystalline looking in the bright light. Cordy scowled. "Penny? Ever wonder where that saying got started?"

"Ask Wes. He probably knows." Angel forced a smile. "I'm afraid, Cordy."

"I think we all are," she replied, not looking at him.

Angel templed his fingers in front of him. "No, I don't just mean about Holtz. The curse, Cordy. If I experience true happiness, I'm supposed to lose my soul. I can't imagine being happier than this and yet..."

"You haven't lost your soul," she finished for him, her eyes snapping up to meet his.

"Yeah." Angel's shoulders slumped.

"We've been talking about it, Wes, Gunn, Fred and me. We're prepared for Angelus....I think. God, I hope so. We've talked about what we'd do to protect the baby if you went all evil again but you haven't unless you're hiding it real well." Cordy gave him a suspicious look.

"I haven't gone evil," he reassured her, somehow comforted by the idea his friends were prepared to kill him if the worst happened.

She nodded. "Wes thinks perfect happiness is marred by your fear of what Holtz will do to Liam so, so long as you're afraid you aren't perfectly happy."

"Makes sense and if we defeat Holtz?" He edged closer, watching his son's greedy mouth work the nipple.

"I don't know, Angel."

"Maybe it won't matter. Maybe it's my destiny to die to protect this child, just like it was Darla's. She said it perfectly. He's the only good thing we ever did together. He's what matters. He could be my redemption." Angel forgot himself and reached out to touch Liam's soft velvety head but pulled back, fingers smoking.

"I guess we can't know until it happens and in the meantime you need to learn Baby 101," Cordy scolded as Liam lost the nipple and refused to retake it. "Had enough already?"

"There's the little guy," Lorne cried, swishing into the room. "I have gifts."

"You didn't have to, Lorne," Angel said when what he really felt like saying was 'are you moving out soon?' He knew it was uncharitable. He knew it was his fault Holtz leveled Caritas and he hadn't hesitated to take Lorne in. But he learned within the first hour Lorne was better in small doses. After two days he was ready to whip the demon back out.
"My pleasure, Angel-cakes. Let me see the little darling." Lorne scooped Liam out of Cordy's arms, trading him for the bag he carried.

While Lorne made goo-goo noises, dancing Liam in the air, Cordy opened the bag. She turned over a foot touch-pad crib piano to Angel. "Oh look, it makes noise." Cordy's face screwed up.

"It makes music, dearie. Babies need stimulation," Lorne corrected.

Angel touched a pad eliciting a deep note. "We didn't have anything like this when I was growing up."

"And look how you turned out," Cordy zinged and Angel eyed her sourly. She just smirked and set about putting the piano pad at the foot of the crib.

"Thanks, Lorne," Angel said.

"You're welcome," Lorne replied just as Liam made a loud burping noise and promptly vomited milk all over the demon's orange suit.

Cordy couldn't hold in the laughs as she rescued the baby from him, wiping Liam's mouth. "Guess you were overfull."

"This is not funny." Lorne sniffed, whipping out a cream-color handkerchief, dabbing at the vomit.

"Depends on your point of view." Angel said.

Lorne glared and left still wiping at the vomit. Still giggling, Cordy turned the baby over to his father. She put the burp towel over his shoulder.

"Put him against your shoulder, so he can burp," she said.

Angel wrinkled his nose. "Didn't he just do that all over Lorne?"

"Close enough. Look, do you think I have a clue what to do with a baby?"

He smiled faintly. "You have more of clue than me."

"Well, the toy is a step in the right direction. Just look at this place. This is not fit to raise a baby in," Cordy said with an expansive wave of his hand.

Angel didn't argue. She was right. The room was sterile, wallpaper from the 50's, dinghy and grayed, ratty curtains and a crib that had seen better days. "I know."

Cordy took a deep breath in, her face going deadly serious. "Are you going to tell her?"

Angel didn't need to ask who Cordy meant. How could he tell Buffy this? Nestling against his shoulder was proof positive he had tried to lose his soul, that he had thrown in the towel and gave in to the darker instincts that roiled in him. So far his friends here hadn't jumped him about it. He wasn't sure if he was grateful or disappointed in them for it. He deserved their anger for his actions, his betrayal of their trust in him. "I guess I'll have to. She has enough to worry about. She's having trouble adjusting to be being alive again, when she's settled I'll tell her," Angel said, not sure if that was a lie or not.

"I don't think Liam's ready for a nap. Want to bring him down so everyone can see him?" Cordy gave him a perky encouraging look.

"Sure."

They headed downstairs. Fred and Wesley were almost face down in some old text while Gunn was busy sharpening their weapons. All of them stopped, their faces going sunny seeing the baby.

"How's he doing?" Wesley asked, getting up.

"Busy making Jackson Pollack's on Lorne's suit," Angel replied turning so they all could get a better look at the baby.

Wes grinned. Gunn and Cordy just looked confused at the art reference. "Good, I guess. We were talking about the arrangements for the baby."

"Looks more like you were doing research." Angel nodded at the book.

"Uh, yes. Well, we're are doing that. It's hard to do when the scroll the prophecy was on was stolen, no doubt by Wolfram and Hart when they came to pick up the bodies Holtz left behind. We're trying to track down other sources but it's slow going," Wesley said.

"And we have been talking about the baby," Cordy said. "This hotel is no place to raise a child. It's filled with...wrongness. I know the Thessulac demon is gone but it's still no a place I want to stay by myself in. I don't know how Fred does it." Cordy shuddered, wrapping her arms around herself.

"And there are bad places here...ones that aren't structurally sound," Fred put in, slinging back her long hair out of her thin, foxy face.

"Fred does raise a good point," Wesley said. "And not to mention that Wolfram and Hart want us out of here. They were able to get troops in when Holtz was here. And then there's Holtz, he knows this place. Maybe we shouldn't fight to keep the hotel. There's any number of places we could go in L.A. I'm not sure why you felt compelled to stay here, Angel, but -"

Angel held up a hand. "I'm not arguing with you. But I don't want to just rush into a home either."

"Angel-cakes, there's a problem," Lorne said, sailing into the room in a new suit. "This place has bugs."

"Oh God! I hate roaches."

"Not that kind of bug, love. This kind," Lorne held out a tiny camera, wires dangling from it. "I've been making that room of mine livable and came across this."

Wesley took it from him, shaking his head. "This is not good. Doubtless, it's a gift from Wolfram and Hart."

"And if they had it up in an unused room then...." Gunn stared around the hotel hostilely.

"That cinches it. We need some place new, less conspicuous," Angel said, reaching out to crush the camera.

"But do it quietly. There were microphones, too," Lorne warned.

Angel's features shifted for a microsecond before smoothing back out. The thought of just moving the whole operation to another demon plagued city like New York or Cleveland crossed his mind. "I'm stuck here." He jerked his head at the windows where sunlight spilled in.

"Gunn, Cordy and I will go look for places. Maybe for tonight the baby should stay at one of our apartments," Wesley said, getting up on the desk to look at the corner for more bugs.

"I wouldn't want to put any of you out," Angel protested.

"That's what friends are for," Cordy assured him. "Fred can stay here and help you with Liam, Lorne, too. Maybe now's a good time to whistle a little ditty and have Lorne tell you where the best real estate is."

Lorne glared at her as Wesley jumped back down off the desk, spy camera in hand.
Cordy shrugged. "Just a thought. Come on, we'll talk about where and what we're looking for in the car." She hooked an arm into either man's and pulled them out of the room.

"I'll take Liam. You might want to search his room first for bugs," Fred said, holding out her hands.

Angel nodded, turning the sleepy infant over. He had no desire for Wolfram and Hart to spy on his child. It was chilling enough to know they were aware he even existed. He motioned for Lorne to follow him.

* * *

Angel looked at the pile of cameras and microphones lying disabled on his desk, thinking it would be just easier if he completed Darla and Dru's work and finished off Wolfram and Hart, turn it into a right banquet. Of course, his friends would never understand that but then again if the law firm threatened Liam they might just forgive him. He nearly came out of his skin as the phone rang.

"Yeah," he said into the phone. "What? All right, Cordy, sorry, Angel Investigations. We help the helpless, happy?" he asked reciting their motto, already getting a headache and Cordy hadn't even told him why she was calling. It was not the good news of a two bedroom apartment over an office at an affordable price. He scowled as she related her latest vision. Fred and Lorne perked up seeing his expression. "I'll be right there."

"Trouble?" Lorne asked.

"Cordy saw a nest of vampires out to interrupt a college holiday party in a vision. I'm going to meet them," Angel said as Liam's cries could be heard floating through the hotel. A pained look danced across Angel's broad-planed face. "I don't want to leave him unguarded."

"He's not unguarded. He has us," Lorne said, waving a hand at Fred who bobbed her head.

Angel held back the thought that they were hardly adequate protection but at least Fred was coming along when it came to inventing weapons. They were better than nothing. "Thanks. I'll call when we know something."

After a quick stop at the weapons cabinet, Angel was gone. Fred went to get Liam. The baby was hushed by the time she reappeared with him. She passed him to Lorne.

"Can you watch him for awhile? Dinner will burn if I don't watch it," she said, gesturing in the direction of the industrial kitchen. Smells of Mexican food wafted from it.

"Go ahead. Me and the little one will be fine," Lorne assured her. She put the baby, blanket and all, in his arms.

Lorne sat with Liam, singing softly to the baby. He supposed it was cute enough though way too pink and soft. Where were its scales and horn buds? It needed something to make it truly adorable in his opinion. Hearing something, Lorne looked up, thinking Fred must have returned. His eyes widened seeing a thin brunette standing in the doorway. Her blue eyes seemed somewhat vacant and haunted.

"Can I help you? All the investigators are out," Lorne said then stiffened as she came closer. He suddenly sensed this wasn't a human being after all. She was a vampire.

She looked at him, a smile touching her lips, lighting up her heart-shaped face. "Just like the stars told me...a miracle. My baby brother has arrived," she crooned.

"I think you had better leave," Lorne said, edging toward the weapon cabinet. "Fred, you might want to come out here. Bring a good piece of wood with you."

The vampiress' face screwed up as she wagged a perfectly manicured finger at him, her talons painted a cheery chrome blue. "Don't be a naughty boy. I just want to see my baby brother. Daddy isn't here is he? No, the stars whispered to me he would be out tonight."

Lorne turned, fumbling for the door handle to the cabinet. He felt nails digging into his shoulder as he was spun around. Those nails slashed through his neck and the pain sent him to his knees. The vampiress plucked the baby from his arms as he fell. Liam squalled as he was set down on the ground, lost in his blanket, so she could put a foot in Lorne's back. She hooked her fingers into the gash in the demon's neck and tore his head free sending it flying.

"No one is getting in the way of me and the little star," she snarled, wiping the ichor off on Lorne's suit jacket. She had no taste for demon blood. She scooped the baby up, planting a kiss on his forehead. "We're going to go dance under the stars, baby brother."

"Let him go now," Fred cried running out of the kitchen with the only wooden thing she could find, a broom.

"Do you know why they are being so mean to me, little brother?" The vampiress caught the broom handle as Fred charged her and swung the overly thin woman into a wall. Dazed, Fred dropped the broom and was in turned dropped with one sharp blow to the jaw. The vampiress stepped over her, cradling the baby to the soft red velvet of her dress. "You're just what I've always wanted, a baby to love," she said, stepping out into the night.

* * *

"We found some promising places before the vision," Cordy told Angel as they walked into Hyperion's lobby.

"At least we've got the nest cleared out," Wesley said, massaging a sore spot on his hip. "We can look for a place tomorrow but for tonight why don't you bring Liam over to my place."

"If you're sure," Angel dithered, giving the blade of his battle-axe a critical look.

"Angel, have you thought of maybe moving to-" Cordy's suggestion turned into a shriek. She went rigid.

"What?" Angel raced over to her, thoughts of Holtz racing through his head.

She pointed at her foot. Lorne's head rested against her shoe, the eyes shut, neck stub dribbling ichor.

"Whoa, that's gross." Gunn grimaced. "What the hell could have done that?"

"The baby!" Angel tore through the hotel, battle-axe coming up into an offensive position.

"Gunn, take Lorne's head back to his body. Cordy, we have to find Fred," Wesley said, moving through the hotel.

Gunn lifted the head up by the hair. "What do I do with the head once I get it to the body?"

"Last time the head woke up and told me what to do," Cordy said, wrapping her arms around herself.

"It doesn't look awake to me," Gunn shot back.

"Not sure how long it took for him to recover last time," Cordy admitted.

"Over here!" Wesley called.

Cordy ran over to him only to see Fred prostrate behind a desk, her jaw purple and swollen. Her breath wheezed in and out, rattling in an eerie way.

"Is she all right?" Cordy asked dubiously.

Wes shook his head. "Call 911."

Cordy darted off. Wesley knelt down, feeling for Fred's pulse. It was much too fast but he didn't know if there was anything he could do to help her. Nothing was bleeding and he wasn't an EMS officer, let alone a neurosurgeon. He knew very little about head trauma. He stroked her arm. "Hang in there, Fred. Help's coming," he crooned softly.

Wesley glanced up, hearing heavy footfalls coming his way. The look of absolute panic on Angel's face shocked him to the core. Wesley had never seen the vampire so distraught and lost.

"The baby...Liam's gone." Angel's voice was a tight whisper of its usual timbre.

"I'm sorry, Angel. Fred's in a bad way. Do you think Holtz has him?" Wesley asked, his hand still mechanically stroking Fred's arm, numb fingers registering nothing as they worked.

"I...I don't know. Holtz will kill him, Wes. He wants me to suffer." Angel ran a hand through his hair. " I...I don't think he'd take the body away. He'd want me to know."

Wes saw Angel was shaking. "Wolfram and Hart, they'd want to examine such a baby."

"I have to find him. I have to do something." Angel's dark eyes pleaded with Wesley to come up with something to give him hope.

"Angel, we don't know who, when or why," Wesley said sternly, hoping to bring Angel back to himself. "See if Gunn got Lorne together. He'll be able to tell us what we need to know provided his attacker didn't get him from behind."

Angel's features flashed inhuman, stung at being given orders then smoothed out realizing those orders made perfect sense.

"Ambulance is on the way," Cordy said, brushing past Angel to kneel with Wesley at Fred's side.

"I'll go help Gunn get Lorne below into the sewer. EMS will call the cops to investigate this. They don't need to find a headless demon," Angel said, hopelessness bubbling in his voice.

"Good idea. We'll tell them we came home and found Fred like this. We won't mention the baby unless you want us to," Wesley said, looking up at his friend.

Angel shook his head wearily. "No, it's best they don't know. I don't want to answer a lot of questions as to where Liam came from." Angel stalked away hearing the sirens approach. He struggled to keep his emotions under control. He knew it was a hopeless cause. He could barely think. Every step was like shoving through a blizzard, raw torrents of emotion threatening to rip him apart, to freeze him where he stood.

Alcohol would feel good, even if it no longer had the taste it once had. It was obviously the last thing he needed. That didn't matter. Despite his best efforts, his mortal personality quirks were wont to surface and over two hundred years ago he tended to hide from unpleasantness and anything smacking of work by sinking himself to the glass bottom of tankard. The world looked better distorted by liquid-covered glass. Doing that right now had a terrible appeal.

When he found them, Gunn was reclining on the wall staring down at Lorne's body. The head appeared reattached but Lorne wasn't awake. Angel knew they were lucky whoever had attacked the hotel didn't know Lorne's type of demon couldn't be killed by beheading.

"He hasn't opened his eyes yet," Gunn said, giving him a careful once over. "Did they take the baby?"

Angel nodded. "He's gone. There's...there's no blood, no signs of violence in the baby's room, no blood anywhere...but Fred doesn't look good. We need to get Lorne out of here before EMS and the cops start poking around."

"Good point."

Angel bent down and pulled Lorne up into a fireman's carry. The demon didn't stir. Gunn paced alongside Angel, getting the doors and finally the trap door to the sewer system. Angel didn't take Lorne far. He set the demon in a relatively dry spot against the wall. Gunn's face went into a tight pucker. He pulled the doo-rag off his head and held it over his nose against the stench. Angel was grateful for the fact he didn't need to breath. The effluvia from the sewer did have one bonus. It roused Lorne. The demon made a few retching noises then his eyes fluttered open. Lorne moaned, holding his head.

"Are you all right?" Angel asked.

Lorne's eyes canted up, a sneer touching his lips. His long nose bobbed a bit. "I'm not all right. I had my head pulled off," he snapped peevishly.

"Lorne, They got Liam. I need to know who and how many," Angel said resisting the urge to shake him. He wasn't sure how firmly reattached the head was. All he needed was for Lorne's head to snap off and roll into the sewer. He'd never hear the end of it.

"Not a them, not that I saw. Just a pretty little woman. She had the sweetest heart-shaped face for a vampire." Lorne's red eyes closed. "She didn't make much sense, babbling about what the stars told her."

"Blue eyes?" Angel asked, his heart sinking as the description registered.

Lorne nodded. "I think she said something about her baby brother."

Hearing a somewhat approving sound in Angel's 'hmm,' Gunn asked, "That makes sense?"

"It does. It's Drusilla," Angel said, memories of what he had done to her flooding back to him as he thought about his son in her hands. "I have to find her."

"Whoa, you don't have a clue where to look. What about Fred? We have to help her too," Gunn said, his dark eyes flashing angrily.

"I can't help Fred and if I don't get after Dru now she could kill Liam without even realizing it. She's mad, extremely so," Angel growled.

Gunn slowly wagged his head, pursing his lips. "Know her well? I think I recognize that name."

Angel's fist clenched. "I made her a vampire...after I drove her insane."

"Nice work," Gunn said less than sympathetically.

"I have no idea where Dru would be," Angel said, letting it roll off him. "She was with Darla for a time but I'm sure Darla would have cut her loose as soon as she discovered she was pregnant, if not before. Dru's hard to control. Only Spike or I could do it. I didn't even know she was back in L.A."

"Maybe Lorne could..." Gunn started but Lorne held up a hand.

"I'm a little discombobulated. I'm not sure I'm in any shape to read anyone. Sorry." The green demon looked genuinely so.

"It's all right. I've functioned without foreknowledge for centuries. I know Dru." Angel let his head fall back, looking upwards trying to find calm within himself. "She probably won't hurt Liam...not at first. Lorne, do you feel up to using some of your contacts to see if anyone might know anything about where an insane female vampire might live?"

"I have a few people I can talk to," Lorne said, holding out a hand.

Angel hauled him up. "Thanks."

"Do you need help?" Gunn asked reluctantly. He didn't care for Lorne but a baby shouldn't suffer from that dislike.

"No, they'd be more likely to talk without you there," Lorne said, rubbing fastidiously at a stain on his shirt.

"Go through the sewers. There might be cops in the hotel because of the attack on Fred," Angel cautioned.

Lorne rolled his eyes but trudged along the sewer passage.

"I have my cell phone. Have Wesley call me when they know anything about Fred. I have to find Dru."

"Angel, wait." Wesley's voice froze them. He came into the sewer looking over his shoulder to make sure no one had followed him.

"Fred?" Angel asked, dreading the answer.

"She's on the way to the hospital. They seemed to think she'll be all right." Wesley pulled off his glasses, mechanically cleaning them.

"The police?"

"Went with Fred except for one listening to Cordy's account. They want to know about our clients to see if we have anyone who might have done this." Wesley's face was etched deep with worry.

"Our clients aren't your average clientele." Angel kicked at the wall distractedly.

"I can handle it. So what if the police think we work for crackpots. What happened to Lorne?"

"He went to check with her sources. He described his attacker. I think it's Dru," Angel said and Wesley's eyes widened. "I'm trying to think like her, to figure out where she might take the baby."

"Would she even take him?" Wesley asked.

"Yes. Ever since she's been with me, Dru has always loved babies. Dolls...Dru always had to have her dolls. That may be the only thing keeping Liam alive. Dru may see him like her dolls and protect him...until she gets angry." A shudder ran through Angel.

"What happens then?" Gunn asked reluctantly.

"With Dru...who can tell? She would blindfold the dolls, not feed them, leave them in corners." Angel shook his head. "It makes no difference. Dru is incapable of caring for a baby."

"And newborns are nothing but work," Wesley put in.

"I know. Liam will tax Dru's patience very quickly," Angel fretted. "I have to find her. Wesley, you help Cordy with the police. Call me when you know more about Fred."

"Of course."

"I'm coming with you," Gunn said.

Angel considered the offer. "Thanks."

"Hey, you need the help and it's not too late to change the kid's name to something that won't get his butt kicked regularly at school...something with class, like Charles." The young man beamed. "After his savior."

Angel rolled his eyes, heading off into the scenes. "Why don't I just name him Liam Wesley Charles Chase and be done with it?"

Gunn loped after him. "Why not? You were probably Irish Catholic in another life so that's at least three names too short."

"Not funny."

When they surfaced about a mile away from the hotel, Gunn settled his doo-rag back on his shaved pate. He took several deep breaths to clear the sewer from his lungs. Angel stared up at the sky.

"Dru loves the stars," he whispered.

"What? Do you have any ideas?" Gunn asked, heading for a nearby loading dock. A pallet there beaconed him forward as he hadn't had time to grab any weapons. He kicked it, breaking it into makeshift stakes.

"Dru likes pretty things, stars, flowers, clothing." Angel's brow creased in remembrance.

"This helps how?"

"She would surround herself with things that make her feel safe and would appeal to her sense of beauty. Parks, botanical gardens...cemeteries." Angel dropped his gaze from the stars to glance over at Gunn.

Gunn scowled. "Could we start with the botanical gardens?"

"We'll start with whatever's closest," Angel said, heading off.

They checked three parks, the botanical gardens and five cemeteries with no luck. Gunn dreaded every failure. Angel's face had lost all semblance of humanity an hour prior. The animal within came closer to slipping its chain with each disappointment. Gunn just held his tongue and prowled along with the vampire, letting Angel lead. The ridiculous tune from 'The Wizard of Oz' shattered the night air. Angel snagged the phone out of his jacket cursing himself for letting Lorne reprogram the thing.

"Yeah....okay, thanks. No, no luck yet." Angel shoved it back into his pocket. He glanced over at Gunn who took a step back seeing the mouthful of jagged teeth gleaming under the street light. "Fred's going to be okay but her jaw's broken."

"At least she'll recover," Gunn said but Angel was already on the move again.

Angel entered Holy Cross, one of the older cemeteries in the city. Gunn felt a nervous shiver race up his spine. He couldn't escape feeling like he was entering vampire central even though they had failed to turn up one bloodsucker all night. He had half hoped they would just so Angel could work out some of his tension by thrashing it. Gunn had to stifle a snicker as they passed Bela Lugosi's grave. How utterly appropriate for this night. Angel stopped and Gunn nearly plowed into his broad back.

"Listen," the vampire commanded.

Gunn cocked his head and heard what Angel did. Someone was singing. Angel broke out in a run that Gunn had no prayer of keeping up with. The words riding on the breeze were some how eerie.

"Sleep O babe, for the red bee hums the silent twilight's fall,
Aoibheall from the grey rock comes, to wrap the world in thrall.
A leanbhan O, my child, my joy, my love my heart's desire,
The crickets sing you lullaby, beside the dying fire."

Gunn saw an enormous mausoleum coming into view. Something must be inside as lights gleamed in the ornate stained glass windows. Angel stood stock still outside of it.


"Dusk is drawn and the Green Man's thorn is wreathed in rings of fog,
Siabhra sails his boat till morn, upon the Starry Bog.
A leanbhan O, the paly moon hath brimmed her cusp in dew,
And weeps to hear the sad sleep-tune, I sing O love to you."

Gunn caught up with Angel there. The intricate wrought-iron door stood open under the lintel bearing the name, Stark. Angel was watching a woman inside the crypt as she danced in the candlelight around heaps of fresh flowers obviously pilfered from another grave or graves. Her back was to them but Gunn could see she cradled something in her strong arms. The crimson velvet of her dress swirled around her lean legs like flames in the fullness of destruction.


"Faintly sweet doth the chapel bell, ring o'er the valley dim,
Tearmann's peasant voices swell, in fragrant evening hymn.
A leanbhan O, the low bell rings, my little lamb to rest,
And angel- dreams till morning sings, its music in your breast."

"Is that Dru?" Gunn whispered.

Angel nodded. "Stay here. Liam's still alive. I can hear him. Dru might just let me get near her if I play my cards right. If we both rush in, she'll be on the offensive."

Gunn clamped a hand on Angel's arm. "I'll be right here until you need me."

Angel passed him the cell phone. "Tell Wes and Cordy where we are. They can bring the car. It's only an hour before dawn. I may be riding home in the trunk."

Gunn just nodded, stepping away to make the call where Dru was less likely to hear.

Angel went in, hoping he could still play Dru as well as he used to. She stopped singing hearing his boots scuffing on the marble floor. She glanced over her shoulder and smiled. Dru lifted Liam up and kissed his head as she rocked side to side.

"Daddy's here for us, baby brother." No sense of malice could be heard in her voice. She seemed to genuinely like the child cradled in her arms.

"His name is Liam," Angel said softly, keeping his eyes focused on Dru's. She seemed relatively calm which he took to be a good thing. Liam looked a bit pale and tired. Angel knew the child had to be starving and probably had already cried himself out. He was stunned that that hadn't sent Dru over the edge.

"Sweet little star. The winds promised me a brother and here he is." She levered herself up onto the sarcophagus lid. Her feet dangled back and forth like a little girl on a swing. She tickled Liam under his chin, seemingly happy and relaxed.

Hoping that was the case, Angel moved closer slowly so not to startle her into something he'd regret. "Yes, he is but he needs to come home with me, Dru. He's not like us. He needs a warm place to stay, milk to drink." Angel winced, hearing the desperation in his tone. He knew Dru knew him well enough to smell his panic.

Dru cradled him closer protectively as she eyed Angel suspiciously. "He called to me. He wants me." Her jaw set, daring him to contradict her.

Angel took a reflexive deep breath in. He needed reason now, even though it was like trying to catch a moonbeam. "But he can't stay here, Dru. He'll never live in a grave." A gentle smile touched his lips as specific memories surfaced just when he needed them. "Remember the puppies you brought home? The song birds? Do you remember what happened to them all?"

"Ooooooo," she moaned, shaking from head to toe, making Angel fear he overplayed his hand. "They went all quiet and cold." She tucked Liam against her breast, tears brimming in her eyes.

"Yes, and you don't want that to happen to Liam, do you?" A bud of hope opened inside him for the first time since Liam was taken.

Dru lowered her arms so she could look down into Liam's face. "No but I don't want to be alone any more. The stars told me I wouldn't be. They told me about my brother. Everyone leaves me. Both my beautiful boys got so full of love for the Slayer that there was no room for me. Poor, poor me all alone in the cold." Her words came out almost like a melody, a threnody that cut deep into Angel.

"No one meant for that to happen," Angel said all the while thinking 'both her boys were in love with Buffy? When the hell did that happen? He knew Spike had been neutered and was living in Sunnydale simply because they all pitied him too much to end his suffering. When did he fall in love and why had Buffy not told him?'

"Still alone...why did you leave me like that, daddy?" There was sincere hurt and pleading in Dru's big blue eyes. Her lips trembled slightly.

Angel felt all the pain and guilt over all the things he had done to Dru flooding through him. Among of the regrettable things he had done throughout the decades she was high on the list of the most lamentable. "I shouldn't have done it, Dru."

"No, you shouldn't have." Dru's eyes flashed angrily and she pressed the tip of her nail to Liam's tender throat. "Maybe I should make you feel all alone, too."

Angel stumbled as his legs seemed to vaporize under him. He knew Dru could read the terror in his eyes. The bud of hope withered on the vine in the face of Dru's mercurial moods. "Baby, you don't want to do that. You don't have to be alone any more. Bring Liam to me and we can all be together, like we were meant to be." Angel forced the words out, hoping Dru didn't sense the lie in them.

She glanced back down at the baby, her hand falling from his throat. Angel struggled to remain calm and non-threatening as she stood, her crimson gown flowing as she walked, whirling around her like a tidal pool of blood. She stopped in front of him and laid her head against his broad chest. He put his arms around her, shocked to feel tears soaking into his shirt.

He had underestimated the depths of Dru's feelings and he knew he shouldn't have. After all he had used her sensitivity to destroy her. He rocked her slowly seeing Gunn moving closer to the crypt. He knew the young man was prepared to kill Dru but something in him didn't want Gunn to. Angel knew it was wrong to spare Dru. Her appetite for death was amazing even to him but he couldn't help feeling sorry for her. And even though he himself had tried to kill her, he was having to fight to find that strength now.

He shifted Dru in his arms. She loosened her grip on Liam, sliding one arm around Angel's back. She began to hum a little melody Angel remembered from England of long ago. She stood on tiptoe, kissing his cheek, affection for him reflecting in the blueness of her eyes. Angel grabbed hold of Liam rougher than he would have liked to and shoved Dru away at the same time, tearing the baby from her grasp, leaving the receiving blanket behind. Liam howled as did Dru. Her eyes were wide with betrayal.

"Gunn!" Angel cried and the young man raced in carting Liam off.

"No!" she shrieked, whirling away from Angel. Winding the blanket around her hands, she snared a heavy iron cross from a niche in the wall. She slammed it across Angel's face, pressing it in as it sizzled. Her laughter echoed through the crypt as Angel wailed with pain.

Dru tossed the cross aside and bolted outside. She raced after Gunn, moving over the ground well despite her high heels. Gunn turned and shoved a length of pallet into her. He missed the heart but Dru went to her knees. He moved in for the kill but she was quicker. She backhanded him hard enough for him to lose his footing. He cupped Liam close as he went down, stunned as he slammed into a headstone. Dru sprinted off, quickly lost behind the ring of ostentatious mausoleums.

Angel almost went after her but his son's cries stopped him. He knelt down and eased Liam from Gunn's arms. The baby didn't seem hurt. He helped Gunn sit up.

"Are you all right?"

Gunn grunted. "Think so. The baby?"

"I think he'll be okay."

By the time he got Gunn to his feet, Wesley called again. He and Cordy were at the on-site chapel, wanting directions to find them. Instead, Angel and Gunn went to meet them. Angel could feel the dawn as he turned Liam over to Cordy and reluctantly curled up in the GTX's huge trunk.

* * *

"You have to do this yourself," Cordy insisted, not for the first time.

Angel looked at her then at the stern faces of Wesley and Gunn. He had hovered about anxiously as Wes had examined Liam for injury and found him to be well enough except for being hungry and thirsty. Angel was even more edgy as Cordy cleaned Liam up and fed him. They were all exhausted but too wired to sleep and more than a little relieved to have Liam home safely. Cordy set the crying babe in his father's arms.

"Fred isn't here to help you and won't be for awhile," she said. "And it's high time you learned to do this."

"Didn't you just change his diaper?" Angel asked, even though his nose told him it was time to do so again.

"Yes but he'd been in that one all day which was more than gross enough for me. He needs changing again and probably more from his bottle," Cordy argued.

Angel made a face but put Liam on the changing pad on top of his desk. He managed to get the diaper off without making a fool of himself and tried to remember exactly what Cordy had done next.

"What do you think Dru wanted with Liam?" Wesley asked, writing in a journal, having not quite gotten out of that leftover from his Watcher days.

"Someone to love. She doesn't want to be alone," Angel said, struggling to get a wipe out of the container, managing to pull out a long string of them.

"No one does," Cordy said. "Being alone is the worst thing in the world."

"So what are you going to do about Dru?" Wesley asked, stifling a yawn.

"Um, Angel you might want to get another diaper," Gunn said.

"I've got the fresh one under him, why do I need another one?" Angel asked. As if on cue, Liam made like a fountain right into his father's face.

It was a little too much on nerves already stretched. Seeing the petrified look of horror on Angel's face set his friends howling with laughter. Angel stared at them, urine dripping from his chin.

"This isn't funny!"

They saw it otherwise, even though given the day's events laughter seemed highly out of place.

"You...need the diaper," Gunn gasped out between guffaws, "to put on top of boys so they....don't do that."

"You couldn't tell me sooner?" Angel growled, using the excessive wipes on his face.

"Gunn, I didn't know you knew anything about babies," Wesley said, brushing away tears of mirth.

"My auntie had a huge family. I used to have to help baby-sit," Gunn said, holding his sides.

"Now you tell me," Angel grumbled turning back to re-clean his son. "And I don't know what to do about Dru. If I move Liam into one of your homes, he's safe from her. She won't be able to enter. She must have grabbed him from the work area down here since she wouldn't be able to cross the threshold in his room. I know we have to find her but I'm still more worried about what Holtz may do next. No where is safe from him."

"Why don't we put on the same guards Lorne had on Caritas...only make sure it's protected from stuff being thrown in from outside," Cordy suggested as Angel disappeared in a cloud of over-squeezed talcum powder. "Wow you're worse than I am at this."

"Thanks for noticing." Angel waved away the talc. "That's a good suggestion Cordy. I'll get Lorne working on it and you guys should get some sleep so you can go back looking for a new place for us later today." Angel picked Liam up. "Think he needs more milk?"

"He looks fussy," Wesley said.

Cordy went and prepared the bottle but refused to take Liam back. She sat Angel down and made him do it. Angel tentatively put the nipple in Liam's greedy mouth and the baby sucked enthusiastically. He was barely aware of his friends filing out of the room most likely heading for their homes or upstairs to find the nearest usable bed. He was enraptured by watching the infant eat. He couldn't let himself think about how close he had come to losing Liam today. Maybe it was time to send the baby away, give him to someone who wasn't at risk all the time, to someone who could love him. But Angel saw that for the pipedream it was. Too many already knew about Liam, Holtz, Dru, Wolfram and Hart and who knew how many demons. Liam would never be safe with a normal family. He had given this perfect little creature life and Angel couldn't escape feeling that some day soon he would cost Liam that life.

Cold tears coursed down his face, splashing onto his son's body. Liam didn't seem to mind. All his energy was focused into sucking nourishment. That was something Angel could understand. Pig's blood in a mug was all well and good but it didn't come close to the oral satisfaction of sucking a vein dry. It was a rude, terrible thought, proof that he didn't deserve the miracle he cradled in his arms.

"What are we going to do, little boy?"

Liam offered nothing more than the closing of his eyes as he sucked contently. Angel rocked the baby thinking about the song Dru had sang, 'The Gartan Mother.' He didn't know the words to that so he opted to the ubiquitous 'Too-rah-loo-rah-loo-rah.' At least Dru had tried to be good to the baby. Angel was grateful for that. He didn't know what the future was going to hold for him and his son but the thought occurred that no parent did. He could only do his best and hope that it was enough. That thought was warming. The bottle done, Liam seemed half asleep. Angel put him on his shoulder, gently patting his back as he walked him to his crib. Angel couldn't bring himself to let the baby sleep by himself while he tried to find rest in the basement. He curled himself up on his side in the closet away from the window. He blew out a long breath, oddly at peace.


Author's Note: The Gartan Mother is a traditional Celtic lullaby. Hopefully I've done the lyrics justice.