Our Sons And Daughters


Chapter Title: Nature of the Beasts (Part 3)

Author: Baby Blues

Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, except for the children and the story itself.

Notes: I’m so sorry for the super long wait. What can I say, it’s been quite hectic. I just want everyone to know that I haven’t given up on this epic and that I just hope you all continue to stick it through with me. Love you, guys!

**Wow! We can all breathe a sigh of relief that this intense 3-part chapter is done and we can all now move on. Yay! Just a reminder to you guys, feedback is greatly appreciated and is the key to inspiration. Thank you!

Summary: There’s always a price for power. Buffy and Angel worry over Tristan as the children wonder what had happened in the lobby.

Dedication: To the people who continue to keep the BTVS fandom alive. Without you guys, I would’ve let myself fade away in the fanfiction world.

Teasers:

~Buffy: . . . I could never fear you. You’re my son.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Loki turned off the video camera with a resounding click. A frown marred his handsome face and a strand of hair fell across his blue eyes as he continued to watch the scene play out before him.

He had just watched in amazement as one of the boys Whistler dumped in this dimension snap off Kaz’s neck like a toothpick.

Silently handing the camera to the Frenchman, he lifted his foot to rest against the stone parapet surrounding the roof of a building across the street from the Hyperion.

A thoughtful scowl grew on his face as the night air blew across his cheek like a gentle caress. His hair ruffled as his eyes grew dark with intensity.

He had ordered the demon to take both Buffy and Ariella without injuring them. He knew there were going to be problems --death, carnage, the works-- but he never expected the demise of his family’s most prized soldier.

Kaz had been bred for strength and dexterity. He had agility and a cleverness that not a lot of demons were gifted with. He was produced to fight and kill, the perfect specimen of a warrior.

His father was not going to be pleased, not only for their third failure but for the death of Kaz. The demon had been in his family for centuries. He had taken down many of his fathers foes, and he was exterminated by a mere child.

“Something wrong, Master?” the Frenchman asked.

“The boy,” the young man said as he took out a pair of binoculars from his jacket pocket. “The youngest boy. What’s his name?”

The Frenchman motioned towards the shadow behind them. His assistant silently stepped forward and handed him a file. “Tristan Devril Aerilous,” he replied, “Raised by Angelus in his dimension. No mother.”

Loki looked at him expectantly. “Anything else?”

The Frenchman scanned the papers. “He’s a psychic.”

“And?” Loki urged impatiently.

The second-hand shook his head.

Loki tapped his fingers against the roof railings, looking through the binocular lenses. “I want more information on the boy by tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir.”

Loki frowned again. “That child is more than just a psychic.”

************

“There are a couple of British upstarts downstairs,” Connor said as he reached the top of the 2nd floor.

“They must be from the Watcher’s Council,” Wes said, heading for the lobby.

“Hopefully to take Raine,” Gunn sighed, just a few steps behind the ex-Watcher.

“Good riddance, the looney,” Aiden grumbled just as they heard Ethan scream out obscenities below.

“I refuse! I refuse!” the manic wizard yelled.

Austin stared at the door of the room his parents, the physician, and Tristan were currently locked in and felt sick to his stomach. So much had happened in less than a few days time that it was hard to take it all in, especially with this unexpected turn of events.

Tristan had conjured something powerful in the hotel lobby, powerful enough to kill a rather potent demon in less than a minute with the strength beyond anyone’s comprehension.

“I existed from all eternity and, behold, I am here; and I shall exist until the end of time, for my being has no end,” he whispered to himself.

“What?”

Austin looked at Paige who sat next to him and then at all the others. “That’s what Tristan chanted before he went after the demon.”

“What does it mean?” Eliza asked.

“I don’t know. He said it in ancient Sumerian,” Austin frowned, his brows furrowed together in deep thought.

“Is it a spell of some sort?” Connor questioned, finally putting his own two-cents in.

“Maybe,” the eldest replied, wracking his brain for an answer.

Liam sighed. “I don’t know what happened down there but . . . .” he paused, looking at his siblings, “I just . . . I don’t know what to think of it.”

“Join the group, junior,” Aiden shrugged, “All I know is there’s more to Tristan than he’s willing to share.”

“What do you mean?” Eliza asked with a frown.

Aiden scoffed at her. “Did you not see him?” he asked her. “The kid was floating like a day-old balloon with some freaky X-men eyes,” he said, his own blue orbs bulging and his fingers wiggling to state his point more clearly.

Brooke snorted. “You’re such a wimp.”

“Oh shut it, Stream Wild,” Aiden scoffed in return, “Like you weren’t psyching out too.”

She flipped him off and then looked away in a quiet huff. “Yeah, I’ll admit I was a little freaked. Who wouldn’t be? Tristan’s the quiet one who pretty much gets along with everybody and spouts off random stuff that digs a little too deep. Yeah, he’s kinda creepy sometimes but gimme a break, Aid!” she shouted back. “You lived in the Hellmouth. You’ve seen stranger things happen. It’s probably some whacked out witchcraft shit he learned from his dimension.”

“Yeah, from non-other than Angelus,” Aiden nodded and looked at the others pointedly. “Whatever that kid has, it’s dangerous.”

“You make it sound like he has some sort of disease,” Austin glared at him.

Aiden looked at them all straight in the eyes, tapping his right foot nervously against the floor. “Are we forgetting that Angelus, Scourge of Europe and tormentor of the Slayer --our mother-- raised him?” he reminded everyone, “We don’t know what lies under Tristan’s tranquil exterior.”

“He’s never done anything to hurt any of us,” Paige said softly.

“Yeah, for now,” Aiden replied.

“I can’t believe I’m hearing this,” Austin growled menacingly.

The others began talking among themselves, arguing and adding on their own opinions to the discussion at hand.

Aiden waved a hand in the air to get everyone’s attention. “Hello? Are you all forgetting that he snapped that demon’s head right off? Not to mention he almost lost all his fingers pulling out its tongue that’s sharp enough to split hairs?”

Everyone grew silent.

“I have to agree with him,” Liam piped up, looking directly at Aiden.

“Lee!” Eliza gasped.

“Glad I’m not the only one who’s wondering about the possibility of Captain Enigma’s darker side,” Aiden grinned smugly.

Liam looked at his clasped hands, his silver eyes dark and intense. “Angelus is a vicious killer and Tristan grew up with him since he was six years old. Almost 10 years in the hands of a demon like Angelus?”

Everyone paused to guiltily think of the possible scenarios.

Liam shook his head and continued on. “Who knows what Tristan is really like. He could be a psycho killer underneath it all,” he said, clenching his jaws tightly.

“Not Tristan,” Paige insisted, hugging herself closer as tears pricked at her eyes, “I just can’t fathom the possibility.”

“She’s right,” Brooke agreed, “I don’t feel threatened by him.”

“Which is probably what he wants us to believe,” Aiden rolled his eyes. “Good ‘ol Tristan, he’ll give you a bit of good advise, help ya when you’re down then stab you in your sleep.”

Austin angrily stared at the blond before growling, “You’re full of it, Aiden.”

“He can read our thoughts,” Liam interrupted, staring at the floor so forcefully he could’ve left burn marks on the hard wood, “He knows things about us and our past we haven’t dared share to anyone. Who’s to stop him from using that power against us? Against Mom? He may very well be in league with this new enemy.”

“I don’t believe it,” Eliza shook her head, her eyes glassy.

Her twin gave her a fierce look. “You should know better than anyone else, Liz. You live with a demon in you too. Imagine yourself at six-years-old, bright eyed and innocent, being taken in by that demon that sired us? Imagine how evil we’d be. And knowing that, you honestly think Tristan got out of it unscathed, uninfluenced?”

The young brunette still shook her head in denial.

Connor sighed in frustration. “It doesn’t make any sense. If he’s some sort of evil pawn from our latest addition to the list of things that want to kill us, why hasn’t he taken us all out by now? We were all here for the past few nights. Why not slaughter us then?”

“It could be a mind game,” Liam offered, “After all, Angelus was known for it.”

“I hate to be the optimistic one here but I need to point out the fact that we’re all alive and intact. Tristan’s in that room right now possibly at the brink of death, and we’re here, still standing...and talking about him like he's the enemy.” Brooke eyed everyone before glaring at her older brother.

“Hey! I’m not denying the fact that he saved me from a few bruises!” Aiden agreed.

“A few bruises?” Eliza sneered.

“Okay! Fine, he saved my life but did you see what he did to that thing?” Aiden yelled, “If he can do that to a demon imagine what he can do to us!”

“I just can’t accept it,” Eliza said, glaring at Aiden and her twin brother, “Tristan doesn’t seem to have a violent bone in his body.”

“ ‘Seem’ is the operative word here, Liz,” Liam growled.

Voices began to rise all over again as the quarreling intensified.

“It doesn’t matter!” Ariella yelled through the growing arguments.

Everyone stopped to stare at her.

“I can’t believe I’m hearing all this!” the young girl shouted at them all. “He saved our lives! Without him Mom would’ve probably been taken at the price of some of our lives. He saved us all and all we can do is sit here and talk about how dangerous he may or may not be?”

“Listen princess . . . .” Aiden began.

“No! You listen!” Ariella shouted, causing the older boy to recoil back as though he had been bitten by a butterfly. “Is that all you can think about?” She demanded, her blue/green eyes darting from Aiden to Liam, “The danger he may pose? The threat he may bring?”

She shook her head. “He saved us all,” she whispered, her voice shaky, her soft pink lips trembling, “I don’t think an evil person . . . an evil BOY would have the ability to sacrifice his body . . . his life for anyone unless he loved them.”

She clenched her fists at her sides. “Did you even look at him? Did you see his back?” she sobbed, furiously wiping at her tears. “I couldn’t see an inch of his skin because there were so many bruises, so many cuts . . . and-and so much blood . . . There was blood everywhere!”

She looked directly at the blond boy with misty eyes. “How did he get those, Aiden? Who saved you in the kitchen? Who pushed you to the floor to take the full brunt of the attack meant for you?”

The others fell into deep silence, their gazes straying uncomfortably on inanimate objects in the hall of the 2nd floor.

“Tristan has been nothing but nice to me . . . to each and every one of us,” Ariella laughed bitterly, “I could be dead without him. We may ALL be dead without him.”

The doors to the bedroom opened quietly and they all stopped to stare at the doctor, a Fierlo demon with light sea green eyes and a scatter of silver scales on his forehead and arms.

Austin stood and greeted him. “What’s the news, doc?”

He sighed and rubbed tiredly at his glasses. “Well . . . ” he replied, “I cleaned up all his wounds and bandaged them up.”

“Will he be okay?” Ariella asked eagerly.

The doctor smiled. “Yes. He’s lost a lot of blood and is very weak. A good day of rest and plenty of fluids for the rest of the week should do wonders, and then he’ll be up and running in no time.”

Austin nodded. “Thanks, doctor.”

“Can we see him?” Paige asked.

“No, not at the moment,” the doctor shook his head, “Just let him rest before you all infiltrate his room like a pack of hyenas,” he teased with a wink. And with a nod and a small, gentle smile the doctor left.

************

Tristan’s head was hurting. There were too many thoughts zipping past and through his head like annoying mosquitoes.

He could hear so many voices, so many thoughts. He could sense fear, fear of HIM, and it tore at his heart like little repetitive scratches, slicing and tearing at the tenderness of his soul.

“Do you really think they’ll accept you, son?” a voice asked him in the distance.

The little boy opened his eyes, looking up to find an elementary school building through the tinted windows of a limo. He watched in awe as the kids played in the sun, their laughter and shrieks floating through the air like a melodious song of a faraway childhood he could never return to.

“You’ll never be like them,” the voice continued to whisper in his ear as he gazed longingly at the playground.

The boy watched as Ariella slid down the slide, hand in hand with Paige. Aiden was climbing a sturdy tree, precariously hanging upside down from a branch while Austin reprimanded him and demanded he get down before he broke his neck. Liam and Eliza were playing chase around Brooke as she built a castle from the sand.

“You’re my child,” the voice continued, “You’ll be more than what they are, mere humans with special powers . . . you’ll be a God.”

“But, Papa, I don’t wanna be a God,” the boy admitted.

That caused the man to laugh darkly. “Don’t you want to be just like me?”

The boy nodded enthusiastically, looking up into the dark, sinister eyes of his father.

“Then you’ll be a God, a powerful one,” Angelus said, his tone turning serious and almost deadly, “Just like me, Tristan . . . just . . . like . . . me . . . .”

Tristan’s eyes shot open, his thoughts tangled and his eyes unfocused.

“Tristan? Honey?” A voice called out.

“Mom?” he whispered before pain sliced through him and everything went black again.

************

That pained whisper from Tristan’s lips was the last straw for Buffy as she dropped her head and cried quietly, her heart aching inside her chest. Her soul was ripping apart for her youngest son.

This wasn’t fair. It was like finding her mother dead on the couch, but this time it felt much worse. Though Tristan wasn’t dead, seeing him like this was killing her bit by bit as the minutes ticked by. This was her child. This was her son. Buffy closed her eyes, wishing to God she could take away his pain.

She finally understood what her own mother must have felt whenever she left the house and disappeared into the night to save the world, risking her life night after night. The worries and the doubts, how did her Mom cope with such feelings?

She could still remember only the day before holding Tristan in her arms as a teething toddler, smelling like baby powder and milk. He had been so small and innocent, and she had loved him then and she loved him even more now.

It tore her to see him at this state, and killed her that even as a mother she couldn’t transfer his pain to herself.

Angel swallowed the lump in his throat as he stared at her, sitting so sullenly at the edge of the bed, her fingers gently tracing the wraps on Tristan’s back.

“Buffy . . .”

“Angel,” she choked, unable to meet his gaze, “I’m sorry . . . I just can’t talk right now.”

He nodded, understandingly since he didn’t know what to say either.

So they sat together in silence, staring down at the prone and pale form of their baby boy.

************

It was during the middle of the night when Eliza came sneaking into Liam’s bedroom. He knew she was going to come. Eliza didn’t like to argue or put up a fight with him in front of others, she would rather do it in the blanket of the night.

She sat quietly on a chair by a large dressing table, her eyes adjusting to the dark as she watched Liam stare blankly at the ceiling.

“What was that all about?”

Liam didn’t even bother pretending he didn’t know what she was talking about. “Do you honestly think Tristan went unaffected by that demon?”

Eliza was quiet.

“I think you’re jealous.”

Liam scoffed at her, turning so Eliza only saw his back. “You’re delusional.”

“You’re jealous because if you were in his shoes . . . you would have easily fallen prey to his influence, melted like butter to his words, his attentions.” Eliza gritted her teeth, her temper flaring. “You’re just jealous because you know that you wouldn’t have turned out the way Tristan did: kind and gentle. You would’ve ended up just like HIM, a vicious and twisted killer.”

Liam growled, feeling his own temper rise. “Get out.”

She didn’t say anything else as she got up and returned to her bedroom, leaving him simmering and hurt by her words . . . because they both knew it was true.

************

Loki was tired. His muscles ached, his legs were ready to give out beneath him, and his eyes were weary and blood shot. His entire body was begging him to rest and get some much needed sleep but his mind refused. Not yet, it said, there was still much to be done.

Mind over body, he mentally chanted to himself. He drank more coffee and continued to look through the papers and pictures that were scattered all over his office desk.

The mystery of Tristan Devril Aerilous was nagging at him badly like an infected wound that wouldn’t heal. His past was shrouded in obscurity. While the other teens’ personal history and other background information had come easily, Tristan’s had been hard to come by. It was like the boy barely existed. That and the Angelus from his dimension had been very judicious about any details about the boy leaking out to the underworld.

Usually there were demons everywhere more than willing to talk after a few threats or small bribes but they had come across only empty leads.

There had to be a good reason why they had only gathered a few little facts about Tristan. The boy was a psychic, that much was obvious, and he was also a soothsayer. It was very little information on a boy who could very well be the downfall of this mission. With Tristan on the White Hats side, things were bound to get more difficult.

That boy was powerful. Too powerful, and thus Angel and his crack team had further advantage over Loki and his family’s cause.

“Sir?”

“Yes,” he replied with a frown.

The Frenchman entered, followed closely by an old woman with a weather beaten face and deeply hunched back. She teetered inside clutching a polished mahogany cane, her expression mirthless and her mouth tight. Loki narrowed his eyes, noting closely the black pit where her left eye should be.

“Madame Luwina,” he greeted, standing from his chair in greeting and respect.

The old woman’s mouth tightened further as she stood before him, her chin high in the air. “I know what you want, Devil Child,” she said, her voice raspy and deep.

Loki said nothing.

“You want me to read someone for you.” She took out a glass ball from her pocket and popped it into her empty left eye. “I see you want to question me about a boy.” She scoffed, “Unfortunately, I don’t help the likes of you.”

Loki smirked, deeply amused. “Hmm . . . that’s interesting because you have no choice in the matter.”

“I will always have a choice,” she said with pride and conviction, “I’m an old woman. Do your worst. I expect nothing less from a fiend like you.”

Loki’s sneer never faded. “As I said before you have no choice in the matter.”

With a slight nod to the Frenchman he turned to look out the large suite windows that overlooked LA, his eyes darkening as the woman screamed.

************

Austin wasn’t sure what woke him up in the middle of the night. Maybe it was the palpable tension that was currently smothering the atmosphere of the Hyperion. Maybe it was the fact that every one of his siblings except Tristan was still awake.

Getting up from bed he crept quietly out of his bedroom, his eyes adjusting to the darkness of the hallway. With his heightened senses he heard Liam and Eliza conversing in one of their adjoining bedrooms, he heard the soft sniffles of Ariella and Brooke’s silent pacing. Even Aiden was up tonight, out on his balcony, the telltale scent of cigarette smoke lingering in the air.

There would be no rest for his siblings tonight. Too many emotions were wound too tightly.

He crept down the stairs, a single lamp in the lobby his only source of light. Making his way to the kitchen to get a glass of water, he stopped short on his journey at the sound of fists meeting leather.

Frowning, he walked quietly down to the basement, and found Paige beating an innocent punching bag, tears streaming down her cheeks as she kicked and pummeled without any sort of technique or discipline.

“Paige?” he asked softly.

The little blond looked up at him, her lips trembling slightly as she whispered his name and then collapsed onto the floor with a broken sob. Austin watched her for a moment as she hugged her self, swaying her body back and forth in order to simulate a rocking motion that comforted all human beings.

He approached her carefully, knowing very well how confused and vulnerable she was. “Paige?” he asked again.

With a strangled cry the young woman lunged at him, clinging onto him as though she was in danger of drowning in a sea of grief. “I’m trying to be strong!” she cried out, “But Tristan almost died in front of me.”

“I know,” he whispered.

“I'm scared, Austin,” she sobbed. “I'm so scared that if anything happens I'll just freeze. I want to go back home. I'm not ready for any of this!”

Austin held her more tightly against him, sensing her vulnerability along with her fear. He was glad that she could finally admit it. He knew that she had been lying when she had told him, on this very mat, that she wasn’t afraid of dying. He hadn’t believed her then. Everyone had a fear of death no matter how brave they believed themselves to be.

“Destiny never waits, Paige.”

“I don't want to do this....”

“I know.” Austin smiled, “But you will, because it's in you.”

He smoothed long golden stresses as he let her continue to cry in his arms.

************

Aiden stared at the door, dreading the scene behind it. His mother was currently in the shower while Angel was downstairs in the kitchen making coffee, which was his lame excuse to brood alone for a moment or two.

He opened the door into the dark room. There were no sounds except for the raspy breathing of his injured young brother who lay motionless on the large bed. Aiden swallowed hard and stumbled a bit when he realized he was not alone.

“Ariella?” he asked.

She looked up from her perch on a small seat by the bed. Aiden could clearly see the glistening tears on her face and her small hands that held Tristan’s much larger ones. “He looks so . . . ” she didn’t finish the sentence before she broke down into a fresh new wave of sobs.

Just like a typical male, though he may try and deny it time and time again, Aiden was helpless against a female’s tears, especially that of a young girl who looked as broken as the young boy who lay motionless on the bed.

“Hey,” he said, feeling awkward and unsure as he crouched down next to her and slipped a strand of her brown hair behind her ear, “None of that now.”

“I can’t help it,” she wailed quietly, not wanting to disturb Tristan’s sleep, “He could’ve died. I don’t want him to die. I don’t want anyone to die!”

“Hey,” he said and then awkwardly hugged her close. “I don’t think Tristan would appreciate you crying over him. Knowing him he’d want you to be strong. Gotta keep that chin up, you know.”

Her sobs slowly quieted into small hiccups before she got off the seat and curled up in Aiden's arms. He uncomfortably settled on the hardwood floor of the bedroom, gently patting her head as her tears continued to flow and soak his shirt.

“I’m afraid,” she suddenly confessed.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” he replied honestly, because he knew that everyone, including himself, would do whatever it took to keep her safe. “I’m here. We’re all here, and we’ll take care of you...and each other.”

And that was how Austin and Paige found them. Aiden glanced up at their entrance before Ariella stood from his embrace and lunged at the pair. Paige broke out into tears and Ariella clung to her. And they held onto each other, crying. Austin and Aiden exchanged a look.

Aiden rolled his eyes and sat back on the chair Ariella had occupied, his hands folded against the back of his head.

Austin patted Ariella on her back and all remained silent until door suddenly opened revealing an irate looking Brooke pulling along a stunned Eliza with Connor right behind them, a sleazy kind of smirk on his face.

“Why are you so angry?” The young man asked.

Brooke faced Connor, a deadly finger stabbing at his chest. “You're stalking me and I don't like it.”

“Stalking you?” Connor scoffed. “You're kinda full of yourself, aren't ya? You're the one who bumped into me.”

“You were right outside my door.”

“Yeah, talking to Eliza who was making her way over here.”

“Shut up. You don't get to talk anymore.”

“Oh, well, excuse me-”

“Hey, can we not bicker right now. There's a sick boy in need of his rest,” Austin demanded.

“Yeah, seriously,” Aiden piped up. “The two of you should just make out already and spare us all this childish foreplay.”

“Go to hell.” Brooke crossed her arms but ended the argument by taking a seat on the bed near Tristan. She ran gentle fingers through his dark hair. “Is he gonna be okay?”

Austin sighed. “Looks like it.”

Eliza's soft sniffling led Ariella and Page to her and the three girls held onto each other and cried softly, Eliza murmuring quiet words of comfort.

“I knew you'd all be here.”

They looked to the doorway and found Angel with Liam right behind him, looking uncomfortable and avoiding eye contact with everyone. Ariella let out a soft cry and ran after him. Liam caught her in his arms, looking shocked and unsure as she wailed against his chest.

He cleared his throat. “It's -it's okay,” he whispered.

Angel placed a large hand on her head. “Everything's going to be fine,” he smiled awkwardly. “Tristan's going to be fine.”

“I hope so,” she sobbed, clutching at Liam as she gazed over at Tristan's still form. “I love him so much. And he makes the best pancakes ever,” she ended in a wail.

Everyone smiled. Ariella gave her love so freely that it was difficult not to love her back in return. Despite her numerous faults, she was joy.

************

Tristan was back in the limo with the tinted windows, staring out into the sunlight at the elementary school building. He watched his siblings as they continued to play, their laughter and happiness evident as they enjoyed the afternoon sun.

“Do you really think they’ll accept you, son?” a voice next to him asked again. “You’ll never be like them,” it continued as he continued to gaze longingly at the playground.

He watched as Ariella slid down the slide, hand in hand with Paige. Aiden was climbing a sturdy tree, precariously hanging upside down from a branch while Austin reprimanded him and demanded he get down before he broke his neck. Liam and Eliza were playing chase around Brooke as she built a castle from the sand.

“You’re my little boy,” the voice said proudly, “You’ll be more than what they are, mere humans with special powers . . . you’ll be a God.”

Tristan continued to gaze outside, longing to join the games . . . the warmth. “But, Papa, I don’t wanna be a God.”

The man to laugh intriguingly, “Don’t you want to be just like me?”

Tristan paused and then shook his head before looking into the dark, sinister eyes of his father that now looked angry and confused. “No, Father. Not this time,” Tristan said confidently. “I want to be just like them.”

He didn’t wait for Angelus’ reaction as he pushed open the limo door and ran out into the sun. The others looked up from the playground, laughed and called for him.

The little boy grinned and ran towards them.

Tristan woke feeling like he had been run over by a semi truck a million times over. His head pounded, his mouth was dry, his throat parched and his vision blurred. For a moment, he thought nothing in his life had changed. He was still on his father’s ship, sailing the waters of the seven seas, but as his eyes adjusted he realized that he was on steady land, in a brightly lit bedroom . . . with his mother crouched next to him sleeping.

He smiled tiredly, pushing weakly at a strand of hair that covered her eyes. Buffy Summers was a beautiful woman, even as a young child he knew and understood that his mother was stunning . . . but here, in the light of day, she was the image of perfection.

This was how he imagined his mother always. Bathed in the morning sun, hair flowing about her in gentle waves, her lips slightly parted as her mind drove away the nightmares for a few hours to give her only sweet dreams. He had missed her, so very much.

After she had died and his father took him to a life at sea, he had cried for her always until he learned in a very painful way that Angelus did not approve of any show of weakness. His father never physically abused him, but when he cried, someone died. He had quickly mastered his tears after watching the death of his nanny. That woman's death haunted him still.

Buffy’s eyes fluttered open and met his open and alert eyes. “You’re all right,” she whispered, her sleepy green eyes beginning to pool.

He could only nod and swallowed the lump in my throat. He stared at his mother, fearing her thoughts of him. “A-are you scared of me?”

Buffy looked stunned for a moment and began shaking her head. “Of course not,” she said softly, running her fingertips on his cheek. “I could never fear you. You're my son. Always.”

The tears began to flow and Tristan shut his eyes hard before opening them to look into his mother's loving gaze. “I love you, Mom.”

“I love you, sweetheart. I love you so much.”

************

The breakfast table was eerily quiet the next morning. Angel stared at the tired faces of his wards and knew they had barely gotten a wink of sleep last night. He understood how they felt. After finding the assembly in Tristan's bedroom he kicked them all out, demanding they sleep. He had then stayed up throughout the evening with Buffy as they kept a quiet vigil next to their son's bed.

The two of them had barely said a word to each other last night. It worried Angel. Even when they had been together as a couple he had done most of the listening while she ranted away about inconsequential things. And yet during her stay at LA they had scarcely gone past the niceties.

Angel frowned.

They had never been the type of couple that really sat down and tried to resolve their issues, but they had always been able to talk in a relaxed and comfortable manner. Things were never easy with Buffy, and he knew things could never go back to the way they were. He only hoped their relationship could grow from that. After all, they had children now.

Austin placed plates of sausages, eggs, toasts and bacon on the table but no one reached for any helpings. Even Aiden who was the bottomless pit of the group just sat and stared blankly at the steam rising from the hot food before them.

“The bacon’s too well done,” he commented in a bored tone.

Austin didn’t even bother to reply.

“Did someone die?”

Everyone looked up to find Tristan sitting comfortably on a wheelchair, a baby blue blanket tucked around his legs, a slight grin on his pale but alert face. Buffy stood behind him, pushing him through the kitchen doorway.

Angel grinned.

“No quips?” Tristan teased.

Ariella was the first to move as she got up from her chair and lunged at him. The injured teenager groaned from her tight embrace but didn’t complain as he grinned at all her gushing.

“Oh, Tristan,” she said, her voice muffled slightly against his neck, “I’m so glad you’re okay.” She cried loudly, her tears running down the back of his neck and soaking into his shirt. He smiled awkwardly at the foreign and tumultuous emotions that surged through him at her obvious distress.

He rested his cheek against her fragrant hair and smiled. “I’m okay.”

“Go easy on him, Ella,” Buffy said, gently pulling away her daughter from her hard grip.

The young girl sobbed again and threw herself at her mother. Buffy smiled and hugged her close, caressing her back in a soothing rhythm.

“You had us worried, you bloody bastard,” Aiden glared, getting up from his chair and moving closer to him, “The next time you pull some crazy stunt like that the least you could do is let us know before hand . . . like a hand signal or some kind of twitch.”

Tristan blinked. “Good morning to you, too.”

Aiden’s glare deepened as he flicked him lightly on the forehead. “You have some explaining to do but that can wait later. You hungry or what?”

Tristan hid a grin as he watched the blond pivot and grab a plate.

Buffy looked at Angel and motioned towards the door. He nodded silently and followed her into the office where he quietly closed the door. She looked around the private space, noting the black and white pictures on the green walls along with the oak desk and the piles of books everywhere.

He surreptitiously cleared his throat. “You wanted to talk?”

She turned around and nodded, eyes cast down. “I realize we have a lot to talk about but we just haven’t gotten down to it,” she began and then laughed, “So much has happened in just a few days and . . . I know we’re not necessarily known for our communication skills . . . .”

“I-I know,” Angel interrupted, stuffing his hands in his pocket before he followed the urge to touch her.

“So much has changed,” she continued, eyes straying everywhere except for him, “But I never wanted it to be like this.”

Angel looked up in surprise and felt his heart contract. This was it. Buffy was having second thoughts about the children. He could barely come to grips with the notion but at the same time he could understand. Buffy was barely 22 years old with the fate of the world on her shoulders. She didn’t need eight teens on that load . . . didn’t need him either. “It’s fine . . . .”

“No.” She shook her head, “I-I . . . .“ she stopped and stared at him with sad hazel eyes, “I-it hurts me to see us like this. For the past three days we’ve barely talked or even looked at each other.” She released an uncomfortable chuckle, “I might’ve pictured a lot of circumstances in which the two of us were stuck in but not this. Not where it’s so weird between us,” she said.

Angel’s mind stopped working. What was she trying to say? That she still loved him and that they could make things work?

“The kids deserve better than that.”

Angel’s heart plummeted and he looked away quickly before Buffy saw the flash of pain in his eyes.

“I mean . . . they deserve parents that can get along. And I want us to be able to put aside our differences for them. I think we can do it . . . right?”

“Yes,” he said roughly and then cleared his throat, “Yes, of course.”

She smiles. “I’m glad.”

He gave her a small but pained smile.

So this was it. She wanted to be friends. He smiled as they returned to the kitchen where some of the teens had begun fighting over the last few bacon strips left. He watched as Eliza got up to make more. Buffy laughed and kissed Tristan's forehead.

Children and friends with Buffy.

He sighed and smiled at her as she came forward with a mug of blood. He took it and drank.

This was more than what he deserved.

************

The blood dripping from Loki’s hand wasn’t an unusual occurrence. As his father’s right hand man he was often left to do the dirty deeds that called for the vital fluid that now ran down his fingertips onto the expensive antique rug beneath his leather shoes. But the fact that he was staring at the deep red stain with bewildered eyes, as though he had never seen it before, was something that was uncommon.

“Sir?”

“Take her home,” Loki said, finally taking out a handkerchief from his breast pocket to wipe away the blood from his hands.

“But-but she has yet to say anything valuable,” The Frenchman said, surprise lacing his voice.

“We have enough,” Loki growled, throwing away the stained linen on the desk.

“I f-forgive you,” a trembling voice said behind him.

He whipped around, blue eyes cold and enraged. “I never asked for your forgiveness, old woman,” he snarled deeply and with such contempt.

Blood dripped from the corner of her mouth as she stared weakly at him with her one wise milky gray eye. “But you shall receive it,” she said softly, eyes fluttering, “Bruised hearts like yours need mercy . . . because without the soothing balm of compassion it will continue to fester.”

“Your concern is wasted, madam, for I no longer have a heart,” Loki said through gritting teeth.

“So you believe,” she whispered.

Before anyone could blink, he swiftly grabbed the sword by the Frenchman’s hip and stabbed the gleaming steel into the woman’s chest. She gasped, eyes widening before her glass eye fell and broke into pieces on the wooden floor. Loki dug the sword deeper, his face inches from hers. He felt her warm gasp on his cheek as blood gushed out of her mouth in a bubbling flow. “Do I still deserve your compassion?” he gritted out, his eyes gleaming yellow.

“Yes.” She smiled, eyes fluttering closed. “And I still forgive you.”


TBC...

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