This is a BtVS / Angel / Lou Grant crossover fiction, a sequel to my earlier story Family Issues, a BtVS / Men in Black crossover. It isn't necessary to have read Family Issues, all essential information will be included in this story, but it helps. For details of how this story ties into series continuity see part I. For more information on the Lou Grant TV series see the author's note, published as a separate chapter (at the end of chapter 1 on fanfiction.net)
Characters and settings are used without permission, and with no intention of damaging copyright in the original stories. This story may not be distributed on any profit-making basis. Distribution Fanfiction.net, Twisting The Hellmouth, Fonts of Wisdom, other sites please ask. I'm British, so's my spelling - live with it.
by Marcus L. Rowland
"That went pretty well," Justine said that evening after Billie's other visitors had left.
"Willow didn't suspect anything," said Billie, "if that's what you mean."
"It's a good thing that she had to leave to pick up her friend's sister," said Justine, "I was running out of family to talk about."
"I don't think you made any mistakes with the information I gave Holtz. I'm reasonably sure she was convinced. Let's hope she doesn't dig too closely into that side of the family, while there are a few Coopers there's nobody even remotely near your age."
"It was too good a coincidence not to use it. I could have got fake ID but you said she's a hacker, I didn't want to take a chance that she'd find out I didn't exist. Anyway, if she's friends with a vampire she can't be a very good judge of character, I suppose. It's odd, she seems smart in other ways."
"You haven't met him, have you?"
"Angelus? Or I guess I should get used to calling him Angel. No."
"He's amazingly convincing, like any clever psychopath, and I think he's deceiving himself as much as anyone else. He genuinely believes that he and the demon are separate beings. For all I know he's right, of course. It doesn't make any difference. He's a danger to everyone around him, including Willow and the baby. Especially Willow."
"Why?" asked Holtz, coming in from the dark garden. Billie was a little startled by his arrival, and almost told him that Willow had cast the spell to restore Angel's soul, or whatever it really was, but she was still half-convinced that Holtz might kill Willow if he knew she was a witch so improvised a less revealing answer. "She's the best friend of that girl in Sunnydale, the vampire slayer, and she's often in Los Angeles. If Angel becomes evil she's the logical target for him, hurting her would upset her friend."
"Perhaps. Yes, you may be right. It was how he behaved in my day, killing entire families, one at a time, so that the last survivors were insane with grief and fear. This.. this souled creature, this Angel, has friends, they and the child would be the first to die if Angelus were released."
"You believe it, don't you?" asked Billie. "That he has a soul, I mean. That he isn't just the monster any more."
"Does it matter? Whether he becomes Angelus by losing a soul or his self-control, the result is the same. Death for those around him."
"If I was sure he would never kill again..."
"Do you wish to end our agreement?"
"No. No, I don't. It's too big a risk to take. Something could trigger him... today, tomorrow, in six months or six years. I'm prepared to do my part, how about you? Are you still willing to keep to your side of the deal?"
"Yes. No harm to your niece, the child, or Angelus' associates. A quick death for the vampire."
"Okay. When do we do it then?" asked Justine.
"The equipment Miss Newman suggested is almost ready. There are some problems with the mechanism, but they should be resolved shortly. When will your niece be in Los Angeles again?"
"On Wednesday," said Billie, "another business meeting."
"That might be too soon. Has she asked you to meet her?"
"No. I think it's going to be a flying visit."
"When after that?"
"Next weekend. She's coming in with her secretary and a friend to set up their suite at the Hyperion."
"This friend, is she the Slayer?"
"No, the girl you met a couple of weeks ago. Willow's girlfriend."
Billie was furious with herself for letting that slip.
"Her lover," said Justine. "Should have spotted that she was gay, but I guess she isn't interested in relatives that way."
"I see." Billie guessed that Holtz wasn't comfortable with the information but he didn't comment. Instead he said "The equipment ought to be ready by the weekend. Perhaps you and Justine could visit with a suitable gift; a plant, perhaps, a bottle of wine to celebrate the new beginning, or some sort of ornament. Your arm is still in a sling, there would be nothing unusual about you asking Justine to help you. There might be an opportunity for you to deal with Angelus, even if there is not you will be able to show Justine around the hotel without arousing suspicion. If we can get them used to your presence, they will pay less attention to your movements."
"What about Wolfram and Hart?"
"What about them?" Holtz asked dismissively.
"Do you agree that it was probably them that tried to kidnap me?"
"Then what are they up to now? Will they try to interfere?"
"That's a good question," said Holtz. "Some time ago I talked to Lila Morgan and made it clear to her that it would be... unfortunate if they interfered with my plans. My impression is that their main interest is in the child. She herself would probably be grateful for the destruction of Angelus, but for some reason her superiors want him left alive. I haven't seen the woman since the attempt to kidnap you, would you like me to do so?"
"I don't think so. My guess, my hope, is that they've given up on whatever they had planned, things got too public for them. I wouldn't want to remind them that I'm a loose end. So why are they interested in Connor? What's so special about him?"
"A child of two vampires, apparently human?"
"When you put it that way, I suppose they must be curious about him."
"I want to make sure he'll be safe once Angel is out of the picture. After all, I'm one of his godparents now."
"You have my word that I'll do everything in my power to see that he comes to no harm," Holtz said patiently, "and I think that we can agree that the best way to be sure of that is if Angelus no longer poses a threat to him. His associates are competent to look after the child, and I am sure will do so."
"Okay... I guess you're right."
"All right," said Justine, "if we're agreed, let's go through this one more time, make sure that we'll be ready if we do get a chance at Angel..."
On Saturday morning Billie parked her car behind the Hyperion and held the door open while Justine carried in a blue ceramic pot, about a foot wide and two high, containing a tropical plant with stripy green and white leaves the size of large plates. Cordelia met them in the lobby. She was wearing green coveralls and carrying an electric drill.
"Cordelia, this is Willow's third cousin Justine, Justine Cooper. Justine, this is Cordelia Chase."
"Do you want me to help you with that?" asked Cordelia.
"No, it's fine," said Justine.
"How's everything going with Willow's suite?" asked Billie.
"The decorators finished on Thursday, and Willow and April just swept the place for bugs. Only found eight, Wolfram and Hart must be slipping."
"Why do you think it's Wolfram and Hart?"
"Because it always is. They don't give up easily."
"Wolfram and Hart?" asked Justine, playing her role of clueless cousin to the hilt.
"Lawyers," said Cordelia, in the tone of voice she usually reserved for cockroaches. "They like to keep tabs on us."
"What's the drill for?" asked Billie.
"Willow's putting in her computer network, they need to go through a couple of walls and put a satellite dish on the roof."
"Shouldn't they have put the cables in before you decorated?"
"They didn't want to risk the network being bugged. The workmen did put in some of the ducts for the cables, but they're going to put the wiring and hardware in for themselves."
"Where can I find them?"
"Top floor, used to be a conference suite and the bridal suite. We might as well take the lift, it's just been repaired."
"What was wrong with it?"
"It was kinda destroyed a few weeks ago, we weren't using it but Willow paid to have it fixed instead of a deposit on the suite."
"You're spending a lot to get ready for her."
"Actually, Willow's the one spending the money right now, although eventually she'll be getting it back. You remember Anya, our friend that got married a few weeks ago?" The lift arrived and they got in. "She came up with an interesting business plan for the Hyperion, redevelopment as a dozen or so corporate suites like Willow's, with the restaurant re-opening and used as a night club in the evening. Willow's funding it at a good interest rate, Lorne's coming on board to run the restaurant and club, we provide the building, services, and so forth. It ought to work pretty well, especially with Willow's company based here to set the pace." The lift stopped and they got out in a lobby that smelled strongly of paint. She led them through a large office, filled with boxed computers and office equipment and furniture, and back towards the sound of people talking.
"..at least Buffy and Spike aren't all over each other quite as much," said Willow, "it was kinda embarrassing for a while, but I think the honeymoon's kinda over. She's making him wipe his feet and go outside if he wants to smoke, and I think he's beginning to realise that she isn't exactly miss perfect herself."
"You made them sound so right for each other," said Fred, "don't tell me it's going sour already?"
"Not exactly," said Tara, "but I think they're starting to notice more of each other's flaws."
"It's one of those relationships that work well when it's new and exciting and a secret," Willow said as the others came in, "but I think the gloss is beginning to wear off a little now that everyone knows and they're more used to each other. Aunt Billie, Justine, hi!" Willow was wearing pink overalls with a picture of a kitten and looked about fifteen, and was up a ladder running a stud-finder over the ceiling. "Just give me a second to finish checking here and I'll be with you." Tara was holding the ladder steady, Fred was making notes on a pad.
"We bought you a little office-warming gift," said Billie. "I was worried that you might not have room for something this size, but I don't think it'll be a problem. This place is huge."
"Better put it on one of the crates," said Willow, making some marks on the ceiling with a pencil. "We're probably going to have a permanent staff of ten or twelve people here eventually, so it needs to be big." She climbed down and kissed Billie and Justine then looked at the plant. "Hmm... Calathea orbifolia?"
"That's right," said Billie, looking at the label. "How did you know?"
"Some Brazilian tribes use the dried leaves in magical rituals," said Tara.
"Really?" asked Justine.
"We've both worked in a shop that sells that sort of thing," Willow said a little evasively. "I don't do that any more, but some of it sticks. Oh, forgot to say. Tara, Fred, this is my cousin Justine, Justine Cooper. Justine, this is Tara McClay, my girlfriend, and Winifred Berkle."
"What are you doing to the ceiling?" asked Billie.
"Trying to find a good spot to fit a video projector for presentations. There's a beam where I've marked, ought to take the weight well enough."
"How will you get the cables to it? I don't see any ducts up there."
"There's a ventilation duct runs pretty close, we just need to run the cables through that and drill a hole. Tom'll get them through, he's pretty good at that sort of thing." Billie realised that Tom... or rather Zap... was small enough to walk through the ducts.
"Isn't he here today?"
"Not right now, he and April are out with Gunn and Wesley picking up the computers."
"What about Angel?"
"Oh, he's downstairs watching Connor and brooding."
"He's worried about things," said Cordelia, "this business suite idea has taken a lot of the financial pressure off us, but there's still Wolfram and Hart, and Holtz, and all the other odd stuff that seems to happen around us."
"What sort of stuff is that?" asked Justine.
"Well... we're private detectives," said Cordelia, "and Angel kinda specialises in unusual cases, things that the police and other detectives don't want to know about. Sometimes that means we have to deal with very strange people, and some of them hold grudges."
"We really didn't get into that when we met last weekend," said Willow, "a lot of what Angel does is kinda confidential, and sometimes he has to... work around the law a little. It's difficult to explain."
"That's okay," said Justine, "I totally get it, he's gay and so are his clients. I totally understand."
"Maybe we should leave it at that," Billie said hastily. She knew that Justine was playing dumb, but this was taking it too far.
"Okay." The others nodded agreement. "I've got to get on to my yoga class anyway," said Justine, "it was nice meeting you all. Willow, I'll see you soon. Billie, I'll wait for you in the car."
"Oh, is it that late?"
"No, I've got about half an hour before I have to leave, but I don't want the car to get towed. See you outside."
"Okay, I'll be down in twenty minutes."
She went out, and Billie said "She wouldn't believe what you really do if you told her."
"She's lucky," said Willow, "I guess she's never had to deal with our sort of problem. Let's hope for her sake that she never has to."
"Right," said Billie. "I'd better see about joining her, I've already taken up too much of her time. Willow, I hope you'll let me know when you're opening the office, I'd like to have a reporter here before the rush starts. That reminds me, I really must say 'Hi' to Angel while I'm here and see if I can persuade him to give an interview to the Trib."
"No chance," said Cordelia, "he really hates publicity."
"I was thinking more in terms of something for the business pages about these suites you'll be offering. Although something about Angel Investigations would also be good."
"You could give it a try, might be worth a shot."
"All right. Well, I'd better get on. Good luck with the wiring." She kissed Willow and went back to the lift and down to the lobby. Justine was waiting on a comfortable-looking chair, reading a magazine. Billie said "I'm just going to pop in to see Angel and the baby."
"I'd like to meet this mystery man for myself," said Justine, giving Billie a meaningful nod.
"Okay." Billie knocked on Angel's office door, and he came out carrying Connor on his arm. "Angel, I'd like you to meet Willow's cousin, Justine Cooper."
"It's a pleasure," said Angel, "I didn't know Willow had any other living relatives."
"We're related by marriage," said Justine. "That's a cute little girl."
"Boy," said Angel, "Connor's a boy."
"Sorry. He is cute though, can I hold him for a second?"
"Well..." Fatherly pride and protectiveness fought a short battle, and eventually pride won. He gently handed the baby to Justine, saying "He's got my nose, I think."
"Maybe," said Billie, moving round to Justine's side. "It's difficult to tell." She casually moved her arm, in its sling, until it was pointing at his chest, then pulled the trigger of the weapon it concealed. A powerful spring fired a stake into Angel's heart. There was a soft "whoosh" and his dust showered onto the floor.
"Put the baby back into his crib and we'll get out of here," said Billie.
"Okay," said Justine, nervously reaching into her bag for a cigarette.
"Don't smoke near the baby."
"Sorry." She put the cigarettes back into her bag and pulled out a black plastic box about the size of a bar of soap.
"What's that?" asked Billie.
"A small change in plans," said Justine, touching the Taser to Billie's other arm. As Billie collapsed she put it back into her bag and walked out, still carrying Connor.
To Be Continued
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