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.
Author's Note: I'm currently busy on a non-fiction writing project which will occupy most of my free time for the next few months. I am not abandoning any of my ongoing stories, but updates will be very slow.
by Marcus L. Rowland
"How do you feel?" asked Tara.
"I don't know," said Billie. "Maybe... maybe a little angry that Willow doesn't appreciate what I've done for her."
Part of her mind knew that what she was saying was wrong, and saw Willow and Tara exchange glances. But all her attention was on Tara, who said "I know what you mean. The stories I've heard about Angel, about the things he did when he lost his soul, they were difficult to ignore. I never really knew him though, not like Willow."
"She should be thankful."
"How do you mean?"
"She should thank God he's gone."
"That's an interesting idea. You mean she should say a prayer?"
"She should go to church. We all should. We need to..."
The remote part of her mind that wasn't under the spell heard Gunn whisper "You sure she's okay?", and Willow reply "Positive. Tara's good at this, better than I ever was. Billie can't hurt herself, and she just won't pay any attention to anything we do or say until the spell is broken. She kinda knows we're here, but for now Tara is the only person that can get her attention."
"I'm running a search on churches," said April. "What type would appeal to her?"
"She's Episcopalian," said Willow.
"There are forty-two Episcopalian churches in the Los Angeles area, I'll print a list sorted by distance from her home."
"Wait a second," said Fred, "Don't you want Holtz's church?"
"Fine, if you can tell us where to look that one up," said Cordelia.
"With a name like Holtz he's probably German descent, my guess would be Lutheran," said Wesley.
"Ninety Lutheran churches," April said a second later.
"Damn," said Gunn, "we could be days checking them all out, even if you were sure. Don't you have any way to find out?"
"I daresay that if I had a week to spend on research and access to the Watchers Council library I could find more. But failing that..."
"Billie," said Tara, "do you want to go to church now?" Billie nodded emphatically, there was nothing she wanted more.
"...we fortunately have another option."
"Billie, you'll have to give me directions," said Tara. "Better wash up first, it's been a long afternoon." She took Billie out to the washroom. The door didn't quite shut, and the part of Billie's brain that was still paying attention to the rest of the world heard Gunn ask "What about the rest of us?", and Wesley reply "Willow, I'd imagine you'll want to go with Tara and Billie."
"I think Gunn should travel with you, he's our best guide to Los Angeles, the rest of us can use Cordelia's truck and my car. And we'd better go armed."
"It's not a truck," said Cordelia, "it's an SUV."
"I'd better come in Willow's car," said Tom.
"There isn't room for you as well in that piece of crap," said Gunn. "There's barely room for the four of us."
"I wasn't thinking of bringing this body along."
"Man, this place just gets weirder."
Billie and Tara came out of the washroom, and Billie absently noticed Tom leaning back with his eyes closed and snoring rhythmically. Zap was perched on Willow's shoulder.
"Okay," said Tara. "Left at the next junction. Billie, are you sure?"
"Yes, that's the way we need to go," Billie said dreamily. "It isn't far now."
"This isn't anywhere near Billie's home," said Willow. "Must be where Holtz went."
"Why would he want a church?" asked Zap.
"Kinda good place to fight off a vampire, I guess," said Gunn. "Maybe he's got the priest supplying him with holy water."
"Zap, get April to ask Wes if Holtz had any history of working with the church."
There was a short silence, then Zap said "Cordelia says that Angel described him cooperating with a Catholic faction, a remnant of the Inquisition."
"No help," said Gunn. "Those guys are long gone."
"Not according to Wesley," Zap said after another pause. "There's still a militant faction, they sometimes work with the Watchers."
"Holtz probably knows how to find them. One thing about the Catholics, they're big on tradition."
"Here we are," said Billie, as the car slowed outside a small church in a run-down area near the docks. Tara kept the car moving, blocking Billie's attempt to undo her seat belt, and stopped a hundred yards down the road.
"Okay," said Tara. "Maybe you'd better just sip this before we go in." She handed Billie a thermos cup full of the mixture she'd made before, and said "Drink it slowly, kinda small sips. The first sip will make you feel a little better.. okay, that's good. Now with the second sip, I think you're kinda seeing things more clearly, looking at your surroundings... good. Now keep taking those slow sips, while I fix you up a little."
"Are you sure?" asked Willow.
"Willow?" said Billie, "where did you come from?"
"Been here all along, you were kinda out of it."
"Keep sipping," said Tara, "I'm gonna get rid of the rest of the spell. I've been feeling it out while we've been travelling, it'll just take a few minutes while we're waiting for the rest of the gang."
"Can I do anything to help?" asked Willow.
"Put your hand on my shoulder, I'm gonna have to borrow a little power from you."
"Be careful, sweetie."
"This is dreadful," said Billie, sipping the liquid. "Don't you still need me under the spell?"
"I think we've got what we wanted," said Willow, as Cordelia's SUV draw up behind the car. Tara muttered a few words and touched her hand to Billie's forehead, then seemed to draw something invisible and intangible from it, wrapping it around her fingers like a skein of wool, chanting softly in a language Billie didn't recognise.
"Just a little more," said Tara, "lift the veil of lies, drive out the mist of deception, and free this woman's mind, for the sake of truth and the Goddess. So mote it be!" She plunged her fingers into the thermos flask, rinsed them in the liquid, quickly screwed on the cap and shook it.
"Okay," said Willow, "one spell neutralised. That was great, I would have never thought of doing it that way."
"You're so powerful that you wouldn't need to," said Tara. "I'm not in that league, so I have to be sneaky."
"Careful, you mean. Billie, you're lucky Tara's here, if I'd tried to do that you'd have migraines for the next six months."
Tara carefully wiped her fingers and poured the liquid into the gutter. Billie felt queasy but reasonably sure that her mind was clear. Of course she'd felt that when she was under the spell.
"Is there any way you can stop them from putting another spell on me," she asked.
"We can protect you while we're with you," said Tara, "and I'll prepare a crystal for you, that'll shield you if the spell isn't too powerful."
"Thanks. Wasn't Zap in the car?"
"Yeah, he's scouting out the church."
April tapped on the passenger window and said "Zap's inside. He says Daniel Holtz and Justine Cooper are there."
"What are they doing?" asked Billie.
"Sitting in one of the pews."
"Do they have Connor with them?"
Willow hesitated, then said "Is he still alive."
"Yes. But Holtz and Cooper are both armed, they could easily harm him."
"Okay, let's go in," said Willow. "Billie, you up for a confrontation?"
"Of course I am, I want an explanation. I thought he was an honourable man."
"Okay... Billie, Tara, and April with me, I guess, I don't think he'll see us as much of a threat. I hope he doesn't know what we can do. The rest of you had better watch the exits. April, you and Zap keep in touch with the rest, you've got the mobile phone numbers?"
"Okey dokey, I've got them."
"You sure this is a good idea?" asked Gunn.
"I caused this, I think," said Willow. "Billie's his victim here, just as much as Angel was, and things wouldn't have gone down this way if I hadn't got Billie involved. I think we're the ones that have to get Connor back.
Cordelia, Wesley and Fred had joined the group while they were talking, and Cordelia said "I'm coming in too."
"I'm not sure that's a good idea," said Billie. "Holtz thinks of all of you as Angel's accomplices. He's a religious man, if we go in quietly, show some respect to the church, there might be some way to settle this without a fight. But if you come in with us that'll make it more difficult, I think."
Cordelia didn't look convinced, but said "Okay. We'll give you five minutes, if you haven't got somewhere by then we'll come in."
"Okay, but listen to your phones, in case we've making progress but need more time.
"Mister Holtz?" said Willow.
Holtz looked up, saw her with Billie, Tara, and April, and stood. Beside him Justine held Connor; Billie could see the glint of a knife in her hand. "Miss Rosenberg, I assume. Miss Newman. Ladies. What can I do for you?"
"Give us an explanation," said Billie, "and Connor."
"An explanation? You were a willing participant in our arrangement, Miss Newman, have you had second thoughts?"
"No she wasn't," said Willow. "You used a spell on her, some kinda variant of Rimbaldi's Entrapment."
"I can assure you I did not, Miss Rosenberg."
"Well, somebody has."
Tara gestured towards Justine and said "I can see it in her aura too."
"You really have no idea what's going on here, do you?" said Willow. "Justine, listen carefully. There's a spell on you, and I'm pretty sure it's trying to make you hurt Connor. I think you'd better put the baby down carefully."
"So you can take him away?" She held the knife closer to his throat.
"Mister Holtz," said Billie, "I think you'd better take Connor." He made no move to comply. "Are you going to let her kill him? What's the point? You have your revenge, Angel's dead."
"Is he? How do I know that this isn't all an elaborate trick?"
"So Angel... what, breaks the spell on Billie, puts a spell on Justine so she thinks she sees him dusted, and lets her walk out of the Hyperion with Connor? What the hell for?"
"Please don't blaspheme, this is a house of god."
"Okaay... what on earth for?"
"He's a monster, Miss Rosenberg, to him the child is a minor consideration."
"You really believe that? After what you've seen him do to keep Connor from harm?"
"I know that I have cast no spells, so you are wrong about that. Why should I trust you in other matters?"
"Boy, someone's really done a number on you, haven't they?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Someone brought you from the past to kill Angel, is that right?"
"To get my revenge on Angelus, yes."
"This someone... what's in it for him? Is he even human?"
"I have no idea. And no, he isn't human."
"Think he's a good guy?"
"I doubt it."
"Okay, so this guy transports you through time and space to Los Angeles, that takes powerful magic. He gets you here just a couple of days before Connor is born, is that right?" Holtz nodded. "Think that's just a coincidence?"
"This was never about you or Angel," said Billie, "Whatever this thing is that put a spell on you, it doesn't care about your revenge. It's after Connor. An innocent child."
"The child of two vampires, Miss Newman. Hardly an innocent."
"But he isn't a vampire, is he?" said Willow. "You've had him out in daylight, and I'll bet the first thing you did was touch a cross to him. Am I right?" Holtz nodded. "Tried holy water? Communion wafers?" He nodded again.
"He's a baby, far as we can tell kinda ordinary. He isn't any kinda monster. That means he's an innocent, you really gonna let her hurt him?"
Holtz looked at Justine, and saw the knife at Connor's throat. "Put the knife away, Miss Cooper."
"Why should I? Are you going to take the word of that dyke, you know the kid's evil!"
"Do I?" Holtz asked quietly, "When have I said so?"
"See what I mean?" said Willow. "The thing that brought you here, it's got her pretty much under its thumb, worse than Billie was. You'd better be ready to catch Connor, mister Holtz."
There was a quiet buzz, and Justine slumped sideways, releasing Connor as she collapsed onto the pew. Holtz caught him before he fell to the floor.
"How did you do that? Magic?"
"No." Billie thought she saw Zap under the pew, his fur suddenly a near-perfect match for the dimly lit floor.
"And now I suppose you plan to do the same to me," said Holtz.
"Not yet, not if you don't make me. I want to make a deal with you, end this without anyone else getting hurt."
"You surprise me."
"What's the good of hurting you? It isn't gonna bring Angel back. We could go on like this, chasing around with Connor in the middle, but that's not what any of us need."
A priest entered the church, genuflected at the altar, then came over to Holtz. "When you're ready, my son, we can perform the ceremony."
"Would you give us a few minutes?"
"It really is quite important."
"Very well." The priest went back to the altar, genuflected again, and disappeared through a side door.
"What ceremony?" asked Billie.
"Isn't it obvious?" said Holtz. "I want to be quite sure that the child is free of evil influences. I want him baptized."
"That's it?" said Willow, "Your master plan was to kidnap Connor and get him baptized?"
"That and remove him from Angelus. Bring him up to fight his evil, and eventually confront him."
"So you and Justine were going to set up house somewhere, bring up Connor as your kid, and raise him to fight vampires?"
"Still think that's a good idea?"
"Possibly not. Angelus is really dead?"
"He's dead and dusted."
Holtz seemed to be at a loss. Willow gestured towards Justine, and said "You really think she'd make a good mom?" Holtz shrugged.
"Can I make a suggestion?" said Billie, "Why don't we get Connor baptized, I think that's a good idea, then go back to the Hyperion and discuss things."
"Why should I agree to that?" said Holtz.
"Because there are.. um.. eight of us here and one of you," said Willow, "I can have you knocked out the same way as Justine if I want to, it'll happen without warning if you try to hurt anyone or take Connor away, and it's kinda bad to fight in church?"
"Good points. Very well, I agree."
"Okay... April, get the others in, we'll get Connor baptized and head back to the Hyperion for lunch."