Title: Little Debbie (parts 4-6)
From: Angel, early season 3
Warnings: None, couple of words here and there. No spoilers, unless you haven't seen the show.
Rating: PG-13, or whatever the "local" equivalents are.

***4***

After making sure Wesley could handle the situation, primarily the now restless baby, Angel descended the stairs. Cordelia stood at the end of the balustrade, next to three tall, bulky men whose heads seem to rest squarely on their shoulders, without the aid of necks.

"Uh," she began, "these are the guys looking for their nephew and niece. The ones I told you about last night. When you're done talking to them, can you help me catch the rat?"

"Yes. Don't you have inventory in the kitchen to take care of?"

"I'm on it," Cordelia said, leaving the men alone.

"You're looking for little kids?" Angel leaned against the reception desk and crossed his arms over his chest.

"They were seen running this way last night. The boy ran away from home," the man in the middle said. Angel noticed that his hair was dyed the dark bluish-black normally found in comic books. He was surprised Cordelia hadn’t mentioned it, or their lack of necks.

"Well, there aren't any here. I don't allow children on the premises. How old did you say they were?"

"I didn’t, but he's eleven and she's two."

"Both ran away? Why?"

"Probably confused or wanted to go home. They're new in the area. From Omaha."

"Been there. I can understand why they'd want to go back. Do you have a picture?"

"Not on me, no."

"A phone number in case we see them?"

"Got pen and paper?"

"Sure," Angel leaned over the counter and brought out a pad of paper and a pen.

"I'm surprised anyone's redoing this place," one of the silent men said. "I heard it was haunted. You know, demons, ghosts and shit like that."

"You believe that?" Angel queried.

The man snorted, "Yeah, right. Along with vampires and werewolves. You're going to have a hard time getting people to come here, that's all. I lived in this neighborhood a long time ago."

"You don't say," Angel remarked as he took the paper from the first man's hand. "You gave my secretary the description last night, right?" The man nodded as he looked around the foyer. "I'll call you if I see any children. You might want to inform the police as well," Angel suggested, folding the paper. "Talk to a Detective Lockley. Tell her Angel told you to call."

"Sure thing. Lockley. Thanks. We better get back to our search."

"Yep. Good luck," Angel agreed, watching as the men left the building. "Cordelia!"

She peered out of the kitchen, "Yeah?"

"Phone number," he said, putting the piece of paper next to her computer. "Probably false."

"Right. How are they?" Cordelia sat by the computer.  

"Wesley offered to go to McDonalds. I'll go tell him he can leave. See what you can find on Baxter at that address you went to. Without telling me you were going."

"We said sorry. Sheesh."

***

The petite blonde huddled and shivered in the damp, putrid darkness. "Do you think they're all right, Jake? Jason's only ten. And Debbie, …" She began to sob uncontrollably.

"Natalie, they're fine. Jason's very resourceful. He'll handle things. And Debbie's as good as gold. They're fine, honey. Just fine."

Jake held his wife and looked up at the shafts of sunlight poking through the small holes in the manhole cover. "Please let them be all right," he prayed.

"I just wish I knew what everyone is prattling on about, Jake. Slayers, vampires and Watchers. Insane rot like that. Poor Jason."

 

***5***

Debbie was tolerating the crib Angel had set up for her, quietly examining an old toy Cordelia had found and scrubbed. And scrubbed, and scrubbed, she claimed. Jason was on the bed, stuffing food into his mouth at an astonishing rate; he barely managed to chew at all before he swallowed and stuffed more in. A human chipmunk hybrid. 

Or so it seemed to the ex-Watcher as he sat in an armchair, observing it all from across the room. 

"Is that all right?" Wesley asked, gesturing to the meal.

"Oh, yeah." Jason grinned. "This is so cool. Mom doesn't let me have large, ever."

"She doesn't? She'll have me drawn and quartered."

"Pwowy," the boy mumbled.

"Pardon?"

Jason swallowed the fries. "I said 'probably'. She has three big brothers and Dad says they're totally petrified of her. He says they sent her to America so they'd live to have children. Mom doesn’t take guff from anybody."

Wesley snickered. "Thanks for the warning."

Jason looked at his sister as she gleefully threw the toy out of the crib and watched it bounce across the floor. "We had to wait a long time for Debs," he noted quietly, oblivious to the puzzled look on the older man's face. "But she's okay. Real quiet for a baby."

"I noticed." Wesley got up to retrieve the toy from under the wardrobe.

"And strong, too."

"Strong?" Wesley repeated, lost in the task of cleaning the dust from the toy. He crossed the room and held the toy out to Debbie.

"Wow, yeah. Once she dragged the cat across the entire living room!" Jason added with childish pride, taking a huge bite out of his Big Mac.

"Hmm," Wesley murmured absent-mindedly while he watched Debbie stare at him. She took the toy from his hand and let it drop to the floor. Confounded, Wesley shrugged and turned to face Jason. Behind him, he heard Debbie flounce down on the mattress.

Jason swallowed his food this time. "By the tail. She was nine months old."

Suddenly, Wesley realized what the boy had said. " I see. Poor cat. Nine months old. That's something, eh, Jason?"

"It was funny, but the cat didn't like it," he admitted, finishing off his fries. "Debbie likes Angel."

Wesley quirked an eyebrow. "And you don't?"

Jason shrugged as he drank his Coke. "He's weird."

"Weird? How so?"

"Something's not —" Jason stopped and balled up the wrappers from his meal. He shot the papers into the wastebasket. "Mom says I have an overactive imagination. Says I spend too much time locked up alone."  

Wesley furrowed his brow. "Really? Why are you locked up and alone?"

"Oh." Jason slid off the bed and went to cover his drowsy sister with a small blanket. "I just go into my room by myself and read. Mom hates it when I do that. Wants me outside playing or downstairs with them."

"Aha, I see. And your father?"

"He says it's okay, so long as they know what I'm reading. I was reading Harry Potter again." He turned and looked across the room. "Wesley?"

"Yes?"

"You'll find them?"

"We're trying. Why don’t you rest, too? Especially since you’re the only one who seems to know what to do for your sister. We'll undoubtedly need your assistance later."

"Yeah, you guys suck at babysitting."

"I'm afraid that's so," Wesley agreed as he went to the door. "By the way, Jason. What was your mother's name before she married your father?"

"Masterton. Natalie Masterton. Well, it still is Natalie, huh?"

"Yes. I'll be downstairs if you need something."

Wesley watched Jason lie down, then quietly closed the door behind him. He slowly walked down the stairs and wondered what they had gotten embroiled in.

"Anything?" Angel asked.

"Normal. Wish I'd had parents like his," he mused. "He did mention that Debbie is unusually quiet —"

"Noticed," Angel agreed.

Wesley nodded and continued, "and he said 'strong' as in dragged-the-cat-across-the-room-before-she-could-walk strong."

"Tiger by the tail," Cordelia chimed in from behind her computer. "I can picture her doing that, though I'm not sure which is the tiger."

"Did he say anything else, Wesley?"

"His mother's maiden name was 'Masterton'."

"Willow would be so proud," Cordelia beamed as she watched information print out. "Maybe I could call her and gloat?"

"What reason could you possibly have to gloat?"

"First, Wesley, I found the family in Delaware. Their grandparents emigrated from England. The aunt who died? She was working for a publishing firm based in London, researching some historical stuff in Europe, when she was in a car accident and died. Here," she handed them the obituary, "you can read it yourself."

"Budapest. Doesn't tell us why," Angel said as he passed the page on to Wesley.

"Fine, be that way. Here's another one, then. I'd already found the mother's maiden name. So, I looked up the family in newspapers in Manchester."

"They're in the newspapers? These people are well-known?" Angel asked.

"Not. Just normal birth, marriage and death notices. But they're there. The kids' grandmother, Imogene, died two years ago. Their uncles are," Cordelia paused and looked at Wesley, "and here I gotta say that you British have weird names: Bernard, Neville, and Clive."

"What's wrong with those?" Wesley demanded. "Perfectly normal, Anglo-Saxon names. Better than Willow, Buffy… oh, sorry, Angel."

Angel chuckled and shook his head. "What else? That gives us nothing, Cordelia."

"That's it, so far. Nothing. They're just normal people."

"Who've apparently disappeared from the face of the earth," Kate announced.

 

***6***

Kate looked at Wesley. "That was you who called?" He nodded. "I take it you haven't found them either?" They all shook their heads.

"Did a gravelly-voiced guy call about the kids?" Cordelia asked.

"No, why? Was he supposed to?"

"No, but now I owe Wesley dinner. How's 'Big Boy' sound?"

"He was here," Angel informed Kate, "asking about two children: a boy eleven —"

"Ten," Cordelia interrupted.

Angel glared at her. "He said eleven."

"The night before he told us 'maybe ten', end quote," Wesley added.

"And a baby who's two," Angel finished.

"Well, the boy is ten but the baby's just over one," Kate said as she handed them a photograph. "This is the whole family, dated three months ago. If you find them or find out why someone's after them, give me a call."

"Will try," Cordelia assured her.

"That was not a request. I expect to hear something from you," Kate said as she left.

Wesley turned to Angel. "Demons, perhaps?"

"The men? No. Human. I could smell their blood."

"And after-shave," Cordelia added. "Cheap stuff. And did you see that guy's hair? Because I just know you noticed they had no necks."  

Angel tried to ignore her. "Wesley, have you heard either name before?"

"Masterton? Baxter? Yes, but hardly in a vision-worthy context. They're not uncommon surnames."

From the top of the stairs came the muffled sounds of a crying baby. The three turned their heads toward the sound, then looked at each other.

"Shall we draw lots?"

***

They were chasing her. Men with scarlet satin-lined capes and blood red eyes. Running after her and Jake, yelling for Jason and Debbie. She and Jake were running straight for the open arms of her mother.

"Nat. Nat, wake up," Jake whispered in her ear, brushing the chin-length, honey blond hair away from her face. He tried to shift his weight, but the circulation in his legs had cut out about an hour after he'd pulled her onto his lap.

"They were chasing me, Jacob. They wanted the kids, but we couldn't find them. They had such red eyes, the color of blood—"

"Christopher Lee," Jake informed her.

"Eh?"

"He was Dracula in the Hammer movies. Always had red eyes. You remembered what those men said three weeks ago and merged it with B-movies about vampires."

"We were running to my mother."

"Well, one of the goons was British, and my family's gone. Maybe your family has the answers?"

Natalie nodded. "We should get to a phone."

Jake kissed her forehead. "In a bit, hon. I can't move my legs right now. It'll be dark soon. Then we can get out of the sewers."

***

Having finished painting with the banana-flavored baby cereal Cordelia had prepared, Debbie stood on Angel's lap and wobbled and danced. He held her by the waist and dodged her grabbing hands. Persistent beyond measure, Debbie finally seized a handful of his hair and yanked.

"Ouch! Let go!" Angel pried her hand open, turned her around and tried to get her to bend at the waist. "Sit down, you hellion." Sensing even more potential fun in the new game, Debbie danced, marched and bounced even harder. "Careful, you! You're going to damage something."

"This makes for a Kodak moment," Cordelia whispered as she entered the room, glancing over at the sleeping boy. "That's some lap dance you're getting."

Angel growled softly. "Where's Wesley? And isn't it your turn yet?"

"Talking to Gunn, since it's broad daylight. And you still have almost two hours until dusk. Price you pay."

"Find anything more?"

"Just more normal stuff. The parents met at college and got married after they graduated. He's a city planner and she's—"

Unexpectedly, Debbie flounced down on Angel's lap and slammed back against his chest with a thud. "Oomph!"

"Good thing you don't breathe, huh?"

"Just keep your hair out of her reach. Jason wasn't kidding when he said she's strong. What else?"

Cordelia tried to free her fingers from Debbie's grasp as they headed toward her nearly toothless mouth. "No kidding, wow. Jacob's mother's maiden name was Travers. And I called that number the guy gave you. Give me my fingers back."

"The number?"

"Some British guy answered," she answered, locked in a battle of wills and fingers.

"Council?"

"I'm thinking: probably. Ouch! She bit me!"

Angel laughed. "Maybe she's a vampire?"  

"No, but you are, right?" Jason said from the bed.



TBC
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