“That’s the fourth attack in as many weeks,” Gunn carefully stepped over the body of a dead demon half-breed. The blood on the concrete floor made it slippery and Gunn made sure not to step in it.
Angel used the end of his sword to poke at one of the purebred demons that had attacked him. Its muscular arms were covered in tattoos. The vampire knelt down and tilted his head a little as he studied the dead demon.
“I really hate these bastards,” he said and got back up.
“You know,” Gunn knelt down by one of the victims, a young female, “It never struck me that demons could be racists. Sure a lot of ’em hate humans and some see us as big steaks on legs but…” he looked around the blood spattered room.
“Some don’t believe demons should breed with…” Angel sighed and wiped a drop of demon blood of the back of his hand, “Lesser beings,” the last words were said with a deep frown. Angel snarled down at the dead demon by his feet and walked away from it.
“I doubt Wesley and Spike found any survivors upstairs,” Angel checked for a pulse on one of the half-breeds piled up in the corner. The young man’s chest was soaked through with dark purple blood.
“Think we got the last of them?” Gunn asked and deliberately kicked the dead body of the demon Angel had killed.
“At least the last of this group,” Angel nodded, “But they won’t be the only ones around. I’ve made the mistake of thinking they were gone for good once before. Obviously I was wrong.”
“Peaches!” Spike’s voice startled both men.
“What?” Angel yelled back and walked over to the stairs leading up to the third floor of the condemned apartment block. Gunn gave the dead body another swift kick before following the vampire.
The hallway was sparsely lit by the blue neon sign hanging on the supermarket on the other side of the street and Gunn simply followed the sound of voices until he arrived at an abandoned apartment. The front door was missing and nowhere in sight.
“What do we do with it?” the street fighter heard Spike ask uncertainly. Gunn walked over so he could see what Wesley was carefully holding.
“That’s a baby,” Gunn pointed out.
“No?!” Spike sarcastically exclaimed loud enough for the baby to startle, “Really? We hadn’t noticed!”
“Looks human,” Angel leant closer. He could see the baby clearly in the blue light shining through the broken windows. The baby looked to be a year or so with dark tufts of hair and big blue eyes.
“Looks can be deceiving,” Wesley said, “Probably a half-breed.”
“Where’d you find it?” Gunn asked.
“In the closet,” Spike pointed to an old closet standing crookedly in the corner of the otherwise unfurnished room.
“Parents must have hidden the little guy there,” Angel said and made funny faces at the silent baby.
“We still need to sweep the rest of the building,” Spike walked over to the doorway leading to the dark hall.
“Here,” Wesley pressed the baby into Gunn’s unresisting hands, “Take him…her… whatever.”
“What?” Gunn asked but still made sure to steady the baby’s body with his hands, “Why me?”
“I might need my hands free to cast spells or… stuff,” the ex-watcher waved a hand at the other man.
“And I just get left holding the baby?” he asked disbelievingly when the three other men disappeared down the hallway.
The baby started fussing. Its voice gained in strength as Gunn started running after the rest of the group to keep up.
“Shhh,” Gunn tried to hush the now screaming child by bouncing it as he ran. That resulted in a high pitched angry scream, “What?” he asked and stopped. He looked down at the baby in his arms and almost dropped it when a pair of brown eyes looked up at him.
“Angel! Spike! ANGEL!”
“Okay,” Spike squinted down at the baby as if that would change what he saw.
“I’m not quite sure what’s happened,” Wesley said slowly.
“The kid changed race on me without warning,” Gunn held the black baby up for closer inspection. It was slightly larger than when Wesley had held it.
“Take the kid, Spike,” Angel said. Spike wearily took the baby from Gunn and shot Angel a questioning look, “Just give it a second,” the older vampire explained and the four men watched as the baby slowly changed color from dark chocolate brown to pale white. The child’s body seemed to grow a little longer and thinner. The eyes changed back to blue and the hair was the last to change. Blond curls instead of black.
“A shape shifter?” Wesley asked.
“Looks like it,” Angel agreed, “At least one of the kid’s parents must have been one.”
“You’re a good looking little bloke aren’t you?” Spike asked the baby, “Look at that handsome face!” he said and grinned at the others.
“What’re we gonna do with him?” Gunn asked, “Its parents are probably dead. For all we know we might have passed by them down in that blood soaked lobby,” he tilted his head indicating the lobby of the condemned apartment block.
“Shape shifters live in clans,” Wesley began, “Even if we find a group of shape shifters, somewhere in town, they wouldn’t take the child.”
“Um…Xander?” Angel opened the door and peeked into the small bedroom. Xander was sitting in the comfy chair Lorne had bought. It was a ghastly pink colour and had tiny purple pompoms hanging on the sides.
“Shhh,” Xander was holding Joyce. The three year old was sucking on her thumb and rubbing at her nose with a chubby index finger.
“Sorry,” Angel whispered, “But uh…we have…Well, we have a problem…”
“Just a second,” Xander said and slowly stood up. He placed Joyce in the crib and pulled the blanket up to her shoulders.
“Still teething?” Angel asked and opened the door enough for Xander to exit the bedroom.
“Yeah,” Xander closed the door and followed Angel down to the Hyperion’s lobby.
“Aren’t you a cute little one?” Xander tickled the baby. Gunn shifted the child into a less awkward position, placing his hand under the squirming kid‘s butt.
“He looks just like you,” Xander continued and then stopped to look suspiciously at Gunn, “You had a child and didn’t tell us about it?”
“No,” Gunn shook his head hastily, “Oh, no,” he handed the child to Xander, “He isn’t mine. He might look a hell of a lot like me. But he isn’t mine.”
Xander put a protecting hand on the child’s head as he held it.
“Just give it a few seconds,” Angel said and Xander looked from the baby to Wesley and Spike studying it closely.
“Is it going to turn into a man eating monster?” Xander asked tentatively.
“Unless it kills its victims with cuteness I seriously doubt that,” Wesley said.
“And there he goes,” Spike pointed at the baby.
Xander looked down at the baby in his arms and gasped, “He looks just like Jesse!”
“He looks just like you,” Angel touched the baby’s soft dark hair and it turned a slightly lighter brown.
“What is he?” Xander rubbed his finger against the deep red bloodstain on the baby’s onsie, “Is he all right?”
“As far as we can tell, he’s unharmed,” Wesley gave Xander a reassuring smile, “Not that we’re actually sure it is a boy. It’s a shape shifter. Or one of its parents was a shape shifter. So it could be a female.”
“But should it really be changing so much?” Xander watched as the baby changed its appearance when Angel held it.
“Normally it wouldn’t be changing like this,” Angel said and ran a finger over the baby’s broadening face, “But he’s had a really traumatic experience. It‘s a defence mechanism to imitate the people surrounding it so they won‘t hurt him.”
“And his parents?” Xander asked and then sighed when he saw Angel’s eyes turn sad, “Oh, poor little guy.”
“Do demons have orphanages?” Gunn walked over to the couch and sat down.
“Not that I know of,” Angel answered, “Maybe we could keep him here at the hotel for a few days until I figure out who’ll take him in? We didn’t find anything at the apartment block that could help us track down his family. If there are even any left. I’ll ask around…maybe call Giles and ask him if…”
“Give him here,” Xander said and took the baby from Angel’s arms. Xander kissed the child’s dark hair and started whispering soothingly in its ear.
“Okay,” Angel watched as Xander carried the child up the stairs.
“Congratulations!” Spike slapped Angel’s shoulder when Xander was out of sight.
“What?” Angel asked and stared perplexed at the younger vampire.
“It’s a boy!” Spike grinned.
“Well, at least for the time being,” Wesley mumbled from his position by the couch.