Title: Bleed Like Me

Author: Misty Flores

Email: mistiec_flores@yahoo.com

Fandom: Angel: The Series

Pairing: Angel/Cordelia, Kate

Spoilers: Season 2 - post Disharmony

Rating: PG

Summary: On Halloween night, Kate plays babysitter to an ailing Cordelia.

Notes: For the Stranger Things Halloween ficathon. Prompt given by pythia: Prayer, home, Kate

--

For the first time since she had been fired, Kate Lockley found herself grateful for the fact that she was no longer a cop.

The revelation wasn't exactly a healing moment. Too much of Kate screamed 'cop' not to ache at the mere thought of not having a gun in her holster and a badge at her belt, but she had not been gone long enough to romanticize the seedier aspects of the job that took over her life and very nearly caused her death.

And she remembered Halloween; the worst night of the year for beat cops and detectives alike. Filled with countless pranks turned deadly and men and woman who thought a costume gave them an excuse to act out their many repressed sadistic desires, they came across everything from naked frat boys to drugged up party girls, satanic rituals and hysterical families mourning the loss of their black cats.

It was a miserable, miserable night for anyone who tried to protect and serve, and for Kate Lockley, who ever since meeting Angel, found herself with less and less patience for the human element of this town and more and more obsessed with the supernatural, it was downright demoralizing.

It was hard to care about pranking frat boys when she had intimate knowledge of things that, in comparison, seemed much, much worse. Like vampires. And demons. And evil lawyers who sold their souls for wealth and privilege.

Her newfound calling as a consultant earned her a steady enough paycheck, but the hours were no less brutal. Hours in libraries, on telephone, speaking with paranormal experts and her own set of supernatural detectives set a busy, but lonely existence.

But even in that, she was granted a reprieve. The things that went bump in the night did not go bump on Halloween. Everything she had read or heard indicated that Halloween was a uneventful night for the undead.

For the first night since she could remember, this was a Halloween that promised to be… quiet. No lives in danger. No horror movie reenactments. No celebration of any kind. Except maybe getting a few visits from the young trick-or-treaters in her building. Or a re-run of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or a late night watching of A Nightmare Before Christmas.

It had been a good plan, and she was already watching Charlie Brown speed toward Lucy's football when her cellphone rang, and one look at the Caller ID kept her from ignoring it.

It was how Kate Lockley found herself wedging her beat up car into a spot in front of a hotel that looked abandoned, moving through a cobblestone court yard and knocking on the front door of a beat up sign that indicated that this was the odd location for Angel Investigations.

The door was yanked open with such strength and force the originator could have only been supernatural, and Kate offered a smile toward a pale white face, with a furrow wrinkling across the handsome brow.

"Babysitter's here," she quipped.

She was very quickly yanked inside.

--

"We weren't expecting this," Angel said, shrugging into a black trenchcoat. "Nothing ever happens on Halloween. Nothing was supposed to happen."

Arms crossing, Kate kept her focus on Angel, forcing herself not to comment as in her peripheral vision, the black guy she knew as Gunn and bookish Wesley packed every sort of illegal and ancient weapon she could fathom into duffel bags.

She wasn't a cop anymore. And in some cases, she knew Angel Investigations could be above the law.

Her attention refocused on Angel. "But something happened," she confirmed.

"A vision," Angel confirmed, as Gunn and Wesley raced to the door and yanked it open. "Some demon uprising, a human sacrifice - I didn't know who else to call." He shifted from foot to foot, looking like a lost little boy as he placed his hands on his hips and glanced around the massive hotel he called home.

There were a million questions to ask, starting with why Cordelia Chase suddenly needed a nurse maid. But the worry etched on Angel's face like a blinking sign, and already he seemed torn, focus shifting from the office which held a Cordelia Chase she had yet to see, and the door that his two sidekicks had just run through.

She had seen Angel this way before. Worried and scared out of his mind. It was when Wesley had been led away in an ambulance, when their first home exploded.

She hadn't want to see it then. She saw it now. The expression of concern. The obvious emotion for the woman he was leaving behind.

The detective in Kate prickled at that, noted it, filed it away.

It said a lot for how far she had come, to realize that she could actually believe Angel, the undead demon, capable of loyalty and love.

"Go," she breathed finally, taking mercy on Angel and whatever life he was saving. She waved him toward the door. "I'll stay with her."

The way he lunged, grabbed hold of her shoulders and yanked her into his embrace for a crushing hug scared the breath out of her, until he released her just as quickly, hands nearly bruising her biceps.

"Thank you," he said, so warm and human it was hard to imagine him as anything else.

Just the thought unnerved her.

She watched as he moved for the door, nearly tripping on his big feet as he raced for the door. "She should be sleeping!" he called out behind him. "Her painkillers are in the top cupboard- and the candy's on the counter!" The door slammed shut.

Kate frowned, replaying the instructions in her head, and finding the last not matching with the others.

"Candy?"

--

"TRICK OR TREAT!"

The chorus of little goblins, ghosts, and Shreks that waited on the other side of the large wooden doors was nearly as loud as the pounding that had announced their presence.

Kate Lockley, with Angel's huge bowl of candy, offered a smile and a quickly counted out two pieces per kid, exchanging a warm glance with the young mother.

"Happy Halloween!" said the parent, and soon the little children were on their way, following the little lit Halloween pumpkins that lined the courtyard, illuminating the courtyard.

"Those were my idea," said a flat voice, jerking Kate out of her observation and startling her so much she found herself flipping the candy bowl upside down.

Little Mars bars and bags of Skittles rained down on the floor like rain.

"Holy-" Hand pressed to her rapidly beating heart, Kate pinned her gaze on the sudden intruder, discovering a Cordelia Chase she had never met before. Standing barefoot only ten feet away, dressed in an over-sized t-shirt and a pair of ragged shorts, Angel's Girl Friday had cropped her hair short, and wore no make up. Dark shadows rimmed her eyes.

All in all, the usually stunning girl looked like hell.

When Cordelia arched a pencil thin eyebrow, Kate realized she was staring, and immediately jerked her gaze away, flushing as she bent down and began to gather together the scattered candy.

"You're supposed to be resting," she said, trying to swallow her embarrassment with police-influenced authority.

But Cordelia only padded closer, managing to look both annoyed and exhausted as she knelt down beside her and helped her pick up the sweets. "I told Angel I didn't need a babysitter."

"He seemed to think differently."

"That's because Angel has become a clingy-needy-epiphany-having-…" Cordelia paused, wrinkling her nose as she searched for the appropriate word. "…Girl."

The smile that immediately pulled at her lips was hard to resist. At least the old Cordelia still lingered somewhere.

And it proved Angel was making progress. The last time she had seen him, he had been concerned about his friends. Worried they wouldn't take him back. If Cordelia was in his clothes, in his home… that had to be something.

"He cares about you," she said, and got a flash of hazel heat in her direction for her trouble.

"Don't tell me you're going to start cheerleading for him now." Cordelia tossed a last bag of Skittles in Kate's bowl and with a visible wince, stood.

"He did save my life."

"He's saved your life like, a trillion times," Cordelia pointed out. "It never mattered before."

"Well, maybe he wasn't the only one with an epiphany."

Cordelia scoffed loudly at that, and scratched lightly at her elbow, reaching up to massage at her temples.

"Look, I know Angel appreciates you dropping everything to play 'Babysit the Seer'?" Reaching forward, the brunette grabbed hold of the candy dish and offered a plastic smile. "I'm fine. He exaggerates."

Maybe. Angel did have a yearning for melodrama. And yet…

"Just for the heck of it I think I'll stick around." She hadn't realized how young Cordelia could look, and how old she seemed at the same time. Like Kate's previous realization of the depth of Angel's affection for his colleagues, this discovery twisted her insides in a way that felt slightly uncomfortable, caused a shudder. Because a girl who on the outside appeared so normal should not have a gaze that looked so… ancient.

Cordelia held onto the candy bowl, as if by clutching onto it, she was taking away Kate's entire reason for being here. Lips quirking, Kate edged around her and headed for the counter. Plucking the plastic bottle of prescription meds she had found, she walked back to Angel's girl.

"Trade you," she said, holding up the plastic bottle.

Cordelia exhaled, loudly, unsteadily. Her lower lip caught by her teeth, she eyed Kate warily, before something seemed to give, and her hand rose to pluck the plastic from Kate's hand, thrusting the candy bowl into Kate's stomach.

"Don't think you know me," Cordelia whispered, exceedingly grumpy. She weaved around her, headed back to where she had come from.

"Don't think I believe for a second that you don't think people can change."

Cordelia paused momentarily, and then kept going.

--

She never would have pegged Angel as the hen-pecked type.

Then again, Angel did tend to defy perception. He was a freaking vampire with a soul after all. A vampire who had broken even his own rules when he burst into her home uninvited and saved her life.

Now, she was in his home, guarding what she was rapidly realizing was Angel's most guarded treasure: his Seer.

Wesley Wyndham Price neatly chronicled their cases, in block print that was easily legible, but hard to read, on account of his large words and nearly indecipherable language of the supernatural.

Sitting in front of an airing of Hocus Pocus, Kate picked through the files, learning bits and pieces; details she hadn't known before.

About watchers and Vampire Slayers. About the untimely death of Doyle and the passage of his visions to one Cordelia Chase, aspiring actress, ex-cheerleader.

Quite the switch.

"You're still here."

Obvious observation. In a tone that was clearly not pleased. Kate found herself amused to be so unwelcome.

"I ordered pizza," she remarked candidly, pointing to a steaming open box of Papa John's finest. "If you're hungry."

There was a moment of hesitation, and then, like a ruffled house cat who was afraid to show too much weakness for fear of wounding its pride, Cordelia said not a word as she sat on the far end of the couch and reached gingerly for a slice.

Kate let her eat for a moment. "So… the headaches are from the visions."

Cordelia froze mid-chew, and tossed her a resigned glare.

"I got bored," Kate said, lifting up the tomes. "And I get nosy when I'm bored."

"I'm fine," Cordelia enunciated. "The visions… they just… they hurt sometimes."

What a martyr.

Kate shrugged, and returned to the movie, absorbed in the story of the virgin who lit the black flame candle, and the three witches who tried to take back Salem by sucking the lives of children, until Cordelia once again spoke.

"Has Angel called?"

The tentative question made her glance up, and found Cordelia's face purposely closed, away from her, eyes on the television.

"No," she said, and glanced at the clock. "He didn't say when he'd be back."

At this, the girl beside her began to shift, too restless to worry about hiding her emotion.

"What?" she asked.

Cordelia crossed her arms, shivered slightly. "It's just… he usually calls. When he's done."

So she was worried. Worried enough to show it.

Kate carefully placed the soda she was drinking on the coffee table, and curled her feet up underneath her, turning in the direction of Angel's Seer.

"Is that part of the new and improved Clingy Vampire you mentioned?" Kate asked, tone wry as she rested her temple against her fist, eyeing the younger girl.

Cordelia actually managed a smile at that. "Yeah," she admitted, and Kate's small grin widened. "I mean, it's annoying! He hovers… like… all the time!"

"I'm sure he's fine," Kate said carefully. "He always comes home, doesn't he?" The startled glance she received from Cordelia revealed something who was unnerved. "What, are you surprised that I know you care about him?" she asked lightly. "I was a detective, Cordelia. And despite my record the last couple years, I was a good one. I could read people."

"You mean like you could read Angel?" she shot back.

Touche. "Well, I knew something was off, didn't I?" Running her fingers through her short blonde hair, Kate shrugged. "And I was right. He wasn't human."

"He still isn't."

Kate blinked, once again lost at her own unintended slip. "Hard to remember that sometimes," she admitted.

"You can't ever forget it," Cordelia snapped.

"I can't or you can't?"

"This isn't about me."

Kate sighed. "Okay, Angel said Babysit, not Debate. Can I watch my movie now?"

Cordelia looked dangerously close to a sulk, wrapped up in Angel's t-shirt, hair pulled away from her face, staring at the screen with a chip on her shoulder so big it was impossible to not to see it weighing her down.

"He really hurt you," she breathed suddenly, earning a glance in her direction. "Didn't he?" Cordelia's jaw tightened. "And you really care about him. You're just afraid of getting hurt again."

Counselor to the Supernatural-ly Lovelorn: Kate Lockley.

"It's none of your business."

Spoken like a bitchy cheerleader.

Kate had no idea why it amused her so much. Any other night, she would have had no patience for the game of denial.

And yet…

Cordelia rubbed at a tattoo on her wrist. Closer inspection revealed it to be a rosary. And Cordelia thumbed along the cross, almost as if she was lifting up a prayer for Angel's well-being.

Ironic.

What could she tell her? That Angel wouldn't hurt her again? She didn't know that. Angel was a vampire. And she didn't know him. Not like this girl did.

There were no words that could comfort a girl waiting at home like a war-wife.

It was just a shitty situation all the way around.

"I don't know Angel that well," she admitted. "But one thing that was made very clear to me when he saved my life is how deeply he regrets hurting you. And one thing that was made very clear to me tonight? Is how much he cares about you."

Her eyes drifted to the television, and the Sanderson sisters were now prancing their way to the stage in a packed Halloween party, ready to tear the roof off with Bette Midler's fantastic rendition of 'I put a spell on you'.

"I love this scene," Cordelia commented.

Kate glanced over, met a hesitant glance with a reassuring smile. "Me too," she said.

Reaching for the remote, she turned up the volume, and settled in.

--

She had said good-bye to the last straggling trick-or-treaters around 10:00PM. Nearly two hours later, she and Cordelia were in the middle of a Sex and the City marathon, when the front door began to jiggle.

Pushing to her feet, Kate beheld a trio of dirty and bloody men (one vampire, two men), staggering into the lobby. Angel, hobbling, face streaked with dirt, caught her eye immediately, headed fast in her direction.

"Is she okay?!" he asked breathlessly, and Kate found herself smiling, nodding to the couch.

Her eyes met with Wesley, then Gunn, and received guarded nods in return, before her attention moved to Angel, speeding as he limped around the couch and stared at Cordelia Chase.

"I'm sorry," said the vampire with the soul, kneeling in front of the couch and looking up at the girl. "Are you okay?"

"He broke his stupid cellphone again," Gunn muttered, and Wesley clapped him on the shoulder as he dragged a distinctly dirtier bag of weapons to the closet.

"Are you okay?" Angel asked.

Cordelia stared at him solemly, without expression.

"You didn't call."

Angel licked his lips, shook his head, and suddenly his hands were gently settled on Cordelia's bare knees. "You're okay," he whispered, gentle and so full of affection, it was impossible to ignore. "Right? The headaches… they're better?"

Kate held her breath, watched Cordelia.

Finally, the woman smiled, a fleeting quirk of her lips that was barely perceptible. "I'm okay," she said, voice rough, before her palm reached up and gently pressed against a dirty cheek. "But because you're okay."

The smile that lit up Angel's face was breathtaking, and it only got more beautiful when his Seer leaned forward and carefully enfolded herself in his arms, cheek on his broad shoulder.

The expression on Angel's face - surprise, wonder, tentative joy… as his arms hesitantly wound around his treasure and tightened against her…

He was a man falling in love.

Just that. Nothing more.

Kate shook her head, and reached for her jacket. Angel didn't move, but his eyes floated up, met hers, and Kate only nodded, and offered a gentle smile of understanding.

It was new, it was frightening, and he didn't understand it yet, but Kate could read humans, and Angel, with his undead heart and his wicked past, became utterly human in the face of his devotion.

Moving out of the living room, she left them their privacy, catching the handsome Wesley's eye and clasping his hands in greeting.

"Happy Halloween," she told him, with a wry grin that earned one in return. Self-consciously, he rubbed at his cheek, which could have been smudged with either dirt or blood, she wasn't sure which.

"Thank you," he said, English accent low and gentle. "For staying with her. I know she's not the easiest charge."

"I know that!" Gunn smirked from the corner, scrubbing down a blade with a rag.

Kate tilted her head in commiseration. "She wasn't exactly appreciative. But I survived."

Wesley crossed his arms, contemplative eyes moving toward the out of sight living room. "She won't admit it, but the headaches are taking their toll. And it eases Angel's mind, if someone stays with her. Keeps him from being distracted."

"And saves his life," she agreed, getting where he was going.

He smiled grimly. "We were meant to have a quiet night in. The first since… well…" The tired expression was bittersweet. "We're healing."

"I'm happy to hear that," she said quietly. They drifted into an awkward silence, until she inhaled and motioned for the door. "Well, I'm going to get going."

"You're welcome to stay." He actually meant it. Kate hesitated, studying the kind face, before casting a look toward Charles Gunn, who paused in his cleaning and watched her carefully.

Maybe soon. Not yet.

"Thanks, but I've got a home to get to." Again, she reached for his hand, clasped it warmly. "Good to see you, Wesley."

"You too, Miss Lockley. Happy Halloween."

In the courtyard, she lingered. Lit pumpkins created a gentle glow, far from the creepiness usually associated with the holiday.

Angel's home was behind her, and inside of it was a warrior, who never did seem to have it easy.

And he was falling for the girl who gave him his visions. His purpose.

Who didn't trust him. Not yet.

But loved him still.

With an exhalation, Kate shook her head at the wonder of it, and decided anything could happen on Halloween.

Before she left, she said a prayer for them both.

FIN