"Dear Lord," Wesley said, staring in shock at Phoebe's condition as he finally walked through the door of Angel's apartment, the Watcher the last one to arrive; Leo was staying at the manor to keep an eye on Wyatt. "I've heard of these procrea-parasitic pregnancies, but to actually see
"Yeah, it's a great miracle; can we focus on the facts of this mess right now?" Piper asked, looking sharply at the other man before she turned to look at her sister. "How are you feeling?"
"Scared, horrified, disgusted, take your pick," Phoebe said, glaring over at her sister. "Just… why the hell am I always
the one who gets stuck with this kind of crap? First I'm possessed by the house's evil, then I've got a demon who wants me as his bride after possessing my fiancé, and now I'm being used as breeding stock by… by some thing
"Uh… right," Doyle said, swallowing slightly before he looked over at Angel, who had just finished another phone call. "Anything?"
"Nothing," Angel said grimly. "Darryl's run every check he can think of, and I even tried calling in another favour or two of my own; all contact details for Wilson Christopher have become useless."
"So… what do we do now?" Paige asked, looking uncertainly at Phoebe.
"Uh… see what's inside her?" Piper suggested.
"Right," Angel said, nodding in agreement at Piper's suggestion. "Doyle, you and Phoebe need to get to the hospital for a pre-natal exam; Wesley see what you can find out about any kind of demon that uses this means to reproduce and how we can end the pregnancy without… well, without anything going wrong. Paige, Piper, you and Leo prepare for the worst; whatever's going on here, we have to be ready."
Nobody needed to ask what Angel meant by 'prepare for the worst'; if things went wrong, they would have to hope that injuries sustained giving birth to a demon would count as injuries inflicted by evil so that Leo or Paige could heal her, to say nothing of hope that whatever came out wouldn't be ready to fight too quickly.
"And you?" Paige asked, trying to focus on something about this mess that they could control.
"I'm going to find Daddy," Angel said grimly. "Who has the name of the club Phoebe was at last night?"
Sitting in the waiting room of the doctor's office, Doyle wondered what it said about his life that he kept on ending up in increasingly awkward situations. Not only did he have to worry about his visions, but then he found himself working with a bunch of witches and a vampire with a soul to actively protect people after he'd spent so long trying not
to get involved, and now he was stuck attending an ultrasound with the woman he was awkwardly falling for while she was pregnant with some horrific demon spawn?
God, what had he done to make the rest of the world hate him like this?
Sure, he'd managed to get the staff to bump Phoebe up the line by claiming that it was an urgent check-up, but that wasn't going to help them out for long, and that was assuming the rest of this pregnancy was going to take any kind of time; for all they knew she could be ready to pop this evening…
"Do you know what it is?" a woman sitting next to them asked, looking at Phoebe curiously. "Boy or girl?"
"Waitin' to be surprised," Doyle said, as Phoebe simply stared shakily back at the other woman; clearly the 'what' part of the question had inspired some apprehension.
"You're carrying low," the woman said, smiling as she reached over towards Phoebe's extended stomach. "I bet it's a-"
!" Phoebe said, practically jumping in her chair and holding up her hands in a movement that put Doyle in mind of Piper. "Don't touch me!"
"Mrs Walters?" the doctor said, his head emerging from the main room. "We're ready for you."
Doyle sighed in relief as the doctors came along to show them into the office, Phoebe lying down on the chair while he stood beside her out of a lack of anything else to do.
This might still be difficult, but at least they were getting on with the real reason they were here…
"You're… eight and a half months along?" the doctor asked, after spending a moment examining the middle Halliwell.
"Feels like only yesterday, doesn't it?" Doyle said, smiling awkwardly at Phoebe; they'd known that the pregnancy was accelerated, but to know that they were that
close to a potential birth…
"Well, I see you left a lot of blanks on your patient information form," the doctor said
"It would help to have the name of your previous doctor."
"We… don't really have one… here," Phoebe said, awkwardly voicing the first cover story that came to mind.
"Decided to move after the accident," Doyle said, indicating his remaining burns from his encounter with the Beacon with a brief wave of his hand; if he was stuck with these scars for the foreseeable future, he might as well use them. "Fresh start after a bad experience, you know…"
"Ah," the doctor said, nodding in understanding before he looked back at Phoebe. "So, how are you feeling?"
"How do you think
I feel?" Phoebe asked, glaring briefly at him. "I'm huge, everything hurts, and I…"
She trailed off, her gaze fixed on her stomach once again, leaving Doyle unable to do anything more than awkwardly pat her arm.
"That's all normal at this stage," the doctor said reassuringly. "And once your little one comes out, which will probably be in no time, you'll feel a lot better."
Doyle didn't need to look at Phoebe to know that what she'd just been told was far from comforting; they still didn't know what they were dealing with, after all.He
might have been born looking relatively human, but there wasn't exactly a guarantee that these kids would be the same; they couldn't even be sure if Wilson was the father or if he was just a surrogate donor for something else…
"All right, Mrs Walters," the doctor said, as he and the nurse helped Phoebe get into position on the room's examination bed, "why don't you just lie back and we'll see what's backing in the oven."
As the doctor began the ultrasound, Doyle could only squint uncertainly as they studied the screen; he was never sure how anyone was meant to even be able to tell where the baby was
with those things, never mind what gender it was…
"…someone's having twins," the doctor said, his words drawing Doyle's attention away from musings about ultrasound pictures.
?" Doyle and Phoebe repeated in shock.
"No, there's a third heartbeat," the doctor said, still looking at the screen.
"There's another one," the nurse added.
"Five… six…" the doctor continued, Doyle unable to do anything more than stare at Phoebe in sympathy as her panicked expression grew.
One kid had been enough to worry about, but multiples created several unpleasant possible explanations for this particular situation that he really
didn't want to consider.
Standing outside Sarina's apartment- a quick call to Piper had been enough to get the girl's address; apparently she was an old friend of Phoebe's, even if the two didn't see each other that much any more-, trying not to attach too much significance to the darkened hallway leading to the door, Angel crossed his fingers as he knocked on the door; he could probably call Paige for help if the need arose, but until he was sure he'd prefer to explore this situation by himself.
They might be partners in the agency and in life, but they each had to show that they could stand on their own if required; there was no sense in becoming excessively co-dependent, after all…
After a few moments had gone by without any sign that the door would be opened even as Angel's hearing detected someone inside, he decided to try a different approach.
"Sarina?" he asked.
"Just leave it outside," a voice said, its tone a resigned yet frustrated one that suggested that she was only talking to him out of necessity.
"Sarina, I'm a friend of Phoebe's," Angel said, hoping that the explanation would be enough; it wasn't like he'd met this woman before now, after all. "Can I come in?"
"OK," the voice said, her voice still resigned to an inconvenience she wanted to deal with because she had to.
Walking into the apartment, Angel was surprised to find it far darker than he would have expected to find in an apartment at this time of day. A few candles were the only source of illumination as he walked through it, illuminating some shelves filled with coloured glass and a large fire, a woman standing in front of the empty fire with her back to him as she lit another candle.
"Sarina?" he said, looking at the woman in confusion.
"The light hurts my eyes lately," Sarina said, everything about her continuing her impression that she was resigned to something terrible and wanted to be alone.
"I know the feeling," Angel said, the awkward comment the only thing he could comfortably say at this point; at least it had the advantage of being the truth.
"I thought you were the liquor store; I'm almost dry," Sarina said, lifting a bottle of wine in her hand and drinking directly from it, without even bothering to look for a glass. "I know what you're thinking; I shouldn't, right?"
Angel was about to ask what she meant by that, but as Sarina turned around, revealing a pregnancy as developed as Phoebe's, it all came together even before she confessed to her hope that it would hurt the baby.
"It's like it's not real," she continued, still staring at her stomach, "but it is, right? It's really happening?"
"It's real," Angel said, collecting himself as he looked at the clearly terrified woman. "It's happening to Phoebe, too."
"Oh God," Sarina said, looking down at herself in shock. "I can't reach Jason. He's gone."
"So's Wilson," Angel said, guessing that Jason was Sarina's date for the previous night.
"I didn't know this would happen," Sarina said, walking over to sit down on a couch on the other side of the room.
"But you knew something?" Angel asked, seizing on the unspoken implication of her last sentence.
"Yeah, I knew… I knew the guys- Jason and Nick, and then Wilson wanted to meet someone else, and I was reading the paper and thought of Phoebe…" Sarina said, sighing in frustration. "I don't know… I knew something
wasn't right. Their money…"
"What about their money?" Angel asked.
"It's stupid, but it kind of… smelled," Sarina said, her eyes closed as she reflected on the memory before she looked back at him. "I mean, really
smelled. And sometimes they seemed a bit jumpy, but… you know, in a town like this, you notice enough weird things happening that you eventually stop questioning it."
"Do you have someone you can call?" Angel asked, sitting down on a table in front of her.
"Call?" Sarina repeated.
"Family," Angel clarified.
"No, no one," Sarina said, shaking her head. "The guys seemed like they liked that. Wilson asked about Phoebe, and I told him that she didn't have anybody either."
"Bending the truth a bit, huh?" Angel asked, smiling slightly at the white lie.
"Well… they don't read the advice columns, and they were cute; I didn't think it'd do any harm," Sarina said, shrugging awkwardly as she smiled slightly at Angel, apparently appreciating his weak attempt to find the humour in her tragic mistake. "Stupid, huh?"
"I've heard worse reasons for lying," Angel said, smiling reassuringly at her. "What else can you tell me about them?"
Walking back into his apartment, Angel wasn't entirely surprised to only find Wesley present; Paige and the others would naturally want to be with their family, and Doyle had clearly taken his assigned duty to stick with Phoebe seriously even if he couldn't do much.
"Anything?" he asked, looking anxiously at Wesley.
"Some things, anyway, none of which are positive; acidic internal fluid is the least of our concerns right now," Wesley replied grimly, looking up at the vampire. "How about yourself; any luck locating Wilson?"
"Not yet, but I did find Phoebe's friend Sarina in the same condition," Angel said, walking over to a phone book and starting to flip through it. "I think we can assume that the other girls are the same, so that makes at least four."
"And that's not the end of it," Wesley said, looking grimly at his new employer. "According to a call I received from Mr Doyle, there are at least seven heartbeats inside Miss Halliwell, possibly more. Add in your news about multiple pregnancies…"
"Someone's raising an army," Angel said, nodding in grim confirmation of Wesley's thoughts before he looked back at the phone book, putting it down and moving to grab a piece of paper to write down an address.
"Gun clubs?" Wesley said, looking over Angel's shoulder at the page that he'd opened the book at. "Guns can kill them? Well, that makes it easier…"
"Sarina said that Wilson and his buddies hang out at some private gun club, Guns and Cigars; she just didn't know the exact address," Angel explained. "While I find them, you work on narrowing down the species. Maybe we can figure out a way to terminate this without hurting Phoebe."
"And if we can't?" Wesley asked.
"We work out what to do when they're born," Angel said grimly, before he turned to head for the door.
For a moment, Wesley looked like he was about to say something, but clearly decided against it; Angel might have hired the guy, but he wasn't going to listen to anything Wesley had to say about the unlikelihood of Phoebe surviving this pregnancy.
They'd come too close to losing Doyle already, and they'd been unable to do anything to save Cole- even if Angel sometimes felt that he was the only one who really mourned Cole these days-; he was not
going to lose Phoebe.