Anne hid in her second hand coat, offered to her by the rescue workers that had helped her temporarily rehouse the kids from the shelter. It wasn't cold, LA rarely was, yet she was freezing.
She'd held one of the kids all through the night, fighting the pushers and pimps that tried to lure the kids out with promises of warm food and soft beds. Just a little job, they'd say.. So little to get so much.
Anne would fight till her last heartbeat to keep them out.
And from what? A deserted building they were 'temporarily' allowed to use. At least for the rest of the month. If they didn't find something soon.
Three years ago, when Angel had given her a bag of blood drenched money, she'd thought they'd be good for the rest of her life. Turns out checks aren't all that easy to inn, when they were reported stolen.
Then there was rent, food for more and more kids trying to find a place to seek shelter. Bedding, bail all too often, clothing for kids who's clothing was worn to a thread.
But still, they'd managed. And when Lilah Morgan came with her offer of more help, it had been so easy to refuse.
Two years ago, they'd send her packing again. Anne had been so sure of her own righteousness. No more bloodmoney...
A year ago she'd learned her lesson...
When ten more kids showed up and they had to fight to find them bedding, making them sleep on the floor in the common room. When she had to turn out ten more because the place was full and the health inspection would close them down if she let in even one more. When the grocer suddenly upped the prizes for the day old refuse, just good enough for a bunch of hungry kids.
She'd been ready then, to accept the offer, to sell her soul, anything just so she wouldn't have to look at a kid's eyes as she had to refuse him.
Lilah hadn't come though.
And they'd gotten out of it.
New bedding, a bit more place, some more toilets, a computer for those kids wiling to learn.
One kid got back home, his father giving them food for a few weeks before the guilt wore off.
Two weeks ago, they'd lost it all.
One kid with matches, a second that couldn't help herself, and years of work went up in flames.The firm rose up in front of her, modern, cold. Windows everywhere. Wolfram and Heart's new offices. She hesitated on the other side of the street, staring up at her damnation. If Lilah Morgan even still cared.
She hardened herself, trying to seem strong and confident as she crossed the street and entered the lobbey. Even LA could be cold in the night.
Anne froze, staring vapidly at the hundreds of men and women surrounding her. A greenskinned demon was openly talking to a client on his phone. Two more lawyers were discussing a deal with some sort of demons.
A vampire in a short dress and vest was manning the phones. If she'd still had any illusions about vampires being exalted beings; watching Harmony Kendall manning the phones sure cured her of that.
Air turned thin, she nearly choked on it. Taking a step back as if to run from the crowd.
Backing up, right onto Charlie Gunn. Charlie who had left the hood, standing alone, who she hadn't seen for years and who stood now so sure of himself, dressed in clothes that probably cost more than what she'd spend on food for the kids for a month.
"Annie? What are you doing here?" He sounded so happy to see him, she didn't dare face him, didn't dare tell him she didn't feel the same way.
She shivered, ashamed of herself, of her need.
Forcing a smile on her face, she fought to keep standing. Charlie's Brit friend was coming out of an office, along with Angel.
"Is the shelter allright?"
Charlie seemed so worried, but where had he been the past two years when they'd really needed him.
She nearly broke down, nearly threw her troubles at his feet. Then his boss showed up.
"What are you doing here?" they both asked at the same time, and Angel seemed almost embarrassed at her question.
She watched as he stuffed his hands in his pockets, refusing to look her in the face.
"I... I uh run the place here."
"Wolfram and Hart?"
The place he'd been fighting for years, the place he'd told her was evil incarnate. And he'd lost the fight.
No matter what he tried to say, what he tried to give up as an excuse, he'd sold out.
Sold out, she'd been about to do the same. And with every word she scolded him for doing exactly what she herself had been planning to do, knowing the mistake she nearly made.
He was lost now.
She couldn't wait for the answers to the questions she'd demanded, she couldn't hesitate, or she'd be as lost as he was.
It was all so damn reasonable.
She glared down at the blond vampire sprawled out on the bench in the front, somehow enjoying the sunlight without burning up. She snorted at the unnaturalness of it all as she moved out, ignoring him.
She turned her back on them all and left.
She had work to get back to.