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Next Time Around--Adult Situations and Language

 
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Adjovi
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Joined: 28 Nov 2006
Posts: 17

PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2007 8:19 pm    Post subject: Next Time Around--Adult Situations and Language Reply with quote

Well this is a rather long story which I've been writing it over a couple of months, but thought I would try and post it here. Smile

Next Time Around

By: Adjovi

Summary: What’s left of the Fang Gang heads to Rome Post NFA to meet up with the Scoobies. This is mainly a Connor and Angel bonding fic, Spike is along for the ride. A/S implied pairing, but really very mild.


Chapter One

It was a few months after the big fight when he felt him for the first time. His body tensed, a natural reaction to a predator, and the fine hairs at the nape of his neck stood at attention. He had just staked two vamps and the dust was swirling around his feet. Adrenaline was still pumping through his veins and his hand automatically tightened around the stake he was holding. He turned slowly, almost afraid to scare him away, and revealed…nothing. There was nothing there. He ran over to the spot where the scent was strongest, but even that was fading. He had not been watching long. But, it was his scent just the same. Angel.

This became a pattern. He would go on the hunt, looking for vamps, demons, whatever. And he would feel his father watching him. Once, he even got a fleeting glimpse of a retreating black trench coat, a quick swirl into the inky darkness of night. But he never stayed long enough to talk, always leaving before Connor could follow, and never leaving in the same direction. Knew how good of a tracker his son was.

This went on for a few weeks and Connor grew increasingly frustrated. He wanted to talk to Angel, to find out how the big drag-down went, why he was here. And yet, part of him didn’t want to talk to him at all, wanted a separation from that life. He wasn’t yet willing to acknowledge the hypocrisy of this seeing as he still went out on patrol almost nightly. Nonetheless, Angel’s presence made adjusting to his two lives all the more difficult. Once after dusting a vamp he ran over to where Angel had been standing, calling out after him. His voice startled some birds that were nested down in a tree nearby, but Angel didn’t return.

One night was rougher than usual. Three vampires shouldn’t have given him that much trouble, but these vamps seemed organized somehow, like they’d trained together for years. Connor realized numbly they probably had. They were drawing him out, hitting him from all sides, confusing him. He was blindly thrashing about, knowing he was playing into their hands but unable to stop himself. Then, the world went black as the big one on his left found an opportunity and whacked him over the head.

When he opened his eyes, he saw that Angel was cradling him in his lap, looking down at him with concerned eyes. “Connor?”

He wrenched himself awkwardly away. “So. You survived.” He was aware that his voice was flat. He was working hard to keep it that way.

Angel was standing as well, wiping his hands on his knees. “Yeah…we made it.” He looked at Connor, trying to read him.

“Well, good.” He turned to leave, stopping when he felt Angel’s hand on his arm. “What?” He tried best to channel his inner teenaged-snit.

“Nothing…I…nothing.” Angel had turned his back, ready to walk away.

“Wait…” The response had come unbidden. Angel had halted, his back towards him, waiting. A long minute spooled out and Connor didn’t know what to say. “I’ll see you around.” He turned himself in anticipation for his own retreat. He felt Angel’s eyes on him, full of questions. “I have an early class,” was all he offered in explanation before walking off into the night.

He could have imagined the “be careful” he heard as he left.

He finally decided to track him down, find out where he was staying. Apparently, Angel had found the Tropicana Lodge to be within his budgetary limits. Connor waited until just after sundown, figuring the vampire would have vacated the room by then. He hesitantly approached room 217, and after steeling his courage, knocked on the door. No one answered. He twisted the knob, finding it locked. He used a bit of his strength to yank the door open.

The room was darkened, the thick drapes pulled tight against any offensive sunlight. He was instantly drawn to the bed where the smells were the strongest. He caught the smell of the other, the one he had sensed on Angel. The near side of the bed was teeming with his scent. Male. Vampire. Whiskey and cigarettes. The other side revealed Angel’s own musky odor. Father. Family. Home. And overlaying all of this, the thick unmistakable twin-essences of blood and sex. He looked at the bed appraisingly, noting the covers in wanton disarray and pillows shoved into the headboard in haste. He snorted his disapproval. Vampires in paradise.

He looked around the room again, taking in the dank interior. The curtains were an ugly plaid, ripped and bloodied clothes pooled at the foot of the bed and soiled bandages and gauze threatened to overflow the wastebasket. Not exactly paradise, then.

He began snooping in earnest, pulling open drawers that revealed nothing more than the standard issue Gideon Bible. Apparently, they were living out of their bags. He pulled out Angel’s duffel, not sure what he was looking for, drawing out a small leatherbound journal. The notes were scanty, mainly the details for some demon or another, but most of the pages were filled with quite skillful drawings. He stared at the pictures of his former life: Wesley, Fred, Gunn, Cordelia. Darla in repose, hand on swollen belly. A baby, eyes wide and smiling. A baby. He put the journal back down, only to reclaim it once he saw a few photos had been shoved into the binding. The first one revealed a smiling Wesley and Cordelia with a slightly abashed Angel. They all looked very happy. The second was what looked inexplicitly like a prom photo, a small blonde clinging to an Angel in a tux, smiling under an archway of balloons. He stared at the third photo for a long time. Angel was holding a small baby, gazing down at him with a look of wonder and adoration. The baby had curled a small chubby fist around an offered forefinger, and was returning the look with complete trust and love. Connor hurriedly shoved the photos back into the binding and threw the journal back into Angel’s bag, kicking it back under the bed. He gave the room one last glance before heading out, knowing that Angel would be aware of his visit. That was the point, really.

When he went on patrol the next night, he found Angel waiting for him. He was casually chatting up two vampires who were laughing about how easy college towns were, what with the drunk kids wandering late at night. As soon as he sensed Connor approach, he dropped the pretense, flicking a wrist-stake and driving it home, simultaneously pushing the other vampire towards Connor’s waiting stake.

“So, you found us.” Angel’s forehead was furrowed, and he was eyeing Connor expectantly. He had showered recently, masking the scent of the other under Irish Spring and shampoo. “What were you looking for?”

A father. He nonchalantly brushed dust off of his shirt and let the question go answered. “You staying here, then?”

“For a little while, anyways.” He was regarding Connor carefully, choosing his words. “You want me to leave?”

Connor shrugged. “I don’t care.” He looked at Angel, really taking in his appearance for the first time. He was thinner than he had remembered, his clothes were dirty and he saw faint traces of bruising around his left eye. “Who is he?”

Angel looked thrown by the question, and ducked his head in embarrassment. He stumbled to answer. “He’s…he’s family. Don’t worry about him.”

Connor quirked an eyebrow, finding himself thrown. “He know about me?”

“No.” So, he was only here for Angel then.

“Does that make him related to me?”

“No.” The answer was quick, but then Angel thought about it more carefully, his eyes faraway. “I don’t know, actually. Maybe.” He looked at Connor for a long beat as if giving him a cursory medical exam. “You ok, then?” When all he received in response was a shrug, he pressed on. “Would it be easier for you, if we left?”

Yes. “No.” He scuffed the ground with a sneakered toe. “I don’t know.” He looked at his father, taking in the pained expression on his face. This was hard for Angel. Hard for him, too. He had so many questions he needed to ask, but couldn’t bring himself to voice a single one. “Look, I’d better get going.”

“Yeah, ok.” Angel ran a hand through his hair. Connor noted that it was longer, curling a bit at the ends where it met his neck. “Look, Connor, if you need anything…” He opened his hands in supplication, offering him the world. “Well, you know where I’m staying.”

Connor simply nodded before heading off into the darkness. He knew Angel didn’t follow, had stayed rooted in the spot for awhile, watching him leave.

The other was waiting for him when he came out a few nights later. He remembered him, had met him during his grand tour of Wolfram and Hart. The blonde oozed bravado and confidence, in stark contrast to his father’s studied calm. He was leaning on a tombstone, cigarette dangling offhandedly from his fingers. “So, you’re the one who keeps putting Broody’s panties in a bunch, yeah?”

Connor approached him warily, clutching the stake tightly in his fist. He merely shrugged. “Don’t know about that.”

“Sure you do.” His eyes were gleaming, making him look like a mischievous little boy. He hadn’t bothered to shower, and Connor caught Angel’s scent all over him. He leaned in towards Connor as if to scent him himself, and Connor saw the healing scars of bite marks just under his collar that were clearly made by a vampire. By Angel. He tracked Connor’s gaze and pulled the collar up, defensive. “What were you looking for, snooping around in our room, then?”

“Just wanted to see where Angel was staying.” He hopped up onto a nearby headstone, feet swinging and bouncing off of the marble. “Wasn’t looking for anything in particular.”

The other narrowed his eyes in disbelief. “So, what’s the big deal with you, anyways? Peaches totally shut down when I asked him, wouldn’t let me come and find you.” He took a puff off of his cigarette. “I had to wait until he was otherwise occupied.”

“Where is he?” Connor flipped the stake end for end, catching it perfectly each time.

The other shrugged. “Otherwise occupied.” He was watching the stake flip over. “So…” he rolled his hand outward, encouraging elaboration.

“So…what?” Flip. Catch. Flip. Catch.

“So…who are you? And why does Angel go into a funk every time he comes back from stalking you? Or whatever he does.”

“Connor.” Flip. Catch. “We met before. At Wolfram and Hart.” Connor looked off to left, as if remembering. “Spike, right?”

The other drew his head back, slightly smiling. “Yeah…that’s right.” He looked at Connor, as if considering him for the first time. “You the one who fought a Granok, yeah?”

“Yeah.” He hopped back off of the headstone, shoving his stake into his back pocket. “Look, I need to go. Need to patrol.”

Spike had stood as well and closed the space between them. “I already dusted a vamp tonight, prolly won’t be another.” He took a step closer. “And you still haven’t answered my question.”

Connor reflexively took a step back, almost tripping over a short headstone that jutted out of the ground. He wobbled a bit, and the other shot out a hand, steadying him. Connor shook him off as if the touch burned, catching the other’s wounded look. “Nothing to tell.”

“Right.” He stepped forward again, almost bringing him nose to nose with Connor. “S’what Angel said as well.” His eyes were hard, menacing. “But what I’d like to know is why we’re hanging our hats in this one-horse town while the fires of our apocalypse are still burning in L.A.?”

Connor tried to return the harsh gaze. “I. Don’t. Know.” He backpedaled another step. Then another.

Spike sighed and shook his head. “Whatever.” He rolled his eyes. “Not like I care what Captain Forehead is thinking.” The denial was such that Connor knew he worried on exactly what Angel was thinking. “Just curious, is all.”

Another step back. “Why don’t you just leave, then?”

Spike seemed thrown by the question, as if he hadn’t considered it before. “Dunno.” He pulled out another cigarette, holding out the pack for Connor and putting it away when the boy refused one. “Guess someone has to look after him, put a foot up his arse when he needs it. Which is all the time, by the way.”

Connor nodded and gave him a slight smile. He looked off in the distance, then back at the vampire. “I really better get going." Another step back. "I’ll see you around.”

Spike blew out a puff of smoke. “Yeah.” He made no move to follow.

When he returned to the graveyard the following night his father was there, again, waiting . He was alone, perched a top of a tombstone that read “Mills”. He tensed at Connor’s approach, swinging long legs onto the ground. “So…you met Spike.”

Connor shrugged. “Met him before.”

Angel nodded. Connor noticed the fresh bruises on his face, the bite marks on his neck that he tried to hide beneath his collar. Also, he had again showered very recently. “He’s curious about you.”

Connor leaned back onto a tombstone. “Why don’t you just tell him?”

“Thought it would be safer.” Angel leaned back as well, mirroring Connor’s pose. “Thought you’d want it that way.”

Connor quirked an eyebrow. “Safer? What with you being here?” He felt a small twinge of regret when Angel flinched. “I mean, obviously Wolfram and Hart know about me…”

Angel grinned at him. “Don’t have to worry about them anymore. At least for a little while, anyways.”

Connor tilted his head, curious. “So, you won, then?”

His father gave him a sad smile. “Well, more like put them out of commission for awhile. They’ll never truly be gone, though. They exist in many different dimensions. We just shut down the earthly hub for a bit.” He shifted, crossing one leg over the other. “But, unfortunately, I have other enemies out there who would love to know who you are, be able to use that against me.”

He was vaguely aware he was nodding slowly, not really looking at Angel. He was trying to take all of this in, gauging whether or not he should start with the questions that maybe he didn’t really want the answers for. Probably wasn’t going to be a better time. “So…who’d you lose?”

Angel’s face tightened a bit, and emotion flooded his eyes. He swallowed and cleared his throat before answering, his voice thick. “Wesley.” He blinked several times. “Gunn’s still in ICU, probably never going to walk again. And, a blow to the head has left him blind.”

“Jesus, dad!” The name had spilled out uncontrolled, and Connor hardly noticed. But he knew that Angel had. “It was suicide! I told you they would destroy you!”

“And I told you that as long as you were ok they couldn’t.” Angel rubbed a hand tiredly over his face.

“What about the others? Fred? ‘Cause I’m guessing that blue demony girl I met at Wolfram and Hart wasn’t her.”

Angel sighed. “Illyria.” Off of Connor’s confused look he clarified. “Ancient demon god who infected Fred’s body.” He looked down. “Destroyed her soul. Fred’s been gone for awhile now.” The pain was still obviously fresh from this loss.

“Jesus.” Connor shook his head in disbelief, then straightened his shoulders, bracing himself for the big question. When he finally spoke, his voice was low and soft. “And Cordy?”

Angel’s expression left no doubt that the wounds hadn’t even begun to heal on this one. The pain was so evident in his eyes that Connor actually gasped. It was a long minute before he could speak, his eyes wet with unshed tears. “She never woke up, Connor. We lost her…”

Connor stared at his father, unable to speak himself in the face of such raw grief. “God, I’m so sorry…”

Angel just nodded, unable to meet Connor’s eyes. He gestured off into the night. “Well, I’d better get…”

“Yeah, me too…” Connor spoke simultaneously. He wasn’t able to answer before his father took off into the night, Angel’s anguish obviously too much to handle in the presence of another.

A few nights later he was back fighting a slow lumbering demon and was just about to deliver the killing blow when another demon suddenly appeared, apparently defending its mate. The blow to his knees caught Connor unawares, and he was flipped onto his back. A pale hand was extended towards him, and he accepted the help and righted himself. He and Spike then fought side by side, parrying advances and quickly dispatching the second demon.

After the fight was over Spike leaned back against a tombstone and lit up a cigarette, taking in Connor with a long look, watching as Connor wiped a small smear of blood from his eyebrow with his thumb. “So, its true then?” When Connor looked as if he would speak, he cut him off. “And if you even begin to say ‘what’s true?’ I’m going to tear your neck out, never mind that I told Peaches I wouldn’t.”

Connor stared at the other vampire, noticing the blood that streaked the white of one eye, the split bottom lip, and the long scratches across his cheek that were made by human-looking fingernails. What the hell were they doing to each other? He decided he probably really didn’t want to know. He shrugged. “Yeah, its true.”

“Its bollocks, is what it is. Sorry to be the one to break it to you, mate, but Angel’s having a bit of a piss with you.” He shook his head. “Don’t know what kind of games he’s trying to play at here, but its just not bloody possible. Vampires can’t have children. Not human children, at any rate.”

Connor sighed and sat down on a near stone. “Don’t know what to tell you, but they did.”

Spike barked out a short laugh. “How can you buy into that crap, slim?
First off,” he tapped his chest for emphasis, “we’re dead. Life-enders. Not life-starters. Secondly, he could have picked a kid who looked a little like him, at the very least. Sloppy, that.”

“I look like my mother.” The answer was soft and tentative.

Spike leaned forward then, really examining Connor’s face. His eyes widened in surprise and before Connor knew what was happening, he had grabbed up Connor’s hand. Connor quickly pulled it back, but not before Spike had the chance to lick off the blood that he had wiped from his brow earlier. Spike’s mouth hung open in astonishment. “Bloody hell!” He scoffed, startled. “Jesus bloody Christ. How the hell…”

Connor eyed him anxiously. “I really don’t know…I wasn’t there for…well…you know…”

Spike shook his head in disbelief and began pacing. Connor guessed he was trying to figure things out by the way he kept throwing surreptitious glances his way. “Bloody well figures.” He gestured towards Connor with a bit of disgust. “Angel gets the fucking shanshu after all.”

“What’s a shanshu?” Connor thought vaguely he had heard the term before, but couldn’t remember when.

“Its a…” Spike stopped pacing and looked at Connor, annoyed. “You know what? Fuck this. I need to go hit myself something big. Think I know where to find him.” He kicked one of the felled demons and stormed off into the night, leaving a very confused Connor in his wake.

He didn’t see either vampire for almost a week after his encounter with Spike. Then they were suddenly both there, Angel waiting for him and the other a short distance away, watching. Angel didn’t say anything for a long moment, just quietly stared at his son as if trying to memorize his face. He sighed. “We have to leave.”

Connor felt his chest tighten. He had expected this would happen, but still found himself panicked at the idea. “What? Now? Why?”

Angel gave him a small smile. “It’s time. It’s way past time.” He glanced back at Spike. “A friend of ours, a witch, she’s put a protection spell over us, and she’s been watching. She let us know that something’s getting too close.”

Connor blinked several times, trying to process. “A witch?” He tilted his head to the side, remembering. “Willow.” Angel nodded to him. “Where will you go?”

Another glance back at Spike. “We have…friends. They have a safe house in Rome. We’re going to head there, regroup with some of the others, lay low for a little while.”

“Thought you said Wolfram and Hart were done with.” Connor shoved his hands into his pockets and leaned against a tree.

“Down, but apparently not out.” Angel moved closer to Connor, leaning back next to him. “Dunno what’s coming, but not exactly looking to stick around to find out.”

“What about me?” He felt his heart thudding in his chest. “I mean, won’t I be left here kind of exposed?”

Angel reached out and caressed his cheek in an attempt to soothe him, and he allowed this for a second before flinching away. “Part of the deal I made with Wolfram and Hart was the promise that no matter what happened to me, they could never come at me through you.”

Connor looked down and then moved away from his father and began pacing. He shot a glance back towards Spike, and inclined his head towards Angel, indicating that he should follow. He wanted to try and get out of the other vampire’s earshot. He didn’t speak again until he felt they were far enough away. “Dad….” He wasn’t sure what he wanted to say, what he even wanted. Angel was standing motionless, waiting. “I think I should go with you.”

Angel looked completely gobsmacked. “You…no, Connor. You can’t come with me.” He was shaking his head furiously. “That isn’t your world anymore.” He wore a pained expression on his face. “I don’t want you getting sucked back into this crap.” He pointed at himself and waved his hand back towards where they left Spike. “You deserve better than that.”

Connor was shaking his head as well. “No, dad. You don’t understand. That is my world. This life…” He broke off, seeing Angel wince. “Look, I appreciate what you’ve done for me. What you’ve sacrificed. But I’ve had a lot of time to think on this.” He stepped closer to Angel, catching his eye. “And this isn’t real. As much as I want it to be…” Angel looked down and away, eyes welling with tears. Connor reached out and placed a hand on his arm causing Angel to turn and look at him again. “Dad, think about it. I had to be the one to kill Sahjahn.” He placed a hand over his chest in emphasis. “It didn’t matter if I didn’t even remember who I really was, the prophecy said it had to be the son of two vampires, right? Not just some random college student. No spells you could do could ever change the fact that I’m your son.”

“But Connor, I wanted you to have every opportunity that you would never have with me.” He sighed and threw up his hands in frustration. “A normal, loving family. Not some freak show.” He gestured at himself again.

Connor closed his eyes, thinking on what his father was saying. He could tell he was hurting Angel, could feel his distress rolling off of him in waves. He felt the other vampire move closer, reacting as well. Connor looked back at the shadows, shaking his head, hoping to assuage some of Spike’s fears and keep him from rushing in. He had things he needed to say to his father yet. “Dad, remember when you sent me away…you told me as long as they didn’t destroy me you would be ok?”

“Of course I do. And its still true, Connor. You are the most important thing to me in this entire world. I would do anything to keep you safe.”

“Yeah, well, how do you think I would feel if you were destroyed.” He hated the fact that his own eyes were glazing with tears, and he swallowed, trying to tamp down a sob. “Dad, you’re the only person who actually knows who I am. What I am.” He looked down and took a shuddering breath. “I love the Reillys. I really do. And you and I both know that I wouldn’t be here today if you hadn’t done what you did. But I told you then, I couldn’t be saved by a lie.” Angel's face crumpled then and he looked as if he was going to speak, but Connor held up a hand, cutting him off. “Its a nice lie, a lie I desperately want to believe, but its still a lie. They don’t love me, not really. They don’t even really know who I am.”

Connor was surprised when Angel suddenly grappled him into a hug. He kept his arms hanging limply for a beat before wrapping them around broad shoulders. He began openly weeping, unable to hold back the tears any longer.

Angel kept repeating his name over and over, holding onto to him so tightly that he felt like bones were going to break, but he didn’t pull out of the embrace. They stood like that for a long moment, clinging to each other. Connor was the one to finally break away, dragging a hand across wet eyes. Angel peered closely at him. “What about college?” He dropped his head so that he was eye to eye with Connor. “Your family?”

The answer came without thought. “Dad, you are my family.” He watched his father for a beat, letting the words sink in. Angel seemed to finally relent, but still obviously conflicted. Connor gave him a small grin. “And, finals are next week. Then I’m off for the summer. Its not like this will be forever—I could just tell my folks that I got a sweet summer internship in Rome or something. I’ll come back to school in the fall.”

Spike had sauntered over to where the other two were standing, obviously listening to the entire conversation and knowing it was nearing its end. “So, you break down the old man yet?” He cuffed Connor on the shoulder. “You joining us for our Italian holiday?”

Angel sighed, shooting Spike an annoyed glace. “Look, this isn't a holiday. I’m not exactly looking forward to a summer holed up in a house with a bunch of slayers.”

“A house full of girls? And this is a bad thing how?” Connor looked between Spike and Angel, who both wore amused grins.

Spike winked at Connor conspiratorially. “Don’t let old Broody fool you, he’s just concerned about one Slayer in particular.”

Angel guffawed. “Like you’re not!”

“She loves me.” Spike glared challengingly at Angel, then straightened his shoulders, leering at him as he considered something else. “Buffy know about the fruit of your loins here?”

“NO!” Angel tried his best to level him with a menacing glare, but just came off as frustrated frown. Connor grinned despite himself. “And I’ll be the one to tell her, if at all.” He narrowed his eyes at the other vampire. “At least she knows that I’m alive!”

“That’s different!” Spike began to walk off, and Angel smirked at Connor before following him. “I had my reasons.”

Connor furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. “Who’s Buffy?”

Spike turned around to face him, walking backwards. “That’s a long story, pet. Good thing it’s a 12-hour flight to Rome.”

Connor followed a bit in silence before pulling out the money comment. “So, which one of you is going to tell her about the two of you?” The statement had its intended effect, stopping both vampires in their tracks. Spike was completely mortified but Angel looked only vaguely chagrined.

“What are you…” Spike gaped at Connor, eyes widening in shock. “Are you spying on us now, Junior?”

“No, I…” Connor was flummoxed, and glanced at his father for help.
Spike saw the look pass between the two of them. “Oh. I didn’t realize we were at the bragging stages just yet.”

Angel grimaced at him. “I didn’t tell him.” He pointed at his nose. “He has vampire senses, remember?”

Spike shook his head incredulously. “You seem to be taking this pretty well, daddy dearest.”

Angel simply shrugged. “Yeah, well, I’ve had a couple of weeks to deal with the drama of it.”

Spike scoffed, then turned towards Connor. “Whatever. This is totally different. It’s a vampire thing.” Angel nodded in agreement, carefully eyeing Connor, trying to appraise his reaction. “A sire-childe thing. Don’t expect you to understand. Don’t expect her to, either.”

Connor held up his hands in surrender. “Hey, that’s your business. Trust me--the less I know about it, the better.”

Spike huffed off in exaggerated exasperation, and Angel just rolled his eyes and shot Connor a quick smile before following.

Connor took in a deep breath. This wouldn’t have to be forever. And he could think of worse ways to spend a summer. He had (once) thought Holtz had taught him all he needed to know about the vampire who was his father. He knew almost nothing of the man. That had been the one truth that had weighed heavily on him when he thought he had lost him forever. And he wasn’t going to waste this second chance to get to do just that.

+++

Chapter Two

He leaned back and closed his eyes, involuntarily giving in to the familiar pull of gravity and accompanying stomach flip that came with take off. Familiar. Technically, this was his first flight, although he had memories of family vacations to Disneyland, the Grand Canyon and visits to Grandma in Tucson.

He glanced at his traveling companions; they were both seated safe distances from one another, looking out windows that helpfully protected them from the sun’s killer rays. Angel had stressed to him that stealing was wrong, but argued that this was worthy cause. Spike had just shrugged and rolled his eyes, apparently not seeing the dilemma. It wasn’t like any Wolfram and Hart employees would be using the corporate jet anytime soon. Connor didn’t even bother to ask where they’d gotten a pilot, figuring he probably wouldn’t get the truth. There was no steward service, of course, so they would be left to their own devices on that one.

He tried to sit still, listen to his I-Pod for a bit, maybe read some of his book. He was exhausted, the completely wiped feeling you get after pulling one too many all-nighters in a row, but felt strangely wired. He looked up, feeling Angel’s eyes on him, be he looked away quickly when caught. Connor sighed and pulled his ear buds out, haltingly walking over to where Spike was seated at a small lounge area that had three chairs around a small table. The table in front of him littered with mini bottles. Connor jerked his head in Angel’s direction, indicating he should join them. After a few minutes of what Connor knew was some intense internal debate, his father walked over and plunked himself down in the open seat near Spike.

Connor grabbed up some more mini bottles from the food cart and three paper cups. Apparently, Spike had been foregoing the cup part and was chugging straight from the bottles. He sat in the seat opposite the two vampires. He lined the cups up, snapping open the bottles and filling each with whiskey.

“Hey, since when are you old enough?” Angel made to swipe the little bottle from Connor’s hands, eyebrows snapped together comically.

“Dad, seriously?” Connor moved his hand away at the last second, evading him. “I’ve been in college for like a year.”

“Yeesh.” Spike swatted Angel on the arm, chastising him mildly. “You should let the boy live a little.”

Angel just rolled his eyes, but seemed to relax, finally yielding. He took the offered cup and held it up towards the other two, waiting for the toast. “What are we drinking to?”

“How ‘bout to getting right and pissed?” Spike winked at Connor, who returned with an amused grin.

“Sounds like a plan.” He “clinked” his paper cup against the others, avoiding Angel’s reproachful glare. They all seemed to hesitate a bit before throwing their heads back at the same moment. The whiskey burned as it hit the back of his throat, and he choked and sputtered a little.

“Oh yeah,” Spike was laughing now, “You’re a real bad ass with the liquor, ain’t ya?” He chucked Angel on the arm. “You sure this boy’s yours?” He reached out and opened three more, filling the cups again.

Angel frowned and begrudgingly grabbed up the second cup. Connor could tell he was going over the dos and don’ts of parenting in his mind by the way he was eyeing him, guilt and concession dueling a little dance on his face. Connor gave Angel a crooked grin by way of apology for the situation. Angel seemed to consider saying something before simply replying with a nod, holding his cup up again. “To family.”

This little ritual went on several more times. Connor couldn’t really say how many, since he had lost count somewhere after four. Angel’s toast had launched them down the maudlin road of remembering fallen comrades; sadly their numbers were so great that they had to drain many more little bottles. Connor was good and pleasantly numb. His limbs felt heavy and he couldn’t feel his lips completely. He had found through much experimentation at college that he could handle a staggering amount of alcohol compared to a regular human, despite Spike’s earlier doubt. But he suspected both vampires could drink him under the table without problem. However, he figured that they would both be at least buzzed enough to answer some questions without protest. “So, who’s Buffy?”

For the better part of the next hour, he listened to the tale of a Slayer. The girl who had both been the cause of losing a soul and gaining another, who had died twice and still lived to tell the tale, and who, ultimately, had been the driving reason for the both of them. For fighting, for living, for loving.

“She sounds like a hell of a woman.” Connor was aware he was slurring his words, shaking his head in what he hoped would allay Angel’s naked concern.

“You don’t know the half of it, ducks.” Spike poured himself another drink, looking deep into the cup as if considering the contents for a long beat before throwing it back. He cleared his throat and glanced at Angel. “But, she’s moved on now.”

Angel grabbed up his cup and refilled it as well, sighing deeply before draining it. “She’s better off that way, don’tcha think?” He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes.

“Without you, maybe.” He shot Angel a venomous glare which went unnoticed, throwing back another drink.

Angel started talking with his eyes closed. “What’s the big plan, Spike?” He opened one eye and looked sideways at the other vampire. “Fly into Rome, win her back, sweep her off of her feet?” He crossed his arms over his chest, tipping his head back and closing his eyes again. Connor realized his father was quite drunk.

“Thought about it.” Connor could tell from his voice that he didn’t sound the least bit certain.

Connor gazed at the both of them, considering the recent sea change in atmosphere. Somewhere along the line the tone of the conversation had changed, subtlety moving from convincing him of their love for Buffy to convincing themselves that the love was still there, as unchanged and strong as ever. That was the reason why his father had allowed his careful control to slip and had permitted himself to become totally smashed. And why Spike had careened off into another direction, wavering close to mean and angry drunk.

Spike glared at him, irately, as if he had read his thoughts. “Right, then.” He lurched to standing and grabbed up several mini bottles. He tripped over Angel’s legs, planting an open palm on the larger vampire’s chest to propel himself away, staggering down the aisle towards the front of the plane. He flopped down in the front row in an obvious attempt to place as much distance between them as possible. Angel, for his part, remained unmoved, not even opening an eye, the faintest traces of a smirk playing across his lips.

Connor studied his father for a beat before attempting to stand himself. He instantly regretted the movement as the world swayed before him, forcing him to brace his hands against the small table. He shook his head to wave off Angel’s concern and shimmied around the table to claim the chair previously occupied by Spike. He scooted down in the seat until he was level with Angel’s head and glanced over at his father. “So, what’s a shanshu?”

Angel’s eyes flew open in surprise, instantly sobering. “What…where did you hear about that?”

Connor shrugged nonchalantly. “Spike mentioned it.” He looked off in the direction of the other vampire. “Said you got your fucking shanshu after all.” He turned his head to look at Angel. “I think he meant me.”

Angel regarded him thoughtfully for a moment. “That’s not…” He chewed at the inside of his cheek and looked down, eyebrows furrowed in contemplation. He looked back up at Connor. “I guess I never thought of it that way.” He shrugged and settled back down in his seat, eyes again closed. “Could be possible. Wouldn’t be the first time Wesley’s made a mistake in translating.”

Connor yawned sleepily. “But, what’s it mean?”

Angel shifted next to him. “A vague prophecy.” When he felt Connor’s gaze upon him, he opened his eyes and continued. “Well, according to Wes, it said that after some big battles and a couple of apocalypses and an unspecified amount of time passes, that the ‘vampire with a soul’ will become human. Honestly, it could be talking about Spike as much as me.”

Connor’s mouth fell open. “Human?” He scoffed, taking in Angel’s expression of indifference. “How’s that even…”

Angel shrugged, giving him a small smile. “How do two vampires manage to have a human child?”

Connor shook his head in disbelief. “And you think this is talking about me? That I am the human you will become…or something?”

“I don’t know, Connor.” He sighed. “Doesn’t really matter, anyways.”

“Doesn’t matter? Why?” He scowled at his father, miffed, then his expression softened, considering something else. “Do you even want to be human?”

Angel was silent for a long beat, deep in reflection. “I used to. It used to be all I thought of, really. I would have given anything to be with Buffy.” He swallowed hard. “To be with Cordelia.” Took another unneeded shaky breath. “But things are different now. I’m different. In a different place.” Connor gave a knowing glance in Spike’s direction. “No, its not about him, Connor. Its about me. I don’t exactly have the best track record with humans. Don’t know if me being human is…”

“Sodding ponce!” The answer was muffled, wafting back from the front of the plane.

Angel gave a sad smile in Spike’s direction. “Pretty much every human that has come in close contact with me the last five years had ended up dead. Or worse. Like Gunn.” He glared hard at his son. “Which is why I didn’t want you coming…”

“Dad, I’m not exactly a normal human.

“Yes you are!”

Connor just sneered, allowing his eyes to drift closed. He could feel Angel watching him.

After a long moment, the question came, soft and tentative. “Do you want me to be human?”

Connor didn’t reply since he really didn’t know the answer, finally surrendering to the seduction of the alcohol which pulled him into sleep.
He didn’t know how long he had been sleeping, but he awoke to a pounding headache and his mouth felt like it had been stuffed with cotton.

Also, he was alone. He automatically raised his head looking for Angel, only to find him seated next to Spike, the smaller vampire nestled into the crook of his neck. He gripped the table and forced himself to standing, pitching himself over towards the food cart to grab a bottle of water. He was trying to be quiet as possible so as not to disturb the sleeping vampires, but knew he didn’t have full control of his facilities. From his standing position he got a better look at the two of them. Their knees had drifted together, and Angel’s hand casually lay upon the blonde’s leg. Spike had fisted his own hand in his father’s shirt in an effort to curl around the larger vampire. This was going to be one hell of a trip.

He greedily drained the remains of his water and walked towards the back of the plane, claiming his toothbrush and paste from his bag. A quick survey of the back closet thankfully yielded some aspirin and a small pillow and blankets. Connor slipped into the tiny bathroom, brushing his teeth and washing his face. When he emerged, he realized his attempts to be noiseless had been futile, as Angel had since moved across the aisle, head tipped against the window and long legs spread out in front of him. Connor made a makeshift bed, spreading out one of the blankets across two seats. He fell back asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow, not to awake again until wheels touched tarmac.

+++

Chapter Three

“So, you ready for this, pet?” Spike glanced over at Angel, distractedly scratching at his forearm. Both vampires were reacting to the protection spells that were covering the Slayer safe house, further evidence that their presence wasn’t exactly welcomed. Connor had sensed the magic as well, but it wasn’t affecting him otherwise.

Angel rubbed at eyes that were swollen and red. He sighed heavily. “As I’ll ever be, I guess.”

Spike reached forward and rang the doorbell. They all heard footsteps approaching and collectively held their breaths. A small blonde man that Connor didn’t recognize opened the door.

“Benvenuto, i miei amici!”* He flew out the door, seizing up a very surprised Spike into a hug. “Oh Spike! I’ve missed you so!”

Connor shot a puzzled look at his father, who merely shrugged and shook his head.

Spike pushed the boy away angrily and frowned at him. “Jesus, Andrew. Not exactly the welcome I was looking for.”

The boy looked deflated but smiled to cover it, turning his attention to Angel. He nodded at him and spoke with enthusiasm. “Buon vederli, il mio amico!”*

“Don’t remember us being friends.” Connor was surprised at the coldness of Angel’s tone.

If the boy had caught it he didn’t let on, and turned towards Connor, still smiling. “And to you, young…” he tilted his head, regarding Connor curiously, “young…stranger? Identify yourself.”

He held out his hand politely. “Connor”. Andrew took his wrist instead, and he realized the young man was trying to test whether or not he was a vampire. “I’m human.” Andrew gaped at him, still perplexed. “I’m with him.” He gestured towards Angel, then remembering Spike, amended. “With them.”

Andrew turned towards Angel, narrowing his eyes. “Does Mr. Giles know about this?” Angel remained silent. “Angel, you can’t just bring…”

Angel cut him off, his voice hard. “I’ll deal with Giles.”

Andrew scowled at him, crossing his arms over his chest in an effort to show defiance. He looked ridiculous, pouting up at the tall vampire. “Fine. Be sure to tell him that it wasn’t my idea to let some stranger into the safe house.”

Angel stared him down. “Fine. Now, can we come in?”

Andrew let out a breath in a huff, trying to show his annoyance. “Yes. Fine. I invite you in.” He spread his arms wide theatrically. He looked over at Spike. “Both of you. I invite you both in.”

Angel stepped around the boy and Connor followed, but Spike seemed to wait a moment more before entering behind them. Andrew, obviously aggravated at Angel’s lead, shoved the vampire out of the way and stomped up the steps ahead of him.

“What’s his deal?” Connor peered over at his father.

“I’ll tell you later.” Angel’s mood was stormy and Connor decided not to push it.

The chattering voices that they had heard from below came to a shuddering halt as the trio emerged at the top of the stairs. The girls seemed to turn as one to stare at the newcomers. They were all shapes and races, and there were probably about twenty or so, sitting in a loose circle on the floor. Connor couldn’t believe his luck. Spike must have read his mind and elbowed him in the ribs. “Looks like you got your pick of the 31 flavors, eh, mate?”

Andrew clapped his hands together twice. “Ladies, your attention please.” Most groaned and rolled their eyes. “I would like to present to you the vampyres with souls, Spike and Angel.”

Spike nodded at the group. “Ta, pets.” Angel for his part just shifted uncomfortably, gazing past the girls, clearly searching for someone else.

One of the slightly older looking girls, a brunette, stepped up towards them. She had an air of brashness about her and she tossed her head, speaking to Spike. “Thought you were dead.”

He shrugged. “Sorry to disappoint, luv.” He itched at his arm again, and Connor saw a large welt had begun to form there. “Kennedy, maybe you could sweet talk Red into tuning down the anti-vampire crap she’s got going on here?”

The girl just smirked at him. “Dunno, its kinda funny.” Spike just glowered at her. “You don’t scare me, blondie.” She poked him square in the chest. She walked over to Angel, giving him a quick once over. “So, you’re Angel, huh? Aren’t you all tall, dark, and moody?” Spike rolled his eyes. She fixed her gaze on Connor. “And, who the hell are you?”
“Connor”. She didn’t wait for him to hold out his hand, snatching up his wrist to see if he passed the vampire test.

“Huh. Human.” She looked over at Andrew, fixing him with a stern scowl. “Giles know he’s here?”

“No!” Andrew’s voice was petulant, and he shot an accusing glare at Angel. “Which is why I told them…”

“Fine. Take us to see Giles now.” Connor could feel the anger roiling off of his father.

Andrew scowled at him for another moment before turning on his heel, leading them away from the girls.

Connor was impressed by the massiveness of the house, as the exterior had revealed nothing of the enormous space within. They passed a very well-equipped training room, replete with punching bags hanging from the ceiling and a padded floor. There was an extraordinary amount of weaponry secured to the walls. “So, where’s Buffy, then?” Connor could tell by the forced tone of his voice that Spike was attempting to sound casual.

“She is with Faith, Xander and Willow. They are meeting with some potential Watchers.”

Spike let out a low whistle. “Potential Watchers, yeah? You have quite the little operation going on here.”

Andrew straightened a little, obvious warming to the subject. “You have no idea. Mr. Giles has acquired the best collection of demon literature on the market.”

“Second best,” Angel muttered under his breath.

Andrew frowned at him, stopping before a giant door. He knocked and they heard a muted voice from within inviting them in.

The man stood as they entered. Connor guessed he was about 50 or so, and he looked clearly disquieted by their presence. His office was housed in a giant library, and the shelves appeared to be bowing under the weight of so many books. He moved over to the front of his desk, leaning back on the edge. “Angel. Spike.” He nodded at both vampires, his tone cold and clipped. He swiveled his gaze at Connor. “And, who is this, then?”

“Um, Connor.” He awkwardly held a hand out, wondering how many more times he would have to repeat this little procedure.

“And you are?” Giles crossed his arms across his chest, refusing to take his hand.

“He’s with me.” Connor could see that Angel was attempting to carefully control his frustration. Spike had wandered over to one of the shelves, and was tipping the bookspines towards himself to read the titles.

“Angel, surely you are aware that the only reason I am allowing the two of you to stay here is because of your previous association with the Slayer. I know that you would not bring just anyone in here from the street. There is too much information here that should not be shared with the general public.” His voice was starting to raise.

Connor could see a vein jumping on Angel’s jaw as he tried to rein in his anger. Andrew began speaking, his voice a defensive whine. “I told him he couldn’t just bring anyone in here! But would he listen? Oh no…”

“Andrew, that will be enough.” When he just gaped at him, Giles nodded towards the door, indicating the direction that he should leave. He sighed in defeat and walked out of the room. Giles turned his attention back to Angel. “You should well know that your welcome here is probationary. Buffy may have chosen to take you back into her trust, but I have not.”

Angel crossed his arms across his chest and closed some of the space between himself and Giles, glaring at him menacingly. “And you should well know that because of your lack of trust in what we were doing in L.A. we lost a dear friend. And, I happen to hold you personally responsible for her death.” Spike turned and looked in surprise at Angel. “Do you really think we’d be here if we had any other choice?”

Giles stared him down. “What were we supposed to think, Angel? All of a sudden you perform a massive takeover of one of the oldest and well-known evil organizations known to man? How were we supposed to know that you hadn’t turned evil yourself?” He sneered at the vampire. “Your turning evil is not without precedent.”

“Had a soul. Still do.”

“Yes, well. Then, you can understand our doubts. Because what reason would a vampire with a soul have to take over an evil law firm?”

He glowered at Giles for a long minute before speaking. “Not that I feel the need to explain myself to you, but I had my reasons.”

“And what, pray tell, were they? Putting your friend’s lives in danger? Was it worth it? Because from the preliminary reports on what happened, it appears you suffered some heavy losses during your tenure there.”

“They all knew what they were getting into to. I didn’t force any of their hands. The only person who objected was Fred. She was the only true innocent. And, you refused help us to save her.” His anger was so thick that Connor could almost feel the heat of it.

Giles shook his head in disbelief. “They couldn’t have known the risks, Angel. And, you still haven’t answered as to why you joined their ranks in the first place.”

Angel looked down, seeming to deliberate something for a long beat before finally replying. He raised his head again, intentionally catching Giles’ eyes. “I did it for my son.”

Connor’s mouth dropped open, stunned, and he could tell Spike was thrown as well by the similar expression he wore on his face.
Giles barked out an incredulous laugh. “Do not toy with me, Angel. I’ve been a Watcher enough years to know that is impossible.”

Angel remained silently impassive. When he didn’t move to speak again, Spike chimed in. “Didn’a believe it at first myself, but it’s true.”

Giles just guffawed at him. “I don’t know what games the two of you think you are playing, here, but if you won’t give me the truth then I will rescind my offer of invitation without further thought. You are skating on seriously thin ice here as it is.”

Angel sighed tiredly and reached down to retrieve something from his duffel. It looked like a very old piece of parchment that had been enclosed inside a plastic sleeve. He held it out to Giles.

Giles took the offered paper and moved around the desk to sit down, angling the banker’s lamp to give him better illumination. “Good lord!” He glanced up at Angel, a vague look of horror on his face. “This is the Nyazian Scroll!” Angel simply nodded. “This tells of the beginning of the ‘End of Days’. It was thought lost for over a century!” His voice was raised again. “You had it all this time? And you highlighted it in yellow?”

“No, some idiot lawyer did.”

“Lindsey?”

“Lilah.” He shot a quick look back at Spike. “Before your time.” He moved around the desk, leaning over Giles. He pointed at a passage in the text. “Here.” Connor moved in closer to get a better look at the scroll.

Giles squinted closely at the writing. “Is this some form of proto-Bantu?”

“Yeah. Wes did most of the translating, but his notes have been lost. I think this part is about my son.”

Giles repositioned his glasses, focusing on the scroll again. “This speaks of a…a Tro-clon?” He began translating shakily, looking back at Angel in question.

“The Tro-Clon is a confluence of events, actually. A bunch of stuff happened right around the same time.” Connor saw something unreadable cross Angel’s eyes. “An old enemy resurfaced, my child was born and his mother died.”

Giles’ mouth parted in disbelief, and was about to voice his protest when something else caught his eye. “The Father Shall Kill the Son.”

“That’s not…” Angel gulped and flicked his eyes up to Connor, his face betraying the obvious anguish that he was feeling. “That’s not the true passage.” When Giles looked up at him in confusion, he continued. “That was inserted there by a time-traveling demon. He wanted to prevent us from reading the real prophecy. Apparently this phrase formerly said that my son would kill him, and he wanted to avert that.”

Connor gasped, the gravity of what Angel had admitted sinking in. He felt his father staring at him searchingly, trying to get a read on him. Connor gave him a weak smile.

Giles had missed the exchange, but Connor knew Spike hadn’t by the way he was looking at Angel with noticeable pity. Angel gave the other vampire a quick smile of acknowledgment. Giles ran his fingers over a passage and began speaking again. “This part I believe is about a birth, yes?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Raised in darkness to bring darkness.” He ran a hand through his hair and shook his head in concentration. “New life will be made from death; two demons shall begat a human child.” Giles puffed a breath of surprise and turned around towards Angel. “This speaks of your son?”

“Yes.” Angel straightened up and shot Connor a tight smile.

“Angel, while I appreciate that this appears to be the original scroll written by Nyazian prophets thousands of years ago, you yourself have admitted that the text has been tampered with. How can you trust this as gospel?”

“Because I was there when all of this stuff happened, Giles!” Connor heard the irritation seeping back into his father’s voice. “I saw my son being born, held him in my arms.” He began to pace. “Besides, this is just one of a handful of prophecies that speak of his birth.”

“Angel, the significance of a human child born to vampire parents would obviously fail to escape the notice of the Watcher’s Council. How is it that we had never even heard one word of this?”

Angel stopped and sighed in frustration. He gave Giles a hard look. “Because no one knows about him.”

Giles scoffed. “So, why tell me?”

“Because you hate me.” Giles didn’t move to argue but did seem thrown by the admission. “I need to know if the situation calls that there is one person who won’t hesitate to drive a stake through my heart if it means protecting my son.”

“Dad…”

Dad?” Giles sprang to his feet, gaping at Connor in wonder. “He’s…this is your son?” He walked around the desk to stand in front of Connor, eyeing him closely. Angel had moved as well, eager to protect him. Giles quirked an eyebrow at Connor. “He’s your father?”

Connor squirmed under the close scrutiny. “Yeah.”

“What are you…what I mean to say is…do you have any special…ah…” Giles was stumbling, obviously at a loss for words.

“Fights like a vamp, has all the vamp senses minus the allergy to sunlight.” Spike gave Connor a smirk. “And, he’s not big with the blood drinking, neither.” He then moved closer, laying a comforting hand on Connor’s shoulder. Connor gave the vampire an embarrassed grin of thanks.

“Extraordinary!” His voice was low and he looked between Angel and Connor. “Who’s the mother, then?”

“Darla.”

“Darla? Your sire?” Giles’ scrunched his eyebrows, clearly mystified. “The same Darla who you killed almost seven years ago?”

“Wolfram and Hart brought her back.” Angel sighed deeply, raising his hands to gesture the air around his head. “And there this god who was trying to give birth to herself so she needed to create a mystical birth in order to do that.” He shook his head, perplexed. “Honestly, I don’t really know. It’s a long story. I can fill in the details later.”

“When was this, Angel?” He was staring at Connor intensely. “Because this boy looks to be at least 18 years old.”

Angel gazed at Connor dejectedly, not speaking for a long moment. “He was born a few years ago, but was taken from me when he was a baby, raised in a hell dimension. When he came back he was…older.”

Connor stared back at his father, feeling a wave of conflicting emotions crashing through him. Giles was visibly shocked at Angel’s palpable concern for his son. He watched the vampire for a long beat, seeming to come to a decision. When he spoke his voice was filled with awe. “Angel, he is absolutely without precedent.”

“Yeah, I know.” Angel closed his eyes, steeling himself before continuing. “Look, I know you don’t owe me anything, Giles. And trust me, I am loath to be beholden to you for anything.” He gave Connor a pointed glance before turning back towards Giles. “But, if something ever happens to me, can I trust that you will watch over him?”

Connor thought Giles was practically bursting with the excitement at the prospect of doing that. “Yes, of course. He will be safe with me.” He thought of something else. “But, on one condition. You allow me to examine him, test his abilities.”

“I’m not going to let you poke needles into my son, Giles!”

“It is absolutely pivotal that we document everything about him. Think on the enormity of this situation, Angel!”

“There will be no record made. Think of what would happen if that fell into the wrong hands!” He leaned back against the desk and crossed his arms across his chest. “And no one else will know about this, either.” He clamped a hard hand on Giles’ shoulder. “I am entrusting you with this, Giles. Entrusting you with the most precious thing in the world to me.” Angel’s voice broke a little, and Connor was grateful for the little squeeze that Spike gave his to shoulder.

Giles just stared at Angel in amazement, clearly surprised at the depth of his emotion. “Yes, of course.” He stepped out and away, effectively removing himself from Angel’s grasp. “Your secret will remain safe with me.”

Angel closed his eyes, his face flooded with relief. “Thank you,” he whispered to Giles sincerely.

Suddenly, both Angel and Spike tensed, sensing someone approaching. The door to Giles’ office flew open to reveal a small blonde girl whose mouth hung open in shock. Judging from the strong reactions of both vampires Connor instantly knew she had to be Buffy.

*Benvenuto, i miei amici!” -- Welcome, my friends
*Buon vederli, il mio amico.-- Good to see you, my friend

+++


Last edited by Adjovi on Tue Jul 31, 2007 2:16 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2007 5:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow! You have been busy, Adjovi.

I love post NFA stories. It's good to see our heroes moving on and, more importantly, surviving the demon hordes.

Quote:
Darla in repose, hand on swollen belly. A baby, eyes wide and smiling. A baby. He put the journal back down, only to reclaim it once he saw a few photos had been shoved into the binding. The first one revealed a smiling Wesley and Cordelia with a slightly abashed Angel. They all looked very happy. The second was what looked inexplicitly like a prom photo, a small blonde clinging to an Angel in a tux, smiling under an archway of balloons. He stared at the third photo for a long time. Angel was holding a small baby, gazing down at him with a look of wonder and adoration. The baby had curled a small chubby fist around an offered forefinger, and was returning the look with complete trust and love.


I know that Connor had seen a few photos in S4 when he was shacked up with Cordelia but I don't think Connor ever saw any photos of Angel and himself as a baby. It is nice that you have Connor finding them just to see that yes, his father did love him from the start.

Connor asking if Spike was related to him and Angel not knowing, but saying maybe. I wonder how that works? Is Spike related, is he Connor's nephew, or could he be Connor's brother because Dru did vamp Darla thereby...

It makes my head spin.

Quote:
Angel’s face tightened a bit, and emotion flooded his eyes. He swallowed and cleared his throat before answering, his voice thick. “Wesley.” He blinked several times. “Gunn’s still in ICU, probably never going to walk again. And, a blow to the head has left him blind.”


Ouch! Poor Gunn, blind and in a wheelchair.

Quote:
“Dad, you’re the only person who actually knows who I am. What I am.” He looked down and took a shuddering breath. “I love the Reillys. I really do. And you and I both know that I wouldn’t be here today if you hadn’t done what you did. But I told you then, I couldn’t be saved by a lie.” Angel's face crumpled then and he looked as if he was going to speak, but Connor held up a hand, cutting him off. “Its a nice lie, a lie I desperately want to believe, but its still a lie. They don’t love me, not really. They don’t even really know who I am.”



Great use of the words spoken by Connor in the show. I thought that was a great scene.

Now we get to see how Buffy, Angel and Spike do when they meet up for the first time in Rome. That will be interesting!

Will you be posting the next chapters soon? Do you realise that you only have part of this here. The posts have a limited number of words. It's big but not as big as this story.

Thanks, sweetie, well done. You know how much I like this.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2007 8:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, you're cut off in mid-sentence, Adjovi. It's happened to me before...

Confused

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2007 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry I messed up the posting. Here are chapters 4-6.

Chapter Four
No one said anything for a long beat, just kept staring at each other, frozen in place. Buffy seemed unsure of where to place her gaze, eyes flickering between the two vampires before finally settling on Connor. “Who’s this?”

Giles cleared his throat. “Buffy, this is Connor.” He turned his head to quickly glance at Angel before turning back towards the Slayer. “He is…with Angel.”

Buffy just nodded. She sighed and looked at Spike, a pained expression on her face. “I’ll deal with you later.” She faced Angel, trying to mask her trepidation by being all-business. “We need to talk.”

Angel didn’t say anything, just turned to look at Connor, eyes raised in question.

“I’ll be ok.” To this, Angel nodded and silently followed Buffy out of the room. Connor noticed that Angel had very carefully avoided looking at Spike.

“Right, then. I’m off.” Spike stormed out of the room without further explanation.

Giles was fumbling with a bit of papers on his desk, arranging them in the way that people do when they were nervous. “So…do you want to get settled in your room? I’m afraid we only have two empty rooms available, so you will have to share the space with your…father.”

Connor nodded, not voicing aloud that he figured the vampires would probably rather bunk together. He looked pointedly at Giles, attempting to stave off further questions. “After that, I think I’m going to go find Spike.”

He knew that Giles had many questions about him, but he didn’t want to endure another Q&A session following upon the heels of the revealing conversation they had just had. And, Angel’s obvious animosity towards Giles made him ill at ease with the older man. He assumed Spike would be out getting himself nice and drunk. Connor figured he could use a drink or five at this point. Who knew what Angel would be like when he returned.

After getting settled in his room, it didn’t take him long to find Spike, his scent now very familiar. He hadn’t wandered far from the safe house, apparently entering the first bar he came across. He was seated at the bar, hunched down around a very big glass of whiskey. “Not looking for company right now, junior.”

“Too bad.” Connor slid onto the stool beside the vampire. The bartender wandered over looking to take his order. “Um…whiskey?”

“Desiderate il ghiaccio?”

Connor just stared back at him in confusion. “I…uh…I don’t speak Italian.”

The bartender tilted his head in incomprehension.

“He wants to know if you want ice, luv.” Spike answered with a bit of a fond smile.

“Oh. No. No ice.” The bartender nodded and poured his drink, plunking the glass in front of Connor, waiting expectantly.

“È su me.”* Apparently Spike’s response had satisfied the bartender and he walked off.

“You speak Italian?” Connor tentatively sipped at his drink, grimacing a bit at the fiery taste.

“Do now. After Broody mocked me for only knowing demon languages. Like he knows many demon languages.” He knocked back a bit of his drink and shook his head. “I dunno, thought maybe it’d be useful if I ever ended up here again.” His eyes dropped to the bar and he looked like he was settling into a good brood himself. “Also, had to find a way to kill time back at Wolfram and Hart. Well, besides the usual, that is.” He finished his drink, indicating to the bartender to bring another for him and Connor.

“What was the usual?”

“Annoying the piss out of Angel.” Spike rolled his glass between his hands, sloshing the amber liquid inside. “Which was a full time job, mind you, and the reason why I can’t really speak Italian worth a damn.” He seemed to darken at the mention of the other vampire.

Connor silently watched him for a bit before speaking. “So, you thought you’d come back here someday? For her?” The only response he received was stony silence. “You afraid she’s going to choose him?” Connor didn’t voice aloud the second question, whether or not Spike was worried that Angel would choose her, suspecting the answer lay somewhere in
between the two.

“You know what?” Spike threw his head back, draining the glass and slamming it down on the bar with force. “You talk an awful lot for someone whose father’s a taciturn vampire.”

“Sorry…I’m really sorry.” Connor did indeed feel regretful, not wanting to invoke the ire of one of his few allies in Rome.

Spike sighed and shot him an apologetic frown. “No, I’m sorry, pet. Just not up for talking about it.” He flipped his eyes towards Connor. “You seem to be holding up ok. How is this not weird for you?”

Connor let out a shaky laugh. “Oh, trust me. It’s weird. It’s weirder than weird.” He took a sip from his glass. “But, my whole life is weird. I have two sets of parents, two whole separate lives. In one, my dad’s treasurer of the PTA and was head coach of my high school soccer team and my mom is the Girl Scout leader of my sister’s troop. Meanwhile, my real dad is a vampire who couldn’t even come to any of my soccer games if he wanted to since he would burst into flames. And, in less than one year’s time I went from helping to bring forth a goddess that held the whole world in her thrall to being on the honor roll at Stanford.”

Spike gaped at him, astonished, before breaking into a grin. “You know, I think I actually like you, Slim, Which is a bit of a shock, really, considering I’ve spent most of my unlife hating your da with a fiery passion.” He smiled at his own joke.

Connor rolled his eyes. “I know you don’t hate him.” Spike just scoffed at him and shook his head. “And I know he doesn’t hate you, either.”

“And that, pet, is enough on that.” He threw down enough lira on the bar to cover their drinks and stood abruptly, exiting the bar. Connor finished his own drink before following him out.

There was no sign of Angel or Buffy back at the safe house, and pretty much everyone else seemed to be huddled in the den watching TV. Everyone else being a whole lot of Slayers. Some gave Spike looks of vague recognition, but Connor didn’t know any of them. Spike flopped down next to two of them on the couch and Connor took a place on the floor, opposite. The girls next to Spike were giggling and braiding each other’s hair.

“Aiden is totally dreamy.” Asian slayer with big eyes.

“He’s not as hot as Big.” Red head.

“I think Carrie’s totally going to end up with Big.” Blonde sitting in front of them on the floor.

“No way! He’s too fickle. He’ll never commit to her.” Red head again.

“That’s why she likes him, luv.” Spike decided to enter the debate and soon they were all sharing their thoughts the show.

Connor could smell Angel before he entered the room and knew Spike did, too, by the way he was anxiously eyeing the doorway. Angel pretty much looked like a wreck. He was clearly coming to check up on Connor, his eyes zeroing in on him and then glancing quickly over to Spike before turning to leave. Spike tried to halt him, indicating towards the empty seat on the couch next to him. Angel seemed to hesitate a bit before sinking down next to the other vampire.

“You alright then?” He heard Spike whisper to his father in a voice low enough that none of the other humans would notice.

Angel for his part just ignored him, pretending to focus what was going on the small screen. After a little while, it became apparent that he was actually trying to figure out what they were watching. “What is this show?”

“Oh my God!” Have you been living in a cave or something? You’ve never seen ‘Sex In The City’ before?” Asian girl.

“He’s pretty much culturally retarded.” Spike smacked Angel on the arm. Connor couldn’t help but notice that the smaller vampire was slyly sliding down on the couch, moving his leg so that it was touching Angel’s. Angel allowed the touch for a brief moment before sitting up taller in his seat, moving away from the other and putting his hands on his knees. Spike seemed to follow, sitting wider to allow their knees to fall together. He slid his own hand down his leg, meeting Angel’s, their fingers all but entwined for an instant before Angel stood hastily and stalked out of the room. Connor caught Spike’s wounded look, tracking Angel’s retreat. He felt Connor’s gaze and ducked his head, embarrassed, before turning back with a feigned interest at the small screen. Connor watched him for a moment before following his father out of the room.

“I’m sorry, but I’m not even going to pretend that I’m happy about seeing Dead boy again.” Connor didn’t recognize the male voice he heard coming from the kitchen.

“Good to see you, too, Xander.” Connor saw that Angel was talking to a man with an eye patch. The man was seated at the table with Giles. Angel stood facing them, leaning against the sink awkwardly. All eyes turned to look at Connor as he entered.

“Um…hey.” He fixed his gaze on his father. “I was thinking of going on a walk.” He fidgeted nervously. “Wanna come?”

“Sure.” Angel seemed intensely relieved and followed him out.

Connor heard the eye-patch man ask “Who the hell was that?” but they were downstairs before the answer came. The night was warm and it felt good to be outside. They walked along in companionable silence for a bit, Connor taking in the surroundings. Rome was beautiful and he hadn’t had a chance to explore yet. He turned towards his father. “So…are you ok?”

“Yeah. Fine.” Angel seemed closed off but a bit more relaxed than he had been indoors.

“Can I ask you something, dad?” Connor tracked his father’s gaze, watching a bunch of tourists who had gathered around a group of street performers.

“Sure. What’s up?” Angel turned back to face him.

“Why are we staying there?” Something inscrutable crossed Angel’s eyes. “’Cause we can stay and go as we please, and it doesn’t seem to be the best place…” Angel just shrugged. “Is it because of her?”

Angel sighed. “Yeah. I guess.” He shoved his hands in his pockets, seemingly doleful. “I think I have a bit of a streak of masochism in me.”

“A bit?”

Angel smiled. “I guess we could look for an apartment nearby. We do need their protection, but maybe it’d be better for us all if we weren’t staying under the same roof. Does being there upset you?”

Connor shrugged. “No…well, that Giles guy does kind of freak me out a bit. I really don’t like him. But, it doesn’t seem like you and Spike are all that comfortable there.”

“Giles is a good man, actually. Him and me just don’t see eye to eye.” He looked over at Connor guiltily. “Guess me horribly killing his girlfriend and then torturing him for hours tends to put a damper on any chance of a friendship.” Connor stared at him, eyes bugging a bit. “I was evil at the time.”

Connor let out a nervous chuckle. He scanned the night, taking in the surroundings. He thought he recognized the place they were heading to from the travel book he had picked up for the trip. “So…how did your talk with Buffy go?”

Angel took in an unneeded breath. “Well, she’s not cookies, yet.” When Connor just gaped at him in confusion, he continued. “She’s not ready for a relationship. But, you know what the funny part is?” He turned towards Connor almost like he was waiting for an answer even though the question had been rhetorical. “That’s not the part that’s eating at me. What I feel bad about is, even if she had been ready, I’m not. And, I hate hurting her. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but I feel guilty about that. Before, it was me waiting on her. She could count on that; the someday factor. Now she knows that maybe someday won’t come. At least not for a long time.” He sounded glum.

“Well, you said you’re in a different place now.”

“I still love her. That never changes. But, it’s different now. I’m different.”

They had stopped, gazing down from the top of the Spanish steps.

“This is beautiful.” Connor saw a couple of artists were seated, sketching the fountain at the base of the steps. He sat down and indicated to Angel to follow him. “So…what about Spike?”

Angel shrugged. “What about Spike?”

“I like him.”

Angel gawked at him. “You do?”

“Yeah…he’s funny.” He gave Angel a lopsided grin. “And, you have to admit, he kinda throws a little light onto your brood.” Angel was staring at him, incredulous. “Besides, it’s not good to be alone.”

Angel watched him for a long beat, and when he spoke his voice was soft. “You’ve changed a lot, you know?”

“Oh, you mean about the part where I’m not trying to kill you anymore?”

“That’s just part of it.” His eyes roamed the square in front of them before straying back to Connor, placing a hand on his son’s shoulder. “I’m really proud of the man that you’ve become.”

Connor bit his lip, trying to stave off the ever-present ball of guilt that gnawed at his stomach. He gulped and looked at his father nervously. “Dad…there’s something I need to tell you.” He could feel the tears building in his eyes and he blinked rapidly, trying to diffuse them. “It’s bad.”

“It’s ok, Connor, you can tell me anything.”

Connor closed his eyes, bracing himself before speaking. “My mother came to me once.”

“Darla?” Angel’s eyebrows were knit in bewilderment. “You saw Darla?”

“Yeah…she came to me. Or at least, something that looked like her.” He quickly glanced over at Angel before returning to stare at the ground. “She was trying to get me from doing… something really bad.”

Angel dropped his hand from Connor’s shoulder. “What do you mean?”

He let out a unsteady breath. “Cordy told me that we needed a girl. For our baby. For Jasmine.” His voice hitched. “Darla was trying to get me to let her go. And, I almost believed her. But then, Cordy saw Darla too, and told me that you had sent her just to mess with me. That you hated me that much.” A heavy tear slipped down his cheek, unbidden.

“God…Connor. I would never do that. I never hated you!” Angel put his hand back on Connor’s shoulder, trying to comfort him.

“I didn’t even know her name.” He began to cry. “I didn’t even know the girl’s name, dad. And, I let Cordy kill her. I could have saved her, but instead, I dragged her to her death.” He was openly weeping now.

Angel was silent for a long moment before pulling Connor into his arms. “Oh God, Connor. I’m so sorry…”

“How do you do it, dad? How do you ever get over it?” He had fisted his hand in Angel’s shirt, holding on for dear life.

“You don’t get over it, son. You never do. You never should.” Strong hands were rubbing Connor’s shoulders. “Jesus. I never wanted you to have this kind of pain.” He let out a sigh. “I wish I could take this from you.”

Connor just sobbed in his father’s arms. “I’m so sorry, dad. Oh God. I’m so sorry.”

Angel tucked Connor under his chin. “I know, son. I know.”

“Do you hate me now?” He was afraid of the answer.

“I would be the biggest hypocrite in the world if I did.” He straightened so he could look Connor in the eyes. “I love you son. I’ve always loved you, always will. You know that, don’t you?”

Connor nodded, eyes dropping again. “I know, dad.” He sniffled and wiped at his cheeks, sighing deeply. “God, I wish I had something big and ugly to hit.”

“I think I know of a place…” He stood, holding out a hand to help his son up. “La città dei morti.” Off of Connor’s baffled look he translated. “The City of the Dead.” He started walking down the steps. “Over five hundred years ago, an elite group of vampires created a city here in Rome. A whole city, complete with their own system of government and everything. Not just anyone could enter, though—you had to be invited in. Not that I would have joined them. Angelus wasn’t all that big on the teamwork.”

Connor smirked at him. “They didn’t invite you, did they?”

“No.” Angel smiled back. “So, they won’t let us inside. Plus, they kill any humans that enter, so that leaves you out. But, they do go out on patrol, bring back kills.” He shot a glance at Connor. “We could catch some of them on the hunt.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

They did in fact catch five of them. As they walked back to the safe house, Connor was surprised how relaxed that he felt, comfortable for the first time since arriving in Rome. He could tell Angel felt the same by the silly grin he was sporting. Their good moods were broken, however, when a frantic Spike met them as soon as they entered, clearly waiting for them. He grabbed at Angel’s hand and Angel allowed this, Spike’s obvious need for comfort winning out over the usual self-censure he exhibited in front of Connor. Spike reeked of beer and Buffy, and was visibly distraught. Angel’s face softened in sympathy, and he glanced up at his son in wordless apology.

Connor shook his head in understanding, and he hooked a thumb behind him. “I’m just gonna go watch some tv.” Angel nodded in response before turning his attention back to the bereft and broken vampire.
A soft blue glow was emanating from the darkened den, and he could make out some of the conversation that was coming from the screen. The room had largely been vacated, that Xander guy was crashed out on the couch, snuggled up next to a young woman with light brown hair that Connor hadn’t met before. They were both fast asleep. The coffee table was littered with empty beer bottles, clear evidence of Spike’s earlier binge. He did however recognize the brunette who sat near the open window, cigarette in hand.

“You must be that kid that Angel brought.” Faith flicked an ash out the window. “Spike find ‘em?”

“Yeah, he did.” Connor crossed over to her, holding out his hand. “I’m Connor.”

“Faith.” She looked exactly the same, and he felt his stomach do a little flip at that. He had liked her before; she was the only human that had ever been able to put him in his place, wasn’t afraid of him. She swung her legs around so that she was facing him. “Don’t know what Spike’s deal was. I thought he hated Angel. But seriously, I thought the dude was going to rip his fingernails out if Angel didn’t get back soon.”
Connor shrugged, sitting on the edge of an armchair nearest to Faith. “I guess they’re all they have left.”

Faith sighed. “Yeah. Heard about that. Jesus.” She took a puff of her cigarette. “Don’t understand why Angel didn’t call us. Call me.”

“He’d probably just say it wasn’t your fight. He’s kinda stupid like that.” Connor gave her a small smile.

“Real stupid. I coulda helped.” She shook her head in disbelief.

Connor glanced at the tv, surprised at what he saw. “You’re watching ‘Interview with a Vampire?’ Don’t you get enough of that crap in the workplace?”

“Yeah, I know, I know. Ann Rice has obviously never met a real vampire and Tom Cruise is terrible as Lestat, but Brad Pitt is just sooo pretty.” She smirked at him and flicked her cigarette out the window. “But, I know how it ends.” She held out the remote to him. “Watch what you want.”

He yawned tiredly, jet lag finally settling in. “Nah, I think I’m heading to bed.” He walked out towards the small room that he had claimed earlier, not at all surprised that he wouldn’t have to share it with Angel after all.

*È su me—It’s on me

+++

Chapter Five

Connor’s days, or more accurately nights, soon took on a certain pattern. He had found that he had involuntarily adjusted his own circadian rhythm to match that of the two vampires. Wasn’t really that much of a stretch from being a college student, actually; staying up all-night and sleeping all-day. He typically alternated roaming the city at night with Angel or Spike, sometimes all three at once. They always left under the pretense of patrolling, but usually ended up either sightseeing or just sparring to relieve some of the pent up energy that came with sharing their living space with a bunch of Slayers.

One evening he and Angel set out after an impromptu pizza party that had been brought on by a couple of hungry Slayers. Connor had to admit that the Romans sure did know their pizza. He noticed that although his father hadn’t even taken one bite, Spike had voraciously attacked the pies, inhaling 5 or 6 pieces at rapid pace.

“Why don’t you eat food?” Connor secretly hoped that Angel had been steering them towards another museum, as he had done the few previous times they had been out on “patrol”. Over the past few weeks, Connor had discovered that his father possessed an astonishing amount of art history, and would fastidiously explain the hows and whys of each painting, sculpture, fresco they encountered. Connor was surprised to find he had obviously inherited Angel’s keen interest in the arts, as he hung onto his father’s every word. A fact he would never admit aloud, of course.

“It’s not that I can’t eat.” Angel shrugged, a bit chagrined. “I just don’t particularly enjoy eating food.”

Connor had been momentarily distracted by a living statue; a man painted in entirely in silver. The man suddenly swung his torso in their direction, tipping his hat to them. “Uh, then why does Spike eat?”

Angel shrugged again. “I dunno. He’s weird.” Angel stepped sideways to allow a group of tourists to pass. He seemed slightly embarrassed by the conversation, but Connor kept looking at him expectantly, so he continued to clarify. “Food is kinda…tasteless to me. And, my body takes a long time to digest. The whole process leaves me kinda sluggish and unfocused.” He looked around, trying to gain his bearings. “I just try and avoid it whenever I can.”

Connor nodded. Apparently they had arrived at their destination, as they had stopped before the stairwell to a grand white building.

“The Galleria Borghese.” Angel glanced over at Connor before peering up at the museum. “This was originally a palace, commissioned by Pope Paul V in 1612 as part of an urban renovation project.” He vaguely waved up at the exterior. “Most of the building’s plan came from a Flemish architect Flaminio Ponzio, whom was thought to be the Pope’s go-to guy in terms of design.” His voice was taking on an animated tone, clearly responding to Connor’s interest. “Typically, the villas of the region were monolithic and confined, kinda boring really, so his design was a total departure from this.” He traced the sides of the building with his index fingers. “These front and side projections were a totally new design which he enhanced by placing the windows and the doors opening up to the garden avenues on all four sides.” He looked over at his son, his eyes gleaming. He seemed unable to hide the smile on his face and Connor found he couldn’t help but return it. “Wanna break in?”

Connor shrugged, attempting to feign apathy but knew he was failing miserably. “Sure…what else we gonna do?”

They had entered through a loose window on the left wing. Angel led them through darkened corridors, moving with purpose. Their eyes quickly adjusted to the emergency lighting that dimly illuminated their way. Angel pointed out the renowned works of art, most notably Bernini’s “Apollo and Daphne” and Ruben’s “The Deposition”. But, he came to a complete stop when he saw that Connor was obviously taken by one of the paintings. He smiled warmly at his son. “Titian’s ‘Sacred and Profane Love’.”

“Wow.” Connor wasn’t even trying to contain his awe.

“This was commissioned to celebrate the wedding of the Venetians Nicolò Aurelio and Laura Bagarotto in 1514.” He walked up to the painting, pointing out certain features. “The figure with the vase symbolizes the fleeting happiness on earth, whereas the one bearing the burning flame symbolizes eternal happiness in heaven.” He watched Connor’s face, clearly taken by his fascination. He let a long moment spool out in silence before he spoke again. “We should probably get back….”

Connor could tell Angel was as reluctant as he was, but knew that practicality called for them to depart as they could be discovered at any moment. He nodded and followed his father out into the night, trying to commit to memory everything he had seen. Lately, as the summer drew to a close, he had been unable to shake the sense that any time spent with his father were stolen moments.

A few nights later, after another rousing round of “avoiding Buffy”, he and Spike were out and about. Giles had detained Angel, wanting clarification about a particular passage in the prophecy. Spike had seemed anxious to get out of the Slayer house that night; he had either ran into some very large demon who had worked him over something fierce, or more likely, he had repeatedly ran his face into Angel’s fist. Connor kept stealing sideways glances at him.

“What?” Spike seemed agitated, kicking a small stone down into a gutter with unneeded force.

“Can I ask you something?” Connor shoved his hands in his pockets, attempting to impart an air of casualness. Spike quirked an annoyed eyebrow in his direction, but didn’t object. “Why do you eat food?”

Spike broke out into a grin, clearly relieved by the question. “And why doesn’t Angel?” Connor just nodded. “Well, maybe he’s too busy brooding to enjoy the finer things about living.”

Connor scoffed, amused. “But, you’re dead.”

“Yeah, but we don’t have to act like corpses now, do we?” He smirked at Connor and lit up a cigarette. “I happen to love food. Sure, some of it has lost its flavor, but with enough spices…” He exhaled a contented breath of smoke. “Spicy buffalo wings are my personal favorite. Buffalo sauce, chicken, a little blue cheese dressing on the side. What’s not to love?” Connor just laughed in response. “So, you fancy scaring up something to eat, then? I think I might know of a place.”

He led them to a small trattoria tucked in an alleyway near the Pantheon. “Do you like spicy food?” Connor nodded in the affirmative. “Then, you should try the pasta puttanesca. Pretty much the best I’ve ever had.” He took a healthy sip of wine. “Puttanesca means ‘pasta the way a whore would make it’”. He winked at Connor. “Back in the day, whore houses would offer the dish to prospective customers in order to entice them inside.”

The dishes were huge, and the food was beyond excellent. Honestly, it was the pretty much the best thing that Connor had ever eaten. He felt sated and at ease, and slightly buzzed from the wine. They wandered a bit further down darkened alleyways and just as they rounded a corner, Spike took a lazy swing at his face which he easily avoided. He stepped quickly to the left, then flipped over Spike’s head and swept a leg under the vampire, felling him. Spike laughed, openly enjoying himself. Sparring was typically the way they ended their evenings.

They danced around each other like boxers, both looking for any opening. “You move like him, you know?” Spike lunged a bit at him, attempting to draw him off balance.

Connor rolled his eyes and shrugged. “I dunno.” He nodded at Spike’s battered face. “I get the feeling he pulls his punches with me.”

Spike stopped then, and smirked at him. “Well, he would do, wouldn’t he?”
Connor stopped as well. “What do you mean?”

The other vampire pulled out a cigarette, indicating the sparring session was over. “Well, he wouldn’t want to hurt you, now, would he?”

Connor felt himself a bit miffed at this and straightened his shoulders. “I can take him.”

Spike guffawed at him and gingerly touched his face. “Yeah…”

Connor looked at him searchingly. “Why do you guys fight all the time?”

Spike shrugged. “It’s a vampire thing.” He then considered something else. “Also, I think he feels it’s payback.”

Connor quirked an eyebrow. “Payback? For what?”

Spike was shifting from foot to foot. “For an earlier fight. In which I did win.”

Now it was Connor’s turn to scoff. ”You beat him?”

“Fair and square.” Spike looked off, eyes distant, before taking in Connor with a long glance. “Although now I think maybe his heart wasn’t in it. Seeing as he’d already won the bloody cup of Mountain Dew and all.”

“You guys were fighting over Mountain Dew? What are you? Twelve?”

“That’s not the point. You know what? Let’s not….” He was cut off by the sound of a gun cocking.

Suddenly, out of no where, Angel catapulted over the both of them, pulling them into an awkward embrace. He positioned himself so that his back protected them from the attack. He jerked as each bullet hit him, and soon pain won out and Angel sunk to his knees, pulling the other two with him. When the machine gun clicked repeatedly, indicating it was finally empty, Spike let out a roar and jumped around the other two. Connor saw him attack the gun-toting demon, his game face in place. He viciously tore the demon’s head from his body, then continued to tear at the creature until all that was left was a bloody smear. Connor was surprised at Spike’s brutality; apparently, he had been pulling his punches with him as well. Angel was slumped against him, eyes half-mast. Spike loped over towards them, back in human face. “He ok?”

“I don’t…” Connor’s mouth parted in horror as he took in the bloody mess that was Angel’s back. Angel had completely gone slack, apparently passing out.

Spike reached out and carefully pulled Angel into his lap. He chewed at his bottom lip, considering something before looking up at Connor, contrite. “Sorry about this, mate, but he needs it.” He suddenly vamped and bit his own wrist, bringing the wound up to Angel’s mouth. Connor felt vaguely guilty and somewhat disgusted, but also oddly entranced. Angel seemed to respond immediately to the blood, wrapping his hands tightly around Spike’s wrist, lapping at the wound with wet slurping noises. His yellow eyes flew wide with surprise, taking in Connor. He shifted back to human face and his body dropped downwards, the pain catching up to him. Spike caught Angel under one of his shoulders, indicating Connor do the same. “Can you walk, pet?” Angel grunted in response, which Spike took to be in the affirmative and with Connor’s assistance hefted the older vampire to standing. He looked around Angel to Connor. “We should get him back to the house, in case Al Capone there had any friends.” Connor nodded and they began the slow journey home without another word.

The stairs leading up to the second floor presented the biggest challenge as Angel didn’t seem to have control over his movements and his feet kept missing the steps. After much effort they reached Spike’s room, and the blonde vampire pulled the door open. “Let’s get him on the bed, then.” Angel fell like a dead weight, face first on top of the blankets. Spike rubbed a hand over his forehead, obviously concerned. He began to pace and glanced over to Connor. “OK…we’re going need some gauze and medical tape, some kind of forceps…” He tapped his finger against his front teeth. “And the biggest bottle of vodka you can find. Prolly want to look in the Englishman’s office. Maybe a hidden cabinet in his desk…”

Connor nodded, eager to be doing something useful. He found the medical supplies without much trouble, obviously they were in high demand and there was an entire stocked cabinet right in the front hallway. He also found a nasty-looking pair of pliers, which he supposed would be best for removing bullets. And, Spike had been right, he did indeed find an almost full bottle of vodka hidden in Giles’ desk. As he approached the door, he heard muted voices from within. “So, you don’t trust me with the boy, eh? You were following us.” Spike tone was only mildly reproachful and Connor heard a loud tearing noise. “Had to be the big strapping hero….” Both turned their heads as Connor entered. Spike indicated that he deposit the gauze and pliers on the nightstand and held his hand out for the vodka, whistling in approval. “Guess the old man sprang for the good stuff.”

“Connor, I don’t want you here.” Connor could tell that Angel was struggling with every word. He had been stripped from the waist up, and he could see that Spike had torn the sheets in an attempt to clean up some of the wounds. His back still looked like raw tenderized meat, and he thought he could see the bone peeking through in a few places.

“Yeah? Tough.” He looked at Spike, wordlessly waiting for further instructions, attempting to avoid looking at Angel’s back.

Spike walked around the bed, gently cupping the back of Angel’s head and pulling it slightly upwards, tilting the open bottle towards his lips.

Connor found himself touched by the tenderness of the gesture. “Sorry, luv, but I need his help on this one. Ok…drink up.” Angel wrapped his hands around the bottle and took a healthy sip, sputtering slightly when he swallowed. Spike waved the bottle, signifying Angel should drink again. Angel obliged two more times, finally satisfying Spike when he saw that he had drained about a third of the bottle. Spike took a hefty sip himself and then tossed the bottle towards Connor, who took a drink as well. Spike rubbed his hands together and picked up the gauze and pliers, assessing whether they would be adequate. He took in a deep breath. “OK, junior, we need to keep him as still as possible. I want you to hold down his shoulders as tight as you can. I’m going to sit on his hips.” He looked around the room. “Here, fetch that waste bin.”

Connor pulled the garbage can over to the side of the bed and then slid in by Angel’s head, taking in a deep breath himself before leaning down hard on his father’s shoulders. “This ok?”

The question had been directed towards Angel, but it was Spike who answered. “Just make sure he doesn’t move.” He pulled his belt from his waist.

Angel flinched, eyes wide in shock. “Spike, what the hell are you….”

“Don’t get too excited, Peaches. Don’t want you biting off your own tongue.” He folded the belt over twice, then offered it to Angel to place in his mouth. Spike then swung his legs over the prone vampire, effectively pinioning him to the bed. He blew out a long breath and held the pliers up. “You ready then?” Angel nodded into the pillow, his hands fisted into the bedclothes in anticipation. Spike glanced up at Connor who nodded as well. “Right, then.” Spike took aim and plunged the pliers into one of the wounds, rooting around until finding purchase and pulling out the tiny bullet. Connor felt Angel tense completely, holding his breath and groaning softly. Spike dropped the bullet into the can with a metallic ping. He took in a shuddering breath, eyes full of concern, before aiming the pliers and repeating the procedure again.

Connor had lost count after 20; he had no idea how many bullets Spike had pulled from Angel’s back. All he knew was that the sound in the waste can had changed from an empty rattle to a more muted sound as the bullets bounced off of one another. He knew that Spike had been avoiding the deepest of the wounds, a few which had thankfully just missed Angel’s spine. Spike reached forward and gently tangled a hand in the back on Angel’s head in an attempt to calm him. “OK, pet. Gotta go a bit deep now.” Angel seemed to shiver but simply nodded. Spike steeled himself before thrusting the pliers in deeply. Angel’s entire body bucked upwards and he let out a strangled scream. Connor had to push down hard to keep him still. Spike moved the tool around a bit before Angel went completely slack, causing the younger vampire let out a relieved sigh. “Oh thank God. He’s passed out.” After a bit more of a struggle, he wrested the bullet free. He held his hand out for the bottle and took a gulp, then handed it over to Connor.

Connor’s insides were already churning and he was not prepared for the assault of the alcohol. He lurched off of the side of the bed, emptying the contents of his stomach onto the floor until there was nothing left. He felt a cool hand on his neck, gently soothing him. “I’m sorry…”

“It’s alright, luv. It’s alright.” Spike kept rubbing his neck, he felt himself leaning into comforting the touch. “With him knocked out, I can finish the rest of this myself.”

Connor pushed against his hands, attempting to sit taller. “No…no…it’s ok. He’s my father. I’ll be alright.”

Spike nodded in agreement. “Right. Well, we’re going to need some fresh bedclothes. Think you can scare some up for us, then?” He gave Connor a hesitant smile.

“Yeah, sure.” He stood shakily, throwing a glance back towards his father before heading out. As soon as he opened the door, he was assailed by a wave of fresh air. He had been unaware that the air and the room had been so thick with the smell of pain, blood and fear. His legs buckled beneath him, and he slid down the wall, resting his chin resting on his knees. He sat there, unmoving, until he was spurned back into action by the sounds of Spike beginning his grim task again. When he finally returned with clean sheets and a torn (but clean) blanket, he found Spike sitting on the open windowsill, smoking a cigarette, a bloody smear marring his cheek. Apparently, he had finished removing all of the bullets. Angel lay in the position he had left him, still unmoving.

Spike flicked his cigarette out the window and moved back over to the bed. “I’m gonna lift him. You think you can change the sheets?” He leaned in towards the unconscious vampire, gently turning Angel over and then sliding one arm under his legs and the other under his neck. He hoisted Angel awkwardly aloft, moving back to allow room for Connor to complete his task.

The bed clothes were covered in blood and dark smears that Connor suspected were pieces of skin and tissue. Connor ripped them from the bed, tossing them at the foot. He cringed when he saw that some of the blood had seeped onto the mattress, so he lifted the side upwards, almost tumbling forward under the unwieldy weight before flipping it over. He tossed the fitted sheet, unfurling its length before tucking it around the corners of the bed. Once he smoothed it out, Spike gently lay Angel down on the bed, carefully positioning the injured vampire on his side.

“S’ok, I can take it from here.” He took up the roll of gauze and began cutting small squares to cover the wounds, giving Connor a reassuring smile. “He’s going to be ok.”

Connor reached out with shaking fingers, attempting to aid Spike. “No. Please. Let me help.”

Spike decided it wasn’t a battle worth fighting and simply slid over, allowing Connor access to his father. Together, they quickly finished the task, covering the wounds on his back and the few places on his chest where the bullets had completely passed through. Spike wiped a hand across his brow and looked down at the slumbering vampire. He reached out and smoothed the hair across Angel’s brow. “He’s going to be ok. He just needs some sleep now.”

Connor stood and gave him a half-smile. “You gonna make sure he does that?”

Spike stood and grinned back. “Sure, leave me with the hard part.” He nodded at Connor in appreciation. “Thanks, mate.”

Connor just dipped his head and left the room without a glance backwards. His eyes began to blur with hot tears as soon as he made it into the hallway. He blindly stumbled into his room, throwing himself on top of his comforter fully clothed. He pulled himself into the fetal position and buried his face in his pillow, soundlessly sobbing himself to sleep.

+++

Chapter Six

When he finally awoke, the sun had already begun its slow descent towards the horizon, tinting the room with a faint orange hue. He couldn’t remember when he had first discovered that he could accurately guess where the sun hung in the sky without looking at a clock, but it had been a neat trick at college parties. 4:07PM. He cracked an eye and glanced at the glowing blue digital numbers, not at all surprised to find he was right. He rubbed at his eyes, they felt sticky and hazy, and he was sore from lying in the same position for so long. He sat up with a start, the events of the previous evening suddenly rushing in. His stomach flipped, and he heaved himself off of the side of the bed in preparation, but apparently there was nothing left inside.

He stood and walked rather unsteadily towards the dusty mirror that was perched precariously at the back of the dresser. Anytime he opened any of the drawers, the big piece of glass tottered and threatened to fall down. He sighed, taking in his reflection. He looked like hell—eyes puffy and clothes a mess. He ran a hand through his hair, trying to straighten it a bit but knowing his actions were in vain. He considered a shower, but his stomach grumbled in protest, an all-too-human reaction that he couldn’t ignore.

He walked into the hallway, mechanically turning towards the room which held his father and Spike. He hesitated a bit at the door, unsure of what to do. He heard voices from inside, one low and urgent, the other drowsy yet placating. He easily placed the owner of each without much thought, accents notwithstanding. He found himself intensely relieved to hear Angel speak. The voices stopped suddenly, probably sensing his presence, so he turned on his heel and headed towards the kitchen.
He paused a bit before entering, still feeling a bit awkward around “the Scoobies”, as Spike referred to them. There was a clear line of demarcation among the residents of the safe house. Spike, Angel and himself. And then everybody else. And everybody else unmistakably held him suspect because he was associated with the “other” camp. He took a deep breath and soldiered on in.

The four people gathered around the table comprised the core of the in-crowd. Xander. The man who plainly hated both Angel and Spike with equaling amounts of intensity, and whose anger was compounded by the fact that neither of them held him in anything more than mild disdain. Dawn. Buffy’s sister, who he thought might have a crush on him, but was obviously out of the question given the fact that her sister dated both Spike and his father. Willow. Connor felt incredibly uncomfortable around her, as he knew that she sensed something about him by the way she seemed to try and stare right through him. And Buffy. He actually didn’t know how he felt about her. On the one hand, he knew that she was wary of him, could tell she was constantly studying him, jealous of the time he spent with the vampires. But, he couldn’t help but feel a pang of sympathy towards her as well, as she seemed so sad and broken since they had arrived in Rome.

They all looked up guiltily at him, truncating their conversation at his entrance. They had obviously been talking about either Angel, Spike or himself, or any combination thereof. Willow gave a small wave and a smile in an attempt to dissipate the uneasiness. Connor returned with an uncertain nod.

Xander leaned back in his seat, taking Connor in with a bemused glance. “So…what’s your deal, kid? Up at the crack of dusk…you livin’ la vida vampire these days?”

Connor did his best to ignore him by scratching at his chin distractedly, looking around for something to eat.

Dawn stood up, wincing as her chair screeched. “Um, are you hungry?” She opened the fridge and peeked inside. “I just made some spaghetti…”

Connor shook his head. “No, thanks. I was thinking maybe something more along the lines of cereal.” He took the proffered milk that Dawn held behind her back as she looked deeper into the fridge for something more breakfast appropriate. He reached up to a cabinet above his head and pulled down a bowl, finding the cereal stashed nearby. He scrunched his nose. Weetabix? What the hell was that? He tore open the box and warily looked inside. Looked healthier than he was used to; he didn’t see any miniature marshmallows in the shapes of stars and four-leaf-clovers. Well…beggars can’t be choosers. He sighed and poured some into the bowl, then liberally dumped a few spoonfuls of sugar overtop.

Buffy made a moue of distaste in his direction. “Your teeth are going to rot out of your head.”

He felt their eyes watching him as he pulled out a chair and sat down, and began shoveling the food into his mouth. Not too bad. Tasted better than he’d expected, and he liked the texture. He hadn’t realized how hungry he had been.

“Slow down, there, tiger.” Xander chucked him on the arm. “You have to breathe or you’re going to choke.”

He felt Buffy’s expression soften a bit as she watched him closer, and when he finally glanced up, she seemed to be regarding him with knowing compassion. He guessed that he looked worse than he had thought. She cleared her throat. “Rough night, huh?”

Connor tried to keep his emotions in check, not reveal too much, but knew he failed when she just kept looking at him with sympathy. He tried for indifference and simply shrugged.

“Were you hurt?” Dawn asked him gently, raking her eyes over his neck for any signs of wounds.

He shook his head. “Nah…I’m ok.” He tilted the cereal bowl, draining the rest of the milk and wiping his forearm across his mouth. “We…just ran into some problems last night.”

“We…who?” Buffy was leaning forward interestedly, as were the others.

She tilted her head back, seeming to suddenly understand something. “Who got hurt?”

Connor fiddled with the spoon in his bowl, the metal tinging off of the ceramic. “Angel. He’s going to be ok, though.” He hoped.

Buffy leaned forward, closing in on Connor’s space but Willow placed a staying hand on her arm. “What happened?” The witch’s voice was soft, tentative.

Connor was saved when Spike strode into the kitchen just then, obviously seeking him out when he visibly relaxed a bit once he saw him. Connor saw him stiffen when he saw the others, but Spike shrugged it off, attempting to maintain his careful cool. Spike looked very pale and drawn, and Connor couldn’t help but notice the vampire had taped a large bandage over his neck and another over his wrist. Apparently, the others noticed as well.

“So…what was it?” Xander tilted his head in the direction of Spike’s neck. “What got you?”

Spike absently fingered the bandage, shooting a vaguely guilty look in Connor’s direction before speaking. “It was a…demon.” He wasn’t exactly lying, he just wasn’t revealing which demon had done the damage. He changed the subject abruptly by turning his attention to the abandoned cereal box on the counter. “Weetabix?” He picked up the box and grinned. “Old Rupert remembered.”

Dawn rolled her eyes. “As if.” She grabbed the box from him and shoved it into the cabinet then turned back to face Spike, leaning back against the counter.

Buffy cleared her throat. “Where’s Angel?” She glanced at Connor before turning her stony gaze towards Spike again. “Connor said he was hurt.”

Spike wiped at invisible lint from the front of his shirt and blinked rapidly a few times, eyes trained on the ground. He sighed and looked back up at her. “He’s going to be ok, Slayer. Just needs some rest, is all.”

“What. Happened?” Buffy spoke through clenched teeth.

Spike mimed holding a machine gun in both hands. “Big demon. Big gun.” He glanced over at Connor, giving him a small smile of
encouragement. “We patched him up, though.”

“I want to see him.” Buffy crossed her arms over her chest.

“Not a good idea. Look pet…he really just needs his beauty sleep, is all. “ He tried to smile at her but was met with an angry scowl. “He’ll be fine.”

“Jeez, Buff, it’s not like bullets are a vampire’s kryptonite or anything.” Xander smirked at her, attempting to draw a smile. “They weren’t wooden bullets, were they?” Connor saw Faith move into the room, careful to remain on the outside of the group, listening.

“Nah. Ordinary variety.” Spike opened the fridge and poked around inside, pulling out a container of blood. He reached up into the cabinet and pulled down two mugs, filling each about halfway and placing them both into the microwave. They all watched in silence for a moment as the mugs swirled around each other on the carousel inside. The machine dinged and Spike reached inside claiming the mugs, setting one down on the counter. He reached up and pulled out the box of cereal, crumbling a bit into his own mug before drinking, ignoring the general looks of disgust from the room.

Giles came in, casting his eyes around the room before settling on Connor. “Ah. Connor. There you are.” Connor shifted awkwardly in his seat. “I need to speak with your…” He cut himself off, eyes going wide. He cleared his throat and started again. “Where is Angel? I need to speak with him.”

“Sorry, Rupes, but Angel’s out of commission just now.” Spike leaned back languidly and took another sip of his blood.

Giles sighed again, not trying to hide any irritation he had towards the blonde vampire. “Yes. Well. I think he may be very interested in what I have to say to him, so if you wouldn’t mind, would you please fetch him…”

Spike cut him off. “In fact, I do mind. Look, Watcher, whatever you need to say to Angel you can say to me.”

Giles ran a hand over his face, exasperation marring his features. “This is no concern of yours, Spike.” He spat out the vampire’s name as if it were poison. “This has to deal with…” he cast a significant glance in Connor’s direction. “So, if you please…”

Spike straightened, carefully laying the mug down. He glared menacingly at Giles, clearly not giving an inch, and when he spoke, his voice was low and deadly. “Angel’s not to be bothered right now.”

Everyone in the room stared at the vampire with looks ranging from bewilderment to outright shock. “Gee, Spike, since when did you give two shits about Angel, anyways?” Xander scoffed at him. “Thought you two hated each other.”

Spike shrugged, attempting to appear nonchalant. “Things change.” His gaze never wavered from the Watcher’s face.

“Things change.” Buffy agreed, her voice quiet and sad. Connor knew she had intended for only Spike to hear. The vampire turned towards her, eyes wide with regret and surprise.

Connor couldn’t bear the tension in the room any longer. He was exhausted and felt like he was dancing on the razor’s edge as it was. He wasn’t in any position to deal with prophecies, pushy Watchers, territorial vampires, or wounded Slayers. He stood and walked out of the room without further pretense, ignoring Spike’s “Where the hell do you think you’re going?”, and made a bee-line for the weapons cabinet. He pulled at the doors, the lock gave without much pressure at all, and his eyes skipped over the contents before settling on a broadsword. Angel would approve. He hefted it in his hands, testing its weight. He didn’t turn when he heard Andrew approach from behind.

“Did Mr. Giles sign that out for you? Because he has a strict policy…” He was cut off when Connor turned to face him, sword leveled at his chest.

“Get out of my way, Andrew.” He stepped around the boy and ran down the stairs, taking two at a time. The air outside felt good against his skin and he moved through the twilight with purpose, trying to place as much space between him and the safe house. He had unwittingly retraced the path to where Angel had taken him vamp hunting before. He was eager to find something to help him relieve his stress, and soon enough he heard three voices approaching, no heartbeats. He smiled.

The whole thing was over too quickly. That was the problem with vamps. Once they were dust, that was it. Can’t really keep beating the crap out of a pile of dust without looking all “Fight Club” crazy. He bent down to pick up a stake the big one had knocked out of his hands, freezing when he felt someone approaching. He looked up, expecting to see Spike. He was totally thrown to find Faith standing there.

“Nice.” She stepped towards him, scattering some of the vamp dust with her toe. “Angel teach you those moves?”

Connor shoved the stake back into his pocket and stood to his full height. “Some.”

“More like all.” She smiled at him then, giving him a knowing glance. “Needed to get out of there, huh?” He just shrugged at her. “Yeah. I know what that’s like.” She was wearing a revealing tank top and black jeans, her long hair framing her face.

Connor sighed. “I don’t even know what we’re doing in Rome. I mean, Angel said it was because they were in danger, but they’re always in danger.”

Faith laughed at him. “Isn’t it obvious?”

He had been cleaning the sword with the edge of his t-shirt, and he froze, eyebrows scrunched in confusion. “Isn’t what obvious?”

Faith shrugged. “They needed to see B.” She looked at him hard as if willing him to understand. “Needed to see if there was still something there. Probably were both as shocked as hell to find out they’d been the ones to move on.” She studied him for a bit before speaking again. “So…how long have they been….”

He glanced up at her, then continued wiping the sword in earnest even though it was already clean. “Been…what?”

She smirked at him again. “Oh please. Don’t even pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about. I think even Buffy knows, though she’d never admit it.”

He placed the sword point to the ground and pulled at the end of his shirt, assessing whether it was ruined or not. “Dunno. It’s not like we talk about it or anything.”

Faith was silent for another beat, watching him, not speaking until he looked back up at her. “Whatever. None of my business. It’s their lives, right? Or unlives, as the case may be. Shame really.” She grinned at him. “How do you feel about getting nice and drunk with me? Or are you in a big hurry to get back there?” Connor’s mouth parted and then snapped shut again. He was conflicted, but Faith voiced aloud the reason for his indecision. “He’ll be fine. He has like 12 million babysitters, and they all need to get through Spike first.” She reached out for the sword and tossed it behind a dumpster. “We’ll get it later. Come on.” He followed.

She led him to what looked like an old cathedral that had been converted into a trendy club. She waltzed them past the velvet ropes and throngs of waiting patrons up towards a very big bouncer with a clipboard. Connor heard the steady thump-thump of the music from inside. “Thought you said we were going drinking?”

Faith flashed a smile at him. “Oh, drinking will be involved.” She turned towards the bouncer, heaving her chest out a bit and pouting her lips seductively. “Fabrizio!”

The bouncer turned towards her, a big smile on his face. He gave Connor a once-over before turning back towards Faith, slowly drawing his eyes over her low neckline. He reached forward and kissed the air beside both sides of her face. “Faith! You look beautiful as always, principessa.”

“Thanks. Can we get in tonight?” She linked her arm with Connor.

“But of course.” He unlinked the rope and ushered them towards the door, ignoring the groans of protests from the front of the line.

The place was indeed a converted church, the large stained-glass windows creating crazy refracted patterns on the floor when the strobe lights passed over them. The main bar was placed where the nave would have been and the dance floor laid over where the congregation would have sat. Large crosses and other religious icons hung from the ceilings, eerily glowing from the blacklights trained on them. Faith expertly weaved her way through the writhing crowd. Connor was barely able to keep up, clinging to a small piece of fabric on the back of her shirt. She led him to an open space at the bar, waving at the bartender to get his attention. “Dante!”

He smiled when he saw her, kissing her as the bouncer had outside. “The usual, my love?”

She returned the smile. “Make it two.”

The usual, as it turned out, was a shot of tequila with a beer chaser. They had finished up the second usual and were about to begin on the third when she leaned in towards him, placing her hand on his knee. He closed his eyes, feeling the effects of the alcohol pretty acutely, considering he had slept little and eaten less. “So…what’s your deal with Angel?”

He blinked at her, trying to come up with a believable lie but finding he was having a hard time thinking at all with her chest so close to his sightline. “He…uh…he helped me out.” He shifted towards her, moving closer in his seat, trying to focus on the conversation.

She was tracing lazy circles on his knee with her finger. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” he murmured, moving closer still, staring at her lips. She grinned at him and leaned back, draining her beer.

“So, you figured…what? You’d just follow him to Rome?” She indicated to Dante to bring her another. “Isn’t that a little…strange?”

He ran his finger over the lip of his own beer and smiled drowsily at her. “Yeah.” When she just looked at him oddly, he reared back, startled. “Wait. No.” He shook his head to clear it. “What are you asking?”

She smirked at him. “Whoa dude…you’re totally drunk.” She chuckled again. “I was just saying wasn’t it a little strange…” she trailed off, catching sight of something behind him. He turned his head as well, just in time to see Spike hauling Angel towards the doorway.

Connor jumped up from his seat and ran over towards them. He could tell that Angel was in pain by the careful way he moved, and by the way Spike was lightly supporting his arm. Anger lanced through his drunken stupor, quickly sobering him. “Dad?!?” Both vampires froze and turned as one. “What the hell are you doing here?”

Spike rolled his eyes. “What do you think?” He gently tugged Angel’s arm again towards the exit. “There. You’ve seen him. Satisfied yet?”

Angel unsuccessfully tried to wrench himself out of the other vampire’s grip just as Faith came up. “Hey there, big guy. Join us for a drink?”

Angel licked his lips and glanced at Connor before smiling at Faith. “Sure.” He linked his arm in hers and let himself be led towards the bar.

Spike rolled his eyes to the ceiling and shook his head. “Such a wanker.”

He sighed and looked at Connor. “Come on, then.”

Faith had found a small table with high chairs near the bar and she ordered over enough drinks for all of them. Angel was avoiding both Spike’s and Connor’s glares and downed his drinks like a champ, wincing as he swallowed. When the song changed, Faith jerked her head back in the direction of the dance floor and looked pointedly at Connor. “Wanna dance?”

Connor ducked his head. “I don’t dance.”

Spike chuckled. “Must be genetic,” he mumbled under his breath, then held his hand out to Faith. “Come on, luv. Let’s show them how it’s done.”

She took his hand and followed him out onto the dance floor.

Connor waited until they were out of range before speaking, fury winning out over concern. “Dad…what the fuck were you thinking?”

Guilt washed over Angel’s face. “Look…I’m sorry …I was just worried…”
Connor cut him off. “You can barely stand! Jesus, dad!”

Angel closed his eyes and sighed heavily. “I’m fine.” He looked up at his son, and Connor could see the evident pain in his eyes belying his words. “I just…”

“Just what? I’m fine.” Connor tightened his hands around his beer. “You should be in bed resting. Not out here, looking for me in some club.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt your night.” He looked down at his own drink, staring at the contents. “It’s just that Spike said you were pretty upset last night. I wanted to see if you were ok.”

Connor’s gaze softened at this, and he sighed heavily himself. “Well, yeah. It’s kind of upsetting having to dig a crapload of bullets out of my father’s back. After he saved my life. Again.” Angel flinched at this, but he continued on. “But, I’m fine. I don’t need you checking up on me.”

“I’m sorry. I can go.” He moved as if to stand, grimacing slightly at the pain the movement caused, stopping when he felt Connor’s hand on his arm.

“Dad…I just…” He was searching for the words, grateful that the alcohol in his system was allowing him to speak his mind. He looked directly into his father’s eyes. “Yeah. Ok. Last night was kinda rough. On all of us.” He looked down at the table and then back up at Angel, steeling himself for what he was about to admit. “Didn’t really help that I was reminded of the first time that you took a bullet for me.”

Angel’s eyes widened at the memory and his lips parted. “Connor, I’m so sorry…”

Connor removed his hand from Angel’s arm. “Jesus, dad! You saved me, ok? You don’t have to be sorry. I’m the one who’s sorry.”

Angel looked as if he was going to speak, but stopped when Spike and Faith sauntered up, reclaiming their chairs. Spike’s eyed Angel worriedly but his father just nodded almost imperceptibly, indicating that he was ok.

The conversation remained light from then on out as they all exchanged accounts demon fighting, close calls and narrow escapes. Connor found himself incredibly rapt when Angel was finally coaxed (by Spike) into spinning the tale of slaying a dragon, wishing that he could have seen that. He could tell they were all pretty drunk by this point, as the storytelling had been helped along with the aid of copious amounts of tequila and beer. He turned his head towards Faith when he felt her tug at his hand. “Wanna get out of here?” He glanced over at Angel, but his attention was completely focused on Spike. Connor could see their fingers loosely linked under the table, obviously as drunk as he was. “Come on. I don’t think they’ll notice.” He let Faith lead him out of the club, grateful when Angel didn’t follow. Summer was drawing to a close and he smiled as he realized that he was getting near to discovering what he had come to Rome to find.
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Adjovi
Warrior


Joined: 28 Nov 2006
Posts: 17

PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2007 2:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chpaters 7-8

Chapter Seven

It was the sound of a glass breaking somewhere deeper in the house which finally roused him from his sleep. Apparently, he hadn’t bothered to remove his clothes last night and had toppled over onto the bed, landing with his legs tucked under him and his neck in an awkward position. He needed to stop waking up like this. From his vantage point he could see that somehow he had managed to remove one of his shoes, abandoning it near the door. His head felt heavy and a dull throb was bumping near his temple.

And, he was alone.

He looked around as if to find her, instantly regretting the movement, trying to piece together the end of the previous evening. He remembered entering the house with Faith, their attempts at silence thwarted by the exaggerated movements of the very drunk. He remembered trying to kiss her, mouths competing for domination as they blindly stumbled through the entranceway. Beyond that, everything was a blur. He didn’t pick up her scent anywhere in the room, so he assumed they had both crashed separately.

He swung his legs over the side of the bed, wincing in surprise at the sharp pain near his upper thigh. He stared down at his leg and saw a small hole in his jeans right above his knee. In the midst of their drunken groping, the sword they had recovered from behind the dumpster had punctured his skin, effectively forestalling any further advances. He crossly kicked at the sword and it skittered across the floor, lodging underneath the dresser.

After a blessedly (and rare) hot shower, he quickly and quietly returned to his room. Lately, he had been feeling the walls of the safe house too confining and he wanted more and more to spend time outdoors and away from the others. He hastily pulled a t-shirt over his head and shimmied into slightly dirty jeans, hoping to make it out of the safe house before anyone was the wiser. He opened the door and glanced down the hallway, letting out a whoosh of relief when no one was in sight. He crept slowly along the corridor, trying for as much stealth as possible. He barely paused in front of Angel and Spike’s room, only hearing vague muffled sounds from within. But, it must have been long enough to alert Angel of his presence.

“Connor?” came the muted voice from the other side of the door, followed by a loud-ish crash. “Ow…shit!”

Connor threw the door open in alarm, only to find a shirtless Angel comically hopping on one foot, cradling the other in his hand. Apparently the noise had come from foot colliding with bed stop. He waved Connor in, motioning him to close the door and gingerly stepping on his injured foot. Angel put a finger to his lips and inclined his head towards the bed, keeping his voice at a low whisper. “He hasn’t gotten much sleep lately.” Spike was sprawled out across the bed, but didn’t appear to awaken at the noise. He shifted a bit in sleep, curling closer towards the spot that Angel had obviously just vacated. As he pulled a hooded sweatshirt over his head, Connor was able to see that Angel’s torso was littered with shiny pinkish healing scars. He carefully sat on the edge of the bed so as not to jostle the other vampire, slipping on his socks and shoes. “Are you going out?”

Connor shrugged. “Was thinking about it.” He could tell Angel was clearly attempting to remain casually neutral, trying not to pry. He quirked an eyebrow and grinned at him. “You wanna come with?”

Angel grinned back, failing completely at this point to reign in his interest. “Um…yeah. That would be great. Actually, there’s someplace I’ve been meaning to show you.” He hopped up from the bed eagerly, placing a hand between Connor’s shoulder blades, leading him towards the door.

“K…just as long as I don’t have to talk to anyone else.” Angel nodded at this, and then Connor amended. “And, I can get something to eat.”

“Done and done.” He smiled at Connor then glanced back at Spike.

Connor could swear he heard a quiet snicker from the area of the bed,
although the other vampire never moved. Connor peered out into the hallway, and once satisfied that no one was there, allowed Angel to lead him outside.

They found a small restaurant nearby and Connor ate his dinner quickly, because he was hungry and it was awkward to be the only one actually eating. Angel spent the meal slowly drinking his wine and picking apart a piece of bread, rolling the little bits into balls and lining them up neatly on the table. Once finished, Connor placed his napkin over his plate and looked up at his father. “So…where to?”

Angel threw down enough money to cover the check and stood up, leading the way across the square towards a metro stop. “Well, it’s a bit of a far walk, so I figured we’d take the subway.” He quickly began to descend, effortlessly melting into the large crowd below. Connor absently acknowledged that he himself often utilized this skill during hunting. Angel stopped in front of an illuminated map, drawing his finger along one of the lines that crisscrossed the city, tapping his finger at their destination.

They purchased fare cards and descended to the tracks below.
The air underground was muggy and thick, and he winced at the high-pitched noise of the approaching train, seeming as loud as a siren to his over-sensitive ears. Angel gave him a sympathetic smile. Once their train finally pulled up, they piled into the crowded car, carving out a small space near to one another. People pressed in from all sides and he grasped at the overhead bar to steady himself against the gentle rocking of the train. He was trying to people watch, eyeing an obvious American family that was attempting to juggle luggage and children.

He felt Angel quickly shift beside him, his hand shooting out impossibly quick, catching a wrist which had tried to sneak into Connor’s backpack. He wrenched the wrist towards the side, forcing the pick-pocket to drop Connor’s wallet back into his bag. The thief tried to twist away, but Angel held him tight, his voice a low growl, his eyes glowing gold. “Quello non è molto piacevole.”*

The man let out a surprised hiss, panic setting in. “Cosa diabolica!”* He awkwardly attempted the sign of the cross around Angel’s grasp. “Il dio lo protegge!”* Angel released the man with a look of disgust, simultaneously shoving him backwards while herding Connor closer towards his chest, protecting him. Connor figured he needn’t have bothered considering most of the passengers gave them a rather wide berth for the remainder of the trip. The train finally rolled into the last station, and Angel nudged him towards the doorway, indicating they should exit up and out into the night sky.

Connor followed Angel silently, waiting to speak until they reached street level. “So, that was…entertaining.”

Angel glanced at him and shrugged indifferently, giving a lopsided grin of apology. After walking in what passed for a companionable silence between them, he looked at Connor several times as if deciding whether or not to ask him something. “So…you and Faith…”

“How ‘bout this? You don’t ask me about my love life and I don’t ask about yours.” He looked hard at Angel, who seemed to get the implication of what he was saying by the look of dismay on his face. “Deal?”

“Oh. Yeah. Absolutely.” Angel spoke quickly. “It’s a deal.”

Connor glanced at him a few times, trying to decide whether this was a can of worms worth opening. “So…you don’t approve. Of me and Faith.”

Angel had the decency to look surprised that Connor had asked. “Yes. I mean…no. I mean…it’s really none of my business.” After a few more moments of silence, he finally sighed in resignation. “Faith is a good friend of mine.” He seemed to be stumbling over his words. “She’s a very nice girl, well, woman, and…”

“Dad. Nothing happened, ok?” Connor smirked at his awkwardness. He was aware that they were making their way somewhere uphill but couldn’t see where they were going, only saw the lights of the city glowing in the distance below them.

“Oh. Ok. That’s…really none of my business. Like I said.” Angel seemed to be trying hard to avoid looking at him, instead focusing on the path in front of them that he was probably following by pulling on a long ago memory. He felt Connor’s eyes on him and sighed again, splaying his hands outward. “Look. It’s just that I’m afraid you’re a bit like me when it comes to women…you know?” He cocked his head sideways at Connor, studying him. Connor just looked back at him in utter bewilderment, wondering where this line of conversation was leading. “Like…you get one woman on your mind, and it’s hard to think about anything else.” He dipped his head a bit, catching Connor’s eyes, willing him to understand. “And Faith…”

“Isn’t a one guy kinda girl?” Connor guessed helpfully.

Angel’s smile was quick. “Yeah. Something like that.” He licked his lips, considering something before continuing. “And, I want someone…normal for you. Someone who’s not in this world, at least.”

Connor heaved an exasperated sigh. “Yeah. I thought we’d covered that, like a million times already, dad. You know...the part where I explain that I’m not exactly normal….” He stopped suddenly when he realized they had reached their destination. He took an involuntary gasp, stunned into silence. “Wow.”

The whole city was laid out before them, a glittering sea of lights. It was one of the most beautiful things he had ever seen.

“Yeah. It’s even more spectacular than what I remembered. ‘Course, now there’s a lot more electricity and houses that make the view a bit brighter.” He grinned widely at Connor.

“Where are we?”

“Janiculum Hill.” Connor sat in the grass, settling in to enjoy the view, after a few seconds of indecision, Angel joined him. “This place was originally the center for the cult of the god Janus, and since it was up so high, became a good place for augers to observe the auspices.” Off of Connor’s confused expression he continued to explain. “The augers were like prophets, and auspices were thought to be signs from the gods, told through the patterns of the birds in the sky.”

Connor nodded in understanding. “Ah…and being up high, they would have a better chance at bird-watching.” He leaned back on his elbows, stretching his legs out in front of him. Angel copied his pose. “So…when were you here last?”

Angel seemed to hesitate for just the briefest of moments before answering. “1894.”

Connor let out a low whistle. “Why did you come here? You would have still been evil, then right?”

Angel nodded. “Just because I was evil didn’t mean I didn’t occasionally like to take in the sights.” Connor quirked an eyebrow, clearly unconvinced. “Ok. Darla was mad at me and I took her here to make up with her. She always liked a view.”

Connor felt very interested in where this little exchange was going. “Why was she mad at you?”

Angel sighed and leaned back, pillowing his head with his hands. “Because we got in a fight over The Immortal.” He seemed to bite out the name with distaste.

Connor chuckled. “The Immortal?” He shook his head and then leaned back next to Angel. “Seriously, where do these dudes come up with these names?” He rolled over onto his side, propping his head up with his hand, considering Angel closely. He seemed open and relaxed, so Connor decided to push a little. “What was she like?” Brown eyes flicked over towards him then back skywards again. “Darla?” He prodded a little further. “My mother?”

Something unreadable passed over Angel’s face, but he answered almost automatically, turning to face his son. “She loved you very much, Connor. She gave her life to bring you into this world.”

Connor sighed and shook his head sadly. “Ok. How about the non-radio-edit this time?” He pushed himself up to sitting, looking down on Angel. “C’mon, dad. You never talk about her. I think I should know what she was like.”

Angel closed his eyes briefly as if to steel himself before sitting up as well. “Connor, are you sure you want the answer to that question?” His face registered the sadness and grief he was obviously feeling, for which Connor felt slightly guilty. “There are some things you can’t un-know once you know them.”

“Ignorance is bliss?” Connor shook his head in disgusted disbelief. “Are you of all people trying to feed me that line of crap?” He ran his hair through his hands, absently thinking it was a bit longer than he liked to keep it. “Haven’t you learned that hiding the truth doesn’t ever turn out well?”

Angel pulled his knees to his chest, hugging his arms around them, then changed his mind, letting his knees fall open and crossing his feet at his ankles. Connor could tell he was nervous. He took a long unneeded breath. “She was beautiful.” He smiled ruefully, looking off into the distance. “She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. She promised to show me the world.” He glanced over at Connor. “She did.”
He picked up a small stick, began digging absently at the ground with it. “We were together for a long time, Connor.” Dark eyes flicked up and back down towards the ground. “For over a century, we hunted, killed, tortured, destroyed, fought and betrayed one another.” He looked up, catching and holding Connor’s gaze. “But, in the end, none of it meant anything.”

He watched Connor for a bit, gauging his reaction before continuing. “I got cursed by gypsies, and she threw me out. Just like that.” He snapped his fingers for emphasis. “She couldn’t tolerate my having a soul.” His voice got low and sad. “I was stuck between worlds, belonging to neither. I tried following my family around for awhile—Darla, Drusilla and Spike. I even tried to give it another go.” He shrugged forlornly. “It didn’t take. I left, and they didn’t try to find me. I didn’t see them again for almost a hundred years.”

Connor cleared his throat, trying to find his voice. “So…then what happened?” He gestured at himself. “Obviously, you met up with her again.”

Angel tugged at his hair and smiled sadly. “I eventually made it to Sunnydale. Darla was already there.” He looked down at his lap, picking at the fabric of his jeans. “I killed her to save Buffy.”
Connor’s insides felt like jello, his voice just above a whisper. “You killed her?”

Angel nodded slowly, waiting to see if he should go on. After a long beat, Connor nodded back, taking in a shuddering breath. Angel then began quickly filling in the gaps, telling of Spike and Dru’s return to the fold, the restoration of his evil self and the resulting sojourn in hell.

Then, it was on to Los Angeles, Wolfram and Hart, Lindsey, Lilah and Holland Manners, all who conspired to bring Darla back. As a dying human. Angel told of his attempt to save her, pledging his life for hers. He ultimately failed in this attempt, and Drusilla was brought in to make Darla back into a monster. He explained that he kinda went off of the deep end after that, and then...nine months later they had a baby.

They sat in silence for a long time after Angel finished talking. Connor’s mind was reeling. The rational part of his mind knew he had asked for this, knew that Angel had softened the blow, but it was still a lot to take in. “Um…”

Angel reached out, gently squeezing his son’s shoulder. “Yeah…that about sums it up.” He ducked his eyes, brown eyes locking on blue. “You ok?”

Connor gave him a watery smile. “Yeah.”

Angel smiled back, but when he spoke again, his voice was low and serious. “Before she died, your mom told me to tell you something. She said: ‘You were the one good thing we ever did together.’ She was right.” He squeezed Connor’s shoulder once again. “I’m sorry I never told you that before now.”

Connor was about to say something when he heard her approaching. He knew Angel had felt her, too, by the way his fingers tightened on his shoulder. They both stood as one, turning to face her. Although she was smaller than he was, Connor knew instinctively that Buffy was more powerful than the both of them.

Angel was shifting nervously from foot to foot, finally breaking the awkward silence with a tentative “Hi.”

Buffy threw her hair back and crossed her arms across her chest, her eyes flashing with fury. “So, Angel…were you ever planning on telling me yourself?”

Angel glanced at Connor before fixing his gaze back on Buffy. “Tell you what?”

Buffy gave a sardonic chuckle. “What are you playing at here, Angel? What, did you think I wouldn’t find out?” Connor began inching away, but Buffy reached out and grabbed him by the arm, hindering his escape. Her fingers felt like steel cables. “Nah…I think you should stick around. I’m betting you already know, anyways.” She never tore her gaze from Angel.

Angel stepped towards them, obviously torn between wanting to protect his son and trying to avoid a throw down with a Slayer. He cleared his throat. “How did you find out?" The only answer he received was an incredulous scoff. "Did Giles tell you?”

“Giles? You told Giles? You hate Giles. He hates you.” Buffy shook her head in disbelief. “Why the hell would you tell Giles?” Connor realized then that Buffy and Angel were talking about very different things.

Angel shrugged, defeated. “I thought I could trust him. I guess I was wrong.”

Buffy frowned at him, pinching between her eyebrows with her free hand. “You told Giles.” She slowly shook her head, her eyes sad and wounded. “See, the only reason I can figure that you would tell Giles would be to deliberately hurt me.”

Angel threw his hands up. “Buffy, I’m sorry that you found out this way, but this has nothing to do with you.”

She closed her eyes and sighed. “Apparently not.” She released Connor then, taking a step back. She took a deep, steadying breath. “Do you love him?”

“Of course I love him.” He took another step closer to Connor, eyeing him searchingly. Connor was at a loss at what to do.

“You love him.” She repeated again slowly, as if to convince herself.
Angel opened his mouth to speak, but Connor decided to finally step in and save him. “Dad, I don’t think she’s talking about...”

Oh. Fuck.

The three stood just gaping wide-eyed at each other, finally reaching the same page.

“Did he just call you dad?”

*Quello non è molto piacevole: That’s not very nice
*Cosa diabolica: Evil thing
*Il dio lo protegge: God protect me!

+++

Chapter Eight

He felt all of the blood drain from his face, reeling from the shock of what had been said aloud. He remained rooted at the spot, staring at Angel, whose gaze seemed to be fixed somewhere around Buffy’s knees. After a long moment, his father raised his eyes, almost imperceptibly giving him his leave by a quick nod of the head.

Connor didn’t hesitate after that, running as if the devil himself was chasing him. He pumped his arms hard, sneakers thwapping on the pavement as he ran through the streets, his movements just skirting along the edge of the normal human range. When he felt he had left them far enough behind and his lungs were about to burn out of his chest he finally stopped. He immediately bent over, hands on thighs, taking in huge gulps of air. He collapsed on the curb, leaning his elbows on his knees. After his breathing got back towards some semblance of normalcy, he looked around and tried to get his bearings. He was utterly and completely lost.

The temperature had dropped noticeably since he left Angel and Buffy and he could see the pale undersides of the leaves as the wind buffeted the trees. The air felt thick and heavy, pregnant with the smell of static. He turned his face upwards, catching the first fat drop raindrop on his forehead. Just perfect.

He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, but the multitude of scents that assaulted him just further confused him, leaving him feeling even more lost than before. He shook his head and tried again, closing his eyes and stilling all of his senses. He shut out everything else, sight and sound, focusing only with his nose. If he filtered out everything human, focusing closely on one scent he now knew particularly well, maybe he could find Spike. Spike would lead him to the safe house. With great concentration, he stretched out his preternatural senses, perfectly centering on…the smell of a piece of gum ground into the pavement. He felt another heavy drop on the top of his head. Great. Well, at least he could follow the sound of the metro rumbling underneath the ground towards the nearest station. At any rate, it was the less wet way to return.

By the time he got back to the house, some of the panic that had spurned him on had left, and he felt oddly calm and detached. That was until he was hit with a wave of guilt and nausea at the thought of facing Spike. He felt like he had betrayed Angel in some way, which he didn’t completely understand. There was a time, not too long ago, when he wouldn’t have cared, would have actually reveled in these feelings. And any thought he would have spared towards his father’s…companion? Well, he’d probably be dead by now, painfully and slowly. Now? He wasn’t sure he was ready to say.

He sighed and walked up the stairs, his hopes at avoiding Spike dashed as the vampire met him as soon as he entered the hallway. Spike’s eyes widened and he knew the vampire could smell his apprehension and hear his skittish heartbeat. Spike reached out and hauled him into the bedroom he shared with Angel, shutting the door with more force than was probably necessary.

“What the hell happened? You alright?” Spike looked at him closely, checking for any obvious signs of a struggle, any visible injuries. His look gradually softened towards outright confusion, a crease appearing between his eyebrows, but he still held onto Connor’s arm tightly. He looked around Connor, seeming to attempt to conjure Angel from the empty space. “Where is he?” When he got no response, he shook him a bit. “Connor?” Connor swiveled his head to look at him. “Where’s Angel?”

Sufficiently dragged out of his morass of self-hatred and dread, Connor tried to twist out of Spike’s grip, and after a brief initial struggle, Spike let him go. Connor absently rubbed the spot where Spike had held him. “He’s fine. He’s…” He took a step back, his knees connecting with the edge of the bed, forcing him to sit. He looked up at Spike. “He’s with Buffy.”

“Oh.” Spike blinked rapidly, a whole range of emotions flitting over his face before something appeared to slam down behind his eyes, shuttering him off. He turned away and squatted down, rummaging through one of the bags near the closet. He pulled out a black t-shirt and a towel, both of which he held towards Connor. “Here.” His voice seemed gruff and overly controlled.

Connor blinked himself a few times and took the proffered items, looking at them like he didn’t understand what they were for. “Oh!” He shook his head several times. “Oh. No. No…they’re not…he’s not…” He sighed, rubbing his wet hair with the towel. “They’re talking about you, actually.” He gave Spike a pointed look. “About the two of…” He gestured vaguely towards the vampire and licked his lips, looking down, embarrassed. After a short beat he sniffed and pulled his wet t-shirt over his head, replacing it with Spike’s. At least it smelled clean, and fit him pretty well. He would be swimming in it if it were Angel’s.

Spike nodded once and seemed to visibly relax for a brief moment, but quickly covered, trying to act nonchalant. He fished out a pack of smokes from his duster and pushed open the window, hopping up onto the sill and lighting up. “How did she seem?”

“Pretty pissed.” Spike sighed deeply and looked down, picking at the nail on his thumb. Connor watched him a bit longer before continuing. “And I think I made things worse.”

“Don’t know if that’s possible, mate.” He took a deep drag off of his cigarette, glancing out the window behind him as if watching the path of the smoke, before turning settling his gaze back on Connor.

“I called him ‘dad’.” He gave a sad huff of a laugh before giving his own nails a close inspection. “In front of her.” He swallowed and looked up. “I called him ‘dad’ right in front of Buffy.”

Spike gave him a small smile, flicking his cigarette out the window. He swung his legs around so that he was facing Connor directly. “Oh.” He nodded, eyes faraway, before refocusing on Connor. “Well, m’thinking that’s not your fault. Not really.” He gave him a sly, knowing smile. “And, you have to know that old Broody’s dried walnut of a heart positively bursts every time you call him that.”

Connor shrugged noncommittally, knowing exactly the effect that name had on Angel. He started to say something, hoping to change the subject to something he was more comfortable discussing, when the door flew open admitting a very soggy Angel.

Spike sat up fractionally taller, immediately reacting to the other vampire’s presence. Angel’s hair was completely plastered to his head, and the water dripping from his clothing formed a small puddle beneath him. “It’s pouring out there,” he said unnecessarily, peeling his sopping coat off with some difficultly and letting it drop to the ground with a wet plop. He banged the side of his head, ostensibly to clear the water from his ears.

Connor silently handed him his damp towel, watching him carefully. He could tell that Spike was just as confused as he was, as the other vampire remained very still, head cocked to the side, eyes never leaving Angel. He had thought that perhaps his dad would be upset with him, or at the very least arrive in a deep brood. He never expected Angel to seem so absolutely peaceful and relaxed. Angel vigorously scrubbed his hair with the towel, chuckling a bit at the realization that Connor was wearing Spike’s shirt. “So…you made it back ok?”

Connor stood there staring at him, mouth agape, before answering. “Uh…yeah.” He glanced quickly back at Spike who remained nonplussed. “I found the subway.”

Angel nodded, pleased. He pulled his damp shirt over his head and toed out of his wet shoes, holding one foot up and yanking off a waterlogged sock. “Yeah. That was probably the better way to go. Buffy said she going to take the metro, so I decided to walk.” Connor turned politely to allow Angel the chance to change his jeans, busying himself with a couple of unfinished stakes that were scattered on the dresser. When he figured enough time had passed, he turned back around to see Angel bounce down onto the edge of the bed and pull on some dry socks. He was wearing a plain white t-shirt and faded jeans, the overall effect being so incongruous to the usual black-on-black that he favored that he looked practically un-Angel-like. Practically human. Connor noticed that Spike had yet to move or utter a word.

Connor cleared his throat. “So…you ok?”

Angel grinned at him, rubbing a hand through damp hair. “Yeah.” He looked between Connor and Spike. “I’m fine.” At their matching looks of incredulity, he ducked his head for emphasis. “Seriously guys…I’m fine.”

Spike remained silently unconvinced. Connor took a deep breath. “Dad…I’m really sorry…”

Angel cut him off. “No need.” He stood up and reached over, squeezing Connor’s shoulder. “It’s ok, son.” He gave him another untroubled smile. “She was bound to find out, one way or another. It’s better that she heard it from me first.” He moved to sit back on the bed, leaning back onto his elbows. Connor began to understand his father’s light mood — the huge burden of secrets he had been carrying had finally been lifted from his shoulders.

Spike shook his head and scoffed dubiously, shaking another cigarette from the pack and leaning over to light up. Angel sprang off the bed and plucked it from his fingers, tossing it out the window. He gave Spike a stern look, jerking his head back towards Connor. “He actually uses his lungs, you know?”

When Spike just glared at him and looked away, jaw clenched in anger, Angel hesitated a bit, watching his face closely. After a moment, he reached out and gently tugged at Spike’s fingers, forcing him to turn back. A silent missive passed between the two vampires then, to which Spike appeared to concede as he gave Angel’s fingers a brief squeeze in return, before dropping them again with a short nod.

Connor’s uneasiness at the exchange was cut short, as Angel quickly moved away and reached down for his duffel, promptly upending the contents out onto the bed. He sat next to the pile of clothing and began refolding and replacing each item as if packing.

“You going someplace, Peaches?” This was the first that Spike had spoke upon Angel’s return. He crossed his arms across his chest and leaned back, clearly taking a defensive posture.

Angel didn’t offer him a glance, just kept his eyes on his folding. “Yeah. We’re going home.” He sighed and carefully placed a shirt in the duffel.

“Yeah?” Connor could hear the challenge in Spike’s tone which Angel either chose to ignore or didn’t seem to catch.

“Yeah. I think its way past time.” He shook out a pair of pants, folding them together at the seam, and continued on, speaking quickly and not giving Spike the chance to cut him off. “Taking out the Senior Partners has left a vacuum of power in L.A. Pretty soon, all the Big Bads are going to be duking it out to see who gets to be the next top dog.” He continued explaining rationally, seemingly oblivious to the open hostility now rolling off of Spike. “I kept up the lease on the hotel, so we already have a base of operations.” Spike began pacing in front of him now, but Angel paid him no heed, just kept his head bent over his task. Connor tracked the other vampire with his eyes. “And, my contact told me he saw a woman with blue hair observing the mannequins at the GAP in Westwood for over three hours last Tuesday night.”

Connor watched Spike’s eyes narrow and his stance harden towards Angel. His father remained apparently unaware, more focused on matching up his socks. All black, of course. With a short nod towards Connor, Spike headed for the door without a further word.

“Uh…wait?” Angel finally raised his head, miles away and clearly flummoxed. “So…” His voice was hesitant, unsure. “Uh…so…what do you think?”

Spike froze but did not turn his back around. “I think you’ve got it all sorted.” His voice was rough. After a brief moment of indecision, he started for the door again.

“I…I’m sorry?” Angel phrased the statement in the form of a question, belying his obvious confusion. He glanced at Connor, looking for some help. Connor just shook his head at him in amazement. He didn’t feel particularly inclined to assist him, considering he had witnessed Angel digging his own grave on this one.

Angel spoke very slowly, as if the idea that he had done something wrong had just occurred to him and he was still trying to figure things out. “I just assumed…”

Spike whirled around. “That’s right. You assumed.” He pointed at Angel, angry. “And you know what they say about assuming?” He faltered for a moment, crinkling his forehead in contemplation. “Actually. Scratch that. Because that implies that I’m an ass, too.” He shook his head. “You just assumed that I would go merrily along with whatever plan that you could cook up. Did it ever occur to you that maybe I’d have my own ideas?”

“I…I’m sorry.” Angel sounded somewhat more sincere, but still a bit bemused. “I just thought…” Both Connor and Spike rolled their eyes in disbelief. When Angel continued, he spoke carefully. “If you need to go someplace else, I’d understand.”

Spike ran a hand through his hair, frustrated. “Where the hell else and I supposed to go, you sodding pillock!” When Angel reared back, wounded, Spike sighed and closed his eyes for a moment before continuing on more gently. “Because of course I would be going with you, pet. It just would have been nice to have been asked, ya know?” Angel blinked at him, finally understanding, and gave him a weak smile, sufficiently chastised. Spike sighed again and then moved over to sit on the edge of the bed, picking up one of Angel’s shirts in an effort to help him pack.

Connor decided to let the vampires have some space and begin his own packing, but as he reached for the door, something else occurred to him. “Hey dad…what about the prophecy? Mr. Giles said…”

The vampires exchanged a small smile, obviously sharing a secret understanding. Angel gave him a reassuring grin. “Don’t worry about it, Connor.”

Connor frowned at his father. “What do you mean?” He looked pointedly at Spike. “You told him, right? What Mr. Giles said?”

Angel nodded in answer. “He told me.” He glanced over at Spike who gave him a quick, encouraging nod. “Look…ok...I wasn’t completely honest with Giles about the prophecy.”

He looked between his father and Spike, shaking his head slowly in confusion. “Wait...I don’t….” He sighed and leaned back against the dresser. “About which parts?”

Angel laid down his folding, giving Connor his full attention. “The prophecy itself, that’s real. The part that's already come true. But, I got a little…creative.” Connor felt Spike eyeing him searchingly. “I just added some stuff…just enough to keep him occupied and out of our hair.”
Connor stood up tall. “You lied to him?” He squinted at his father. “Why? I mean, why even bother giving it to him in the first place?”

Angel glanced back at Spike, whose face appeared unreadable. He turned back towards Connor. “Well, I know Giles. Know his type at least, and Watchers like him would need some kind of tangible evidence of your existence. He already doesn’t trust me, and I knew he wouldn’t have taken me at my word.”

Connor shook his head, still baffled. “But, then, why even bother telling him about me to begin with?”

Spike huffed a sarcastic laugh. “There’s the million dollar question, luv.”

Angel scowled back at him, placing the heels of his hands over his eyes in obvious frustration. “Yes. Please. Let’s have this conversation again. It was so much fun the other 61 times we’ve discussed it.” He removed his hands and fixed Spike with a patented glower. After glaring at him a bit longer, he spread his arms wide. “Ok, Spike. Push comes to shove, are you really going to be able to stake me?”

Spike answered by pitching the shirt he had been folding at Angel’s chest, unerringly finding his mark. “Might just stake you now.” His voice was thick with derision.

Angel just rolled his eyes and tossed back the shirt lightly. “Real mature, dumbass.” He picked up another pair of socks, then sighed audibly. “Look. It has to be him, ok?” He looked between his son and the other vampire, willing them to understand. “We’ve been over this like a hundred times. There just isn’t anyone else.” He shook his head and shrugged. “He’s protected. At any time, he has at least a couple of dozen Slayers under his charge. I won’t be able to get to him.” His voice threatened to break then, and he cleared his throat. “I’m not happy about it either, but this has to be the way. It has to be him.”

Spike nodded slowly, begrudgingly agreeing his point. Connor watched them, beginning to appreciate that the relationship the two shared apparently went beyond mere familial bonds. Which, truth be known, he had suspected for some time now. The handful of times he had been privy to this particular argument the other part of the equation had never been discussed, the part where Angel had asked Giles to watch over him. He guessed that was a conversation they never had, and he began to understand why – neither of them saw it as an argument worth having. Because there was nothing to argue about. The truth was, when and if his father fell, he was absolutely certain now that the other vampire would not be far behind. A thought which gave him an inordinate amount of peace.

When Angel had told him that his death would destroy him, Connor had believed that it would. Still did. However, some of the guilt associated with this fact had begun to loosen its icy grip around his heart. Admittedly, his father and Spike lead dangerous lives and skirted along the edge of death pretty much on a daily basis. But, there was one hard fact that none of them could ignore. Connor was human, and it was far more likely that his father would outlive him then the other way around. Alone, Angel would not be able to survive this, of this he was certain. But Angel wouldn’t be alone – he would be with Spike, and with his help, maybe his father would be able to endure.

Connor became aware of two pairs of eyes regarding him closely, and he was embarrassed out of his reverie. He gave them both a shy smile. “I’d better get packing, then.” He beat a hasty retreat out of their room without another word.

A short while later he stared at his bed, incredulous. He had bought a couple of small souvenirs for his family and friends back home…but this?

It looked like his belongings had pretty much tripled in amount. He sighed and ran a hand through his hair, unable to decide where to begin.
He heard a soft knock at the door, expecting Angel or Spike to be checking on his progress, but Faith surprised him again.

“Whoa…”

“Yeah.” He nodded in agreement and sighed. “I don’t even know how this happened.”

“Packing demons. They’ll get you every time.” She grinned at him. “So…you’re really leaving?”

“Yeah…if I can figure out how to get all of this crap back into my bags.” He picked up the obviously inadequately-sized bag for emphasis.

“Can’t help you out there.” She pushed over some clothes, making a space for herself to sit on the bed. “So…Angel asked me to come along.”

“Really?” Connor tried to remain casual, picking up some clothes and beginning to fold. “You gonna go?”

She shrugged, trying to act less interested than she clearly was. He had some inkling of what Angel meant to her, and knew enough to suspect she was pretty happy to be asked. “Yeah…was thinking about it. I mean, I don’t exactly fit in with the ‘in crowd’, if you know what I mean.’

“Who does?” He opened the bag and tried to begin squeezing some clothes back in.

Faith was toying with the t-shirt he had bought for Erin, the one with the stylized drawing of the Coliseum. She held it up against her own chest. “Sorry dude, but I think it's a little small.”

Connor chuckled. “It’s for my sister.”

Faith just stared at him before carefully laying the shirt back down. “Your sister.” She cleared her throat. “So, you gonna be coming to help Angel out, too?”

Connor shrugged. “On weekends and stuff. I have school.”

“Oh right. Stanford.” She sing-songed the name, then smirked at him. “Angel’s really proud of you, you know? And he should be. I know my mom’d have a heart attack if I told her I got into Community College.” Connor opened his mouth several times, unsure of what to say. She smiled at him knowingly. “Yeah. He told me. About you. Gotta say, it’s kinda cool. And very weird.”

He laughed, relieved. “Yeah…weird really doesn’t even begin to cover it.”

She shrugged. “Could be worse. Angel’s a good guy.” He didn’t trust himself to answer, just concentrated on folding. She nodded and got up. “Well, I’ll leave you to it.” She hesitated a bit, unsure.

He smiled at her. “You know, I think you should go. I know that Angel could use the help.”

She nodded in agreement. “Yeah…well, then I guess this isn’t goodbye.”

“You could help me pack.”

“Not a snowball’s chance in hell.”

After he finished packing, which took a lot longer than anticipated, he went looking for the vampires, only to find they were saying their farewells. Angel was with Giles, having already said goodbye to Buffy, and now she was with Spike. Connor had some awkward moments, unsure of what to do or say, but in the end, he was able to get out relatively unscathed. He received a frank admonishment from Giles to focus on his studies and keep out of trouble, a knowing smile from Willow, and a long hug from Buffy who told him sincerely that it was nice to meet him.

The ride to the airport was silent, as both of the vampires were understandably tetchy and not in any mood for talking. They boarded the plane mutely, choosing seats apart from one another. Connor didn’t really feel like discussing anything and decided instead to try and sleep, slipping on his headphones and drowning out the ambient sounds of the plane.

They had reached cruising altitude and he had just about fallen asleep, only to be roused awake when he felt something brush past him. He saw Spike, who smelled like he’d already made quite the dent in the mini bottles, weaving his way towards the front of the plane to sit near Angel. Connor watched them under eyes that were half-mast.

“So…you ok, then?” Spike voice was only slightly slurred, but he was looking at Angel rather muzzily.

“Yeah.” Angel shifted down in his seat, bringing his head closer to Spike’s. “You?”

Spike shrugged. “You want to talk about it?”

“Not particularly.” Spike nodded slowly, straightening a bit. Angel sighed and looked down at his lap. “She was pretty hurt. Can’t blame her for that.” Angel looked back over his shoulder, and Connor shut his eyes quickly, feigning sleep.

“She upset about the boy?”

“More that I didn’t tell her about him first.” Connor opened his eyes fractionally again. Spike had shifted in his seat so that he was facing Angel. “I left her because I wanted her to have a normal life, ya know? Family, kids, the whole nine. And I’m the one who shows up with a son. The one thing I thought I’d never have with anyone.”

Spike placed a reassuring hand on Angel’s shoulder. “Not really your fault, mate. Well…ok…so yeah, that pretty much is your fault, but…”

Angel shrugged off his hand. “Not helping.” His words didn’t have much heat behind them, though.

Neither of them spoke for a bit, shifting and seeming discomfited. Spike finally broke the silence. “So…what did she say about…” He gestured the air between the two of them.

“About empty space? Strange. She didn’t have much to say about that.” Spike smacked him on the arm, and Angel raised up an elbow, defensive. He soon settled back down, serious again. “I dunno. It really wasn’t a fun conversation.” He sighed and looked forlornly at Spike. “She was pretty upset – thought maybe we’d come to Rome to deliberately hurt her.”

“Bugger.”

“Yeah. I think I convinced her that was the last thing we wanted…but, then it really started to rain and she just kind of took off.” Angel leaned back on the seat and settled back before changing his mind and turning to face Spike again. “I don’t think she’s doing great, but she’s dealing. At least she told me to take care of you.”

“Told me the same.”

“What did you say to that?”

“That you were a bloody wanker who could take care of your damn self.”

“Figured.” Spike just chuckled at that. Angel reached over and cupped the back of his head, bringing their faces closer together. Connor closed his eyes tightly, not wanting to pile up any more emotional baggage then he already had. There was a long moment before they began speaking, and when they did, their voices sounded very far away. Their heads were bent over a small white rectangle that Angel was holding.

“Those have to go.” Spike flicked the corner of the card.

“Why? They’re all printed and everything.” Angel was holding the rectangle up, regarding it critically. Connor now saw it was a business card.

“Well, first off, we’re changing the name.”

“What’s wrong with Angel Investigations? It has name recognition.”

“That’s not exactly what we need if we’re trying to maintain a low profile, yeah?” Spike looked closely at the card again. “And, what the hell is that thing supposed to be?”

“It’s an angel.” Angel’s tone was a bit defensive, and when he spoke again, his voice was soft. “Cordy drew it.”

Connor felt a twinge at that. Spike stared at Angel for a long beat, then took the card from him gently. “Well, I guess that’s ok, then.”

Connor allowed his eyes to drift shut then, their voices fading away. His whole life, whatever the version, he had felt like he was on the outside looking in, desperate to be a part of something but always falling just shy of the mark. Strange that he would find a sense of belonging with this bizarre family, but there it was. He smiled and settled down in his seat, feeling relaxed and comforted as their bickering lulled him to sleep. For the first time in his life, he felt like he was home.

--Fin--
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Ares
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 8:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I see you managed to download the rest of your story, Adjovi.

I enjoyed looking at Angel, Buffy, Spike and the rest of the gang through Connor's eyes.

I love these last lines of yours. I did like the early Cordy days.

Quote:
Their heads were bent over a small white rectangle that Angel was holding.

“Those have to go.” Spike flicked the corner of the card.

“Why? They’re all printed and everything.” Angel was holding the rectangle up, regarding it critically. Connor now saw it was a business card.

“Well, first off, we’re changing the name.”

“What’s wrong with Angel Investigations? It has name recognition.”

“That’s not exactly what we need if we’re trying to maintain a low profile, yeah?” Spike looked closely at the card again. “And, what the hell is that thing supposed to be?”

“It’s an angel.” Angel’s tone was a bit defensive, and when he spoke again, his voice was soft. “Cordy drew it.”

Connor felt a twinge at that. Spike stared at Angel for a long beat, then took the card from him gently. “Well, I guess that’s ok, then.”


Are we going to be reading an ongoing story of Angel, Connor, Spike, and Faith as investigators?
That would be wonderful.

Thanks for sharing. Well done.

Hugs Heart
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Adjovi
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Joined: 28 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 2:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh Ares, you are just so sweet. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and review. Smile I'm glad you liked it. I will see about a sequel of sorts 'cause...whoa....
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