Part Five: Madness, yet there is Method in't
Angel had stayed on his couch almost all night as Wesley tried to sleep in his bed. But thoughts of Ms. Westminster in his bed, of Angel killing her, had only made him uneasy (him, uneasy, he had willingly sent the young woman to her death, came the whispered thought), so he spent most of the night looking at Angel, or staring outside his window, not really seeing anything in the darkness.
He wasn't wearing his glasses, and it was a bleary world indeed without them. Two pieces of glass and everything was much clearer.
He was going to find Connor.
He had to. Angel's son, but it wasn't just that, it was the fact that he was one of the most powerful human beings living, a human that was born of two beings that were demonic in origin. If the Watcher's Council ever found...
Well, they'd take an interest in him for sure. He remembered their fine collection of specimens, it wasn't only vampires that the Council studied, no there had been assorted demons. Demons that had been dissected.
The powerful reek of formaldehyde and alcohol, dank rooms with rows and rows of bottled and neatly labeled specimens - well, it was paradise for a young Watcher, wasn't it?
To be able to study monsters without having to deal with the horror of confrontation.
When he was younger, he had been fascinated by all the assorted monsters. Studied everything available in the databases, because if he knew it all, well then, he'd become famous and respected and his father would finally tell everyone proudly, "Why yes, my son Wesley is the head of the Watcher's Council."
Now, he was disgusted that he ever thought that it would have been possible to lock himself away and read the cold, too clean information on beings more powerful and deadly than any Watcher could imagine.
The Watcher's Council had been created as a way to maintain the Slayer's longevity as she fought against the endless swarms of monsters. Then, they began work to stabilize the ability to discern between demons, to find their weakness, becoming as efficient as possible.
And slowly, the Council gained power over the Slayer. Over the fight between humanity and demons. Over everything dealing with the supernatural world.
But they were doomed to fail. They were human.
The words they studied, the laws they lived by, the records they kept, it was all completely meaningless.
And he had once thought that their rhetoric actually meant something.
He knew better now. Oh yes, he'd learned the hard way, on the front of the battle field; not cowering away anymore like when he was removed in expansive libraries with decaying words as his only means of connection to the supernatural world.
Too many of those Watchers were like him when he was younger, sitting comfortably in plush chairs surrounded by the oldest and therefore, most valuable texts, not knowing how many Apocalypses had been averted until after the fact.
How he hated them.
How he hated knowing about them and their reliable sources; the carefully modified demons they planted in the world to tell them secrets, the beings tortured to see for them when they wanted more power, and the humans, whose minds they ripped apart to seek for the word-driven stories that contained a myth, a legend that would give them even more power, more strength, more control.
But the Watchers Council was doomed to fail. They didn't know the real truth. And Wesley had learned it, oh yes he had, for a terrible price. And that truth - that would tear the Watcher's Council to shreds if they ever realized it. The simple truth, which they had tried to twist to their advantage, yet had failed spectacularly.
It wasn't their influence that aided in the fight.
In fact, it wasn't any group's struggle to right (or wrong) things that mattered.
It was only one.
And when it ended, when all the moments before faded away, when time ran out, the final act, the final part, the closing scene was centered on One.
One human being can change it all.
As the gray skies bled a hushed orange-yellow, as dawn approached, he knew it now. It wasn't the monsters that lurked in the dark that the Watcher's Council should fear. It wasn't the vampires (tainted human corpses containing a ruined sample of a forgotten demon forced back to a hell dimension) either.
It was humanity.
People that chose to walk blindly in a world where it just wasn't pain and nightmares to haunt them, but it was their own darkness, the darkness they didn't want to accept. It was the monstrous ability to justify leaving a wounded, desperate man because he had made a mistake and they didn't have to be decent, because it was accepted to be cruel.
Soon, people everywhere would be waking up and walking around, completely blind.
And somewhere, out there in L.A., was one that saw the monsters, but in reality was just as monstrous as the rest of them.
And, as it always would end, it would come down to one.
Sometimes Wesley wished he were still sitting in one of the libraries, reading nonsense that he tried to make real, not knowing the truth that cursed them all, was outside in the world.
And in each and every one of them.
"You should eat."
"I'm not hungry."
"Really, Angel," Wesley sighed, tired of playing nurse to Angel despite the fact that he needed to make sure that Angel didn't realize what was really happening, "You may not be up to it, but you must eat. The spells - while you have been able to regain your mind, it is possible for regression if you don't take care of yourself."
"I'm. Not. Hungry," he gritted through his teeth, eyes flashing angrily.
Glaring at Angel, still dressed in the same clothes he was wearing when Buffy had left, Wesley gave up and said with a defeated sigh, "Fine. You know where the blood is. I have to be off to work, I'm needed for a translation."
Angel wasn't even listening. What a waste of a lie.
But then, that's all he spoke now. Lies.
Buttoning his jacket, he left without another word or a glance to the motionless body of Angel, still sitting stiffly on the couch. During the night, he had curled up and gone to sleep, but the moment he had awakened, he stayed sitting, barely acknowledging Wesley's presence.
Barely acknowledging anything.
Something must have happened with Buffy. Buffy, it seemed to come back to her more than Wesley liked to admit. If she ever realized, if she found out, if she tried to come back, to save Angel...
Well, he simply couldn't allow that.
The Slayer, a woman with too much to deal with, and a woman who had the ability to ruin everything if she found out and tried to stop him.
But no one knew. And they never would.
Until it was too late.
He was running out of time.
And he was running late.
Walking into the large entrance of Wolfram and Hart, he made his way up inside the elevator without a comment to anyone.
There were a couple of glances, hidden badly from his view of course, wouldn't want him to see, as he walked in the lobby. Whispered comments, mostly likely along the lines of "Oh, that's the man that's taking care of Angel. Yes, he was a member of Angel Investigations. Yeah, he's the one that tried to kidnap Angel's son. The scar, that's what he got for trying it."
Some of the looks shot his way were of utter loathing, still angry that the Senior Partners had allowed him to join the firm; positive he would betray them, that he was a spy. Others were of shock, a few of grudging respect, and then, as he found Lilah leaning against his former secretary's desk, there was one of complete and utter distain matched with her cold and steady desire.
"Wesley, and how did the babysitting go? Did you get an extra tip?"
Grabbing her and pressing her too close to his body, her coldness (which would've reviled him another time, far too long ago than he liked to think) a familiar thing that brought him an odd kind of comfort, he gruffly commented, "It went smashingly, care to step into my office for my tip?"
"I'd normally say 'love to,'" she said, moving even closer to him if that was physically possible, without an ounce of meaning in her voice, "But you have an appointment."
A suspicious glance. "I wasn't informed."
"Well, he usually isn't in this dimension, it was kind of a surprise. Come on, I'll take you to him."
"Ever my faithful guardian," he sarcastically commented.
"Yes, I'm your Homer, aren't I, Dante?" she smirked.
Rolling his eyes, he patronizingly said, "You know, Dante was shown the path to heaven, hell was just a stop on the way."
"Oh, yeah, I know. Heaven," she noted with a snort, "Pathetic isn't it? Lousy place with no fun, no booze, choirs of singing Angels and did I mention that unlike Dante, you aren't even going to see it?"
"Repeatedly, but I'm not surprised you're repeating yourself." Offering her a dark smile, "A person of limited intelligence must preserve the few wise things they know they can parrot to appear intelligent."
Her lips and cool breath on the side of his cheek, she mockingly whispered, "You flatter me."
Pulling her away from him, looking at this being he was willingly fucking without a care, he promised, "I never intend it."
Swift march of her heels as she turned away, the wicked smirk still on her face.
As they walked down corridors, following her as she abruptly turned several times without warning, they finally stopped in front of a large set of gilded bronze doors, decorated with writhing creatures in pain.
"Oh how clever," he replied scathingly, "Hell's gates."
"Well, he likes to keep a memento of home when he's in his other offices." She smiled as she drew a perfectly manicured nail down the spine of a starving figure being drawn and quartered by hellish demons. "You know, feng shui and all, it shows that he means business."
The doors opened from the inside. A short, balding man stood in front of them, gray-lined hair neatly combed, with a neatly curled goatee framing his chin. His eyes were almost gray, but they seemed to be mostly washed out due to his age. But even that couldn't hide the shrewd and calculating look in his face.
"Wesley Wyndham-Pryce," he remarked, extremely business-like, "Do come inside. Ms. Morgan, I'd be grateful if you could allow me to speak with Mr. Wyndham-Pryce in private."
Wry twist of her painted blood-red lips, "Goodbye, Mr. Smith."
"Smith?" Wesley asked, assuming the common name was not his actual one.
"Oh," he said with a casual shrug, "My real name's impossible to decipher in the pitiful linguistic ability of you humans. Besides, it's more incognito to be called Mr. Smith. Not a name that's very memorable, now is it?"
Frowning at the almost pleasant nature to the demon (he assumed), he replied, "Well yes."
"Good," he said, not really listening, "Now, we should get to business, I don't really like spending time in this pathetic dimension. Barely have enough creatures able to use magic properly, and not quite enough demons that have evolved past 'kill, eat, kill' now have you?"
Smith sat down to his large leather chair behind an ink-black desk seemingly made of perfect, glassy marble.
Standing by his own seat, Wesley said, still puzzled by the almost friendly (to be polite and in affiliation with Wolfram and Hart was quite shocking) tone of Mr. Smith, he agreed, "No, this dimension is quite backwards."
"Well, at least Wolfram and Hart have slowly helped along this world. Now," he said pleasantly, opening a dark folder that Wesley didn't remember seeing on the surface, "Sit down, won't you? While I do work in part for Wolfram and Hart, I'm more of a special consultant. I come in to make sure that special operations are doing a proper job. This Angel mess," he said with a clucking of his tongue, "Such a hassle for a single vampire. Seems to me that if a vampire's so important to the mess, we might as well make one, soul and all!" He chuckled deeply at that, as though it was an intensely funny joke.
Shaking his head as he continued, "But, as it turns out, it can't really be done. Wolfram and Hart raised Darla from her ashes, only for her to fail in her mission to bring Angel over to our team. And the other one - well, it didn't work out. Insanity and all, a soul isn't made for a vampire. But that Angel, now, he's special."
"Yes," Wesley answered, trying to hide his annoyance of the topic again coming up, "I'm intimately aware of that."
"I bet you are. Now, I have a couple of questions. The Slayer, Buffy Summers, you actually asked for her help in rescuing Angel?"
Not particularly inclined to give away too much information he gave a curt "Yes."
"Either you're completely insane, or have some bravery in you that hasn't been mentioned in your file."
"Thanks for the complement," he dryly noted.
"Well, where is the little Slayer, now?"
"Back in Sunnydale - she and Angel-"
A wave of his hand, "Say no more. Her relationship with Angelus was noted. Pathetic true love fated in the stars nonsense, right?"
"Humans, what stupid dreamers," he grumbled, not listening, writing something in the file, "They actually believe in happiness and all that drivel, it's quite sad, isn't it?"
Not waiting for Wesley's response, he continued on with a much more shrewd and calculating look, as though he was staring right through Wesley and reading his thoughts, "So you haven't been double crossing us, now have you? While you have had moments of doubt, you haven't given into them. Perhaps if you had joined the firm ten years ago, you'd be a partner already. You've got the mind and talent, but lose the heart. It'll only cause you trouble."
"I do agree with that, but-"
"No buts, just listen. Now, when the higher ups decided to pick you up for their special ops program, most of the special consultants were up in arms about it. 'This punk that used to work directly for the Watchers Council is going to join one of the most prestigious firms dedicated to restoring the ah, *proper* order?'"
"Well, I can say I was one of them against bringing you to the firm. But we had tests set up, we certainly did. We left that clue for that clever Winifred Burkle to find. Ms. Evelynn Westminster was handpicked among young and innocent," adding a particular emphasis on the word, as though he loathed to use it, "interns to become one your secretary. And you didn't care when Fred, the one person you had left in your life that could have helped you return to Angel's side, fighting the good fight, died. You send Ms. Westminster to her death, without a single worried thought. That, right there, that's Wolfram and Hart material. Ruthless when you have to be. Unwilling to left yourself be controlled by pitiful human emotions. And that is why you're getting the promotion."
"No one told you?" He frowned and for a second Wesley could have sworn to have seen blood red eyes set in a dark scarlet face looking back at him, "Well, why else would you think that I, a special consultant, would change my physical shape just to conform to this dimension's requirements?"
Furrowing his brow, Wesley tried to stammer out in his surprise (and much to his annoyance sounded exactly like a blabbering idiot), "Mr. Smith, I wasn't aware - that is to say-"
"Well, I'm not surprised, they didn't tell you, probably wanted to make sure you wouldn't get too cocky, but, you've made it. You're now a part of the team in every meaning of the word. Welcome aboard, Wesley Wyndham-Pryce. We, I most of all, expect great and terrible things from you."
Which was more than anyone had ever expected of him.
"Now," Mr. Smith added agreeably as he shut the file, sending it back from the nowhere he had gotten it from, "Will you be so kind as to get out of my office before it moves back to my usual dimension?"
With a quick nod, Wesley quickly left without another word.
Gasping, Lilah regained her senses, finding herself back on her desk, hair matted to her sweaty forehead.
After Wesley had returned from his meeting with Mr. Smith, he'd proceeded to fuck her within an inch of her life.
Damn, that was fun.
""Well," she remarked, not caring that she was naked from below the waist, legs dangling over her desk, "That was an extremely new way of defining victory lap."
He didn't say a thing as he began buttoning up his shirt; pants only halfway zipped up. "Just had to share the good news."
She smirked at him (but what other way was there to react?), pulling down her skirt that was hiked up around her hips. Sitting up, she said, "Oh, share all you want. But I do have to work on my other projects. I have a meeting in...well, I missed that meeting," she commented, feigning disappointment, looking at her clock. "Oh well. It wasn't that important. Just a client being sued over sweatshop conditions at his warehouses."
"Yes, why would that be considered important?" he muttered, tucking in his shirt.
"Oh, he was only a money scam. Now that he's been found out, well, we have to make sure he stays buried and silent." Dark look in her eyes as she said, "When someone's value for Wolfram and Hart becomes useless, they get treated accordingly."
"I'll keep that in mind."
"You should. After all," she said in an attempt for a softer, more seductive tone as she walked over to him, "It was that big brain that secured this job for you."
She pecked a meaningless kiss on his cheek, as he replied, "And I'm certainly fortunate for it."
"So, you're one of us now. Truly. How does it feel?"
Evading her mouth as it reached for his, he shrugged, moving to sit down comfortably in a chair. "Like nothing's changed. But I do have things I want to discuss with you."
Casting a sharp look at his back, she took her seat behind her desk. He's hiding something. But that was impossible. She had surveillance on him all the time. Hell, she knew that he was just inches away from complete insanity, he wasn't in any mind to try to screw the law firm. It was just a silly reaction. She ignored the unsettled feeling still residing in her stomach. "Fine," she said, pouring herself a drink, "That snotty Slayer getting too curious? Or is Angel staring to come back to his senses?"
A deep chuckle in his throat. The scar still looked angry against his neck, as though it would never heal. "I doubt that Angel will be able to regain himself once I find Connor."
Clank. The glass shattered on the ground. Clenching her jaw, she tossed her hair off her shoulders as she snapped, "Impossible. He's been hiding and we haven't been able to track him."
"Ah, I knew that he hadn't left town yet," Wesley said, as though he was merely discussing the weather, "But you're looking the wrong way. Are you going to kill him just to dissect him for the labs? It would be a waste."
Sitting across from him, she used her most deadly voice, "The waste is that he's still around, making it his business to get rid of any demon that crosses his path. If he's controlled-"
"The only person that can do that is dead, unfortunately. Holtz was a brilliant man," Wesley mused, fingers touching the scar for a moment. "He would have trained his son to be loyal only to him. And Connor is now without anyone to look up to. He's but a child, still, isn't he? I doubt he'll leave the city; this is now, for lack of a better word, his home. And he hates it. He hates his father. He hates Holtz."
Closing his eyes and speaking as though very far away, "He hates that he's different. And that's why it's going to be very easy to find him. He wants to be found."
"And what," she asked, realizing that a steady trickle of blood has been streaming from her palm and neither she or Wesley seemed to care about it, "are you going to do with him? Use him as leverage against Angel?"
Opening his eyes, set on the deep scarlet pool stemming from her wound, he patiently explained, "That would be too easy."
"Then do it."
"Lilah, what I have planned is going to be something far, far worse." And he grinned; a ghastly thing and that cramp in her stomach grew more painful as the grin caused his face to have an almost skeleton-like look. "I promise you that."
Wesley sighed as Angel took the first tenuous step out of his apartment building. Since he'd been in Wesley's apartment, he had stayed in there.
But Wesley needed him for this part.
They had to find Connor together.
"I still don't believe he would stay in town, Wesley."
He'd argued with Angel over this for a long time. Wesley believed it was mostly because Angel didn't want to confront his son. Didn't want to think of his son as a monster, as a human, capable of murdering an innocent woman.
A son capable of hating his father.
Which Wesley found ironic, as most sons did end up with hatred towards their fathers, at least it was true in his own case.
"You're nothing but a disgrace to my name!"
"Stephen," Angel darkly interjected.
"Connor," he repeated, refusing to allow Angel to distance himself from the baby he held in his arms to the grown son that had locked him in the metal box, "has been trained by Holtz. He grew up in a hell dimension. He is a predator. He will stay in the surroundings he is most familiar."
Or at least, so Wesley hoped.
Wolfram and Hart were finally taking a piqued interest in Angel's son. They wanted him. They wanted to use him.
But Wesley could not abide by their plans.
Nor would Connor if they attempted something foolish like capturing the boy if Wesley wasn't able to find him.
"We have to go to every seedy bar, every demon hang out, any place that would have news of an abnormal, an extraordinary boy," he added off Angel's look, "that was able to hold his own against any sort of demon. If lucky, we'll have a lead on where he is. If not..."
"What?" Angel said tiredly, looking very old and drained, "What are we going to do? He killed Fred. I can't - he took a human life. I don't know what to do."
"Save him," Wesley said, trying to keep the dark laugh from shadowing his encouraging, Hallmark words, "You do what you do best, save him. It isn't his fault, Angel. It never is."
Yes, it wasn't Connor to blame, was it? Oh no, it was Wesley because he tried to avert a prophecy he should have never translated. A prophecy that ruined it all.
A prophecy that made him open his eyes and see.
Shaking off his thoughts, he got into his car, not really paying attention to the quiet as Angel carefully got into the car. His eyes were dark and unreadable but his hands occasionally twitched, a reflex Wesley was sure would never leave him. Trauma from his time spent in a dark box.
Because there are some things that one can never get over.
His hand unconsciously went to the scar on his neck.
Trying to find some remaining part of rah-rah cheer inside of him, no matter how false it was, "We will find him, Angel."
Angel said nothing, looking outside into the dark night. He didn't have any idea.
They had to. It was the last piece. And then, it would all be over.
The bar was cramped and noisy, but that wasn't something that Wesley could complain about. He'd been in quite a few cramped and decaying pubs and had gotten used to the stench and the interesting clientele.
The bartender was a particularly interesting chap with several spikes running alongside his thick arms with several deep scarlet horns protruding from his mottled face.
As Wesley and Angel walked over to him, the demon growled, "Angelus. You are not welcome here."
Angel didn't even pretend to look like he cared. Eyelids half opened, he said tiredly, "We need information."
"Information," the demon growled, spit oozing over its lips, "No. No information for the vampire with a soul."
"Oh," Wesley said, feigning a self-satisfied air of great importance, "You'll find that what we have for you is worthy of much information."
A flicker of recognition as the completely black eyes trailed over Wesley's scar.
"Me." Hiding a grin, he replied, "We're terribly busy and if you'd be so kind as to offer the information?"
The demonic bartender made an angry grumbling noise as it shook its head. Yet it was clear of the reaction of what he was feeling. Fear.
It was something Wesley could get used to.
"I know little of others' affairs and know nothing that would help you. Nothing."
"I highly doubt that. We are looking for a particularly interesting boy in his teen years. His name is Connor, but it's quite more likely that he goes by Stephen. And," Wesley said, knowing that Wolfram and Hart had kept the details of Angel's imprisonment to themselves; they needed to keep the threat of Angel for the more mindless demons to keep from rampaging the city, "He's also know for the murder of an associate of Angel's."
"The son!" the demon gurgled excitedly, the thought of murder bringing joy to its many eyes, "Yes, Angel's son! I have heard stories. He had taken out a horde of Gresks, violently, remnants of the bodies were scattered. It is said he has left, but there are other stories of him attacking demons when they feed on human prey, but it must not be so, if it was true, he would be out slaughtering all of our kind. No, he is gone, he must be so."
"But that is a lie."
"No, it isn't," the demon protested, but it was clear he was trying to keep something away from them. "That is everything."
"Say Angel," he said as loud as possible considering his damaged voice and the loud noise of the patrons, "Perhaps it would be a good idea for us to fight our way out of here. Starting with this fine demon."
Numbly, as though on autopilot, Angel vamped out, snarling as his hands went around the demon's neck.
Yes, once a monster, always a monster.
Wesley ignored the itch on his neck as he said clearly, "You have an idea of where to find Connor, now don't you? If you tell us now, perhaps you won't have to die."
"There are worse things," the demon spat, causing Angel to tighten his grip, choking him.
"Oh yes, I can promise you those things as well. It would be in your best interest to tell us."
"And I," Angel growled, voice rising, "Will make it hurt just a bit more. Where's my son?"
Wheezing, he choked out, "There are rumors - he is the sewers. Below in the sewers. A lair. I can give you the directions."
"Oh," Wesley remarked with a dark grin, "please do."
"I can't do that anymore."
"Do what, Angel?"
"That. I can't - I'm not a monster."
"Good to know that you're having an existential crisis right in the middle of finding your son. Nice to see where your priorities lay."
"Dammit Wesley," Angel shouted, punching a fist against the slabs of concrete making up the grimy gray wall, "What is happening? You didn't seem to haven any problem with killing that demon if he didn't tell us where Connor is. You didn't care when I..."
Silencing Angel by putting up his hand, he shook his head. "I've been through a lot since I was cast out of your favor. Since people I thought were my friends didn't even try to hear my side of things. I'm doing my best, Angel. It may be considered heartless or that I don't care, but believe me, I do."
"I wish I could."
"Give me time. Now, let's see the directions. We should be there soon."
Looking at the rotten walls with slime covering the ground, Angel muttered sadly, "I don't understand why he's down here."
"Perhaps it reminds him of his home."
"No. He should be up there," Angel said, looking up at the stoned ceiling above them, "Where he belongs."
Wesley bit back his retort. It was so funny that Angel was always allowed to make decisions for others. Buffy, he had to leave her because that's how it had to be. But there were other decisions, other choices Angel made after that, which really showed how noble Angel truly was. Wesley had once thought it was so selfless of Angel to leave her so she might have a life of her own, but now, now it was all a complete joke.
Connor would never have a normal life. He had killed Fred without a thought.
He was something else.
And Wesley had to get to him first so he could finish it.
So that he wouldn't have to feel anything ever again.
Black space barely lit by the dim streaks of sunlight straining to come through grated bars and tiny steel holes.
Ah, the sewers.
After two hours of endless searching, of walking through muck Wesley preferred not to think about, they had made it.
A thick, non-descript door.
This was where Connor was.
Angel, whose face had remained blank and passive through much of the trip, suddenly looked mournfully at the door.
"He shouldn't be here," he muttered again in a bleak whisper.
Deciding not to say anything, Wesley motioned for them to push open the door. It was quite solid and it felt like there was something behind it, not a lock, but something to keep things from coming in.
Well, he didn't mind entering uninvited.
Dimly lit candles flickered on turned over cardboard boxes.
There was no one there. Or, so it seemed.
Angel was unable to enter. He seemed to be dully surprised, but not quite so.
And then, as Wesley cautiously walked in, came the attack.
A violent slash of a blade he did not see cold metal against his throat - the rising scream that could not be freed, gurgling nonsense (blood, it tasted so wrong) - and he jumped to the right to avoid it. He was not fast enough; tearing sound as the blade went through his sleeve, missing his flesh by millimeters.
And a young boy, much smaller and thinner than Wesley expected, with frighteningly cold blue eyes, stood in the dim light and said in his voice, too mature for his age, "What do you want?"
He didn't even bother to acknowledge Angel.
Wheezing a breath he realized he had forgotten to take, "I worked with your father before."
A hiss, a dangerous sound, and Connor got closer to him, pressing the sharpened blade against Wesley's throat.
Oh yes, he had been trained well.
"One of Angel's friends?"
"Your father. Holtz." He could pretend he didn't see Angel flinch. But what would be the fun in that?
Connor removed the blade, looking up at Angel. "And how did you...no - you helped him, didn't you?!!"
A fake flinch as Connor yelled at him. As though anything the little boy could say would actually harm him.
*That which does not kill us.*
He ignored the thought.
"You," he growled, looking at Angel.
"You may have thought it was wise to punish Angel as you saw fit, but, it was actually quite a foolish thing to do."
"Why does that matter? He deserves eternity. He killed my father!"
"Angel has killed many, that's true. He's killed innocents. Children."
"Is this how you defend him?"
Pausing for a moment, Wesley asked, "When did I say I would be defending Angel?"
"I'm your father, Connor," came Angel's soft plea, "You're my son. And I-"
Sneering, "What? You're not my father. My father, you killed him."
Finally, Angel wasn't able to stop whatever he'd been trying to control. "I didn't kill him! He, he gave me that letter to me and I left. He said that he would leave. I didn't kill him."
"Lies. Always lies from you."
"I would never lie to you, Connor. Never."
Trying to keep from bursting out laughing over Angel's claims of honesty, Wesley bit out, "And was Holtz an honest man?"
Connor's eyes snapped back to Wesley and he said, forcefully and full of conviction, "Yes."
Running a finger in the imitation of a knife along his scar, "This, this right here, is a mark of his honesty. He and I had made a deal, a deal so I could save your life. I was desperate. So, I sought out Holtz to make sure he wouldn't interfere. And at the last minute, it all went wrong. I was going to take you away, away so a prophecy wouldn't come to pass."
Pausing, trying to force the memories from surfacing again, from remembering the cool slash and the hot spurt of blood, "But that isn't how it works. I failed you, didn't I? But that's not important. What is important is that if you don't come with us, you may find yourself being tortured by a group very interested in you, a human that rivals the powers of the Slayer."
"Long story," he commented with a hidden chuckle. "Connor-"
"My name is Stephen!" And with that weak retort, Wesley realized he was simply dealing with a little child playing adult. A child that didn't know anything.
"Connor, listen carefully. You obviously are strong. You can most certainly kill me without much of a struggle. Probably attack Angel again and dump him in the ocean. Although...since Justine was the one who helped you and is now dead, perhaps that part will be a tad more difficult. You seem to have all the power in this situation, don't you," he said, voice a deadly whisper, "I have one question left. Who do you have left in this world?"
Defiant, steely glare. "I have myself. It's enough."
"It may be. But eventually, it will become tiresome. Or you may go mad. You killed someone. Someone very dear to Angel and myself. A friend." The sour association to the word, no he couldn't think about it. Of excited conversations over math and physics and learning how to use her brain to help them. No, he couldn't think about it. He didn't care anymore. Didn't. Couldn't. "I do not know if you realized what a horrendous action that was. To take an innocent life. Many people cannot come back from that."
Willow killed someone. And now, she was insane.
"What right do you have to judge me?"
"Oh, I may not be a man fueled only be a dark revenge fantasy that spanned a couple of centuries, but I have grown over a few short months. Perhaps even longer than that. I was never tempted to kill someone just for the fun of it, though. When will you get to that point? Fred, it wouldn't have been impossible to knock her out, she wasn't a fighter. Or maybe you just enjoy killing too much. But that doesn't make sense," he added as an afterthought. Coldly smiling, "You would have killed Gunn as well if you had the taste for it."
Connor made a move to strike Wesley, but Wesley stood raising his hand in protest.
"I would ask you not to kill me...yet. We need your help. And you have to come with us."
"I will never help that vampire."
"Oh, but wouldn't it be simple if it was that? You should have refused to help me, how do you know that I'm not as horrible as a demon?"
Connor stared at him, the icy cold eyes trying to determine what game Wesley was playing. A futile attempt.
"You ask questions that I don't have answers for. Leave me. Before I kill you."
"Threats like that often don't work for me. Not since your father swore to kill me. But I guess he decided to give me a chance after I saved him from the ocean. It creates a bond, you know. I ask that you leave this little hole and come with us. And, after everything, if you want to kill us, you may. As painfully as possible. Do we have a deal?"
"Never. I will never join with that thing."
Angel only stared sadly at his son, not saying a word.
Wesley dared to take a close step to Connor, whispering in a very old and assured tone, "I'm not asking for you to join forces with us, Connor. I'm asking you to come with us. What do you have left?"
And the look Connor gave him, meant to be strong and daring, peeled away all the bravado and Wesley saw the scared little boy that had been raised in hell, who was taught lessons of survival and revenge by a man unfit to be a father by any stretch of the imagination. A child that had been trained to be a monster. But he was only human.
And that was more than Connor could bear.
The boy shook his head but as Wesley turned around to leave, Connor said, "I'll come with you. For the moment. But no tricks. I don't trust you."
Not bothering to turn around again, he promised, "I have nothing hidden. Nor does Angel."
This was almost too easy.
Connor sat in the cluttered, but recently cleaned apartment. It was lived-in, but not filthy like the small place he had taken for a residence. Nor was it like the hotel that Angel resided in. Scowling at the vampire, sitting across from him with sad eyes that seemed to be forgiving (like a father), he snarled, "Look away, murderer."
"I didn't kill-"
"Lies!" he shouted again and Angel was silent as he bowed his head.
Wesley returned with a tray filled with tea, crackers, and a bottle of whiskey. "Anything to drink?"
"You're drinking," said Angel with a questioning tone, eyeing the bottle.
"Yes," Wesley replied, a frown forming on his face as he sat down in the last available chair around the table (the other had the bag containing Connor's meager possessions sitting on it), "Is that a problem?"
"You've been drinking a lot."
Pouring a glass, "Good to know you care about my well-being. It dulls the pain. Medicine doesn't work very well anymore. Perhaps I've grown resistant to it."
He smiled as though that was very funny.
Tired of the strange man and of the vampire, he demanded, "I want to know why you wanted me here."
"Because you shouldn't be alone. Because you don't have to be out there, Con-Stephen," Angel explained.
Shaking his head, Wesley interjected, "Everybody has to be somewhere. We all play our parts. Destiny and all that rubbish. But you Connor, do you realize what you're doing? Killing off any demon that crosses you?"
"Doing this world a favor."
A laugh that was more like a cackle. Connor did not like Wesley, although he felt for a brief second that he was like his father, they had the same steady and calculating emotion in their voices, with the same quiet strength. And Wesley said he had worked for Holtz.
He tried to ignore that Wesley had told him that Holtz had tried to kill Wesley. Because that wasn't possible. And if it was, it was because Wesley was working with the vampire.
He deserved it. He must have.
"A favor? No, that's not what this world needs. A sacrifice, it'll take that for certain, right Angel?"
Angel only stared at nothing, making no comment.
"Well, it's a long story, as I said, but I think you've already learned about Wolfram and Hart. I've recently procured some information that they're looking for you. The son of two vampires, an impossible heritage, it's more than they could want. More than they could dream of. And I'm sure that they think they'll be able to capture Angel if they get you."
"Why should I care?"
"Because," Angel finally spoke, "If that happens, the world will end. Everyone would die."
Remembering the first friend he had made in this terrible world, Connor quietly remarked, "Everyone dies anyway."
"True," Wesley said, a look in his eyes that was almost exactly like Holtz's, "Very true. But that's not the point. You said that you were doing this world a favor, perhaps that truth is that you have a purpose in this world. To protect it."
Angel suddenly looked very angry and spoke roughly, "No, he's too young. He isn't going to spend his life fighting."
Sipping his poured glass of alcohol, Wesley said firmly, "Angel, we can't avoid this. Your son, he's powerful, isn't he?" Turning to Connor, "You feel restless sometimes, you dream of fighting, of battles, don't you?"
Failing to hide his surprise, "Y-yes."
"In this world, a being is born to protect it. She alone will fight the darkness, the monsters. She is the Slayer."
Angel, the one who Connor would never accept as his father, clenched his jaw, anger burning in his eyes. He saw the glint of amber appear in Angel's eyes for a moment, before it went away.
"And she fights well. But you are like her. A supernatural being. You killed a person very dear to me, put another in the hospital. I nearly died to protect you, but only ended up handing you to Holtz. I'll say we're even. And now, it's time for you to make a sacrifice."
And he took Connor's hand, which had been idly holding his teacup, and placed it over Angel's hand.
The coldness didn't even shock Connor. It felt...familiar.
"This is your father. Holtz, who raised you, perhaps he loved you as a son, or perhaps he used you as he used everyone he met after Angelus killed his hope and his reason for living, was not your father. And I'm your Watcher. It's my job to train you, to help you, to guide you. I raised Angel from the eternal grave you sent him to, I betrayed Angel when I kidnapped you. And now, it's time to forget the past. You have a destiny, Connor. And it's time to accept it."
Looking straight into Connor's eyes, his icy blue glare dark and unreadable, "You are not a monster. You are a human. And Angel is not your enemy."
And all the stories Holtz told him about all the horrors Angel inflicted on humanity, they didn't fade, but he let go the rage and the hatred. And underneath it, he realized what he truly felt was resentment. That he wasn't good because Angel was his father, so he had to be a monster. He remembered killing Fred and for one moment, feeling so sick and horrified that he wished that he could die with her because he was killing an innocent and he had no right to do such a thing. He was no monster.
Holtz, his father, had lied to him his entire life.
The words came to him, in different voices and he could not stop himself from hearing it in his mind.
This is your father.
Like father, like son.
I am not a monster!
I always knew you were just like him...
Please, Connor! Stephen! No!!!
Blinking away the burning wetness forming in his eyes, he shook his head, "I can't."
As he walked out, he heard Wesley one more time, "Give him time, Angel, he'll be back."
And Connor was not foolish enough to lie to himself that that wasn't true.
He would be back.
"What the hell are you doing?"
Angel's sharp and angry tone caused Wesley to pause as he put away the liquor bottle.
A hollow, empty sort of chuckle, deep in his throat. "Yes, and pray tell, when do you think the miraculous epiphany occurred?"
Dangerous look in his eyes and Wesley was sure that one little push, one carefully chosen word and Angel would kill him. And for a moment, Wesley felt something like peace, only much more empty.
But the moment passed all too soon.
"Since the last time I saw you. Before."
"Nearly dying tends to do that to a man. Isn't that what they say about near-death experiences?" He titled his head slightly, not listening to anything. "But yes, I've changed. I've learned to survive on my own. And I don't work for you anymore. I took care of you, I helped you, I disposed of a body, but that's the end of my allegiance to you. I'm going to help your son."
"He killed Fred."
"Yes, he did. And how many innocent people have you killed? We've all done terrible things. It'll take time."
And in an instant, he was within an inch of Wesley; rage boiling just under his surface, "I want my son to have a normal life."
"Your son is not an ordinary child. He won't go to college or get married or have kids. I'm sorry, but that's not Connor's future."
Angel roared at that and went to hit Wesley, but in his blind rage, missed him. Wesley moved away, watching him tear, destroy, scream. As Angel slowly gave up, as the rage simmered away, Wesley watched as Angel gave up the dreams he had for his child in slow, bitter, aching seconds.
Gone was Connor finishing at the head of his class, waving his diploma high in the air, the lights from cameras flashing, taking in his young, hopeful face.
The woman he would marry and live with in the sun until he grew old and gray, she never appeared to listen to his stories of a strange, supernatural world, believing every word he spoke.
The children, Angel's grandchildren, fluttered away like ghosts that never existed.
Connor turning to his father and saying the word "Dad," and meaning it in its purest, basest form, seeing his father standing in the sunlight, the dream, the hope, the lingering thread that connected Angel to his path, that gave him a reason when all others had failed, it too broke away and faded into ash that was unloved, unwanted, unknown.
And Angel fell to the ground, bloodied hands covering his face, and it was all over.
"I have to do this, Angel. This is my purpose now."
Shaking his head, moving his hands to reveal emotionless, dead eyes, Angel weakly said, "You've changed, Wesley."
That, Wesley thought, handing Angel a towel to wipe away the blood, would be too easy. No, he had always been like this. It had just taken time for it to blossom, for it to die.
"I survived. I've learned how to make the best out of being a nobody."
"I don't think I can trust you, Wesley. I think you're lying. How did you know Wolfram and Hart were after Connor?"
Surveying the destruction, Wesley replied, "The company I'm doing freelancing for. Besides, it was obvious. They're obsessed about you."
A mere glance from Angel and Wesley realized he made a deadly mistake. Too confident, too knowing, dammit, this was going to make a mess.
Frowning a bit, he said in the hushed tones of someone confiding something, "After we parted ways, I was approached by Lilah. She offered me a deal. I refused. But she mentioned Connor, that they wanted him; that they'd get him. They knew. I'm sorry I didn't tell you before. I didn't want you to think that I would-"
"It's fine," Angel suddenly said, tone shifting instantly, looking behind Wesley, eyes focused on something, no, someone else.
Staying fixed to his spot, Wesley dryly said, "Now should I say hello to Connor, or should you?"
The call came at a ruined pay phone, the glass panes broken and shattered. He waited for several long moments, filling in more quarters, worried that there wouldn't be an answer.
And then he heard a tired, but polite, "Hello?"
"A..."she swallowed and continued, the surprise clear in her voice, "Angel?"
"Hi. I needed to talk to you."
"What - is something wrong? I was about to go out. Patrol."
"No." Collecting his thoughts, "Maybe. I don't know," he confessed. "We found Connor."
"Your son? I mean, that's great - is he...? I really don't know what to say."
"I need to - I need to talk to you. Listen, it's about Wesley. He's changed. I think, I don't know, I think something's wrong."
"I don't think I can help." Her voice had become shut off and distant, even for the poor telephone connection, Angel could hear her breaths becoming sharp and clear, like she was preparing to leave, "I mean, God, Angel, do you know all the work Wesley went through to rescue you?"
He heard the unspoken *everything I went through* but didn't comment on it.
"I know, I know." Scanning his eyes around the dark street, making sure that he hadn't been followed, he said in a clear but low voice, "It's just that he mentioned this lawyer - that she had approached him. I think something - damn, I don't know. I don't trust Wesley anymore. He's changed. Connor listened to him, listened to Wesley talk about Holtz, and Wesley just stood there with cool eyes while I held her and..."
"Angel," she cut in, real panic in her voice, "Are you okay? Do you need me to go to L.A.?"
Trying to form a coherent sentence that tied in all the little facts - Wesley drinking, the stink of perfume and woman on him as he returned, long showers like he had been in filth for a long time, books he opened to read, and pages ripped out, constantly leaving for his consultant work, or was it freelancing, now? An empty voice: "you killed her."
"He said that Lilah confronted him-"
"Lilah?" she asked, confused, "His girlfriend?"
And then, all the pieces fit perfectly together and Angel felt physically ill.
"You've met her?"
"Kinda. She told me good luck, it was strange, I really didn't get a chance to talk to her."
He choked out, "She works for Wolfram and Hart. Hell, she is Wolfram and Hart. It's her business to make my life a living hell."
A pause. "Maybe I'm wrong then, maybe-"
Without allowing his thoughts to be filtered, he spoke, slowly fitting the details, "You used a spell to find me, to rescue me. Wesley was always good with books, but he'd have to have access to resources like the libraries of the Watcher's Council. And I doubt that they'd allow him to look through their books for ways to save a vampire. Where did you see Lilah?"
"At his apartment. But-"
"I killed someone, when, before we - I was out of my mind. I thought it was a dream. But Wesley showed up and took the body away, as though it didn't matter. Now, Wolfram and Hart would be able to dispose of a body."
He needed blood.
And Wesley and Buffy had fought outside the bedroom door, as she offered her blood to Angel, once again. But this time, Wesley refused.
Because he had a better plan.
Swallowing harshly, trying to ignore the memory of the young woman's blood coursing down his throat, the taste more delicious than he remembered, he said, "I need you here. Now. Met me at the Hyperion. When can you be here?"
"Soon," she said, as though it was a promise that couldn't be broken, "Soon."
And Angel hung up, without saying goodbye, thinking of his son, sitting in the apartment, listening to Wesley lecture him on being a protector of the world. Thinking of Wesley fucking Lilah in there, telling her that he had it all planned out, that he'd be able to bring her Connor and Angel without them even realizing it, until it was too late.
And then he thought of Buffy agreeing to help Wesley, not knowing that he was a part of the darkness she had sworn to fight.
He walked down the road, trying to keep all the horrible truths from returning to the one he feared the most.
He dreamt of killing her, Buffy, and loving it.
His son finally pushing down the stake over his dead heart, but he didn't burst into ash, instead, he snarled and snapped the neck, eyes so blue and unlike his own, they would stare at him, dead, forever.
And Wesley now appeared, a new addition, a grin as vicious as the angry red slash around his throat.
And Angel did not know that elsewhere Wesley sipped his tea as Connor gloomily stared outside, telling Wesley about the time he had gotten lost in the wilderness of the hell dimension.
Elsewhere, Wesley could count the moments when it would all be over on one hand. And his version of peace, a frozen cold, was deeply seated in his stomach and he was content for the moment.
It would all be over soon.