LIKE STONE Sorrow is held the eldest child of sin John Webster - Duchess of Malfi

By: D. M. Evans Disclaimer - As always, Joss owns all characters. The only thing I own are the few OC's you'll see in here. Lyrics, poetry and prose will be marked appropriately so we'll all know who owns them. In all cases, it's not me. Feedback - that would be lovely. Rating - R Spoilers - All the way to BtVS S7 and AtS S4's finales. Summary - 20 years after the battle with the first and the aftermath of Jasmine's reign, life still isn't easy for Buffy and Angel and their friends and family.

CHAPTER ONE - CONNOR Please could you stay awhile to share my grief

For its such a lovely day

To have to always feel this way

And the time that I will suffer less

Is when I never have to wake Wandering stars, for whom it is reserved

The blackness of darkness forever Wandering Stars -Portishead

The sound of crushing bone, a distinctive visceral noise, could make your guts clench. I felt the give of tissue and bone under my hands and it woke me up. The room reeked of fear and sweat. I tore the clammy sheets away from me and rolled to my feet. Ever since I was twenty years old, the bone- crunching dream had stalked my resting hours. Twenty solid years of nightmares and still counting. One would think I'd find expiation by now. Expiation, listen to me. You'd think I was some genius instead of a demon hybrid raised uneducated in hell. That's the real bitch of it. When Dad's soul-bought spell broke twenty years ago, a mere two years after purchase, everything went back the way it should be. Everyone remembered Connor Angel once more and I was no longer Connor Connolly, top of his class in conservation biology, older brother to two happy sisters and boyfriend to Amber Rose left raped and beaten to death by the fountain in the campus quad. That Connor faded away like he never existed, and well, he hadn't. Only I remembered being that boy, his family, his loves and hates. His Amber Rose.

Amber Rose, the red-headed girl who changed everything. I went out onto my back porch, letting the breeze caress my perspiration-slick body, trying to give Amber Rose back to the night. Story of my life, really. When things go unbelievably bad, there's a woman involved. It's not their fault. I have nothing but respect for women. I think it's more a case of the sins of the father being visited on the son. Dad had no luck with women. After spending his youth whoring around, fathering who knows how many bastards and somehow avoiding syphilis, he got killed in an alley by, appropriately enough, a one-time syphilitic prostitute, dear old Mom. Then came the gypsy girl who led to his curse then there was Buffy, simultaneous salvation and ruination. And let's not forget Cordelia, who damn near destroyed us both. But I think that came of the demon-ness that was added to her, that and her own ambitions to help the world. Plenty of hubris, always leads to one hell of a fall.

God, Cordy's been gone nearly fifteen years now. It wasn't hard to evoke her in my mind. A picture of her hung in my bedroom. Kate always complained about the sterileness of my little townhouse. Maybe spending half my life in hell on the run made some kind of barrier in my mind when it comes to decorating. The only photos I have on display are the four in my bedroom; one of me and my partner on a boat, two of Amber Rose and myself and one of Cordy. My den is covered in photos but they aren't decoration and I never allow guests in there.

The picture of Cordy isn't the Cordy I knew. She was younger, though not by much. Her hair was long, dark and complimentary of her beautiful skin. She had just a bit more weight in all the right places. I had stolen the picture from the Hyperion. I knew Angel would have given it to me but I couldn't ask for it. I couldn't ask for anything from him.

Cordy never recovered from our daughter's birth. Her mind hadn't been repairable. Wolfram and Hart had only been keeping her alive for her potential to breed beings of power thanks to the demon-ness spliced into her. Dad had realized Wolfram and Hart's deceit even before I came back to myself, probably because Cordy turned up pregnant at the home they kept her in. She lost that monstrosity. She was spirited away when Dad and the others tried to step in to rescue her from the nursing home Wolfram and Hart had placed her in. They were trying to keep the law firm from hurting Cordy more but all they managed to do was lose her. I didn't blame them for that. I tried to help them myself but we just didn't have enough clues. She died in birth giving Bath England, her body dumped in the gardens of Rupert Giles as a sick joke.

Hers was the first funeral I'd ever attended. I hadn't known how much I still loved Cordy until they put her in the ground. At the wake, I wept most of the night over beers with Dad. It was the first time, after telling him to fuck off to hell for what he had done to me, that I had spoken to Dad for any length of time outside what was needed for work. Neither of us could summon up the forced cheeriness that goes with wakes. No, the two Irishmen bawled like babies, closer to each other that night than ever before or since. Buffy and her sister couldn't make it to the funeral. They got snowed in in Cleveland.

I've since met Buffy but never Dawn. Buffy and Faith paid me infrequent visits to enlist my brute strength as necessary. I didn't fight demons full time but if they needed me, I was theirs, especially Faith. Once they got me into something so apocalyptic, I had to break the rule about not working with Angel. Buffy had come to me more than once to plead Angel's case but I wasn't ready to forgive him. I guess I'm a mean little bastard with a big grudge. I have nothing against Buffy personally. I liked her actually and I had been convinced to go to the little night time wedding held in the Hyperion's courtyard for her and Dad a decade ago. The courtyard had been stripped of jasmine and planted with gardenias and roses. Wes told me they were Cordy and Fred's favorites.

Fred had died even before I came back to myself. Wes said as far as they could tell she had been the first to realize something was wrong at Wolfram and Hart, that her research was being exploited. There hadn't been enough left of her to bury.

Buffy's wedding was small, just Wes and Faith there for Dad since Gunn had been lost to whatever Wolfram and Hart had done to him. He was solidly with them still. Willow and Giles had returned from England for the event. Xander already lived in L.A., working for Dad. Dawn was going to art school in New York City. I had walked out of the ceremony before I even met her. I just couldn't be there, celebrating the marriage of a vampire to a Slayer. It was too perverse. Worse, there had been years of wasted research to make it possible, to make Dad's curse permanent. Who cared if a demon could love? I guess I was in the minority in that respect.

I headed back inside the townhouse, stepping over Moocher. My cat resembled nothing so much as a bowling ball with eyes. Solid black with a few white hairs on his chest, he had grown into a monstrosity from the day Kate gave him to me, saying I needed companionship. Now he was nearly two feet long from nose to tail tip and almost twenty pounds. I didn't over feed him but he loved to beg. He gave me a filthy look for excluding him from my foray into the back yard, which was his territory; a handkerchief of land just off the porch, hemmed in by a tall privacy fence on all three sides.

I went into the bathroom and ducked my head under the spigot, trying to wash away the dark memories. As usual, they're far too ingrained for that. Once I had my bone-crushing dream, I'm always up for the night. I looked at the man in the mirror and saw a kid staring out at me. Wes figured it to be my demon aspect. My aging had slowed down somewhere just past puberty. I might be forty but I look sixteen. It was getting troublesome, especially at work. I might have to finally take Wes and Buffy up on their offers to be a Watcher, where my weirdness would be accepted. I wouldn't mind that. I had liked Giles and mourned his passing last year. At least it was quiet, a heart attack in his sleep. Wes was in his fifties now and Buffy was closing in on them. She was still pretty amazing in the work place from all accounts. She didn't do much active slaying but she had gotten good with training all the young Slayers and with the research, too. Things on that account had begun to equalize. The energy was going back to being stored up instead of spread to all the Potentials. Wes speculated that in a generation's time, it would be back to the old ways, one girl in here generation and all that shit.

Maybe I could be a Watcher but I wasn't quite ready to give up my gold shield. I have Amber Rose to thank for that. She wanted to be a lawyer. I remember everything about the day I first saw her at one of the homecoming parties when I was still Connolly. We fell hard for one another, two idealists. I was going to make the world a greener place, nurse back endangered species. She was going to be a woman's advocate, but Erick Witherington crossed her path. What an appropriate name. Everything he touched withered and died. My world felt like it ended the day Amber Rose lost her life. I was so distraught, my Not-Father had me sent to the country for a 'rest.' I never even attended her funeral. The police had questioned me mercilessly, even trying to drag me out of the sanitarium until DNA cleared me and linked Amber Rose's death to a string of homicide- rapes. How terrified had my love been when she died? Tears still stung my eyes any time I thought about her. Twenty years since she was gone and memories of Amber Rose reduced me to tears.

Amber Rose had been carrying quintuplets, mine. I hadn't known that at first. I remembered them telling me she had been pregnant and Father sending me away after I collapsed. Later I found out that the law firm she had done an internship at had given her drugs. Fertility drugs and Wolfram and Hart, a bad mix at any time and this time it was designed to exploit me. Angel should have realized they'd never just let me go. They wanted to bring more super-powered beings into the world and hoped my unique DNA would give them that. But at the time, all I had known was I had lost my lover and my future.

Connor Connolly's world truly ended when a judge have given Witherington a week out of jail to set his affairs in order after his conviction. Witherington had gone straight back to the clubs, looking for another victim, right by the college like usual. By sheer luck, I found him when I was out getting some emergency alcohol for my fraternity and cornered him in an alley. I hadn't meant to kill him, or at least I don't think so. He deserved it for murdering all those women, for killing Amber Rose and our unborn children. I had hit him once and only once. My fist went straight through his skull. There were no words for the panic that enveloped me, standing there in the filth with Witherington doing a death jig on the end of my arm, almost up to my elbow I had pushed my fist so far through his head.

Connor Angel didn't surface immediately, luckily. Connolly remained in control. I burnt my bloody shirt in the first homeless camp fire I found. I washed all the blood off in the fountain Amber Rose died beside. The police of course looked at me and the families of Witherington's other victims. Witherington had had a passport issued under a false name and ticket to a country that wouldn't extradite to America. If I hadn't killed him, he would have fled. My fraternity brothers alibied me without me even asking, telling the cops I had been at a house party that night. And I had been until I went out for that alcohol run. In the end, no one really looked hard for Witherington's killer.

But that murder was the first thread and like many things, one good pull on a string and everything unravels. I started having dreams of vampires and women with maggoty heads. I thought I had had another nervous breakdown. Quickly enough, the spell snapped completely and I was myself once more. And I have hated my father ever since for trying to erase my existence. Despite everything since then, all he's tried to do for me, I have remained like stone, unmoving, unforgiving.

I looked at the clock. It wasn't even midnight. Today was my day off so I had been in bed early but that had come to an end with that dream. It was time to find a little help getting through the night. After Amber Rose's death, I turned to Wes. He helped me readjust, helped me reestablish my identity. Connor Connolly might have been a lie but something about that experience helped me not descend into the madness I had suffered before it. Maybe because I remembered having a family and realized it wasn't the cure- all I had thought it would be. I still suffered, and continue to suffer, from loneliness and depression, the sense of total alienation but being Connolly had allowed me to cope.

But no one remember Connolly. No one recalled a lot of things, especially in the days during and just after the Beast's rain of fire and Jasmine. No one really recollected a crazed kid taking over a mall. Even I had no clear memories of that, more due to the fugue caused by my descent into madness or something close to it. So many deaths had happened during the rain of fire that one blonde little girl's murder had been forgotten. Only I remembered kidnaping her, letting Cordelia slaughter her. I've only told three other people, Wesley, Kate and Faith. Faith took it to her grave.

I missed her so much some nights, especially ones like tonight. The night after Cordelia's wake, Faith had sensed my pain, my neediness and practically screwed me right into the ground. I was thankful for that. Then she left me, explaining her warped sense of one night then get gone. Later, she made exceptions and we had a wild sexual relationship lasting years. I think she craved my strength, my roughness. I could match her and we could be ourselves without having to worry about the damage we could do. Oh, we were never boyfriend-girlfriend. She wasn't in L.A. all that often but when she was or if I got to travel, it was tempestuous. She went out in a blaze of glory in the wilds of northern Wisconsin, just like she wanted to. That was over three years ago now but at least we know the terrible secret of the Paulding lights as a result.

I picked up the phone and called one of the remaining two people who knew all my secrets. "Hey...yeah, had that dream again, can't sleep. Can you meet me at O'Shaughnessy's? Great, I'll be there in twenty minutes."

O'Shaughnessy's was my hang out, a cop bar. Sometimes Kate and I went to the latest incarnation of Caritas since we could talk demony stuff without worry but I didn't feel like talking about that tonight so O'Shaughnessy's would do. The Guinness was room temperature and the ambiance desperately Irish but they knew me. They didn't think my i.d. was fake. Detective MacDermot was well known to them. Once Wes helped me establish my identity as Connor MacDermot, I decided to try to keep people like Witherington from taking away someone else's Amber Rose. I became a cop and a good one. Now I'm a homicide detective and I like my work.

Kate was waiting for me at our usual table, near the dart boards, real ones with sharp metal darts, when I made it to the pub. I felt guilty about asking her here. She was fifty-something and didn't need to be out at all hours. Her blonde hair was streaked with ash, pulled into a tail. A fine web of wrinkles surrounded her eyes and lips but she was still pretty. Kate had had her own private detective agency for a while after she left the force. Then she joined up with Wes and Angel to fill in the spaces left by Fred, Cordy and Gunn. I met her through Wes and we've been friends and confidantes ever since. I swung by the bar first, picking up my pint that Colleen started pouring the moment she saw me entering, then she poured me a second without asking. I must have looked really rough. I leaned against the elaborately carved, dark wood as the Guinness all but oozed from the tap. Colleen told me her father had imported the actual bar from a pub in Ireland. You could practically feel its age thrumming in the wood.

I sat with Kate. "Sorry for dragging you out here."

Kate had a little line of shots of Irish whiskey lined up, ready for our consumption. We honestly weren't the hard drinking cop cliche. She drank rarely, having gotten on the bad side of a bottle and drugs after her father was killed. I didn't drink heavily normally. Dad did when he was mortal and the less like him I acted, the better. She smiled at me. "You say that every time. I'm getting older, not ancient or dead, Connor. I can keep a friend company."

"I just wish...why won't these dreams go away? It's so far in the past now. It's not like I even feel guilty over Witherington." I let a good swallow of Guinness slide smoothly down my throat.

"You do about-"

"I know." I broke in and she shot me an apologetic look. I polished off my first pint and started the next. "But it wasn't my fault and I know that. Jasmine had me under her control." That was true. Wes had thought I wasn't under Jasmine's control because I knew what she looked like. I could see her for what she was because she was my daughter but that didn't make me immune to her mind control. Our shared blood merely made me immune to the cure.

I would always feel horrible guilt for the murder of the girl whose name I would never known. Most of my adult life had been lived in atonement for that. I hated not being strong enough to break free of Jasmine's hold, loosen myself from my psychosis. I had been everyone's pawn up until I came back to myself. That's why I chose the name MacDermot. It meant 'free man.' I liked deluding myself into thinking that's what I was. And for the most part it was true. I lived life the way I wanted to, on my own terms but there were shackles on me. Angel's name was stamped into every link and I could hear them rattling through everything I did.

"I wasn't talking about her." Kate locked eyes with me. "I think you're filled with regrets and guilt over your relationship with your father."

I snorted and drank some more stout.

"I'm serious, Connor." Her strong hand closed over mine. Her fingers were calloused and warm but I pulled away. I didn't want comforted. "You're a detective, Kate, and a good one. But you're not a psychologist so leave it."

"Bullshit. A good hunk of detective work is psychology and you know it," she challenged.

I bit at the cuticle of my thumb like I was wont to do when nervous. I couldn't meet those pretty blue eyes. She would make me feel like I was that scared little boy I once was if I looked at her. "Kate, I hate him. I know that puts you in a bad position, just like Wes and Buffy. I know it's hard being friends with me and Dad and not being able to reconcile us."

She leaned on the age-warped wood of the table. "That's because you're a pig-headed Irishman."

I canted my eyes to meet hers then dropped them back to my pint glass. I did one of the shots of whiskey. "Maybe so."

"He's not going to give up on you," she said, softly. I sighed heavily. "I just wish he would."

"You know better."

She was right. I did. Dad called me every week and told me what was going on in his life. Well, he told the answering machine at any rate since I never picked up. He sent me emails that I deleted but not before reading. He sent me holiday cards and birthday presents. Until that, I hadn't even known when I was born. I never thanked him, never acknowledged his efforts. The few times I had spoken to him, I told him how much I hated him. When I walked out on his wedding, he cried silently as he watched me go. Maybe Kate was right. I had my bone-crushing dream because I felt guilty over Dad and I hated him so much I couldn't even have him in my dreams. I was a wicked creature but what else could be expected of a bastard demon half breed?

"He erased me, Kate. Like I never existed. Like he never wanted me."

Her hand was across the table and back again so fast I couldn't stop her slap. My face stung from the concussion. "He did it because he loved you. You know this. He did what he thought would make you safe and happy because you were dying inside, Connor. Rotting and spreading your decay to others."

Tears pricked my eyes. "He never fought hard enough for me, Kate," I whispered. "He just let me go. Every time things got difficult with me, he let me go." I scrubbed my hand over my eyes, trying to grind away the tears.

"No one's ever going to convince you otherwise, are they?" Kate scowled at me. There was no pity in her eyes for me but I didn't really deserve any. "Maybe next time you have the dream, I won't come here."

I nodded but I knew she would. She always would. I just polished off my Guinness silently. When I raised my glass to wiggle it at Colleen for a refill, I saw someone staring at me from the bar. She got up and came over to me. She might have been in her mid-twenties but her eyes were older. I couldn't tell if they were blue or green in this light. Her long, straight hair, a warm brown that kind of reminded me of Fred, brushed her belt as she walked. She was thin, nearly bustless, especially compared to Kate. Her wide mouth was set grimly and as she got closer I could see a sprinkle of freckles across her nose and cheeks.

"I thought it was you." She clenched the leather file folder she seemed to be guarding with her life.

"I don't know you," I said, thinking somehow she was familiar but I couldn't wade through the alcoholic fog blanketing my memory. I was well on my way to being toasted.

She shook her head. "You wouldn't. I'm Dawn Nyhammer. I've been by your police station a few times but none of the detectives take me seriously."

I was thinking, 'great, a nutcase. Just what I needed to make my night complete,' but what I said was, "So you've taken to hanging in cop bars to get our attention." Kate kicked me under the table for being a jerk but Ms. Nyhammer didn't seem to notice.

Her lips tightened. "I know it's not ideal, kind of crazy or obsessed. I might just be the latter. Please, I'm only asking for five minutes of your time. My best friend is missing and I can't get anyone to listen to me."

I glanced over at Kate then indicated one of the empty chairs. As this strange, almost fey woman sat, Colleen came by with refills for me and Kate. "I'm a homicide detective, Ms. Nyhammer. I'm not sure I can help you."

"I think you can," she said, her eyes brooking no arguments. She set the file down on the table carefully avoiding the wet rings from the pint glasses. "I think Maribel is dead."

I studied her even more intently, curious now. "Why do you think that?"

"You'll see." She started her story. From the way she spoke, I could tell she had told this tale a hundred times. "Maribel and I went to college together in New York. She ended up teaching in Los Angeles while I stayed in New York. Seven years ago, she started dating this real jerk, Sean Jury. I hated him but what could I do? I had my own job and husband to worry about. Maribel called me every week, emailed me almost every day. But she never told me how bad it was until I saw her at a show in here in L.A. The bastard was beating her. I tried to convince her to leave but she was pregnant. To me that was all the more reason to go but she wanted to stay and be a family." Her face started crumbling but she regained control. Her hands closed into fists, pulsating with rage.

I nodded. Family, something that had been my holy grail, had become something of a dirty word. Family was where I started most of my homicide investigations. It was all too often where they ended. How many young women did I watch being loaded into body bags after their men had killed them, men they wouldn't leave because they were the head of the family?

"After the baby was born, she called me, terrified. Could I come get her." Nyhammer's voice broke and she wiped away some tears. "God, why didn't I go? I couldn't make it for some reason that I can't even remember now. Maybe it was simply because I wanted her out of there fast and there was a whole country between us. I wired her the money to get the bus so she and her son could join me."

"She never caught the bus," I guessed, watching her play with her wedding ring. It was an impressive diamond.

"No. When she didn't pick up the money, I called her boyfriend. He told me that Maribel had just left him and he didn't know where she was. I didn't believe him. I managed to convince the police to at least look into it. She didn't give notice at work that she was quitting but since she had filed domestic abuse charges before they assumed she had had enough and took off. But I found out that Maribel left behind her son. She would never have left Javier, never." Nyhammer's eyes flashed fire at the very thought. "That's when I knew he had killed her."

"But without a body, no one is listening to you," I said.

She nodded her head, struggling to rein in her emotions. "There's an open missing person's file but that's it. No one's looking into it any more. I've done so much work, found so many leads but I'm not a detective. I can't do any more. Please, help me."

She pushed the file folder to me. I opened it up and saw bundles of work inside; tablets filled with who knew what, phone bills, cards from all sorts of women's shelters and people locators, all arranged meticulously by month and year. Obsession didn't cover it.

I looked into her eyes and saw she expected rejection. "I just don't know what you expect me to do. We don't know there's been a murder or even one that's in my jurisdiction. The best I can do is hand this right over to Kate, here. She's a private detective." I felt I was more than fair with that. Kate was a good detective even if this was more normal than she was used to dealing with at Angel Investigations. Empathetic sadness bubbled up in me for Ms Nyhammer. Her story was all too common but no less tragic.

"I don't have enough money for that. The phone bills...I'm so far in debt now. My husband has had more than enough of this. If I tell him I have to hire a detective..." Dawn's face lost all color. "I didn't want to do this. I know if I say this, you'll think I'm nuts and never listen to me."

"You might as well tell me," I said. "As it stands, there's nothing I can do."

She took her folder and flipped it to the back. She pulled out a transcript, handing it to me. "It's from a psychic. I contacted her and she described in detail where Maribel is buried. I checked. It's your jurisdiction."

I wanted to laugh. I should have. She was expecting it. That's what most policemen would have done. But I knew psychics were real. Okay, most of them were frauds, living off their clients like ticks and ruining it for the real ones. But dare I take the risk? My partner was going to be looking at me like I was the insane one if I mentioned this. I pulled my wallet out of my pocket and fished out my business card, handing it to her. "Can I borrow your files for the night?"

She seemed shocked. She took my card with trembling fingers. "You believe me?"

"I believe you're extremely concerned for your friend and I don't like what you're telling me about this guy. Let me look at what you have here and you can call me tomorrow night."

Tears started pouring from her eyes and she actually leaned over the table and hugged me. She took out the empty pint glasses but didn't seem to notice. "Thank you."

"You're welcome. Take Kate's card, too. If I can't help you, maybe you two can work something out."

Dawn dutifully took Kate's card. "I'm not crazy, Detective MacDermot. And this psychic, well, you'll see for yourself, I guess. Thank you," she said again then headed out of the bar.

"Well, that was weird," I said, thumbing through the psychic's transcript as I drank.

"You're telling me." There was something odd in Kate's voice, a strange gleam in her eye like she knew something I didn't. She had been quieter than usual, too. I shrugged it off as my usual paranoia muddied by my over indulgence in the water of life. "Want some help going over that stuff?"

"If you don't mind."

Kate didn't. We headed back to her place so we'd have room to spread out and mull over everything until the wee hours of the morning. In the past things might have gotten friskier. Nothing like good sex to take my mind off my dreams. But Kate was seeing someone now and we had a puzzle to keep us occupied. A mystery was almost as thrilling as sex to both of us and there was plenty of mystery to be found in Nyhammer's painstakingly compiled folder.