SEQ CHAPTER \h \r 1CHAPTER EIGHT
Connor sat on the floor amidst the dust of his friends, a death grip on the Christmas tree branch. He ignored Faith and Wes still staring at him. He didn't look up when Fred, Lorne and Gunn arrived, freed from the spell. He heard them talking to him but it seemed so far away. He stared at the pine needles, trying to shift through his fragmented memories. What was Connor son of two vampires and what was the lie, McGillycuddy?
He didn't look up until he scented his father returning with the other vampire, Spike. They were dripping wet when they came in. He saw the pain and horror in his father's eyes and it should have made him happy but it didn't. He felt the same way.
"Is it over?" Wesley took a step towards Angel then stopped seeing the look in his friend's eye.
"It's over," Angel said, weakly.
"Okay, anyone convinced by that raise your hand," Faith said. "You didn't kill her, did you?"
"You see, there was this big cock-up," Spike replied, looking at his boots.
"She got away," Angel said.
"You let her go," Connor
corrected, trying to catch his father's eye. He wasn't happy when he actually
succeeded. Angel looked small and somehow old.
"She got away," Angel insisted, glancing away.
"We are the walking wounded, after all, yobbo," Spike said.
Connor snorted. "You threw me away again, Dad."
The others parted to let Angel through. He came over to Connor but stopped a few feet away. "Never. I tried to help you."
"By making everyone forget me? By making my life a lie?" Connor snarled, wanting to get up and reduce his father's face to pulp. He couldn't even make his fingers let the branch go.
Angel knelt where he was. "You can't be saved by a lie. You told me that and maybe I should have listened. But I didn't have time to think. Do you remember our last time together, Connor, at the mall?"
Connor shook his head. "Not clearly, there's so much I can't grab onto. More of your work?"
"I can remember clearly now," Gunn offered, but Connor couldn't tell if that was meant to help him or accuse Angel.
"Me, too," Lorne said, heading for Angel's mini-bar.
"I think your brain is trying to protect you, Connor. You were going insane. I know what insanity is. Look at Dru. I did that to her," Angel confessed. "I know the signs."
"Nervous breakdowns can block memories," Fred said helpfully then blushed. "Sorry, I'll be quiet now."
"It's okay," Connor told her softly then turned his attention back to Angel. "I remember fighting with you but I don't remember why."
"You were trying to get me to kill you," Angel said. "My choices were to kill you or let you kill everyone in that mall. I couldn't do either. Instead, I thought maybe you were right. Maybe I was the reason you were so miserable. So I had Wolfram and Hart rewrite your life so you'd be normal, so you'd be happy. I gave you up and it killed me to do it but I would have done anything to give you a better life."
"Will they remember me? My parents?" Connor shook, feeling tears hot in his eyes. "I remember them."
Angel shook his head. "I don't know. I'm sorry, Connor. You don't know how sorry I am that nothing I do for you works. I try so hard but it always goes so wrong." Angel held out a hand to his son.
Connor shrank back, curling his knees up to his chest like a shield. Angel dropped his hand, defeated. Connor watched him cry. He looked so human it was heart wrenching. "I want my mom, my real mom. She came to me once."
"Isn't she dead?" Lorne asked.
Wes shrugged. "A ghost is hardly unheard of. Darla always said she shared part of Connor's soul. I don't see why she wouldn't visit him if she could."
"Your mother said you were the only good thing we ever did together and made me promise to tell you that, to tell you that she loved you but I forgot to do it," Angel said, wiping his face. "She did love you, so much so that she was willing to die for you. Both of us were willing to die. I would have given you to Fred in that alley and let Holtz kill me if he would only have left you live."
"Why didn't you?" Connor cocked his head to the side.
"Holtz put down his bow and let us go." Angel got up. "He wasn't a bad man, Connor but you know that."
"Where's Cordy?" Connor let go of his knees.
"We haven't found a way to help her yet," Angel admitted.
"She's here where the nurses can take care of her," Faith said, "And take it from someone who was in a coma for a long time, they're doing a good job with her. We all visit her every day if we can."
"I hoped she had woken up." Connor sighed.
"We all hope that and we're not giving up," Angel told him.
"What happens now?" Connor asked.
Angel offered him a hand but Connor wouldn't take it. "I want you to stay here, Connor. Things aren't easy, of course, not with all we have to do to keep the really bad things at bay but it's not as insane as it was with the Beast. We all have more time. Maybe now we can work with you, to help you find your place and this time it won't go so wrong. All I've ever wanted was for you to be my son and I know that I haven't always been a good father. I tried to hard too pretend you were never kidnaped. I tried to pick up right where I thought was appropriate for a teenaged boy. I never asked what you wanted, just tried to make you happy with what I thought you wanted. Please, just stay for now."
"She took so much blood these past few days, I'm not sure I can even stand up, let alone run off" Connor admitted. "Tomorrow's Christmas eve…for that, I'll stay. Maybe longer."
"I want it to be longer," Angel said. "If Connor McGillycuddy hasn't totally disappeared, you can go back to school if you want. Do you remember what you were studying?"
Connor nodded. "How did I learn all this stuff? I had no teaching before."
"Probably the same way I learned everything about the law," Gunn said, "Wolfram and Hart put it there."
"Another lie then," Connor said, miserably.
"Hey, I'm damn proud of these new abilities," Gunn huffed, his eyes slotting.
"Still a lie." Connor tried to get up. Faith helped him. "But I'm happy enough with that lie. It's better than being barely able to read. I want to go back to school only…"
"Yes?" Angel prompted.
"Do I have to stay pre-med?" Connor asked, his brow beetling.
A wide smile spread across Angel's face. "Not if you don't want to."
"Come on, kid, let's get you to bed. I'll put him in my room for the night," Faith said, sliding an arm around him.
"Sure, make me that offer when I'm too weak to move," Connor said.
"Hey, you had other chances or did those memories get fried by the spell?" Faith asked.
He rested his head against her shoulder. "I remember Griffith Park."
"So long as you remember how to cook, we'll do just fine," Faith said.
"That's still up here." Connor tapped his head. "I remember you kicking my ass when we were looking for the Beast and Angelus. That was so hot."
"Hot?" Angel asked in a worried tone.
"Trust me, that was all he could talk about all the way back to the Hyperion." Gunn shuddered.
"Uh-oh, my uncle's a little kinky. Must run in the family." Spike smirked and Angel slapped him in the back of the head.
"Uncle?" Connor looked over his shoulder at them.
"Dru was my vampiric daughter and Spike is her son. I guess he's an uncle. You can disown him if you'd like," Angel said, eagerly. "I won't protest."
"Anything you want to know about your old man, kid, I'll tell you. I know all the dirt," Spike said, lighting a cigarette.
"And on that note, I'll get you out of here before Angel is forced to kill Spike," Faith said, steering Connor toward the door.
"Why didn't you kill that vampire?" Connor asked.
* * *
Faith had gotten up late, having been hesitant to get into bed with Connor, despite the fact he was sleeping like the dead. It felt different now that she knew who he was, remembered him, knew he was Angel's kid. She had been annoyed by the brash kid back when they were fighting Angelus and the Beast but she hadn't been blind. She knew he had been attracted to her.
She had to admit to herself, she was still attracted to him. There was something sexy about being with someone who could go toe to toe with her. She wouldn't have to hold back with him like she had with Robin and her other lovers since becoming a Slayer. "Since Connor had only awoken once during the day, long enough to take a piss and dutifully eat some egg drop soup she had found leftover in her fridge, then crashed again, she had taken the time to talk to Angel while Spike babysat the kid.
She confessed being uncomfortable with someone so willing to kill his own father and Angel told her that he had ordered Connor to do it if the worst happened. It made her feel a little better about the way she felt about Connor. She didn't tell Angel much about how she felt but it seemed Angel was okay with her being with Connor now that he had time to get used to it. He seemed to think she could handle him and she could see where her strength would be an asset. Only she, Spike and Angel would stand a chance of stopping Connor if he freaked.
The day had passed pretty uneventfully. Connor was awake talking to Spike when she got back to her suite. She was surprised at it until she listened and realized Spike was telling a particularly embarrassing story.
"Blue?" Connor snickered.
"Blue with white spots, his entire body. Learned his lesson about pissing off a Yagyet demon. It took a month for the color to wear off," Spike said, blowing smoke. "Your mother wouldn't let him into bed with her. Every time she saw that splotchy blue willie coming at her, she died laughing and kicked his ass out."
"Nice story, Spike," Faith said.
"What?" He shot her a perturbed look. "The kid's eating it up."
"That's what I'm afraid of." Faith smiled. "Blue?"
"With white spots," Spike assured her.
Faith smothered a laugh. "They want us to get dressed and get up to Angel's suite. It's time for the Christmas party."
"Yeah, Fred will kill us all if we're late. Feel up to it, kid?"
Connor nodded, "I'm feeling better, a little at any rate. I don't have anything new to wear though. These clothes are kinda raggedy at this point."
"Oh, Gunn's people brought over your clothes, your skateboard and that damn cat is in here somewhere," Faith said, as Spike headed out.
"Cool. I have time to shower?"
Faith changed while he showered. He looked very much revived when he came back out to the living room. He looked at her clingy forest green sweater and black pants and grinned.
"I like your outfit," he said.
"Thanks. And now that I remember your old hair, let me tell you this is a hell of a lot better," Faith said, pointing to his much shorter hair.
He ruffled it, blushing. "Yeah, I remember going to college and taking a look in the mirror and saying 'what the hell was I thinking.' Tracy liked it long or that's what they made me think. Guess I just didn't know any better."
Faith draped an arm around him as she locked her suite. "Well, this is a lot less girlie. Can you do me a favor, Connor?"
"I can try."
"Don't fight with Angel," she said solemnly.
His blue eyes clouded. "I'll try. I don't want to ruin everyone's holiday."
She sucked in a deep breath and decided to take a chance. "He loves you."
"I know that. I really do," Connor replied earnestly.
"Good. I don't want any fighting." Faith patted his hip. "This is my favorite holiday. I know most people think I don't care about much but I love Christmas. I love everything about it. I'm not much into the religious stuff but I can get behind peace and good-will. I used to look forward to it even as a kid, even though I'd know it'd suck because Mom, if she even stayed home, would be too drunk to remember to get me anything. And I never even knew my dad. I'd trade my parents for yours any day."
"That's a good thing about the spell, I've gotten to see how bad some people have it. It's given me perspective…taught me big words like perspective." Connor grinned wryly. "Father chose a day that he thought might be close to Christmas when we were in Quor-Toth and taught me to keep it holy. We even had gifts, usually a weapon we'd been working on all year or a piece of clothing but it was special."
"I'm glad that you have at least a few good memories. I can't imagine what it was like to grow up like that," Faith said as the elevator reached the top floor.
"I survived," Connor said as they went into Angel's suite. He froze and Faith looked at him, seeing fear. They were the last ones to arrive and all eyes were on them.
"It'll be okay," she whispered.
He nodded and went in. The room was lit with candles and the Christmas lights alone. Everyone was sitting around the tree except Angel who was in the galley kitchen. The room smelled wonderfully.
"I'm mulling wine," Angel said.
"It's almost ready."
"Never had that," Faith said.
"My father used to make it," Angel said. "It was the one time of year he and I weren't at each other's throats."
"I remember you telling me he was a self-righteous bastard, back when Lorne made you guys think you were teenagers," Connor said, sitting on the couch between Faith and Fred.
"I remember you telling me so was yours," Angel volleyed back.
"He wasn't wrong," Spike said with a smirk.
"Maybe not. It seems to run in the family," Angel said.
"I just warned Connor to be nice, Angel. I'm telling you the same thing," Faith said, shaking a stern finger at him.
"What I mean to say is, I've been thinking a lot about me and my own father and how we didn't get along. I see the cycle repeating and I don't want it to," Angel said.
"Maybe it's just you that's hard to get along with. I've always found you so," Spike said.
"Spike, don't make me truss you up like Dru did," Faith said, her dark eyes hot.
"You can work from my photos," Angel offered jovially. "But it's true. Father and I didn't get a long and eventually he threw me out or I walked out given who you asked."
"What happened?" Connor asked.
"After your mother killed me," Angel said then paused seeing Connor's look. "Oh, sorry, you didn't know. She was the one who made me. Anyhow, I killed him, so I guess that's another cycle I'm eager to change. I can't change what I did but I'm seeing myself in him and you are very much like me at that age, Connor, whether or not you want to hear that."
"I wish I could say I'm surprised. I can't," Connor said, obviously unsettled by the idea.
"But you're at least here now and we can change things," Angel said, ladling out the wine into goblets.
"Without magic this time," Connor said.
"Agreed." Angel brought the tray of goblets over to the couch, letting Faith and Fred pluck off goblets. Connor hesitated. "Take some, Connor. You're Irish and a college student, you could probably drink us all under the table."
Grinning broadly, Connor took some and Angel carried the tray over to the men folk.
Fred looked over at Gunn who was still poking through a file. "Gunn, work time is over."
"Just finalizing a few things. This is your file, Connor. You'll be happy to know, you've been cleared of all suspicion and there's an all points bulletin for Drusilla," Gunn said.
"Pity the cop who finds her," Spike said, taking a drink of the mulled wine.
"There's paperwork here that wasn't before the spell ended. Now your parents are foster parents who took you in a year ago and gave you their name because you had been so traumatized by a crime, your own kidnaping, and the subsequent testimony over that you needed a new identity. Your college has been paid for by Wolfram and Hart, so you can go back if you want," Gunn said.
Connor bobbed his head. "I know, about my parents that is. I called them. Sorry, I couldn't help it. My sister broke her arm and leg and I had to see if she was okay and talk to her for Christmas. I know I probably should have waited until I knew what they thought I was…if I still even existed."
"It's okay, Connor," Angel said, patting his shoulder. "It's a good thing that you care."
"So I guess you can stay Connor McGillycuddy if you want," Gunn said.
Connor wrinkled his nose. "That's such a monster of a name. I guess I really can't go by Holtz either. Do I have another name?"
"Angel," Fred said.
Connor made a face. "What?"
"Connor Angel. Cordelia put Connor Angel on your birth certificate." Angel shuddered. "She made me Geraldo Angel. I mean, couldn't she think of anything Irish? What's up with that. I don't expect you to go by Connor Angel."
"That's probably a good thing because that would be a fight," Connor said.
"You have time to think about a name, if you're staying," Wes said. "Maybe the original family name might be appropriate."
"I'm staying," Connor said and Faith saw the smile that cut across Angel's face. She patted Connor's knee. "Or at least in the dorms once classes start."
"You're really a member of the Society of Conservation Biology?" Gunn asked, still looking at the file.
Connor nodded. "Guess so."
"And you're active in the on-campus movement to legalize pot?" Gunn persisted.
"Oh yeah," Connor replied.
Angel's brow wrinkled. "I don't want you smoking marijuana."
"You don't want him dressed in leather begging for another spanking from Faith but I'm willing to bet that's gonna happen, too." Spike grinned, showing all his teeth.
"Shut up, Spike," Angel said then turned to Connor. "Pot'll rot your brains."
"And given your parentage, you probably didn't start life with much in the way of brain power," Spike said.
Connor flipped him off. "I wanted to rush TKE this coming semester or at least I did. I'm not sure I belong in a fraternity."
"You need to go to England," Faith said. "You, Giles and Robin can sit around smoking pot and trading stories."
"Don't encourage him, Faith," Angel said. "But going to England wouldn't be so bad. Ireland would be better."
"Actually, I'd like that." Connor grinned. "Maybe I could study abroad."
"Plan later," Lorne said. "It's time for Christmas games."
Faith hadn't expected to have as much fun as they did. The one-upmanship between Spike and Angel reached ridiculous and hilarious proportions. Gunn and Wesley showed real competitive edge in Pictionary. The highlight had to be Fred's 'Twister Moves' game. Faith and Connor proved to be the most flexible of the crew with Spike a close third. Angel wiped out trying to get to left foot blue, crushing both Spike and Connor at the same time. Fred got a good digital picture of that.
Faith looked at the gifts under the tree and decided to give herself one more. She took the ribbon off one package, plucked off a bow and grabbed some tinsel. She snagged Connor away from the darts death match that had sprung up between England versus Ireland.
"Hey!" Wes, Spike and Angel chorused.
Faith patted the bow on Connor's head and wrapped the ribbon around his wrists. He looked at her with huge blue eyes, his generous lips parted. She looped the tinsel around his neck. "Ireland forfeits the game," she said. "I know we aren't opening gifts until tomorrow but I'm opening this one early." She started dragging Connor, not that he was putting up a fight, towards the bedroom.
"Oh no!" Angel said. "No, no no."
"He's old enough to say yes, Angel," Faith said.
"What? No, I don't care about that. You're not going in my bedroom. My bed is off limits to everyone," Angel said, going back to his desk. "That especially means you two and Spike." He fished out some keys and took one off the ring. He flung it to Faith. "That's the executive suite. It has a full bar, a Jacuzzi, the works. Knock yourself out."
"Thanks!" Faith said, heading for the door, Connor in tow.
"Connor, Faith, happy Christmas," Angel called.
* * *
"I wish you could see him too, Buffy. I'm glad you think he looks cute in pictures," Angel said into the phone, feeling close to her at the moment as he paged through the digital pictures she had emailed him. "He's special. Oh, here come he and Faith now." Angel waved to the young couple as they wandered into the suite. Connor looked thoroughly exhausted. "You do? Sure." Angel got up and handed Connor the phone. "This is Buffy. She's a very good friend of mine and another Slayer. She'd like to talk to you."
"Okay." The boy took the phone and flopped down on the couch.
Angel went into his kitchen and took down a huge bowl. Faith followed him, watching as he started scrambling eggs.
"You cook?" she asked.
"I'm told I make some mean omelets," Angel said. "Everyone will be up here for breakfast."
"You're okay with last night?" Faith asked cautiously.
"I was a little unsure at first but you two might be good for one another. You have a lot in common, good and bad. I think you can help each other," Angel said.
"Good. Because I was thinking, if it was okay with you, maybe I could stay here. I'm no good at training the new Slayers. They think I'm a bad influence so maybe I could stay here and help you fight the good fight," Faith said.
Angel smiled, liking the idea immensely. "I would love that. I could use the help. Oh, hey Fred, can you send all the digital pictures to England for me," he called, seeing her coming in with Spike. He glanced over to the couch where his son was still talking to Buffy, looking barely awake. "Besides it looks like you mellowed Connor right out."
"I did my best." Faith grinned at him.
"He needs mellowing. Probably will need a few good ass kickings, too…but he might enjoy that too much." Angel's eyes twinkled.
"Oh, he'd love it." Faith looked out the window. "We need snow."
"Go look at the pictures. There's a great one of Buffy and Willow burying Xander in the snow," Angel said.
Faith laughed as Connor came over to them skating around Lorne, Wes and Gunn who arrived in a lump. He handed the phone to her. "Buffy wants to speak to you, Faith."
"Thanks, blue eyes."
As Faith wandered off with the phone, Connor took her place. "You cook?"
"I know, I know. It's weird but yes, I cook. I generally don't eat it but I cook. Do you like eggs?" Angel asked. Connor nodded then put his head down on the table wearily. Angel patted his shoulder. "Try not to let her break you, son. No matter how much fun it might be."
Connor laughed but didn't raise his head. Angel looked over the room. All of the most important people in his life were here, even if it was only on the phone and the computer screen. It was the happiest holiday he could ever remember having.
* * *
Dru saw the signs for Las Vegas looming ahead of her. She had stolen one of Daddy's cars with its special glass. Her Spike had taught her to drive once a long time ago. She wasn't good at it but she could do it some, enough to handle it on the long open stretches. The bright lights called to her. She and Miss Edith were going to the pyramid for Christmas.
Her plans might have failed this time but the twinkling lights told her there would be other nights. All she had to do was be patient. There would be more chances to be a family.
"Silent night," Dru crooned as she drove past the city limits, defeat behind her and a future looming bright in her mind's eye.