CHAPTER TEN

Author's Note - Thanks for reading. This has become a series (see end notes) so feel free to find more stories in the series and thanks to everyone who's feedback helped shape the story you know who you are and as for my WIP's don't give up yet. This story was 'done' two months ago and it took me this long to polish it if that tells you how little time I have right now. Nothing has been abandoned just sadly delayed.

THANKS

D.

Angel hated his life at times. He had to spend the day holed up in Justine's home with Spike hiding from the sunlight when all he really wanted was to be at Black Hills Regional hospital with his son. Buffy had driven them to Justine's and he and Spike had scurried inside before they burst into flames. Buffy had called the hospital only to find Connor was in surgery.

None of them knew what that had meant at the time other than he was alive. Buffy had washed up Sorcha, tended her cuts and bruises and fed her. Seeing her niece looked more or less whole, if exhausted, Buffy decided the girl didn't need to go to the ER where they would have to explain her injuries which would heal at an accelerated rate as it was. When Sorcha refused to go upstairs, Buffy put Sorcha to bed on the couch with the buffalo she wouldn't let go of. Angel wanted to go back up the cliff and kill Ethan and Eve all over again when Buffy told him they had been holding Sorcha captive upstairs with dog collars and cuffs.

When Buffy called the hospital a second time, Connor had been moved to a room and was receiving another transfusion. Angel wished he knew what to expect. Connor wasn't entirely human but if getting human blood was hurting him, it would already have happened...he thought so at any rate. Connor healed like a vampire. What would happen now that he was full of stitches? Angel wanted to talk to Giles or Wes about it but Giles was overseas and Wes was still hung up with the police in Custer.

They tried to get some rest. Buffy refused to leave Sorcha alone so she took a pillow and a blanket and went into the living room. Both he and Spike wanted her to take the bed and get some real sleep but they couldn't go into the living room. Too many windows and a sliding glass door with only sheers over them. Spike had surprisingly graciously allowed him to have the bed but Angel almost wished he hadn't. The scent of Justine rising up from it infuriated him even as he fought to sleep.

Finally the others arrived back at Justine's, bringing her dog with them. Buffy immediately took the SUV, Gunn and Wesley and headed for the hospital. Angel knew she probably would rather have had Willow at her side but the witch was exhausted. He gave her the bed and joined Spike on the floor, bored out of his mind. It had been a long time since he had been in a house where he couldn't move about freely. He had forgotten how terrible it was to be extremely photosensitive. It didn't help matters that the dog wanted to sleep with him. He wasn't used to pets.

He knew he must have been driving everyone nuts since Spike and Lindsey hustled him out to the SUV the moment the sun went down. Cordy and Willow put Sorcha in the back seat, Willow strapping the child in with the same magical webbing Ethan had used to pin Connor to the ceiling. Sorcha still had her buffalo. They ignored every speed limit heading back to Rapid City and the hospital. Angel knew it probably wouldn't be a good thing to take Sorcha there but he reasoned, Willow or Cordy could keep her busy in the waiting room while he made sure with his own eyes that his son was alive.

He went by himself to Connor's room. Buffy, Wes and Gunn were there as was both a doctor and a nurse. The doctor looked perturbed as Connor, sitting on the bed, signed paperwork.

"This is a very dangerous thing you're doing," the doctor said as she did her best to check Connor's wound. "You belong in the hospital."

"You can't make me stay," Connor said, as the nurse flipped another page for him to sign.

The doctor stepped back. "You're right, I can't, but I want you to know the risks you're taking."

Connor sighed. "You've explained it all several times now."

"What's going on?" Angel asked Buffy quietly.

"He's checking himself out against medical advice," Buffy whispered.

"It's probably for the best," Wes said, taking Angel's arm, leading him out of the room. He added in a low voice, "When the nurse changed the dressing, the stitches were already backing out. The wound is sealing itself and rejecting the proline."

"I was afraid of that but will he be all right?" Angel glanced back at that room.

Wes nodded. "I would imagine so. He has an amazing healing system. As soon as he's done signing off that neither he nor any of us will sue the hospital should something happen to him for leaving too early, we should be able to just take him and go."

Angel went back into the room, nearly running over the doctor as she left, a disgusted look on her face. The nurse followed her, the ream of paper in hand. Buffy and Gunn were helping Connor to stand. Angel bumped Gunn out of the way, taking his place. "You shouldn't be walking, Connor."

"They want to ride me out of here in a wheel chair," Connor groaned.

"Maybe you ought to let them," Angel suggested.

Connor shook his head, turning gray as he did. Angel thought for a moment his son was going to vomit. "Not leaving just yet. Let me go, I can walk."

Angel took away his supporting arm, shocked that Connor didn't fall down. They all vacated the room before the nurse could return with the wheelchair. Angel led the way back to the waiting room and saw Connor's face brighten when he saw his daughter. Sorcha broke free of Spike's protective grip and ran over but she stopped before tossing her arms around Connor's legs. She looked up, her eyes huge with worry.

"Daddy sick?" Her lip trembled.

"Daddy's hurt a little," Connor said. "It'll be okay, baby." He tried to hunker down to her but didn't get far, grabbing at his side.

Angel scooped up Sorcha and brought her up to Connor's level. She leaned in and gave Connor's cheek a kiss. "Okay, let's go," the vampire said.

Connor nodded but instead of hitting the down button on the elevator he hit up.

"Um, Connor, the parking lot is down," Buffy said.

"I know."

The group just let Connor lead. Angel wished he knew what was going on but as they got off on the fourth floor and started down a hallway, he realized what Connor was doing. He caught a whiff of a familiar scent. He hadn't even thought to find out if Justine was still alive. He and Buffy followed Connor after he handed Sorcha over to Willow.

Justine looked awful. Her eyes were so swollen he wasn't sure she could see out of them. Both legs were suspended from the bed, pins and metallic halos ran the length of them from knee to ankle. There was something grotesque about seeing flesh so swelled, red and violated by metal. One of her arms was in a cast. Her eyes opened just a bit as Connor walked to her side.

"I knew you'd come," she said. "I didn't know, Connor...what they were going to do. I would never have said yes."

"I know," Connor said and Angel realized his son believed that. He might actually be seeing Justine as a victim, too. He felt Buffy's hand gripping his arm as if she was afraid he might just go and finish Justine off. He was considering it.

"Is she safe?" Justine asked.

"She's safe. Eve and Ethan are dead," Connor said, flatly.

Justine smiled. "Good...left me for dead. Might still get their wish."

Connor's gaze swept over her. "You'll be all right. The doctors are fixing you."

"Things can go wrong...may never walk again." Justine's fingers fumbled for the button to her morphine pump. "Howl...my dog?"

"We have her back at your place," Buffy said. Angel was surprised at the evenness of Buffy's voice. "She's okay."

"Good." Justine's eyes fluttered and Angel though she was going to pass out.

"Why did you do it?" Connor asked.

"To get him." Justine's chin tilted a bit to indicate Angel. "Before he got me. I had no idea....I care about you, Connor. I never would have hurt you...hurt a kid. I like kids."

Angel wanted to point out she had no problem murdering to get what she wanted but he knew Connor wouldn't appreciate it and Justine honestly sounded regretful. "I wouldn't have come for you, Justine. I was happy enough to leave it as you stay out of my life and I'll stay out of yours."

She laughed harshly then moaned in pain. "I almost believe that."

"It's true. He wouldn't have come for you," Connor said. "He won't, especially if I tell him not to."

Angel was surprised at that. He didn't understand why Connor would protect her nor why his son thought he had any control over Angel, but he was probably right.

"I was trying to bring her back to you," Justine said. "I would have met you somewhere safe...like Utah."

"At the ranch Father told me about," Connor said and it clarified things for Angel. Connor had told him about how Holtz always told him about living in Utah on a ranch with Justine as his surrogate mother. He knew, even though Connor knew the truth, he couldn't admit it to himself that Justine helped Holtz to die, that to them it was all about revenge and not Connor's well being.

"Sorry I couldn't do it. You better go, Connor. You look like a ghost." Justine said. "Look out for my dog for me."

"I can do that," Lindsey said, coming into the room. Angel stared at him in shock. "I'm in no rush to get back home."

"Are you Lindsey?" Justine asked.

He nodded. "I'm partially responsible for this mess you're in. I can stay for a while, until you're stronger."

"Thanks."

Angel didn't like this but he knew it wasn't his choice unless he wanted to get physical and it just wasn't the place for it. He turned, hearing feet running up behind him. Sorcha burst into the room with Willow right behind her.

"Sorcha, honey, you can't be in here," Buffy said, trying to shoo her out.

Sorcha scooted past her and went by her father at Justine's side. She looked at the woman then put the buffalo in the bed with her. "The bad people hurt you."

"I'm just glad they didn't hurt you," Justine said. She tried to reach for Sorcha but couldn't make it.

"Sorcha, we have to go now," Buffy said, picking her up.

Justine held up the buffalo. "She can keep it."

"It'll make you happy now," Sorcha said.

"It will if you take it," Justine said and Sorcha leaned down, taking the buffalo.

Connor took a notepad off the end table and scribbled on it. "My email. I'll give it to Lindsey. You can talk to me when you're stronger."

"You'd want me to?" Justine sounded as surprised as Angel felt.

Connor nodded. "Yes. I have to go now." Connor moved past Angel and nearly stumbled. This time he let Angel support him. They picked up the rest of their friends as they moved toward the elevator. "You're angry."

"I don't think you should have done that," Angel replied.

Connor shrugged. "I know. My choice."

"I guess it is," Angel conceded. He wasn't going to get into it with Connor now. He'd save it for later. "Now what?"

"We've reserved rooms here in town," Wes said.

"After we get a good night's sleep, my jet will take us home," Gunn said. "Of course, you and Spike probably should get to the jet before dawn."

"I'll rent a car and go back to Justine's tomorrow, do what I said I would," Lindsey said.

Angel nodded. "Thanks for your help, Lindsey. I know you didn't have to do it and I'm grateful. We might never have narrowed down the search without you."

"I'm glad I could help. Whatever's happened between you and me, Angel, is in the past." The smaller man shifted uncomfortably. "Like I said, I couldn't let them hurt a kid."

Angel just nodded again, too weary to come up with something more profound. He had slept half the day but he felt like he could sleep for a week. He contented himself with having his family and friends safe and at his side.

With Willow giggling softly behind her, Buffy clicked three pictures before the sound of Wes' digital camera woke Angel. She couldn't help herself. The scene had been just too precious. They had been back in L.A. for a day and Connor was still sleeping more than he was awake as his body tried to combat exhaustion and blood loss as well as healing the terrible wound Eve had inflicted. He had sacked out on the couch with the first three Harry Potter movies on DVD. They had been in the bundle of DVD's they had brought with them for Sorcha.

Originally Buffy hadn't wanted her to see those movies, thinking they might be a tad scary for the girl, but she had snuck down one night while Xander and Willow had been watching them and loved it so it was decided they were okay for Sorcha. Ditto for Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters and Tremors. Sorcha was too young to catch the adult stuff and so used to magic and demons that it didn't scare her. Buffy had put the Potter movies in the DVD player for Connor, figuring while he was trapped on the couch he deserved something less mind-rotting than The Tweenies or any of the other kid show they had for Sorcha. At the moment, most of the Disney stuff they had brought was hidden in her room, out of sight out of mind. Buffy hadn't realized how many kid movies were about kidnaped or lost kids; 101 Dalmatians, Finding Nemo, Ice Age, Monsters Inc. She just didn't think Sorcha was ready to see that sort of thing, even though her niece seemed to be adjusting just fine to being back home.

Currently, she was curled up on the couch, tucked up against her father and had been watching the tv at some point before falling asleep. Connor's arm was draped around her as he drowsed, his feet on the pillow that was in Angel's lap. The vampire, collapsed against the arm of the couch was also asleep, not surprising given it was still a little before sunset. Seeing three generations together, all of them looking innocent in their slumber in spite of the impishness she knew they all had hard-wired into them, Buffy had to take pictures. When Angel finally opened his eyes, she smiled at him.

"What are you doing?" he asked quietly.

"It was too cute for words," Buffy said then handed the camera off to Willow. She went over and picked up the pillow and Connor's feet, then slid onto Angel's lap. She settled Connor's long, slender, bare feet on her on lap. He shifted a little, mumbling in his sleep but didn't appear to wake up. Sorcha's eyes fluttered open a bit so Buffy hit play and started the trilogy all over again. "Smile for the camera, Angel."

"I don't photograph well."

"A little late to worry about that." Buffy rested her head against his shoulder and Willow snapped a few more pictures. Buffy kissed Angel softly. "Besides we could use some sweet pictures for the photo album."

"If you say so." Angel kissed her back.

"You two probably want to be alone, Buffy." With a knowing smile, Willow put the camera on the table for them. "Or sort of alone." She shrugged sheepishly then headed out.

"I think the Harry Potter music is driving me nuts," Connor mumbled without opening his eyes.

"I thought you were asleep," Buffy said.

"You touched me."

"Sorry." She tickled his bare foot and he squirmed.

"Stop that. No fair picking on the wounded guy." Connor's blue eyes opened, giving her a sour look.

"Can't help it. I'm still working on how a little guy like you got such big hands and feet." She ticked his instep.

"Buffy, if he kicks you, don't come crying to me," Angel said, moving the pillow and his son's feet off her lap. Connor curled up more, pressing his feet into Angel's thigh.

"Daddy doesn't kick." Sorcha gave Angel a knowing look.

"Sometimes he does, if he's being bad," Connor said, playing with her curls as they fell over her shoulder. "You want to watch the movie again, Sorcha?"

"Van Helsing?" Sorcha smiled.

"No," Connor said. "That just might be an end to me at this point."

"There's a movie about him?" Angel's brow beetled.

"You need to get more with pop culture. It's a great bad movie," Buffy told him.

"Isn't that a contradiction?"

"Not necessarily," she replied brightly.

"Sorcha thinks it's funny. Buffy just likes it so she can pant over Hugh Jackman," Connor said.

Angel eyed her sourly. "Really?"

Buffy patted his head. "We all like the movie but Connor."

"Yeah, it's wonderful watching that movie with her, Faith and Willow. Oooo, Hugh, he's so damn sexy," Connor fawned, clasping his hands in front of his chest doing a passable imitation of Buffy's voice. She pinched him.

"I see. So why don't you like it?" Angel asked.

"I just don't."

"Because the whole movie hinges on Dracula trying to have kids." Buffy smirked. "And as it turns out the offspring of two vampires are little gargoyle things with wings and a tail and Connor can't see the humor in that."

Angel snorted then shot his son an apologetic look. "I'll have to see this."

"Later. We really don't like Sorcha seeing that movie," Buffy said.

"That's because of all the nasty dirty talk you, Willow and Faith are doing while watching it," Connor grouched.

She pinched him again. "Pick another movie, Sorcha."

"Ice Age?" she asked.

"Sorry, baby. We forgot that one. Watch Harry again," Buffy said and Sorcha nodded. She slipped off the couch and got Fizz, Doodles and Tatanka, the buffalo she refused to part with, and played in front of the tv with them.

"Ice Age?" Angel asked.

"Funny movie," Connor said. "But it has a little kid who gets separated from his daddy. We figured it's too soon for that."

"You and I can see it later," Buffy said. "All of us can watch it."

"It's more fun in a group," Connor said, grinning as he bobbed his head. "Then you can see the resemblances."

"What are you talking about?" Angel's eyebrows raised.

"It's uncanny. You, Spike and Xander are in this movie," Buffy said. "Or at least characters that act like you."

"Spike's the saber tooth tiger, Xander's the giant sloth and you're the wooly mammoth." Connor shifted on the couch.

"Wait? Spike gets to be a tiger and I'm a mammoth?" Angel pouted. "Are you trying to say I'm fat?"

"Been wondering how you get that big just eating blood." Connor grinned one of his maniacal grins.

"I'm muscular, not fat, and at least I eat. I'm not sure I've ever seen you actually consume anything," Angel grumbled and Connor snickered.

"That's pretty much the same argument the Mammoth has in the movie," Buffy said and Angel rolled his eyes. "I think you look just fine. We don't have to worry about tying you down in high winds like we do Connor."

"That's 'cause he weighs as much as a Mammoth," Connor said.

"I see someone's feeling better." Angel patted his son's legs.

"He's in a good mood, Angel, don't spoil it," Buffy said, kissing him again lightly then more earnestly.

"Ewww, stop that or go get a room or something," Connor moaned.

"Why don't you watch the movie, Connor," Buffy said, pausing only briefly in her kissing.

"Remember how you felt when you saw Giles kissing that Watcher in Wales," Connor said and Buffy made a face. "Now you know how I feel."

"He might have a point," Buffy said, seeing Sorcha was more interested in watching her and Angel than she was in playing or watching Harry Potter.

"It's almost dark. Why doesn't the mammoth take you somewhere nice, pretend he eats dinner and you go back to the hotel for the night so I don't have to hear anything gross." Connor squirmed some more.

"Because you need me here," Buffy said, but she liked the idea far too much.

"No, I don't. Sorcha and I are fine. Willow and Wes are here. One phone call and Gunn, Lorne, Spike and Cordy can be here. No one wants to hear, see or smell you two, so go away." Connor shut his eyes.

"Are you sure, son?" Angel looked over at him.

"I'm sure. Willow can help me get Sorcha some dinner. Her bed time is in an hour or so. I'm ready to turn in myself. I think we can survive until morning."

Buffy wanted to argue. The last time she and Angel went out for the night, Sorcha was kidnaped. Of course the kidnappers were dead and what was the chance of lightning hitting twice? She got up and took Angel's hand. "He had some nice ideas in there in the midst of being grossed out by us."

"I think something can be arranged," Angel said, standing up.

Sorcha bounced over to him. "Going away?"

"Just for a little while." Angel hunkered down to her level. "You get to watch your daddy and make sure he behaves himself, okay, sweetie?"

She grinned and pounced on the couch. "I'll make sure."

"Good girl," Angel said, ruffling her curls. "Just be warned, your daddy is a handful."

Sorcha patted Connor's knees. "Aunt Buffy says so."

"I say that about you, you little imp." Buffy dropped a kiss on Sorcha's crown. "But I'm sure it goes for him, too."

Connor gave her the hairy eye. "I've got something you can kiss, too, Buffy."

"He'll enjoy it too much," Angel said.

"That's what I'm afraid of," Buffy replied, wide eyed.

"Sorcha, they're making fun of Daddy." Connor tapped his daughter's hand.

Sorcha stood on the couch, shoving her hands into her hips, glaring at Buffy and Angel. "No making fun."

Angel laughed. "Okay, sweetie. You have Buffy's phone number, Connor. You call if there's trouble."

"I will."

"And Sorcha, honey, remember Daddy has a bad tummy so no rough housing," Buffy cautioned then caught Angel's hand, yanking him toward his side of the house. She insisted on a change of clothing, something glitzier and more appropriate for the night life.

Angel surprised her, after the dinner, with taking her to Johnny Depp's The Viper Room. As per usual the club was packed with beautiful people. They stayed for a while, buying over-priced drinks dancing to the alt rock. Well, Buffy danced. Angel watched, until the main room was taken over by Hunter Thompson for a reading. Buffy didn't know him and didn't like what she heard so was more than happy to call it a night. Before they left though, she was fairly certain she saw at least three movie stars in the place.

They strolled through Hollywood for a while, just soaking up being with each other, being happy, loving everyone being safe and no threats looming on the horizon. Finally they went back to the Hyperion. Buffy had been a little frightened to get into bed with Angel this time. He was too content at the moment but he assured her there was still a sea of worry inside him.

If there was, she couldn't tell it in his gentle lovemaking but when they lay together afterward, there was no soul ripping pain. Angel remained Angel and she was happy enough for the both of them. He led her out of bed, still naked, and took her to the roof which had been transformed into a garden. He laid her down in the grass and they looked up at the stars together.

"This is so beautiful," she said, letting her body relax.

"You could stay you know," he said, rubbing a hand over her belly.

"Angel."

He moved his hand to her lips. "Shhh, we're not going to talk about it now. There's no rush. You have all the time in the world to think about what you want. In the meantime, I'll be joining you for a while in England. I haven't been there in so long. That is, of course, if you guys want me to go with you."

Buffy rolled up on one elbow looking down at him. "Of course I want you to."

"Good then I'll talk to Connor and make sure it won't make him weird...er," Angel grimaced. "You know what I mean."

"I know." Her face went contemplative. "Are you serious about me coming here?"

He reached up and stroked her neck. "Of course. There's a Watcher's Complex here. Wes could use an experienced Slayer. Or if not here, there's Cleveland or New York. Hey, I hear Wisconsin's nice and I've always liked Las Vegas. Or maybe we could all go to Ireland for a while. There's a lot of demon activity there to keep you busy." He smiled.

"Why am I hearing you saying 'anywhere but England'?" Buffy's eyes widened. "Oh lord, it bothers you, doesn't it, that Sorcha has an English accent?"

Angel made a palm's up gesture. "I know it's wrong. I know it's silly. It bugs the hell out of me that my Irish grandchild has a London accent."

Buffy shook her head then kissed him. "You are silly. But who knows what will happen. We'll just play it by ear for now."

His arms encircled her, pulling her down on top of him. "I can live with that."

"Good, because right now I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be." Buffy rolled him so he was on top and she could see the heavens above him. She couldn't think of a more perfect finish for what had been a very difficult trip even without what had happened to Sorcha. It ended better than she had dreamed and for the first time in a long time she felt like she was soaring among the stars she saw over her lover's shoulders.

THE BOX OF CRAYONS SERIES

This story (along with the prequel, Walk a Mile in Sorrow) has evolved into a series only partially written by me. If you'd like to see others in this series head to http:www.geekgirlz-r.us/dana/danalist.html which is part of my site and scroll down to the Box of Crayon series (none in this series are NC-17 but others on this page are so if you're not old enough, just don't read them) Feel free to leave feedback there too and enjoy