The Devil's Advocate
Connor was just about to black out when he heard his father's voice, louder this time. From where he was still being held by the security guards, Angel desperately attempted to get over the roar of the crowd and be heard, "Connor, get up!"
The boy slumped against the cage and focused in on his father's voice, trying to forget the pain that clouded his vision. The demon was standing above Connor, gloating. It turned to the crowd, summoning their cheers with open arms. The crowd was getting a kick out of this, cheering for the human's death.
Yet through it all, Connor paid attention to nothing but his father.
Connor, do you hear me? You are not a quitter. Now get up." Angel's words were forceful; it was the only tool he had to change the outcome of the fight. And it was working.
Connor grasped the bars of the cage, pulling himself up slowly. He nearly collapsed a few times; the pain was trying to pull him under. That was not going to happen though, he wouldn't allow himself to lose. It was now or never he realized, while the demon still had his back turned towards the crowd. Taking a deep breath, Connor let the last bit of adrenaline he had carry him through the attack.
He knocked his foot into the demon's legs, toppling him to the ground. They had been his weak spot, just like Connor had predicted. Connor fell to the ground with the momentum of the kick, managing to wind up right by the demon's head. Twisting its head with his hands, Connor managed to break the thing's neck. The demon barely knew what hit it.
Connor fell over onto his side, gathering back his energy. The bell rang, signaling the end of the fight and a judge unlocked the cage door. The official checked over the demon, and Connor watched him give a thumbs-up sign to another official up in a booth on the second floor. The announcement was made a second later, "Ladies and Gentlemen, that's the end of the fight. Connor Reilly is the winner."
He did it. Connor didn't know how he had managed to pull it off, but it was over.
After getting to his feet, he glanced out over the crowd. Part of them were cheering, but only from the money they had won. The rest looked annoyed. He hoped whomever had bet against him lost everything they had. The soulless vampires and demons need for violence he could understand, but the humans who had come to watch bothered him. They were supposed to be better than this, weren't they? They had souls; they each had a conscious. Or maybe, Connor realized, they really didn't.
The judge came to congratulate him, but Connor brushed him off. With a grunt he asked, "Where do I get my reward for being a part of all of this?"
Oh, the prophecy?" The judge pointed to a man in a dark gray suit, "See Mr. Reeves. He handles all of that."
Connor stumbled out of the ring without saying another word. No one involved with the fight was worth words. Limping slightly, Connor made his way down the stairs of the ring. His father was waiting for him by the door. The guards had let him pass by when the fight was over, seeing as how he could no longer sway the outcome. Thankfully the fight had worked out well in the end anyway.
What are you doing here," Connor asked as he struggled to remain standing, he held one hand to his throbbing head and willed the two blurry images of his father to form one. He noticed Spike, standing off in the background. "He told you didn't he?"
A smirk formed on Spike's lips, a clear yes.
I think a more important question would be why you're here." Angel looked at him sternly, pulling him off to the corner of the room where fewer people would bump into them. Spike followed, more because he just wanted to listen to the two argue then for any other reason. "God, Connor. You could have gotten killed."
Not if I won," Connor shrugged off his concern, which only made his shoulders ache more. "Which, by the way, I did." Before his father could start arguing, Connor said, "Look, can we have this conversation later? I've got to see a man about a Shanshu prophecy."
He slipped away, leaving Spike and Angel behind for the moment. He knew what his father would say, that Connor was just lucky, that he was one minute from losing the fight, and had he not gotten his second wind he would have died. It was the truth, but at the moment Connor didn't want to hear it. There was only so much he could take in one night and having his father angry over his fighting would have pushed Connor over the edge right then.
By the time Connor was able to track down the man about his reward, Mr. Reeves was chatting up another potential fighter eager to prove their worth. There would always be people to step into the ring, to try to make a name for themselves. Like with all of them, there was a fifty-fifty chance this new one would sign up and then die, but Connor didn't pity him. Everyone who fought knew he consequences, this one more than most after witnessing the two fights that night. They also knew the prizes that would be awarded in the event of their victory. It was almost fair. Almost.
Connor's mind again went back to his own reward. After the new fighter decided not to sign after all, he left and Connor had a chance to speak with Mr. Reeves. Wasting no formalities, eager to be back at the Hyperion, Connor jutted into the conversation, "The contact against the prophecy. I want it. Now."
"What's the rush, young man?" Reeves asked as he pointed to the bartender, ordering another drink. "Surely we have enough time for me to congratulate you on your match tonight. It was quite a show."
Connor's skin bristled at the word.
That's all it was for the big suits like Reeves and Petrovia, along with the rest of the spectators. Just a way to pass an evening, a night's entertainment. It wasn't their lives on the line, not their blood spilled. Someday though, Connor hoped it would be. For now, he was content just to ask for the piece of paper they owed him. "Do you have the contract or not?" His muscles hardened as his anger grew, "And you'd better say yes."
Reeves smiled politely, a little put off but still following proper etiquette. He retrieved the folded up paper from his pocket and held it before Connor. "All you have to do is destroy this with fire and the barriers put in place to stop the Shanshu from taking place someday will be destroyed."
The boy tried to snatch it away, but before he could Reeves took back his hand suddenly. Connor gritted his teeth, annoyed and growing more impatient with each passing moment.
The man continued, mildly amused, "Before you walk away though, Petrovia has asked me to extend the offer. How would you feel about another match? We would up the ante of course, reward you with anything you wished for. Money, power, fame.."
Connor grabbed the contract from his hands, nearly growling as he replied, "This is the only thing I want."
Leaving before Reeves could talk him into another deal, Connor found his father in the crowd. He could tell Angel had been listening to the conversation, only holding back so that Connor could handle it himself. The worried frown that creased Angel's lips was more than enough to show how much it troubled him that his son was growing up and had to tackle some of life's obstacles on his own. Connor wasn't about to let on that he knew his father had been listening in, protecting him from afar, reveling in the new found maturity and respect for a moment.
Then the boy flashed a grin, showed Angel and Spike the paper and quickly said, "Got it. Come on, let's go home."
Angel and Connor left the club together in relative silence. It was still a little noisy in most parts of the club to have any sort of rational conversation, at least that was the excuse Connor used. When they reached the streets outside, the quiet reigned again. Connor felt the cool night's air on his skin, cooling the sweat he'd worked up in the club off his body, and watched hesitantly as Angel looked over at him.
Before they could speak to each other, Spike came hurtling through the doors, with Illyria in tow. She was kicking him in the shins, but her protestations were mild, "I wish to witness the creatures partake in their blood sports again. You are a fool to halt me and my enjoyment."
"Blood sports," Connor asked, "I thought mine was the last fight of the night."
"Just a bar fight. Blue here seemed to be enjoying herself a bit," Spike cocked his head towards the door and simultaneously tried to restrain Illyria, who seemed to be only playing with him and not using her full strength. If Connor didn't know better, he'd swear the two of them had a thing going on between them. He spun Illyria around, facing her and wiggled his eyebrows at her, "Tell you what, Blue, if you come along like a good little ex-god, I'll let you kick me around a bit."
She nodded and smiled widely, relenting in her kicking of his legs.
Connor's mouth dropped, there really was something going on. Before he could ponder that, Angel threw an arm around his shoulders lightly and pulled him away from the two of them, not wanting the two of them to corrupt his son any more then they already had.
As soon as Connor made it to the Hyperion, he fell asleep in his bedroom. Rest came easy that night, though in the morning muscles he didn't even know he had hurt. Groggily hobbling into the lobby, he found Spike already awake or possibly not just asleep yet. It was hard to tell the patterns of nocturnal sleepers.
Spike looked up from the Saturday morning infomercial he had been watching. It advertised a product that was supposed to make the perfect onion flowers. The vampire had missed the ones at the Bronze ever since Sunnydale had gone belly up, literally. As Connor limped into the room, Spike called out towards the kitchen, "Hey, Angel, the kid's awake."
Angel appeared in the lobby a moment later, carrying a plate full of pancakes. He set it on the front counter and hastened to remove the cooking apron he'd been wearing. "I told you to warn me ahead of time, Spike."
"I did. He was on the last step when I yelled to you." Spike smirked, "Plus seeing you hurry out here in that," he pointed to the apron that hung across a chair now, "was well worth any punishment for being a bad lookout."
Angel growled, but pushed his anger aside and pulled up a chair to the counter for Connor, "I made you breakfast. You should eat something. You look.."
Connor waved off his concern. "I'll live." Sitting down at the counter, he looked at the plate of food, a bit amused. "I didn't know vampires could cook."
"They can't," Spike replied from the couch, "least he can't."
"Spike?" Angel glared back at him.
Spike mock-pouted, gasping in feigned surprise and turned back towards the telly. Meanwhile, Connor dug into the carefully prepared food, wolfing it down hungrily. He stopped when he saw the way his father was looking at him and gave a small sigh.
"You could have died," Angel said, a pained expression falling across his face.
"Oh, please," Connor smiled through the bruises on his face, "Takes more than almost getting beat to death to put a dent in my plans. Hell, I even died before and that still didn't stop me." When neither his father failed to see the humor in that, Connor went on seriously, "Look, Dad, I'd rather not make a thing of it. I did what I did, because I had to do it. That seems to be a pattern in our family."
Angel nodded, rolling the last word over in his mind. Family. It finally felt like one.
He looked over towards the contract that had been won the night before. It had been sitting on the counter the whole night. He'd been waiting for Connor to wake up to finally burn the thing and get rid of it once and for all.
Connor followed his gaze, hopped off his chair, and pulled a box of matches out from behind the counter. After striking one of them against the tabletop, he held the fire up to a corner of the paper, igniting it. In a flash of blue light, it crinkled instantly and was gone.
The power it held over the vampire was broken, though something still weighed heavily on his mind. "You do know, even if the prophecy is true it doesn't mean that it'll still happen. I have a long way to go before the scales balance."
"Guess you'll just have to try harder then." Connor crossed his arms and gave a shrug. The smile he projected was full of confidence that everything would work out eventually.
The faith he had in Angel was contagious.
It was time to get back to work.
Thank you to everyone who is still reading this. I'm sorry it took so very long to get this last chapter out but my Connor-muse stopped talking to me and once I let the story sit dorment for so long it was nearly impossible to get back into it.