Authors Note: PLEASE READ. Please do not ask me to get rid of Connor or focus on other characters or bring your favorite characters in. I'm tired of it. The main characters of this story are posted in the summary, if you do not like these characters you should not be reading this. I have clearly stated what kind of story this is, and if you want to read something else you should find a different story to read instead of asking me to change this one. Thank you for your time.
Lost on a Straight Road
By Eliza Urchin (AKA Davy Jones Locker)
Angel pulled his car against the curb and shoved it into park. The underground lot was deserted except for a few newspapers fluttering on the ground, and broken bottles clanking against the fence. Normally the area was clean, the Hyperion wasn't in terribly bad part of town. The trash and dented fence poles were recent, and not so much careless, as crazed. Angel sighed and rubbed his forehead, feeling sad and slightly ashamed as he opened his door and climbed out.
He reached into the back of his car and pulled out a paper grocery bag, settling it into the crook of his arm while he closed his front door, and tried to ignore the blood on the backseat, even as he clenched a sticky hand on the bottom of the bag that was soaked through. He trudged across the parking lot, head down, ignoring the mad screaming and thuds from the street above.
He climbed the basement steps to the lobby, entered an elevator, and punched in the number of his floor. The elevator pinged and after a few faulty tries closed its doors. The place was really falling apart, Angel thought, picturing those fifty something building code violations he still had stacked away… somewhere.
He sighed and started shuffling through the grocery bag. Paper towels, medical gauze, mashed potatoes, three foot long turkey sandwiches, salad, fried chicken, soda, chocolate donuts… maybe he'd gone a little over board, but he wanted Connor to eat and he didn't know what he liked. A thought that made him feel more horrible by the minute. Connor was his son, he should know something about him; at least what his diet was, but what did he know? That Connor chose a sword over an axe and he could jump off a nine story building. Of course Connor didn't exactly make it easy to get to know him, Angel groused in his own head. He'd made it clear from the get go he wanted nothing to do with his demon father. Whenever Angel approached he'd get angry sneers, subtle insults and occasionally weapons thrown at him.
Once he'd walked into one of the abandoned rooms they used for storage, looking for something he couldn't remember now. Connor had been there, lounging on a sheet covered armchair, frowning at the book in his hand. Angel was surprised to say the least, he hadn't thought Connor liked reading since he never saw him at it and he'd brusquely refused to be any help in research.
Connor had looked up when he heard the door open and they'd had a moment to stare at each other, Angel desperately grasping for something to say. But he didn't even get to voice Connor's name before his son got off his chair and left the room, without a nod, or snarl or anything. He just left. Angel didn't know why, but even with all the fights, and beatings and shouting and trauma between them, that was his most painful memory. It had cut him deeply the way they just brushed past each other, so close yet never touching. Like best friends destined to never meet. He hadn't even been worth a passing jibe, he was just nothing. And that was his greatest fear, to be nothing to his son, and nothing for him.
He clutched tighter to the bloody bottom of the grocery bag, watching the glowing numbers above the door slowly ticking upward, 2nd, 3rd, 4th. He hoped the paper towels weren't getting soggy, he couldn't remember if he'd put them on the bottom or not. He'd been in such a rush at the store he hadn't noticed what he grabbed or where he put it. The Safeway had been a mad house. Shelves were knocked down, products rolling over the floor, people madly looting whatever they could grab. The cashiers had long since fled, some of them probably with their arms full. Angel thought about leaving the money by a register, but figured it would probably be stolen long before any sane management came out to collect it.
The elevator dinged his stop and Angel stepped out into the darkened hall. All the lights were set on dim, the ones that still worked that is. Some of the lamps were shattered or cracked, and they looked like black holes spread over the art deco wallpaper while the still working lamps ran a diminishing line of yellow squares round the corner. A soft brushing sound came down the hall and Angel stilled. He shifted to the side, melting into the shadows between the lamps and cocked his head to listen. The noise came again, a sort of swish swish sound and the creek of someone trying to walk extra quietly over old floorboards.
Angel's fingers curled into a fist while he slid, silent as a ghost, down the hall towards the sound. His teeth clenched and his demon felt a rush of territorial rage.
In the after math of Jasmine the hotel had emptied. The worshipers and stragglers disappeared, his friends went home, and the Hyperion was left with only himself and an echo of voices. Everything outside its walls broke into chaos, rioters screaming, fires burning, but inside his hotel it was quiet. It remained removed from everything outside, like a dug out lair, and he felt safe bringing his son back here. It made a nice hideaway for them both.
Strange how he'd become so overprotective all of a sudden. When did he become such a brooding hen? When Connor was born … six months ago? God it was confusing. His head felt like it was full of a mosquito swarm with every minute of the past four months buzzing together in a high pitched whine. He was exhausted, yet totally awake, and so energetic he was jittery. he felt he could go on and on and on. He'd probably crash soon actually, but before his body gave out, he'd move Connor.
With the sound of an intruder walking the halls Angel felt they're safety violated, and he was frightened that the stranger was between him and Connor. Connor, who was nearly catatonic after his breakdown in the mall; who would be vulnerable. If getting to him hadn't been an issue Angel simply would have grabbed his son and moved him somewhere else safe. They would have disappeared right under the intruder's nose without him knowing they'd ever been there. He was reminded of the stray cats around his home in Galway that used to move their litters whenever they were discovered, always disappearing into obscurity. Again, just when had he become a crazy mother hen?
The stranger drew closer and Angel morphed, letting his ridges and wicked teeth come out. His demon was ready to kill on sight, mindlessly bent on destroying whoever dared violate his lair and pose a danger to his son. He whispered around his fangs as the stranger came,
"One more step, just one more." The scuffing shoes came closer and Angel shot round the corner, slamming whoever it was into the opposite wall. His victim didn't have time to gasp before he had a cold hand clamped around their throat and his fangs pressed to their skin. He was riled and not making sense of the intruder's mix of smells, smoke, bourbon, and blood. He spoke around their gasping.
"big mistake trying to sneaking in here pal. If I was feeling merciful I'd just tell you to get out, find some other hole to crash in, but I've had a really bad day and my mercy is. All. Worn. Out." He tightened his grip on the soft throat as he growled the last words, and through his clenching, a tiny squeak came out.
"A… a… An..gel," it choked. Angel blinked and pulled back, his face shifting to human in surprise as he looked at the man he was crushing into the wall.
"Wesley," he said, shock coloring his voice. "What are you doing here, I thought you were taking the grand tour of Wolfram and Hart with the others?"
Wesley's eyes bulged and his redden cheeks tried to move into an answer as he gestured at his neck, which Angel still held in a rock solid grip.
"C..an't… breath," he gasped in one big puff of air, the tips of his ears turning purple with the effort. Angel's eyes widened and he took his hand away, sheepishly scratching his neck while Wesley puddled to the floor gulping air like a dying fish.
"Sorry Wes, I guess I'm just a little, uh, jumpy. You know how crazy everything outside is."
"Yes, I do actually," Wesley gasped as he pulled himself back on his knees. "People screaming Jasmine's name while they rob their way down Hollywood boulevard." He put a hand to the wall and pulled himself back to his feet, rubbing his sore neck and shoving off the hand Angel offered. "While those fortunate enough to remain unaffected offer each other coffee from high glass windows." He stood by himself now, looking at Angel with a raw humor and still rubbing his throat, though the ache wasn't from Angel's hand anymore but memories. "Ironic isn't it that the heroes have done the damage while Evil Incarnate offers to fix it?"
Angel planted his hands on his hips, he was no longer smiling, and he didn't care to be drawn into a semantics argument with Wesley. He was far to tired.
"What are you doing here Wesley?" he asked, hard and cold. He was slowly inching down the hall, toward where he'd left Connor, sparing glances towards his door.
"He's fine." Wesley said. Angel turned fully back to him, glaring.
"Connor, he's fine. I just came from checking on him. He's unusually quiet, but fine."
"What do you…?" Angel snarled, his eyes starting to flicker red.
"Look in on him," Wes interrupted, sharply cutting him off. "I'll be waiting in the office when your done." Then he turned and walked towards the beeping elevator, with its faulty doors and dark corners. Angel stood for a moment, hands on hips, fuming at Wesley's back. Then he spun around and marched down to Connor's door, allowing his black boots to scuff on floor.
Connor sat on the floor in a patch of sun, with his back against his unmade bed and legs stretched out carelessly before him. His head lolled back against the mattress while he stared up at the ceiling as if the plaster could answer all his questions.
He felt like he should be hurting a great deal, but he didn't. He didn't feel anything at all except cold. Chill air from the open window seeped through his body down into his bones, numbing his face and fingers and toes. He could barely feel his own nails scratching the scab on his elbow.
The sun was gray and didn't warm him, nor did it brighten the room around him. The walls were gray, the carpet was gray, the ceiling was gray, and the few shadows clinging to the curtains were only a darker gray. The only bit of color in his vision was the faded blue of the bed sheets by his ear. His cheek brushed the soft flannel as he leaned a little more to the right, away from the door and the heavy footsteps marching up the hall.
He scratched a little harder on his arm as the booted feet neared his door. The tender new skin under the scab enjoyed the attention, stinging slightly as the nails stimulated his placid nerves. He wondered idly how long he'd sat here picking at his scabs and sores.
His thoughts were mercurial, sliding from one thing to the next. His higher brain functions had ceased to make any kind of normal sense and they struggled on with a blind need to keep going, though his body seemed to have been left behind somewhere. The last few days were a blur, and somewhere after finding Cordy's body in the church his mind had detached itself from the events around it. It climbed a notch above where it usually functioned, to a level he didn't understand, and from that safe perch looked down at his body; indifferently commentating as it was tossed about from event to reckless event.
He heard the door creak open behind him and a tentative shuffle tiptoe into the room. The Room. He didn't think of it as his, not really. His attic loft had been his, with the smell of old fur and saw dust. This room, he thought, his eyes traveling the corners of the ceiling, this room belonged to Dad. It was part of his home, part of the many leveled maze where he made his lair. Connor always felt like an unwanted guest here, or a box of valuables put into storage.
Behind him Dad put something on the dresser, then sat down behind him making the bed moan. It was a very old mattress and the bed frame was probably several decades beyond that. Since no one had ever bothered to get new furniture in the hotel the metal bits had rusted.
He raised his hand up to his eyes and contemplated his fingers. There was blood under his nails. He dropped his hand and stared at the pebbly, insulated ceiling. There was a buzzing next to his ear, like someone talking… he dug farther into the sore on his elbow.
He wondered if Adam and Eve were amebas who reproduced by mytosis. If god made people, and if people evo… evo-loaded, from cells and fish than that must mean Adam and Eve were amebas, and Eve split into lots of other amebas, and they split into more. Which would explain how her two sons had children when Eve, Adam, and their sons were the only four people in the world. Either that or they sinned by incest with their mother…
Fred was so insistent about that whole Evo-Lotion thing. Fred… always so sure of herself. She knew everything, what made the stars spin, and the ocean crash, and the sky blue. She knew how glass was made and what sand used to be. But she couldn't answer his questions. She couldn't tell him why he made god angry…
The bed squeaked and Dad leaned closer, a shadow looming over his shoulder kept away only by the gray sunlight. He was mumbling something, probably important, but Connor couldn't find the energy to care. He wondered instead if people were really meant to exist, or if maybe it was all a huge mistake, like one of Fred's failed experiments that left a funky smell in the bathroom. Dad kept talking, and Connor wondered if ants were as conscious as he was, and if so did that mean there was some great all knowing creature to whom he was just an ant?
Dad got up, and turned away from him. He heard him shuffling toward the door, and a soft click as it closed. He rolled his head left and looked at the paper bag with blood staining the bottom that dad had left on the dresser. Connor wondered if it held a severed head.
Angel sighed and shoved his hands into his pockets as he dragged his feet back down the hall, leaving behind room 216 with its unhappy occupant. A headache was steadily building between his eyebrows as he walked, and each step seemed to make it thump harder. Deciding to fore-go the faulty elevator and its potentially loose cables, he turned right and took the stairway.
At the balcony over looking the lobby he paused, resting his arms on the banister and stared down at the sad vestiges of his detective agency. The front desk was a mess. Books, pens and open files were strewn everywhere as if the person working on those dossiers had run out for just a minute. Except the lights were out and the Lobby was dark. One could see 'recently abandoned' turning into 'perpetually derelict' any time; everyone had left in a hurry and nobody would be coming back, except for… his eyes roved over to the dark corners of the office… Wesley.
Wesley was busy at the front, Stuffing newspaper clippings into folders, piling them on the lobby counter, and throwing old plastic plates into the trash. For a moment he resembled the bookish little clerk he used to be, framed by his stacks of files with a pen clutched in his mouth. But the illusion was broken as soon as he moved, and you could see the wicked scar that sliced through his neck. His hair was scruffy, a permanent stubble dusted his chin and his face was hollowed and by too many hours spent reading by poor light. A desk lamp shed yellow light over the counter, highlighting the bones of his face.
Angel slowly took the steps down to the first floor. Very little natural light made it into the lobby and what there was, was gray and stopped at the entrance terrace. Without lights, the lobby was as dark as a cave. When Wesley turned around Angel stood between the end of the counter and the wall, blocking the way out. The look on his face was like a dark anchor tugging his eyebrows down. His mouth was a thin line and his eyes glinted as if somewhere behind them, a smithy was sharpening swords.
Wesley blinked, and took the pen out of his mouth. He'd received so many looks of spite and fury from Angel in the last sixth months that he was becoming dangerously numb to them. He didn't let himself feel the pain they would have once induced, or feel anything at all. Lately, he mused, as he lay down the file and leaned his elbow against the counter, he didn't even look at himself in the mirror. Which would explain his lack of grooming, he thought, rubbing the stubble on his chin. When he did shave he only wiped off the steam surrounding the reflection of his mouth. Then he never had to look himself in the face, and feel sick.
Their staring match was interrupted by a tiny beeping near the back wall. They both looked back at the corner of the office where a red light was blinking on the microwave, and Wesley jerked a thumb at it, turning back to the dossier at his elbow.
"It's for you." He said. Angel frowned, confused, and shuffled over to where the microwave and coffee pot rested by boxes old Chinese food on the mini fridge. When he popped the door he was greeted by the sweet, oxidized smell of hot blood steaming from a mug. He took the drink out, holding it in both hands close to his face, savoring the iron smell and prickly heat in his palms. He sucked in a long whiff and sunk down into Cordelia's old desk chair, taking a sip from his drink.
"You look tired," Wesley said, coming up opposite him and pulling a box down from the shelf. Angel rubbed his forehead and groaned.
"I am tired," he said. "Tired, sore, slightly nihilistic…" He watched as Wesley started packing the files he'd ordered into the box. "You don't have to do that Wes," he said. Wesley only paused for a moment, then continued saying,
"It's either this or go home and try to sleep. I don't think any of us are ready to try that yet. Insomnia naturally breeds cleanliness it seems, might as well tidy up while we can."
"Don't bother" Angel murmured, sipping his blood. "They're not coming back."
"I know." Wesley whispered, head bent over his box. "I met Lorne and the others after our tours." He said louder. "Actually we were surprised not to find you there as well; we all assumed you would have slipped in at the last moment. Lilah was rather despondent. She had big plans for you no doubt
"Mmm, no doubt."
"Lorne couldn't be happier. He's written up a new contract for himself and somehow got them to sign. They're paying for his airline to New York and put him in contact with some Broadway agents, entirely freelance. I think he'll do well there. Gunn is going to stay on at the firm full time, and Fred's taken their grant money to finish her dimensional studies. She said something about starting a demon Science Magazine."
"That's good." Angel said, looking down and swirling the ruby contents of his cup. "Good for them." Wesley set the full box aside and took another one from the shelves.
"You don't seem very surprised." He said softly, looking side long at the vampire as he folded the cardboard open.
I'm not." Angel answered. "Wolfram and Hart, all their resources, it was too good an offer to turn down and I guess they needed it after the last year… its okay. That's how life goes. People come and go, they meet, they live and they part." He took another drink, licking his red lips clean. "After two hundred plus years you learn to know the signs. Angel Investigations is gone and by tomorrow we'll be gone too. I'm leaving the keys on the doors; they can take them tonight when they come by to tell me the news. You can take the hotel or sell it I don't care. There's nothing for you to do here Wesley, go home." he hauled himself up out of his chair, setting the mug down on Cordelia's desk, and walked out of the lobby office. "I'm sure you have suits to press," he said.
"No. I don't actually" Wesley said to Angel's back. Angel turned around at the counter, looking back with brows knit in puzzlement. "I didn't take the contract," Wesley clarified. "Besides all my suits have been rendered useless by either green blood stains or bullet holes."
"I didn't take their offer."
"I know. I meant… what?"
"I hardly think I can make it clearer." A massive glare from Angel settled on his head. "I'm just a Watcher Angel," Wesley said, looking down at his hands, "that's all I can to do." He didn't sound sad or self deprecating like he used to, but darkly humored, like he would laugh at the irony of it all if only he could get himself to smile.
"You could have done that there," Angel said. Wesley shook his head while he set his second box on the counter and got back to work.
"Perhaps, but at Wolfram and Hart I'd be just another cog in their machine, and everything they showed me, the knowledge, power, unlimited resources, all suddenly seem so paltry." he tapped his fingers on the binding of a leather volume on Third Century black magic. "Useless. All that knowledge means nothing without a champion to support. I had to make a choice about where I belonged, and now I know." He looked hard at Angel. "Adventure and horror will find you wherever you go because of who you are, and you need me more than they do whether you think so or not. Besides, practicality aside, do you really think you can handle Connor alone?"
Angel's regretful expression suddenly grew icy cold. The temperature in the room seemed to drop to sub zero levels as he spun around and stormed toward the stairs, his glower making the shadows themselves cringe away from him. Wesley followed, speaking to his back.
"Dealing with someone mad takes a hundred and ten percent of your time and con…"
"I know," Angel cut him off. "I've been responsible for them before. Look it up in your watcher diaries, D for Drusilla.
"But you were Angelus then. You didn't take care of her. You allowed her tag along on your rampages when it pleased you and abandoned her when it didn't. This is a totally different matter. No one who cares deeply for a charge like this can do it alone without losing them selves, not even a champion, and that is the last thing Connor needs." Angel whirled around on the first step, pointy a shaky finger at Wesley's nose below him and snarling around his words
"What the hell do you know about what Connor needs? I didn't see you trying to help him in all those long hours you spent hanging around with your nose up your books." Wesley's face grew hard "A lot of good your books did him. I can handle this on my own."
"Can you? Really? This isn't some simple slay the demon problem. We've all seen Connor's deterioration since he came to this world, and the slippery plunge his mind took. Even those of us with our nose up our books instead of our…" he paused and took a deep calming breath. "Do you have anything resembling a plan?"
"We're leaving. I'm taking him somewhere else, somewhere safe."
"And you think it's that simple? Angel the boy upstairs is practically catatonic! Whatever just happened to him is not going to disappear with wishing. You have to…"
"You're not in any position to have a say in this, Wesley." Angel ground out. There was a long pause while the two old friends glared at each other, a feeling of glacier of ice filling up the air between them.
"Sometimes Angel," Wesley spoke slow and bleakly, "moving away from trouble isn't enough."
"Yeah, and sometimes it is. A change of scenery can sooth the soul. It gives you a fresh start when you need a place to build better memories, and kick starts the brain… believe me I know."
"Where did you have in mind?"