AN: the title "Deirdeadh" means "ending" in Gaelic. neat huh?
I owe my sons life to a stranger. Thank you.
That was all the note said. It was written on plain lined paper, in permanent marker, and pinned to the front door of an urban home. When the owners stumbled up the porch steps at a quarter to midnight, they would find the note. The father, thinking about easy-make dinners and emergency phone numbers, would look up… and stop. He would brush the note with the cast of his broken arm and smile for the first time since Jasmines rush left a vacuum in his heart. He would look down at his little girl, and know that it was all for her, he'd held on only for her. Then he'd lift her up in the other arm, whisper her nickname, and show her the note.
They left the next morning for New England, maybe Maryland, or Philadelphia. It didn't matter where they went so long as they were on the other side of the country; and on the father's nightstand stayed the note. It became a memento. Framed and often dusted, it stayed with them through two more moves, unemployment, and his daughter's college education.
Angel fixed the note with a tack pin to the door and tramped down the porch stairs. At the end of the yard he turned, tapped his fingers on the picket fence and took a last look back at the house before leaving. The gate clacked shut behind him as he flitted like a shadow under the eves of houses, tiptoeing round the bend to his car and vaulting into the drivers seat.
He gunned the engine and sped off the curb with a screech. He needed to get back. There was no telling what catastrophe could have happened in his fifteen-minute absence. So he charged through the littered streets, driving a little too fast, and taking curves too recklessly. But he was glad he'd taken the precious time to say "thank you." He felt like he'd narrowly avoided a drop off because of those humans; and looking down he could still see the fall he might have taken.
He thought back on jasmines death, a little furrow creasing his brow and his knuckles tightening on the wheel as he saw again, and again, his son punch a black gooey fist through her head. He saw Connor's fist dripping black blood onto the pavement, and his sad smile while he told her he loved her… before destroying her. His eyes had gone gray that night. They lost their blue sparks, and flattened into… nothing. Angel feared for him then, like he'd never feared for Connor before.
God, he'd been so afraid. He searched building after building, mile after mile. Angel'd never known there was a fear that could keep you running forever, literally. He ran all night and into the early dawn. He outraced speeding trucks as he ran from door to door, calling his son's name while fear pumped through his head. His skull ached with thoughts of Connor cutting himself open or lying down on train tracks. He ran through half the city. He never stopped and never felt tired, until he ran himself right back to the hotel. Then W&H offered him the chance to save his son, the only thing he really cared for anymore, and in his desperation he'd blindly snatched it. If Angel's heart could've worked it would have stopped in horror at what he'd almost done, as it was it gave a funny whump in his ribcage and seemed to curl up more than usual.
It was a beautiful spell they'd made, with the same kind of delicacy that created Buffy's beloved Dawn. Actually that was where he'd gotten the idea, to rewrite Connor's life. It would have been perfect. It would have made his son happy for maybe the first time in his life, and Angel had nearly done it.
He found Connor making bombs, ready to kill himself, Cordy, and anyone else who happened to be around. Their fight was almost prophetic. They couldn't hold a conversation for three minutes without reverting to blows to get differing points across. It was profoundly disturbing how much their relationship mirrored Angel and his own father. History it seems is destined to repeat itself. The only real difference was that unlike Liam, Connor wasn't afraid to hit back. So there they'd been, smashing each other over the head with bats and balls and knives. He told Connor (for what he believed would be the finally time) how much he loved him. Connor, smart aleck that he was, asked what he was going to do about it. Angel held the knife over Connor's throat trying to make himself move in and finish it, wipe out their pain with blood and magic, and that was when it happened.
He waited a second too long and a tiny whine plucked at his ears. Holding stone still except for his eyes, Angel risked a quick glance away from his boy. A few feet away under a rack of life vests a man and his young daughter were holding each other tightly, and watching him. They couldn't untangle themselves from the bombs like the others. The man's right arm was broken and wrapped in wires he couldn't undo left handed, and his daughter wouldn't leave by herself. So they'd crouched there, witness to all the ugly pain between Angel and his son. They saw Connor coming apart like a shredded grass and Angel desperately trying to reach him, but somehow falling short again, like always. Now he knelt with a knife over his son's neck, and as he clenched his fingers over the knife Angel caught the look in other man's eyes.
The Dad pressed his daughter to his chest, hiding her face from the scene while a long tear worked down his cheek. He wondered what could have brought them to this, a child going mad and a parent desperate to release him anyway possible, even if he had to kill him. He couldn't imagine having the heart to live if his own little girl died, much less the callousness to do it himself. He could not imagine how this could be the only way.
Angel looked at the way this man held his daughter, cradling her and whispering sweetly in her ear under the noise of their crashes and shouts. He couldn't imagine ever holding Connor that way again, and he couldn't believe how suddenly and deeply he missed it. Playing with Connor's little fingers, watching in wonder as the first tufts of hair grew in. then they were torn apart and his baby came back all grown and full of anger, and there was this awful space between them, a space of eighteen years.
Angel realized suddenly that while this spell would give his son happiness, he would never be part of it. He would truly lose him, because he would willingly give him away. Could he do that? Could he give up any chance of cooking Connor bacon and eggs, or teaching him to ride a motorcycle? He might not have a good chance now, but there was still a chance. Even if he knew Connor would be better off, could he still do it after looking in another parent's eyes and seeing what they saw? A moment ago he would've said yes, but now he didn't have the heart to cut himself out of Connor.
Jasmines voice came back to him, whispering over the mouth of time. "No Angel, there are no absolutes." Maybe, he could find another way, and all this pain, and distance, and broken trust didn't always have to be there. No absolutes. No one-way roads in life. Wasn't that what he'd fought Jasmine for? The ability to choose your own road and your own turns. He had, and he'd won. So he'd use that amazing thing called free will, and choose.
He looked down at Connor and let the knife slide out of his hand. It hit the floor with a solid clunk and echoed through the empty store.
"I love you Connor, and I'll prove it."
Then, something in his mind slid to the left. Maybe it was an actual twisting of fate. Maybe it was a moment of clairvoyance that had him imagining he could see all the haphazard pictures of the future suddenly flashing in a different order, like their strings had been tugged and all the beads along the line bounced into new places. Then the sensation was gone.
Connor's face twisted in fury and he threw a rock solid punch into Angels jaw. As Angel's grip on his shirt loosened Connor rolled to his left, swept the knife up from the floor and plunged it towards Angel's falling chest.
Angel found himself toppling backwards like a felled oak. He bent as he fell and caught himself just before he over balanced. Then still on his knees he pulled his torso up and caught the blade that was racing toward him between clasped palms, hands pressed together as if in prayer. The two ended up nose to nose as they wrestled back and forth, the knife inching down then inching back up. He saw thought and reason flee Connor's eyes and they became more and more wild as he struggled to push the knife through Angel's hands. A whine slipped through clenched teeth as he pushed his whole body forward to drive the weapon through 'dear dad's' chest. He wouldn't stake him. No, he would pull open his ribcage and cut out his heart, and then he'd eviscerate him, pulling out all his organs one by gooey gruesome one.
The knife tip lowered and slowly pressed into his shirt as Angel strained to hold it away. He was steadfast, he worked just enough to keep from being cut and let Connor wear himself out. His face was calm, his brown eyes sad as Connor weakened and he started to push the knife away. Until, as gentle as he could, he overcame his son and Connor was leaning back with his right arm bent backward at a viscous angle. He dropped the knife, and as Angel watched it drop Connor's left fist slammed into his temple.
Angel wobbled, dazed and Connor threw a punch into his cheek, his nose and ear, and then spun around to stumble up. But Angel was quicker. He pitched himself forward face first and grabbed his son's upper arms. He held Connor down with him, and Connor grew more and more enraged as he failed to get free. He pummeled Angel's chest and tried to twist round and free himself at the same time. He tried to kick out his feet at angel's knees but fell sideways, he twisted his head around and around, trying to snap his teeth over his shoulder at Angel's face, and he thrust into his gut with an elbow. He tried to hit and stab and kill, but also to escape, no longer knowing which he wanted or why. All he knew was that something had gone terribly wrong in the moment Angel held the knife, and dropped it. To unhinged to conceive of the implications of what that simple, yet horribly complicated act would mean for his future, he knew only that it would be a darker place than he'd ever been before, and that the bliss the knife had offered was now out of his reach.
Angel started to have a hard time holding onto him. He kept his chin and face raised away from the biting and flinched as he got elbowed, but manage to lock his arms around Connors so he held his arms crossed to his chest, like a psych ward nurse. He didn't think he'd ever given real appreciation to that job before. He held on to the hurricane that was his son, slowly drawing him in closer and closer.
Connor didn't know what to hit anymore. All he could see were the black cotton arms that suffocated him. His was lost in them, and somewhere along the line his wrestling had turned into uncontrollable shaking. He still squirmed but it was more an effort to get out of his own shaking skin than out of Angel's grip
Angel shifted an arm up to Connors shoulders and pressed his head down to cradle it against him. He tucked Connor's head under his chin and inhaled his locker-room scent as he whispered.
"Connor, Connor. You are everything to me. You are my world son. You are why I fight. To make this world better, so it will be good for you. You're my salvation son, mine and your mothers. You made our lives worth something. We did one good thing with ourselves bringing you to be, the only good thing we ever did together was you, Connor. Your mother wanted me to tell you that, I'm sorry I never did. God Connor I'm so sorry. I'm sorry I lost you, I'm sorry I let them use you, I sorry I wasn't there and didn't make it better. I'm sorry for everything. But it'll be okay now. I've got you. I've got you, and I'm not gonna let you fall."
A broken sob fell out of Connors mouth; he convulsed as if he was tying to throw up and retched out another cry.
"I've got you Connor, I've got you."
And Connor screamed. He sagged forward, head hanging over his trapped arms and let it out. He had no words or meaning to it beyond the sound of pain, he couldn't cry "no", or tell anyone what it meant. He just screamed and that scream was everything he was, it was all that was left, and once it died away it was as if the last of himself had gone too.
"Connor…" Angel whispered. He heard his own voice crack and realized he was crying.