CHAPTER TWELVE

"He's going to look like his mom, lucky child. One pale, sickly bean pole that needs stuck out in the sun to get some color is more than enough," Scott said, tickling Stephan under his chin. The baby blew spit bubbles at the firefighter.

"You're not amusing." Connor glared but his friend paid him no mind.

Monisha scooped the infant out of Scott's arms for a quick snuggle. "You're sweet enough to eat, little guy. Come on, Scott, we have to get back to work." She reluctantly started to turn Stephan over to his father but Buffy intercepted the child.

"When are you going to stop slacking and come back to work?" Scott smirked at his friend.

Connor looked over at Darla. Angel was helping her out of her wheelchair and onto the couch. "I have another few weeks on the Family Leave Act. By then, Darla will be on her feet so I'll be a little less like the living dead from having to help her. But I still won't be sleeping any yet, will I, son? So living dead it will be, at least for a few months." He waved at his son who was peeking at him over Buffy's shoulder. "But Angel and Darla will be helping with the baby, Spike, too, so once Darla's more mobile, I can come back."

"There's no rush," Monisha assured him. "But we miss you."

"Thanks." Connor walked his friends to the door. When he got back, Stephan was in Giles' arms and the Watcher was making goo-goo noises at him.

Illyria was watching intently. She cocked her head to the side then asked, "What is the meaning of talking nonsense to infants?"

"I think babies emit pheremones that turn adults into idiots," Connor said, not prepared for the staid Watcher to turn into a baby-talking fool.

"He likes it," Giles assured them as Dawn stole the baby.

"I'm just glad you both got to come home," Buffy said, looking at Darla. Both Connor and Angel turned to Buffy in surprise that she was being civil. "I hate hospitals." She paused, then went on, glancing between the men and Darla. " I know I said I was going to go back home but I think, if you want me to, Darla, boys, I can stay around. I'll help with the baby and getting Darla to and from physical therapy and stuff like that if Connor can't do it."

Darla simply smiled softly. Connor knew his mother was well aware of that it was probably costing Buffy to make the decision to set aside her differences and help. "Thank you. Is there room here for all of us?"

"There's room for all of us and then some," Angel said as he took Stephan from Dawn. "I think it's a good idea to stay here until you're better, Darla. I have a crib set up for Stephan and then when you're a little better, maybe you can go to Connor's...or if he doesn't want to go back there, you can stay here until you find a new house. And maybe Buffy and Giles would give some consideration to all the weirdness that happens in Wisconsin. It might not have a hellmouth but it does have strange energies. Madison is a nice place to move to." Angel added that directly to Buffy as Spike snaked the baby away.

Connor watched Buffy color ruby and Dawn's eyes lit up. It might not be a marriage proposal but from the ladies' reactions it was almost as good as one. Buffy hugged Angel quickly then stepped back as if embarrassed.

"I hope that they do consider it," Darla said, glancing over at Giles with a smile. "I've been enjoying my talks with Rupert."

"And I've found your additions to the Watchers' journals to be very interesting...in the darkest sense of the word," Giles said, answering Connor's unasked question of the past few days; what exactly Giles and Darla talked about during the Watcher's turns at the hospital, making sure no one from the I Dawl /I came for either Darla or the baby.

A high-pitched squeal from Stephan caught Connor's attention. His son was kicking and making delighted sounding noises at Angel and Spike who had taken up Giles' goo-gooing at the baby. Both vampires were grinning full-fanged and golden-eyed at Stephan.

"Don't look at him with those horrible faces!" Connor ordered, stamping a foot at the vampire.

"The little platelet loves it," Spike said, bouncing the baby in his arms.

Angel leaned over closer to Stephan who patted his grandfather's head ridges. "Besides, this was your favorite face when you were his age. It was the only way I could make you stop screaming. You'd be fed, changed and not sleepy but still making as much noise as you possible could. You wouldn't even quiet for Lorne's lullabies but if I showed you this face, you'd get all happy."

"Well, now I'm disturbed." Connor shuddered.

Dawn patted his arm. "So am I."

"He's a little wet," Spike said. "Time to go back to Daddy."

"I don't think so," Connor said. "You want to hold him, you get to help do the dirty work, too."

"I'll do it," Angel offered, taking his grandson from Spike. "Wet's not so bad. It's the other thing that smells bad enough to gag a corpse."

"You'd know." Connor smirked at Angel, going to get the diaper bag for him."Ignore your father," Angel told Stephan as he cuddled the baby. "He's got a smart mouth but you're not going to be like that when you grow up."

"Uh, huh," Connor said, laying the changing mat on the table and left Angel to it. "I just wish I knew what the i Dawl /I wanted with him or Mom. I'm always going to be looking around corners, thinking they're coming back for him."

"They have slunk away," Illyria replied, almost looking disappointed to miss out on a fight.

"I think she might be right, Connor. I certainly hope so. We've found three more places that might have been Dawl laboratories," Giles said, "but all of them have been cleared out. The only link we have left are the few people the police arrested at the apartment at Langdon and it's not as if we'll be allowed to question them. We may never know their plans for Darla or the baby."

Connor let out a pent up breath. "I know but it doesn't make it any easier."

"Angel, you might want to put a diaper in front of Stephen," Darla called, watching Angel changing the diaper.

"What?" Angel glanced over at her as he wadded up the wet diaper and put it in the garbage. He leaned over his grandson, going for the wipes.

"Cover him up while you..." Darla didn't get her sentence out before Stephan made like a firehose all over Angel's neck and shirt. "He likes to do that."

Spike, Giles, and Connor nearly needed to be picked up off the floor from laughing too hard. Angel just grimaced and stripped off his shirt then used the wipes on himself.

Connor went over and took over the cleaning and diapering. "That's a good boy. Every time you do that to granddaddy, I'll put an extra dollar in your college fund."

Angel eyed him sourly. "Quit warping your son's brain."

Connor just laughed again and finished diapering Stephan. The doorbell rang and he glanced toward the door, wondering who it could be. His entire fire company had already been over and Larissa and her family were heading back home, making plans for Stephan's baptism. He didn't have the heart to tell her that Thalia had dropped out of the Greek Orthodox church but decided it wouldn't hurt Stephan to be baptized. Buffy went to answer the door for him. Stephan started fussing as Connor picked him up.

"Sounds like bottle time," Dawn said and headed into the kitchen to prepare one for him.

Connor's eyes widened when Buffy came back with Danforth. "Hello, detective. Have you heard anything about Eve?" he asked worriedly. The last thing he needed was for Eve's body to be found and traced back to Angel. She shook her head, her eyes on the half-naked Angel. "I wish I could say yes. I know you won't rest easy until she's found but we've shared her description with several crime stopper programs so we'll see if she turns up. I was just stopping by to see how the baby was doing now that you have him home and to pass on some news."

Connor shifted his son in his arms as he continued to fuss. "He's just fine, making up for not getting any attention in the days he was missing. He's seeing so many faces so fast, he's probably motion sick. You said there's news?"

Danforth nodded. "And sadly not good news, one of the people from the Langdon apartment killed the other two gentlemen we arrested there today in prison and then himself. The only person left is the woman from the lobby but it doesn't appear that she knew much about what went on in the basement. It's driven us to a dead end I'm afraid. What little I can tell you about the investigation is that from some of the notes recovered, they believed in a merger of science and magic, as insane as that sounds. I believe that they were planning experiments on both your son and your cousin. They seemed to think you were a vampire, Ms. Reilly." The Detective gave Darla a curious look.

Darla smiled. "Well, I'm willing to go out into the sun if it sets your mind at ease."

Danforth laughed. "That won't be necessary. They must have been a cult of some sort and I wish I could say you're safe from them now. We just don't know how many of them there were and where they might have gotten off to. We'll have a squad car doing drive bys here for a few weeks just in case."

"Thank you," Connor said, disheartened that there was now absolutely no chance of finding out what the I Dawl /I had wanted. "We appreciate the effort. If there's anything more we can do for you..."

"I'll let you know," Danforth said, her eyes flicking back over at Angel.

"Misadventures with diapering," Connor explained, waving at Angel's chest.

Danforth smiled. "I understand. I have a boy of my own." She stroked Stephan's little hand. He reached out and took her finger. "He's adorable, all those ringlets."

"I think he's going to look like his mother," Connor said, a little sadly at the remembrance of Thalia.

"I wish we could have found him for you faster," Danforth said, apologetically.

"He's home now. That's what counts," Connor replied, seeing Dawn coming back with the bottle. He surrendered the infant to Darla and Dawn handed her the bottle.

"Well, I won't take up any more of your time," Danforth said. "If we learn anything, I'll be in touch."

"Thank you," Connor said and Buffy showed Danforth back out. Connor watched Darla feeding his son, wondering briefly what kind of mother she would have been if she had the chance. Given she had been an evil vampire at the time, it was probably best not to dwell on it. He wondered also what Holtz had done to nourish him as an infant in that terrible hell. He decided he didn't want to know.

After burping Stephan, he took the baby upstairs to put him to bed. The room would be repainted as a nursery before he knew it, Connor had no doubt. Angel already had it stocked with stuffed animals and a stack of baby books. Connor looked at the slumbering infant then kissed his head, his silky hair soft under his lips. "I'm sorry you'll never get to know your mother, little one. And I pray that you have just lived through the worst days you'll ever see and that there's nothing but good waiting for you from here out." Connor felt his eyes tear up, and his throat swell. "I miss your mom so much," he whispered. "But I'll tell you all about her, every day. And you're going to get to have something I never did. You're going to get to know my parents and I think now...they'll be good for you."

Connor felt someone coming up behind him. He turned and saw Angel carrying a small cd player. His father put it on the dresser. "Now what, Dad?" Connor tried to wipe away his tears without waking up Stephan.

Angel held up some cd's, I Beethoven for Babies, Sleepy Baby /I , and I the Mozart Effect for Children. /I "I read that classical music makes babies smarter. They suggested playing it while they sleep. I got Thalia one, i Mozart Before You were Born /I ."

Connor nodded as Angel put on the Beethoven cd softly. "She played it with speakers over her belly, looked silly as hell but she swore he'd quit kicking around whenever she did. You're going to spoil him."

Angel came over, putting an arm around his son. "That's what grandfather's are for." He caressed Stephan's head. The baby murmured. "He's beautiful, son."

"I know." Connor laid his son in the crib. "Are you really okay with Mom being here?"

Angel patted Connor's back. "Yes, and I honestly believe Buffy is, too. I think we've got that worked out, or at least I hope so. And you are welcome to stay here, Connor, for as long as you need to. I'm perfectly content to see this being Stephan's room until he's eighteen." Angel smiled at him.

"Somehow I believe that." Connor smiled back. "For now...we need to be here."

"I'm glad. Come on, Spike's working on some poetry for the baby. You don't want to miss this."
"I'm terrified." Connor smiled again as Angel headed for the stairs. He took a long look at his slumbering son, wondering if he ever looked that content. He almost felt that content now, he though as he turned out the light, leaving Stephan to the gentle strains of Beethoven.