Quick little note here... Why this idea came to me, you'd have to ask my oh so very twisted mind... But it did, and I wrote it out... As you do... Now this is a different take on the whole Angel/Connor split so... It is what it is what is it... And I believe that is it...
Bound By Blood
Disclaimer : Okay now honestly, you'd think how many times I've put one of these up this wouldn't be necessary but yeah... Sigh No, I do not the own the show, the characters, or any of the flippin free for all storylines that never got wrapped up and/or treated correctly... You can thank the rightful owners for all that... Oh yeah, and a special shout out to Josh for leaving this particular door so wide open you can drive a grand caravan through it, or better yet, the grand canyon even...
A strong gust of wind suddenly blew across the crowded high school courtyard, causing many of the walking students to squeal in surprise and clutch onto a purse, a backpack, or go chasing after a hat that was now tumbling away from them.
Squinting green emerald eyes scanned over the passersby. Holding her thin jacket closed with one hand, using the other, the girl began waving it in the air and yelling out a name, "Steven!"
The lanky teen had his head down against the wind, hands stuffed into his jean pockets, oblivious to his surroundings. "Steven! Stevie!" the girl huffed in frustration as she gave up and stamped her foot on the pavement, "Damn it..." Rolling her eyes and giving her head an irate shake, she grabbed onto the wide strap of her messenger bag and started running.
Steven slowly swayed his head as he walked forward towards the school parking lot to head home.
"Are you deaf now or something?" the girl asked as she clamped a hand down on his shoulder.
Steven turned startled before he saw the five foot even beauty standing in front of him; hand on hip, sullen look on her face.
"Elizabeth?" Steven asked as he pulled out the red headphone plug from his right ear frowning. The music blaring from his tripod continued in the other until he shut off the device.
"Goddamn Steven I'm over there waving and screaming like I'm having a seizure and you're tripoding?"
"That is not a word," Steven told her as he yanked out the other earphone bulb and let the long white string hang around his neck.
"You and your music..." Elizabeth mumbled.
"My only love in li... Ow!" Steven yelped as she punched him on the forearm, "Only?"
Steven sighed, "Fine, my second only love in life..." Elizabeth nodded, placated.
"After Jessica Alba," Steven finished and then laughed as he dodged Elizabeth's next strike at him.
"I hate you," she told him.
"And I feel sorry for whatever sad ass schmuck you get to marry you, he'll be a battered husband."
Elizabeth crossed her arms over her bosom and made a face before falling into stride with him.
Glancing down at her, Steven put his arm around her shoulders and squeezed, "Now miss drama queen extraordinaire, what exactly do you want?"
"Drama queen I am not," Elizabeth contradicted as she looked up at him, "And I was wondering if you wanted to come over my house and mess around for a while, the folks are off on some, 'save your marriage' crusade or some crap, I personally think a divorce would be better for everyone but..."
"Alright, I may be your quote on quote girlfriend ," Steven said as he made air quotes with his fingers, "But you can not go all wine and ice cream moment on me, I am still a guy." Elizabeth giggled, "A big strong manly man guy at that," Steven added, a small grin on his lips. "Now, you were saying something about parents being gone before you decided to go after school special on me?"
"I'll let that go and yes, they are gone so-- Can you?"
Steven looked ahead, the twinkle in his eyes dimmed, "I would love to but..."
"No no, no buts come on!" Elizabeth pleaded as she stepped out in front of him, making Steven hesitate momentarily and look at her. "I hardly ever get to see you anymore, since that sadistic man you call, 'Father', has you busy with god only knows what nowadays."
"Beth don't," Steven warned her as he shifted the weighted backpack on his left shoulder, "He may not be my bio dad but he is still my father."
Elizabeth averted her angry gaze away from him, "I miss you alright?" Walking forward, she leaned against him for a hug, "Is it my fault I get lonely when my best friend just up and abandons me?"
Steven chuckled and rested his chin on top of her head, "I miss you too."
"But he has me doing..." Steven stopped as he knew he wasn't supposed to talk about it.
"Doing? Doing what?" Elizabeth prodded as she pulled away and poked at his chest with a finger, "We don't keep secrets from each other Steven, never have."
"It's not that simple anymore," Steven stared at her, "You love me?"
Elizabeth frowned, "Of course I do."
"Trust me?" Steven continued.
"With my life," she answered.
"Well then, believe me when I say that I'm fine, and I don't need you being nosy."
"You need someone to be," Elizabeth offered before she sighed, "But I won't bug if you don't want me to."
"Good," Steven flashed her a smile. "Oh fuck--" Steven suddenly cursed as he quickly searched his jacket pocket to check the time on his cell phone. The bright, flashing numbers made him groan, "I'm late, he is going to kill me..."
Elizabeth raised an eyebrow, "You don't mean that in literal terms do you?"
"Lizzie I have to go, I'll call you later okay?" Steven offered as he gave her a quick peck on the cheek.
"But uh..." Elizabeth didn't get to finish as he had already started running and disappeared from her sight in a matter of seconds.
Steven's breathing was only slightly elevated as he sprinted across the front lawn of his house. Slowing down he knew the sooner he got down to the basement the better, or at least, a little less worse, things would be for him later on. He opened the side door leading to the room and started down the old stairs. He could hear a heart beat pulsating faster then normal as the sounds of a sword's blade whipping through the air flooded his ears every other second.
"You're late," the statement from a voice devoid of any emotion came in place of the other noises as they all of a sudden ceased to be heard.
"I know I-- I was--", Steven mentally kicked himself for stuttering, it made him sound weak. "Lizzie got me after school and we started talking, I just-- I didn't--"
"I do not want excuses Steven, I want you to be on time, I want to be able to count on you."
"I know father," Steven dropped his head down, "I am sorry."
The middle aged man turned around to finally face the boy, "Prove it." He tossed a sword over to Steven who caught it, "Since you were late, you can start."
Steven shrugged off his backpack and gripped the sword, "Forgive me," he said the words he knew his father wanted to hear.
A smile formed across the man's mouth and his wrinkled face seemed to glow, "Gladly."
Justine fumbled to get her key into the back doorknob as she struggled to keep the bags of groceries in her hands from falling to the ground. Finally getting inside, she set the heavy bags down on the counter. "I need a smoke--" she muttered as she then began to search through the purchases to find the pack she had bought. "I know it's in here..." she talked to herself as she kept digging, "Oh come on, you have to be in here goddamn it!"
"Justine I would prefer that you didn't take the lord's name in vain." Justine whipped around to see the man looking at her, "Not in my house."
"It's mine too Daniel," she returned. He never lost eye contact with her as he walked across the hard wood floor, "Is it now?"
Justine shook her head and looked away, "We are not getting into that again." "Now where the fu--," Justine caught herself and decided against the word, "The heck is it?"
"Is what?" Daniel asked as he sat down in one of the chairs at the kitchen table. "My smokes, I know I bought a pack but now I can't find it."
Daniel sighed, "I thought you were going to try and quit that disgusting habit?" "I was, and then I realized I am stuck here with you and your trainee so, I need something to keep from slitting my wrists now don't I?"
Justine's response momentarily muted Daniel, "Do you hate us that much?"
"Are you sure you want an honest answer to that question Danie-- oh thank god!" Justine grinned wide as she pulled out the cigarettes. She opened the pack and grabbed a lighter from inside of a drawer that was beside her.
Once lit, Justine drew in deeply on the smoking butt, smiling. "So, where is boy wonder?" she sank down into a chair beside Daniel, "Home from school yet?"
Daniel leaned back in his seat, "Yes, we just finished a training session."
"Well then where is he? You didn't kill him did you?"
"He just needed... Some time," Daniel gave as his reply.
"So you didn't kill him, you just beat him?"
"I did not beat him; he was punished for being late."
"Yeah," Justine gave him a brief glimpse before standing up, "I guess this is my cue to go check in on him..."
"No need," Both adults glanced over to see Steven standing on the top step of the basement stairs. His right eye was now swollen with black and blue hues, bottom lip cut and bleeding, he was limping and holding his left arm at a peculiar angle.
"He did a nice job," Justine said as she looked him over, "Can you?--"
Steven nodded, "I can do it myself Justine."
"Good, I need to put all this up anyhow, make sure you don't drip blood everywhere and straighten up after yourself when you're done."
"Yeah I will," Steven replied back as he started upstairs.
"You got him good, was all that really necessary?" Justine asked as she walked back over to the counter, throwing Daniel a look over her shoulder.
"He'll be fine, his healing will take affect soon," Daniel answered as he stood to his feet, "I'll be down in the basement." "Dinner will be ready when I come back up right?" Daniel asked the rhetorical question.
"Right," Justine turned back to her task, but her heart was heavy.
Steven looked back at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. He dabbed gently at the drying blood on his forehead from his head injury and winced as the skin was now sensitive and sore. Dropping the blood soaked cotton ball down into the sink, he then grabbed a band aid and placed it over the wound. Making sure it was attached to his forehead securely; Steven got to work cleaning up the mess. When he was finished, he flicked the light switch, delving the room into darkness as he walked out. Steven reached his room and getting over to his bed, he fell down crosswise on it, rolling over to rest on his back. He held up his cell phone in one hand and went through his caller list until he got to Liz's number. He dialed it and waited.
"Lizzie," Steven said as he smiled.
"Hey," Elizabeth returned before she stopped, "You're talking funny, why are you talking funny?"
"What the hell are you talking about?" Steven asked.
"You and that little lisp you've got happening at the moment, what the fuck is going on? Are you okay?"
Steven sighed, "If I said no would you let it go at that?"
"Do you not know me?" Liz replied before she grew solemn and concerned, "Stevie do I need to call someone or something?"
Steven turned to lay on his right side, staring at his bedroom wall, "No, I'm fine."
"You always say that," she told him, "Steven did he do?..."
"Beth?" Steven broke into her question, "Can we just?"-- talk about something else?"
Elizabeth drew her knees up to her chest and rested her chin on top of them, "Sure, what do you want to talk about?"
"Fredrick!" Fred stood on the bottom floor of her home, looking up the stairs, "Fredrick Connor Gunn I mean it, you get your butt down here right this second young man!"
Fred waited and finally heard feet running down the hallway and then about a minute later had her gasping son standing in front of her, "You rang milady?"
"Cuteness will get you nowhere," Fred told him, "Now I would like you to tell me why exactly Miss Nicklaus called here to tell me that you haven't been doing your homework."
Rick rolled his eyes, "Ma it's not that big a deal."
He walked past a stunned Fred, "Not that big a deal? I'm sorry, but school is a very big deal, and you are far too smart to be so stupid as to think that way."
"It's boring!" Rick told her as he flopped down on the couch in the living room and picked up the remote to the Tv.
"What? The homework?" Fred asked as she followed after him and sat down on the arm rest of the couch.
"Yes," he answered and clicked on the set.
"Well why do you-- give me that," Fred wrestled the control away from him and turned the Tv back off, "We are talking."
"No, you're talking and I am being lectured," Rick sulked as he burrowed back into the over sized piece of furniture.
"Well would you rather I take you over my knee and see if I can't find some respect in ya so that we can talk without your smart mouth?"
Rick looked up right quick and shook his head rapidly, "No ma'am."
"Alright then" Fred frowned, "If it's too easy for you hon you have to tell the teacher, I'm sure she can give you different homework to do. I know my teachers did that for me. But not doing it at all is not okay, and if you think you are going to flunk out of any class for whatever reason you are sorely mistaken." "So..." Fred tipped forward and ran her fingers through the soft, blondish, brown curls that covered her son's head, "Do you want me to talk with Miss Nickolaus?"
Rick moved back from her offending hand and made Fred chortle, "Ma the hair is off limits, and yeah sure, do whatever you want, I don't care."
"Oh I got that," Fred told him as she made another pass for his hair and got her hand batted away for the effort. "I think I should talk to your father about cutting it," Fred said as she stood up and started walking away.
"Ma you wouldn't!" Rick called out as he leapt up from his seat. "I think you would look good with hair that actually has some sort of shape to it," Fred told him smiling.
"My hair has a shape, it's circular!" Setting his mother off laughing with his statement, Rick frowned. He didn't get a chance to retort back when they heard a knock at the door. "I'll get it," Rick said as he ran over to the front door and opened it. A cloaked figure towered over him and before Rick could ask who it was or say hello even; he found himself being picked up and tossed over a powerful shoulder. "Ah!" Rick screamed as he hung upside down, staring at the back of his captor, "Ma help!"
Fred stood in the doorway of the kitchen, watching the spectacle, "Are you kidnapping my son? Because if you are, I don't mind, it's just, are you going to bring him back?"
"Maybe," the figure replied.
Fred nodded, "Well now see I was kind of hoping for a no there."
"Oh my god," Rick groaned as he was getting dizzy from the angle he was currently in, "Ma I said help! Not ask him to keep me!"
"Hey, this kind of opportunity doesn't just come along all the time honey."
The cloaked man laughed at the mother and son exchange before he finally swung Rick down from his shoulder and into his arms, "Hi." Rick grinned up at the smiling face, "Hey Uncle Angel."
"Yes, hello Uncle Angel," Fred echoed as she walked over to them.
Angel reached out and pulled her into a snug embrace before releasing her and then set Rick back down on the floor.
"Where is my husband?" she asked as Angel took off his protective covering. "Business," he answered and Fred made a small face, "Of course."
"You know, you guys really have to work on this secret code business, I am fourteen, not four" Rick told them both.
"That's right, you are," Fred agreed, "A fourteen year old that needs to go finish some very overdue homework."
Rick shook his head as his voice rose to whine level, "But Ma I wanted to watch--"
"Later, if you get it all done and I think it's any good, but no Tv till then, and don't even thing about trying to sneak into your Daddy's and mine room to watch anything either, you hear me?"
Rick nodded, "Yes ma'am," he mumbled.
"Good boy, now scoot," Fred ordered as she turned him toward the stairs and gave him a mild swat to get him moving.
She and Angel watched Rick flee the room, "I swear, teenagers, make you long for their younger days."
Fred started to shake her head ruefully but caught herself and quickly looked up at Angel, her hand came up to cover her mouth and her eyes expressed deep remorse, "Oh Angel I-- I am so..."
Angel knew that reaction would be coming and he placed a hand on Fred's arm, "Fred, it's okay, I don't need you to apologize."
"I am so stupid," Fred continued as though he hadn't even spoken, "I wasn't thinking."
Angel gave up and walked past her to get to the kitchen, "I left some blood over here didn't I?"
"What?" she asked as she saw that she was now all alone in the front hall, "Angel?"
"It's okay, I found it," he told her as his head poked out of the doorway, holding up the jar.
"Wait, let me do that!" Fred called out as she hurried in after him, eager to avoid what happened to her nice, clean kitchen the last time he and blood were involved.
Fred turned away from the microwave and faced Angel, "Yeah?"
"You honestly don't have to worry about keeping the kid comments away from me," he smiled slightly, "It's been sixteen years, I got over what happened a long time ago."
"I know you have--" Fred braced herself on the counter behind her, "But this week is his-- well you know his—" Fred saw the entertained look on Angel's face and stopped talking as she tapped her nails down on the gleaming granite underneath them, "I'm doing it again aren't I?"
He nodded, "I'd have to say yes."
"Foot enter mouth and all that," she said just before the microwave timer beeped out, signaling that the blood was ready. Fred took out the warmed beverage and walked over to the table. Taking a seat beside him, she handed over the drink to Angel. "When are you leaving?" Fred asked.
Angel looked up at her, "In a few days, Gunn is helping me tie up some loose ends."
"Angel maybe this year you-- You could stay here and we can..."
Angel shook his head, "Fred I can't, I--" Fred nodded, cutting him off, "I know, you have to. I just hate the idea of you being all alone while you do it is all."
"Fifteen years and still you're like some skipping record," Angel smiled as he lifted the cup up to his lips.
Fred chuckled, "Well, someone has to worry about you."
"And it is appreciated," Angel responded, "But not necessary."
Fred was silent as she looked at her old friend, reaching over the table and breaking the distance between them, she covered his hand with her own. "It will always be necessary," she told him as she gripped it lightly.
"He is a dick."
Elizabeth flipped over onto her stomach and propped her head up on a bent arm, "He's so not."
"He so is," Steven mocked her as he smiled, "You just can't get past the dimples."
"Hot overrules dickage every single time," she told him.
"Were you not around for the Kyle/Steffi breakup of 2017?"
Beth sighed, "That was one time, you can't judge him based on one incident, it isn't Christian like."
"Amanda, Deina, Heather, Laura-- Do I need to continue?"
Elizabeth rolled her eyes and emitted out a breath of indignant air, "You are a big poo head you know that?"
Steven laughed aloud, "I always ruin things for you don't I?"
"Yes you really, really do," she concurred.
He looked up as he heard his name being belted out from downstairs.
"Who's that, Justine?" Beth asked.
"Yeah, I guess dinner's ready, Lizzie--"
"Yeah yeah I know, be careful and carry my mace, I will. Love you."
Steven smiled, "Love you too."
"Steven! Get down here now!"
"I'm coming!" Steven yelled back, "Bye Lizzie."
A fairly nettled Steven trudged downstairs and into the kitchen.
"There you are," Justine looked up to see him walk in, "You know you're lucky I didn't call him first, you'd be back down there for another session ."
"I know, I'm sorry," Steven said as he crossed the floor, "Can I help?"
Justine glanced over at him and shook her head, "No, I have everything ready; you can go get him though." Justine saw just the smallest flicker of haunting, heartbreaking emotion in Steven's eyes and then it was gone. "You know what? It's okay," Justine said quickly, "I can get him myself, you can just--"
Steven shook his head, "No it's fine, I can do it."
She opened her mouth once more but he was already at the basement door. Watching as he walked down the steps and out of sight, Justine's heavy heart felt all the more leaden.
"Father?" Steven called out as he reached the bottom floor, looking around the dimly lit room. "Justine has dinner ready, she wanted me to come and tell you."
"Good," Daniel finally responded as he came out of the shadows.
Steven forced a smile and turned to leave when Daniel spoke again, causing him to take pause.
"Steven you know you are a special child?"
Steven averted his eyes down at his socked feet, "Yes Father..." came the almost inaudible whisper.
"And you know God gave you to me? To mold and shape, to make you his warrior, to fight in his name."
"I know Father," Steven repeated. "You will not fail God and you will not fail me, will you?"
"No Father," Steven felt tears building in his eyes, "I will never fail you, or God, not ever."
Daniel smiled, "That's my boy, now--" Daniel walked over to where Steven stood planted in place and threw a arm casually over his shoulder, still smiling, he looked at the child, "Lets go eat."
Later that night, Steven resided in his room as Daniel and Justine sat in the living room.
"What did you say to him down there?" Justine finally got up the courage to ask.
Daniel turned to face her, "Say?"
"To Steven, when he came back up with you he was-- He was different, what happened down there?"
"Nothing," Daniel said, "I just reminded him of his duty."
"Oh goddamn it Daniel!" Justine yelled out before she lowered her voice as Daniel glared at her, "Why the hell would you do that? He is just a kid! He doesn't need you!--"
"Need me what? Justine I took the boy for one reason, all that I have done has been to get him ready, and I will not permit him to throw it all away!"
Justine returned his dark regard, "Is that all he is to you still? After all these years he is just that final piece you need to get your revenge with? Do you care about him at all?"
"Justine the boy came from evil, and he will be the one to destroy that evil, that is all he is worthy of, and if he can succeed--"
"Oh my god you..." Justine got up from her seat in disgust.
"Justine it is the only way the boy can save himself!"
"Save himself?" Justine whirled around to face Daniel again, "Or save you from finally sealing your godforsaken fate by killing Angel on your own?"
A look of fury flooded Daniel's face and slowly he got to his feet, "You do not ever, Ever! Say that name in my presence!"
"I am sorry," Justine said promptly, "I did not mean any disrespect."
"Justine you need to remember your place," Daniel told her as he came closer, "Or I will be forced to do it for you."
Giving her one last glare of contempt, he walked past her to leave the room.
Justine waited till she heard his footsteps fade away and then the back door slam shut before she let out the breath of air she hadn't realized she'd been holding. Her shoulders shook from the emotions boiling over inside her and she dropped down in the chair nearest to her. She couldn't believe she had been so blind, allowed it to get so far. "Oh god..." Justine moaned as she started to cry, pools of tears filled her eyes, and finding release, they then ran down her cheeks.
"Justine?" Steven called out to her softly, his voice wading through the breathless sobs she fought to contain.
"Steven honey it's okay, I'm fine," Justine told him as she ran her hands over her face.
Taken aback at the pet name, Steven knew then something was earnestly wrong. He hurried over to her side and knelt down, "Did he hurt you?"
Placing a hand on her knee, Steven drew her attention to him. Justine stared deep into the young face; she reached out and tenderly touched one of his cheeks, "You look so much like him..."
Steven's brow contorted in confusion at her words, "Who?"
But Justine wasn't paying him any mind, "When you were younger it wasn't as bad, but you grew, and as you grew you changed, and you started to look just like him. It's why he can't stand you now, it was better before."
"Justine," Steven started as he inclined ahead, "What is-- What are you talking about?"
"I'm so sorry, I was weak, I still am, but I can't let him--" Justine stopped, her countenance frenzied as she looked about her, "He left, there may be time," she glanced back down at Steven, "I have to try..."
"Try? Try what Justine?"
Steven could only look on in baffled disbelief as she stood up suddenly.
"Come on," Justine ordered as she began to rush out of the room, "Steven come on! We have to hurry!"
Left with not other option, he got up and chased after her as she dashed up the stairs, taking two at a time.
"You can't carry much, but it shouldn't take you very long to find him, and then he'll take care of you..." Justine spoke in a hushed tone, one more to herself then Steven as she opened a drawer and began to throw clothes out of it and onto his bed.
"Justine what the hell are you doing?! What is going on?!" Steven begged for an answer as he watched her.
Justine stopped her frantic actions and looked back at the boy she'd raised for fifteen years, "You will never know how sorry I am."
"Sorry for what?!" Steven felt helpless, angry, and frustrated that he didn't know what was happening or why she refused to explain it all any further.
"I thought I was doing the right thing back then, I truly did." Justine wiped away a few last tears that had found their way down her face as she walked over to Steven and took him into her arms, "But I was wrong, and I am going to try and fix it."
Steven pulled away from her, "Justin--"
"Steven you have to trust me here okay? I know all this makes absolutely no sense, but you have to trust me on this, I am doing what is best for you, something I should have done a long time ago."
"Now hurry, he will be back soon, grab whatever you can find that will fit in your backpack."
Pulling out a few days worth of clothes and other items, Justine packed up Steven's things, she knew he was leaving so much behind, but what he would gain in the end would be worth it, it had to be.
"Lizzie," Steven said abruptly, "I have to call her, tell her what is going on."
"You don't have time, I will tell her, if I can, but you need to concentrate on this."
"Okay," Justine zipped the bag shut and looked up at him, "Lets get going."
On the road, Steven sat in front beside Justine and held his backpack on his lap.
The bright lights of the city illuminated the night sky and he stared up at them, wondering if he would ever get another chance to see them again.
Speeding down the road, for the first time in twenty years, Justine prayed, that it wasn't too late, for either of them.
Steven glanced up at Justine's words and saw that they had come to a stop in front of the airport.
Walking inside, Justine took Steven's hand and dragged him along as she half walked; half ran up to the first ticket agent available.
"Hello," the cheery greeting came from the young man who smiled at them, "How may I help you?"
"Yes," Justine's breathing was ragged as she tried to catch it, "I would like a one way ticket to Los Angeles, tonight if possible."
The ticket agent smiled, "Ah you're lucky, you got here just in time, I can get you in on the last flight out."
Justine smiled, "That'll be perfect." Handing over his information to the agent, she then turned to Steven, "I guess prayer does work huh?" Justine then grabbed Steven by the arm and pulled him over to the side, "Alright listen to me, take this."
Steven felt something thin and bumpy press into his hand and looked down. It was a modest, black leather billfold.
"It isn't much, but it should last long enough until you find him." Steven raised his eyes up to Justine's own, "Find who?"
Steven frowned, "My father? No, my father is dead Justine."
"No, that's what we've always told you, but he isn't, and it's a very complicated story, and I don't have near enough time to tell you all of it but--" Justine reached into her pocket and slowly removed an old, faded, and crumpled letter. "I wrote this a long time, I wanted there to be something that would explain--" Justine halted her words as she turned the letter over in her hand, fighting tears, "That would tell you why it happened, and why I let it."
Taking his hand that still clasped the billfold, Justine pressed the letter into it. "Now..." Justine held up a small and stained white card. "This is your father's card, and I don't know if this place still exists or if the number still works, but when you get to LA, call this number, and if it does go through, ask for Angel."
"And he's-- He's my father?"
Justine nodded, "He will help you Steven, don't be afraid to trust him okay?"
Steven opened his mouth to speak but no words would come out, everything was happening so fast, too fast, his mind now muddled with all the new information, he couldn't think clearly.
The ticket agent looked up and motioned for the pair to come back over to him. "Here you go," he handed back Steven's identification papers along with his ticket, "The plane will be boarding at gate three, and it leaves in ten minutes, so I suggest that you hurry to make sure you don't miss it."
Justine smiled in response, "We will thank you."
As Steven found himself being pulled, yet again, by Justine through the airport, he wondered about his father, his real father. Why had he been taken away from him in the first place? Why hadn't he bothered to come after him? Tried to find him, or had he and he just gave up after a while, thinking it hopeless? Was he a better man then Daniel? Would he even want him now after all these years?
Justine's voice broke into the bleary daze that was now his thoughts, and brought him back into the current goings on.
They stood at the gate; other passengers went by them, heading down the long corridor to get to the plane. Justine tugged on the straps of his backpack, making sure it was set snugly on his back.
Then, with somewhat unsteady hands, she took Steven's face into them, making him look at her. "I need you to promise me something." With his face still in her hands, Justine stepped forward even more, leaving only a few, mere inches of space between them.
"I am going to do all that I can to stop him, but if I can't, he will come after you, and if he does, you need to keep away from him. No matter what he says or does, you can not trust him. If you see him you run as fast and as far in the opposite direction that you can, if he contacts you in anyway, you don't talk to him, for any reason okay?"
Steven only fumbled for words to form a question with, "Bu-- He's my--"
"No!" Justine hissed out the word as though it pained her to do so, her fingers dug down deep into Steven's delicate skin, nearly hard enough to leave marks, "He is not and has never been your father, and if he can, if he can find you? He will kill you Steven."
Steven's glossed over blue eyes grew wide and he tried to shake his head but couldn't with her holding onto it, "No..."
"Yes! Yes he would, he will if he ever gets the chance, so don't give him one, alright? You promise-- You swear! You swear to me that you won't!"
Steven's eyes burned with tears but he finally choked out a reply, "I-- I swear, I swear..."
"Okay, okay..." Justine let go of Steven's face and pulled him into a hug as tight as she could make it.
She kissed the side of his head and gave him one last squeeze before the last boarding call for his flight echoed out into the mostly empty waiting area.
"That's you," Justine said as she let him go and moved back, giving him a small smile, "Be good, alright?" she got out a bittersweet chuckle with the statement and Steven did the same, though their voices both were thick with many emotions. "And stay safe, no matter what, you take care of yourself."
"I will," he assured her, "I better--"
"Yeah, you go," Justine ran a hand through her hair and waved him on, "I will miss you wonder boy."
Steven stopped in his tracks and turned around to give her one last glance, "You too."
Justine wrapped her arms around herself as she watched him walk away and down the long, winding passageway, until he was no longer visible. Wearily she turned around and began walking to get back to the airport's exit. Justine knew what was coming, and how it would most likely end, but despite it all, she wasn't sorry, and never would be.
Opening the back door, she slipped silently into the kitchen and then shut it after her. As Justine passed by the living room, she stopped short of its doorway and waited.
"Decided to come home after all?"
At the question she turned to look into the room, "Never intended not to."
"Where's the boy?" Daniel rested his elbows on the armrests of his chair and bent forward, coming into the mild light given off from the lamp in the corner.
"Isn't he here?" Justine frowned as though she didn't understand what he was asking her.
"Do not toy with me Justine, did you take him somewhere?"
"No," she answered, "If you lost him Daniel that is on you, do not blame me."
Daniel jumped to his feet, "Woman you will tell me where he is!"
Justine's face changed in an instant, and for the first time, she didn't back down from him, "Make me."
Steven settled down into his seat by one of the many windows on the plane. He buckled himself in and rested his head back on the cushion behind it. Steven exhaled profoundly as he stared down at his hands. In between them was the letter.
A finger traced gradually over the sealed portion of it.
"Bad news or good news?"
Steven looked up in surprised and saw that it was the person who now sat in the seat next to him that had solicited the inquiry.
"What?" Steven returned as he hadn't been paying attention.
The woman smiled and gestured to the letter he was holding, "The letter, you look a little less then ready to open it."
"Oh, yeah," Steven agreed as he looked back down at it.
"So, if you don't mind me asking, which is it, good or bad?"
Steven thought for a moment before smiling contritely, "I don't really know."
The woman dipped her head in reply, "Well I hope it's good."
She then left Steven to himself as she stood up to ask something of one of the air flight attendants, and after a few more thoughts of uncertainty entered his mind, he finally slipped a nail underneath the flap to break the glue, "So do I..."
Justine backed up into the kitchen as Daniel walked towards her, "Justine you are mistaken if you think taking him where ever it is that you did will help him, you only make things worse for him."
"No, I did that while I stood by for all these years and did nothing to stop you."
"How did you convince him to go with you? What lies did you tell him?"
Justine smirked, "Lies? I didn't tell him any lies Daniel, I did something much, much more inexcusable then that."
Justine's tempered gaze bore into Daniel as her eyes filled with blinding tears, "I told him the truth."
Steven's hands trembled as he dropped the letter to the floor, his mouth was agape but no sound came out. His sight grew blurry from tears that eventually fell and dampened his shirt, leaving their dark stains after.
Daniel's face twisted in fearsome wrath and he lunged for her.
"Don't!" Justine screamed as her own tears collected down on the floor in front of her. She held up, in her spastic hands, a gun, "Don't you come one fucking step closer."
Daniel stopped for a moment before he chuckled, "You can't kill me Justine."
"Can't I? I should have years ago."
Daniel cocked his head to the side as he took a few steps forward, "Give me the gun."
Justine shook her head, "I owe it to him to stop you, and there's only one way to do that."
"Justine... You will give me the gun," Daniel spoke slowly as he extended his hand out to her.
"No--" she held the gun up higher, though it wobbled slightly, "I will never let you hurt him again."
"Then I am afraid you'll have to take his place!" Daniel, in a burst of prompt swiftness, plowed into Justine as she fired at him.
With his tears drying on his cheeks, Steven stared out the window beside him. The night sky was clear minus a few stray clouds, and shone with the brilliant radiance from the infinite, gleaming stars that filled it.
Resting his forehead on the chilled glass, Steven saw his likeness staring back at him.
"Ah!" Justine screamed as Daniel yanked her head back by her hair which was seized tautly in his hand.
"Tell me where he is!" Daniel ordered as he physically turned her over to face him, her gun now in his procession.
Justine smiled and wouldn't answer.
"Damn it bitch you will answer me!" Daniel in a fit of absolute rage began to whip her across the face with the gun he held.
"Where is he?!"
The sound as the gun connected with Justine's skull and jaw was a sickening one, but through it all she remained silent. Only after beating her to the point where her head had been opened up so that she was bleeding profusely from the lesions, and her jaw was dislocated, did Daniel delay any further action, his breathing hurried.
"Tell me where Justine."
Justine looked up at him, barely able to speak as her mouth filled with blood, she strangled on it.
He lifted her up by her shirt, "Tell me!"
She shook her head, "No--" she spat out.
Daniel looked down at her before he let go of her shirt and stood up, leaving her sprawled out on the floor. Justine's eyes were almost swollen shut but she could just barely make out his shape above her.
"I can forgive you, and God will too Justine, but you have to tell me where you took him, it's the only way to save your soul!"
"I saved my soul the instant I got him out of this house," Justine said as she struggled to breathe, "And it was God who helped me do that."
"Blasphemer!" Daniel yelled as he pointed the gun at her, "I will give you one more chance, one last chance to do the right thing Justine."
"Too late Daniel, I already did."
He trained the gun right at her heart, "I am only going to ask you this last time, where is he?"
Daniel never permitted Justine to know what he was thinking or feeling, he was excellent at keeping himself closed off from everyone else. But in this moment, she knew, without a doubt in her mind, he would kill her if she didn't give him the reply he wanted. And that fear gripped her heart, she didn't want to die.
It wasn't until an image of Steven entered her mind that Justine ended up getting the strength she needed to keep her unyielding resolution.
Her life for his, a choice that if faced by any mother could have only one end result. So for the last time, Justine uttered her statement, "I will never tell you where he is, never..."
Daniel's eyes sparkled with a frenzied ferocity that matched one of a mad man, "You have sealed your own fate, may God have mercy on you."
Justine looked up from Daniel to the ceiling as though she was looking up to heaven, "I'm coming Julia..."
Daniel sat back on his heels down beside Justine's still body, her eyes now closed as in sleep, her body surrounded by the blood that ran from her head, and her heart.
He sighed and rubbed his arm over his forehead, wiping away the sweat that beaded there.
"Stupid woman--" Daniel muttered before he stood up once again.
"I am going to find you Steven, and when I do, you will have to repent for your sins, many times..."
"Hello." Steven whispered to himself as he still stared back at his persona in the glass, "My name is Connor, and I'm your son..."
"Hello, my name is Connor, and I'm your son."
Sinking back into his seat, Connor kept repeating the words over and over and over again, "Hello, my name is Connor, and I'm your son..."