Next Time Around
Summary: Post NFA Angel and Connor drabble, with Spike along for the ride. A/S implied. This is a reposting of the story "Second Chance" which I intended to be a one-shot, but it just kept going…
Disclaimer: None of this belongs to me. It is all Joss Whedon's, Mutant Enemy, 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers and all that jazz.
Chapter One—Second Chance
It was a few months after the big fight when he felt him for the first time. His body tensed, a natural reaction to a predator, and the fine hairs at the nape of his neck stood at attention. He had just staked two vamps and the dust was swirling around his feet. Adrenaline was still pumping through his veins and his hand automatically tightened around the stake he was holding. He turned slowly, almost afraid to scare him away, and revealed…nothing. There was nothing there. He ran over to the spot where the scent was strongest, but even that was fading. He had not been watching long. But, it was his scent just the same. Angel.
This became a pattern. He would go on the hunt, looking for vamps, demons, whatever. And he would feel his father watching him. Once, he even got a fleeting glimpse of a retreating black trench coat, a quick swirl into the inky darkness of night. But he never stayed long enough to talk, always leaving before Connor could follow, and never leaving in the same direction. Knew how good of a tracker his son was.
This went on for a few weeks and Connor grew increasingly frustrated. He wanted to talk to Angel, to find out how the big drag-down went, why he was here. And yet, part of him didn't want to talk to him at all, wanted a separation from that life. He wasn't yet willing to acknowledge the hypocrisy of this seeing as he still went out on patrol almost nightly. Nonetheless, Angel's presence made adjusting to his two lives all the more difficult. Once after dusting a vamp he ran over to where Angel had been standing, calling out after him. His voice startled some birds that were nested down in a tree nearby, but Angel didn't return.
One night was rougher than usual. Three vampires shouldn't have given him that much trouble, but these vamps seemed organized somehow, like they'd trained together for years. Connor realized numbly they probably had. They were drawing him out, hitting him from all sides, confusing him. He was blindly thrashing about, knowing he was playing into their hands but unable to stop himself. Then, the world went black as the big one on his left found an opportunity and whacked him over the head.
When he opened his eyes, he saw that Angel was cradling him in his lap, looking down at him with concerned eyes. "Connor?"
He wrenched himself awkwardly away. "So. You survived." He was aware that his voice was flat. He was working hard to keep it that way.
Angel was standing as well, wiping his hands on his knees. "Yeah…we made it." He looked at Connor, trying to read him.
"Well, good." He turned to leave, stopping when he felt Angel's hand on his arm. "What?" He tried best to channel his inner teenaged-snit.
"Nothing…I…nothing." Angel had turned his back, ready to walk away.
"Wait…" The response had come unbidden. Angel had halted, his back towards him, waiting. A long minute spooled out and Connor didn't know what to say. "I'll see you around." He turned himself in anticipation for his own retreat. He felt Angel's eyes on him, full of questions. "I have an early class," was all he offered in explanation before walking off into the night.
He could have imagined the "be careful" he heard as he left.
He finally decided to track him down, find out where he was staying. Apparently, Angel had found the Tropicana Lodge to be within his budgetary limits. Connor waited until just after sundown, figuring the vampire would have vacated the room by then. He hesitantly approached room 217, and after steeling his courage, knocked on the door. No one answered. He twisted the knob, finding it locked. He used a bit of his strength to yank the door open.
The room was darkened, the thick drapes pulled tight against any offensive sunlight. He was instantly drawn to the bed where the smells were the strongest. He caught the smell of the other, the one he had sensed on Angel. The near side of the bed was teeming with his scent. Male. Vampire. Whiskey and cigarettes. The other side revealed Angel's own musky odor. Father. Family. Home. And overlaying all of this, the thick unmistakable twin-essences of blood and sex. He looked at the bed appraisingly, noting the covers in wanton disarray and pillows shoved into the headboard in haste. He snorted his disapproval. Vampires in paradise.
He looked around the room again, taking in the dank interior. The curtains were an ugly plaid, ripped and bloodied clothes pooled at the foot of the bed and soiled bandages and gauze threatened to overflow the wastebasket. Not exactly paradise, then.
He began snooping in earnest, pulling open drawers that revealed nothing more than the standard issue Gideon Bible. Apparently, they were living out of their bags. He pulled out Angel's duffel, not sure what he was looking for, drawing out a small leatherbound journal. The notes were scanty, mainly the details for some demon or another, but most of the pages were filled with quite skillful drawings. He stared at the pictures of his former life: Wesley, Fred, Gunn, Cordelia. Darla in repose, hand on swollen belly. A baby, eyes wide and smiling. A baby. He put the journal back down, only to reclaim it once he saw a few photos had been shoved into the binding. The first one revealed a smiling Wesley and Cordelia with a slightly abashed Angel. They all looked very happy. The second was what looked inexplicitly like a prom photo, a small blonde clinging to an Angel in a tux, smiling under an archway of balloons. He stared at the third photo for a long time. Angel was holding a small baby, gazing down at him with a look of wonder and adoration. The baby had curled a small chubby fist around an offered forefinger, and was returning the look with complete trust and love. Connor hurriedly shoved the photos back into the binding and threw the journal back into Angel's bag, kicking it back under the bed. He gave the room one last glance before heading out, knowing that Angel would be aware of his visit. That was the point, really.
When he went on patrol the next night, he found Angel waiting for him. He was casually chatting up two vampires who were laughing about how easy college towns were, what with the drunk kids wandering late at night. As soon as he sensed Connor approach, he dropped the pretense, flicking a wrist-stake and driving it home, simultaneously pushing the other vampire towards Connor's waiting stake.
"So, you found us." Angel's forehead was furrowed, and he was eyeing Connor expectantly. He had showered recently, masking the scent of the other under Irish Spring and shampoo. "What were you looking for?"
A father. He nonchalantly brushed dust off of his shirt and let the question go answered. "You staying here, then?"
"For a little while, anyways." He was regarding Connor carefully, choosing his words. "You want me to leave?"
Connor shrugged. "I don't care." He looked at Angel, really taking in his appearance for the first time. He was thinner than he had remembered, his clothes were dirty and he saw faint traces of bruising around his left eye. "Who is he?"
Angel looked thrown by the question, and ducked his head in embarrassment. He stumbled to answer. "He's…he's family. Don't worry about him."
Connor quirked an eyebrow, finding himself thrown. "He know about me?"
"No." So, he was only here for Angel then.
"Does that make him related to me?"
"No." The answer was quick, but then Angel thought about it more carefully, his eyes faraway. "I don't know, actually. Maybe." He looked at Connor for a long beat as if giving him a cursory medical exam. "You ok, then?" When all he received in response was a shrug, he pressed on. "Would it be easier for you, if we left?"
Yes. "No." He scuffed the ground with a sneakered toe. "I don't know." He looked at his father, taking in the pained expression on his face. This was hard for Angel. Hard for him, too. He had so many questions he needed to ask, but couldn't bring himself to voice a single one. "Look, I'd better get going."
"Yeah, ok." Angel ran a hand through his hair. Connor noted that it was longer, curling a bit at the ends where it met his neck. "Look, Connor, if you need anything…" He opened his hands in supplication, offering him the world. "Well, you know where I'm staying."
Connor simply nodded before heading off into the darkness. He knew Angel didn't follow, had stayed rooted in the spot for awhile, watching him leave.
The other was waiting for him when he came out a few nights later. He remembered him, had met him during his grand tour of Wolfram and Hart. The blonde oozed bravado and confidence, in stark contrast to his father's studied calm. He was leaning on a tombstone, cigarette dangling offhandedly from his fingers. "So, you're the one who keeps putting Broody's panties in a bunch, yeah?"
Connor approached him warily, clutching the stake tightly in his fist. He merely shrugged. "Don't know about that."
"Sure you do." His eyes were gleaming, making him look like a mischievous little boy. He hadn't bothered to shower, and Connor caught Angel's scent all over him. He leaned in towards Connor as if to scent him himself, and Connor saw the healing scars of bite marks just under his collar that were clearly made by a vampire. By Angel. He tracked Connor's gaze and pulled the collar up, defensive. "What were you looking for, snooping around in our room, then?"
"Just wanted to see where Angel was staying." He hopped up onto a nearby headstone, feet swinging and bouncing off of the marble. "Wasn't looking for anything in particular."
The other narrowed his eyes in disbelief. "So, what's the big deal with you, anyways? Peaches totally shut down when I asked him, wouldn't let me come and find you." He took a puff off of his cigarette. "I had to wait until he was otherwise occupied."
"Where is he?" Connor flipped the stake end for end, catching it perfectly each time.
The other shrugged. "Otherwise occupied." He was watching the stake flip over. "So…" he rolled his hand outward, encouraging elaboration.
"So…what?" Flip. Catch. Flip. Catch.
"So…who are you? And why does Angel go into a funk every time he comes back from stalking you? Or whatever he does."
"Connor." Flip. Catch. "We met before. At Wolfram and Hart." Connor looked off to left, as if remembering. "Spike, right?"
The other drew his head back, slightly smiling. "Yeah…that's right." He looked at Connor, as if considering him for the first time. "You the one who fought a Granok, yeah?"
"Yeah." He hopped back off of the headstone, shoving his stake into his back pocket. "Look, I need to go. Need to patrol."
Spike had stood as well and closed the space between them. "I already dusted a vamp tonight, prolly won't be another." He took a step closer. "And you still haven't answered my question."
Connor reflexively took a step back, almost tripping over a short headstone that jutted out of the ground. He wobbled a bit, and the other shot out a hand, steadying him. Connor shook him off as if the touch burned, catching the other's wounded look. "Nothing to tell."
"Right." He stepped forward again, almost bringing him nose to nose with Connor. "S'what Angel said as well." His eyes were hard, menacing. "But what I'd like to know is why we're hanging our hats in this one-horse town while the fires of our apocalypse are still burning in L.A.?"
Connor tried to return the harsh gaze. "I. Don't. Know." He backpedaled another step. Then another.
Spike sighed and shook his head. "Whatever." He rolled his eyes. "Not like I care what Captain Forehead is thinking." The denial was such that Connor knew he worried on exactly what Angel was thinking. "Just curious, is all."
Another step back. "Why don't you just leave, then?"
Spike seemed thrown by the question, as if he hadn't considered it before. "Dunno." He pulled out another cigarette, holding out the pack for Connor and putting it away when the boy refused one. "Guess someone has to look after him, put a foot up his ass when he needs it. Which is all the time, by the way."
Connor nodded and gave him a slight smile. He looked off in the distance, then back at the vampire. "I really better get going." Another step back. "I'll see you around."
Spike blew out a puff of smoke. "Yeah." He made no move to follow.
When he returned to the graveyard the following night his father was there, again, waiting . He was alone, perched a top of a tombstone that read "Mills". He tensed at Connor's approach, swinging long legs onto the ground. "So…you met Spike."
Connor shrugged. "Met him before."
Angel nodded. Connor noticed the fresh bruises on his face, the bite marks on his neck that he tried to hide beneath his collar. Also, he had again showered very recently. "He's curious about you."
Connor leaned back onto a tombstone. "Why don't you just tell him?"
"Thought it would be safer." Angel leaned back as well, mirroring Connor's pose. "Thought you'd want it that way."
Connor quirked an eyebrow. "Safer? What with you being here?" He felt a small twinge of regret when Angel flinched. "I mean, obviously Wolfram and Hart know about me…"
Angel grinned at him. "Don't have to worry about them anymore. At least for a little while, anyways."
Connor tilted his head, curious. "So, you won, then?"
His father gave him a sad smile. "Well, more like put them out of commission for awhile. They'll never truly be gone, though. They exist in many different dimensions. We just shut down the earthly hub for a bit." He shifted, crossing one leg over the other. "But, unfortunately, I have other enemies out there who would love to know who you are, be able to use that against me."
He was vaguely aware he was nodding slowly, not really looking at Angel. He was trying to take all of this in, gauging whether or not he should start with the questions that maybe he didn't really want the answers for. Probably wasn't going to be a better time. "So…who'd you lose?"
Angel's face tightened a bit, and emotion flooded his eyes. He swallowed and cleared his throat before answering, his voice thick with emotion. "Wesley." He blinked several times. "Gunn's still in ICU, probably never going to walk again. And, a blow to the head has left him blind."
"Jesus, dad!" The name had spilled out uncontrolled, and Connor hardly noticed. But he knew that Angel had. "It was suicide! I told you they would destroy you!"
"And I told you that as long as you were ok they couldn't." Angel rubbed a hand tiredly over his face.
"What about the others? Fred? 'Cause I'm guessing that blue demony girl I met at Wolfram and Hart wasn't her."
Angel sighed. "Illyria." Off of Connor's confused look he clarified. "Ancient demon god who infected Fred's body." He looked down. "Destroyed her soul. Fred's been gone for awhile now." The pain was still obviously fresh from this loss.
"Jesus." Connor shook his head in disbelief, then straightened his shoulders, bracing himself for the big question. When he finally spoke, his voice was low and soft. "And Cordy?"
Angel's expression left no doubt that the wound hadn't even begun to heal on this one. The pain was so evident in his eyes that Connor actually gasped. It was a long minute before he could speak, his eyes wet with unshed tears. "She never woke up, Connor. We lost her…"
Connor stared at his father, unable to speak himself in the face of such raw grief. "God, I'm so sorry…"
Angel just nodded, unable to meet Connor's eyes. He gestured off into the night. "Well, I'd better get…"
"Yeah, me too…" Connor spoke simultaneously. He wasn't able to answer before his father took off into the night, Angel's anguish obviously too much to handle in the presence of another.
A few nights later he was back fighting a slow lumbering demon and was just about to deliver the killing blow when another demon suddenly appeared, apparently defending its mate. The blow to his knees caught Connor unawares, and he was flipped onto his back. A pale hand was extended towards him, and he accepted the help and righted himself. He and Spike then fought side by side, parrying advances and quickly dispatching the second demon.
After the fight was over Spike leaned back against a tombstone and lit up a cigarette, taking in Connor with a long look, watching as Connor wiped a small smear of blood from his eyebrow with his thumb. "So, its true then?" When Connor looked as if he would speak, he cut him off. "And if you even begin to say 'what's true?' I'm going to tear your neck out, never mind that I told Peaches I wouldn't."
Connor stared at the other vampire, noticing the blood that streaked the white of one eye, the split bottom lip, and the long scratches across his cheek that were made by human-looking fingernails. What the hell were they doing to each other? He decided he probably really didn't want to know. He shrugged. "Yeah, its true."
"Its bollocks, is what it is. Sorry to be the one to break it to you, mate, but Angel's having a bit of a piss with you." He shook his head. "Don't know what kind of games he's trying to play here, but its just not bloody possible. Vampires can't have children. Not human children, at any rate."
Connor sighed and sat down on a near stone. "Don't know what to tell you, but they did."
Spike barked out a short laugh. "How can you buy into that crap, slim? First off," he tapped his chest for emphasis, "we're dead. Life-enders. Not life-starters. Secondly, he could have picked a kid who looked a little like him, at the very least. Sloppy, that."
"I look like my mother." The answer was soft and tentative.
Spike leaned forward then, really examining Connor's face. His eyes widened in surprise and before Connor knew what was happening, he had grabbed up Connor's hand. Connor quickly pulled it back, but not before Spike had the chance to lick off the blood that he had wiped from his brow earlier. Spike's mouth hung open in astonishment. "Bloody hell!" He scoffed, startled. "Jesus bloody Christ. How the hell…"
Connor eyed him anxiously. "I really don't know…I wasn't there for…well…you know…"
Spike shook his head in disbelief and began pacing. Connor guessed he was trying to figure things out by the way he kept throwing surreptitious glances his way. "Bloody well figures." He gestured towards Connor with a bit of disgust. "Angel gets the fucking shanshu after all."
"What's a shanshu?" Connor thought vaguely he had heard the term before, but couldn't remember when.
"Its a…" Spike stopped pacing and looked at Connor, annoyed. "You know what? Fuck this. I need to go hit myself something big. Think I know where to find him." He kicked one of the felled demons and stormed off into the night, leaving a very confused Connor in his wake.
He didn't see either vampire for almost a week after his encounter with Spike. Then they were suddenly both there, Angel waiting for him and the other a short distance away, watching. Angel didn't say anything for a long moment, just quietly stared at his son as if trying to memorize his face. He sighed. "We have to leave."
Connor felt his chest tighten. He had expected this would happened, and was totally thrown to find he was panicked at the idea. "What? Now? Why?"
Angel gave him a small smile. "It's time. It's way past time." He glanced back at Spike. "A friend of ours, a witch, she's put a protection spell over us, and she's been watching. She let us know that something's getting too close."
Connor blinked several times, trying to process. "A witch?" He tilted his head to the side, remembering. "Willow." Angel nodded to him. "Where will you go?"
Another glance back at Spike. "We have…friends. They have a safe house in Rome. We're going to head there, regroup with some of the others, lay low for a little while."
"Thought you said Wolfram and Hart were done with." Connor shoved his hands into his pockets and leaned against a tree.
"Down, but apparently not out." Angel moved closer to Connor, leaning back next to him. "Dunno what's coming, but not exactly looking to stick around to find out."
"What about me?" He felt his heart thudding in his chest. "I mean, won't I be left here kind of exposed?"
Angel reached out and caressed his cheek in an attempt to soothe him, and he allowed this for a second before flinching away. "Part of the deal I made with Wolfram and Hart was the promise that no matter what happened to me, they could never come at me through you."
Connor looked down and then moved away and began pacing in front of his father. He shot a glance back towards Spike, and inclined his head towards his father, indicating that he should follow. He wanted to try and get out of the other vampire's earshot. He didn't speak again until he felt they were far enough away. "Dad…." He wasn't sure what he wanted to say, what he even wanted. Angel was standing motionless, waiting. "I think I should go with you."
Angel looked completely gobsmacked. "You…no, Connor. You can't come with me." He was shaking his head furiously. "That isn't your world anymore." He wore a pained expression on his face. "I don't want you getting sucked back into this crap." He pointed at himself and waved his hand back towards where they left Spike. "You deserve better than that."
Connor was shaking his head as well. "No, dad. You don't understand. That is my world. This life…" He broke off, seeing Angel wince. "Look, I appreciate what you've done for me. What you've sacrificed. But I've had a lot of time to think on this." He stepped closer to Angel, catching his eye. "And this isn't real. As much as I want it to be…" Angel looked down and away, eyes welling with tears. Connor reached out and placed a hand on his arm causing Angel to turn and look at him again. "Dad, think about it. I had to be the one to kill Sahjahn." He placed a hand over his chest in emphasis. "It didn't matter if I didn't even remember who I really was, the prophecy said it had to be the son of two vampires, right? Not just some random college student. No spells you could do could ever change the fact that I'm your son."
"But Connor, I wanted you to have every opportunity that you would never have with me." He sighed and threw up his hands in frustration. "A normal, loving family. Not some freak show." He gestured at himself again.
Connor closed his eyes, thinking on what his father was saying. He could tell he was hurting Angel, could feel his distress rolling off of him in waves. He felt the other vampire move closer, reacting as well. Connor looked back at the shadows, shaking his head, hoping to assuage some of Spike's fears and keep him from rushing in. He had things he needed to say to his father yet. "Dad, remember when you sent me away…you told me as long as they didn't destroy me you would be ok?"
"Of course I do. And its still true, Connor. You are the most important thing to me in this entire world. I would do anything to keep you safe."
"Yeah, well, how do you think I would feel if you were destroyed." He hated the fact that his own eyes were glazing with tears, and he swallowed, trying to tamp down a sob. "Dad, you're the only person who actually knows who I am. What I am." He looked down and took a shuddering breath. "I love the Reillys. I really do. And you and I both know that I wouldn't be here today if you hadn't done what you did. But I told you then, I couldn't be saved by a lie." Angel's face crumpled then and he looked as if he was going to speak, but Connor held up a hand, cutting him off. "Its a nice lie, a lie I desperately want to believe, but its still a lie. They don't love me, not really. They don't even really know who I am."
Connor was surprised when Angel suddenly grappled him into a hug. He kept his arms hanging limply for a beat before wrapping them around broad shoulders. He began openly weeping, unable to hold back the tears any longer.
"Oh Connor." Angel kept repeating his name over and over, holding onto to him so tightly that he felt like bones were going to break, but he didn't pull out of the embrace. They stood like that for a long moment, clinging to each other. Connor was the one to finally break away, dragging a hand across wet eyes. Angel gave him a concerned look. "What about college?" He dropped his head so that he was eye to eye with Connor. "Your family?"
The answer came without thought. "Dad, you are my family." He watched his father for a beat, letting the words sink in. Angel seemed to finally be relenting, but still obviously conflicted. Connor gave him a small grin. "And, finals are next week. Then I'm off for the summer. Its not like this will be forever—I could just tell my folks that I got a sweet summer internship in Rome or something. I'll come back to school in the fall."
Spike had sauntered over to where the other two were standing, obviously listening to the entire conversation and knowing it was nearing its end. "So, you break down the old man yet?" He cuffed Connor on the shoulder. "You joining us for our Italian holiday?"
Angel sighed, shooting Spike an annoyed glace. "Look, this isn't a holiday. I'm not exactly looking forward to a summer holed up in a house with a bunch of slayers."
"A house full of girls? And this is a bad thing how?" Connor looked between Spike and Angel, who both wore bemused grins.
Spike winked at Connor conspiratorially. "Don't let old broody fool you, he's just concerned about one Slayer in particular."
Angel guffawed. "Like you're not!"
"She loves me." Spike glared challengingly at Angel, then straightened his shoulders, leering at him as he considered something else. "Buffy know about the fruit of your loins here?"
"NO!" Angel tried his best to level him with a menacing glare, but just came off as frustrated frown. Connor put his hand over his mouth to stifle a laugh. "And I'll be the one to tell her, if at all." He narrowed his eyes at the other vampire. "At least she knows that I'm alive!"
"That's different!" Spike began to walk off, and Angel winked at Connor before following him. "I had my reasons."
Connor furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. "Who's Buffy?"
Spike turned around to face him, walking backwards. "That's a long story, pet. Good thing it's a 12 hour flight to Rome."
Connor followed a bit in silence before pulling out the money comment. "So, which one of you is going to tell her about the two of you?" The statement had its intended effect, stopping both vampires in their tracks. Spike was completely mortified but Angel looked only vaguely chagrined.
"What are you…" he gaped at Connor, eyes widening in shock. "Are you spying on us now, junior?"
"No, I…" Connor was flummoxed, and glanced at his father for help.
Spike saw the look pass between the two of them. "Oh. I didn't realize we were at the bragging stages just yet."
Angel smirked at him. "I didn't tell him." He pointed at his nose. "He has vampire senses, remember?"
Spike shook his head incredulously. "You seem to be taking this pretty well, daddy dearest."
Angel simply shrugged. "Yeah, well, I've had a couple of weeks to deal with the drama of it."
Spike scoffed, then turned towards Connor. "Whatever. This is totally different. It's a vampire thing." Angel nodded in agreement, carefully eyeing Connor, trying to appraise his reaction. "A sire-childe thing. Don't expect you to understand. Don't expect her to, either."
Connor held up his hands in surrender. "Hey, that's your business. Trust me--the less I know about it, the better."
Spike huffed off in exaggerated exasperation, and Angel just rolled his eyes and shot Connor a quick smile before following.
Connor took in a deep breath. This wouldn't have to be forever. And he could think of worse things than a summer full of gelato, girls and getting to know his father. He had (once) thought Holtz had taught him all he needed to know about the vampire who was his father. He knew almost nothing of the man. That had been the one truth that had weighed heavily on him when he thought he had lost him forever. And he wasn't going to waste this second chance to get to do just that.