Chapter 35

Angel cleared the rubbish from his desk and sat down heavily. Looking at the clock, he realized that he should be getting home. Buffy was alone with Connor, which wasn't always a bad thing, but Buffy had been crankier lately. She was due to give birth in four weeks and she was having a hard time adjusting to not being able to work.

Connor had moved in with Buffy and Angel. He had tried to continue in his job, but after a few weeks Connor had grudgingly accepted that he was in no mental condition to work. Buffy had commented to Angel a few weeks ago that there was a Connor shaped impression in their couch. Angel's son hadn't been very active in the past two months.

Angel looked again at his desk. The proposal, written by Willow and signed by both the witch and Giles, was still sitting in front of him. Angel admitted he liked the idea Willow was proposing. The American Academy of Slayers was scheduled to open in two months and Faith had finally signed on as the headmaster. The only pieces missing to the council's new puzzle were financial backing and protection. The new academy would have neither if Wolfram and Hart didn't step in to help.

The entire team had been working for the past two months on the murder of Connors' family. They hadn't moved very far from square one. The only lead they had was a witch Connor had visited in order to find Angel. She had disappeared and there was no trace of her. Connor hadn't taken this news well. The idea that he could have inadvertently caused the deaths of his family by searching for Angel was like a festering sore inside his body. The guilt ravaged him on a daily basis.

Will and Angel had both tried to bring Connor out of the massive depression he had fallen into, but the times when Connor wanted to leave the house were few. Connor would train periodically, and when he did it was evident that he was a very angry young man. It was becoming more and more rare that he expressed his anger without his fists.

Fred had come back to work full-time, with Allie in tow. The baby had her own section of Fred's office that was dedicated to the infant. Allie could almost hold her head up of her own accord now. Wes and Fred were mending the bridges that had started to burn. Angel wasn't sure when he would have to have a heart-to-heart with Wes, but he was sure it would have to happen.

Glancing back at the proposal on his desk, he tried to keep his focus on work. It was hard not to think about Connor, existing in Angel's house but not really living. Angel tried not to reflect on the fact that there was nothing he could do to ease his sons' pain. The only thing that could possibly help Connor was finding who had destroyed his life. Angel knew that until they found who had murdered Connors' family, none of them would ever rest.

Looking up at the clock, he sighed. Faith was coming in tomorrow. Together with Angel, she would peruse her options for the slayer school. Angel's team had found three excellent selections for the slayer to choose from. In addition to traveling with Faith, looking for the best location for the school, he also had to telecommute to the Council, to meet with Willow and Giles. Sometime after these events he had to meet with Will and Gunn to discuss five new cases the firm had taken on in the last week. There were other cases in motion, of course, but these five deserved Angel's attention.

He carefully packed his briefcase and put the remaining papers away. He had to get home to Buffy and Connor and make sure they were okay. Turning towards the door, he entered a lobby that was just starting to quiet down. Half the employees had already left the building. Turning, he caught sight of Xander coming down the hall towards him. Xander didn't look happy. Angel stopped and waited for the other man to reach him.

"I got some news. You might want to be sitting down to hear it. And Will might want to be here too."

The anxious look on Xander's face made Angel immediately turn into his office and dial Will's cell number. In a little more than five minutes, the three men were sitting around the conference table and two pairs of eyes were on Xander.

Taking a deep breath, Xander composed himself before speaking. He had returned from Paris three days ago and had since been focusing his efforts on the L.A. branch of Wolfram and Hart. He had heard from their French counterpoints that there had been some kind of involvement by L.A. branch members with very unsavory events in the past few months.

"Okay. When I was France, I heard something I left out of the report. An employee, who was killed two mornings ago, by the way, mentioned something about death by fire and these deaths effecting Wolfram and Hart. I tried to track this guy down to talk to him more but I just couldn't get to him in time. Anyway, when I got back here I found a few people at this branch that had been in communication with the Paris branch.

What I found was Scott Genero, he's a low level clerk. This Scott guy not only had contact with the dead Paris employee who mentioned deaths and fire, but he also had some kind of contact with the witch Connor visited when he was trying to track you down. Genero disappeared this morning, he never showed up to work. I went to his apartment, just to scope it out, and it looked like he hasn't been there in a while. His can wasn't in the driveway or on the street."

Xander stopped and just looked at the men in front of him. Angel looked furious and yet somehow relieved. Will had the look of a cat that had been hunting a bird for hours and was just about to pounce. Angel spoke first.

"Find this guy. Find how he's connected to that witch Connor used. I know she was involved in that family's death. If Genero had contact with her, he probably had something to do with it too. This is the first good lead we've had in months, let's exhaust it." Standing, he turned to Xander, "Good work, Xander. Thanks."

In a few moments, Angel was standing in Human Resources, going through the file drawers that held the life stories of every Wolfram and Hart employee. Genero's file was frustratingly thin. Before tossing the file back into the drawer, Angel took a mental picture of the page with Genero's current living arrangements and family contacts. He was going to be late getting home tonight.

Will was waiting for Angel in the car deck. Silently, the two men got into a navy blue SUV and started away from the office. Angel wanted to confirm what Xander had alluded to was true. This Scott Genero was involved in the plot to murder Connor's family. Angel was sure that if this person had spoken to people in Paris the conspiracy was far reaching.

"Another fucking cult." Angel spat under his breath. "Can you believe it? Another cult in Wolfram and Hart. Another cult putting people I love in danger. Only this time it resulted in death."

"We're going to have to deal with this forever. The nature of this place draws people who want to be parts of cults. We can only catch it early enough that no one has to get hurt."

"We didn't catch it this time, did we? And Connor lost everyone that meant anything to him."

"Not everyone."

Glancing briefly at Will, Angel refocused on the road. They needed to search this guy's place and move on. Angel knew there was a team that could do this. He even knew that Will could lead that team. He felt compelled, though, to be the person to search this apartment. Connor deserved that much.

Pulling into the driveway of the address Angel had memorized, he and Will looked at a building that was sorely in need of new paint and a few new walls. If there was a stereotype for buildings that housed murdering cults, this would fit the description. The car that was registered to Genero wasn't parked on the street or in the small driveway to the left of the building.

There was no doorman. There was no security. Angel and Will walked into the building and up the three flights of stairs to apartment 3C. The door was dead bolted, which was little deterrent for the two men who wanted to gain entry. Once the door was swinging on its hinges, they started systematically searching every inch of the apartment.

After three hours, Angel slammed his fist into the kitchen countertop in frustration. Quickly getting himself under control, he swallowed hard and led the way out of the apartment. Feeling as though he had wasted the past few hours searching an apartment that held incredibly little information, Angel broke every speed limit there was on their way back to the office.

It was only after dropping Will off and checking in with Xander that Angel left for home. There had been no headway in locating Genero and Angel doubted there would be. The man was probably dead already. Genero and the dead Paris employee were minions, peons used by the more important people. Those kinds of workers were easy to come by and even easier to get rid of.

Buffy was asleep, as Angel expected. Connor, however, was sitting on the couch, mindlessly flipping through television channels with the remote. The young man turned to look at his father, obviously upset.

"What did you find?" Connor was not unintelligent. Angel was always home at a reasonable hour; he hated leaving Buffy alone. If Angel was this late, there would be a very good reason, and Connor knew the murders of his family members would be the best reason.

Angel sighed heavily and set his briefcase down. Taking a seat next to his son, he composed what he was about to say very carefully. "We found a lead. We think we found someone who was involved, but it looks like it goes further beyond him. This is a pretty big conspiracy, Connor. We'll find them, I promise."

Nodding, Connor did not look convinced. He looked less that sure that the murderers of his family would ever be brought to justice. Taking a deep breath, he released the frustrations he had been holding within himself most of the day. "Katherine broke up with me. She said she could wait for me but that I didn't want her. She said I could come back when I was ready to want a relationship. She was nice about it and everything. I guess I don't blame her. I wouldn't put up with me either."

Furious, Angel calmly put his hand on his son's shoulder. "I'm sorry Connor. I guess…I guess she couldn't handle it." Katherine leaving Connor during such a difficult time in his life seemed like betrayal to Angel.

"I don't blame her. I mean, I'm a wreck. I haven't seen her in weeks, I barely talk to her. I just can't do it right now. You know? I can't give her any attention when I'm so screwed up."

"You're not screwed up, you're grieving. You're aloud to grieve. Connor, you have to give yourself time."

He scoffed. "Everyone says that. Everyone says I should give myself time. What does that mean? Time for what? Time to go insane. Time to try and be normal again. I'll never be normal again. I'll never be who I was before. I mean…who am I now? I don't even know what name I should use anymore."

"You use the name you have used. Your family loved you Connor, nothing can ever change that. Remember that."

Connor's eyes were tearing a little and his silence told Angel it was time to part ways. Giving his sons' shoulders a gentle squeeze, Angel stood and made his way to his bedroom. Buffy was lying on her side, hugging a body pillow to herself, her knee raised on it and her stomach resting gently against it. She looked peaceful, serene.

Sitting next to her, he put his hand against her stomach. The baby didn't kick at night. His unborn son was sleeping, getting up his strength to join the world. Buffy stirred a little at Angel's touch. Smiling, she opened her eyes slightly.

"I missed you."

"I'm sorry. Something came up."

"Doesn't something always come up? Come to bed." Closing her eyes, she immediately seemed to fall asleep again. He knew when he had been dismissed.