By Angelfirenze

Disclaimer: Whedon, et al. and Bellasario own everyone.

Summary: Connor shivered, his eyes burning as he shut them against the tableau, not wanting to say it was real, but not wanting to call it a façade but knowing his life hadn't gone this way. Nothing had gone this way and he knew it.

Notes: This scene takes place before 'Middle Son', which some of you may recall that I'm working on. *small grin* I've decided to start filling in a few gaps now that I think about them... Anyway, it references 'Reprise' quite a bit.

Look, if this one makes you cry, just know I did, too.


Connor lay staring at the ceiling, trying to ignore another surge of violence that insisted upon making itself known. He felt like crying. Most guys his age only had constant horniness to worry about, no, Connor also had an urge to kill of unspecific origin to worry about. He'd instead been honed into a fine machine for ending the lives of various evil entities that walked the earth and other terrains, as well.

Why couldn't he just be normal?

Brushing away tears, Connor lunged to his feet and dashed across his room with inhuman speed, his hands coming to rest atop his dresser, his eyes staring ceaselessly into the image he saw in the mirror. Even with what others would call concrete evidence, Connor didn't know who or what he was looking at. He whirled around, leaning back and letting the edge of the dresser dig into the skin of his naked back, staring around his bedroom and taking note of his bedroom for what felt (and probably was) the hundredth time.

Bed. Check.

Nightstand and lamp. Check.

Enormous bookshelves covering the walls. More books than he'd ever seen outside of his dad and Wes' office, let alone owned. Check. He'd even read them all, some multiple times.

He could remember all the words and recall them with ease. Some weren't even in English.

It scared him more than he could say so he continued his inventory.

Rug on the floor with his backpack in the corner near his chest of drawers that his television and various generations of Nintendo systems sat on. One of the controllers had come unfurled and fallen to the floor. The collection of DVDs and video games beside that. Check.

His desk with his laptop, printer, cassette tapes, and tape player. Check.

Band and movie posters covering nearly every inch of his walls not already hidden by shelves and books. Check.

It all meant nothing because it still didn't tell him anything about who or what he was.

Connor held in a sob and turned back to his dresser, seconds later slicing one of his wrists open only to watch his blood vessels and skin knit together with inhuman speed. Yesterday, he'd tried to break another bone (it would have only been his second, of course) on the skateboard now shoved out of sight underneath his bed.

That had been a failure, too. He'd been lectured for not wearing his helmet and pads at the skate park but he'd played his part, faking remorse when really it was only disappointment that his experiment in fatality had been a flaming failure.

Connor shivered, his eyes burning as he shut them against the tableau, not wanting to say it was real, but not wanting to call it a façade but knowing his life hadn't gone this way. Nothing had gone this way and he knew it.

He also knew he wanted to die but what it'd probably take to do it. Angel -- Dad -- he'd stopped Connor before he could, but Connor didn't even think he was wrong. Connor had intended to take so many people with him -- if his scythe wasn't buried, hidden in his closet and he didn't feel like he'd fall over if he stopped leaning on the dresser, he'd shove it into his stomach and save everyone the trouble.

That's all he knew he was anyway. Trouble.

"You're so wrong, baby, I've tried to tell you..."

Connor's head snapped up, his eyes wide, as his mother's shimmery form appeared in front of him, her hand immediately coming to cup his face and it was all Connor could do not to cry.

"You've tried to tell me so much, Mom, and...and what did I do? I ignored everything you said and killed her anyway -- for my own selfish -- "

"Shhh," Darla soothed, placing two fingers against his mouth even as he tried to hold back another sob. "It's okay, baby."

Connor's eyes widened, his incredulity at anything ever being 'okay' again made plain and Darla sighed.

"Sweetheart, the fact that you even made a mistake, no matter what, only proves just how mortal you are. You don't need to die again."

"So she just gets to stay dead -- I...God, Mom, I can't stop thinking about her. I just...I killed her. She was just a girl, just trying to go home, and it's not like I don't know what that feels like. And I killed her. I just snatched her off the street, I almost couldn't help myself -- " Connor laughed emptily. "Not that the part of me that could have, would have. I didn't care. I just killed her. You asked me what my excuse was. I didn't have one. We both know that."

"The thing posing as your father's best friend and your aunt, the thing who used you so mercilessly, so carelessly, killed her. You were just the tool in her hand."

Connor turned away, facing the mirror again, this time his face deadened. His mother didn't have a reflection. Some part of him was surprised, but most wasn't -- couldn't be.

"I let myself be used. I let it happen."

Darla frowned, biting her lip before speaking again. "If you wanted to go that route, your father's the one who let it happen -- but, even then, he was used just as you were. Your whole family were used and discarded like so much trash. I'm the only one who escaped and that's only because I'm dead and no longer on this plane. Incorporeal beings, especially those of great power, they have to possess anything in order to do anything on Earth. They consider it a curse, you and all you know should consider it a blessing."

Connor turned back around, completely confused, but not a little appalled. "A blessing? How -- Mom, what are you even talking about?"

Darla sighed, "Ask your father about the Senior Partners. Ask him about the Review -- the night you were conceived, they had one. Ask him about the Wolf, the Ram, and the Hart. Ask him about the ring and the glove. Even ask him about that stupid elevator if you want. He owes you answers I can't give. Just know that you wouldn't be here if they could just do as they pleased."

Connor almost yelled, but managed to restrain himself, instead only snarling, "It's a blessing that I'm here? Somehow, Mom, I doubt the family of that girl would agree with you."

Connor flinched as he felt a distinct stinging sensation on his cheek as Darla lowered her hand, now gasping for something approaching breath. She was noticeably more transparent.

"Don't you dare say that the best thing that ever happened to me, the only good thing your father and I ever did together, was a mistake, a desecration. Don't. You. Dare. We love you more than it's possible for either of us to articulate. My only wish is that I could hug you, raise you as my own. Your father would give anything to do the same and we don't regret you for a second.

"There are reasons, there's meaning in your existence, in what's happened. Your regret will keep you from making the same mistakes, even if your father's forced to repeat his again and again and again. The only reason I cannot is because I'm dead. Do you want that sort of easy way out? Where death is the only thing keeping you in line? You think you don't deserve any better than that? I'll never be able to undo my greatest mistake and part of me doesn't want to because it would mean you wouldn't be here."

Connor's hand fell away from his stinging cheek as he forgot about it and stared at his mother in confusion. "What do you mean, your greatest mistake?"

Darla gave Connor a watery smile as tears fell down her cheeks. "I killed your father. He was right, you know. I didn't pay him any favors."

Darla gave a laugh he could feel laden with hundreds of years of regret, none moreso than for Angel. "I damned him."

Darla took a deep breath and gave another laugh as more tears fell. "You were the instrument that ended a girl's life, it's true, but she's not here to remind you of that fact every single day. You didn't personally give a monster the keys to someone and tell them to have a fun ride. Most of all, you had no pride in what you were doing. Just desperation and loneliness. I didn't care about anything except myself until you came along. Your father -- countless souls have paid the price for my failure."

Darla's eyes hardened and she became more solid once more. "And if I could be saved, even now -- when I still owe your father the apology of a lifetime? That girl's life is both everything and nothing at all. She's fine, her soul is spotless. It's the ones connected to me that aren't. You make sure to remember that, too, my love."

Darla looked as though she wanted to say something else, but hesitated and simply said, "I'm sorry. I should have tried harder to make you understand...I should have tried harder to resist them. I'm sorry."

Connor was wholly confused now, his earlier pain forgotten. He could see Darla beginning to fade away and quickly moved to stop her, but -- of course -- his hand slid through thin air.

Backing away from where she'd stood, Connor slid down the front of his dresser, trying to figure it out.

"What were you talking about, Mom?"

Connor was tempted to get up, find his cell phone somewhere in the jackets hanging on the back of his door, and call Angel to try and find out what the hell all that meant. Instead, he scowled and decided that it was better to get rid of his anger altogether than to obsess over something his mother had seen fit to share with him.

Besides, she'd at least given him something else to think about for his trouble.