A full day had passed since Fred and Gunn appeared at Connor's apartment, jumpstarting confessions, and stirring memories long repressed and likely preferably buried. Night had now fallen and the young vampire hybrid found himself standing on the roof of his building, certain he was in for a visit from the friendly neighborhood Vampire with a Soul. He leaned against the railing that prevented him from toppling down onto the street far below and gazed at the surrounding city, waiting for his father (always waiting).
Dawn had gone to bed hours earlier, before it had even gotten dark. Already requiring quite a bit more sleep than him, she recently spent most of her time in bed. She tired easily and the headaches she was plagued with made her disconcertingly weak. He worried while she simply laughed and called him 'Mother.' She was oblivious to what was happening to her, but Connor had his suspicions. If the signs and symptoms of anemia weren't obvious enough, his senses alerted him well enough to the same conclusion. He needed to buy her iron supplements.
He knew he was responsible.
It wasn't something they talked about. He was ashamed of himself for it (as it was yet another thing to add to the long list of reasons he should hate himself), and he had a feeling she too held no small amount of shame. The nature of their intimacy was strange and unclear territory. His reactions to her confused and often horrified him. They were primitive. It went beyond that, though.
The biting, the blatant drinking (guzzling at times, if he was being honest with himself) of her blood, the borderline violence...
He hadn't had any sexual relationships (or relationships of any kind) before Dawn, but he realized theirs was something far from normal. Apart of him, the part that abhorred all things unnatural (especially himself), reared and screamed. Shouted, in a voice that was unnervingly similar to that of Daniel Holtz, that he was a demon. Spat bible verses at him ("These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life! Not you, Steven...because of them. Abominations are to be punished, so saith the Lord, Almighty God!"). The bastard offspring of two beasts that brought forth an unspeakable evil; himself.
His parentage was affecting him in some way. Had to be. A large part of him had always been strongly influenced by the demon genes he inherited from his parents, but he'd always been able to push it so far down that he hardly even acknowledged it was there. The strength, combative skills, quick healing, and high resistance to injury were things he honed to be apart of himself; the abilities he used every day to stay alive. He was entirely unprepared for the more carnal aspects of his demonic ancestry.
It was ridiculously primal and exhausting and—
Dawn was his. Why should he not mark her? The monster in him that had aggressively submerged from the pit of sludge and obscene filth he kept buried deep rankled and snarled at the thought.
'Yours...Fuck her, take her, claim her.'
He shuddered. The thoughts that burst forth unsettled him, left a dark feeling he wished he could scrub away, though he was beginning to see the appeal of them. It wasn't as if Dawn minded. In fact, she seemed to relish in being possessed by someone. He wasn't yet sure if it had anything to do with him being the possessor or if anyone would suffice. Maybe it was something she needed and she just lucked out that he was the freak that stopped that coward from assaulting her that night, starting their complicated and admittedly oftentimes iniquitous relationship. Sometimes their love was as dark as it was bright.
He cocked his head slightly. "Not going to say anything?"
Of course, Connor knew the exact moment he was no longer alone. The strange connection with his father meant it was difficult for the vampire to genuinely surprise him. His nerves refused to allow him to turn and face him, though.
Angel cleared his throat. "I...I was trying to gather the courage. You beat me to it," he replied. From the corner of his eye, he saw the older male move to stand next to him. He reluctantly shifted his full attention on him.
The vampire looked decidedly better than he did when last he saw him. Thankfully, the effects of the captivity and subsequent starvation weren't permanent. If they were, Connor would feel a hell of a lot worse than he already did.
"South L.A, huh? Your building is," Angel hesitated, "um, it's nice."
With an undignified snort, Connor replied, "Haven't heard it quite described like that." He turned, leaning his back against the railing and crossing his arms over his chest. He stared down at his shoes. "But I can afford it, which is kind of nice. Beats a park bench." When the vampire winced he quickly shook his head. "I didn't mean it like that—"
"I wouldn't blame you if you did," said Angel. "I should never have kicked you out of the hotel, Connor. It was wrong. I knew it from the moment you walked out the door." He sighed and faced his son fully. "I've been looking for you since the week you left. For months. I tried everything. But it was like you fell off the face of the earth. I," he paused and ran a hand through his hair, "I was so worried. I thought...I thought..."
The unspoken words hung between them. 'I thought you were dead,' he'd meant to say. Connor thought perhaps it would have been better that way. If he'd done what he wanted to all those months ago ('Just jump off the fucking bridge down onto the highway, Connor, maybe you'll finally stop thinking and hurting, just do it, do it, do it!'). But then there wouldn't be any Dawn and Connor. There might not even be a Dawn. He quickly struck that from his mind. Nothing good would come from that line of thought.
"How did you find me?" Connor asked after a moment of awkward silence.
"A friend of mine is a pretty talented witch. It took her awhile and I owe her a favor or two now but she narrowed your location down to a few places. I didn't think you'd be in South L.A., that's for sure." He narrowed his eyes. "How did you stay so hidden? I tried everything and everyone I knew before I contacted Willow. She said the magicks cloaking you were extensive, not to mention powerful." Connor had the grace to avoid the vampire's eyes. "Did you do it?" He had asked hesitantly, knowing full well his son's disdain of magic.
"Um, well," he huffed out a nervous laugh, "let's just say you're not the only one who owes someone a favor." He cringed, readying himself for the inevitable backlash. He was not disappointed.
"Damn it, Connor," Angel growled. "Who?" He pushed away from the railing and began to pace. Connor rolled his eyes. "What was the favor?"
"What...that psychotic shaman from the Brujería!? Connor!" His father went into full panic mode. "What did you do for him?!"
"Nothing yet. Drama Queen," he replied with an eye roll. "I didn't chain someone up and send them to the bottom of the ocean, if that's what you're wondering."
Despite his best efforts, Angel couldn't help but grin at his son's attitude. He was acting, dare he think it, like a regular teenager. It was so different than the Connor from months ago that was so visibly unhappy and bogged down with the weight of Quor'toth and the pain of a lifetime spent with a heart full of hatred.
He sighed. "Okay. We'll just deal with it later, I guess." Another long, awkward silence passed between them, though it was Angel who broke it this time. "How are you?"
Connor looked at him sharply. The sincerity in the inquiry choked him and he had to clear his throat before replying. "Um...better." He inhaled a shuddering breath. "Listen, Dad," his voice wavered, "I need to say...I need to tell you I'm s-sorry..."
"Connor, you don't—"
"No, please, just...Man, please let me do this," he sighed. "What I did was less out of hate for you and had a lot more to do with me. I don't know how to begin to make it up...how to give you those months back. But I'll do," he swallowed thickly, "I'll do whatever you want. But I can't stand you hating me." Before he could stifle the horrible, raw sobs, they tumbled from his mouth, accompanied by hot tears that made him feel like he was drowning. He couldn't breathe. He gasped. "Not..not when you were the only one who ever...gave me a chance."
Angel circled him in his arms. Connor tried to stop shaking, but it was a lost cause. His attempts only made him shudder more violently. He clutched two handfuls of the back of the vampire's jacket and cried into his shoulder.
"I'm so tired of hating myself," he ground out, not knowing why. "So tired."
The older man pulled away from him but kept his hands on his shoulders. He had no idea what to say, didn't know the best thing to comfort his son. Didn't know if he needed comforting, or if maybe his simply being present was a comfort in itself.
"I don't, nor could I ever, hate you, Son," Angel said. The younger male pulled out of the embrace and swiped a hand across his face. "Come back to the hotel," the vampire blurted out.
Connor looked at him sharply. It was the last thing he thought he'd hear. He half expected the vampire to be fixing him with a look of exasperation, demanding he come back to the Hyperion so he would stay out of trouble. But the only thing he saw was an intensity that scared him. His father was serious. Could he possibly want him to come back because he actually wanted him there?
He opened his mouth, fully intending to reply, but his throat closed up. He gaped for a moment before shaking his head. "I can't. My...I mean I have...there's..."
"You mean the girl?" Angel had the grace to smile sheepishly at his son's inquiring look. "Gunn and Fred told me. And, uh...Well, I can smell...sense it." He shrugged.
The teenager nodded absently. He had become so accustomed to his girlfriend's scent on his person that he forgot how he must smell to other creatures. "Yeah. Dawn and I live here. I won't just leave her." He stepped back and Angel's arms fell limply to his sides. "She's mine." He wasn't sure why he felt the need to declare it at the moment, though he did so without thinking. It seemed imperative that the vampire should know that the girl belonged to him. He almost laughed when he thought of what she would say if she were here ('Christ, Connor, Susan B. Anthony is rolling in her grave right now, you know that?').
"I understand," Angel replied slowly, looking deeply into his eyes. Connor had a striking thought that, yes, he really might. "So both of you will come to the hotel," he said matter-of-factly.
Seeing lingering reluctance in his son's expression, he hastily added, "This isn't exactly the safest neighborhood for her. Where would she be better protected than at the Hyperion? And I'm assuming she knows all about our world and what we do, considering...your," he cleared his throat, "relationship."
For a long moment Connor contemplated the affects that moving to the hotel would have on Dawn. The atmosphere was certainly better, she wouldn't be as isolated as she was here, but she had grown so used to the apartment. She liked the shabby nook of a space. Adored it. Would she be happy in the large, open space of the Hyperion?
"Fine," he replied. "I'll ask her. But if she doesn't want to, I'm with her, Dad. Always with her."
Angel cleared his throat. "So...you guys are, uh, pretty serious, huh?"
Connor glowered at him. "Don't be weird," he said, playfully elbowing him. Inside, he was bursting with questions ('Why do I crave blood like an addict? Why do I feel the need to claim Dawn every time we do...anything!? Why do I feel like a fucking caveman?!'). Instead, he stared at his shoes in a likely obvious ploy to avoid Angel's eyes. He wasn't quite ready for a heart-to-heart with Daddy Dearest.
"Fred and Cordelia will be glad to have another lady in the house."
He jolted. "Cordelia?"
"Yeah, she's living there now, too," Angel replied.
"You found her?! Where was she? Is she okay?"
"Of course she's okay, why..." Suddenly, it dawned on him that the teenager hadn't known of the demoness's return just days after he himself had been found. "God, I'm sorry, Connor. I should've told you earlier," he said. "She was taken by the Powers That Be and ascended to a higher plane."
Connor's face screwed up in confusion. "What the fu—"
"Hey, hey," Angel said admonishingly, though still smiling. "She's a higher being now. Her status...the things she knows...I don't know, it's amazing. But she's still the same old Cordy. The first thing she did when she got back was yell at me for...for what I did. Making you leave."
The teenager stared past his father's shoulder, his eyes hardening. A cold, gray something washed over him and suddenly he felt like he did before. "So that's why you're asking me to come back," he said in a flat voice. Angel stepped closer to him, but he shook his head, freezing the vampire in his tracks. "Because Cordelia told you to."
"No, Connor, I've wanted you to come back since that day! I was going out of my mind when we couldn't find you."
Connor shook his head. "Sure," he said dismissively. With a shake of his head, he turned away.
Angel grabbed his shoulder and whirled him around. "Stop. I get it, okay? You're scared—"
"I'm not afraid of anything!"
"You are scared of letting yourself believe that someone might actually care about you! Well, that's tough, Kid, because I'm here and I'm telling you right now...I care about you."
He stared at the vampire for a long time. It was eerily silent save for the blood rushing in his ears. His eyes burned, his throat was raw, and he felt like he was going to empty the contents of his stomach, but despite all this—Connor smiled. The conviction in his father's voice was impossible to miss. He thought that maybe he was a bit scared. Would that be so bad? His entire life he had been forced to be this seemingly brave warrior. Perhaps he was allowed to be scared. Just this once. "Okay," he murmured.
Months ago, Dawn had said everything would be okay. He was becoming dangerously close to believing her.
I apologize, this was a bit rough. Thank you to everyone who has reviewed. Chapter five should be out soon.