Early August 2002
It took over a week of searching and greasing hesitant informants' palms to find his son. He had done little but sleep and search. He had spent two nights staking out the abandoned warehouse that served as his son's home. As far as he could tell, Connor lived alone. He wondered where Justine had disappeared to.
On the third night of surveillance he got out of his Plymouth and walked toward the warehouse.
"I knew you'd come."
"I had to."
"You shouldn't have. I don't want you in my life."
Angel turned in the direction of Connor's voice, facing his son. The last time they had seen one another, before he had been tricked, he had thought there was hope for them. He doubted that now. All he could hope for was to convince Connor that he had not killed Holtz.
"I just want some of your time. I have something to show you. If you still don't want me in your life after you've seen it I'll respect your wishes."
"You can't make me."
"I know I can't make you. I'm not going to make you. I'm asking you to come with me. Where's Justine?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know?"
"No, she's been gone for a while now. I lost track of time, sometime after that night."
That did not surprise Angel. If Justine did what Angel suspected, he did not doubt for one minute that she had disappeared as soon as she could without arousing suspicion. "And you don't find that odd?"
"No, not really." Angel saw the look of doubt that crossed Connor's face before he masked it. Angel had scored a point whether Connor wanted to admit it or not.
"You may think I have no right to ask you to come with me, but your mother would want you to see what I have to show you."
"Don't bring her into this."
"Why? She gave her life for yours, Connor. She loved you that much that she drove a stake through her own heart so that you would live. I promised to take care of you."
"Fine job you did of keeping that promise."
"I had no control over what Wesley did. I would never have harmed you."
"Well, you did. You killed Holtz."
"I didn't," Angel shook his head and shrugged. "Just come with me, son."
"You have no right to call me that," he said, but Angel noticed he was walking toward him and the Plymouth. "This better not be a trick."
"Why would I need to trick you?"
"Your slayer girlfriend might have changed her mind about killing me."
"Buffy's not my girlfriend and she would never kill a human."
"She said I wasn't human." He had such a disparaging tone to his voice Angel almost felt sorry for the kid. He realized he had to be confused, particularly if Justine left without telling him why or even where she was going. He couldn't see Connor staying in LA on his own with no one.
Angel shrugged. "I guess we don't really know what you are, but you're not evil."
"You don't know that. I'm the product of two vampires."
"Two vampires with souls. I have a soul. Your mother gained the benefits of yours while she was pregnant with you."
"But before she was pregnant with me."
"She was one of the worst, just as I was. Our bloodline, it's one of the worst I don't deny that."
"Did you love her?"
"Can I answer that in the car?"
Connor tilted his head, regarding Angel and finally nodded. "I suppose. I didn't have anything else to do tonight anyway."
Angel got in, grateful for the extra time he gained to answer Connor's question. It was easy for Connor to think of things in black and white, perhaps he saw some fuzzy gray lines but things were pretty cut and dried for him. He was not evil and had a soul. Therefore, he did not understand the feelings, or lack of them, that came with being a soulless evil being.
They sat in silence for a moment as Angel started the car and shifted it into reverse, backing out of the alley.
"Your mother suited me when we were both evil and on a path of destruction."
"But did you love her?"
"Not in the way you probably think of love." He thought of what and how he felt for Buffy. What he felt for Darla did not come close, but he was willing to die for her. He cared for her deeply and they made Connor. That was something he would never forget.
"So, that's a no."
"I wish I could make you understand somehow, Connor." He shook his head then. "No, I don't. I like that you have no idea what it is like to succumb to the power and lust that comes with being a vampire."
"I've seen it."
"But you've never felt it. It's not the same. I didn't have the capacity to love before I was turned. I was shallow, chasing any skirt that came my way. My idea of a good day was squandering more of my father's money in the sleaziest way possible. Your mother saw that about me and identified with it. Together, we were ruthless."
"I got my soul and I couldn't do it anymore. I fed on humans but only enough to sustain me. I couldn't kill and I couldn't watch her kill innocents," he shrugged. "Spike and Dru were with us and the three of them eventually went on their way. I didn't see your mother again for nearly one hundred years."
"Yes. How did you know that?"
"You're not the only one who has contacts in this city."
Angel smiled. Connor was collecting information about him and that was good. It meant he was thinking about him. And maybe, just maybe he was starting to see through the fog that Holtz's lies created around him.
"But by then you'd met Buffy."
"Well, it wasn't even that. She was still killing. She was working for the Master, trying to get me back into the fold. If I had started killing with a soul they figured they'd have me for good. She tried to convince me I was no different than they were. I think when she was pregnant with you she understood that I am different. A soul, it's not something you think much about but it's a pesky thing."
They had arrived at their destination by this time and Angel shut the car down. "I cared about your mother, Connor. I loved her in the way a vampire can love. I'm not sure that answers your question, or is the answer you wanted to hear."
"Would you kill her again?"
"Yes. I heard you had to kill her to save Buffy."
"That's true. And, yes, I'd do it again."
"Because you loved Buffy?"
"Because Darla was trying to kill a human, Connor."
"A human you loved."
"Yes, but that didn't matter."
"Why didn't you try to stop her before then?"
"I was plagued by guilt, Connor. Over one hundred years of bad deeds were suddenly on my conscience and I couldn't live with myself. I barely kept myself alive, fed on rats and worse, just to keep enough blood in me. I was weak so couldn't have done anything anyway."
"We're here." Angel hoped that was the end of their heart-to-heart discussion for the night. He did not mind opening up to Connor if it would get him his son back, but he was not sure that was possible just yet.
Connor joined him at the trunk of his Plymouth and Angel handed him a shovel before taking the second one for himself.
"What are we doing here exactly?"
"Excavating," Angel said simply.
"What are we excavating?" Connor asked as they approached the site.
Angel's eyes met Connor's steadily. "What do you think?"
"No, you can't make me dig him up."
"But if I killed him, if I took his blood he won't even be here. We'd be digging up an empty coffin. Don't you want to know?"
"He wouldn't be here only if you gave him blood."
"And if I killed him, Connor. If I gave into my bloodlust for the first time in over a century with my soul intact don't you think it would be poetic justice if I turned him in the process? If you know anything about me, how ruthless I am without my soul you know that I wouldn't have just killed him. You also know that I would not have left a clue so blatant as holes in his neck for anyone to find."
Angel stuck the tip of his shovel into the ground. "I don't know about you, but I want to find out if he's in there."
Connor dropped his shovel, his eyes wide as he stared at Angel. He appeared shocked Angel was really going to do this. "You can't. It's wrong."
"He's dead, Connor, he won't know. You can't stop me."
"No, but I don't have to stand here and watch you do it."
"Go on then," Angel said as he placed his foot on the edge of the shovel and scooped up his first load of dirt and grass. It wasn't a cemetery. He would never have known where to find Holtz's body, but he had followed Justine and saw her come here more than once. The flowers on this spot had informed him of where Holtz was.
Connor fled and Angel stopped shoveling. He had made the young man think, call into question that which he had been led to believe until now. The fact he had been asking questions about Angel before tonight suggested he was beginning to have some doubts before tonight. He had not sought Angel out, though, so he doubted he had formed an opinion on what he had learned yet.
He was not sure if Connor was going to come back tonight or not, but digging Holtz up held no appeal to him if Connor was not there to see for himself Holtz's body was there.
Angel headed back to his car. The sun was about an hour away from rising and he could not wait any longer for Connor to return. He had taken a gamble and apparently his cards had exceeded twenty-one. He returned the shovels to his trunk and looked around the area for any sign Connor was hiding nearby.
He wasn't expecting to instantly have a father-son relationship with Connor. He wasn't even expecting them to be friends. What he did want was to have a better relationship with his son than he and his father had. It would not take much to improve on that.
"I'll get it," Buffy called out to Dawn and Xander. She was about to head out for patrol so was at the door anyway. The smile on her face froze and turned instantly to panic at the sight of him on her door. "Angel," she whispered.
"He's fine. I left him in LA earlier unstaked. If he's dead it's not my fault."
"What do you want?"
"To talk to you."
"I've been thinking that maybe I don't have all the facts. I don't know that I can get them from him. My father, Holtz I mean, is dead so I can't get them from him. And I'm beginning to wonder if he knew the truth or just his own twisted version of it."
Buffy hesitated. Could she trust him? If she sent him away and her not talking to him prevented him from giving Angel a chance she would never forgive herself. It was so obvious Angel wanted Connor in his life. Could she stand in the way of that? "Okay," she said realizing she couldn't stand the thought of being the thing that kept Angel from getting what he wanted. "I was about to do my nightly patrol. You can wait here, or you can keep me company and walk with me while I work."
"I'll come with you."
"Have you killed vamps?"
She walked to her weapons chest and took out a couple extra stakes for him. "This is going to be a working chat. You walk with me I'll expect you to work, but not get in my way. If I say stake, you stake. If I say back off, you back off. Got it?"
"Yes." He gave her one of the most charming smiles she had ever seen and nodded his head.
"Okay then, let's go."
"Buffy, I thought you were leaving."
"On my way right now."
"Um," Buffy said, biting her lip as she looked from her sister to Angel's son and back again.
"I'm Connor," he said and extended his hand.
Dawn took the offered hand and Buffy could see the hint of a blush on her little sister's cheeks. "It's nice to meet you, I'm Dawn." Buffy shook her head at the questioning glance Dawn gave her. She would answer her questions later when she had answers to give her.
"Be careful. See you later."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com