Title: Love’s True Face
Content: C/A, W/F, S/B implied
Summary: Someone’s trying to use Connor to kill Angel, and Cordelia has to come back from the dead to stop it.
Spoilers: “You’re Welcome”; minor mention of events post “You’re Welcome”
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: Anywhere, just let me know.
Notes: This is my take on what should’ve happened after Cordy “died.” Blecch. Can’t even say it without putting it in quotes. *sigh* You might want to remember that as far as Connor knows, he grew up normal in suburban America, so his way of speaking will be different than we saw in S3-4, at least at first. Don’t be surprised if you hear Connor use current “teenagery” phrases in this story.
Thanks/Dedication: To Lysa, whose great suggestions kept me from sinking in my own literary quicksand.
Feedback: Of course I want feedback!
Book I: Faith
I show you doubt, to prove that faith exists.
Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth.
Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.
Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Faith makes the discords of the present the harmonies of the future.
Life without faith in something is too narrow a space to live.
George Lancaster Spalding
Part 1 – San Francisco, CA
A silent figure watched from the shadows of the abandoned warehouse as her lover trained their protégé. Swords clinked against each other with a metallic harshness that should’ve made her grimace, but it didn’t. The sound merely increased her pleasure, their obvious skill soothing her need for reassurance.
The kid would do nicely.
The lover of the silent observer, Jace, caught an opening and tripped his opponent, sending him sprawling to the ground, the young man’s sword clattering out of reach. In an instant he was over him, his boot on the teen’s chest, sword at his throat. The smile on his face was the only indication that the young man’s life was not really in danger.
“You’re getting better, boy.” Jace’s voice reverberated off the dingy metal walls of the warehouse. Removing his boot from the young man’s chest, he reached down to help him up.
“Finally,” the young man said with a smirk. “I was starting to think I’d never beat you, ‘cause you’re pretty fast for an old fart. It was getting embarrassing.”
“Gee, thanks.” Jace’s tone was dry, but he cancelled out the sarcasm by clapping a hand on his young opponent’s back affectionately. “You’re turning into quite the superkid. You’d never know now that you haven’t always been so strong. You do me proud, Connor.”
“Thanks, Jace. I hope I can repay you someday for everything you’ve done for me.” He smiled widely at his mentor, then looked down and frowned at a smudge on his blade.
Jace’s eyes darkened a fraction and his jaw twitched. Connor was buffing the surface of his sword with his shirtsleeve and didn’t notice the dark cloud that flitted across his mentor’s face.
“I’m sure we can figure out something.” Jace’s voice was gruff as his grip tightened on Connor’s shoulder. “But you have to kick my ass first.”
Connor’s eyes came up to meet with his, a wide grin splitting his face. “No problem, old man,” he laughed, his sword sparkling once more and at the ready. “Your ass is grass.”
“We’ll see about that,” Jace said, the shadow on his face now replaced by the pure pleasure of battle as they fought again.
In the shadows, she smiled at the exchange. Connor would most definitely repay his mentor and his unseen benefactress. He would repay a higher price than he’d ever dreamed.
He would get an opportunity that few young men ever had: he would asked to kill his own father.
Part 2 –The afterlife
“Please? Pretty please with a cherry on top?” Cordy’s request, amazingly enough, was made without the hint of a whine, but David was annoyed by it nonetheless.
“Cordelia,” David’s deep voice was calm. “You know I can’t fulfill your request. Just like I couldn’t do it yesterday or every other day since you’ve been here.”
Shining with sudden tears, her face fell. “But he needs me, David, I know he does.”
Her guardian let his eyes soften a fraction while powerful arms stayed in place, crossed firmly over his chest. “That is of no consequence, little one, and you know it. The Powers have decided that you belong here, and he belongs there. There are no other options for you.”
When the tears didn’t work, she switched tactics again. Crossed arms in a mockery of his pose and a dramatic stamp of her foot made her look like an impatient four-year-old. “Enough with the overbearing big brother act, Davy. I’m getting really tired of waiting for you to come to your senses. You’re starting to make me angry.”
Marching up to him, she poked his formidable chest and placed a hand on her hip. “An angry Cordelia is not fun to be around, let me tell you.”
There was no doubt in David’s mind that her claim was true, but her threat fell on deaf ears. If he hadn’t been so annoyed, her little display would’ve made him chuckle. She glowed when she was angry, her eyes shooting sparks, and it had entertained him immensely to watch her like this at first.
But day after endless day, she came back to him, begging to be sent “home,” as she called it. Sent back to Angel. Back to the imperfect champion that she loved. Every damn day she begged him until she either stomped off in anger or broke down in tears. Occasionally, she would just look at him with sad eyes, then turn and walk away dejectedly, and those were the worst days of all. The days when his heart broke to watch her suffer. This was Heaven, for St. Peter’s sake. Couldn’t she just be happy?
“Can’t you just go to the Powers and tell them that I have to go back? Make up something? Please, David,” she begged, her hand reaching out to touch his elbow.
“I can’t, Cordelia. You belong here.”
“I hate it here!” she shouted, gesturing to the unearthly beautiful surroundings. The two of them stood in the softest of meadows, the colors of the wildflowers bright and cheerful, the mountains behind them snowcapped and sparkling, the stream wending nearby with its glittering waterfalls and silvery jumping fish. Cordy turned her nose up at it all as if it were nothing more than the destroyed remains of a war zone.
“I will leave this place, David, one way or another,” she said softly, and David’s eyes jerked to hers as he heard the threat in her voice.
“You wouldn’t let yourself get that far, Cordelia, you can’t.” Worry sent wrinkles into his smooth, agelessly handsome face.
She shook her head sadly. “I can. You yourself told me what happens to heavenly beings when they give up hope. When they don’t enjoy being here.”
A terse nod was her only acknowledgement that David had heard her.
David’s mind was in turmoil. He’d told her the truth, hoping it would scare her into putting her life behind her and move on to starting her afterlife in peace. But instead, his words had given her a sense of strength, of power. It had given her a bargaining chip, because, annoyed as he was, he loved her and would do anything to keep her from disappearing. Do anything to keep her from sinking through the floor of heaven and into the depths of hell.
“You told me that when spirits give up hope, they are cast into the other place, doomed to torment for ignoring their gift.”
Looking away from her, he set his mouth in a grim line.
With the finesse of a courtroom lawyer, she continued to press her point. “I come here every day to beg you, David, because I see something in your eyes that gives me hope. That maybe, someday, if I push hard enough, you’ll go to bat for me and get me back where I belong. Back with the man I love more than anything else, even myself.”
A deep breath shook her before she continued. “But you’re starting to make me doubt you, Davy. You’re starting to make me think that you’ll never give in, and that makes me want to disappear. This,” she said, gesturing at the paradise around them, “is torture already. Being here without him and exchanging it for eternal torment in a slightly hotter place wouldn’t be all that much different.”
Jolted by her determination, he panicked for a moment. She didn’t really mean it. Did she?
Turning to look at her finally, he walked over to her and placing his big hands on her shoulders. Magnificent wings unfurled behind him and glistened in the sunlight. “I don’t have that kind of power, little one, and you know that.”
Her hands came up to encircle his wrists, squeezing. “But you know who does. And you can talk to them for me.” Her voice broke as her eyes filled with tears again. “Please, David. Please!”
An uncertain look passed over David’s face, and Cordelia pressed her point, eager for the opening. “I need him, David, and he needs me. We didn’t have enough time. We barely even said how we felt about each other, and then I was gone. You don’t understand him, David. Without me, he’ll go all dark and wonky. And without him, I don’t exist. I can’t exist. Not without knowing what we could’ve had.”
David wanted to ask her why she’d agreed to being released from her visions in the first place, but she’d already answered him weeks ago. She’d said that she thought it was for the best. That Angel could get on without her and that he didn’t really love her. But then at the end she’d kissed him, and she realized what a huge mistake she was making. But by then it was too late. She’d already made the deal and now she was stuck.
He squeezed her shoulders before releasing her. Stepping back, he gave her a wry smile. “I’ll see what I can do.”
David barely got the words out before he was nearly knocked over by a lunging Cordelia. Her arms wrapped around him, face pressed to his chest as her tears soaked the front of his gossamer tunic.
“Thank you,” she said through her tears. “Thank you.”
“I can’t promise anything, Cordelia,” David warned. “But I’ll try.”
“That’s enough, for now,” she said, pulling back. “Just let me know who else I can annoy, and I’ll see that it’s done.”
A groan of dread escaped him. God help them all if she actually figured out how to contact his superiors. Heaven would never be the same again.
Part 3 – Wolfram & Hart
“Angel! Will you please pay attention?”
The annoyance in Wesley’s tone made Angel jump, as if he’d been startled to hear the other man speak. The only thing that had changed from the moment before was the volume of Wesley’s voice.
“Sorry, Wes, I guess I’m just preoccupied.” The vampire wouldn’t meet Wesley’s eyes. “What was it again?”
Wesley sighed, closing his notes and gathering his books together. “It’s not that important, Angel. Obviously, you aren’t able to concentrate right now.”
“No!” Angel stood up and walked around the conference table to stand next to him. “I can do it. Just start over again. I promise I’ll pay attention.”
Wesley shook his head. “Angel, we’ve had this conversation nearly every day for months now. And every day, you do the same thing.” Running his fingers through his short hair, he sighed again. “Losing her hit all of us hard, Angel. But we managed to move on.”
Angel growled at this, his hands clenching at his sides as Wesley’s insensitive comment hit him in a weak spot. “You weren’t in love with her, Wesley,” Angel said menacingly. “What if Fred had been the one to die like this?”
Wesley’s face whitened at the thought. They’d almost lost Fred, just recently. She’d almost opened a sarcophagus that would have—God, even now, he couldn’t think about it without shivering in fright. Thank God he’d been there. If he hadn’t—
“I see your point,” Wesley finally said reluctantly. He wouldn’t trade his new love with Fred for the world. He’d already wasted so much time worrying about it, just like Angel and Cordelia had done. But at least he and Fred could live out their feelings. Angel and Cordy couldn’t. Not anymore.
“I’ll try to save my depression for off-work hours, okay?” Angel said bitterly, sinking back down into a chair. He ran a hand over his face, rubbing the space between his eyebrows. “I just can’t forget about her, Wes. I loved her so much more than I ever thought I did, and I didn’t realize it until—” his voice broke.
“You just need time, Angel. Time to get over her. Time to heal.”
“I’ll never get over her. Never.” He refused to. She didn’t deserve to be forgotten. “But I’ll try to get on with my life.” He looked up at him determinedly. “I will.”
Part 4 – San Francisco
They were after him.
Big, horrible monsters, their faces contorted in evil glee, their fangs dripping blood as they lunged for him. He looked down at himself, caught off-guard for a moment at the sight of his body clothed in animal skins, but recovered quickly as the first creature sprang at him. He held his knife tightly in his hand, stabbing and jabbing, until the creature howled in pain and rage. He moved, with superhuman speed and strength, until he had reduced his opponents to dust.
“Well done, son.”
The voice came from behind him, punctuated by clapping.
He felt himself straightening up, then turning to face the old man behind him. “I am glad you are pleased, father.”
“You are ready to face Angelus, boy.”
Connor’s dream self shook at the thought. “I will make you proud.” His shoulders squared as he straightened up.
“Of course you will.” The old man’s face was determined. “Angelus will suffer, and you will see to it that he is destroyed.”
Something deep within his real self rebelled at the thought, but Connor pressed it down.
Suddenly, a light flashed and he was somewhere else, in a store of some kind. He felt undeniable rage and sadness, anger and pain, course through him. He looked down, his hand holding an explosive detonator. Around him, people trembled, whimpering, explosives attached to their bodies. Almost against his will, he turned and saw her, her body strapped with explosives. He felt love for her, desire for her, pain at her rejection.
And then hewas there.
His father. His real father, not the old man that had raised him. This was the father that he loathed and loved all in the same breath. The father that had given him life but had lost him. The father that had unintentionally confused him, had taken away his sense of identity even as his surrogate father manipulated him with his staged death. God, he was so confused. He hurt so badly that he just wanted to end it all. End his very existence until he was no more.
“Connor? Son?” His father’s voice penetrated the pain for a moment, then increased it. He pushed a button on the device in his hand and something behind his father exploded. Everyone jumped, and a girl in the group of hostages began to cry softly.
“You might not want to move. Everyone’s rigged. Can’t save ’em all, dad. Don’t know who’s gonna be first. Could be any one of ’em.” Connor looked down, noticing for the first time that he, too, was wired with explosives. “Could be me. Could be her,” he said, pointing to the young woman who meant so much to both of them.
The next few minutes were a blur, all pain and emotion as he and his father talked, then fought. In another instant, Connor was on his back, his thigh burning, his father poised above him.
“I really do love you, Connor.” His father’s face was sad.
“So what are you going to do about it?” Connor said, almost beside himself.
“Prove it.” His father’s hand raised, a knife glinting in the light, then descending in a deadly arc toward his son’s throat.
Connor’s mouth opened on a scream, the sound filling the night.
Connor shot up in bed, panting, his body covered in sweat. He raised his hands to his forehead, rocking back and forth, trying to calm himself. It was a dream. Just a dream. It had to be a dream.
So why did it feel so real?