Loves True Face. 53-56

Part 53

Angel stared at his son, his mouth suddenly dry and his mind without words. There was so much to say to Connor just five minutes ago, but when faced with his actual presence, Angel lost everything like sand falling through a sieve. All he could do was stand there, his muscles tightened with nervousness, and drink in the sight of Connor.

He looked okay, if physical appearances were any indication. Angel could find no bruises marring Connor’s skin, no cuts or scrapes alerting him to Connor’s blood. Just about to finally relax and go with the assumption that Connor was okay, Angel met his son’s eyes. In that instant, everything changed.

Connor’s eyes were emotionless.

It was as if the sunlight in the young man he’d met a few days ago had been completely eclipsed by the darkness of Connor’s old persona. There were ghosts in his eyes, haunting, heavy ghosts that visibly weighed Connor down. He blinked stoically at Angel, his arms crossed over his chest as he stared his father down. There was a flash of softness there for a moment, an almost-smile that tugged at the corner of his mouth, and then it was gone like the sun disappearing behind stormy clouds.

The façade Connor presented at that very moment was one he should’ve had only for Jace and Eve. He was here with his father, with Cordy. With people he could trust and relax around. And yet there was a mistrust about him, a wariness that clung to him.

Spike’s words from last night suddenly rushed back to haunt Angel: “I think they’re getting to him.”

Instantly agitated, Angel crossed his arms over his chest, clenching his hands into fists. It scared him, the apathy in his son’s gaze. The abject surrender to his circumstances. Connor’s whole demeanor reminded Angel of a spirited animal that had been broken and was being molded into its trainer’s ideal killer.

Eve’s ideal killer.

Angel’s face darkened as these thoughts ran through his mind. He straightened, his jaw tightening in determination. Jace and Eve were messing with Conno’rs head, and that was unacceptable. No one was going to steal his son from him again. Not if he had anything to say about it.

A small hand gripped Angel’s arm and he relaxed slightly. Looking down into Cordelia’s concerned face, Angel tried to wipe the fury from his eyes and push the negativity away. He must’ve been somewhat successful, because Cordy gave him a small smile and turned to the young man across from them.

“Hi, Connor,” she said softly, a smile on her face. “We’ve missed you.”

Connor just stared at her for a moment, then nodded almost imperceptibly. “I don’t have much time. Jace wanted to stop by later tonight and spend some ‘quality time’ together, whatever the hell that means.”

Spike snorted indelicately on Cordy’s other side, lighting up his cigarette and leaning against a post in the dim warehouse where they were meeting. “So what does the evil bitch have planned?”

A shrug was his only answer at first. “I told you before that she had someone to break through your security at Wolfram & Hart. She plans to have her sorcerer cast his spells tomorrow night on the full moon. She’ll want to strike sometime right after, but she hasn’t said yet. I think she’ll want to do it soon, though. Like in a couple of days.”

Angel finally spoke, his deep voice echoing in the large space. “So she’s just going to get rid of our perimeter defenses and march into my office?”

The bottomless eyes of his son stared unblinkingly back into his. “She wants the three of us to come into your office, weapons out, and for me to subdue you. She says she has a sword of some kind that neutralizes vampires, kind of like a poison.”

“Wes should know where to look,” Cordy said, the tremor in her voice indicating her worry.

Angel only nodded. “Okay, so we’ll figure out how to counteract the weapon. Do you know what it’s supposed to do? If it has a name?”

Suddenly, Connor had the uneasy feeling that he’d shared too much. He recoiled at the idea that he’d given his father key information about their attack, and that very reaction confused him even more. He wanted his father dead. Yet he didn’t. His head ached with the conflict tearing through him.

The sword was called the Blade of Nefyra, an ancient weapon that had been infused with mystical power. It was supposed to affect the blood of a vampire, increasing sensitivity to pain and preventing feeding of any kind. It also caused almost complete immobility, but not paralysis. The vampire couldn’t move but could feel even the barest of sensations.

While thinking, Connor had stared at Angel for so long that everyone thought he wouldn’t answer. Finally he shrugged. “I don’t know any more.”

That wasn’t true, but it made Connor feel better. At least he’d managed to keep one secret.

“We’ll be ready anyway,” Angel said.

“Maybe we shouldn’t even do this at all,” Spike said, standing away from the column and dropping his cigarette butt to the floor, grinding it beneath his heels.

“What do you mean? We can’t just let her get away with this.”

“No, that’s not what I meant.” Spike looked away and wouldn’t meet Angel’s eyes. “Maybe you should just do what you did with Lindsay. Get the Senior Partners to suck her up and deal with her themselves.”

Angel shook his head stubbornly, his face a hard mask. “No. The partners can’t be trusted to get rid of her. She’ll find someway to escape and then we’ll have to deal with this all over again. I want Connor to be away from her and safe.”

Connor stood up from the wall he’d been slouching against. “If that’s it, I should go.”

“There’s nothing else you need to tell us?” Cordy asked softly, reaching out to touch his arm.

He shrugged away from her as if uncomfortable with her nearness. “No. I told you everything I know already. And I don’t know what day, exactly, so there’s not much else to say.”

“Okay, then,” she answered, feeling awkward. “We love you, Connor. Be safe.”

He just nodded, stealing a quick glance at Angel’s closed expression before darting out the door and into the night.

Cordy sighed into the darkness when he left. “I’m worried about him.”

“You should be,” Spike said, frowning. “Something’s changed in him. The kid I saw crying into his pillow a couple of nights ago wasn’t in this warehouse just now. That was somebody else.”

Angel stared off into the doorway where Connor had disappeared moments before. “That was the old Connor,” he said emotionlessly.

“Not all of him.” Cordy tried to argue. “He’s not going to betray you, Angel. I know it.”

Angel didn’t answer her, nor did he meet her eyes. All he would do was turn and walk out into the night, a silent, troubled warrior who knew that there was a good chance his only child would turn him to dust.

Part 54

Eve paced the dimly lit interior of Connor’s apartment living room. Agitation radiated off her like heat waves, rippling and melting anything that got too close. Jace stood off to the side, his mouth set in a grim line, arms crossed over his powerful chest as he leaned far away from her against the wall.

“I’ll kill the little prick,” Eve hissed, her fists clenching at her sides as she stopped in the middle of the room, shaking in her anger. “I knew we couldn’t trust him. I knew it!”

Jace frowned at the intensity of her fury. “Baby, we don’t know for sure what’s going on. Maybe we should let him explain. Besides, we need him, remember?”

Whirling around to face him, Eve’s eyes flashed fire. “He was seen with Angel, Jace. Angel! How the hell Connor knows about him, I don’t know, but he’s screwing us over. I can feel it.”

Jace just shook his head. “Relax, Eve. You’ll hurt yourself. And we need him. I don’t think we can do this without him.”

“Hello!” she screeched, throwing her hands up in exasperation, turning away from him and stalking across the room. “I have you. Super guy, remember? Now that you’ve got the blood of a vampire in your veins, you can kick Angel’s ass if you have to.”

“Then why did you get Connor in the first place?”

Eve looked at him like he’d sprouted another head. “This is Angel’s son, Jace. Don’t you get it?” Her eyes turned misty, her voice dropping to an impassioned whisper. “I can just imagine it. Connor with the dagger at Angel’s throat, stabbing him. Then when he can’t move, Connor taunts him and dusts him.”

The feral gleam in her eyes sent a cold chill up Jace’s spine.

Whirling around, she faced Jace. “It’s the perfect revenge. Angel killed by the one person he most wants to love him. That’s why I need him, smartass. But now, everything is all screwed up. He’s a traitor!”

“You’re not talking about me, are you?”

Connor’s voice made Eve jump, stumbling as she tried to right herself. Her eyes narrowed as she looked him up and down, scanning his frame as if she expected him to whip out a machine gun and kill her on the spot.

She pointed to an armchair nearby. “Sit!”

A frown greeted her as Connor made no move to follow her order.

“Sit!” she screeched, the storm clouds brewing on her face making Connor jump, then do as she asked.

“Jeez,” he said sullenly. “What the hell is this, the Inquisition? Who put a swarm of bees in your panties?”

Tremors wracked Eve’s frame, the fury making her face red. “Shut up, you little brat. We saw you tonight. We saw you with HIM!”

Connor stared her down. “So?” he said, slouching back in the chair, taking up the perfect image of a defiant teenager. “Who gives a shit? It’s not like I told him anything. Or like I had a choice.”

Eve strode over to him, bent over, and placed her face level with his, her nose inches from Connor’s. “Listen, Connor, and listen good. Your worthless life belongs to me, do you hear? You would still be sniveling over your parents sad little deaths if it weren’t for me and Jace. You owe me an explanation.” She straightened up, crossing her arms over her small frame. “And if I don’t get one I like, well, I’ll just have to pay a little visit to your sister and tell her how concerned I am for you.”

At her threat, Connor shot up out of his seat like it had been set on fire. “Leave my family alone, Eve. They have nothing to do with this.”

“Then tell me what the fuck happened with Angel!”

Connor stared her down for a minute more, finally slouching back down into the chair. He sighed, running his hands over his face. “I didn’t want to tell you because you’d freak, and I didn’t think you’d trust me anymore. You’d think they got to me.”


His eyes finally met hers, then flicked over to Jace for the merest of seconds before returning to Eve’s. “I didn’t go to the nature conservatory to meditate when I was gone. Angel abducted me from my apartment and tried to convince me to go back with him. He told me he was my father, and he gave me my memories back.”

Eve’s face turned deathly white as she sank down into another chair, suddenly breathless. “You remember.”

“Yeah,” Connor said, his voice full of anger. “I remember everything. I remember how Angel tried to hurt me. How he took Holtz away from me. How he tried to make me believe he loved me and he took away everything that mattered to me.”

Eyes searching him intently, Eve was silent for a moment. “How do you feel about him?”

A glassy look came over Connor’s eyes and he stared off into space, as if lost in his thoughts. “You know, for a few days there, I thought he might actually love me. That maybe the person I used to be before was just screwed up and misled. That maybe I should love him.” He paused, a sneer curling his lip. “But that’s a load of shit. He doesn’t love me. He lied to me. Changed my entire freakin’ life because he couldn’t handle me anymore. Because I wasn’t good enough for him.

“So how do I feel about him? Screw him. He can go to hell.” His angry eyes finally met Eve’s again. “Fuck it, I’ll send him there.”

Eve stared for a few moments as if she didn’t think she really believed him. Then, seeming to make a decision, she stood again, walking over next to Jace, whose expression hadn’t changed throughout Connor’s revelations.

“Fine. Good. Just so long as we’re clear. If you screw me over, your family will see the end of my knife.”

Connor nodded curtly. “I get it.”

“So,” Eve said, a bright, false smile on her face as she pulled a folding chair up next to his. “Let’s talk about what exactly you told them to get them off your ass.”

Part 55

Jace watched with mixed emotions as Connor sharpened the mystical weapon they’d be using against Angel. Pride pulled at him, pride at what Connor had accomplished so quickly in his young life. He was ready to take on anything that stood in his path, and Jace felt a sense of fatherly satisfaction that he’d had a hand in Connor’s training.

This emotion was a double-edged sword, however. Sorrow pushed at him with equal pressure, making him feel as though he were torn in two. He felt guilt for guiding Connor into the person he’d become, knowing that he was setting him up for an emotional and psychological destruction. He’d assuaged his guilt by showing Connor kindness, but that hadn’t stretched very far. He loved Eve, and he’d done everything within his power to see that she would be happy, including insuring the destruction of the only son he’d ever known. He’d changed his life, turned it upside down and inside out for her, but now, on the eve of his first battle under her banner, he questioned his loyalties.

A shudder broke through him as the Blade of Nefyra glinted in the overhead lighting. That weapon was as disastrous to him as it was to any vampire, thanks to the borrowed blood that now flowed through his veins. He had some advantages over vampires. He could walk in sunlight, could stand the sight of crosses, could avoid feeding, but when push came to shove, he died in the same way they did. Stakes and beheading would do him in, and there would be no casket when his time came, only an urn for his ashes. All it would take would be one careless slip of that blade and he’d be paralyzed, helpless to any enemy who wanted his head.

The thought made him shudder again, fear coursing through him at the idea of a death so utterly painful.

At that moment, Connor raised his eyes and met Jace’s, his gaze unflinching. He’d finished cleaning the weapon, sheathing it in the scabbard belted to his waist. Now, he rubbed the handle absently with his fingers and suddenly, Jace felt that Connor could see right through him. Could see the doubts in his eyes, could see the indecision that hovered around him.

In contrast, staring into Connor’s eyes was like looking at a brick wall. He gave away nothing. Absolutely nothing. Jace had no way of knowing if Connor was sympathetic or ambivalent to his current struggle. It was that mistrust that led Jace to look away, his jaw tensing as he stood upright, leaning away from the wall.

His chin up, Jace walked over to Connor and stood in front of him, arms crossed over his chest. “You ready, kid?”

Connor watched him silently for a moment. Finally, nodded swiftly. “Yup. I’m ready to kick ass, old man.”

It was those words, the nickname Connor had given him in affection, that cut him deeper than any knife ever could. With one last surge of regret flowing through his being, Jace straightened his shoulders and closed himself off from the pain. He’d already made his choice when he’d agreed to the blood ritual. He’d reinforced it when he manipulated Connor, confusing his feelings. By this point, any concerns about Connor’s welfare were irrelevant.

Jace jerked himself out of his self-reflection long enough to nod tersely. “Good. Just stay the hell away from me with that thing.” He pointed at the Blade of Nefyra at Connor’s waist, then turned and walked swiftly away.

As he left, Jace struggled to tamp down the volatile emotions that threatened to break through. He kept shoving them down, locking them away, but one residual thought remained, one that wouldn’t be eradicated despite his efforts. When it came right down to it, Jace had the uncanny sense that he wouldn’t make it out of this alive.

Part 56

“I’m afraid I have some bad news.”

If his words hadn’t said it, the tone of Wesley’s voice would’ve delivered his message anyway. Accompanying it was a grim look, one that made Angel wonder who’d died.

“What is it?” Angel sat back in his desk chair, his hands gripping the armrests as if they’d give him an extra measure of stability. How he wished for Cordy’s strong presence beside him right now, but she was upstairs, getting some much needed sleep.

“I’ve researched weapons that could cause a vampire’s paralysis, just as you mentioned. There are only two in all of the historical and mythical records that Wolfram & Hart contains.”

Angel knew that if Wolfram & Hart didn’t have it, it probably didn’t exist. “Go on.”

“One weapon is a short sword, called El Matado de los Muertos, or Killer of the Dead.”

“Is there any defense against it?”

Wesley pursed his lips in contemplation. “I doubt this is the weapon you’ll be facing, Angel. It was lost in the Spanish Armada. Went down with the flagship, which, by the way, has never been fully recovered. Although I don’t know why the Spaniards would’ve needed an anti-vampire weapon to invade the British. Anyway, it is highly unlikely that it would be in anyone’s hands.”

“Okay, but if it is?”

Wesley shook his head. “There is an antidote, but only if the weapon is recovered as well. But as I said, I don’t think it will be the weapon Eve will use.”

“Fine,” Angel sighed, running his fingers through his hair. “What’s the other one?”

Wesley’s eyes turned grimmer. “That’s the one I’m worried about. It’s called the Blade of Nefyra. An ancient weapon, origins unknown. It’s power is mystical, and as far as I can tell, there is no defense against it. None.”

Angel stared into Wesley’s eyes for just a moment, and then nodded his head swiftly.

“I understand.”

“I can keep looking if you want, I might have missed something, but—”

“No.” Standing, Angel walked around the desk and placed a hand on Wesley’s shoulder.

“You did well, Wes. I’ve known from the beginning that this would be between me and Connor, and that it might come down to my death. I’m ready to accept it. He’s my son, and I love him. But he might kill me.”

Angel paused, looking over Wesley’s shoulder. “Right, Connor?”

“You’re right. I might.”

Wesley’s head whipped around so fast his neck ached. Quickly, he backed out of the way, around Angel’s desk. The look in Angel’s eyes was indiscernible as he faced his son and attackers.

Connor, flanked by Eve and Jace, strode quickly across the room and stood before his father. The glint in his eyes was feral, angry, and intense. In his left hand was a crossbow, aimed right at Wesley’s midsection. The other held Eve’s secret weapon, light glinting off the curving blade, a scimitar with an ornately carved handle. The pointed end was at Angel’s throat in a matter of seconds, a hair’s breadth away from his skin.

A stoic expression covered Angel’s face as his eyes bored into his son’s. He couldn’t read Connor, and it scared him. The barriers in Connor’s eyes were up in full force, and try as he might, he couldn’t burrow deep enough to discover where his son’s loyalties lay.

Behind Connor, Eve smirked triumphantly. “Thought you were ready for this, didn’t you, Angel?”

He didn’t answer, only continued looking into Connor’s unflinching gaze.

After a moment of tense silence, Angel finally spoke. “Connor, you don’t have to do this.”

“Oh, yes, I do.” Connor’s voice was flat. As emotionless as his eyes. “And you want to know why?” He pressed the blade into Angel’s neck, nicking him slightly. Angel felt a slight tingle of power in that cut, enough to know that he’d be in deep trouble if Connor actually stabbed him with it.

Connor was still talking. “I have to do this because you’re a liar, Dad. A fucking liar!”

The moment Connor called him Dad, Angel’s eyes whipped frantically over to Eve and Jace’s faces. His heart sank like a stone when he realized that they already knew what Connor knew. That could only mean one of two things: either Connor went back to their side, or his cover got blown.

Connor’s next words did nothing to relieve Angel’s fears.

“You take me from the only security I know and you force these psycho thoughts back into my head, trying to tell me its good for me. You say you love me. You say that you want me to be happy. Well bullshit!”

By this point, Connor was yelling. His breathing was heavy, his face flushed as his eyes flashed fire. Wesley shifted slightly in the background, trying to get out of Connor’s line of fire, but Connor just cocked the crossbow’s firing mechanism and shook his head. Wesley moved back into place.

He turned his attention back to Angel. “It’s all bullshit, Dad,” he said, making the name sound like an insult. Angel flinched at the inflection, Connor’s tone of voice cutting him sharper than any knife ever could. “You lied to me when I came back from Quortoth. You lied to me when you said you loved me and then erased my entire memory. You lied to me when you put me with a family that wasn’t mine. And you lied to me when you took me back and said that you didn’t want to lose me again.”

Angel jumped in when Connor took a breath. “Connor, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry that I can’t begin to apologize for it.”

Connor laughed dryly. “Good try, Dad, but I can’t trust anything you say. You ruined my life and you deserve to pay for it.” By this time, Connor’s voice had flattened to a monotone, as if he were repeating words he’d memorized. Angel saw something flicker in the depths of his eyes. For a moment, it looked like sorrow, but it was gone so quickly that Angel couldn’t identify it.

Eve smirked in the background, enjoying the emotional fireworks.

“So how does it feel, knowing that your baby boy is going to kill you?” She walked up behind Connor, her well-manicured hand reaching up to curl around the back of Connor’s neck. Scratching through his hair lightly, almost affectionately, her blood-red nails ruffled his hair. She took in the death grip Connor had on the handle of the weapon and squeezed his shoulder reassuringly.

“Don’t get too carried away, kiddo. I still have great plans for him.”

Connor turned to look at her, fire still flickering in his eyes. “So do I.”

What happened next came so fast that if it weren’t for the carnage, Wesley might’ve questioned whether it happened. In one fluid motion, Connor whipped the crossbow into Eve’s stomach, fired, and threw the blade of Nefyra across the room, burying it into Jace’s gut. Eve staggered back, the arrow piercing deep, her life waning even as she stared in disbelief into the flashing eyes of her betrayer.

“No!” she cried weakly as Connor strode across the room, yanked the scimitar out of Jace’s chest and gripped it tightly with both hands.

He looked down at Jace, noting the sorrow in the older man’s eyes. His borrowed blood was going to kill him after all. He lay motionless, barely able to breathe in the sudden paralysis. “You didn’t have to come today, Jace,” Connor said softly. “I thought you were going to back out, but then—” he stopped and shook his head sadly.

“I love her,” Jace gasped out. “I couldn’t leave—” he stopped, choking.

“I’m sorry, old man,” Connor whispered, and brought the blade down, severing Jace’s neck. His body disintegrated before their eyes, a pile of ash the only thing left as a reminder to what might have been.

Connor walked over to Eve, his cold eyes taking in her weakening form where she’d propped herself up against the wall. “How could you?” she said, gasping, tears pooling in her eyes. “You ruined everything! You said—” she labored for breath, “you hated him!”

Shrugging, Connor watched apathetically as she crumpled, sliding to the floor. “Sometimes I do hate him, but he’s my father, Eve. The only one I’ve got left. You should’ve known that a blood tie is always stronger.”

She sobbed once, and as she clutched her wound, her eyes slid shut.

Eve was dead.

The moment the last breath left Eve’s body, Connor seemed to wilt. His fingers loosened around the sword and it dropped to the floor soundlessly, its descent muffled by the carpeting. As if defeated, his head hung down, his shoulders sagging.

Angel went over to him, his hand already reaching out to grasp Connor’s shoulder when the elevator doors swished open and Cordelia strode out, a bright smile on her face as she looked down at a piece of paper in her hand. He jerked his hand back, startled. Connor’s head whipped over toward the elevator.

“Angel, I thought that maybe—” she looked up and halted immediately, the now unimportant paper fluttering to the floor. Her words came in a gasp. “Oh, my God! Connor!”

Her hand flew to her mouth and covered it, tears welling in her eyes as she took in the violent scene and the look of utter weariness on Connor’s face. Walking over to him, she reached for him, but he backed up, away from her and toward the door.

Like a startled deer, Connor’s eyes darted back and forth, to Angel, to Wesley, to Cordelia and back again. He wrapped his arms around himself as if cold, and he trembled, shaking visibly.

“I can’t—I just can’t do this.” Finally, his eyes rested on Angel’s, and suddenly, all the barriers in his gaze were gone. Angel’s heart wrenched as he saw the naked emotion there, the sorrow, the self-loathing. It was obvious that everything had drained Connor of whatever happiness he’d possessed.

All that was left was pain.

Angel opened his mouth to reassure his son, to offer some comfort if he could, but Connor shook his head.

“No, Dad. Don’t say anything.” Connor’s eyes welled up with tears. “They found out I’d seen you and they thought I was betraying them. I had to make it convincing, but I didn’t mean to say so much. It’s just that I don’t know what I feel and—” He choked back a sob.

“It’s okay, son,” Angel said softly, fighting with every ounce of his inner strength to keep from going over and pulling his son into his embrace. Cordy moved to his side, her hand sliding gently into his and squeezing, offering him what silent support she could.

“It’s not okay!” Connor shouted and then quieted, whispering, “I don’t hate you. I don’t! But these horrible feelings are there, deep inside, and they keep coming out. I can’t be here with you right now. It’s all too much. I can’t take it. I have to go!”

He turned abruptly, striding for the door. He came to a jerking halt when Angel spoke again.

“I love you, Connor.”

The room seemed to echo with his declaration. Connor stood, frozen, for a fraction of a second, then nodded slowly.

“I know,” he whispered.

And then he was gone.


The silence in Angel’s bedroom was anything but uncomfortable. As the darkness surrounded them, Angel tightened his grip on Cordelia, his lips faintly brushing her forehead, murmuring his love into her hair. It was so amazing. She was so amazing. He was so, so blessed to have her back. He would never forget that, even if he lived 1000 years.

The only thing keeping him from total and utter bliss was the lack of his son. They hadn’t heard from Connor since the day he’d slipped out of Angel’s office. Every day, he kept hoping for something, anything that would tell him his son was all right. At least when Connor had his memory altered, Angel had known where he was, that he was safe, that he was loved. Now, though, Angel’s dreams were plagued with scenarios where Connor was in danger and helpless. Where Connor was unloved and depressed. Where Connor became destructive again and tried to hurt himself or others.

Somehow, deep down, Angel knew that Connor had moved past that. He knew that Connor would be all right and that he would come back to them someday. Maybe not happy, but moving toward the neighborhood of adjusted. He knew, in his heart, that Connor would openly return his love someday. It was only a matter of time, but the problem was convincing his worrisome mind of that fact. At the strangest parts of the day, he’d find himself staring blankly out into space, wondering where Connor was at that moment and what he was doing. Worrying himself into a frenzy until his Cordy-shaped lifeline came back to pull him out of it. Until Cordelia snapped her fingers in front of his face and distracted him with the love that she offered him.

Cordelia had indeed become his salvation. Without her, he didn’t know how he’d ever survived life. He’d thought, when she’d died, that he could move on, that he could make it without her. Certainly, she’d been a powerful force in his life, but he’d never truly realized how much until she was gone. Really gone. Her coma had given him an excuse to deny his feelings under the hope that she’d one day wake up.

But here she was, restored to him. As if aware of his thoughts, Cordelia stirred against him, draping her leg across his thigh and skimming her palm down his bare chest. Her fingers tickled his belly, and she looked up at him with a lazy smile.

“Hey, handsome,” she said, grinning sleepily.

“Hey, gorgeous,” he said back, kissing her deeply, both of them breathless when they parted.

“Mmm,” she sighed, her eyes sliding shut again in pleasure. “I can totally get used to that.”

“You aren’t used to it yet?” he asked, grinning.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be used to it. Used to it means that you can forget about it and think about more exciting things. I want you to always be exciting, baby,” she said, kissing his chest lightly.

Just then, her stomach rumbled loudly and he chuckled.

“So you’re saying you’d pick me over food right now?”

She raised a haughty eyebrow. “I love you, but I’m not completely stupid. You cook. I need food. Good combo, in my opinion. If you feed me, we both get to have fun,” she said, then winked at him.

“I think I can arrange that,” he said, sliding out of bed and into his sweatpants. Cordy pulled his shirt over her head, rolling up the long sleeves a few times until her hands were uncovered. She yawned widely, then stretched, running her fingers through her hair. Angel’s mouth dropped open as she arched her back, giving him a tantalizing view of her ass peeking from the hem of his shirt. He sighed and shook his head as he headed for the door.

“You coming?” he asked, holding the bedroom door open for her.

“Have been all night,” she said impertinently, winking at him again.

He just rolled his eyes at her, then turned to follow. Immediately, he ran into her. She’d stopped almost directly out of the door.

“Angel, look,” she said, her voice a whisper.

Angel followed her gaze, and his heart flipped over at what he found. His eyes brimmed with tears as he saw Connor, his beloved son, sprawled out on the couch under one of the throw blankets, the worn teddy bear clutched in his arms. Strangely, the toy didn’t look out of place in the arms of a grown man. It looked as if he’d finally figured out where he belonged. Angel reached for Cordy, pulling her back into his embrace and resting his chin on her shoulder.

“He’s back,” Cordelia said, a wistful note of happiness in her voice. Her hand lightly stroked the back of his where it lay against her tummy. “You can finally be happy, Angel.”

One tear escaped Angel’s eye and tracked down his cheek, landing with a soft plop on the shoulder of Cordelia’s shirt.

“I was happy before he came home,” Angel whispered. “I never thought I could be happy without him, but you made it possible, Cordy.”

She turned in his arms and cupped his jaw. “I love you, too, Angel.”

“You’re right, though,” he added as he gripped her tightly. “I can be happy now. Happy for Connor. Happy that my son is alive, safe, and here.”

Exactly where he belonged.



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