Called by many names
Soaring to heights unmeasured
Bolstered by dreams
Enlightened by pain
Out of the gloom of despair
Truth clouded no more
Destiny or chance
Bounding to its pinnacle
To be acknowledged
Leaving Los Angeles and its heavy rush hour traffic behind, Gunn floored the Plymouth. The car zipped along the open highway, the California winds whipping around the convertible sending Fred’s hair flying around her shoulders.
Listening to her conversation with Wesley as they sat in the back seat, Angel figured the issue of his invisibility was in good hands, but it was time to focus on more pressing matters.
“We need to call ahead to Sunnydale,” Angel broke into their conversation.
Fred glanced toward the front passenger seat, focusing in on the spot where she knew Angel was sitting. A little guilt crept into her expression having been caught talking about the scientific and mystic causes of Angel’s condition.
It was just that it was something she knew she could help with and while the kidnapping was of great concern to them all, Fred figured Angel already had it covered.
“To that girl with the funny name?” Fred guessed wondering why she could never seem to recall it.
“Yes, that one,” confirmed Angel, the hint of a smile on his face going unseen. “Buffy went to school with Cordelia. So it’s my guess she knows the kidnappers. If they’ve been causing this kind of trouble in Sunnydale, chances are that she’ll know how to find them.”
Wes considered, “This is a kidnapping case, so perhaps we should notify the local authorities.”
“Riiiight,” Gunn’s sarcasm came through as he flashed a look at Wes via the rearview mirror. “An invisible vampire goes into a police station to report the kidnapping of his son and his… his seer.”
Cordelia. Her name and her face filled his thoughts as Angel noted the struggle Gunn made in finding the right descriptor. That was just one connection they shared. She was a friend, his best friend, and probably knew him better than any living soul.
The things he felt for her were nameless, but those feelings ran deep.
Just the thought of her at the mercy of young men who might have reason to want the beautiful former Queen C under their power made him a little crazy.
“No police,” Angel said firmly. If they dared to touch Cordelia, he’d take pleasure in ripping them apart limb by limb. “We’ll handle this my way.”
“Very well,” agreed Wesley without any argument knowing the effort would be futile. Anyone with the temerity to kidnap Angel’s son expecting to get away unscathed was either stupid or extremely desperate. He certainly wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of the vampire’s vengeance.
Having no idea exactly what kind of desperado villains they were dealing with, Wes added, “It’s a good thing that Cordelia is with Connor. We’ve got someone on the inside looking out for him.”
Angel’s mouth curled up at one corner. “Cordelia faced down Angelus with nothing but an attitude and a container of spring water. He’s in good hands as long as she’s with him.”
“They’ll be getting close to Sunnydale now,” Gunn commented as he read the green and white mileage marker that showed another eighty miles to go. “Better make that call.”
Pulling his cell phone out of his jacket pocket, Angel punched in a one and the area code for Sunnydale, but paused as he realized the enormity of the news he was about to spring on his former girlfriend.
She deserved to hear it face to face, but considering the importance of catching up with the kidnappers before they had a chance to contact potential buyers, he simply couldn’t afford to wait.
“Maybe I should contact Mister Giles first,” suggested Wesley when he noticed the lack of phone conversation coming from the front seat.
“No, Wes,” Angel silently added a thank you, understanding that his friend caught onto the reason for his hesitation, “this has to be done quickly. Buffy may know how to find to them before we even get to town.”
He punched in the rest of the numbers and after several rings, he heard a familiar, “Hello?”
“Dawn, it’s Angel,” he told the teenager. “Is Buffy around?”
“Oh, it’s you.” Dawn never really liked Angel and didn’t bother to hide that fact from him. It had nothing to do with him being a vampire. Lately, it had everything to do with not liking him showing up during times of crisis only to leave again.
Buffy was always pouting and moping for a few days afterward. “We’re fine. Nothing here for you to bother with. No apocalypses this week.”
“I need to talk to your sister,” Angel tried to suppress the growl rolling into his voice, but heard the gasp catch in her throat as she responded to it.
Then came her mumbled, “Spike was right,” just before she held the phone away from her mouth to holler at the top of her lungs, “BUFFY! Tall, dark and dudley is on the phone.”
Snatching the phone from her sister, Buffy whispered furiously, “He heard you say that.”
“So?” Dawn shrugged and automatically cradling her left arm defensively. She was still getting used to the cast having broken it during a recent car accident.
Buffy held the phone to her chest as she snapped back, “So you should just— aargh! Just go do your homework.”
With a defiant smirk, Dawn turned on her heel and stalked into the kitchen instead of heading up to her bedroom. For a moment, Buffy watched her go, completely caught up again in the frustration that was parenting an unruly younger sister.
Most days, Buffy felt she couldn’t even parent herself, much less Dawn. With Giles in England and Willow teetering on the edge of control due to her addiction to magick, Buffy’s usual support system was looking thin.
Glancing down at the phone in her hand, Buffy slowly pulled it up to her ear. Angel always had a knack for well-timed rescues, showing up when she needed him the most. She wanted to fall into his arms and never climb out again, but after all that had happened with Spike over the past few days, she wondered if she could even look him in the eye or if anything would ever be the same again.
“Hi,” her voice squeaked its tiny greeting. Quickly, she issued an apology for all that was rude and ungrateful in her world at the moment. “Sorry, Angel, you know Dawn. She’s still…”
“A teenager?” For some reason, Angel’s mind flashed to an image of Cordelia in her Sunnydale days; queen of all she surveyed, certain that the world revolved around her and allergic to anything that remotely resembled tact.
Not that the scant number of years since then had done anything to curb the bite of that tactless tongue. Cordelia had grown into one amazing woman. Maybe the whole world didn’t revolve around her, but his certainly did and that was something Angel was only now starting to realize.
“I was going to say pain in the neck,” Buffy sighed her confession.
The words snapped Angel out of his thoughts and back to the point of the phone call. “Buffy, I need your help.”
Instantly alert, Buffy heard the strain in his voice. “What is it?”
“This is urgent,” he stressed wishing again that this conversation wasn’t happening in such an impersonal manner. This wasn’t going to be easy in any form, but he’d have preferred to be there to help her through this shock.
“I need you to sit down and listen closely.”
Buffy’s eyes widened at the tone. “Oh, this is sit-down kind of news.” Bad, she knew and sank slowly onto the couch next to the living room phone. Her mind reeled with the possibilities as she waited the few seconds for Angel to reveal what he needed to say.
The silence on the other end of the line prompted her to quip, “Sitting.”
Feeling strangely nervous, Angel rubbed a hand along his tense neck muscles. Then he licked his dry lips and let out a breath he hadn’t even realized that he’d taken.
Deciding to start with the easy part, he asked, “Do you remember anyone from Sunnydale High named Warren, Jonathan or Andrew?”
Surprised, Buffy had been braced for news of a personal nature, not a query on old high school classmates who were more troublesome annoyances than anything else. “Unfortunately, yes.” She wasn’t about to go into the details about her opinions on Warren or his ability to create lifelike robots.
“Do they have a base of operations somewhere in Sunnydale?” A giggle sounded from Buffy’s end of the line causing Angel to wonder what he’d asked that was so funny.
“What— like a super secret clubhouse or something?” Buffy questioned as she gave it some thought. The idea of those three teaming up nearly gave her hives. “Sorry, but I have no idea if they have a Fortress of Solitude. I could ask around if it’s that important.”
Angel replied instantly, “It is. A lot has happened in LA while you’ve been…gone.” He had mourned her, but now that Buffy was again in the land of the living, Angel found it hard to think of the girl who’d given him his first experience with love as having been dead.
“There’s one thing I haven’t gotten around to telling you. More than one, I suppose, but mainly because I’ve been getting used to the fact myself.”
“Oh,” Buffy’s insides twisted into knots as the endless flow of her wild ideas suddenly narrowed into one distinct possibility. He’d found somebody else.
While her mind reeled in protest at the thought, one tiny voice reminded her she had made more than one effort to find a life and love of her own. Then again, Angel was supposed to pine for her forever if they couldn’t be together.
Except that she wanted him to be happy, too, sort of. Trying to sound supportive, she started off, “Well that is just—”
“I’m a father, Buffy,” Angel blurted the news as he cut her off, unable to make it come out any softer or less shocking. “I have a son. His name is Connor.”
Silence hung across the phone line as Buffy slowly digested the words. Not only had her suspicions been correct— he had found someone new— but they also had a child together. Angel had a family, one that didn’t include her.
Gripping the phone a little too tightly, she heard the plastic casing start to crack and forced herself to loosen her hold. “I didn’t know that was possible.”
Wasn’t that the whole gist of their breakup? That he was a vampire and she a Slayer. That he could never give her a normal life, presuming that someone like her even had real relationships or a family in their future.
“Neither did I,” Angel confessed, also conscious of the eavesdroppers listening in and making no pretense of the fact that they were doing so. “Connor’s birth was foretold by prophesy, though we figured that out afterward. There’s a lot more to it, but I don’t have time to go into details right now.”
Buffy was too caught up in the idea that Angel was making love to someone despite the curse binding his soul; that despite being a vampire he had given her a child of his. Though her heart hurt at the thought and her body ached with jealousy over the idea of it,
Buffy needed to know more. It didn’t matter if Angel thought he had no time for the details; Buffy was making time.
Because in her mind’s eye, Buffy found that the image of Connor’s mother wasn’t as faceless as she should have been. The conclusion she’d suddenly come to caused her vision to blur with tears, but she had to say it.
To find out if her suspicions were true after all, “Connor’s mother…she’s Cordelia, right?”
“C-Cordy? NO,” Angel’s denial came out a little too swiftly. Maybe Cordelia had once had a crush on him back in her Sunnydale days, but they were friends, just friends, just best friends. Surely that’s all she felt for him, anyway.
What was it with this new phenomenon where everyone seemed to be linking them together as a couple?
With her ear ringing from the loud shout, Buffy muttered, “Guess not.” Wrong thing to say, obviously. Defensive, much? Confused at the vehement response, she confessed, “I just thought it made sense.”
Coming from Buffy, that statement left Angel a little shaken. Part of him admitted that it made a hell of a lot of sense. But he didn’t have time for ‘What Ifs’, so he told her, “Connor’s mother is dead. Cordy’s my anchor; she keeps me grounded.”
Then Buffy was left to draw her own conclusions about Cordelia’s place in his life as emotion welled up so that the words were choked off, “If anything happens…”
Even as her unshed tears burned in her eyes, Buffy realized she’d never heard Angel speak about anything with that sound in his voice. Not when he told her he loved her, or when he gave her the Claddagh ring or even when they put an end to their relationship.
She didn’t like hearing the hurt, the fear or the helplessness sounding along with feelings of love that were supposed to be reserved for her.
Angel loved his son and he obviously cared for Cordelia. Something had happened to prompt this phone call. It wasn’t like Angel to call her out of the blue and he’d said that it was urgent. So Buffy wiped away the tears glistening in her eyes and asked,
“What’s the trouble?”
“There’s a price on Connor’s head,” Angel explained. “Ever since his birth we’ve been fighting off one group or another bound to capture or kill him, humans and demons.”
Shifting out of jealous ex-girlfriend mode, Buffy put her Slayer cap on. Nodding her understanding and concluding that something had happened to both Cordelia and Connor, she spoke into the phone, “So how can I help?”
Having expected fireworks, whining, or demands for more details than he wanted to get into over the telephone, Angel realized that Buffy had changed, too. Though he didn’t have the time to consider the reasons; he was just grateful for it.
“Cordy and Connor have been kidnapped,” Angel’s tone hardened to the point of cold steel.
Thinking back to the question he’d first asked her, Buffy made the leap, “Are you saying that you think Warren, Andrew and Jonathan are responsible?”
“I know they are. They showed up, made their demands and shot me with some electro-magick thingy they’d invented,” Angel revealed to her. “By now, they’re back in Sunnydale.”
Buffy admitted, “It doesn’t sound like Jonathan to get involved with a kidnapping, but Warren is definitely into the Crazy Professor mode with the inventions. Alone, those three have been troublemakers, so who knows what else they’ll get up too.”
“Right now it involves selling my son to the highest bidder.” Angel pointed out the reason he was contacting her in the first place, “So, I was hoping you’d get a head start on finding them.”
“No problemo,” Buffy promised to get right on it, jumping up off of the couch, her energy bounding at the thought of the action to come. “Willy usually has his ear to the ground. I can check him out first. When you get to town, head straight to my house. That’s our…uh, base of operations these days.”
Thanking her, Angel realized the whole telling Buffy thing had gone much easier than he’d imagined.
“Oh,” he remembered one other detail he needed to share, “just one other thing.”
Listening attentively, Buffy sank back down onto the couch cushions. “You’re WHAT?”