“Wesley,” Lilah asked in surprise.
“Hello. Just was here checking to see if you were ready for dinner.” Wesley nodded.
Lilah blinked a smile forming, then stopping as suddenly. “Take him.” She ordered to the security guards.
Wesley stood surrounded by black clad heavily armed men. “Would that be no to dinner then,” Wesley gestured.
“What are you doing up here?” Lilah stared at the weapons in Wesley’s hands.
“Dinner, I believe was my first idea.”
“Bullshit. Angel just killed Linwood and Connor’s gone.”
“And that makes my hunger invalid how? I told you that Angel might very well take the boy. This is really impressive, Lilah. Linwood’s dead, does that make you acting head guy, person, whatever the PC term is now a days?”
“I don’t believe you. I wish I could, but I don’t. Angel gets in, okay, sure, he does, but he comes to where he knows. He doesn’t know about Connor on the 52nd floor. He had help and here you are bearing weapons.”
Wesley shrugged putting his weapons in his coat. “Dead body- weapons just a precaution. And Angel usually does have help, Cordy, Gunn, even Fred I understand has been getting into the fight.”
“You know Cordelia Chase’s alive.”
“I merely misspoke, I’m just so use to pairing Cordelia’s name with Angel’s, you know Angel and Cordy. It flows so easily.”
“I thought I cleared up that misconception already.”
“You….Where is Connor?”
“I imagine safe if he’s gone from here.” Again Wesley shrugged.
“Why are you here?”
“Don’t play me for an idiot not anymore.”
Wesley cocked his head puzzled. “But why, Lilah, it’s been such fun.”
“Bastard,” Lilah lurched forward, her hand ready to strike. Wesley grabbed swinging her around until she was surely against his chest, his dagger up against her throat. “I surmise that the game is no longer afoot.” He looked up from the struggling woman. “Drop or she dies. I believe with the death of dear old Linwood, she’s almost the next best thing to a boss,” Wesley leaned into Lilah’s ear and whispered,
“until tomorrow anyway, when the tapes are shown of the debacle. The enemy that you’ve been sleeping with, that wasn’t an enemy by your assurance, not only helped the Tro-clan escape but pilfered as many highly classified secret library materials. That promotion isn’t looking real promising right now, is it?”
“And you a highly educated woman, one would think that you would’ve developed a more concise and accurate vocabulary.” Wesley whispered again. “Now, tell them to drop their weapons and leave- that you have every thing under control. Then you will show me how to get to the top floor.”
“Die here definitely, or wait for another moment to live, it is your choice.”
“You wouldn’t. No, Wesley.”
“Lilah, my choice was made long before I ever met you and circumstances may change, style may change but the choice never has. Do it or die.” Wesley said coldly.
“They hate you.”
Wesley shrugged. “Who said you had to like your family. And they are that. Tell the guards to put their weapons down now. I will kill you if you keep me from going up to the top floor.”
“They can’t defeat her, it’s too late.”
“That would be very unfortunate.” Wesley pushed the blade deeper into Lilah’s throat.
“Drop your weapons go,” she yelled to the guards. “I can handle this, go.”
The guards hesitated, slowly lowering their weapons. Suddenly, the floor began to shake and the walls began to thunder.
The guards who were before so diligent ran.
“Lilah, this would be a good time for answers,” Wesley gripped the woman tighter, the knife pressing deeper.
“I don’t have any, look, that little bitch must be doing it.” She pointed up to the ceiling and the swirling blues and whites expanding breaking away the ceiling’s paneling, bits and pieces of tiles burst loose, falling to the ground.
Wesley glanced up his grip loosening. Lilah took advantage and shoved. She screamed for her guards but they had already gone running to the private stairway that they had come from.
Lilah started to run and pivoted as the door that the guards exited ceased to exist. She ran to the elevator jabbing at the button, picking up a fallen weapon of one of the guards. “Give me one good reason not to shoot you.” She glared pointing the gun at Wesley.
“You’re ride is here,” Wesley nodded to the elevator as the door dinged. “And before you pull the trigger my bolt will be released,” Wesley nodded to the crossbow in his hand. “I may be dead, but at least I won’t suffer the agony of an arrow through my chest, makes for an unpleasant elevator ride.”
“Bastard.” Lilah tossed the gun and turned as the doors of the elevator opened to go in.
Wesley saw it before she did, yelling and running. “Don’t”
Lilah shot him the finger and stepped, then fell, screaming.
Wesley ran, sliding his body on the rumbling floor, his hand going out into the darkness of pitch-blackness. “Lilah,” he yelled.
“Help.” Lilah screamed.
Wesley pushed his body forward, looking down; the woman was attached to a metal constraint in the shaft. He reached down. “Grab a hold of my hand. Do it, Lilah.”
“Whoa, Wes, where’s Angel and Cordy.” Gunn huffed at his side.
“Gunn, help me,”
“Sure.” Gunn moved to grab with Wesley.
“Wait a fuckin minute” Gunn said as he pulled the rescue victim up to eyesight. “I say drop her, man, are you thinking with your little head these days, man,” Gunn protested as Lilah was pulled to the relative safety of the trembling floor.
“Charles, I couldn’t let her die.”
“Don’t see why not, people die all the time.” Gunn glared at the woman struggling up to her feet. “Screw the evil queen bitch, oh, right you’ve been doing that. Where are Angel and Cordy?”
“The top floor.”
“Wes, hate to break it to you, but this is the top floor, all above is swirling cess pool of blackness, what the fuck happened? Where are Angel and Cordy? She’s knows,” Gunn moved closer to Lilah, “This time you will tell me what I want to know, bitch.”
Wesley moved to intercept Gunn, when he was stopped by a familiar voice echoing from below.
“Wesley, Gunn, help would be good anytime now, Angel’s being all grumpy about me being on his back.”
“Cordy, I’m just saying don’t kiss me when I’m concentrating on saving you. Okay. “
“Fine, but I just might not feel like kissing you when you’ve done it. Your loss. Give us a hand.” She yelled up, her head peeking up through the opening of the elevator doors.
Gunn turned to Wesley as both men leaned down, “They been acting really strange lately, emphasizing in a big way- way out there strange.” He grasped one of Cordelia’s arms as Wesley grasped the other, pulling Cordelia quickly too her feet.
“Hi, we killed the little evil Pollyanna, which is cool, but I think her dead body is self destructing the building. We got to go, now.” Cordelia smiled at Gunn and Wesley then looked behind her. “Angel?”
“I’m here, Cordy.”
“Oh, good, are you going to carry me down the stairs. I’m not doing the elevator.”
“Are your legs broken?”
“You will so regret your behavior this night, buster” she glared then shrieked. “The ceiling’s going- we need to run, now.”
“Stairs, that way, “ Wesley barely got his shout out, before Angel with Cordelia in his arms barreled past them and kicked open the doors.
Wesley stopped Gunn. “They haven’t actually…have they?”
Gunn shook his head. “Let’s get out of this house of evil cards before we all lose.” Gunn followed Angel and Cordelia.
“Wesley,” Lilah tugged on his arm.
“Lilah, you’re alive, okay, the building is collapsing we need to go now.” He yanked at her pulling grip.
“You saved me.”
“No, I just used you, remember that always, I will. Now move.”
Angel stopped on the landing, looking up at the blinking ceiling and shimmering walls of the stairwell. Cement shook and fell, leaving blackness in its place.
“Angel, I was kidding about the carrying bit.” Cordy mumbled into Angel’s coat.
“Shut up,” with a hand on the metal rail, Angel vaulted down to the next landing, bypassing the steps.
“So, Chivalry isn’t dead, we just are,” Lilah stated watching the dark vampire with his buddle disappear.
Neither Gunn nor Wesley responded- they just kept on moving as fast as they could down the steps.
Angel kicked open the last door, putting Cordelia down as soon as they were in the lobby. “Go, find Fred and Connor.”
“Angel? Right,” Cordelia nodded, running out of the building.
Angel turned back into the stairwell, his speed slower than the descent but still faster than any human. He grabbed Gunn’s arm that he reached, swinging the man in a firemen’s hold.
“Whoa.” Gunn grunted as Angel jumped and Gunn swore flew down the stairs. As soon as Gunn was in the lobby, Angel turned and headed back up the stairwell. Gunn stood a moment, shook his head, and ran out of the building.
“Lilah,” Wesley said to the vampire once he was put down in the lobby.
Angel turned considering the woman who was still running down the stairs. “She’ll make it, she’s got more than enough lives.” Angel ran out of the lobby.
Wesley shrugged and with one more look towards the stairwell, he followed the vampire to the exit.
Cordelia skidded to a stop by Fred.
“Cordy,” Fred grabbed the other woman in a fierce hug. “Charles, Angel and Wesley?”
“Following. They’re fine.” Cordelia turned gazing back at the Wolfram & Hart building. The structure was shaking but the black cloud of flashing lights had stopped eating away at the building. “Connor?”
Fred pointed to the back seat.
“What happened?” Cordelia studied the unconscious boy.
Fred bit her lip and fidgeted slightly. “He didn’t really understand the concept of being rescued.” She held up her tazer.
Cordelia blew out a deep breath.
“Cordy, he hurt Angel, he hurt all of us. What if he….” Fred tried to put in words the doubts she had formed while waiting for the others to return.
Cordy reached out putting her arm around her friend. “It will be alright, Fred.”
“Right,” Fred nodded. “We’ve Justine, once Connor knows the truth, he’ll understand and it will be okay.”
Cordelia bit her lip and nodded along with Fred, both women wanting very much to believe that it would be true.
“Charles,” Fred bounced and pointed.
Cordelia’s smiled but her eyes searched the area behind the young black man.
“Hey, girl,” Gunn hugged Fred.
“Gunn?” Cordelia asked.
“Getting Wesley, Come on, get in car,” Gunn vaulted in the driver’s seat as the two women scrambled next to him in the front.
Gunn plowed the big vehicle through the remaining people in front of the building, his hand pressed down on the car’s loud horn. He swerved up on the sidewalk as Angel and Wesley ran out of the building. “Yoa, curbside service,” Gunn yelled.
Angel and Wesley jumped in the backseat, shoving Connor’s limp form in between them.
“You might need this,” Fred handed her tazer to Wesley.
Wesley held up his own tazer. “Thank you, but that won’t be necessary.” Wesley looked at Connor then to the vampire next to him. “The hard part is next, Angel. He….”
“Let’s just get home then worry about it.” Angel’s eyes never left his son.
The group straggled into the lobby of the hotel, Connor’s form tight between Angel and Gunn.
“The hero’s are home, with the prize,” Lorne strode over to the group. “The dastardly villains, still standing?”
“Barely, shit, what happened, up there,” Gunn stared at Angel and Cordy.
Both shrugged. “Angel cut off the little girl’s head and all hell broke loose.” Cordy shrugged again.
“A little girl?” Gunn stared.
“Only a form,” Wesley corrected. “A non-corporeal entity. I couldn’t find its identity, though. How did you know to decapitate it?” Wesley inquired.
“Chopping heads kills pretty much anything.” Cordelia explained.
“And that was responsible for the destruction of the top floor? How?” Wesley urged.
“Not now Wesley,” Cordelia shook her head recognizing the gleam in Wesley’s eyes.
“Yes, right, later then. It is very interesting.”
“Only to the perpetually boring,” Cordelia grumbled going into the kitchen.
“Justine? The kid should be coming too soon.” Gunn turned to Angel.
Angel lifted his eyes from his son’s body and nodded. Angel glanced back to his son then followed Cordelia.
“Here, you were pretty supervamp tonight.” Cordelia held up a mug.
“Angel, it’s the good stuff. I said tomorrow. You need it.”
Angel reached out his hand, brushing a strain of hair away, trailing his finger down Cordelia’s cheek before taking the blood.
“Another one?” Cordelia asked. Angel had gulped the liquid down.
Angel shook his head.
“It will be alright,” Cordelia held out her arms, hugging the vampire, her hand gently caressing Angel’s head as it rested against hers.
Lorne poked his head into the kitchen. “Sorry for the interruption, lovebirdies, but the wayward son is awaking.”
The group was gathered in the small office. Gunn and Wesley standing on either side of Connor. They all watched as the boy started to stir. Cordelia glided over to where Fred was holding Justine, Fred’s tazer pressed against the other woman’s side.
“Justine, the truth that’s all we want, if you say anything else-remember.” Cordelia said coldly, holding Justine’s stare.
Cordelia left to go stand next to Angel.
“You’re human.” Justine shrunk back, her eyes going to Fred. Fred yanked Justine back. “I’m human.” Justine whispered.
Fred shoved the tazer back into her side, whispering back. “So, that makes us what… friends…. hardly. You left Wesley to die and Angel to suffer. I hope you do lie. I haven’t seen a good torture, since Plyea.”
Both women turned their gaze to the boy in the chair. Connor was awake. His eyes scanned the room, stopping when they landed on Angel. He jerked starting to rise.
Angel moved forward. “Sit…Down…” He quietly ordered.
Connor’s narrowed his eyes, judging, weighing his options.
“You won’t make it,” Angel said. “You’re good, very good, but Daddy is still stronger, even with that little vacation you provided. Now sit.”
Connor held Angel’s stare. With a disgusted grunt, he sat. He saw no weakness in his father’s eyes.
Angel swung a chair and sat across of his boy. “So, how was your summer, mine was fun, saw some fish, went mad with hunger, hallucinated a whole bunch.
“You deserved worse.
“Because I killed Holtz- but I didn’t. I tried to tell you while you were busy off shore dumping me. Holtz killed himself, actually he got your buddy Justine to do it-just to make you hate me.” Angel jerked his head towards the red-haired woman.
Connor studied the woman as Fred pushed her forward.
Justine closed her eyes briefly, her expression unreadable as she lifted them to the boy. “It’s true. Holtz planned it, asked me to do it- to use an ice pick. Holtz wanted you to believe what kind of monster that thing was,” She jerked towards Angel. “He sacrificed his life to make sure you understood. He did it for you.”
Fred yanked the woman back, her tazer jammed in the woman’s throat. “It’s the truth.” Justine yelled.
“Fred, no, let her go.” Angel ordered, his eyes still on his son.
Fred dropped her hands.
“Get out of here.” Angel said to Justine, his gaze still centered on Connor.
Justine looked around startled, stumbling a little and then turning to run.
Cordelia blinked at Angel and his son. She ran after Justine, grabbing the woman jerking her to a stop. “Angel’s letting you go, but you aren’t free.”
“I told the truth,” Justine tried to jerk her arm back.
“And what a fucked up truth that was – but Connor’s smart, he’ll realize what the real truth is – Holtz did nothing but show what kind of monster he really was.” Cordelia pulled the woman closer. “If you go after Angel again or hurt my family one more time, don’t worry about Angel. Now, get the hell out of here.” Cordelia pushed at the woman.
Cordelia watched as the woman ran out of the hotel. She closed her eyes and went back into the office. She met Angel’s gaze. For the first time since Connor regained conscious, the vampire’s eyes had left his son, going to the door that Cordelia exited and remained there until she returned. Cordelia said nothing to the vampire, just settled back up against the wall.
Angel wondered briefly what was going on in her mind, wondering if she understood. He turned back to his son.
Connor had remained silent. He blinked as his father’s attention was once more focused on him. “It doesn’t matter. You still deserved it,” he said.
“What I deserve is open to debate.” Angel pulled his chair closer. “What you did to me was unbelievable Connor, worthy of your parents, step-daddy included. But, it did give me time to think about us -the world. Nothing in the world is as it ought to be. It’s harsh and cruel, but that’s why there is us. Champions.”
Angel looked briefly around the room, focusing back on his son. “Doesn’t matter where we come from what we’ve done or suffered or even if we make a difference, we live as the world is as it should be, what it can be. You aren’t a part of that yet – I hope you will be. I love you Connor.” Angel paused momentarily. “Now, get out of my house.”
Connor stared, his gaze moved to the others in the room. He stumbled back, watching his father and all the occupants. None of them made a move towards him. He ran.
Angel stared at the empty chair; he got up when he heard the door slam and then left the room.
“I don’t think that went the way I expected. “ Gunn shook his head. “Rescue the hard headed kid, just to let him go.”
“Did you expect Angel to keep him prisoner.”? Wesley commented as he left the room.
“Dawg, I don’t know what I expected. Hoping for a spanking.” Gunn shook his head and followed.
Fred and Cordelia were left in the room as an unusually silent Lorne followed the rest.
“What are you feeling?” Fred turned to her friend.
“I…Connor’s Angel’s son, he knows what he’s doing.”
“You didn’t answer me,” Fred demanded. “I’ll tell you how I’m feeling- I don’t trust him- I loved that little boy, I would’ve done anything for him- but I don’t trust that boy. He hurt Angel, what if he does it again?”
Cordelia closed her eyes. “Angel’s right. We can’t force him to stay.”
Fred shook her head. “You saw him, I don’t think he can feel anything.”
“He does, Fred, that I do know, I just hope it’s enough.” Cordelia leaned up from the wall she had situated herself.
Fred held her back. “And if he tries to hurt Angel again,” Fred repeated, demanding that Cordelia answer her.
“Then Fred-we’ll hurt him.” Cordelia moved to go past her friend.
Fred nodded at the promise in Cordelia’s voice, tears that Fred wanted to cry all night, started to fall.
Angel dropped his hand from the curtain of the window he had been staring out of and turned. “…Will be alright?” He cocked his brows.
“I…” Cordy shrugged. “This wasn’t really how my plan was supposed to end.” She bit her lip. “I’m…”
“It’s not over and Connor is away from Wolfram & Hart and he knows the truth. It was a good plan. There is nothing for you to be sorry about, you were right.”
“I don’t feel right.”
“Didn’t get your ‘alright’ ending, Cordy, that can’t surprise you.”
Cordelia sighed and sat on the bed. “I was hoping, you know, good guys, goods things, why not…. oh, right, the world is a cruel and harsh place, it’s sucks.”
Angel settled by the young woman, bringing her hands to his lips. “Yes, but they’re definite bits and pieces of amazing beauty, hope and love. It’s not over, Cordy.” He smiled.
Cordy scrunched up her face. “When did you become a believer of the ‘half cup full theory’?
“When you promised to stay with me and love me.”
“Ah, then my work is done for the night.”
“Oh, not quite,” Angel leaned in, cupping her face. “I still need reassurance.”
“Ah, reassurance, I can than do that,” she caressed the strong planes of his face pressing her lips to his.
End of Book ONE