Project Paranormal
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PROJECT PARANORMAL STORY TEMPLATE

CONSEQUENCES

 

Project Paranormal

Author: Jo

Prologue

 

**

 

Rating: PG

 

Summary: Project Paranormal is a series of stories telling of the adventures of three of our heroes, Giles, Buffy and Angel, and is set in Westbury, Wessex, England.  However, last time we saw Angel, he was standing with his friends and companions-in-arms, in the pouring rain, in an alley in Los Angeles, facing down the armies of Hell.  Buffy was in Rome.  So, how did they get from A and B to C?  What actually happened after Not Fade Away?  This story tells us.

 

**

 

 

CONSEQUENCES

 

ANGEL 
Go home...now. 
CONNOR 
They'll destroy you. 
ANGEL 
As long as you're OK, they can't.

(Not Fade Away)

 

Los Angeles, California

 

For the first time since they’d met, he’d obeyed his father – his other father – and gone home.  As long as you’re OK, they can’t.  What did that mean?  Was it simply a father and son, survival through the genes, thing?  What any father might say to his son in similar circumstances?  Or was it something else?  Were they tied in some other, more mystical, way?  He snorted in disapproval.  These people relied way too much on magic.

 

It wasn’t late, yet, but he went to his room.  The rainstorm, short and sharp as ever in this place, had stopped now.  Gazing out of the window, he couldn’t see much of Los Angeles, but what he could see looked normal enough.  What was happening?  Was the world really about to end?  Should he be there?  Angel was facing victory or death, and the world with him.  If he went to help his…father…would he bring utter failure and ruin with him, as he had done so often now?

 

Almost, almost he’d made his mind up to go, but his father’s last words still rang in his ears.  Last words.  No, he’d do as he was told, just in case.  He turned from the window, his slim shoulders weighed down by the burden of that decision, when behind him came a sound like the trump of Doom.  On the wall in front of him, he could see his shadow, stark and black, outlined by the glow of hellfire.  When he could bear to look, the night had exploded.

 

Just about in the direction of the Hyperion, a fountain of fire raged into the sky.  Which was this, he wondered?  Victory or death?   There was nothing else.  No legions of the damned descending to earth, no sound of the earth disgorging an army of demons.  The only sound had been that resounding single-shot explosion, and now the fiery fountain, leaping high into the sky, raining flame down around it.  As he watched, the spectacle faded, leaving only a bloody glow on the horizon.

 

His parents and sister – his other family – were out on the lawn, as were most of their neighbours.  And then the sound hit him: the noise of sirens in distress.  He couldn’t wait any longer.  He promised himself that he would be careful, that he would do nothing to jeopardise whatever his father had in mind… his real father.  But he had to know.

 

As he ran towards the Apocalypse, he was able to hop onto the back of a fire truck, one of the many speeding towards whatever had happened. Police cars, ambulances, fire trucks, all making their way to what might be the end of the world.  He remembered doing that sort of thing before, when he’d first come to this strange new world.  He remembered a lot of other things, too.  Terrifying things.  Memories, dreams, reality.  His father would expect him to know which was which, and to live in this new reality.  He decided to try not to disappoint him, but not until after he’d found out what was happening tonight.

 

When they got there, he could see that the Hyperion was pretty much gone.  So was everything around it.  There were no demons, no champions, nothing to tell of what had happened here.  There was just a smouldering field of lava, welling up from a crack in the earth, the dark outer edges making a tink, tink sound as they cooled and solidified.

 

A man in uniform – he never knew which man or which uniform – forced him to move back from the lava.  He wouldn’t know, until he got home again, that the soles of his trainers were melting, sticking to the burning pavement.  So, he stood back, dry-eyed, and watched from a distance as the emergency services searched for someone to whom they could be of service.  There was no one.  You were either outside the scope of what had happened, and untouched, or you were inside the scope, and buried under the lava.  It seemed that, of victory or death, his father had found both.

 

*************

 

Westbury, England

 

When Giles woke to the morning news, it was to hear of the depressing tide of affairs in the world.  He briefly wondered why he left the alarm on ‘radio’ instead of simply ‘buzzer’.  There was never any good news nowadays.  The final item before the weather went almost unnoticed as he stretched out to find his glasses.  Breaking news.  A volcanic eruption in downtown Los Angeles.  A small lava field where part of Hollywood used to be.  The La Brea tar pits overflowing.  Bemused Angelinos uncertain whether to stay or run.  Wessex will experience unseasonably heavy rain…

 

Damn it, that had to have something to do with Angelus.  With Angel.  The vampire was a walking disaster area.  He’d probably even wished the rain on Wessex in the middle of a county cricket match.  What had the fool been up to now?  All right, he’d saved the world a time or two, but he’d also endangered it a time or two.  Which one was it likely to be this time?  Being the CEO of Wolfram and Hart made one of the two possibilities almost a racing certainty, and he was afraid he knew which one.  As if there weren’t enough problems to be dealt with as it was…

 

He went downstairs, his tread a little heavier than it needed to be, and started to make tea.  Waiting for the kettle, he fiddled with the radio to find more news.  There wasn’t any, just the same information, over and over.  The morning paper, when it came, was no help at all.  Clearly, whatever had happened had been too late even for the stop press.

 

Sighing, he sat down and started to make telephone calls.

 

***************

 

Rome, Italy

 

Buffy woke from the nightmare, clutching the sheets and shaking.  There had been bodies, almost none of them human, armies of demons, and fire everywhere.  Slayer dream.  She’d hoped beyond hope that she’d left all that behind, that she might be just a normal girl now.  Faith had said it:

 

‘Yeah, you’re not the one and only Chosen anymore. Just gotta live like a person. How’s that feel?’ 

 

It had felt good.  Now Faith had gone to mind the new Hellmouth in Cleveland, but Buffy was still dreaming Slayer dreams.  If this was prophetic, they were all in such trouble…  And she felt empty, hollow.  It had been a long time since she felt really happy – don’t even go there, she thought to herself – but this was different.  Desolation.  Abandonment.  Aloneness.

 

Trying to shrug off that newborn feeling of despair, but failing miserably, she padded downstairs for coffee.  She had the radio tuned to a music station, but when she switched it on, the cheery strains did nothing to lighten her mood.  As she made coffee, the station had its top of the hour news break.  She was still having trouble with the language, half of which seemed to be gestures rather than words, anyway, and she couldn’t understand what the newscaster was saying.  She was better with the gestures than the rest of it, gestures that you couldn’t see on a radio, so she busied herself with breakfast, instead.  Then she heard the words ‘Los Angeles’, and it seemed that her heart leapt into her throat.

 

It’s nothing, she told herself.  Nothing at all.  It’s not even related to anything Angel’s doing.  Even as she thought it, she didn’t believe it, but when she went out later for fresh bread, she looked at the newspapers in their racks on the street, and there was nothing she could see, or understand.  It’s nothing.

 

 

*************

 

Somewhere…else

 

He saw them all fall.  Wes, of course, was dead before the last battle, but he saw the rest of them fall.  He hadn’t seen their mutilated bodies – or in Spike’s case, his sifting dust – but he didn’t need to, to know that they were gone.  They’d all lasted much longer than ever he’d thought possible, but in the end, he’d seen them go down under the sheer weight of demons, as he’d fought his own fight against the dragon.

 

The strength he’d stolen along with Hamilton’s blood had been, possibly quite literally, a godsend.  He’d also had a few surprises planted in the alley, and they had helped.  Without Hamilton’s blood, though, he’d never have taken down that dragon.  It was as he’d done so that he’d seen the others overpowered, and the flash of demon swords finishing off the job.  He’d been so weak, though, as he staggered away from the carcass, that he hadn’t been able to avoid the broken spear shaft that the demon captain had thrust into his chest, and that had been the end. 

 

And now, it wasn’t.  Somehow, he hadn’t expected this.  He’d always thought he would go to hell.  Since he’d started down this path of working for the Powers, he’d fantasised that, at best, if he did a good job, he might simply be allowed to rest in the aether.  Was that where he was now?  It certainly didn’t feel very restful.  Wherever he was, it was…nothing.  No senses, no feeling, no body, nowhere.  He was nowhere, and nothing.  Just a ghost.  Was that what they meant?  He hadn’t told his friends everything from the vision that Cordelia had left with him.  One thing he hadn’t told them was that he still had work to do, new work that others couldn’t do.  More ways to make amends, he supposed, although now that he’d signed away the Shanshu prophecy, perhaps it wasn’t even amends.  Perhaps he was just being given another chance to do the right thing.  He couldn’t say the last one had turned out so well.   He did know one thing, though, because he’d been told it in the vision.  In this coming confrontation, as long as Connor was OK, he himself wouldn’t be destroyed.  He’d hoped that the same protection would apply to his friends, but he had been wrong.  The Powers wanted a tool, a weapon, and they didn’t seem to care about the rest of the blood spilled in their name.

 

But, he’d thought that survival would be just that – that he’d come out of whatever happened still able to fight the good fight, but perhaps he’d been wrong.  Was this what they meant, then?  That he would be a helpless, hapless haunt?  Or an essence trapped in Limbo somewhere?  What use could he be if that were so?  How could he do anything for the Powers if he were helpless?  Would he stay here, wherever here was, until Connor’s life ran its natural course?  What if Connor’s life was like his – eternal? 

 

Perhaps he’d just been wrong about everything.  Perhaps the Senior Partners were the only Powers, and they had just been yanking his chain, enjoying their victory over him.  Or perhaps he was still in his box under the ocean, and everything else had been a hallucination; this was to be his eternity.  How could he ever know?  He pushed that thought down, ruthlessly.  The end had been real, in all its dreadful glory, and he’d been dusted.  Now he had to deal with the aftermath.

 

He wanted to sit and weep, but you couldn’t do that without a body.  There were no walls that he could find, and without walls there were no doors.  There was no light, there was simply nothing.  And, to make things worse, he could feel sense and memory starting to slip from him.  Some things were becoming vague.  Not Connor or Buffy, not his friends, not yet, and so he clung onto every memory of those as hard as he could, determined not to lose them; and he pressed on, in the hope of finding something.  But there was nothing, only the feel of rushing, all around him.  Wind, water, Hamilton’s blood?  Who knew?  Just the feel of rushing.

 

*************

 

Los Angeles, California

 

He went down to Hollywood the next afternoon, in the sunlight.  The life of the city was disjointed, with citizens still uncertain whether to cut and run, or take the risk and stay.  But, they’d seen a lot of strange things this last couple of years, and Los Angeles was still standing.  Mainly.

 

Later, the scientists would rationalise it as best they could.  Seismic activity, they would say, had caused a small and atypical eruption from an isolated pocket of magma, whilst at the same time causing the La Brea tar pits to overflow.  That night, similar tar pits had briefly opened up all over the Hollywood area, and then closed again as mysteriously as they came.  There were no reports of anyone missing, but some eyewitnesses, who were clearly unreliable, had reported strange shapes floundering in the sticky mass.  Within a week, though, the tar pits would be back to normal.

 

He couldn’t get as near as he would like, but he could see more than had been possible the night before.  He thought that the eruption had actually taken place in the Hyperion, which pointed to something his father had done, but there was no telling now.  Only stumps of walls, filled with lava, were still standing.  It had probably been magic, or perhaps it was the hand of his father’s precious Powers, deigning to step up to the plate at last, but who could know?

 

Whatever, the site of the eruption was sealed, the lava had stopped flowing, and was now cooling rapidly.  He could hear that sharp tink from all over as the clinker cooled and contracted.  The lava was a fairly uniform field, about three feet deep, across an area large enough to accommodate a tight knit army.  There were a few lumps and bumps, but the molten rock had incinerated almost everything, and incorporated the ashes of the dead into its own matrix.  It was his father’s grave, he felt sure, and that of all Angel’s friends.  They would be one with the earth.  Perhaps that was as they would have wanted.  He felt a small regret that he would never now get to know the man…the vampire, he reminded himself…better.  And yet, he had a feeling inside him that he hadn’t known before, a sense of closeness to the being who had bought him this new life.  A presence.  He didn’t know why that should be, but wondered if this was a father and son thing, too.

 

A larger lump in the lava, close to a substantial chunk of ruined wall, caught his eye.  He thought he saw something glinting next to it.  It was probably only a trick of the light on crystallising rock, but somehow it troubled him.  There was no going to look just yet, though, because there were too many officious people around keeping the site ‘safe and secure’.  Workmen were erecting boarded walls to keep the general public out.  Better wait until nightfall.  By then, the crust should be firm enough – and cool enough – to bear his weight.  He’d had lots of experience with lava fields in the Quor’toth.  He remembered that.

 

It was well past sunset when he went back.  The barrier was no barrier at all, at least not to him, with his father’s agility.  He had a torch, but the moon was full and, just now, he didn’t need it.  He had been right.  The lava crust was hardening and cooling.  Provided he didn’t step on a weak patch, or into a crack, he would be safe.  Treading as lightly as he knew how, he crossed that barren expanse.  He rather thought he was probably the first to do so.

 

When he reached the lump, he saw that whatever had been there had, by some miracle, prevented the lava from reaching a scant few square feet of ground space.  He shone his torch along the crumbling wall of new rock, and saw something charred sticking out.  He yanked on it, and it came away easily.  It was a piece of bone.  One end was almost ash, and it was clear that the creature this had belonged to had been immolated in the molten rock.  It was also clear that it had never been human, or anything like it.  It looked like a flat piece of rib, but it had belonged to something huge: something many times the size of a human.  He pushed it as far as he could into his pocket – no point leaving that here for humans to find and question.

 

Then he turned to examine that small piece of protected ground.  There was gritty ash, and he felt a sudden lump come to his throat at the sight of it; a sword, which he recognised as his father’s, but now it was pitted and notched from who knew what usage; and the glint of something metallic and small.  He reached into what must surely be his father’s remains and picked up a long silver chain.  As he pulled it free, he saw that it carried two silver rings, one much smaller than the other, of a strange design.  Once, when he’d fought Angel, he’d seen something glint beneath the neck of his shirt, but only that once.  Now he thought he knew what it had been, and he wondered what these had meant to the vampire.  Wondered why he had chosen to wear these round his neck on what he must have realised would be his last day of existence.  Then a louder cracking sound from the wall of lava made him jump.  He’d better hurry - his time here might be very limited. 

 

Further back, he saw something else gleam dully for a moment in the moonlight.  It was some sort of metal helmet, and most definitely not designed for a human head.  He made a sudden decision.  As carefully as he could, he gathered his father’s ashes up into the helmet, reflecting how strange it was that a body as large and solid and protective as his father’s could be reduced to so little.  He placed the rings and chain on top of the ashes, thrust the sword through his belt and headed back to the barrier.  It was a little more troublesome this time, but he managed without spilling anything at all.

 

Cradling the helmet in his arms, he circled the entire site.  He knew who Angel’s friends were, and he knew their scent – all of them – and he would know if any of them had walked or been carried away from this place anytime in the last couple of days.  Any scent of them inside the barrier had been burned away, but out here, if they were to be found, he could find them.  There was nothing.

 

He wondered about casting the ashes on the waters in Santa Monica Bay, but he felt strangely reluctant to part with them just yet.  He smiled grimly at what his new parents might say if they found a helmet full of vampire ash under his bed.  So, what to do?  The answer, when it came, was obvious.

 

*************

 

Westbury, England

 

There had been no reply from Wyndham-Price, and so Giles had been forced to ring Angel.  There had been no reply there, either, just a message that the line was out of service, and he wasn’t entirely sorry. He knew that he was being unfair, that Angel wasn’t Angelus, or not entirely, but when the face and the voice were the same, it was hard to forget.  Hard to forget the torture, hard to forget Jenny’s death, and hard to forget what Angelus had done to Buffy.  It was almost as hard to forget what Angel had done to Buffy, by himself and through his demon of a grandchilde.

 

He made other calls, but at present all he could discover was that there had been a freak but natural disaster of limited proportions in downtown Los Angeles.  He didn’t call Buffy.  There was no point in causing her concern.  Not yet.  They had concerns enough at the moment.  He hadn’t yet told her about the supernatural happenings that he had stumbled across.  Nor had he told her about the problems with the new Slayers. 

 

Faith had taken a couple of them, the more able ones, to Cleveland.  He’d been reluctant to entrust more than two to her, what with Faith’s own background, and the fact that he’d had no one to send to keep an eye on her and her charges.

 

The rest of the slayers were here, in Westbury.  There weren’t many of them left now.  So many had been killed by the First’s creatures, before they’d even known what they were.  So many others had died in the battles against the First.  There were doubtless some who hadn’t even been found yet, and heaven alone knew how many of those there were, although the Coven had assured him that they had located no more

 

Here, there were 18, and trouble seemed to dog them.  Not the normal teenage girl trouble, either – or not only the normal teenage girl trouble.  He would have been unaccountably happy if that’s all it were.  Slayerhood was sitting heavily on them, and he was sure that, before long, he’d need to split them up and put them to work, even though he had no one to guide them.  Worse than that, though, the forces of evil seemed to be sending mystical events and paranormal activity to threaten them wherever they went.  He’d hoped, by bringing them here, within travelling distance of the Coven, that the Coven could help.  But, powerful though the witches undoubtedly were, both collectively and individually, this was something outside their sphere of ability.  They could help in small ways, but it wasn’t enough.  So, he spent as much time as he could trying to research.  Trying to identify the problem.

 

He had to spend time scouring the available sources for any text that came on the market, and, much to his distaste, he had to make his peace with new technology, and learn to use the Internet.  So far, it wasn’t going well.

 

And, apart from the slayers, he was alone here.  Xander had decided that if he never heard of demon fighting again, it would be too soon; Buffy was in Rome with Dawn; Andrew was there too, letting Giles know of anything that happened to Buffy, keeping an eye on her; Willow was definitely somewhere else, although he wasn’t entirely sure where, and that worried him; and Robin Wood had wanted no more to do with them ever again.  So, he’d brought the slayers to England and started their training.  That’s when the trouble had started, and he’d moved their base to Westbury.  And still, it wasn’t going well.

 

**************

 

Rome, Italy

 

Dawn had told her that the La Brea tar pits had gone crazy, and then had left to meet Marco, her latest beau.  La Brea.  She knew that was near to where Angel was, of course, but tar pits going crazy?  That couldn’t be too bad could it?  She looked at the article again.  The picture made no sense, because it just looked like the wreck of some buildings, and a flat field of rock, and there seemed to be too much writing for it to be all about tar pits, for pity’s sake, but Dawn hadn’t seemed worried, so could it be bad?  She was damned if she was going to ask that little tick, Andrew.  She knew very well that Andrew had been foisted off on to her so that he could report back to Giles, and with his idiotically superior ways, and his secrets and general sliminess, he got on her nerves.  The least said to him, the better.  And surely, if there had been a problem, someone would call her?

 

The chill of emptiness, of absolute abandonment, hadn’t left her, though, and more than once she had picked up her cell phone and almost dialled the forbidden number.  But there was no point going there.  There was nothing to be gained but more pain.

 

But why was she still here?  Rome had been fun for a while, even though she couldn’t get the hang of the language.  Dawn had picked it up like a native, and Andrew was doing better than Buffy, who’d felt alone and isolated for a long time now.  Giles had called in some favours and got Dawn into the English School on a scholarship, but wouldn’t they be better off going back to the States, now?  Whenever she spoke to Giles, he sounded morose and troubled, and she’d already wondered whether perhaps it wasn’t a scholarship – whether Giles himself was paying the fees, and perhaps they were becoming a burden?

 

What would be best for both their futures, when they had no place left to call home?  Except, perhaps, Los Angeles, but she bridled at the thought of calling the place where her father lived ‘home’.  She realised she’d all unconsciously picked up the phone again.  Impatient with herself, she set off for a couple of hours’ work.  At least posing at the Art School didn’t require her to speak the language.

 

**************

 

Los Angeles, California

 

He didn’t even need to break the lock because Wesley hadn’t locked his apartment.  Connor knew where they all lived.  Angel wasn’t the only one with lurking skills.

 

He realised at once that everything was too neat and tidy.  Wesley had known that he probably wouldn’t come back here.  A pile of books lay on the table, with a thick envelope on top.  Gently, he placed the helmet down on the couch, propping it with a cushion so that it wouldn’t tip over, then went to the books.  As he crossed the apartment, he realised that there were more books, neatly stacked in boxes.  Ancient texts, the tools of Wesley’s trade, all ready for transport somewhere else.

 

The books on the table were journals.  The envelope contained letters, some to people who were already dead, others that might be deliverable.  There was his last will and testament, unsealed, available for the finder to read.  If no one from Angel Investigations was left alive, everything went to Rupert Giles, whoever he was, and especially the books.  All of them, including the journals.  Another document listed the current financial arrangements.  The rent on the apartment was paid up until the end of June, six weeks away.

 

He opened the topmost journal.  The last entry, in a hasty scrawl, documented where he would be going on what might be his final errand – to see Cyvus Vail – and an address.  Connor remembered it well.

 

A slim volume sat by the side of the journals.  Addresses and telephone numbers.

 

Connor replaced everything as he had found it, and started to search the rooms.  He found what he was looking for in the bedroom.  There was a carved wooden box, just about the right size.  It held a number of things that looked like knick-knacks but might be priceless magical artefacts, for all he knew.  One thing he did know, though, was that Wesley would surely not resent what he did next.  He emptied the knick-knacks onto the bed, and took the box back into the living room.  Then, carefully, he tipped the contents of the helmet into it.  Setting the box on the table, he took the stack of journals back to the couch and began to read.

 

After an hour, he had a pretty good idea who Giles was, and an extremely good idea who Buffy was.  He picked up the address book.  There was a telephone number for Giles, but the one against Buffy’s name had been scored out, as had the one written in to replace it.  There was no new number, so he dialled the one for Giles.

 

**************

 

Westbury, England

 

Giles was setting about preparations for tea when the phone rang.  He didn’t recognise the voice, a male, probably young.

 

“Is that Rupert Giles?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“This is Connor.”  There was a pause.  “Angel’s son.”

 

Giles knew about that.  Something about it, anyway.

 

“Have you got the phone number for Buffy Summers?”

 

“I…I really don’t think…”

 

“Don’t you think she should know that Dad’s dead?”

 

He gave him the number. 

 

Dead?  Well, that solved a lot of problems.  He tried to ignore the feeling of guilt at that thought, and a tinge of sorrow for the souled vampire he had known.

 

************

 

Los Angeles, California and Rome, Italy

 

“Is that Buffy?  Buffy Summers?”

 

“No, it’s Dawn, her sister.  I’ll give her a shout.”

 

He heard the piercing yell and moved the phone away from his ear in sheer self-defence.  He didn’t have to wait long.

 

“Don’t stay out late Dawn!  You hear me?  Hello, Buffy Summers here.”

 

He paused for a moment, suddenly uncertain of what to say.

 

“Is someone there?  Hello?”

 

He swallowed hard.

 

“It’s Connor.  Angel’s son.”

 

It was her turn to pause.  He let her.  The words, when they came, were flat, emotionless, controlled.

 

“Hello, Connor.”

 

He couldn’t find any easy way of saying it, because of course there weren’t any.

 

“I, er, I… I thought you might want to know.  Dad’s dead.  Angel.  Angel’s been dusted.  He’s gone.”

 

He suddenly had needed to make it very clear to her.  There could be no misunderstanding.

 

It was as if someone had thumped her in the gut and, all too suddenly, the meaning of the despair and emptiness she felt became devastatingly clear.

 

“When?”

 

That was the word she meant to say, but it didn’t sound familiar when it managed to get beyond the lump in her throat.

 

He understood, though.  He told her, and she had known.

 

“How?”

 

That was a simpler word, easier to get out.

 

He told her that, too; at least, as much as he knew of it.  Saving the world from the Apocalypse.

 

She’d known that, too.  The dream hadn’t been prophetic; it had been afterphetic, or whatever the word was.  Pain bled down the phone to him.  He told her something that he hoped would help, even if only a little bit.

 

“I managed to get his ashes.  I’ll take care of him.”

 

And then he was gone.  She fell to her knees in the hall, crouched over, into as small a ball as she could, and then the tears came.  It was hours before Dawn came home and found her there.

 

*************

 

Los Angeles, California

 

He’d left after that, locking up and taking the keys with him.  Now, it was the next day.  He couldn’t forget the voice on the phone, those few words from a woman who sounded almost as young as he was, and yet a million years older.  There was one more thing to do.  In the light of day, he went to Cyvus Vail’s. It was completely deserted, except for the corpses on the floor.  It wasn’t at all hard to tell which one was Wesley.  For the moment, he left them where they lay.

 

Back at Wesley’s apartment, he settled down to read again.  He learned a lot that day.  He learned more about his father: conflicted, brooding, lonely, taciturn, flawed as any other human.  Always making mistakes, but always refusing to give up.  And he learned how much he himself had been loved.  He’d always thought that his father might have tried to care for him, but that vampires couldn’t experience that human emotion.  He’d been wrong, and he’d just never understood how real and deep that love had been.  Real enough for his father to give him up, and to offer himself and his friends to the Beast in exchange.  As he read, he sat on the couch and felt as though he were holding his father to him, as if he were only a breath away.

 

Wesley had recorded everything, including his own betrayal of the vampire who had made a failed Watcher into part of his family.  The Father Will Kill The Son.  Well, that had certainly happened, but in a way that none of them had seen.  Two ways, actually.  Someone else’s father had killed someone else’s son, even if only metaphorically, when Holtz had ended the life where he was loved, and exacted a two hundred year old vengeance on a creature who no longer existed.  Had, to all intents and purposes, killed Angel’s son and recreated him to Holtz’s design.  He had known most of the facts, although not all, but he had not known about them, had not known any of the context.  Anger spurted through him.  Anger at Holtz, anger at Wesley for breaking trust, anger at his father for trusting too readily, although even as he felt it, he knew he was being unfair.  Besides, things were as they were, and Angel had done the best he could.  And he’d read about the Shanshu prophecy, where his father had had a destiny and a duty: tasks to perform.  If he weren’t here to do that, who would there be to save the world those other times?  To fight the dangers still to come?

 

Yes, Wesley had been meticulous and had recorded everything, even to the recent recovery of all but the newest of these journals from where Fred had hidden them in her room, after Wesley had thrown them away.  Connor wished that he had been able to read these earlier.  He wished a lot of things, in truth, but if he had known how things had stood, perhaps it would all be different.  No point crying over spilt milk, though; it was best to just accept what was.

 

When he had finished, he sat silently for a moment, and then walked over to the wooden box.  He lifted the lid so that he could see the sad remains inside, the glint of silver here and there.  He knew what the rings were, now, and was sorry that he had been so brief on the phone.  He thought again of what a mess everything was, and what might have been, and it was then that the tears came.  He couldn’t remember the last time he’d cried.

 

When he was finished, and could speak coherently, he dialled the number in England again.

 

“Giles.”

 

“It’s Connor again.  Wesley left you everything.  His body’s at…” and he gave the address, “but there’s a demon’s body there, too, and a lot of wizarding stuff.  What do you want me to do?”

 

Giles had a contact he could trust.  Wesley’s body would be collected and other things attended to.

 

“Wesley’s rent is paid here until the end of June, and I’ve got the keys.  The stuff will be safe.  Deal with Vail and Wesley first.”

 

Giles had no doubt Wesley’s books and other property would be safe.  And so it was left.

 

Connor stood, at a loss for the moment, but still feeling the warmth of love he was sure would have come from his father.  Then he went to a box of books, selected one, and started to read.  These people had relied way too much on magic, but perhaps, now, that was all that was left.  The Father Will Kill The Son.  A false prophecy, Wesley wrote, but already it had come true in more than one respect.  Tricky things, prophecies.  Slithery, and never, ever to be taken at face value.  Perhaps there was still more to come.

 

*************

 

Westbury, England

 

It took Giles four days to be sure that Wesley’s body was on its way back to England, with documentation that would pass muster, and to make sure that everything at Cyvus Vail’s had either been recycled for Giles to use, or burnt to a cinder in the ensuing fire.

 

During those four days, he tried to call Buffy several times, but she wouldn’t talk to him.  Andrew told him that she had initially locked herself in her room, but now spent as many hours as she could simply walking through the streets of Rome.  She came home to sleep, but that was about it.

 

He was not in a hurry to recover Wesley’s possessions.  He had six weeks, and he had the impression that Connor was using the resources there to find something out about himself.  He could afford to give him the time to do that.  And so the days ticked by.

 

**************

 

Los Angeles, California

 

His reading had been instructive.  He had a new respect for Wesley, and the books the ex-Watcher had managed to find. Or, perhaps, the books he had managed to steal from Wolfram and Hart. 

 

It wasn’t anything to do with genes.  It was all to do with blood.  His father was a vampire, damn it, and he should have understood what that meant days ago. His father was a vampire, and he had his father’s blood.  He had his mother’s, too.  The thing was, could he use it?  And could he be sure that he had actually understood the texts properly?  They were pretty obscure, after all.  Even Wesley didn’t seem to have made any notes about the parts Connor had in mind

 

It had come together in his mind on one of his extensive trawls of the city, the searches that he’d undertaken as a break from reading.  He’d been checking and double checking that none of the others was, by a miracle, still alive.  He’d been to Spike’s apartment, but that had yielded nothing except some bottles of beer and some elderly bags of blood.  He had worked his way out from the site of the eruption, but there had been no trace of any of them, and he knew that he would catch their scent if it were there to be caught.  He had visited all the hospitals and sneaked into all the mortuaries.  There was nothing.  Now, he was certain, as certain as he could be, that there was nothing.

 

Now was the time to try what he had in mind.  Perhaps he had, indeed, been born for a reason.  He’d been born by a miracle.  Perhaps now was the time to give it back.

 

The Father Will Kill The Son. 

 

‘They’ll destroy you.’  ‘As long as you’re OK, they can’t.’

 

When he got back to the apartment, he opened Wesley’s last journal and carefully ruled a line across it, using the spine of one of the other journals as a straight edge.  He never could draw worth a damn.  Not like his father.  He started a new page, and wrote down what had happened since the last time he had seen Angel; wrote down what he was about to do; shared with that journal his hopes for what might happen.  Then, he found some writing paper, and began the letters he needed to write.  One was to his new parents, just in case.  The other was to his father.

 

Dad

 

I think I understand you better now, and I hope I’ve done the right thing.  The others are gone.  I’ve looked everywhere for them, and you know I’d find them if they were here.  Don’t come looking for me – ever.  If I want to find you, I will.  Make me that promise, and don’t break it.

 

Love

 

Connor’

 

He’d hesitated over the word ‘Love’, but it had seemed appropriate.  He hugged his arms around himself for a moment, as if he were holding something in.  As if he were holding his father.  He thought that, in a manner of speaking, that might be exactly what he was doing.  Then, he carefully replaced everything of Wesley’s that he’d used or moved.  All except the box.  Stripping a sheet from the bed, he laid it out on the floor in the living room, and then retrieved a couple of items from a closet in Wesley’s bedroom.  He’d been surprised to find those particular items there, but you never knew, with people.

 

Then he brought the box over to the white sheet, and tipped Angel’s ashes into the centre.  The glint of silver caught his eye, and he lifted out the chain with the two rings, laying it neatly by the side of the sheet.  His father’s sword still lay on the floor.  He hadn’t cleaned it, but maybe it was better this way, pitted with the blood of who knew what.  Perhaps it would just add to the mix.

 

He knelt down by the earthly remains of his only true kin, and knew that he was wrapped in his father’s love.  He dreaded to think what Angel would say if this worked, and if he was right about giving the miracle back.  About another way in which the Father might kill the Son.   He hoped he’d still be alive at the end of this, although he really didn’t think so.  But, it was Angel who could keep on saving the world, not Connor.  Connor was the Destroyer, and that wasn’t good enough.   So long as his father never tried to look for him, he wouldn’t know if the worst had happened.

 

With only a few regrets, he rolled up his left sleeve and then he sliced the sword across the meat of his forearm allowing the blood to drop down into the ashes; his own miraculous blood, something that was never meant to be; his father’s blood; his mother’s blood: Darla, who had once made Angelus.  Father, mother, sire, son:  all of them, the blood that had once been Angel.  Perhaps it could make him once again.  He stayed there for a long time, as the sheet turned from white to pink to red, and the ashes turned from grey to black.  The wound on his arm kept closing, and he had to slice it open again and again.  Sometimes, he had to make a completely new cut, and still the blood ran out.

 

As dizziness took him, he wondered if he had made a stupid mistake, and whether he should have been more like them, reliant on magic in the end.  No, something deep inside whispered to him, no.  You understand the magic of blood: it’s who you are.  It’s who he was.  This is how it should be.  And still the blood ran.

 

He’d thought of having some fluid to hand; a jug of water, or something, but he’d been afraid to dilute his blood, and so he stayed where he was, watching his life drip out onto his father’s death.  He was feeling stretched, thinned, as if he were fading away; he had to close his eyes, because he had not the strength to keep them open.  So thin.  He knew of no other way to think of it.  The Father Will Kill The Son.  Maybe true prophecies could still come from false prophets.  Maybe the son was willing.  Holtz, a wronged father, had killed the vampire’s son.  And, of course, his father had killed him, in a very real way, with a knife that seemed almost as big as this sword, on that terrible day in the store.  Third time’s the charm.  He concentrated on his father’s love.  Everything had been against them. If only….  He wondered what death might look like, if that was the price.

 

And then something was different. He forced open his eyelids against the greyness that clouded his vision.  On the bloodied sheet, amongst a litter of bloodied ashes, was the unconscious and naked body of a man.  Angel.  Maybe.

 

Everything was so hard, now.  It would be impossible for him to lift Angel; it was almost impossible to do the smaller things that needed doing.  First things first.  He managed to get those surprising manacles from Wesley’s closet onto Angel’s wrists and ankles, joined so that the vampire was securely hogtied.  Definitely a vampire.  Connor just didn’t know which one, yet.

 

Then he put the dusty silver chain back around Angel’s neck.

 

With a supreme effort, he reached for the phone, and dialled Rome.  He was lucky.

 

************

 

Rome, Italy

 

“Buffeeeee!  It’s Connor again.”

 

Connor.  She could talk to him.  She’d come to a decision, through all the long miles that she’d tramped through Rome.  If the scholarship wouldn’t stretch to it, every single lire she had left – lire, euro, whatever – would buy Dawn a boarding place at the English School, where her sister was contented.  Andrew could stay or go, but Buffy herself would be out of Rome as soon as possible.  She didn’t know where, yet.  Where didn’t matter, so long as it wasn’t here.  She didn’t belong here.  Maybe she could go meet Connor.  He was, after all, the only thing left of Angel.

 

“Hi Connor.”

 

His voice frightened her.  It was raspy and breathy and weak.  He sounded as if he was dying.

 

“Don’t interrupt.  He was in my blood, and now he’s back.  He’s at Wesley’s apartment and I don’t know which one he is, yet.  I’ve got to go.  He’ll need blood.  I’ve left him a letter, but tell him the others are really gone, and tell him never, ever to try and find me.  Promise me.”

 

“Connor…”

 

His voice was harsh.

 

“PROMISE me.”

 

“Yes.  Sure.  Connor, where’s…”

 

But he was gone.  And she had no idea where Wesley’s apartment was.  Giles would know, though, and he’d damned well better tell her.  He did.

 

*************

 

Los Angeles, California

 

She’d worried all the way over here.  She’d worried about what Connor had done, about what she would find; about whether she would find anything at all.  She’d worried about whether it were possible that Angel could return from the dead, or whether this was some new trick of the First’s; a First she’d thought was consigned back into Hell.

 

‘…I don’t know which one he is, yet….’

 

That could only mean one thing.  Something was back.  If it wasn’t the First, masquerading as Angel, then perhaps what had been allowed to return was something much darker.  If that were the case, could she kill him again?  Or would he kill her the moment she stepped though the door?  Had he already killed Connor?

 

When she arrived, she had no trouble getting in, although she had to break the lock.  She had no time to see anything except the naked body of Angel, chained, on a dirty, bloodied sheet on the floor.  He simply lay, quiescent.

 

She knelt by his head, and saw that he was aware.

 

“Angel?  Angel?”

 

He turned to face her, his eyes golden, his face that of the demon.  But, there was a blankness to it, as if he weren’t really there at all.  Then he seemed to see something he recognised, and she hoped it might be her.  His face slipped back to that of the man.

 

“Buffy?”

 

She saw the gleam of silver around his neck, saw what hung there.  That was when she cried.  She was crying as she found the key to the manacles on the table, and unlocked them, and she was crying as she found something to wrap around him, and then she was just crying.  He remained wordless, suffering everything she did in silence, making no move to help himself.  When she tried to feed him, though, holding her arm up to his mouth, he struggled and cried out, so she desisted.  She had nothing else to offer him.

 

It was two hours later when Giles arrived, and he’d anticipated the need for blood.  He’d assumed the need would be great, and the blood that he brought was human.  When he arrived, she was sitting at the table, whilst Angel, wrapped in a blanket, curled up on the couch, as far away from her as he could.

 

“Giles, he doesn’t seem to know who he is.  He doesn’t seem to remember anything, although I think he recognises me.  He… he can’t do anything.”

 

Giles regarded his Slayer, taking in her distress.  She and he had had their disagreements, and the rift between them wasn’t healed by any means, but he couldn’t bear this.  Always, it was this bloody vampire that brought her to her knees.  He put his arms around her as Angel watched from his foetal position on the couch.

 

“What happened?”

 

“I… I don’t know.  Connor rang me.”

 

She gestured to the books and papers on the table.  He saw that the books were mainly journals, and that she had been reading one.

 

“There’s a letter from him for Angel on the table – he doesn’t want Angel to try and find him again, ever.  There’s nothing else, apart from Wesley’s stuff.  Connor wasn’t here when I arrived.  He… he’s left an entry in Wes’s last journal.  It was open on the table when I came.”

 

Her breath caught in her chest, a hiccup that might presage something much damper.  He hugged her tighter, and squashed down all his petty feelings.  This wasn’t like Sunnydale, though, when Angel had returned from being sucked down into a Hell dimension while still alive.  This time he had met final death.  His body had been ash, and his soul and his demon both had gone their separate ways.  Maybe.  Who knew what might have come back?

 

“Let me see what Connor said.”

 

She showed him the entry.  Connor had recorded everything he had done. Everything he had hoped to do.  Bring his father back to life.  Giles took off his glasses, and gave them a characteristic polish.  He was no longer aware that he did this, whenever he needed to think.

 

‘Buffy, has Angel said anything, anything at all.”

 

“Just my name.  Once.  I tried to feed him… you know… I gave him my arm, but he couldn’t get away from me fast enough.”

 

That was promising.  The vampire knew her, so he had some memories.  And he hadn’t wanted to feed from her, so it was likely he still had his soul.  He sat down next to her and took hold of her hand.  He felt her flinch, but he was firm and didn’t let go.

 

“Buffy, there are a few recorded incidents of vampires being brought back to life...”  Well, two that he knew of, and both had been ancient demons, with far more age and power than Angel. “…and we know that the Master only dusted as far as his bones.  He could have been brought back if you hadn’t destroyed the bones.  But coming back from dust needs a lot of power, and Angel presumably hasn’t fed since his return.  You know, the brain is a very, very complex thing, and Angel has a lot of memories in there.  You’ve got to expect a few days of disorientation.”

 

“You think that’s all it is?

 

“I’m sure of it.”

 

He wasn’t, but she needed to hear that.  Possibly, so did the vampire on the couch.  He took a pint of blood from his bag.  He knew what blood group it was.  It was his own.

 

“Give that to him.  There’s another pint in here for later.”

 

He watched as she did so.  Angel was ravenous, draining the cup that she gave him in seconds, trying to lick out the dregs, unable to bring himself to give it back to her so that she could refill it.  The tick of anger he felt at the vampire’s animal behaviour warred with his absolute knowledge that Angel, in his right mind, would be mortified at what he was doing.

 

“Do you want to go back to Italy?  Or do you want to come back to Westbury with me?  With me and Angel?”

 

“You’ll take him back with you?  Help him?”

 

He gritted his teeth.

 

“Yes.”

 

After he’d said it, he realised it was the truth; but only after he’d said it.

 

She hugged him fiercely, and he wondered for a moment if she’d remember enough not to snap his ribs.  Then she relented.

 

“There’s nothing in Italy for me except Dawn, and even she can manage well enough without me, if I can get her a boarding place at school.  Angel and I can never be… you know…  because nothing’s changed.  But I’ll come and help him as much as I can.”

 

“Very well.  We’ll take him back to Westbury with us.  There’s nothing here for him, or for you, either.  We’ll get him better again.”

 

“Promise?”

 

“I promise.”

 

The End

22 January 2005

 


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