Family by T.C.
Summary: Angel finds his son and the reunion is not joyous.
Spoilers: Sleep Tight, Season Three.
The boy was filthy,
rags and dirt clung to him like a second skin. Cordelia's heart immediately
melted. She had seen a lot of street kids since she had moved to L. A. -
especially when she had lived in the less desirable areas of the city - but
there was something about this one. She crossed the street, dodging the bumpers
of angry motorists and ignoring the blaring horns, and stopped in front of him.
Unlike most street kids, he didn't shy away or run. Instead he stared up at her
with an unusually intense gaze for a child so young. He reminded her of someone.
Cordelia held out her hand. "Hello, I'm Cordelia. Are you hungry?" The child nodded and grabbed her hand. "What's your name?" The boy only shook his head. "Oh, not talking, hey? I understand that. I'm going to take you to the office where I work. It's a really big hotel with a huge kitchen. We'll order out...unless you toaster waffles. I make great toaster waffles." Cordelia kept up the one-sided chatter until they reached the Hyperion. She hesitated at the front door, suddenly unsure about bringing a small boy into the hotel so soon after Angel had lost Connor. True, the child wasn't a baby, but still. "You know what, I changed my mind. Why don't we go back to my place. I have a t.v. and we can find some cartoons."
The boy wouldn't budge from the front step. He looked up at the door with a stubborn glare. Cordelia tugged on his arm one more time. "Come on, Scooby-Doo, Roadrunner, anything you want to watch - as long as it's PG."
"It's okay, Cordelia." The door swung open, but Angel stayed behind it in the shadows. "You can bring him in."
This time the boy went willingly when Cordelia led him into the darkened lobby of the Hyperion. The door closed behind them, further deepening the shadows. "I found him on the street. He won't tell me his name." Cordelia turned to look at Angel, her apology clearly visible in her eyes. "I had to help him."
"Of course." Angel moved toward them. He smiled at the boy. "Hi, I'm Angel." The boy shied away from the much larger man, cuddling up close to Cordelia's leg. Angel looked up at Cordelia, missing the flash of hate that burned through the boys dark brown eyes. "Vision?"
"No." Cordelia reached out and brushed the hair out of the boy's eyes. It was matted and caked with dirt. "You, young man, have an appointment with water and a bathtub. Fred, can you call and order some food please?"
Fred skipped forward. "Sure." She bent down toward the boy, a big exuberant smile lighting up her face. "What do you like to eat? I like tacos."
Connor turned his head into Cordelia's hip. She smelled nice and he liked her. She made him feel safe and warm. When he left this place, he would take her with him. Holtz had told him about her - had said that she had acted as his mother, but had failed to protect him from his father - but it was obvious that Holtz had been wrong about her. His father had blinded her to his true nature, but when it was revealed he would save her. She would love him and be his mother again.
"Tacos sound great, Fred." Cordelia led the boy upstairs. She knew what she was doing - taking care of this boy in a way that she hoped someone was taking care of Connor - creating good karma. She started the water running in the huge old clawfoot bathtub and adjusted the temperature until it was comfortably warm. The boy peered into the tub and then looked up at her with terrified eyes. "It's okay. Trust me, you'll feel better once you're all cleaned up." The boy still looked wary and a stubborn line had set in his features. Cordelia sighed. This was going to take a while.
Angel slowly crept up the stairway. He could hear the sounds of laughter and water splashing. He stopped and leaned against the wall, swallowing the lump that formed in his throat. He had never voiced any of his fantasies concerning Cordelia and his son, but he had thought about a scene much like this one. Cordelia acting as Connor's mother - washing his hair, making sure he cleaned behind his ears and brushed his teeth. But this little boy wasn't his son and he had to be careful not to confuse them. Connor was gone, lost, and he was never coming back. Angel pushed himself from the wall and stepped forward to knock on the bathroom door. "Cordy, I have some clothes for the boy, Gunn went out and bought some. And the food's here."
"Okay." Cordelia opened the bathroom door. She grinned at Angel and he couldn't help but smile back. Her clothes were dotted with water marks and soapsuds clung to her cheek. She took the clothes from Angel. "We'll be down in a few minutes."
"Has he told you anything yet?"
"No, but he has...."
"Momma!" the boy called out, interrupting Cordelia.
A pink blush bloomed on her cheeks and Cordelia dropped her gaze, refusing to meet Angel's. "He started calling me that and...well, I tried to explain...."
"It's okay, Cordelia. I understand." Angel squeezed her shoulder. His hand lingered. He wanted to pull her into a hug, but his feelings for her and her feelings for Groo stopped him.
"Momma," Connor called again, but this time it came out more as a growl than an excited yell. He didn't like seeing his father touch her. Connor climbed out of the tub, sloshing water onto the floor. He would protect her from the evil vampire who called himself his father, even if he had to kill him.
Cordelia turned and caught the charging child up in her arms. "You must be starved, young man. Let's get you dressed and then we'll go down and eat." Cordelia pulled the blue t-shirt Gunn had bought over the boy's head. When his head appeared again, Angel was gone. His chance to kill his father had passed. There would be another one.
In silent agreement, Fred, Gunn, and Lorne found excuses to leave the hotel after they had eaten lunch. Lorne even persuaded Groo to go along with him - saying something about wanting news of his family. It was just Cordelia and Angel. And the little boy. Cordelia sat on one of the comfortable plush sofas in the lobby, the boy cuddled in her lap. She curled his hair around her fingers as he slept peacefully. "He needs a haircut."
Angel didn't say anything. He knew that Cordelia had been hurt by Connor's kidnaping. She had put aside her pain and helped him deal with his and now she was repressing it and lavishing all the love she had built up for Connor on this little boy. Angel wished he could do the same, it would be so much easier, but it wouldn't last. The pain would surface eventually and Cordelia needed to deal with it now. "He can't stay, Cordelia."
Now it was Cordelia's turn to remain silent. She hugged the boy closer, she didn't want to give him up. She had a chance to be a mother to Connor - or at least a glorified aunt - but she had messed that up. She had went to Mexico on vacation with her boyfriend instead of protecting her child. This could be her second chance. This boy needed her. He needed her to be strong and do the right thing instead of falling back on selfish tendencies. "We should call Children's Services and have someone pick him up." Cordelia gave him one last squeeze and then shifted him off her lap. She stood up and brushed a kiss on his forehead.
The soft touch of her lips hardened Connor's resolve. He would not be separated from his mother again. If his father thought that he could send him away into another hell dimension, he had thought wrong. Connor's eyes opened. His mother and father were standing in the office, talking. His mother started to cry and his father embraced her. Connor slipped silently off the sofa and made his way to the weapons cabinet. An assortment of sharp wooden stakes lay on the bottom shelf. Connor chose the sharpest looking one. The lighter wood of the point gleamed in the shadows of the room.
"Angel, I'm sorry...I shouldn't..." Cordelia sobbed in Angel's arms. She held on to him, her arms wrapped around his shoulders, and finally cried for the baby that she had lost too. She pushed herself away, wiping at her eyes and putting the desk between them. "I'm being selfish. You were Connor's father."
"You were his mother." Angel finally voiced the title that everyone had silently given her. He looked up at Cordelia to gage her reaction and was surprised by the horror on her face. "Cordelia." Angel stepped toward her.
"No!" Cordelia yelled. She jumped across the desk, scattering the papers over the floor. With a strength she didn't know she possessed, Cordelia shoved Angel out of the way and caught the boy in her arms. They fell to the floor, Cordelia twisting so that she landed on the bottom.
"Momma! Momma, no," the boy cried. He buried his head in the crook of her neck. "No, Momma, Daddy's supposed to die. He's a bad man. He's evil, Momma. You shouldn't protect him. Holtz said...he said..."
At the mention of Holtz's name, Angel stiffened. He watched Cordelia lift the boys head from her neck. "Connor?" Her voice was weak and Angel shuddered as a thin trail of blood traced a line from the corner of her mouth down her cheek. She was hurt.
And the sobbing boy in her arms was their son. Angel gently lifted Connor off of Cordelia. The polished end of a stake was all that was visible. The stake had been driven deep into her chest right between her breasts. Angel fell to his knees beside her. There was nothing he could do. "Cordelia." He caressed her hair and cradled her in his arms. She moaned in pain, but kept her beautiful eyes focused on him. "Cordelia, I love you. I should have said it before, but...I love you. You're so strong and loving and...I don't know if I can do this. Please, Cordy, don't leave me."
Cordelia felt the wetness of Angel's tears as he buried his head in her neck much as his son had done. She could hear Connor crying beside them. "I...love you...and Connor." Cordelia reached out and lay her hand on Connor's head. He crawled back to his place on her chest. It didn't matter, the pain was fading. "Look after your...son, Angel."
Her smile was like the sun, it burned through him and lit up his world. Angel raised his head in time to see it once more before her eyes darkened and she went still, her heart giving out in a fluttery thump. He hugged her and Connor tightly.