Heart To Heart by Dazzle
Summary: Angel talks to Connor about the nature of love.
Spoilers: Through the end of season three ATS. It takes place in season four but has no specific spoilers.
Notes: This fic is an answer to the "Cliche Challenge" on the ACAngst list. The cliche chosen: "Connor plays matchmaker for Angel and Cordelia."
my mother very pretty?"
Angel tried to open his eyes, but he was still so tired. So very tired. His head and neck and back all ached from – from something – something hit him –
"My father told me a lot about you," said the voice again. It sounded like Connor, and yet it couldn't be Connor. Connor was his son. He was Connor's father.
"He didn't talk as much about my mother. I know Darla hunted him too. I think she gave him more grief even than you, Angel."
His cheek lay against concrete. He could feel something cool and heavy around his wrists – metal, perhaps. Not handcuffs, but chains. Angel knew he should be more worried about that, but the physical world still seemed remote, its concerns unimportant.
Connor spoke again. "Did you love my mother?"
His son wanted to know about his mother. Angel had promised her that he would tell his son about her someday. He had sworn it to her as she died. He opened his mouth – sore jaw, thick tongue, the taste of only his own blood – and rasped, "No."
"Never? Not at all?"
Angel remembered nights in front of fireplaces, Darla's glistening lips open in delight. He remembered long journeys in carriages, her head pillowed against his shoulder. He remembered bathing with her in a Moroccan palace, surrounded by marble and crystal and the heavy, somnolent smell of incense.
Then he remembered hanging out in the Hyperion with Cordelia, watching her attempt to explain the incomprehensible plot of some soap opera she followed as she ate a sub sandwich. She had been wearing a T-shirt and jeans, and she'd had a little mayonnaise on her chin. "No," Angel said. "I never loved Darla, and she never loved me. But she loved you."
"She never saw me," Connor said, as though pronouncing a final judgment. Angel could hear his son's feet on the concrete floor; he was busy at some task, moving about from place to place, but Angel could tell no more. He made one effort at opening his eyes, but even the dim florescent light hurt, and he shut them again. Connor finally said, "When did you first love another person?"
"When – when I was alive," Angel said. "My father and I – we didn't – I had troubles with my family, but I loved them, all the same. My baby sister. I loved her."
Connor was still for a moment, and Angel wondered dully if this had surprised him – the thought of Angel as a human being. The fact that, even if Connor would never meet them, he had an aunt and grandparents, like any other boy. But he didn't ask about them when he spoke again. "I meant romantic love. What a man feels for a woman."
"Buffy," Angel said. "I fell in love with a girl named Buffy Summers." He did not mention that she was a Slayer. It didn't matter; it wasn't the reason why.
"If you loved her, why aren't you with her now?"
Angel knew he could never fully explain the answer – it was something that didn't lend itself to words. "We loved each other too much," he said, knowing it was incomplete, knowing it would do. "We couldn't love each other and care about anything else. In the end, you can't live like that."
"So you love Cordelia less than you loved Buffy," Connor said, very sure, as though he had solved a great puzzle.
"No," Angel said. He opened his eyes again, and for the first time, some of the reality of the situation began to sink in. He remembered the fight now – an alleyway outside the Hyperion, the heaviness of the club in Connor's hands. Connor had wanted to hurt him, and now he was in Connor's power. Yet Angel wasn't afraid. He had endured the worst punishment of his existence at Connor's hands already. If his son wanted to stake him, it would already be done. Whatever would come, would come. Angel was prepared to accept worse than this at his son's hands.
And yet there was something else – something else –
"What do you mean?" Connor said. Angel heard the soft thump of a finger against plastic. "If you loved Buffy too much to be with her, but you can be with Cordelia, you must love Cordelia less."
"It's not like that," Angel said. He tried to turn his head, but his neck protested with fiery jolts of pain. He lay still. "When I fell in love with Buffy, she was the entire world to me. Nobody can be that for another person, Connor. Not for long. It doesn't keep. When I fell in love with Cordelia – she was part of the world. Part of a life I'd made for myself. She helped me do work that was worth doing, shared friends with me, made me live less like a monster. More like a man. She was good for me."
"Are you good for her?"
Another unanswerable question. "I try to be."
"What made you realize that you loved her?"
"No one thing. A thousand things." Fake flowers designed to brighten up his basement. The way she could flip-flop from a sympathetic and understanding woman to an avenging fighter to a girl worried about her hair, all in a matter of minutes. Arguments in the courtyard about Connor, about Darla, about Wesley. The sound of her laugh. Running lines for a commercial audition. The smell of her hair –
-- he could smell it even now --
Angel felt the fear even before he recognized it – his muscles tensing, cold shivers trembling along every limb. He whispered, "Connor – where is Cordelia?"
"Right here," Connor said.
"Cordy?" Angel called, knowing even as he said it that this would be useless. If she could speak to him, she would have before now. He took a deep breath, and then he could smell the blood.
"She's resting," Connor said.
Angel tried to struggle to his feet, but he was clumsy with injury and disorientation, and his hands were bound fast behind him. He fell on his side, but now he could see. They were in a basement – not the Hyperion's. Someplace else. On a bench across the room lay Cordelia. Her hands were chained in front of her, but she wasn't struggling. She wasn't awake. Angel could see a plastic jug full of something dark on the floor, the plastic tubing that led from the jug to her arm, and the needle within.
Her heartbeat was so slow, so faint. Almost nothing. That was why he hadn't heard it before.
"Connor, no," Angel said. He kept trying to push himself up, at least to his knees. "Your problem's with me. Not with Cordy. Don't do this."
"It's done," Connor said. His son smiled at him. "I did it for you."
"The hell you did. What are you doing with her blood?"
"This?" Connor gestured to the syringe. "It's not her blood." He abruptly stabbed it into her chest; she didn't move at all. "It's yours."
My blood, Angel thought. She's lost all her blood. Enough to die. She is dying. And just at the moment of her death, a vampire's blood enters her body –
"No," Angel whispered.
"You love Cordelia," Connor said. "And she loves you. We talked about it, while you were sleeping. While I got started with this. She loves you more than anybody else in the world. She wants to be with you forever. Now she can."
Cordelia's heartbeat stopped. Angel knew the woman that he loved was dead. Her soul – that was gone forever.
But she would rise again.
"Connor –" His voice choked off. There was no way to speak. No way to think.
"You're good for Cordelia," Connor said. He refilled the syringe from the container of Cordelia's blood and walked to Angel's side. "You're going to make her live forever."
Angel looked at Cordelia – at Cordelia's body – lying not so far away. Her hair was in her eyes, needed to be brushed back. Her skin was too pale. Angel spoke slowly, "Connor, if there's anything human in you – stake her. Before she rises. Please."
"There's nothing human in me," Connor said. "I'm your son. Yours and Darla's." He jabbed the needle in Angel's chest, but he barely felt it in his shock and horror.
Cordelia's blood now flowed inside him. The ritual was complete. She was a vampire.
He remembered Cordelia smiling, opening her arms to hold his baby boy. He remembered thinking that he could want nothing in the world more beautiful than this, than the three of them together.
"When she rises," Connor said, "will you still love her?"
This question, above all, Angel could not answer.