He had tasted clean and sugary. Soft, warm lips that didn't press much, didn't open. Hands that were afraid to touch her. He was sweet and innocent even though he was some kind of hard core Mexican street fighter, or something. He had taken on Tyke and his men like they were nothing. Normally all of the violence on the streets scared her, but something about how he was saving her, was fighting for her... And it wasn't like he killed any of those guys. He probably could have killed Little Cee with that knife, but he just stuck his hand with it instead. And she told him to not kill Tyke, and he stopped, just because she asked. No guy had ever done what she asked, which was why she tried to avoid most guys.
Sunny had adopted a certain stance to make it look like she knew all about pleasures of the flesh but was bored by it all. That way no one would ever know that she was a virgin. She was saving that knowledge up for when she really needed a score. She figured being saved like that from Tyke deserved something... special. Plus there was the whole distracting Tyke thing that made it possible for her to kife his money and junk. He had wanted to know all about her on their walk to the AM/PM for food and cokes.
"Don't you have a mother or father to live with?"
"Nah. My mom took off when I was born, and my dad got married again a few years ago. He died last year, and New Mom didn't want me hanging around, borrowing her clothes. Probably pissed that she wasn't hooking them young anymore."
"Besides, feeding me wasn't cheap, and she was saving her money for a face-lift or whatever. What about you? Where's your mom and dad? Back in Mexico?"
"I don't have a mother. My father is back home, waiting for me to -- . He's not here. You've done well for yourself. Surviving like you have."
He listened to her talk about the different crazies she'd met while living on the streets. He looked at her, chin pointing ahead, the ghost of a smile on his lips, as if he didn't know how to grin. He gave her a curt nod and told her how admirable it was that she had survived on her own for as long as she had. It was the first time someone hadn't looked at her with pity.
He had gotten naked and changed into clothes they found in the motel room. He really deserved something special. So did she. Her hand kept slipping to her pocket to check on the small baggie. She just needed a little something to help her get the courage. He asked if he could have the last of the snack cakes, and broke off half to give her; she had finally found a Prince Charming. Laughing, she waved him off. She liked to get lit on a mostly empty stomach. He really had the sweetest eyes... She kissed him, he softly touched her arm, and the baggie crinkled in her pocket.
Sunny stood, licked the flecks of chocolate frosting off her bottom lip and told him she'd be right back. His kiss was sweet, but the needle's kiss was sweeter. She checked her reflection briefly in the filthy mirror, and only saw a young girl smiling back. She pushed her lank, dark hair back over her shoulder. The rusty metal needle stood in stark reflection against her creamy skin; her lips parted with her relieved exhale as she worked the plunger, pulling blood back into the chamber briefly. Her last thoughts as her eyes turned to glass and her heartbeat skipped and tripped to a complete stop were how his lips had been as red as a shiny apple.
"Once upon a time there was a mean lady. Well, mean's not the right word. That just makes it sound like she turned the sprinklers on the neighbor kids as they walked to school. She was bad. A bad lady of the worst sort, but the knight loved her. He hated her more, but he... loved her. And that made a baby grow inside her, and it shouldn't have. Bad ladies aren't supposed to have babies. And here's the thing about babies: they can make the meanest of the mean turn a leaf.
"And that horrible witch did change. Some. After she'd eaten a whole slew of children to feed her baby," Fred paused and tucked a loose strand of hair off Connor's forehead and behind his ear. He was still unconscious. "Maybe that's why you're the way you are. You were nourished on scared and abandoned kids. At least, I think they were abandoned, because why didn't their mommas fight the bad lady?
"But even though she was the worst sort of people, well, not really people, but anyway... She was the worst kind of lady that ever was, but something about having a little baby growing inside her made her want to do the right thing. So she killed herself. She turned to dust and mixed with the oil and slime on the asphalt and was washed away with the rain, leaving nothing but a pink baby in a dark alley. And your daddy loved you."
Fred stood, grabbed a second rope, and began binding Connor's arms behind him, the knots resting just at his wrists and elbows for the greatest amount of discomfort.
"Your daddy loved you so much he wouldn't even let us hold you. Well, not at first. He carried you all the time. You were just the cutest thing! All pudge and smiles and big eyes -- ."
Fred stopped, her voice breaking a bit, and smoothed down Connor's hair. She looped her arms around the boy's chest and rested her cheek on his head. "You had that sweet little baby smell - sunshine and lanolin. Whenever I got to hold you, I loved to smell your fuzzy little head. You liked it when I held you so you could see forward. You never really cried. Such a good, sweet baby."
Fred stood and shook herself, laughing a bit at her shiny wet cheeks. "And then when he took you, oh I thought I would start climbing the walls. Or write on them again. I couldn't imagine how awful, how hard for a little baby to go through -- .
"That must have done something to you. That must have done some real bad things to you, to make you do what you did. To turn you into what you are, now."
Fred looped a section of rope over Connor's neck, making sure it pressed against his Adam's apple, and affixed it to the knots at his wrists. If he tried to break free, he'd suffocate himself.
"We tried to find you. We tried, Connor. We loved you so much... He loved you so much. And you -- . We've wasted all summer trying to find him, and you lied to us. You lied to me!"
Fred picked up her Tazer and mindlessly wiped the tears off her face with the back of her hand. As she advanced on the unconscious boy, the Tazer arcing blue menace, a hand fell on her shoulder. "Fred."
"He has to pay for what he did. How could he do that to his dad? His dad? To us?"
"Fine. I'll take the one off his neck."
Gunn set his crossbow on the desk, crossed his arms, and sighed, "Fred."
"He deserves it!" She twisted the rope in her hand. "He's a wolf in sheep's clothing." Fred sliced the complicated knots in the back, and affixed Connor's arms to the arms of the chair with a new rope, and removed the noose. "He'll get out."
"Yeah, well Mowgli's gonna get the smack down if he does."
Fred set her weapon down, sat in a chair opposite Connor, and tried to find the baby hidden in the boy's face.
"And they lived happily ever after," she muttered.
Okay, the worst thing about being trapped in your own body while some evil hell bitch, Powers That Be, whatever took over the driving was that someone else was driving. Cordelia didn't even want to think about those godawful clothes the Thing made her wear.
All she wanted was to love and be loved. Just like that gross midget guy said in that movie with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. But no. She gets a mystical carrot dangled in front of her, and she gets to be a PTB, whoopie. And for what? So some Thing can hitch a ride and ruin everything for her? She could feel it seeping in like OPI nail polish into shag carpeting. It just wouldn't come out. Cordy had yelled and screamed, tried to shake Fred into noticing she wasn't there anymore, tried to whap Gunn upside his head for not sensing something wrong in her, but it was like her voice had been turned off and something else was talking over her, now. Oh, like when the little mermaid got her legs, but lost her voice!
What really sucked is that Cordy hated Ariel in that mermaid movie. Not that she talked out loud about that. But the evil octopus sea witch? She knew how to get a man. And, sure, Cordy was a bit prejudiced against sweet and innocent do-gooders with red-hair, yeah. But the evil octopus lady with the smoker's voice - who was totally hot as a person - and then busted out all fat and gross and massive when she got what she wanted? Are you listening, Thing that took over and made fat-n-evil Cordy? ARE YOU??
The Thing pushed Cordy down into the recesses of her body until she was curled up like a dust mote with no voice, and she watched Connor drag an innocent off to its death like a slow-motion funeral procession, and all she could do was wish she could take it all back and tell Skip, "No thanks," because why didn't she notice that Skip had a body made of skulls and what sort of benevolent being looked like that? There had been some serious fine print on that deal that she had neglected to look into.
As the Thing marched to her picnic blanket o'death and creepiness, Cordy knew if she could ever get her body back, ever get her voice back, Angel would never be able to look at her without seeing his son on her. Without seeing her body's deceit. Every step away from Angel was like walking on knives. There was a huge flash of light that came from her entire being. Her body was stretched beyond limit, the pains of labor washing over her in waves, and Cordy didn't exist anymore. Her voice was gone forever.
Darla hadn't witnessed her beautiful boy's birth into this world. The Darla that stood before Connor, now a young man and filled with so much sorrow, wasn't gifted with all the scenes from her child's past. She remembered the joy and hope that filled her as he grew inside her. She remembered loving the baby and the overwhelming need to protect it.
Years before she had dared to step aboard a ship to the New World, she had been a young girl gathering kindling in the forest for her mother. She heard a squalling noise under a brier, and upon investigation, found a sickly looking babe wrapped in a dank cloth. Horrified, she grabbed the newborn, and rushed back to their cottage. Her mother took the wrapping off the child's body and found a red weal on the infant's chest. Her mother knocked the babe out of Darla's arms and struck her daughter in the face.
"Dare ye to bring a faerie creature in my house? Take it back! Take it back, I say, and mind ye're not seen, or it'll be the death of you!"
Frightened, she grabbed at the weakly sobbing bundle and dashed as fast as she could back to the forest and flung the bundle under the brier. Her mother had beaten her sore when she returned, and educated her of the ways of the Old Folk, and how you must never leave a birthing unattended. How steel and water and fire were needed to protect the child and mother from deceit.
"Why did you leave me? Did you hate me that much?"
"Oh, baby, no."
The young victim cried out, scared.
"This isn't you, Connor."
"You've been gone a long time, Mom. How would you know?"
The Old One approached them and used her power over the boy to continue their task. Her baby, her beautiful boy was gone. Something else had taken his place, something filled up with lies and deceit, and willing to kill. The child that stood in place of her baby boy was bent and twisted inside, with no room for mercy, no ability to stand and survive on its own any longer.
Darla hung her head after seeing her son's face, immobile, impassive, while the young girl cried and begged for her mother. One last plea, and then The Old One severed her connection to her son. The Powers That Be granted her a brief glimpse of what was to come. She saw Connor, hollow, devoid of all feeling, looking into Angel's face and then a final flash as Angel drew his knife.
"Your father will finally put steel over your head, and our boy will be returned."
Funny how her father, a young man who himself had a powerful name, didn't realize the importance of hers.
The previous god of this earth had woven his magic deep in his time and for millennia after. Calling upon his name could bring peace and understanding. After he left his world to its own devices, too busy with others, his name took on a message of hate. Jasmine was here to remedy that. Calling upon her name would give strength. Calling upon her name would bring her very essence into whomever cried out, and comfort would be given.
But not her real name.
Jasmine knew that her father loved her. That he would do whatever was asked of him to preserve the majesty of the kingdom she was building. And if she needed him to kill his father and friends, he would make that sacrifice for her. For the good of the kingdom.
She invited her worshipers into her rooms where they would be changed into her sustenance, enabling her to spread her message of Love and Acceptance Forevermore. What Angel and the others needed to understand was that there was a price for everything. All gods required sacrifice. That was pretty much the rule.
It was a seemingly impossible task before her - bringing happiness and joy to all mankind; end poverty, hate, disease, and free will. And Connor would help her. What Jasmine didn't realize was that her father knew her true face. That he was willing to spin her lies into a kind of peace, in order to gain a little of his own in return.
Because she had Connor, she thought she had everything. What she didn't know was that someone had gone into the darkest recesses of her past and found her name. Her true name.
It was the final night before Jasmine would conquer this new kingdom, and all was going according to plan. Yet with one swift motion from a knife, her true name blew forth in a rush of wind and took away her beauty, her will, and her majesty, as well as taking Angel's son from him.
Jasmine fought for the kingdom that had been tricked away from her. She sensed her father behind her, and turned to plead for another chance. For another opportunity to right the wrongs of this world and turn the smoke and ash into golden sunshine.
With a single blow, he destroyed the lie. The one lie from a lifetime of falsehoods that could possibly have given him rest. The righteous boy that had been Steven was gone completely; the soul ripped from his body and leaving only the void that was Connor. An empty shell that looked into the face of his father. Connor had been a family name. How fitting that his family had wreaked death and destruction from its inception. Connor walked away from his dead child and his dead father and waited for the sickle to be thrust in, for the Reaper to come and take his name from the earth. In the end, he chose to destroy that name on his own.