Two little words that would change everything. Angel had lost hope that he would ever get to hear Connor say them, but there he was... only a few feet in front of him. He could see the hellfire and hatred deep in the boy's eyes as he stared at his father. Eyes that had once looked up at him with the innocence of a newborn.
The next few moments happened quickly, and soon he was chasing after his son with reckless abandon, not caring that the sun was shining brightly overhead and already sizzling his flesh. Wesley and Gunn pulled him back inside but he just felt like a caged animal, angry at that yellow orb in the sky that would keep him away from the child he thought was lost forever.
"We'll find him, man," Gunn assured him, already motioning at Wesley to follow.
Both men quickly headed out the door and Angel turned to Fred and Lorne, who looked just as shocked as he felt.
"Was that really... Connor?" Fred asked slowly.
"It was him." Angel began to pace, trying to formulate a plan. He could go through the sewers and try to track the boy, but if Connor was topside he wouldn't be able to get to him. Frustration flowed through him and he nearly hurled himself through the front door again.
"Well, the little nipper ain't so little anymore," Lorne remarked, returning to his Seabreeze and gulping it down in one shot.
"Time must move different - where he was," Angel replied, guilt replacing the frustration.
"Angel, it wasn't your fault," Fred assured, but he still felt like it was.
"Yeah, Angel-cakes. You did everything you could."
He didnt, though. He should have done something more that day. Skipped town, if he had to. With so many factions after Connor it was selfish to stick around. Why had he stayed? Because he wanted to be some kind of hero? He didn't deserve that title - not when he couldn't even save his own son.
"I'm going to head underground, see what I can find," he said, raking a hand through his hair. "You two stay here, in case Wes or Gunn call with news."
The other two nodded, and he headed into the familiar sewers of L.A.
The sun was finally setting, and Angel quickly emerged from the sewers, eager to find Connor and hopefully sort everything out.
As he walked, he thought about the terrible life that his son must have had in Quor'toth. He doubted that there were parks for Connor to play in or Saturday morning cartoons for him to watch. Fury raged beneath his skin as he thought of Holtz and what he had done.
Sure, as a father he could understand why the man would be compelled to seek revenge for what Angelus had done. If Quor'toth had not been such an impossible dimension to get to, then Angel probably would have spent over two hundred years seeking revenge just as Holtz had.
But taking Connor, an innocent baby, into the darkest of dark worlds, was just unacceptable. Holtz's need for revenge had taken away Connor's childhood - one that should have been spent playing hide and seek in the Hyperion, not running away from hell beasts.
If the hunter had somehow managed to come back as well, then Angel was going to have a nice long chat with him about the difference between justice and vengeance.
It wasn't long before he picked up Connor's scent. It had changed drastically in the short time he was gone. Once, he had smelled like baby powder and lavender soap. Now the boy was toxic with flames and ichor.
He was sitting below an overpass, with cars flying by overhead. He had his head resting on his knees, shoulders slumped with exhaustion. He leapt to his feet once Angel got near, two daggers appearing in his hands.
"Don't come any closer!" Connor yelled, his voice echoing off the cement.
Angel put his hands up, trying to placate the boy. "I'm not going to hurt you."
"Maybe I want to hurt you," Connor snapped, slowly circling Angel.
"I can't believe that you're really back. You're really here. Connor -"
"My name is Steven!"
Steven. He should have expected that Holtz wouldn't keep Connor's name, but it was a punch to the gut all the same.
"Steven. Holtz named you... Steven."
"You don't get to say that name!"
And then they were fighting again.
Connor was trained well, whether by Holtz or someone else, and Angel was almost impressed - if not for the fact that the kid was clearly trying to kill him. Never in a million years would he have expected this outcome.
"Connor - Steven - just stop. Please. Let's just take a minute here."
"I have nothing to say to you. Monster." Contempt was written all over Connor's face, and Angel felt another surge of hatred roll over him. "My father told me what you are. What you've done."
His father? Holtz.
"He's not your real father."
"Neither are you. You're a monster. He told me what you did to his other family." Connor was circling again. "He told me everything."
"Did he tell you how much I loved you?" Angel demanded. "How much we all did?"
"More lies. I know what you are."
"I'm your father."
"And a vampire. A bloodsucker."
"Yes, I am. I hope one day that you'll be able to accept that."
Connor glared at him. "Never."
Angel sighed, leaning back against the cement wall. "I'm so sorry, Connor. That you were stuck in that place. I tried to get you out. Maybe if I had tried harder -"
"Show me your true face."
"My name is Steven! Show me!"
Angel tapped into his vampire side and did as his son requested, feeling his features change and his senses get clearer. He could feel his own power growing beneath the surface, his inner demon aching to get out. It was a war that he always had with himself, and it never got any easier.
Connor smiled, but there was no warmth behind it.
"This is what I am, and it will never change. You can accept it or not, but like I said, I hope that one day you will." Angel took a step forward, reverting back to his human face.
"How could I ever accept a demon?" And with that Connor turned, and ran off into the night.
This time, Angel didn't follow.