An Hour Previously
The whiskey burnt his throat, but it always made him forget.
Wesley downed his tenth shot and then waited for it to affect him. Nothing. Damn it.
It was damnable that he had high tolerance for alcohol. It was a quirk of his, a trait that he had used to show off to his mates back in the silly days of Watcher training. Unfortunately, right now, it was a quirk he'd rather do without. Trying to get drunk was getting damnably expensive.
Gunn. Fred. He'd thought he'd exorcised his feelings for them, but when he saw them in that dark alley, hope had flared in him and a part of him, that shred of him that still had some naiveté, had hoped that they had forgiven him. Then Fred spoke the magic words -- We need you. Just your knowledge. Nothing else. Again they only needed him when there were monsters to slay. Nothing else mattered. The words were salt in his still raw wounds.
First Connor. Then Gunn and Fred. He wouldn't be surprised if Angel walked through his door soon -- despite the dire news that Fred delivered about him being missing. It looked as if fate was laughing at his attempt of breaking away from Angel Investigations.
*You think it'd be that easy?* it seemed to say. *We're going to bring back reminders of your failures again and again and again. We're not going to let you forget, you little traitor.*
"Traitor. Judas Iscariot, reserved for the lowest pit of hell," he muttered, pouring himself another shot.
"I was there. I don't remember anyone by that name."
Wesley whirled towards the sound of the voice.
Connor sat in his beaten up sofa, a long, wicked-looking dagger in his hand. He flipped it from hand to hand casually.
Wesley downed his shot of liquor. "You've improved. I didn't hear you this time," he muttered.
Connor did not answer. Instead he lifted his eyes slowly from the dagger and said in a low voice, "You killed twenty vampires tonight."
Wesley laughed ruefully. "Was it that many? I barely remember. Too busy. Too crazy..." he muttered and twirled the glass in his hand.
Connor's expression darkened. Slowly, he got up from the couch and walked towards Wesley, the dagger pointed at Wesley at all times. "Are you a demon?" the boy demanded.
Wesley laughed at that. He clutched a beam for balance. This was too much. "Everyone has been saying that," Wesley said dryly. "Is it my rumpled shirt or my torn jeans? Or my charming British wit?" he said, giving the boy a grin.
He didn't faze Connor. "You made them burn. Your eyes glowed. You're a demon," he said in a steely voice.
*Your eyes glowed.* That got a reaction out of Wesley. He looked at Connor in wonder.
"Now, that was a side effect I never expected. Glowing eyes?" he walked unsteadily towards the couch Connor just vacated and dumped himself there, hooking one leg up an armrest. He squinted at Connor.
"Did I look pretty?" Wesley asked. That made him laugh some more. He had a vision of himself, all glowy-eyed, prancing around in a frilly tutu.
Connor frowned in confusion at Wesley's reaction to his threats. He wasn't used to laughter. Until he punched through Quo-thoth to land on this strange world, he didn't even know that one could laugh. Laughter unsettled him.
He shifted his balance from foot to foot, unsure whether he should attack or stay put. "But you killed vampires," he finally said. Connor sounded as if he was trying to convince himself.
"Hmm. So I did," Wesley slurred, resting his head on the suddenly very comfortable sofa. Just like his body to choose a time like this to succumb to the charms of liquor. "Vampires ... they're leeches. Not good to have leeches around you know," he slurred.
"Yes. They deserved to die. All of them," Connor frowned heavily, staring at his reflection on the dagger.
It was something about the way Connor said that phrase that made Wesley finally realise something. What surprised him was that he actually cared for that realisation.
Suddenly clear-headed, Wesley got to his feet, staring at Connor. "What did you do to Angel?" he demanded.
Connor's eyes snapped from the blade to meet his. They were wide with shock and something else ... guilt? "You knew him. Like Gunn and Fred. You called him Angel. Not Angelus," Connor hissed, backing away.
Wesley made no move to stop him. "Were you responsible for Cordelia's disappearance as well?" Wesley's voice dipped dangerously. "If you are, I'm not sure whether I can predict what I'm going to do next," he murmured, watching Connor as he moved away from him slowly.
"Cordelia? No ... I wouldn't do anything to her," Connor murmured, his eyes narrowing as he kept an eye on Wesley.
"But you did something to your father."
"He IS NOT my father!" Connor yelled. Unexpectedly, his blue eyes teared. Connor blinked them away furiously. "Holtz was my father. Not Angelus," he whispered.
"It must be difficult," Wesley said suddenly.
Connor glared at him warily.
"It is difficult to hate and love your father at once, isn't it?" Wesley walked to his desk casually and picked up a book, flipping through its pages. Connor watched him carefully as he moved, his grip on his dagger tightening.
"I don't love him," Connor hissed.
"You're his son. And he is your father. Some part of you will want to love him. I know that, having had some experience hating my own. No matter what he did to you, there is still some sordid part of you that wants him to say, 'Good boy. Well done'. Am I right, Connor?"
"Steven," Connor snapped. "And you don't know me!"
Wesley settled the book down. "No. I don't know you. And you don't know many things, Steven. Your father ... whatever Holtz told you about Angel may have been true. He was an evil and cruel bastard. But when he received his soul, he changed. And when he had you in his arms..." he trailed off, remembering Angel's smile that night so long ago; that night when he had decided to take Connor away...
Wesley looked up. "I was there when you were born, Steven. I remembered how he looked at you -- as if you were heaven sent. He loves you."
Tears reappeared in Connor's eyes, but he quickly brushed them away. "He killed my father. I will never forgive him for it!" he snarled.
"What did you do to Angel?" Wesley demanded again.
Connor looked as if he wanted to run away. Finally, he said, "Nothing he deserves more."
"A life of undead torment, I suspect?" Wesley said.
Connor looked away.
"He will survive whatever you did to him," Wesley said after a pause, his tone resigned. "After all, he plays an important role in the prophecies, so he will survive to meet his destiny," he gave a low laugh before continuing,
"You see Connor, if there's one thing I learnt in these long months of isolation it is this: prophecies always come true. You can never stop them, no matter how hard you try. If you try -- you become the catalyst of its fulfilment," he murmured. His eyes glazed as memories played behind his eyes. He shifted his gaze to Connor's turbulent eyes.
"I wonder what events did you set forth?"
Connor avoided his gaze and started pacing restlessly. "He deserved it," he muttered.
Lost in thought, Wesley shifted his gaze to the skylight. There it was, the full moon.
Wesley stared at it for a while, remembering Fred and Gunn's words. Jaw working, he turned away and paced around uncertainly. Making up his mind, he headed for his weapon chest by the basement stairs. He took out his longbow, then frowned, realising it was an inappropriate weapon for what he was about to do and returned it to the box. He took out a long sword instead and tested its weight in his hands. Satisfied, he got up.
When he turned, he saw Connor braced as if for an attack. Wesley merely ignored him and headed for the ramshackle cupboard he had salvaged from a nearby building last week.
"What are you doing?" Connor finally asked.
Wesley afforded him a brief glance. "Getting ready to fight demons," he said, searching through the vials of herbs and other ingredients in the cupboard.
"Demons?" Connor echoed.
"Gurnak demons to be precise. They're notoriously resilient, but they can be killed if you have the right ingredients. Aah..." Wesley smiled in satisfaction as he found the right vials. He slipped them into his jacket pocket and headed for the door.
"Coming?" he asked Connor when he opened the door.
Connor looked at him uncertainly, then nodded. "I feel like killing something."
Wesley gave him a lopsided grin. "These days? I feel like that every day."
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