Come Home Soon


AUTHOR: JENAY (aka Jill)
SUMMARY: Post-Lullaby, Spoilers for Birthday. AU. Cordelia and Gang along with Faith, Dawn, Spike and newcomer Anne are left to raise baby Connor when Angel flees.
RATING: PG
POSTED: 7 Sep 2004
CATEGORY: Future Fic / AU
CONTENT/PAIRING: C/A, Anne/Gunn, Fred/Wes
WARNINGS: None Listed
FICPIC CREDIT: N/A
AUTHOR NOTES:
1) Merl is still alive; Anne and Gunn are a couple; Fred & Wes are a couple. Cordelia, I didn’t want her to suffer the killer headaches so I made her half-demon (post-Birthday S3).
2) For those of you who don’t remember, Harry was in S1 of Angel as Doyle’s ex-wife.
3) This is a fic set 7 years in the future after Darla goes into labor.


I.

Cordelia Chase came in the hotel with groceries full up to the top and rushed towards the phone that was ringing off the hook.

“Wesley!” She yelled for her best friend who was more like a brother than anything else. She dropped the groceries on the sofa in the middle of the lobby and snatched the phone up in her hand. “Angel Investigations, we help the helpless. How can I help you?” She answered, reached for the notepad to take down some notes, if any.

“Cordelia? It’s Fred.”

“Oh, it’s just you.”

“Thanks.”

“Nothing personal, it’s just your boy toy here isn’t helping me any! I dropped groceries and some pretty ripe grapes all over the floor all because he wouldn’t get off his bum in that office and answer the phone.” Cordelia ranted and said louder so Wesley could hear her. He finally came out of the office with a book in his hand and his glasses in his mouth. “What do ya need?”

“Wesley.” Fred answered.

“Sure.” Cordelia handed him the phone and eyeballed him. “Next time, get off your British ass and answer the phone.” She said, acting like the overprotective mother that she was and the bitchy sister she never was.

Walking back to get the groceries, she could feel Wesley retort with the mocking of her nagging.

“I can see that.” She said, walking back to the oversized kitchen and filling the fridge and pantry with the groceries that were still in tact and in the bags. She packed the kitchen full when Lorne came in for a little snack.

“Ooo, Ho-hos. You bought ho-hos!” He jumped up and down like Gunn was with the glazed donuts, that she “accidentally” forgot to buy this time.

“You are just as crazy as Gunn.” She told him, reaching for the pills in the cabinet and poured herself a tall glass of water. Lorne tore into the package and took out two packages of the chocolate treats. “Hey, don’t take all of those. Connor is gonna want one too.”

“I’ll save the little munchkin one.”

“One? No, you put all seven of those packages back Mr. Mojo.” She took the package from him and resealed it, placing it back in the cupboard as she gulped the horse pill down her throat.

“I’m only taking two.”

“One.”

“One?” He whined.

“One.” She laughed at him as he regretfully forfeited one of the two packages in his hand. Gunn came strolling in along with the seven year old Connor from his day at school.

“Mommy!” Connor ran towards Cordelia and leapt into her arms.

“Hi, pumpkin. How was your day?” Cordelia picked him up and set him on the counter, handing him a glass of milk and a peanut butter cookie from the Elvis cookie jar that Lorne had given Cordelia for Christmas this past year.

“Good. Jordan and Zach and me formed a club and we fight the girls!”

“Now that’s my man.” Gunn gently slugged Connor on the shoulder, smiling at his favorite and only nephew. Cordelia shot Gunn a look and he knew to back off.

“Why do you fight girls?”

“Because they’re mean.”

“How are they mean?”

“They like to pick on us.”

“That’s what they’re good at, munchkin. Just wait ‘til you get older.” Lorne told him snacking on his chocolate treat.

“But, I’m not mean.” Cordelia told Connor, wiping his chin of the milk that was dribbling.

“Mommy, you’re not a girl.” Connor told her, taking another bite of his cookie. Gunn and Lorne burst out laughing, they couldn’t have stopped themselves if they wanted to.

“Than what am I, mister?” She put one hand on her hip and leaned against the counter.

“You’re mommy!” Connor joked and smiled at her. Cordelia couldn’t help but smile at the boy. Their son was growing up and his father wasn’t even there to see it. Scratch that, Cordelia shook her head, Connor wasn’t even her son, but he felt like it. In her world, family wasn’t defined as blood ties; it was defined as knowing each other inside and out, being there no matter what, and accepting them for who they were no matter of the past.

So in fact, Wesley, Gunn and Lorne were her brothers, Spike was the next-door neighbor, Anne and Fred were her sisters, Faith and Dawn, when they came by were the best friends and Connor was her son. She messed up his dark brown hair and looked at those blue eyes that were everywhere instead of where they should be.

“Got homework?”

“Yeah. Mrs. Grayson assigned us to draw a picture of our family.”

“Really? Well, I guess that you should get Gunn to help you with that. He’s a good drawer.”

“Wha? Am not!” He argued with her, standing straight up in retaliation. She let Connor get off the counter and handed his backpack to Gunn.

“You are now.”

“Man, why do I always get dragged into these things?” Gunn grabbed the backpack and sagged his head, but his frown was literally turned upside down when he caught eye of Connor’s beaming smile. “Come on buddy, we’re gonna draw a life size poster of Mommy, and then paint it on the side of the hotel.” He joked as they walked off.

“Yeah!” Connor said enthusiastically, running before him. Lorne looked back towards Cordelia, running her hands through her hair and turning to the sink to get rid of the dirty dishes.

“He’s growing up.”

“Yeah, he is.”

“So are you.”

“Do I wanna know what you see?”

“Probably not, but I’m going to tell you anyway.” Lorne smiled at her as her head turned to see the green demon smile. “You aren’t alone, you know. I mean with the seraph thing.”

“Seraph?”

“Another word for Angel.”

“Oh, that.”

“Yea, that. We all wonder when he’s coming back.”

“Don’t you mean if?”

“No, I mean when. Cordelia it’s gonna take some time.”

“I know Lorne, it’s just…” She trailed off, turned around with a dish towel in her hands and looked towards the door, hearing the wonderful laugh of the miracle child that was Connor. Looking down at the floor and back at Lorne, she let it out: her fear, her worry, and her wonder. “It’s been seven years.”

I put away the groceries
And I take my daily bread
I dream of your arms around me
As I tuck the kids in bed

I don’t know what you’re doing
And I don’t know where you are
But I look up at that great big sky
And I hope you’re wishin’ on that same bright star

I wonder, I pray
And I sleep alone
I cry alone
And it’s so hard livin’ here on my own
So please, come home soon
(Come Home Soon)

II.

Cordelia took out her huge two-volume novel/journal that she was writing in. She had started it when Connor was born and when Angel left, cataloguing every little detail that she could remember about his son’s life so when he came back he would know what it was like. Dragging out the second book to the courtyard, she sat on the water fountain and stared up into the starry sky.

In Los Angeles, it was hard to even see one star let alone a whole galaxy. But on this night at this particular time of night, Cordelia could see every constellation that she had learned off with Wesley’s books and several class trips to the planetarium with Connor’s first and second grade classes. The breeze of the cool winds passed through the greenery and over her arms and legs that were exposed. It knocked around her necklace too. Clutching onto it, she held it close and closed her eyes. Damn it, Angel. Why aren’t you here? He needs you here, I need you here. She closed her eyes again this time bringing tears along with the hurt in her mind. Dear Lord or Powers or whoever I’m sending this silent prayer to: Bring him back. Just for one day, that’s all I ask. So he could see how beautiful his…our son is. Just one day.

She finally hit the bed in their room with a thud, passing out as soon as her head hit the pillow. She was tired; too tired to think about tomorrow where Connor had his drawing to present to his class. She could see it now with Mrs. Grayson asking who’s the green guy and where’s your daddy? What would the little boy say to his teacher? Enter dreamland to Cordelia’s brain please. She could see him, her Angel, standing there with her seven years ago. Telling her that he loved her and that nothing would ever separate them. She truly believed that too. Then Darla came back with her stomach three feet in front of her. Angel had hit rock bottom then, distancing himself from everyone again; cutting off the world, so he left as soon as the young child was born. She hadn’t known what to name the boy either.

Darla was gone and Angel was gone, leaving the rest of the gang to decide on a name, handle the doctors, the bills, the business and the stinky diapers which Gunn was still repressing after Connor had liquidized him a couple of times. The gang had decided on the name Connor and Cordelia chose Francis for his middle name, honoring an old friend. Connor Francis Angel was the best baby in the world and then he had to acquire his father’s broodiness, stubbornness and boyish good looks. Cordelia opened her eyes and glanced at the clock.

Six a.m.: Time to get up and get Connor ready for school. She flipped the covers off of her hot and sweaty body and found her way to the shower. The hot, steamy, and wet water strolled down her body, penetrating against her back forcing her to wake up. Okay, okay, I get the point. She picked her head up from leaning against the pink tile that she still swore would be replaced someday because of it’s ugliness and reached for the shampoo, ready to get this day started.

Twenty minutes later, she was up, hair dried, clothes on, and slippers were slipped on her feet and she was trying to Connor to wear his shirt.

“Connor Francis, stop squirming!” She yelled at him with a tone only a mother would have.

“But Mommy, I don’t like this sweater.”

“Tough. Mr. Giles made this for you and you’re going to be nice and wear it.” She fed his arm through one of the holes.

“But he isn’t even around to see it.”

“That’s okay. See if you wear it now, when he comes, I won’t have to lie and tell him that you’ve wore it when you didn’t and plus, you don’t have to wear it anymore.”

“But…” Connor whined, pleading with her.

“Connor, don’t argue.” She straightened the sweater up and curled up her nose. “You’re right, it’s not worth it. Sorry Giles.” She lifted Connor’s arms up and took off the sweater, throwing it into the laundry basket that was almost full. She pulled out another collar shirt from his closet and quickly put him in it.

“Much better.” She smiled, touching his nose to hers with a kiss on his forehead. “Go and brush your teeth and then we can go to school.”

“Okay.” Connor skipped off to his bathroom and brushed his teeth for her. Angel, where are you? This is your job.
***
“Angel Investigations, we help the helpless. How can I help you?” Cordelia answered the phone expecting to hear Fred’s voice on it again but there was no one. “Hello?” She asked again, only hearing her voice and no breathing sound on the other side. “Angel?” She asked when the line went dead. She hung up the phone and stared at it. Who else could it be? No breathing, no voices, no noise: maybe some other vampire, but seriously what other vampire except for Spike would be calling Angel, vampire with a soul, Investigations? None! She still stared at it when Harry walked into the hotel and up to the desk.

“Hello, earth to Cordelia…” Harry waved her hand in front of Cordelia’s face for the third time, snapping her out of the trance she was in.

“Oh, Harry. Sorry, I didn’t see you there.”

“Well, you were having a pretty good conversation with that phone.” She tried to make a joke and Cordelia looked up confused. “Forget it. I just came by to drop off your half.” Harry pulled an envelope from her purse and handed it to the self-appointed and entitled Senior Associate of Angel Investigations.

“Oh, thanks. I totally forgot about that.” Cordelia looked into the envelope, revealing a wealthy check with multiple zeros on it. “This much?”

“Yea, that much.” Harry smiled and started to look around the hotel. “So, where’s the rest of your crew?”

“Wesley and Lorne are out dismantling a vampire nest, Gunn is making his rounds at the center downtown with Anne, Fred is at a scientist convention in…” Cordelia looked on the calendar to remind herself where her sister was at, “…Barcelona and Spike is picking my son up from school.”

“Oh yea, how is that little peanut?” Harry put her hands down on the counter and hopped up onto a stool that just happened to be there for her convenience.

“He’s good. He had to do a drawing of his family for homework yesterday.”

“Who helped him?”

“Gunn.”

“Now, you know that’s gonna go well.” Harry said sarcastically, knowing Gunn’s drawing ability: it was as good as Connor’s.

“Well, from what Wes told me last night, it wasn’t that bad. He told me that there were a slew of people, including some demons that we all know Mrs. Grayson, his teacher, is going to ask about.”

“Well that’s good. His first family drawing. That’s fridge worthy.”

“He did another one a long while ago too. Of course, it’s one that’s painted and we all did one together to just do something with Connor and let’s just say those are still drying in a safe place and the repair bills to the floor are still coming.”

“Eeehhh.” Harry made a strange face and looked at her watch. She hopped off the stool and patted the counter. “I have to go. My flight leaves in a couple hours.”

“Okay. Do you need anything to eat first?”

“Naw, I’m fine.”

“You sure?”

“I’m sure. Remember when you told me to warn you if that mother thing was coming out again?”

“Yeah. Oh, sorry.” Cordelia ran her hands through her shoulder length hair and smiled. “Have a safe trip and I’ll see you next time you’re in.”

“Plan on it.” Harry started to walk out the door when she stopped, noticing the black car still outside the hotel. “Hey, Cordy, do you know anyone with an old, old black car?”

“No, why?”

“Because it’s been in front of the hotel since I got here.”

“What?” Cordelia looked up and rushed over to Harry’s side as the black car pulled away. She watched the car disappear. Angel.

“So, you don’t know anyone like that?” Harry asked, opening the doors to leave again. Cordelia looked towards the road and let out a deep sigh, lowering her eyes to the vague possibility and turned back to Harry.

“No.”

I know that we’re together
Even though we’re far apart
And I wear our lucky penny ‘round my neck
Pressed to my heart

I wonder, I pray
And I sleep alone, I cry alone
And it’s so hard livin’ here on my own
So please, come home soon
(Come Home Soon)

III.

Cordelia opened up the hotel doors as Connor ran in, almost falling down the stairs. The keys were tossed on the catch all by the door and Cordelia had Connor’s backpack on her back. She remembered carrying a backpack to school with all the 300 page books about mathematics and English in them. Something she didn’t like to do, but if given the chance to go back to school i.e. college, she would jump at it.

“Connor, up to your room.”

“But Mommy…”

“No whining. I told you when we got home that you get to go to your room for what you did.”

“But…” Connor started but as the seven year old knew from lessons with his uncles that there was no use in arguing with her. He treaded up the stairs and headed for his bedroom.

Cordelia threw his backpack on the counter and looked over at Gunn and Anne looking at her.
“He got in trouble today. Sent right to the principal’s office.”

“No way.” Anne said, astonished.

“That’s my man.” Gunn smirked and then looked to the girls, calculating that if he didn’t wipe the smile off his face it would be done for him.

“Yeah, anyhow, remember that “club”, well that “club” got caught terrorizing a little girl and throwing dirt at her.”

“No way.” Anne said again.

“Way. Principal didn’t suspend him, thank God, but he has to apologize to the little girl, her parents, and write a letter stating why it was wrong.” Cordelia unzipped his backpack and took out the homework with the letter from the principal.

“Ouch. Tough punishment for a second grader.”

“That ain’t nothing until he sees what I’m going to make him do.”

“What’s that?”

“Make him hang out with Dawn.” Cordelia told them knowing what that meant. Connor disliked Dawn very much all because she was a part of the Scoobies and that part where she embarrasses him every chance she gets.

“Now that’s cruel.”

“Hey, he knew the consequences.” She said, looking at the Principal’s letter and shoving it to the side. Looking at all his homework he had, she stumbled upon the drawing. It was a beautiful drawing for a seven year old. Painted like the rainbow, she could decipher that the green guy was Lorne and the brown guy was Gunn, but she couldn’t make out the rest.

“Mommy, can I have something to drink?” Connor asked from the stairwell.

“Come here Connor.” She answered as he approached her. She picked him up and set him on the counter again, taking the drawing and showing it to him.

“You weren’t supposed to see that.”

“Why not?”

“Because it was gonna be a present.”

“For who?”

“For you. Uncle Gunn said it would make you smile.” Connor answered as Cordelia looked at Gunn with a friendly smile. Gunn was always the one to make sure she still smiled once in a while.

Her mouth formed the words, but no sound came out as she said thank you to one of her best friends. Gunn nodded as she looked back towards Connor.

“I’m sorry I uncovered it. Can I have it now?” She tugged the drawing close as young Connor nodded. “Okay, first you have to tell me who these people are so I know.”

Connor grabbed the picture from his mother’s hands and pointed to them one by one.

“The green guy is Uncle Lorne, the brown one is Uncle Gunn with Aunt Annie by his side. See, blonde hair.” Connor pointed as Cordelia nodded. “This one is Aunt Faith with Dawn.” Connor scrunched up his nose at the mention of her name and went on. “Aunt Fred and Uncle Wesley. Uncle Spike is over here because he’s the next-door neighbor.” He giggled at that, knowing he was smart for putting that.

“And who are these two?” Cordelia pointed to the two figures standing next to the smallest figure, which she presumed was Connor himself.

“That’s you Mommy.”

“And this one?”

“That’s Daddy.” He answered, shocking her out of her mind. She looked towards Gunn for an explanation.

“Don’t start. We all told him the stories. It’s not a shock that he put him on there.”

“I know.” Cordelia looked back at Connor as Lorne walked in with a song in his heart.

“Zippidy doo da, Zippidy day. My, oh my what a wonderful day. Hello sugar plums and peanuts.” He greeted them coming up behind Cordelia to see Connor on the counter.

“Mommy, can I have something to drink now?” Connor asked again.

“Sure can. Maybe Uncle Lorne can take you?”

“Sure can. And we can have chocolate too.”

“Peanut butter for him and one, Lorne, just one.” She held up one finger for him, referring to the Host’s favorite treats and watched them go into the kitchen.

“Pretty good drawing, huh?”

“Yeah, it’s good.” She said, looking at the figure holding Connor’s stick figure right hand on the piece of paper. Closing her eyes, it seemed just like yesterday that he was there beside her: smelling the fragrance of her hair and running his fingers down her bare arms, caressing her skin ever so lightly.

“Cordy, are you okay?” Anne asked while Cordelia opened her eyes and wiped away the few tears that had escaped from her tear ducts.

“Yea, I’m fine.” She smiled over at the two lovebirds. Gunn was intertwining his fingers with Anne’s and that puppy-dog eyed look in his face was her cue to bail. “I’m gonna go put this on the fridge.”

She escaped before Anne and Gunn got all kissy-faced on her, like normal. Lorne slapped Connor’s butt as he zoomed past her and went up to his room.

“Hey sugar momma.” Lorne waved to her with his great big green hand. She didn’t hesitate this time. Placing the drawing on the counter, she walked straight into his arms and started to cry.

“Okay, it’s okay honey. I’m not gonna tell you I didn’t see this coming, because I did, but…oh, I’m just shutting up now.” Lorne stopped himself from going into a lecture about leave of absences and just held her, comforted her and let her cry.

“I’m sorry.” She backed up out of his arms and wiped her tears away from her face. Lorne grabbed the handkerchief out of his back pocket and wiped the tears away for her.

“Honey, no apologies necessary. I know…I can see.”

“But Lorne, you really don’t understand this time. I think he was here.”

“Angel? Here? In the hotel?”

“Not specifically in the hotel, but…well, Harry came by with our half of the check today from that special case we had and when she was getting ready to leave for San Diego, she pointed out a car.”

“A car.” He said with no emotion. “Cordelia, what kind of car?”

“The kind like Angel has. Or had, I don’t know anymore.” Cordelia waved her hands about and finally gave in and sat upon one of the bar stools sitting at the huge restaurant like island.

“Are you sure?”

“Who else has the license plate SOULED in the whole United States of America?”

“Okay, okay.” Lorne came up to her and gave her a big strong hug again, holding her close. “Let me go check my sources and look around…” Lorne backed up and saw the tears starting to flow. “No, no, no…don’t start that again until I get back. Okay?”

“Okay.” She whispered to him as he started off. “Lorne?”

“Yeah sugar plum?”

“Thank you.” She said as she used his handkerchief to wipe away the tears again. He nodded and went out to the lobby where Faith and Dawn were betting on the minutes Anne and Gunn could make out without a break.

“Hey, gamblerinos…” He called towards them. “Keep an eye on Cordelia for me.”

“Sure.”

“No problem, Mojo Man. Where you going?”

“To bring someone back home.” With that, he left the hotel with a mission: to get Angel back.

I still imagine your touch
It’s beautiful missing something that much
But sometimes love needs a fighting change
So I’ll wait my turn, until it’s our turn to dance

I wonder, I pray
I sleep alone
I cry alone
Without you, this house is not a home
So please, come home soon

IV.

Wesley held open the door while Fred, returning from the Physicists’ retreat in Barcelona stepped into the hotel all refreshed, tan, and packing a new brain with new formulas roaming around in there.

“Hey guys!” Fred yelled, skipping down to the lobby and giving Dawn, Faith and Anne hugs. “Where is everyone else?”

“That’s a good question.” Wesley asked as well, dragging Fred’ suitcase down the stairs and looking up.

“Cordelia is in the kitchen with Gunn, cooking dinner. Connor is upstairs sleeping and we’re here trying to figure out where the hell Lorne went.” Anne recapped in one breath.

“Where did he go?”

“He was here for like two minutes and then left stating that he had to bring someone home.” Faith told the watcher, who was folding his arms across Fred’s shoulders and embracing her in a lover’s hug.

“Hey, if you two are gonna start, go up the stairs and find a room.” She added, covering Dawn’s eyes for safe keeping.

“Hey! I’m twenty-two years old; I think I can handle some lovey-dovey stuff like this afternoon.”

“Lovey-dovey stuff? From who?”

“Do you really have to ask that question, Wes?” Dawn said, blowing him off like he should know Anne and Gunn were together and always playing tonsil hockey.

“Hmmm, something smells good.” Fred whiffed the aroma of chicken and carrots brewing in the kitchen. “I’m gonna go see what’s cooking.”

“Okay. I’ll take your bags up to the room.”

”Thanks Wesley.” She said, heading towards the kitchen.

***
“Okay, Merl, for the last time, what do you know?” Lorne held the informant’s throat up in the air against the cement wall and asked.

“I don’t know anything, I swear.”

“Yea right.”

“Seriously. The vampire who left me in a sewer with water in my lungs and three months worth of therapy sessions returns to LA after seven years and contacts me first?”

“You’re right, not likely. But still…” Lorne clenched his throat tighter and continued, “you have to know something.”

“Nope, not a thing.” Merl said, not budging from his stance or position in the air for that matter. Lorne continued to tighten his grip as Merl flinched and his eyes started to pop out of his head. “Okay! Okay!” He yelled. Lorne dropped the demon to the ground, not showing any sympathy towards him.

“Where is he?”

“At the Touchstone Hotel on Memphis and 12th. Room 627.” Merl held his throat and coughed for air.

“Now really, Merl, how hard was that?” Lorne asked, flinging a twenty dollar bill at him for the information before walking away with his brown leather trench coat wavering in the wind.

“Freaking Do-gooders.” Merl muttered as he grabbed the cash and fled.

***
“Dinner was great, Cordelia. I think you’ve outdone yourself this time.” Wesley commented on the stir-fry ensemble.

“Thanks Wes, but after the sixth try to compliment me, you can stop. Plus this was mainly Gunn’s dish.” Cordelia nodded towards her friend at the other end of the table. “Connor, eat your vegetables.”

“But Mommy…”

“You better eat them, Connor. Unless, she’ll make us eat them.” Faith joked with the little boy. “You don’t want that now, do you?”

“Yes.” Connor chuckled at her.

“Cordelia, do you know where Lorne went to?” Fred asked her.

“Not sure. He didn’t tell me anything.” Cordelia shook her head, knowing that she would have to tell all of them sometime. But not now, not in front of her son.

“Connor, Uncle Wesley is gonna take you to school tomorrow, okay?”

“Okay.” He said, still playing with his vegetables on his plate. “Why?”

“Because Mommy has a doctor’s appointment that she really can’t postpone again.”

“Okay.” Connor looked down and over at Wesley, who winked back at him, knowing the fun those two would have.

“So, Fred, tell us about Barcelona.” Cordelia asked, not hearing the details before now that made all the rest of them roll their eyes and groan at.

“Well…”

***
Room 627, Touchstone Hotel. There it was. Red door, gold letters, filthy old dirty knocker on the front. Lorne looked at it, nervous as a bride on her wedding day and took another deep breath, searching for the courage to approach the man. He knocked, hard and loud so everyone would hear it. He listened as the sound of feet came to the door and slowly opened it, the light from outside flooding the interior of the room.

“Spike?” Lorne reacted, shocked and confused.

“Come on in. I figured it would be you to figure this all out first.” Spike made way for the empath to come in and put his cigarette out, knowing it bothered Lorne like it bothered Cordelia.

“But…”

“I’ll explain, why don’t you have a seat?” Spike told him. Lorne sat down on the corner of the bed, confused on why Spike was in the room Angel was supposed to be in and realized he wasn’t the only one in the bed.

“That other body in there is Angel.” Spike stated, crossing his arms and turning on the softly lit lamp beside of him.

“I don’t understand.”

“I know. Let me continue…” Spike slowly rubbed the arch of his nose and took a deep breath, ready to tell the passed out vampire’s story for him. “That’s Angel. I’ve been tracking him down since he left.”

“What? Why didn’t you tell us?”

“Could you even begin to imagine Cordelia’s wrath if I did tell her? Exactly. He’s been all over. New York, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Baton Rouge, even Wyoming. He feeds me the just trying to find the place where I fit bit but I didn’t believe him.”

“So he’s back? For good?”

“Not sure. I hope so. For Connor’s sake. For Cordelia’s sake. For all of us. Lord knows Cordelia or I or you can’t carry the torch that he lit for us.”

“How long has he been like this?”

“Couple of hours. Went to the bar to have a drink and that turned out to be a big mistake.”

“Well, no shit Sherlock.” Lorne said sarcastically to him. “Let me call Cordelia.”

“Wait, no.” Spike took his phone away from him.

“I have to. Spike, I’m not going to tell her anything else but that I’m still searching. So give me the freakin’ phone.” Lorne argued with him as Spike set the phone back in his hands. “Hi sugar plum. Yes, I’m alright. Yea, I ate earlier, no worries there. About this thing that we were discussing…I’m still out here searching. Yea, I know it’s getting late. I’ll be okay sweetie. Are you okay? Good. Give that peanut some sugar for me and I’ll be home tomorrow sometime. And Cordelia…I love you. Night.” Lorne hung up the phone and looked over at Spike. “Looks like I’ll be staying with you tonight.”

“Good, I could use some company. You like beer?” Spike picked up a six-pack and handed him one for the taking.

“Love it.” Lorne snapped it open and started to drink it. Drinks and cards with Spike while they watched the sleeping vampire: now that was the life.

***
Cordelia woke up late and rushed to get herself in the shower and out the door before the doctor’s office called with her cancellation notice for the fourth time in two months. Rushing into the reception area, she told the medical secretary her name breathlessly.

“Great timing, Miss Chase. I was just about to call you on the phone.”

“Thanks.”

“It will be just a few minutes.” The medical secretary said, phoning the back area while Cordelia found a seat next to the magazine table. She picked up a parenting magazine, hoping to read the how to article entitled: How to color with your kids. Simple, she thought, get down on the hotel floor with acrylic paint with no drop cloth (thanks to Wesley, the brains of the operation) and paint a giant picture on the marble floor. Two seconds later after reading Remember how, the first two words of the article, her name was called.

“Very good timing.” The secretary reminded her as the LPN took her back to where the exam rooms were.

“Right this way.” The LPN said as they approached the weigh-in scale. “If you don’t mind, step right up here please.” Cordelia set her purse down on the chair in the hallway and stepped up to the machine. The LPN pushed the levers around and came up with her weight. “Wow, someone is losing weight.”

“Really? How much?” Cordelia acted surprised. Truth was, she wasn’t eating as well as she had been.

“Five pounds less than last time.” The LPN fiddled with the height levers and came up with her height as well. “And you’re still growing too. Last time you were 5’8” and this time you’re 5’10”.”

“Wow, I didn’t expect that.” Cordelia said, grabbing her purse off the chair and following her back to an exam room.

“Take a seat and the doctor will be right with you.”

“Thanks.” Cordelia said as she closed the door and hopped up onto the table, squishing and crinkling the paper underneath her.

“Cordelia, Cordelia, Cordelia.” Dr. Crystal Osborn walked into the room and said her name. “Long time no see.”

“Yeah, I know. A lot of things have been happening.”

“I know. I’m not going to scold you like last time. When was last time again?”

“Funny, Cris, funny.” Cordelia joked with her as Dr. Osborn ran through the routine checkup and wrote notes on her clipboard.

“How’s that little tyke?”

“He’s good. Healthy as a horse, or pony for his size.”

“Good, good. Take a deep breath for me.” Cordelia did as asked with Dr. Osborn listening to her lungs and heart through the stethoscope. “Okay,” she wrote a few more notes down before rolling her chair over to the table next to Cordelia. “Why are you really here?”

“The pills.”

“I gave you enough to last you six months.”

“I know. That’s not the problem. The problem is that they’re making me dizzy and emotional.” Cordelia halted and thought about how many times she’s burst into tears over nothing. “Very emotional.”

“Okay, let me try and switch you to another drug similar to the one you’re taking, but without the side effects and if it does the same thing, we’ll keep switching.” Dr. Osborn made a note and opened the door to grab the LPN back in the room. “Can you get me the list for this type of drug? Thanks.” The LPN nodded and left the room, looking for the list for Dr. Osborn. “So, anything else happening that I need to know about?”

“Not yet. I mean apart from the cases and the lovey-dovey-kissy-face crap that goes on around the office all day, nope.”

“Right.” Dr. Osborn trailed off as the LPN returned with a list and the pad of scripts for the doctor.

***
Lorne pushed Angel around in bed, trying to wake him up. He knew that opening the blinds to let a little sun in and wake the vampire up was out, after all, he would burst into flames.

“Angel! Get up!” He yelled into his ear as an even louder groan came from him.

“I told you this wasn’t going to be easy.” Spike said, still sitting on the chair with his feet elevated on the table.

“Do me a favor and shut up then go get a bucket and fill it up with water.”

“What are you going to do?”

“What I do best, sing.” Lorne took a mini-bow and told him. Spike did as asked, turning on the showerhead in the bathroom and filling the ice bucket up with ice-cold water. Returning to the room, he caught Lorne singing the Star-Spangled Banner like he was at Dodger Stadium into Angel’s ear.

“…and the home of the brave.” Lorne dragged out and hit the high note, motioning Spike to throw the water on him. Angel sat up straight in the bed and was now wide awake.

“It’s about time, mate.” Spike knelt down and looked at his face. “Do you know who I am?”

“Yea, Captain Peroxide, you’re the President of the United States.” Angel said sarcastically, smacking Spike in the head.

“Hey now, that’s uncalled for.”

“Angel,” Lorne started as Angel turned towards him and without warning punched him in the face. The blood was streaming from Angel’s nose as Lorne got up and started to pace the room. Angel started to rotate his nose back and forth with the crackling sounds echoing in the room.

“Damn, Lorne. That hurt.”

“It was meant to.”

“Why?”

“Shouldn’t have asked that…” Spike trailed off, taking a seat back in the lounge chair.

“Why? Why!?!” Lorne threw his arms up in the air. “Let me give you twenty thousand reasons why. One, this is the big one now, so pay attention: YOU LEFT!”

“I had to.”

“No you didn’t, Angel. You didn’t have to leave. When that blond she-devil strolled back into your life you freaked and left, when you had another option to choose. You could’ve stayed, helped raise your child with the rest of us instead of just expecting us to raise the child for you. Two: You broke her heart!”

“Whose?”

“Spike, you better hold me back if he asks that again!” Lorne was mad, and he never, ever got mad, well at least to Angel’s knowledge he hadn’t. “You left her with a baby, Angel! A baby that wasn’t even hers. You wanna know what you threw away? Do you?” Lorne asked as Angel nodded in curiosity. He had a feeling that even if he didn’t nod, he would be listening to it anyway. “You threw away seven years of love, of complete, no gimmicks, love you for all you’re worth and more love. You threw away your one and only chance to have a family.”

Lorne paused, taking a deep breath so he could calm down and start again. “In a way, I should thank you for leaving and in another way I should just beat you shitless then stake you’re sorry ass. She is so strong, Angel. You probably wouldn’t even recognize her anymore. She’s not the same girl that she was seven years ago, she’s more. She’s insightful, she’s strong, free-willed, independent…she’s a mom, Angel. She’s a mom. And that’s more than you will ever be. She’s half-demon for crying out loud!”

“Half-demon?” Angel looked up cockeyed at the idea of her giving herself over to the Powers.

“Half-demon, mate. It’s true. All because of the visions.”

“She still gets them?”

“Yea, she still gets them. She gets the visions that are supposed to be guiding you on your path of atonement, not ours.” Lorne turned towards the window and peaked out into the sunbathed parking lot.

It had to be mid afternoon by now, and Lorne was getting hungry.

“I still…” Angel started to whisper.

“Still what Angel?” Lorne rubbed his nose arch as he felt the headache penetrating against his temporal lobe arise.

“I still love her.”

“I don’t think so. If you did truly and deeply love her, you wouldn’t have left!” Lorne screamed towards him, making Spike jump out of his chair and hold him back.

“Calm down, Lorne.” Spike told him, as it was his turn to speak now. “Angel, he’s right, if you did love her, you wouldn’t have left. But, truth be told, I can see where you’re coming from. Vampire has sex with other vampire: doesn’t expect to see her eight months later with her belly six feet in front of her. I would freak out too. But instead of just freaking out and sucking it in, you left. You didn’t even try to accept the fact that Darla was pregnant, you fled.” Spike said, watching Angel twiddle his fingers and get a pouty look on his face that had childish written all over it.

“I wanna make this right.” He said softly. Spike could see Lorne roll his eyes behind him and tried to accept what he heard. “I wanna make this right.” He said more sternly.

“Angel, this is Spike and you know me, I’m going to be truthful with you. You can’t make it right. You can’t make up for the seven years you lost with your child and the woman who is caring for your child. It doesn’t work that way.”

“Then what can I do? I want to come back into their lives, I really do.” He pleaded.

“Are you sure you’re ready for that?” He sincerely asked, looking deep into Angel’s eyes for any bit of truth to his statement.

“Yes.”

Spike looked back at Lorne and winked, knowing it was true. He really did want to try.

“Okay, we’ll try.”
I walk alone
I try alone
And I’ll wait for you
Don’t wanna die alone
So please
Come home soon

V.

Lorne called the hotel at around seven o’clock in the evening telling Cordelia to set two extra plates out: one for Spike and one for another guest who was to remain anonymous for the time being. Cordelia watched as Faith and Fred brought the dishes to the table and set them around it, making sure the symmetry rule that Fred had was in tact and working.

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, and eleven.”

“Wait, that’s not an even number.” Fred whined.

“So? What’s the big deal, Fred?” Faith asked.

“Well, that screws the whole symmetry rule up. See if Pythagoras said this….” Fred continued on about her rule as Faith made her way back to the kitchen followed by Fred. Cordelia laughed at them. Faith had to know that she was opening up that can of worms. She had to. She had been here three years with them and if she didn’t know that, she was just plain dumb.

Cordelia set one of the last sets of silverware down when Gunn came chasing Connor into the room.

“Hey, hey, hey…” Cordelia said, watching Connor go under the dining table and stopping Gunn in his path. “What did I tell you boys about running in the house? Connor, come out from under there.” Cordelia lifted the cloth from the surface as the seven year old came to receive her wrath.

“Na, na, na, na, na…” Gunn teased.

“Don’t think you’re getting a free pass, Mister Gunn.” She jabbed her finger into his chest hard.

“Ouch.”

“Na, na, na, na, na…” Connor mocked him. Cordelia looked down at her son, giving him the glare but couldn’t help laugh at him for the retaliation.

“Okay, when Uncle Lorne and Spike and their guest get here, how are you two going to behave?” She questioned with her arms across her chest. Gunn and Connor looked at each other and smiled then looked to Cordelia with even bigger smiles. “Good, now both of you go and wash your hands. I want you both clean for the table.” Cordelia shoved Gunn to the side as Connor followed him to the washroom.

Dawn brought the last big tray of food out to the table, setting it where Fred had distinctly outlined on the table.

“Okay, how much food is Wesley actually making? I don’t think we’re having Barnum & Bailey’s circus over for dinner.”

“I know. It’s like he gets done with one dish and then starts on another. He can’t control himself.”

“We need to sign him up for CA.”

“What’s that?”

“Cookers Anonymous.”

“Oh yea, definitely. Where’s that brochure with the number again?” Dawn joked, fixing the tablecloth that the tray had messed up.

“Have you called your sister lately?” Cordelia asked the younger Summers girl.

“Not in a while. Why?”

“I’m just thinking that you should. I mean, she is your sister and deserves to know how you are.”

“I guess so.” Dawn shrugged her shoulders, taking a seat across from where Cordelia was standing.

“Well, I’m Cordelia and I say so. Call her tomorrow, okay.”

“Okay.” Dawn said, watching Cordelia straightened her outfit nervously like she knew who the anonymous guest was going to be. “Expecting someone?”

“Not really. I just want to look nice.” Cordelia strolled over the face mirror strategically placed on a banister in the lobby for her to check herself. She combed her fingers through her hair and fixed that unruly eyebrow that had a stray always wanting to claim an Alfalfa on her.

“Cordelia, you look beautiful every day. You hardly need a mirror to know that.” Dawn told her watching her primp. She looked back at her and smiled with satisfaction on her lips.

“Thanks Dawn. That was sweet of you to say.”

“Only because it’s true.” Dawn shrugged her shoulders, ready for this dinner to start when the party in back did come to grace their presences and Connor and Gunn started to run throughout the lobby. Fred quickly turned back to Wesley and fixed his collared shirt and kissed him, thanking him for the overcompensating meal.

“Are we ready now?” Dawn whined a bit.

“Stop whining Dawn.” Connor whined with her.

“Stop whining Connor.” She countered.

“Guys, not at the table, okay.” Cordelia asked with the fake sibling rivalry. Dawn and Connor nodded towards Cordelia as she looked around, the three seats still unfilled.

“Should we start without Lorne and the rest?” Wesley asked, being considerate of the invisible company.

“I don’t see why, I mean, it’s not like this is a formal gathering.” Cordelia shoved off, grabbing Connor’s plate and placing some vegetables, meat and bread on it. The rest followed, loading their plates with the goodies. “Just leave some for…” Cordelia stopped abruptly, a cold and distant chill running down her back.

“What was that…” Wesley trailed off and stood up, looking at the courtyard doors with the three guests in the frame.

“Dawn, can you take…” Cordelia asked the young girl. Dawn nodded and grabbed for Connor’s hand, taking him upstairs to his room.

“Yay! No Vegetables.” Connor exclaimed as he walked up the stairs with her.

Wesley threw down his napkin and walked slowly over to the vampire who’s been missing for seven years and punched him.

“Okay, I deserve that.”

“Oh, you deserve a lot more but I’m not going to start right now, not in the middle of dinner, and not in front of the ladies.”

“Ladies? There are ladies here?” Faith sarcastically responded looking around, knowing it ticked Wesley off.

“Faith…” He coldly called her name.

“Sorry.” She held up her hands in surrender and shut up, looking down the way at Cordelia. Moving two seats over and looking at her face, she got worried. “Okay, hold on.” Faith said, patting her arm and signing Anne to sit with her while she went to the kitchen for the pills.

Coming back quickly, she handed Cordelia the pills and watched her as she gulped them down without the need for water this time.

“I got it, I got it.” She whispered to Faith and Anne, who were at her side attentively. Cordelia had wondered how long he’d been here, in Los Angeles.She knew where Lorne had gone.

Merl was the first informant all of them went to; he was their guy. He made a living by them and them alone. Fred got up, pushing her chair back and announced that she would go and check on the child for everyone.

“Thank you Fred.” Cordelia told her as she started to go up to his room to join Dawn. Thank you. Fred acknowledged her and fled up the stairs. Cordelia took another deep breath, hoping this new script that the doctor prescribed would work. Her nerves were still jumping and she could tell that if she took her sugar right now, it would be sky high.

“Wesley, Gunn…” She called them back to her, as Gunn motioned Spike to come with them. “Can you take the girls somewhere…upstairs or back to the kitchen. Anywhere but here in the lobby?” She asked.

“You know we can.” Gunn leaned forward and kissed her forehead, knowing this was the hardest on her.

“I’ll be upstairs, okay?” Wesley squeezed her hand tight as they led the girls up to Connor’s room where he would probably have a ball playing with toys and building skyscrapers eight feet high. She could imagine his face now when they got to his room. “Yay, party for me.” She smiled knowing he would be smiling. She heard Lorne wander down the stairs and come up beside her.

“You look beautiful.” He told her, kissing her on the forehead as the rest of the guys did.

“Nice try Lorne.” She said softly, maintaining her what-do-I-do-now voice.

“Still got that handkerchief?”

“This one?” She held up the embroidered cloth that Fred had gotten him for his birthday last year.

“Yeah, that one. You hold on to that, okay.” Lorne said as she nodded. “Do you want me to leave?” He asked her, knowing that she wanted him to stay already.

“No, please stay.”

“Okay.” Lorne told her, motioning Angel to walk down the five simple steps to the lobby floor. Lorne himself went to the end of the table and sat down, taking an awareness of the mouth-enticing food before him and hearing his stomach growl.

“Lorne, go ahead. Eat something.” Cordelia told him, as the food was getting cold as it was. He grabbed himself a plate and started to pile on the food. She slowly turned around, head down and butterflies fluttering about in her stomach.

She wasn’t sure if she could look at him, see his face, or even his dirty black shoes that he has probably been wearing for the past seven years. Lorne looked towards them, feeling the hostility and awkwardness that was hovering over them.

What the hell are you doing back here Angel? You’ve tried this six times before and you’re just now coming back! Angel rolled his hands through the gel-inflated hair that Lorne had managed to put in his hair and look presentable, or so he was told. She’s never going to forgive you. Never. And why should she? I left her when she needed me most. I left and ran away from everything that I wanted in life, not knowing how to handle it. Why am I even here? I should just turn around and run out of here and never look back. But if I did, I would never get to see that beautiful face of hers again. Never.

Angel, sweet, Angel. Cordelia looked up to the ceiling and silently thanked whoever heard her prayer. You’re back, you’re really back. Why couldn’t you have done this before? I needed you long before this. Every night I prayed that you would come back, that’s 84 months. That’s 364 weeks. That’s 2555 days and 61, 320 minutes that you’ve been gone and 61, 320 more minutes that you’ve made me worry about something I shouldn’t have to worry about. Why is it that I still love you? After all this time, I still love you.

“Oh, would you two stop thinking and just say something. Anything!” Lorne yelled at them, both knowing he was right, but they still remained silent. “Okay, here’s what we do,” Lorne took a bite of the chicken and chewed it up, wiping his hands on the napkin and coming over to them both. “On the count of three, both of you say one sentence, ready?” Lorne looked towards them, both brushing him off.

Lorne threw his hands up in the air, giving up again.

“Okay, this stops. You both think too much and don’t say what’s on your mind. Cordelia Elisabeth Rose Chase, you have seven years of hurt, anger and questions bottled up inside of you and this is the time to ask them. Now!” He told her as he turned to Angel. Without a second thought, he punched him across the nose again, the blood streaming down.

“Damn it, Lorne.”

“Lorne!” Cordelia grabbed a napkin off the table and went over to Angel, wiping the blood off of his upper lip. “I can see that training paid off.” Cordelia winked back at him. Cordelia had been training Lorne for seven years on the combat and fighting that Angel had taught her.

Once Angel left, it was “connecting time” as Slayer Central Head, Giles told them. Faith was there to lead them and help them. Fred, Lorne, Wesley, Gunn, Spike and Cordelia had went through the training together and then Lorne and Cordelia went for their own training session.

And tonight proved to Cordelia that it paid off.

“Thank you.” Angel told her as she wiped the last drip to appear on his face off.

“This doesn’t mean I forgive you.”

“I don’t expect it too.” He said, avoiding telling her what he really needed to say.

“Would you like another bloody nose, soul boy?” Lorne asked, gearing up his fist. Angel covered up his face and surrendered.

“Okay, okay. Cordelia, I’m sorry.” He turned towards her and said. She crossed her arms and smiled from him to Lorne.

“Did I hear that right?” She asked as Lorne nodded his head and Angel told her again.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I was younger seven years ago…”

“Not that much younger.”

“No, not that much younger, but I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking. I had just figured out that I loved you and wanted to spend the rest of my life with you when she came back, with a belly and that’s not normal. That will make anyone freak. And a vampire having a kid isn’t too common either.”

“I know.”

“I freaked and I ran. I didn’t mean for you to take and have this entire burden all because of me. I’m sorry.”

“Angel, that child is not a burden.” She confessed. “Well, he’s only a problem when Gunn gets him too excited and ancy or when Lorne feeds him too much chocolate Ho-hos. That’s it. He’s the most loving, playful, adorable little boy that a mother could ever ask for.” She stopped and looked up at Angel, who was loving her speech. “I have six albums of baby pictures and almost two volumes of a journal that I’ve been keeping for you to read. It’s all about his life, our life, our family’s life.” She walked closer to him, cupping his face with her hand.

“Angel, he’s our son. He knows he has a Daddy. We’ve told him the stories; he knows what you are, who you are. He knows who he was named after, he knows so many things about his life. He’s smart Angel, just like you and a little bit of all of us thrown in. He knows he has a Daddy.”

“And he has a Mommy.”

“He has a family.” She choked back the tears she knew were coming. “I have to ask you…”

“If you’ll have me, I would like to stay.” He requested for her permission.

“You can stay.” She let her hand drop down to her side and motioned for Lorne, who was chomping away on the food. “That hungry?”

“Wha?” Lorne said with his mouth half full. “Okay, everything alright.”

“Go and get him, go and get them. Please.” She asked nicely as Lorne bowed to his lady and raced up the stairs.

“I love you.” Angel told her flat out. He wasn’t going to let the moment pass him by and miss the opportunity to say it. Not this time. Not ever again. She looked up at him with her water-welled eyes and moved in closer to him.

“Oh, Angel.” She paused, hovering close to his lips. “I love you too.” She confessed. His arms draped around her and he pulled her into his arms, squeezing her and not wanting to let go for anything. Except for his child of course. Pressing his lips to hers, he kissed her passionately, like the sparks never went away. The feelings were still there, the relationship would have to be reconstructed, but the spark and the fireworks and the sunrise-sunset, kisses-in-the-morning, pillow-fights-at-night-love was still there.

He broke away for her to breathe and sensed the audience. A little boy arrived then; about as high as Cordelia’s waistline, he stood next to her, nervous like Angel was. Cordelia bent down and picked him up.

“Connor, remember when you drew that picture for homework the other day and you had a Daddy in the picture?” Cordelia asked him as he nodded his head and looked at her. “Well, what if I told you that Daddy has come home and wants to be part of our lives again?”

“I don’t know.” Connor shrugged his shoulders, lowering his head and not knowing what to think.

“I know you do. Remember how we talked about this, that if Daddy returned, you would give him a chance.”

“Yea…”

“Do you think we could start that chance now?” Cordelia asked him, crawling her fingers up to his chin. He smirked at his mother and shook his head whole heartedly as Angel wiped the tears that were cascading down his cheeks. She snuggled him close and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

Putting him back down on the ground, she took a seat back on the chair with Connor leaning into her and Angel bending down to his level.

“Connor Francis Angel I would like you to meet your father, Liam Angel.” Cordelia introduced them as the rest of the gang sat on the stairs watching the tear-jerking reunion. Connor stuck out his hand for Angel to shake and he gladly accepted. Connor retracted his hand from the older vampires’, he looked to his mother and back at Angel.

“Can I give you a hug?” He asked Angel.

“Sure.” Angel said, taken aback by the question but was rewarded by a tight little hug from the little boy. This was when he knew he was welcomed: when his son accepted him, vampire and all. Connor stepped back from Angel’s arms and looked up towards Cordelia.

“Mommy, I’m tired, can I go back up to my room?”

“I don’t think so mister. You are eating those vegetables whether you like it or not.” She nudged him in the back with her pointy finger.

“But Mommy…”

“Don’t but mommy me. Get back in that chair and eat. Come on guys, before Lorne eats everything in sight.” She called the gang over, grabbing Angel’s hand and moving him over to the seat beside her. “I know you don’t eat much, but…”

“Are you kidding? I’ve never been so hungry in my life.” He answered and she flashed a smile his way.

This was what family was all about.

Come home soon
Come home soon


…THE END…


 

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