Title: Blood Will Out
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, and if I did, I would store them in Tupperware to make them keep. No money is made off of this story, or I’d be working for ME. And Angel would not have been canceled. Or something.
Rating: PG-13 for violence, mild sexuality
Summary: Takes place from the moment that Stephen(Connor) punches his way back home, to the destruction of his father - spoilers for Season 3 - and the evil that men do.
Not many knew of Darla’s family. The Master had only been interested in her rage, in her curiosity, in her complete absence of morals. Before the Watcher’s Council exploded in a fireball, there was a dusty file in a drawer labeled “M” that indicated her bloodline traced back to the Vikings. It was fitting, with her coloring, her thirst for conquest, and once turned into an immortal killing machine, her need to constantly seek new hunting grounds. A little bit of the self remains long after the demon takes root and flourishes.
After Stephen (Connor) punched a hole in reality in order to claw his way back to the thing that had made him (what was he?), it should have been apparent - that Teutonic background. The Viking blood. But Stephen (Connor) had been raised by an Anglo-Saxon, and a religious one at that. His natural fire had been doused by the baptismal waters of Christianity and a Reformation-era sense of righteousness and justice.
Stephen had discovered a way out of Hell, and being a good follower of the Christ, had taken it. He had not taken his father. But Holtz was a calculating man, a man of great intellect, and had known that Stephen (my name for him, the name of my son) would find a way for them to leave. He was wise enough to realize the boy would not take him - would forget in him in his lust to finally confront the creature who had created him.
And so Holtz had kept a watchful eye on the boy, had needed to for a few years, truth be told. Holtz had anger to fuel his desire to live, to keep going. But the hell they lived in was a vicious place. He was broken in body and scarred. His lessons for the boy were of stratagems and planning now - no longer could he hold a weapon for training, and hadn’t been an effective sparring partner for many years.
After the fight, after laying eyes on the man (demon, he is a demon. Filth) who dared to look at him with love and with concern and with longing, Stephen (Connor - they called me Connor) fled into the night, safe, his mind trying to understand the new sensation of lips touching someone else’s, with Angelus fighting to protect him, with the fragility of humans. With loneliness. He wandered the streets and found him. Found Holtz - realized the old man had braved the portal and the dangers for him (for Him? Or for me? To see His face?) and felt shame at leaving him behind in Hell.
“I would have come back for you. You shouldn’t have followed me.”
“I couldn’t have done otherwise.”
Stephen felt something new - indignation. He had wanted to confront the Beast that claimed to be his father. He wanted to do that one task alone. To kill him alone. To bring a trophy back to his father and be recognized as a man, as an equal. Just as soon as these feelings arose, familiar shame washed over them. Holtz (father, he is my father) had risked his own life to save Stephen from the Beast and give him a life (taken, he took me there took me away, stole me) and then had risked everything to follow him from Quor-Toth to this new place.
“I’m sorry, Father. I will remember.”
Holtz had sent Stephen back out to meet with Angelus. To speak with him, to lure him. Stephen believed he was hunting - studying his prey before the fatal blow. But Holtz did not believe vengeance should end with the death of his enemy. He knew that it was far worse to let Angelus continue living, stripped of everything he held dear.
Stephen had learned his lessons well. “I want to know how you do that.” And the foolish monster had taught him every skill he possessed. The Beast unwittingly told Stephen (I am Stephen) how to kill him several times over. He listened and learned. And somewhere in the crevices of his soul, the places Holtz had tried so hard to blot out, to erase, an ache grew.
Warriors should feel nothing. Nothing aside from the righteous and holy blood lust of destroying the wicked. But Stephen was still a boy in many ways (a baby, I was a baby - did he hold me? Did anyone ever hold me?) and the dusty, long-forgotten parts that made him human ached with want every time the monster smiled at him. Every time Angel(-us. Mustn’t forget.) gave him... praise. Told him that his actions were good in his sight. Every time the monster touched his hair and moved it without it being incidental from an ear boxing, or followed by an axe-handle to the belly to strengthen him.
(He’s not my father. He doesn’t love me. He left me. He didn’t come. I... waited. And he never came. He is a monster.)
Holtz sat in the dreary room that was to be his final home. He blew on the heavy linen to dry the ink - the final touch on his centuries-long quest to destroy the thing that had destroyed him. He loved Stephen. He loved him very much. God had given Holtz the perfect weapon to vanquish his foe. Before Angelus had killed his family, Holtz had been given a cross-bow from the Arch-Bishop of Warrington. A finer weapon did not exist at the time, and Holtz had recognized it as a thing of beauty, to be treasured and cared for. And then God had seen fit to bequeath Holtz the greatest weapon of all - the monster’s son. And he had broken it in to fit his hand. Had polished it, stripped it down to the essential working parts and it was good in his sight.
Holtz wanted to see the progress of his handiwork, and so had slipped out in the night to watch Stephen studying the enemy. He found them in an alley. And they were playing. Holtz’s first thought was of a cat and mouse - how clever was his boy! But then he heard something new. The boy’s laughter. Stephen was playing with the monster, boxing, kicking, moving, and ... laughing. And Angelus was smiling, joy apparent on the beast’s face. This was not a part of the plan.
Holtz held the paper to his nose, breathed in the faint scent of the paper, folded it and smiled. His work was almost finished, and he could be laid to rest in peace. The boy came back to him and a small flame of rage flared up inside Holtz’s rheumatic chest as he recognized that the boy was arranging his features. Taking the confusion and...something else out of his eyes to return to the quiet and ever watchful face of the warrior.
“I have seen his true face.”
“And I have seen yours.”
Stephen (I am supposed to be Connor. For now.) went back to the hotel to better study his enemy. To live among them and lure them into his father’s trap. And the girl and her man were kind to him. But it did not matter that they were kind - they lived and helped the beast - it was possible that he would have to kill them as well.
They wanted to take Connor to see the ocean. He had heard of this place. Had heard of the large fish that lived in the ocean and swallowed a wicked man who was jealous that God was the god of all mankind, and not exclusive to his Chosen people. Connor wondered if he would see this fish. He remembered his lessons from Holtz - words from the Good Book - “Doest thou well to be angry.” Connor did cleave to that lesson.
“I didn’t know it would be so... empty.”
“It isn’t. There’s a whole ‘nother world - just under the surface.”
Connor watched the water undulate back and forth, ever changing but remaining the same, always listening to the conversation behind him. The girl and her man were fools. They did not recognize that Connor (I am Stephen, and I will learn my lesson, Father, and I will make you proud) could hear them. It was not the plan for the beast to confront Holtz. Holtz was no longer a warrior. And Connor had fled.
He found his father. There was a strange woman standing over him, but the scent of blood was not on her. Two small wounds in his neck - bite marks. The woman was crying. The woman said Angelus had done it, that his father had pleaded with him to not kill him. Later, in the small hours of the night, Connor (Stephen) would realize that Holtz would not have pleaded. Holtz would have died as a warrior, old and broken though he may be. And in the quiet places of neglect in his soul, he would realize that Holtz was not a warrior. Holtz was a cunning man of wrath, and nothing more. And familiar shame and neglect would steal back into the boy’s heart and tighten its grip once more.
They found a spot to bury the man. And Stephen knew to honor his father, and so he cut off his head to keep Holtz’ soul with God.
“Sleep now, Father, and forgive me.”
Stephen recited his lessons under his breath as he dragged the body to the hole in the earth. “I, the Lord thy God wilt deliver unto you thine enemy that thou mayest bring him even unto death. Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”
But Stephen (Connor - I will be Connor once more, and then be shut of it) chose to make Angelus suffer for his suffering, not for his father’s. And so Connor wouldn’t kill the monster. He would send him to a different world. Punish him like he had been punished. And Connor and the woman made their plans and arranged for a boat, but more importantly for a box.
“We’re family. I want to tell you how I feel about that.”
They had fallen over the cliff-face onto the soft sand below, water swirling around their ankles. Angel(-us. He is the beast) unaware of the larger plan of treachery and deceit, now staggering under the loss of the past two days, the loss of the son he thought had come back to him, fell into the water as the electric weapon stunned every muscle in his body, freezing him. Then there was blackness.
Connor (soon I will forget that boy ever was) signaled for the woman to bring the boat in to shore. While he waited, he kicked the beast. He punched the monster in its face (not your true face, is it. Is it?) and then sat on its still form to keep the ocean from claiming it too soon. Jerked the beast’s face up to the night sky to study it. To remember the look of his vanquished foe. Slid the flat of his hand over hard cheek bone, his thumb over soft lip, then touched his own. Took the monster’s hand, splayed it against his own hand. The same broadness, large and long fingers, tiny bend at the ring finger on the right hand.
Connor quickly dropped the beast’s hand as the engine from the boat cut into the silence, shaking his hand a bit to disentangle Angel’s fingers from his own. She had brought heavy cording and a winch.
The beast woke up before they had the lid on the box. It was just as well. Let him try and speak to Connor (Stephen - almost home - almost done) and let him see his pleading fall on deaf ears. But the monster saw that the boy was strong, and would not be moved. And Connor did not realize that the monster knew him, as well. As Connor put the cover over the box - the cover with a window so Angel would see his new world for ever and ever - he forced himself to look back into the monster’s eyes. And told himself that the monster did not feel sorrow. Or regret. Or love. He was a monster and was not capable.
But a small, hard, burning place in his heart was pleased that the creature who made him, from who’s loins he had sprung, was proud in his final defeat. That the monster did not plead or beg or cry for his release. And Stephen felt shame for the brief moment where Connor recognized his father.
He stood on the edge of the prow watching the last of the bubbles rise to the surface, bent his knees and steadied himself as the woman brought the engine to life and drove the boat to shore, and continued to stare at the spot where his father (he is not my father) sank into another world and wondered if Angel would be able to find a way out of that world and back into his own.
He felt a stirring in his loins, which happened now with increasing frequency after a satisfying kill, and mindlessly scrubbed at the front of his trousers, still watching for bubbles to rise to the surface of the water.
If Wesley had been a part of this - he had been instrumental in the beginning, it would have been fitting for him to be there in the end, the woman felt - he would have recognized the Viking’s need to spread his own seed after destroying the enemy. But Wesley had lain in the dark, holly leaves puncturing his skin as his blood muddied the ground under him - done at the woman’s hand - and did not come around any more.
As they neared the dock and Connor felt the boat bump to a stop, a wavering smile crossed his face. He had completed his task. He had destroyed the enemy - the enemy he had trained his whole life to kill. And had nowhere to go.
Perhaps the foolish girl and her man would take him in - and he could live in the home of his enemy. It was the spoils of war and rightfully his. And he remembered his lessons as he slipped into the sheets of his enemy’s bed, Angel’s scent lulling him to sleep, “That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty; that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever.”