Warning: NC-17, Connor/Wes with overtones of Connor's relationship with everybody.
He dreamt of the ocean. Of Angel sinking beneath the waves, the bitter tang of salt filling his mouth, his lungs. He dreamt of aching hunger and freezing cold; of stillness, of not being able to touch or move, bound in tight chains and sealed in iron with only a small window opening into nothingness.
And it wasn't enough. Wasn't - couldn't ever be enough, not for what he'd done. For everything Angelus had taken from him. His father. His life. That hope he'd had, fighting next to him, feeling, knowing what Angel Angelus would do, moving together, as one. Laughing. Believing .
And then he'd lied and they'd lied and they'd told him that they just wanted to show him something and what they'd really wanted was to hide the fact that Angelus was still a monster, Angelus still needed to be destroyed. And no matter how fast he ran, he couldn't outrun that knowledge. He couldn't get to that alley, get to his father, fast enough to change that. Couldn't stop it.
But Connor knew about vengeance, and he knew about patience. His father had taught him – know your prey. Hunt the hunter. Find out what they love most and destroy it.
Fred told him stories, at night. She told him she wanted him to know his father, know how much Angel had loved him. Did love him. He wanted to yell out “That's not my father” but he bit back the words. Patience. It wasn't enough that the monster was lying beneath the ocean. They still trusted him, believed in him .
“Maybe he just left.”
Fred looked appalled at the suggestion. “He wouldn't do that to us - to you! He had a mission and – and we're his friends. Angel'd never just up and leave, not without telling us where he was going.”
Connor shrugged, not making eye contact. “He left me.”
“He didn't! He didn't want to leave you, Connor. It was…he trusted the wrong person. He thought…” Her voice broke off, struggling. Then fell silent as they both heard the familiar sound of Gunn's footsteps coming down the hallway.
Gunn never spoke about the man Wesley. And Fred only mentioned him when no one else was about, glancing nervously and talking in rapid tones, often speaking so fast that Connor had trouble following. Holtz's voice had always been low and controlled, calm, patient.
He was a good man Fred insisted. Wesley used to be one of them, fighting the good fight. A hero. But then he trusted the wrong person and…
Her voice broke off and she started over. Told Connor a tale of a place called Pylea. She said it sounded like a fairy tale, if you didn't know the truth. Connor did. He understood her existence there, never able to sleep deeply. He did not understand her need to hide instead of hunt, but he was determined to learn.
So Fred told her stories, and Connor listened. His father taught him know thy enemy . Track your prey for days, observe their habits, learn from them. You become the one you hunt, in order to predict their move. Learn their scent. Bring it into you.
Wesley's scent lingered in the Hyperion, trailing through the rooms. It took Connor days to identify it properly, to separate it out from the rest. Gunn and Fred's were the strongest, the fresh trails overlaying older ones. And in the room he slept in – his room, Fred called it, the one prepared for him, the scent of Angelus was thick, almost suffocating, as if he'd spent hours and days there. It made Connor antsy, his skin twitching. Made him dream of leather and the scent of his own blood, copper and salt. Awoke tangled in his own sheets, the cotton entwined around his legs and arms, imprisoning them in ropes, his skin reddened and chafed. He found himself shuddering, his body hardening, his hand sliding down his chest, his stomach, stroking his cock roughly as he breathed in the scent, envisioned Angel's face half obscured by waves and bars. Climaxed with a low moan, turning his head to the side and closing his eyes, blinking back tears. Nausea churning in his gut, the scent suffocating him… Angel/Angelus …until he had to leave, get out, escape. Found himself wandering the halls of the Hyperion at night, taking in deep breaths, trying to focus his mind, pick out the other scents. Angelus is gone, now . Tried to practice what his father had taught him. Find the trail . Learn your enemy, identify who and what you are seeking, isolate it and ignore the rest . Wesley's scent was the faintest. The most distracting.
Even in Quor'toth there were watering holes, of sorts. Places where demons of different types would gather, where the trails and scents overlapped and intertwined, forming a web of sights and sounds. Holtz would take Connor there and teach him.
Connor would kneel, hands behind his back as Holtz bound him, with the leather created from the demons Connor had hunted and killed. Skin Connor scraped bare of fat and flesh, stretched taunt and cured, creating the very leather used to bind him. He remembered the feel of the leather, tightening as it dried. He knew he could break them. And his father knew as well. He could not remember a time when he couldn't do more than Holtz – run faster, lift more, see further.
He always had the abilities. His father taught him the skills. Discipline. Obedience. Loyalty. The trick was not to break the bonds. The trick was to wait. As the leather wrapped around his wrists, his father would bind them tightly, trusting in the pain to act as a reminder. If he broke them early, the bonds would be longer next time, soaked first in water, tightening, digging deep, raising welts and drawing blood. When the time had passed, bruises would bloom on Connor's wrists, blue and black. His duty was to track his father, to find him before the bruises faded to yellow and then vanished into the paleness of his skin. They were his timekeeper and his calendar.
His father's voice would echo in his ears, as he finished wrapping his wrists, pulling tightly. “You must learn patience.” And then he would smile softly, eyes fierce and sharp. Reach out his hand and cup Connor's cheek. “You're a good boy, Steven.” He'd brush the hair out of Connor's eyes, whispering “Remember what I've taught you,” as he leaned over and kissed the top of Connor's forehead.
And Connor would inhale deeply, drawing the scent of Holtz into his lungs, memorizing it. Treasuring it, making it a part of him, even as the leather cut deeply, the welts rising scarlet against his pale skin. Knew that no matter what, he would be able to track him. He could always find his father. He would never be really alone.
And as he wandered the halls of the Hyperion, he sifted through the scents, picking them out one by one and dismissing them. Fred . Gunn . The demon . The last remaining was the scent that interested him most, the scent he knew belonged to Wesley. The one that in Fred's stories was misguided. The one that Connor knew was his savior, who had delivered him, unwittingly, to his father. He wanted to find that man. Wanted to know if Wesley knew what he had done.
It wasn't hard. Gunn welcomed the suggestion that Connor patrol alone. Connor knew he made him uncomfortable. Gunn rarely made eye contact and flinched when Connor got to close. Spoke to Fred in low tones that he still never believed Connor could hear.
Connor spent days hunting through the streets and alleys, listening, smelling, searching. Dusting vampires, even if they weren't the prey he was seeking. Until he learned, through rumors and interrogation, of a man recruiting hunters. He observed Wes for days, confidence building as the man continued to hunt vampires, train others in his the techniques. Stakes and blades, familiar weapons. And when Wes turned and looked at him suddenly, he didn't react fast enough. Not until the gun in Wes's hand fired a dart did he even realize it was a weapon. And not until he awoke in Wesley's apartment, groggy, senses dulled, arms bound behind his back, did he realize he was in danger.
“You've been following me. Why?” Wes's voice was level, but darkness lurked beneath it. Connor listened to the sounds, treasuring the familiarity. The rasping voice, undercut with pain as if each breath was a labor. Deep and slow, so different from Fred's breathlessness, from Gunn's forced cheerfulness. Connor continued to look solidly ahead, hands working and flexing within the bonds, muscles still weak from the drugs running through him.
“My father spoke of you. Misguided, he said. That you chose to ally with evil but that evil would betray you. That is what it does.” Wrists bound behind him, he stared up at Wes, breathing in, centering himself, waiting for the answer.
Wes tilted his head to one side, eyes intent, studying Connor. Reached his hand out to brush a lock of hair out of Connor's eyes, his own narrowed in intense concentration.
Fred never touched Connor. All hesitant movements, hands and voice fluttering like birds, never landing. She would reach out but pull away before ever making contact. And Gunn never reached out at all. Connor found himself leaning towards them at times, before he controlled himself. The last time he had been touched had been Cordelia, light haloing both their bodies. The last time he'd touched had been Angelus, tugging roughly, dumping him in the iron casket. Resisting the urge to hit, to make Angelus bleed as his father did, as he could feel himself bleeding inside.
And now…Wes's hand cupping his cheek. Connor forced himself to remain still, torn between leaning into the touch and jerking away. Wes's fingers stroked lightly, thoughtfully, thumb running over Connor's bottom lip. Connor could taste the faintest hint of salt. Close his eyes and see Angelus's face falling down, bars half obscuring it and the shifting waves softening it, taste again the tang of the salt spray against his mouth and tongue.
“You don't look like Angel.” Wes said in an almost absent-minded tone, studying Connor's face.
Startled, angered, Connor jerked back, overbalancing and falling to the ground, unable to catch himself with his arms bound behind him. He tried to scramble to his feet but gave up as Wes continued simply to watch. Knelt, panting, glaring up at Wes.
“He is your father, you know.” Wes's voice remained calm as he put a steadying hand on Connor's shoulder, fingers gripping harder as Connor started to jerk away, digging into his skin.
“He's not. He's a monster.” Connor spat out. “He killed my father, she saw...” His voice broke off and he snapped his mouth shut, tightening his lips, trying again to jerk away from Wesley's touch. Tried to tug his wrists apart. He could feel the leather cutting into his skin, just short of breaking it, but his muscles were still too weak.
“She?” Wes's gaze sharpened and his fingers tightened even more, twisting bruises into Connor's flesh.
Connor's eyes narrowed. He owed Wesley nothing. Tried to ignore that familiar sounding voice, the feel of the leather rubbing against his wrists, the pain comforting something inside him. He stared blankly ahead, breathing shallow.
““Damn it, look at me Who ? Not – not Fred?”
Connor couldn't hide his surprise at that, a laugh breaking out. “Fred? She believes in his lies, she'd never have the courage to see what Angelus is. Jus-“. He stopped, half-horrified at what he'd nearly said.
“Justine.” Wes's voice was rich with satisfaction.
And, leaning down, he pressed a kiss against Connor's temple. “That's a good boy.”
Connor knelt there silently, watching Wes straighten and walk out the door. Closed his eyes, inhaled the lingering traces of Wes's scent, and waited for the strength to return to his limbs, waited for the bonds to snap.