Title: The Memories We Make
Category: AU, Humor, Fluff, Romance, a tiny bit of Angst
Content: C/A, F/G, General Friendship
Summary: Connor experiences his first Halloween
Spoilers: S3 AU Before Birthday. Wesley didn't steal Connor.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: JF and anywhere if asked
Notes: This is so very, very schmoopy but I don't think I went any further than ME did during the S3 baby arc. So, if fluff isn't your thing, I doubt this will be either.
Thanks: Thanks to Livvie who provided the prompt: Anything AU with Cordy and Angel taking baby!Connor trick or treating. And thanks to my lovely co-ficathon organizer and beta, Samsmom. Love you a bunch!
Scents of baby oil and powder, of the sterilized diaper pail in the corner and the tangy citrus of CK One filled the nursery.
The baby's cheeks were pink and splotchy from Cordy's gentle pinching.
"You're going to be so cute tonight," she said taping the diaper closed with a pat. Picking him up, she nuzzled his neck in search of the strongest scent of fresh talc and pure Connor, holding in the breath for as long as possible never to forget.
A sigh escaped as she cradled him in her arms and rocked him gently while crossing to the window. Propping back a curtain with her elbow, she held him just so, allowing the early morning rays to wash over him. "You need to get out more. You're looking more and more like the son of a vampire."
She glided her palm over his downy hair that shimmered like golden wheat in the sun and stared into his blinking clear blue eyes as her own filled with awe.
"Do you know how much I love you, little guy? Huh? Do you?"
Connor smiled and swatted at her nose. Spittle flew following his tiny "pfft" sound hitting Cordy in the eye.
"Hey! Was that a challenge, bubba? I'll teach you to spit at your Aunt Cordy."
Hoisting him into the air, she pulled his belly to her mouth for raspberry punishment. The wet motorboat sound mellowed under the rise of his giggles as he squirmed and kicked in mid-air.
"Are you trying to eat my son? I should warn you he's a little stringy."
Leaning against the French doors, arms and ankles crossed, Angel mentally framed the picture of his son and best friend smiling and laughing in the shafts of day and tucked it away for a future sketch.
The scrapbook of his son's life was increasingly becoming filled not only with memories of Connor's growth but his entire family as well. But mostly with the two of them his son and Cordy.
He'd noticed only recently the preponderance of sketches and photos, hand-scrawled notes and journal entries featuring them both. It hadn't been a conscious decision on his part to include her in his son's life, and he suspected neither was it hers. It was just their life now - together.
He wondered if she even realized or felt the change or if it seemed as normal to her as it did to him.
Fear kept him from asking. Angel didn't want her to notice how much of her life was entwined with his. He didn't want her questioning it and deciding she wanted more for herself.
He didn't want her to fantasize about her own son who shared her eyes and a different father's nose.
He shifted uncomfortably when once more the guilt for not pushing Cordy away rose. But he justified it not as a selfish wish but a need for Connor. His son wouldn't have a full life, become the man he hoped he would be, without a woman's influence, and Angel couldn't think of a woman more perfect for that role than Cordy.
It was only a coincidence that she was the one person, along with his son, who made him feel less like a monster and more like a man.
"Has your daddy been nibbling on you, Connor? I think we need to put a muzzle on those fangs, don't we?" she asked while giving him tiny Eskimo kisses.
Angel closed his eyes tightly stemming the rising happiness from cresting but locking another picture in the vault for the family album.
"That'll have to wait until I get some work done, though," she said approaching Angel to pass off the baby into his father's arms.
Standing straight, Angel prepared his senses for her nearness. The air stilled before he felt the static jolt that preceded her touch. Then the warmth spread throughout his body from where she pressed against him making sure there was no space for Connor to fall between them.
She always lingered once Connor was safely in his arms, skimming her hand over the child's forehead and down his body, finally sweeping her fingertips over Angel's forearm and squeezing it before letting go.
It was their ritual and he looked forward to it every day, as many times a day as he could manage.
He peered down into her face and wondered again if she realized how naked her love for Connor shone in the glint of her eyes and sparkle of her smile.
And each time he hoped a small fraction of that love might be for him.
"Don't stay up here all day. It may be Halloween, but there's still work to do."
Angel looked at Connor. "Did you hear something? I think there's a fly buzzing around, Con Man."
Rising on her toes, Cordy leaned over Angel's shoulder. "And that fly's name is Wesley and he's the big boss fly with big razor fly teeth," she said baring her own and snapping her jaws.
Angel covered Connor's eyes. "Whoa, whoa, whoa, no scaring the baby with big fly teeth."
"Really, Angel. There's going to be more scary things tonight than my big teeth and hey!" She slapped his arm. "My teeth aren't that big. Besides, Connor's the bravest little baby ever. Aren't you Connor?" She tickled his chin and got a sneeze instead of the expected gurgle.
"Wait, was that a sneeze? I don't think he should go out tonight if he's got a cold," Angel tucked Connor into his body like a football.
"It was just a little one, probably some dust. It wouldn't hurt to spray a little lemony Pledge in here once in awhile."
"He's only five months old, Cor. He won't even know what's going on. I still don't know why we're taking him out."
Cordy rounded him getting in his face. "Huh-uh, buddy. You are not going to use one tiny sneeze as an excuse to keep Connor from going on his first Halloween. That boy is not going to be a social retard like his dad. Got it?" Cordy jabbed her finger into Angel's shoulder to make her point.
"Ow, okay. We'll go as long as there are no more coughs or other symptoms. And I am not a social retard."
"Says the guy who spends every minute when he's not killing demons cooped up in his room."
"I have a baby to take care of." Cordy stood her ground, brows arched letting him know just how lame she thought that excuse was.
"Isn't the boss waiting for you downstairs?" Angel tried.
"He's waiting for both of us, and I'm telling him you're up so no lingering!"
"Fine, we'll be down as soon as I get Connor dressed."
Angel moved toward the dresser but sensed Cordy watching him, not budging.
He stopped and turned back to her. "What?"
"Can I dress him?" she asked, holding her arms out waiting.
"No, you can't. He's not a doll. The last time you put him in that shirt with the sparkly puppies on it which, by the way, I burned. I will take care of his clothes selection from now on."
With a few strides Angel was pulling the top dresser drawer open searching for the manliest baby tee possible.
"It's not like you're such a snappy dresser, Mr. Monotone," Cordy mumbled. She crossed to the door, but spun on her heels before leaving to say, "Fine, dress him like an old literature professor. But tonight I get to dress him in his costume. After all, I picked it out."
Angel heard the door close and put Connor on the changing table while he decided between the hockey shirt and the Notre Dame jersey.
"Sometimes I just don't get your Aunt Cordy. I mean what's the big deal about Halloween? Huh, little guy? You don't even have teeth to eat the candy so what's the point?"
Connor scrunched up his face, took a deep breath and screamed.
"Hey, hey, hey. It's okay. You'll see Cordy in a few minutes," he said, his soothing voice and soft touch acting as balms.
Connor stared at his father as his crying began to slow to tiny gulps and whimpers.
"That's right, Bud. We both get to see her very soon. Now which do you want to wear?" Angel asked, showing him the green lettered hockey shirt and then the blue and gold football jersey.
Connor appeared to study his choices glancing from one to the other. His lower lip was trembling and his eyes remained teary.
Peering over the clothing at his son, Angel pushed the hockey shirt closer. "With the no teeth thing you've got going, hockey is probably the best look for you."
He tossed the Notre Dame jersey on the dresser and began to accordion fold the shirt to put it over Connor's head.
"See? I can coordinate. Cordy will be proud."
Kicking his legs and curling his fingers into tiny fists, Connor gave his best threatening look and let go with a truly inhuman howl.
Cordy could always provide the face of the enemy but not the facts. She had scores of varieties of horned, clawed, and slimy creatures filed away in her brain. Every entity that she'd ever been blessed with by the Powers remained seared and trapped in her head. But what they were called, where they might live or how to kill them still required boring research.
Her monitor flashed page after page of the information Wesley had requested on the Morcher demon that they had determined was the big bad from her latest vision.
She sighed, relieved and grateful that it hadn't been her last.
She tried to keep her mind on the research, but her thoughts kept going back to the evening's plans. Tonight was going to be spent with Connor and Angel and the rest of her family creating a tradition.
Convincing Angel to take Connor trick or treating had required some fancy talking. But she'd played on his trademark guilt telling him his son couldn't miss his first Halloween. It would be tantamount to denying him Christmas or The Easter Bunny.
By the time she'd finished, Angel was sure Connor would never be a normal kid if he didn't have this.
Of course, she couldn't tell him the real reason. That it might be the one Halloween she'd have with him before the visions killed her. Selfishly, she wanted Connor to know that she had been there at the start. That she had been important to him and helped to shape the person he was.
Also, until the baby had come, helping the helpless was her sole purpose one she loved and would never give up. But she was invisible to those she helped save. She would die an unknown soldier and as egotistical as it sounded, that pissed her off.
Okay, so I haven't totally grown as a person, she thought.
But having Connor gave her an identity to the rest of the world. She was Connor's Aunt Cordy and always would be. There would be pictures to prove it and a story about his first Halloween to be told. She would leave a mark on his life and in the process be remembered not just as the seer whose brains exploded. Yuck.
She sighed again wishing for the umpteenth time that the rest of her dream could come true. The one that included Angel as more than a best friend in a very sexy way, but there was only so much a girl could do with the time she had left. Getting the man and having a pseudo family was not in her destiny apparently.
"You got the appetite of a lumberjack, girl," Gunn held the door open for Fred as she twirled by him from the garden, her fist tightly gripping a half-eaten ruby red candy apple.
The interruption brought Cordy's thoughts back to the task at hand, and she began printing out the information on the demon for Wesley.
"I can't help havin' a fast metabolism. Besides, I've got five years of suckin' on berries and bark to make up for."
"Yeah, leave her alone, Gunn. The girl needs some carbs," Cordy said as she reached for the pages being printed. "Not to mention a vacation to the Twinkie factory," she quietly added.
Fred and Gunn walked up behind her, Gunn slumped on the edge of her desk while Fred perched on the chair at the counter to finish off her apple.
"I'm not saying she shouldn't eat. She just needs to keep her grubby paws off my plate."
Cordy looked over her shoulder at him. "From the look of that stomach, I'm thinking her paws aren't fast enough."
Gunn sucked in his gut and sat up straight. "Girl, you need to get your eyes checked. I've got abs of titanium."
Cordy took a last look and turned back to her computer. "Uh huh. And I've got a date with Jude Law tonight."
"Jude Law?" Fred hopped off her seat. "Really? He's handsome. Not as good looking as Angel, of course, but not ugly. What did Angel say about it?"
Cordy shook her head. "Fred, honey, I don't have a date with Jude Law. And why would Angel care if I did?"
"Why would I care if you did what?" Angel asked as he descended the stairs, Connor in his arms.
"You'd care if Cordy had a date with Jude Law, wouldn't ya?" Fred asked taking a bite of her apple afterward.
Angel stopped on the landing, the morning sun streaming only inches from his foot. "Cordelia has a date? With Who? Who's Jude Law?" His jaw worked hard to get the words out, his free hand squeezing into a fist.
Fred looked from Angel to Gunn and then elbowed her boyfriend in the ribs. "Okay, okay you win," he said. Fred offered him her apple but he looked down at his stomach and pushed it away.
"Don't pay any attention to Fred," Cordy said getting up from her desk and reaching out for Connor.
Angel's hand relaxed as she approached. He stepped down the last few stairs, moments before the rays would have scorched him, into the lobby meeting her in front of the weapon's cabinet.
"I think I need to pay more attention if you've got a date with somebody I don't even know," he said as his son snuggled into Cordy's arms and his own was again engulfed in her heat.
"Angel, I thought you said you burned the sparkly puppies shirt." Connor giggled as she tickled his tummy through the not-burned shirt.
Angel's hands dug into his pants pockets as he shrugged his shoulders. "Well, I...I thought I...okay I lied. I don't know what you did to him, but he refused to wear anything else this morning."
"Aw, did my little guy express his good taste to daddy?" Cordy bounced Connor gently as she carried him back to her desk and sat.
Angel followed coming to a halt next to her, his arms crossed over his chest. "Puppies that glow are not good taste. I may not have a varied wardrobe but that much I know."
"Puppies and babies go together," she said, her eyes growing soft and warm beneath her lashes. "Connor's not a football player. He won't be slapping pucks around for a few years yet either. Let him be a baby a little while longer."
Cordy slid her hand into Angel's and stroked the back of it with her thumb. His body reacted to her touch, loosening and unfolding like a wilting flower. He didn't let go of her hand as his dropped to his side, and he returned the tender gesture with the sweep of his thumb over her skin.
Fred grabbed Gunn's hand and nodded her head toward the red couch hinting to leave them alone.
"Okay," Angel said. "But I draw the line at ducks. Rubber ones in the bath are okay, but not on his clothes."
Cordy pulled her hand away feigning hurt. "Meanie. Your daddy's a mean, mean grr guy, Connor."
"Yeah, I'm terrible. He'll thank me when he's older and you're showing his baby pictures to his girlfriend and he's not covered in ducks."
Angel heard the swift intake of air and watched Cordy's eyes moisten and blink quickly before she bowed her head.
"Yeah, well, at least he'll have someone who loves him enough to embarrass him," she said. "Yes, you will. And you'll be a stronger man because of it."
There it was again. He could live forever in that look if she only meant it for him.
He shook his head free of the momentary spell she wove. "I, uh, doubt wearing clothes with baby animals on them will make him a better man."
"Oh, pfft. What do you know? Haven't you heard the expression 'the clothes make the man'? Well, you can't start too early since making a man takes a lot of work. I ought to know, Mr. Man-pire."
"Wha...are you implying...you did not make me." Angel puffed out his chest, about to stutter even more protests when Cordy got up and handed Connor back to him.
"If that's what you want to believe." She picked up the printed out pages and took them into Wesley's office.
Angel just stared after her. Once she was out of sight, he crossed to the counter speaking to Gunn and Fred.
"Guys, you don't think Cordy made me, do you?"
Gunn looked at Fred and she just shrugged. "I don't know, man," he said. "I think she pretty much made all of us into something we didn't think we'd be, ya know?"
"She's just that person," Fred said. "The one we all rely on to know the right thing to do. I mean where would we all be without the heart?"
"Hey, and you need that heart thing more than any of us," Gunn said.
"Okay, I get that, but it's not like she made me into a man. I'm over 200 years old. I think I was a man long before she was born."
"But were you a man you were proud of?" Fred asked. "Were you a man Cordy would be proud of?"
"I...," Angel started but couldn't force the denial from his mouth. He couldn't say he was proud of who he was until recently. And if he was honest about it, a lot of that did have to do with Cordy and her constant battling with him to do the right thing not to mention just doing whatever it took to please her.
Without her guidance and vigilance, would he be the person the man he was right then, he wondered.
He looked down at Connor who was playing with a button on his shirt. "I guess she's right again. Oh, damn." Looking up at Fred and unable to keep the whine out of his voice, he asked, "Does this mean I have to let him wear ducks?"
"Looks like he had another one of those epiphanies," Gunn said to Fred. "Which one is that? Two? Ten?"
"Funny, Gunn," Angel said. "I still don't think ducks and puppies are important in the grand scheme of things."
"Maybe not," said Fred. "But if Cordy thinks they are, you're probably better off not fightin' it."
The swooping of the front doors allowing a Federal Express delivery man to enter grabbed their attention. He bounded into the lobby carrying a small, oblong box.
"Hi. I've got a package for...Cordelia Chase," he said holding up the box to read the name and then glancing at each of them for a response.
Angel being the closest to the office yelled, "Cordy, there's something here for you."
Immediately, Cordy and Wesley exited his office and rounded the counter.
"Cordelia Chase?" asked the delivery man.
"Sign here, please," he said handing Cordy the signature pad. She finished signing with a swoop and took the package back to her desk.
"Connor, look what your Aunt Cordy got for you. It's the best Halloween costume in the whole wide world just for you."
Fred and Gunn got up from the couch to see.
"Oh, what is it?" Fred asked.
Wesley was equally as curious as to what could be so important as to interrupt their research. "Yes, Cordelia, please do show us the best costume in the whole wide world. It's obviously more vital than what we were doing."
"Oh, don't be so stodgy, Wes. It's Halloween! It's not like any demons will be out maiming and pillaging tonight anyway." With that Cordy finally located the box cutter in her drawer and began slicing through the strapping tape.
"I'll bet it's a tiny ninja outfit," Gunn whispered to Angel. "He's going to look very cool and dangerous."
Angel smiled at the image. Yes, his son would look very cool as a ninja. Or, maybe one of those super heroes like Spiderman or Batman.
"Well, what is it?" Fred couldn't wait and tore at the box along with Cordy.
"Hang on, Fred. I'm getting it." Cordy finally got the brown outer wrapping off and cut the tape holding the box together. Sliding the lid off, she pulled out the tiny costume and held it up for all to see.
"Ta da! Isn't it adorable?" She asked.
All of them looked at the costume without speaking, their heads simultaneously tilting left and then right. Finally, Angel gave up.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Duh! What's it look like? It's The Great Pumpkin!"
"Ha! Dude! You're son's going to go out in public as a vegetable," Gunn said giving Angel a congratulatory slap on the back.
"I think he'll look sweet," Fred said.
"Technically," Wesley began, "a pumpkin is a fruit. The term vegetable is strictly a culinary specification and not a botanical classification."
"Thanks, Wesley, that's much better," Angel said as he handed Connor to Fred. "My son's a fruit."
"Would you rather he be an inanimate culinary dish instead of a living entity?" Cordy asked.
"Yes, if that living entity is a fruit," he said grabbing the costume from Cordy. "Why can't he be a vampire like me?"
"What are we going to do? Glue tiny fangs to his gums? What's a vampire without the fangs?"
"Human?" Gunn guessed.
"Exactly," she said. "Then he wouldn't be in a costume at all."
"Exactly," Angel said. Quite sure he'd won the argument and that his son would not be the tiny orange sissy of the neighborhood, he tossed the costume back in its box. Taking Connor from Fred, he headed for the stairs. "Connor, the human, will be in his crib napping and not rotting for the rest of the afternoon."
Once he'd vanished around the corner of the upstairs landing, Cordy carefully lifted the costume from the box and smoothed it out on her desk.
"I'm sorry," Fred said. "I thought he'd be really cute as The Great Pumpkin."
Fred rubbed her back, commiserating with her fellow female about the unreasonable male species.
"Yeah, sorry, Barbie. It is kinda cute, but I can understand Angel's point of view." Gunn swiped his hand over his bald head and backed away, uncertain how to handle a sad Cordelia.
"Yes, well. Now that the costume dilemma of 2002 is taken care of, what say we all get back to work. Cordelia, when you're ready..." Wesley said indicating his office and then left her to return to his research.
For a few seconds, the lobby was empty except for Fred and Cordy, both looking at the pumpkin costume and sighing.
"You know, it's not really The Great Pumpkin." Cordy's words were almost a whisper. "I just said that to make it sound less generic. I thought Angel wouldn't be such a butthead about it if the costume had "great" in the name."
"That was pretty smart. You know Angel better than any of us and if anyone could get him to let Connor be a fruit on Halloween, it'd be you."
Cordy smiled. "Yeah, thanks, Fred." She began folding the costume to put it back in the box.
Suddenly, she stopped. Fred sensed a change in the air and looked at her friend's face which no longer looked defeated. Far from it.
"What are you thinkin'?" Fred asked.
"I'm thinkin' you're right." Cordy shook out the bright fabric to admire it. "I do know Angel better than anyone."
Fred watched her take the small hat with green felt leaves out of the box and put the two pieces together, her mind calculating a strategy even as she arranged the pieces in a Connor shape.
"Um, Cordy? Should I be scared?"
"It's Halloween, Fred. Everyone should be very scared."
The neighborhood was lit by halogen lamps that occasionally revealed clusters of tiny monsters as they walked through the spots of light laughing and screaming, reveling in their booty. A group of taller figures walked slowly surrounding a tiny bundle as if protecting the President in Dallas, their eyes and ears peeled to any possible danger.
"Man, how did she do it?" Gunn whispered to Angel pulling him back from the crowd for a private talk.
"That's just it. I have no idea. One moment I was all 'No way, not my son' and she was all 'Think of the baby' and giving me that look. You know the one."
Gunn nodded knowing full well what look he meant and realizing Angel never had a chance.
"And then the next thing I knew...well, you see what happened."
Angel pointed to the group ahead of them with Wesley, Fred and Cordelia smiling and proudly displaying a very much pumpkinized Connor. His arms were covered in the orange tee and his feet the same color booties that came with the set. His body was covered by the pumpkin costume, its insides padded so much that his arms were sticking almost straight out through the holes provided.
"At least I got her to leave off that stupid hat with the stem and leaves," he said pulling the offensive cap from his coat pocket.
"Way to man up," Gunn said hitting his arm.
Angel put the bit of fabric back in his pocket saying, "If you think you can do better, be my guest."
Gunn backed away, hands up in surrender. "Nuh-uh. Don't try to put me in the middle. You and Barbie got your own deal, I got mine."
"Hey, guys," Cordy yelled. "Come on before all the candy's gone."
Cordy was anxious to get started since they were already so late. All the pictures she had insisted they pose for Connor with her, Connor with her and Angel, Connor with her and everyone individually and in a group well, making memories was time consuming especially with a baby that didn't always cooperate.
Angel and Gunn quickly caught up with them and together they walked to the first house that appeared to be Halloween friendly. The front porch light was on, a cardboard black and white skeleton hung from the eave, and a carved pumpkin with a flickering candle inside sat on the stoop.
"Okay, this is it. Angel and I will take the first one. You guys hang back. Wesley, give Angel the trick or treat bag."
Wesley handed over the bag. "Good luck and be safe."
"Gee, we're just knocking on a door for candy, Wes," Cordy said. "What's with the doom party?"
"Oh, right. I just forgot for a moment with the darkness and the hoards of tiny minion-like creatures scurrying about."
Gunn put his arm around Wesley's shoulder. "What's the matter? Did you not celebrate All Hallow's Eve in your neck of the rock?"
Shrugging Gunn off, Wesley said, "Of course we did. I have some very fond childhood memories of the night."
"Name one," Gunn said.
Wesley smiled at a recollection, his eyes lighting up as the images flashed by. "Well, there was a time my mates and I decided to dress up like...," his face fell as he continued, "oh, well....that actually ended rather badly. Let's see. When I was twelve, I fancied playing a prank on my father...no, no...I think I was detained in house for several weeks after that fiasco."
Cordy leaned back whispering to Angel over her shoulder. "Do you see? This is why tonight is so important. Do you want Connor to end up like him?"
"That's okay, Wesley," said Fred. "Not every Halloween is perfect. Not like this one is going to be, right?"
"Right! You ready Connor?" Cordy asked rubbing her nose against his cheek. He flapped his arms and legs and bounced in her arms. "I think that's a definite yes. Let's go, Angel."
The three went up the steps carefully. "Now remember," Cordy said. "When the door opens we say trick or treat."
"I know, I know."
"Sorry. I just thought it might have been a long time if ever."
"Well, it has been awhile since I did it for treats."
He knocked before Cordy could stop the "eww" from escaping her lips. Angel turned to give her a sleazy, fang-filled smirk. Connor laughed at his daddy's silly face, kicking and stretching until his body almost slipped out of Cordy's grip.
"Angel! Grr face. Off. Now."
The door was opening before Cordy could answer. Angel turned toward the homeowner and Cordy smiled holding up Connor.
"Trick or treat," they practically shouted startling the woman.
"Oh, wow!" She leaned forward to get a closer look at Angel's face. "Is that a -"
Cordy stepped in. "Actually, it's makeup. I'm a makeup artist. For the movies. Cool, huh?"
"Yeah, that looks pretty real." The woman gingerly reached up to touch his face. Angel opened his mouth and hissed.
"Oh, oh," the woman jumped back and began laughing. "Very scary. Best I've seen tonight. Hey, Matt, come here and look at this costume," she turned to yell into the house.
"Stop it!" Cordy whispered.
He slid his tongue over a fang and winked at her making her choke down a laugh.
"Connor, your dad is the corniest vampire ever."
A man, the evidence of too many nights spent with a six pack and a couch beginning to show around his middle, joined the woman at the door.
"What is it? CSI is about to start."
She pointed toward Angel who just smiled and held out his bag. "Trick or treat."
"Whoa, great face," he said
"Isn't it?" asked his wife. "Oh! The candy. Right." She grabbed a few packs of candy corn and tossed them in his bag.
"Aren't you a bit old to be doing this?" Matt asked, less impressed now and more suspicious.
"He's just a big goofball of a dad out with his son. See?" Cordy interceded bringing Connor to the front.
"I can't believe I didn't see him before. Aw, now he's a cutie. What's he supposed to be?"
"It's obvious, Denise. Orange and round?" When his wife didn't get it immediately, Matt supplied the solution. "A basketball, of course." He winked at Angel saying, "Women. Not really into sports."
Cordy started to correct him. "Actually, Connor's supposed to be "
"Cordy, we've taken up too much of their time as it is. Happy Halloween." Angel clamped his hand over Cordy's opposite arm and tugged her around to leave. "Goodnight."
They were down the porch stairs and halfway back to the gang on the sidewalk before Cordy was able to speak.
"Angel, stop pulling me," she said jerking from his grip and stopping. "Okay, I get that you're not completely on board the pumpkin train, but is a basketball really better? It's an inanimate rubber thing that gets beat into the ground repeatedly. Not seeing the vast improvement here."
Angel slid into his human features sighing. "I just didn't think it was polite to correct them. Besides, we spent too much time there. Isn't the whole point to go to as many houses as possible and rake in more candy than anyone should ever safely eat?"
Cordy studied him for a moment, her eyes squinting, calculating whether to believe him or not.
"Humph. Not buying it for a second, but you are right about the loot. And there's no such thing as too much candy."
Angel bent down to confide with his son. "That's one thing your Aunt Cordy is completely wrong about. Ignore what you just heard."
Fortunately, Gunn called to them at that moment nipping in the bud Cordy's argument about the importance of candy in a person's life and a child's development.
"C'mon. What's taking you guys so long? I've already got the next house scoped out."
"Coming," Cordy replied. "Angel, here, had to show off for the locals. And, by the way, how lucky are we that we live in LA and that old chestnut about movie makeup works every time?"
"Really, Angel," Wesley said. "Must you act younger than your son?"
"I think it's nice that he's got the Halloween spirit," Fred said holding out her arms. "Can we take Connor to the next one?"
"Sure." Cordy eased the awkward bundle of baby and costume into Fred's arms while Angel passed the candy bag off to Gunn.
The three hurried forward anxious to experience their first Halloween moment with Connor while Cordelia and Angel lagged behind to watch.
They stood at the edge of the yard of the next holiday decked house, too far away to hear the exchange except for the excited trio yelling "trick or treat."
Angel slid his arm around Cordy's shoulder and she leaned into his side unable to keep the smile that surely must hurt her cheeks from forming. It was as if the autumn breeze carried her grin to tickle Angel triggering his mouth to stretch almost as wide.
When they heard a burst of giggle from Connor, Angel slid his arm down, hand skimming over her arm until he settled on the curve of her hip pulling her closer. It only took a second for Cordy's palm to cover his hand at her waist and squeeze.
As Wesley, Fred and Gunn neared them, the two drifted slowly apart but Angel's palm remained on the dip of her spine and she allowed it, neither willing to lose that connection - his touchstone, her anchor.
"Yo, that was cool. She dropped an extra Tootsie Roll in the bag after Connor turned on the charm. Must get that from Cordy, 'cause it's definitely not coming from the vamp side of the family."
"Hush, Charles. Angel's got plenty of charm," Fred said. "Besides, she was obviously blind as a bat. How could she possibly think Connor was dressed as a football?"
"What? A football?" A basketball Angel could see, and frankly, he wasn't upset by that. At least it was something associated with being a male. And a football would be good, too, except that would mean Connor was oblong, brown and made from a pig. It was bad enough he had to drink pig's blood, he didn't want his son tainted by it.
"Well, no wonder, Fred," Cordy said, sensing Angel was getting tense by the way he fisted her shirt in the back. "Look at how you're holding him. He's all squished up. And it looked kind of dark on that little stoop you were standing on, so the orange could have looked brown ish in the shadows. Let me have him."
"I guess you're right," Fred said as Connor settled back into Cordy's embrace, smiling and laughing, apparently enjoying being passed around and walked up and down the dark streets past his normal bedtime.
Cordy turned around to Angel and held out her palm. "Give me the hat."
"Because it is clear that without the hat, Connor's costume gives off a generic, insert your favorite ball here, vibe. Do you want the next house to call him a tennis ball with a glandular problem?" Cordy questioned, her brow lifting like a bent wing.
It took Angel a moment or two to decide if that was really worse than a pumpkin, but then the thought of another ball-like name crossed his mind and he slapped the wrinkled hat into her hand with a groan.
Cordy asked Fred to put it on and make sure it was at a jaunty tilt before she signaled for Angel to follow her.
The five plus one stomped forward, power marching through a group of unsuspecting Cub Scouts dressed as a bloody, slaughtered troop of Eagle Scouts until they reached a friendly looking home.
"Okay, Angel and I will handle this. Stay back unless there's trouble," Cordy said.
"I think I should go with you," Wesley said. He had no idea why he suddenly felt like they were storming a vampire nest, but his skin prickled and his palms were sweating like they were.
"Fine, but stay out of my way," Angel said.
Gunn and Fred watched them approach the house and the next thing they heard after a forceful knock by Angel was a rather menacing, monotone version of the traditional Halloween greeting.
"For some reason, I'm kinda glad I'm here instead of with them," Fred said.
"I'm feelin' that," replied Gunn, putting his arm around his girlfriend.
Neither of them, however, felt warm.
The normally clear, night sky that reflected the glow of city lights slowly drifted into deep darkness as a massive cloud covered the harvest moon.
Illuminated by only 75 watts, it was difficult to tell exactly what happened next, but to Gunn's eyes it looked like Wesley's lanky arms were suddenly flung out and around Angel's neck as they heard Cordy scream, a door slam and feet tripping and stumbling toward them in a rush.
From the shadows Angel strode past them, his coat flapping, arms ramrod straight, fists rigid, with Cordy chasing after him.
"Angel, wait! It's not that bad!"
He stopped and turned, his brow dipped so low not a pinpoint of light could reach his eyes. "We're going home."
Wesley, slightly winded, stood by Gunn and Fred. The clueless ones asked him with their faces what the verdict had been this time.
Wesley seemed afraid to repeat it out loud so he mouthed it.
"A kumquat?" Gunn shouted.
Angel turned his glare on Gunn and growled.
Cordy stepped in his line of sight. "Hold on, Angel. It's not a big deal. A kumquat is kinda cute. Isn't it my widdle kumquat?"
"Stop calling him that. My son is not a kumquat."
"What's the big deal? It's not like he'll remember it. Besides, being called names builds character. You don't want a wimpy son, do you?"
Angel advanced on her, speaking slowly, his jaw barely moving. "Right now I have a son dressed up as an orange testicle being called a kumquat. I don't know how much wimpier he can get."
Cordy's mouth dropped open. "An orange… Now you're being ridiculous. No one's called him a testicle."
"And if they do? It'll be more masculine than kumquat, right? Let's go to the next house. I'm sure we've just been hitting the moron side of the street. The next house looks like the occupants have some brains."
Cordy used her free hand to clutch Angel's wrist and tugged. He stood still so she grunted and yanked harder.
"Fine, stay here. You'd probably tear someone's head off in the mood you're in anyway. Wes, stay here. Gunn and Fred come with me."
Two boys approached coming from the house Cordy had picked out. They were talking excitedly about their cache of treats.
"Hey, guys. What kind of stuff are they handing out in there?" Cordy asked.
The pirate answered for his skeleton friend, "Snickers, Butterfingers and Three Musketeers. Full size bars, too!"
Cordy turned back to Angel. "See? Not only smart but classy. You'll see. This is the house that will get it right."
Angel practically kicked open the doors of the Hyperion. In his right arm was a baby in a diaper squealing with glee at the fun ride his dad's long strides and swinging arms were giving him as he raced through the lobby toward the staircase.
In Angel's left hand were the shreds of the pumpkin outfit.
Cordy managed to slide through the doors before they closed, all the candy being slammed against each other inside the bag as it swung from her wildly gesticulating hand.
"Okay, so I was wrong. Who knew there was an orange stink bug for crap's sake? Did you? But, hey, they were pretty smart people. I got that right. And we learned something new."
Angel stopped at the top of the stairs, turned and stared down at Cordy at the bottom landing.
He stopped her with an upturned chin and squinty eye. When it appeared she wouldn't follow, he disappeared down the hallway to his suite.
Cordy's shoulders sagged and she schlepped down the steps to her desk. Just as she got there, the rest of the Halloween party slowly entered the lobby warily eyeing the situation.
"Is it safe yet?" Gunn asked.
"Come on in you scaredy cats. He's upstairs with Connor."
"We weren't scared," Gunn argued. "Just wanted to let you two have a few moments alone."
Wesley concurred. "Yes, it was merely good manners."
"You guys are full of it," Fred said. "They were quakin' in their boots out there. I had to talk 'em out of goin' over to Wesley's to get the tranquilizer gun."
By now they were all surrounding Cordy's desk. Gunn and Wesley made half-hearted attempts to deny Fred's accusation, but Cordy shushed them.
"It doesn't matter. Connor's first Halloween is over and it was accomplished in the typical Angel Investigation's style of slack-jawed planning and craptastic follow through."
Cordy slumped into her chair and flung the bag of treats on the desk.
"Don't be so hard on yourself, girl "
"Charles!" Fred punched him in the arm.
"No, it's all right, Fred. He's right. It is my fault. I should have just gone with the typical macho little boy's costume and avoided this whole mess."
Cordy peeked into the bag and pulled out a candy corn mangled mass that had seen better times as individual triangle shapes.
Wesley sat on the edge of her desk, folding his hands in his lap. "Which begs the question, why didn't you? You know Angel well enough to predict how he would react to a pumpkin costume."
She didn't answer him choosing instead to nibble on crushed corns.
"Cordelia?" he pushed and she continued to ignore him.
Fred began to fidget, her feet shuffling, her eyes looking from Wesley to Cordy to Gunn and back again. Finally, she bit her lip and decided enough was enough.
"Wesley," she said, clutching his coat sleeve. "I've worked up an appetite. Why don't you and Gunn take me to get some pizza?"
"Good idea," agreed Gunn, just as anxious for an excuse to escape the drama. "I'm in the mood for a lot of meat and cheese. Let's go, Wes."
Wesley reluctantly allowed himself to be dragged from Cordy's desk.
"Would you like for us to bring you back something to eat?" he asked before he was too far away.
Cordy just shook her head no and reached back into the bag.
"Very well. I guess we'll see you tomorrow then. Goodnight."
Cordy acknowledged the sentiment with a slight grin and they left her alone as she seemingly wanted to be.
Angel lay stretched out on his bed feeding Connor a bottle. His head propped by his left arm, bare feet and ankles crossed, his mind wandered. Normally, feeding Connor kept him mesmerized as he watched every movement of his tiny mouth and every thought that shone in his eyes as his small body was nourished.
But he couldn't enjoy that simple pleasure as his mind whirled to explain Cordelia.
He had been forced to calm himself in order to safely bathe and dress Connor for bed so though he was no longer angry, he was still dumbfounded. He understood his own actions and motivations. He was simply a guy who wanted male things for a male offspring. He was guilty of the sin of pride and knew full well that his pride had been battered with a machete and, thus, his temper had erupted.
He understood these things and could live with or correct them as need be.
But, Cordy? How for one second could she think that a pumpkin costume was the right thing to dress his son in for Halloween? It completely baffled him, and it made him question if he knew Cordelia and she him as well as he believed.
He was revisiting the puzzle for the thirteenth time when there was a knock at his door and it opened slowly.
Cordy's head timidly appeared. "Hi."
"Hi," he said.
"May I..." she asked not quite able to look him in the eye.
Her obvious contrition instantly eased any remaining bad feelings. "Of course," he said and nodded toward the bed inviting her to join them.
"I brought Connor's candy," she said holding the bag out in front of her.
To her it felt like a shield, to Angel a wall.
"I know," she said, "he can't actually eat it, but I thought he could roll around in it. Like Midas and his gold."
Her smile was shy, embarrassed and implicitly begging forgiveness. It reminded him of a wet towel on leather and a butchered linoleum floor.
He hadn't seen that young girl's smile in years. The woman she'd grown into was too confident and strong, less vulnerable and more courageous than the teenager he knew back then.
A warm and prickly flush unfolded in his chest. Oh, how he missed that girl.
His lips strained to stay thin and firm but the memories wouldn't let them. Slowly his mouth carved an arc on his otherwise stoic expression and the restrained laughter burst out as a snort.
"I doubt Midas rolled around on his gold. That would have to hurt."
Since he obviously wasn't going to kill her, her courage was renewed and she moved to the bed without any further hesitation.
"I don't know," she said putting the bag on the bedside table. "Those Indian guys with their beds of nails don't seem to get hurt." She snuggled next to Connor mirroring Angel's position and lay her head down on her bent arm watching the baby rhythmically tug on his nipple. "I think if you want something badly enough, you can put up with a lot of pain."
Angel studied her face as she watched Connor. She was horrible at hiding her love for that child which made what happened that night even more bizarre.
"Are you ready to tell me why?" he ventured softly.
"Why you chose a pumpkin costume when you had to know I wouldn't exactly be happy about it."
She placed her fingers on Connor and massaged his belly through his soft onesie with slow, gentle circles. The hypnotizing motion and warmth generated by his tiny body eased the tension from her shoulders.
"I'm sorry, Angel, but it's not like everything is about you. It was Connor's costume."
"Yes, but he's five months old and doesn't get to choose. I decide for him and, thus, my opinion counts."
Her hand stopped its motion and she finally looked into his eyes. "And mine doesn't? I thought you trusted me with Connor."
Angel returned her stare though her words made him flinch inside. "I do and that's not the point."
He removed the bottle from Connor's mouth. Sitting up, he lifted him to his shoulder and began patting his back.
Cordy sat up next to him leaning against the headboard, arms and ankles crossed. The soft thump echoing in Connor's chest seemed loud in the otherwise silent room.
After a few moments of neither of them speaking and listening to the regular thumpthumpthump like a ticking time bomb in her ear, her resolve faltered. She didn't want to be this person with Angel. It was one thing to be brave and put on a show for everyone else, but she needed a best friend she could talk to sometimes.
Yeah, it was awkward that it was a guy and that guy was Angel. But, screw it. He asked and if it was going to get weird, then it was his own fault.
She rested her hands in her lap and stared at her fingers picking at her nails.
"I'm never going to be a mom," she said.
Angel's hand stilled. Don't leave me, he thought instantly and felt sick for thinking it. Had it only been that morning that one of his worst fears was this conversation? If he were human, he would be sweating. It would be easier if he knew what he would say.
He knew what he should say, but he also knew without a doubt he didn't want to say it.
Cordy continued when Angel remained stone still. "It wasn't something I ever thought about until Connor showed up. I mean who would think about a kid doing what we do? But now I kind of think about it a lot."
"Cordy, you don't know -"
"Yeah, I do. There are all kinds of reasons that aren't going to change, but that's not important. What is important is that because I know it, I've done something that hurt my best friend and I think I did it on purpose."
This was not going the way Angel imagined it. Maybe he was going to get lucky and not have to make a decision.
"I'm not following."
Cordy turned her body toward him and tucked one leg under the other. "The pumpkin costume? I knew you'd hate it. That was the main reason I chose it."
"Sooo you wanted to see me tear the heart out of that woman who called Connor a kumquat?"
"That could've been fun, but no." She smiled and turned her eyes to the rise and fall of Connor's back. His head was nested against Angel's neck lulled to sleep by the low hum of their voices and the utter stillness of his father's body.
She reached over and rubbed his back. "If Connor wore that awful outfit instead of some super hero one you liked, I could pretend he was mine for one night. All mine. And, ten years from now when you were showing him the pictures of his first Halloween, you'd tell him that it was all my idea and he'd know."
The last few words trembled from her lips and her eyes were beginning to glisten in the lamplight.
"He'd know what, Cordy?" Angel asked softly, afraid to break this spell that the three of them alone in his bed wove. He put his hand on top of hers and stopped her stroking. She looked up and he saw the answer before she spoke.
"That I loved him like a mother."
"Cordy...," Angel lowered his head until their foreheads touched.
"Promise me," she said.
"Promise me you'll never miss a moment, Angel. Not because you're too tired, or too scared, or your demon will be too tempted. Never miss a chance to make a memory for Connor. It's all he'll have when you're gone. Memories are...they're what make us all immortal."
Never miss a moment. Angel didn't intend to ever again.
"I promise," he said and then closed the distance between them and let his lips meet hers.
She was warm and soft and his mouth slid over hers smoothly, like satin over silk. It was more thrilling than he'd ever imagined. He moved slightly, increasing the pressure and she pulled away licking his taste into her mouth.
"Angel?" Her eyes were still wet from her heartfelt confession, her nose tinged pink and her lips parted, panting for an explanation.
Cordelia with her walls shattered. It was a rare sight and Angel thought she had never looked more beautiful than this doe-like creature before him.
"I've wanted to do that for a long time. It felt like the right moment to let you know."
Then, like the most spectacular dawn he'd ever witnessed, that shy, innocent girl rose before him, averting her eyes and smiling like she had the best secret. "So…you're taking that not missing a moment thing to heart, huh? I wish you'd do what I ask the rest of the time so easily."
He nudged her chin up with his bent finger and chased her eyes until they met his. "Now who's missing the moment? Stop avoiding and kiss me back."
She moved so slowly, Angel thought he would die from the aching want in the pit of his stomach before she reached him.
"Are you sure?" she asked as she trained her eyes on his mouth and licked her lips again. "You can't take it back."
It seemed like hours since she'd moved a centimeter.
"Don't want to," he whispered, edging nearer.
She was so close he could almost feel the beat of her heart in his own chest, but she still seemed miles away.
"Angel...I feel like I'm falling." Her voice was soft and thready and covered him like a warm cotton blanket.
He could smell the sweetness on the tiny puffs of air she breathed, almost tasting the sugar. She was so near when he spoke that he skimmed her mouth and felt his feet stepping off the same ledge.
"Then just be quiet and fall," he mumbled, too afraid it was a dream and he would wake up.
She took the leap, her mouth tenderly, gently gliding against his. The air between them grew heady with new desire. The room hushed except for the tiny noises their parting lips made with each sip they took from each other.
She moaned and his hand shook as he slid his fingers through her hair and pulled her closer.
He'd never used his lips to say so much before and her mouth told him he wasn't alone.
He felt Connor shift and rub his face against his collarbone, but he couldn't stop. He'd only just taken his first taste of her with his tongue when a small wake up cry broke the spell completely and Cordy pulled away.
She blinked and touched her lips with her fingertips.
"Wow, that was...," she said.
"I know. I've never felt that before." Angel didn't want to move, but Connor was beginning to squirm.
"You, too? That was..."
Connor began to cry in earnest. Cordy finally tore her gaze from Angel and his mouth and reached for the baby.
"Here, let me put him to bed," she said.
Angel gradually settled Connor into her arms and she scooted off the edge toward the nursery.
Turning around at the doors, she said, "When I get back, we have a lot to talk about. Like when the kissy bug hit you." She smiled and started to leave again but stopped once more.
As she faced him, her smile disappeared replaced with a helplessness he hadn't seen since that first day in their old office. It engulfed her entire body and made her seem small and weak in the blink of an eye.
"And tomorrow," she said, "if you still feel the same about me...about us...I've got something I need to tell you."
Suddenly, Angel panicked. It was his whole life playing out in a matter of seconds. A blissful high followed by the depths of despair. He could feel it in the air, scent gloom on his tongue.
"Cordy, wait," he said, but she was already out of his sight, lost in the shadows of the next room.
The silence and darkness seemed to scream at him. He could feel the sick tendrils of misery slithering up his spine.
If he believed in portents, then the image of the mother and child vanishing from his sight, being powerless to stop them, would be a terrifying one. The chill in his bones made him think perhaps he did.