A Circle of Currents
Notes: littleheaven70 said that her son "smelled like the sea the rest of the day" after a jaunt on the beach and this just bubbled up onto the page for me in reply 'cause hey, fic happens. This is Angelfic under a thousand words, post-NFA - leanbh=bairn, only Irish .
Connor smells like the sea when he cries. Has always done so.
In the beginning, Angel thought it was his newness, his fresh salt and plasma, his humanity fresh from its birthing, giving off the scent of its origin as surely as his own rising had reeked of the grave.
Weeks later, his son had left the trace of ocean in his wake as he ran from the Hyperion, angry tears ripped from him unwillingly. ‘tis why Angel forgot the sun. He’d known, truly known then, the wild pan was his leanbh; returned to him in the most unlikely of ways.
And in the end? He’d thought his son would stink always of the sea to him, and he welcomed the black wave of magic that engulfed him as he took responsibility, accepted the consequences of his actions.
How glad is Angel now, to know that he was wrong. The scent of the sea reaches him and he turns from the fire, his heart lurching in anticipation, even as his mouth waters and his stomach clenches, ciphering the copper tang from the frigid mountain air.
“Sir, he still alive, sir. We… he’s still…” It’s young Calvin who speaks, his lips trembling.
He is hunched under half of Connor’s dead weight. Sam is under Connor’s other arm. It drapes his neck like a scarf and his down jacket is drenched in Connor’s blood. They will have to requisition a new one somehow.
“We brought him…we knew…”
It is not tears that have brought the smell of Galway days and Sunnydale nights to him through the snow, but blood. Always blood now.
He groans. He’s had enough of Connor’s blood upon his tongue that his hunger surges. It is unwelcome, but does not warrant his attention. They are all of them forever hungry. Still crouched, twisting to see his son come in mostly whole and victorious, instead he watches blood drip from Connor's slack fingers onto the churned snow at Sam's feet.
“Sir. His heart beats, sir.”
It’s not his beat, his normal gallop of steady rhythm, but Calvin is not wrong. Swimming against the current of his dread, Angel struggles up and reaches for his son. The boys help lay him close to the fire.
Connor chokes as his back hits the ground and his eyes fly open. Angel strokes his cheek, wet with blood and sweat. “Connor. I’ve got you, son.”
Connor sinks, his eyes closing. Languid tears slide onto his temples and roll into his shaggy hair. His heart beats still. Angel breathes the sea in deep before he looks.
Connor’s jacket is in shreds and his bloodied shirt hanging open. His chest is torn, three jagged tears that showcase the froth coating his lungs and dark moon of his liver below them.
“Connor,” Angel says again. Even he can hear the resignation in his voice.
He has already paid this price once. He will not let Connor pay it again.
He has to search for it, the pendant. He watches his fingers disappear in Connor’s chest and feels his upper lip curl up in a snarl. Connor’s aorta is hot and hard and pulses under his thumb. He jerks and gasps in air, but comes up triumphant.
“Sir,” Calvin says from above. Angel looks up. The fire lights Calvin and Sam in shadows, hollows their eyes and sunken cheeks. The moon burnishes their long, unkempt hair. Three years, two hundred and nine days ago, they were college kids. Now they are ragtag, untrained soldiers in a war they don’t understand.
Men begin to gather. Angel can hear the rustle of the pines as they brush past, and the crush-squeak of the snow under their worn boots as they enter the clearing. Even as he stares up at Calvin and the words forming in Calvin’s throat, the men move in close.
“Please,” Sam whispers. “Not again.”
Connor shivers beneath Angel’s hand. Angel does not look down. He can’t. Connor’s muscles jerk and tighten as they begin to seize.
Angel fists the pendant. “I’m sorry, boys.”
The emblem of the Black Thorn burns a circle into his skin and keeps right on going. The bones of his hand burst into ash and he screams and Calvin screams and Sam screams, but Connor is silent.
Angel drops into himself like a surfer dropping into the trough of a wave. His body sweeps across him as it moves and then he’s striding forward once more, rain slicking his face, Illyria and Spike on his heels, Gunn’s blood burning his nostrils, with an army of demons in front of him and a dragon closing in behind.
Calvin and Sam are ghosts in his mind’s eye, twenty-three days into his future. He won’t scent the sea again for another forty-four, but he will scent it again. He’s lost track of his returns to this spot on the circle burned into his heart, but if it takes him another six thousand revolutions of this hell, or another sixty thousand, he’ll do it again and again. Gladly. Until the equation changes. Until Connor’s lived to see the end of this fucking battle. Two years and three hundred days or six years and six days or heaven help him, a lifetime hence. Until his leanbh is not again the price of his folly.
He lifts his sword and begins.
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