The walls were filled with signs he was too young to read, only the pictures on the cans told him he had already looked on this row. The lights hurt his eyes. Blue eyes ready for the summer sun, but not banks of florescent lights. Connor spun around and around trying to catch a glimpse of his mom's red hair or his dad's green jacket. He raced up the aisle, convinced he had seen her very pregnant belly as she turned the corner ahead of him. He thought he could just make out his father calling his name, but each time he thought he was getting closer he found another aisle full of blank stares from strangers.
Trying not to cry, he called for his mom. He kept his voice quiet when there were strangers around, but when no one was there he called louder. He kept moving. Running past rows of fruit, rows of meat, bags of flower. He'd been up all these before, but his mom and dad were gone.
Lost and alone he stood in the middle of a wall of frozen glass and screamed out for his father to find him.
The ropes bound him tight. Thick blades of grass were tied across his eyes, blocking out any light that the dark red sky might try to cast down on him. A scratching sound above him reminded Connor that even in this horrid world he was never really alone. He heard heavy footsteps falling away from him, each crunch of moist branches making him flinch. Left alone in the dense jungle, the only other human in the world disappeared into the trees. He was leaving Connor to struggle against the tree, small hands clawing at the braided ropes that kept him in this place.
It took two days for Connor to unlash his hands, picking away at each strand of grass until he had worked through the braids. Finally able to untie his waist and feet he collapsed to the forest floor, scooping handfuls of insects and leaves into his mouth, uncaring of the bites and stings he received in protest. He broke open the stems of the bright green leaf his father had shown him, letting the drops of bitter yellow liquid run over his parched tongue. Once his stomach stopped growling and his tongue wasn't sticking to the top of his mouth, Connor turned towards the boiling morning sun and tried to remember the way back to the caves. He was afraid to move, knowing that the farther he ran the farther away his father would be. He wanted to call out but was afraid of what might come if he did, so he sat until the night turned dark and he couldn't stand the wait anymore.
Lost and alone Connor called into the empty air for his father to find him.
He hadn't wanted to look back. He didn't want Angel to see the tears already forming in his eyes, but when the elevator chimed its descent Connor knew he couldn't leave without seeing the vampire's face one last time. For just a moment when their eyes locked Connor was tempted to run back into the office. He yearned to know what those arms would feel like wrapped around him. Maybe for just one moment Angel would allow him to be that five-year-old boy again. Two sets of memories, of being found and swept up by strong arms, by a man called dad, and still cheated out of the real thing. Not fair. Never in all his memories had it been his real father who saved him.
Until this day.
As the doors chimed open Connor forced himself to look away, entering the elevator and closing his eyes as the heavy motion sent the sensation of falling through his body. Behind closed eyes he imagined a vast lobby of marble and hard woods, carpeted stairs leading to vacant rooms and unknown hallways. Connor trembled at the emptiness of it. He knew that five was almost grown up, but just then he felt very small. Looking up the stairs and then into the office where everyone usually sat during the day Connor realized he was alone. A moment of panic flashed through his bright blue eyes and he cried out for his father.
"Hey, here I am big guy. What's the matter?"
"I just got a little scared," Connor stammered out as burly arms swept him off the ground and a kiss was planted on his forehead.
"It's okay. Daddy's got you. You're safe now." Angel held him closer. "Great hearing, remember? Anytime you need me, what do you say?"
The elevator doors opened into the sun filled lobby, pulling him from the dream as he spotted his family. "Dad." Connor whispered.