Faint Heart 17

(nb: ookay. I wasn’t going to write today, but the bug hit- on this WiP. Now, I’m not saying this chapter is any good; more like a bit of history that needs to be written. Apologies for the dryness. (No doubt I’ll be popping in to edit on and off to fine tune. oops! 😀 ))

Part 17

When Angel had settled down in his chair for the day, he’d more or less expected his time to be taken up by the same things that occupied him the day before- and every day since Cordelia had left for Italy.

Brood in the dark, stare at the framed photo on his desk, pick up the phone every fifteen minutes; either to start dialing the number Buffy had left, or the Airport… eventually grabbing one of the many bottles of Irish whisky stored in the drinks cabinet along the far wall.

But today, fate obviously had other plans.

Within an hour of sitting down, Both Wes and Gunn arrived- the latter surprisingly lacking the spiffy suit he more or less lived in since they’d abandoned the Hyperion and became Satan’s Toadies, as Cordy so succinctly put it.

Wes seemed more… animated, for want of better description.  A far cry from the almost uniform expression of distraction Angel had become used to.

It turned out that Wesley Wyndham Pryce had been rudely introduced to the past – and his part in it with no holds barred, several days earlier.

It didn’t ease the sick feeling in Angel’s gut when he added that, so far, Fred and Lorne were still none the wiser.

Gunn, who’d walked over to lean against the edge of his desk; arms folded, coolly informed him that his own memories had never been affected.

Apparently he was having a ‘pow wow’ with the Powers at the time. “About getting all Lawyered up. A real tasty carrot after the shitstorm we’d gone through.” he explained, dark eyes briefly reflecting the stark place he’d occupied since moving to Wolfram & Hart.

“At the time I was pretty much done.”

“We will, of course be discussing this… decision of yours, in more depth. But after an interesting conversation I had with a very unexpected source, that discussion will have to wait.” Wes added, his tone warning that the respite was only temporary.

“For now we have more pressing issues. Unfortunately, for all of us, this means a trip down memory lane.” Seeing Angel’s mouth open, his face darkening with warning, Wes raised a silencing hand.

“Unpleasant as it is, Angel, this is necessary with regards to perspective. Things have come to light and there is no doubt this understanding of the wider picture will enable us to decide what happens next. Connor’s conception was … machinated by the Powers. Although they had their suspicions that Jasmine’s return to power would be connected to you, they were at the time uncertain as to how.”  Wes leaned against the far wall, outwardly relaxed; his expression grave.

Apparently they  took advantage of your slip to the, uh, beige to pull it off.  Things didn’t work out as they’d envisioned. Vampires aren’t physically able to create or sustain life. A female vampire was more of a problem, although not beyond their capabilities. Not their first choice, but it was the only avenue left to them.”

Angel’s head lifted at that. “First choice?”

Wes sighed heavily. “That night, they sent Cordelia a ‘message’ that you had in your possession a ring and that it was her job to take it from you. Darla turned up instead, and any delays would have lost them their only chance of stopping Jasmine”, he explained.

“They were left with no choice but to use her instead. It entailed more involvement on their part, but it was worth the risk. It wasn’t until much later that they realized the vision sent had been blocked by an outside force.

Wesley paused when realizing he’d lost the vampire’s attention. After several seconds, he cleared his throat loudly.

“It wouldn’t have worked,” Angel finally spoke, his voice a thread of sound. Wes raised an enquiring brow but didn’t have to wait long for clarity.  “I know without a doubt I’d have lost my soul if it had been Cordy instead of Darla…”

“You would have killed her.” Wes stated rather than asked.

Angel immediately shook his head. “I would have turned her.”

Silence reigned for several seconds before Wes responded. “Not exactly what the Powers would have preferred, but Connor still would have come into being.” Harsh, he knew, but it had to be said.

He paused, his head dipping for a moment before adding. “Although the outcome would have, unfortunately been the same. Not only can vampires not conceive or sustain new life labor would also have been impossible.” Wes elucidated gravely. “Cordelia wouldn’t have- surv-“

“I can connect the dots, Wes.” Angel interrupted hoarsely. “But it didn’t turn out that way, so let’s drop it.” He’d found himself unable to shake off the infinitesimal regret that it hadn’t been Cordy that night- until Wes had gone on to remind him that she too would have had to sacrifice herself for Connor’s sake.

“How did you find all this out?” Wes started at the vampire’s sudden- and emotive question, so absorbed had he been in not missing out any detail.

“Um, as said, from a surprisingly reliable source-“

“Who, Wesley?” Angel demanded, watching with narrowed eyes as the man swallowed heavily.

“Lilah- but she backed it up with physical evidence!” off the hard, suspicious stare Angel pinned him with.

“You still can’t trust that she’s telling you the truth!”

“Unlike you, who trusted her with your deal over Connor- Cordelia? Us?”

Thick silence settled heavily between them; two pairs of accusing eyes clashed. Both refusing to look away.

Then a loud whistle pierced the air causing both man and vampire to turn their now-startled eyes towards the young man who dropped his hand, looking totally pissed off.

“We gonna be here til eternity if you two don’t just bury your issues! We’ve got bigger things to deal with here”, he stated with mild disgust. “English?” nodding his head with raised brows.

Covering the faint smile that surprisingly touched his lips, Wes  cleared his throat. The familiar word Gunn used for the first time in … he couldn’t remember exactly; gave him a slight feeling of optimism.

Glancing briefly towards the rather subdued vampire, who now leaned back in his chair with his arms folded across his chest. Knowing it wasn’t forgotten. He would enlighten him regarding Lilah. But for now, it was mentally added to the growing ‘discussion’ pile.

“Um, oh yes: Connor, as we were aware, was prophesized to be the Destroyer. Thanks to Gunn – and Lilah for putting me in the picture,” Wes added pointedly, reminding Angel of the fact that he still had a lot of explaining to do himself later. “We are now aware that his role was in fact to kill Jasmine; which indeed occurred.”

“I still don’t get why we’re doing this?” at Wes off-look, Angel clarified. “Rehashing the past. It isn’t like doing so is going to change anything.” he added bitterly.

Wes begged to differ. “Actually, I am heading towards a few major points here, if you’ll bear with me?”

Gunn straightened up, rolling his eyes in exasperation. “Maybe I shoulda filled you in. I forgot how much that man can jaw.”  He raised his hands then settled back against the desk at Wes’ glare. “But booksmarts here will do it better”, he admitted.

“Holts’ appearance was entirely unexpected to all…” for a moment, Wes faltered, memories only recently retrieved coming back to hit him between the eyes. He glanced apologetically Angel’s way, half relieved to find the vampire’s gaze fixed on a glass of whisky he swirled in his deliberately relaxed hand.

“…even the Powers. Still uncertain as to when Jasmine would attempt to breach our world; possibly losing one of their main players permanently didn’t bode well.

Concentrating all their efforts on rectifying that- which apparently is how Connor found a way back, by the way,” he divulged, ” they were unaware until too late that they hadn’t been the only ones to target Cordelia as a means to an end.”

Wes paused to accept the drink that Gunn had poured and brought over to him. “Thank you.” he took a deep gulp before continuing, not knowing if he felt relieved or worried by the full attention Angel now gave him.

“Jasmine’s plans involved gradually taking over Cordelia’s physical form until her soul was literally forced out.” Except for the telling flicker of his eyes, Angel’s expression remained stoic.

“In the meantime, Connor returned, but was in such a dreadful psychological state that he was in no condition to take his place next to you when the threat of Jasmine was at its strongest.” Angel drew a sharp breath at that revelation.

How very different things could have been… he forcefully dragged his attention back to the ex-Watcher who’d begun speaking again,

“This setback unfortunately worked in Jasmine’s favor.” he paused the action of rising his glass on seeing impatience brewing on Angels face and instead rushed to continue.

“She’d almost succeeded in taking over Cordelia completely, when finally; the Powers managed to intervene and remove her from the equation…. but due to their own inter-power struggles, the only option open to them was wiping her memory and sending her back.  The idea being that without her memories, Jasmine would be unable to use the, um, disguise to weaken our group dynamics fully.” Taking a deep breath, Wes attempted to wind up it all up, but was interrupted by Gunn.

“Short version. We fixed the so-called memory glitch, gave Jasmine a get-out-of-jail, and were all too stuck in our own crap to notice our girl wasn’t right. Jasmine took over and kicked out her soul, which high-tailed it back upstairs.” Glancing round to find a chair, Gunn sprawled in it and continued- ignoring Wes’ put-out expression.

“With Connor being crazy, Bitch decided she wanted rid of barbie’s body and then came the baby from Hell.” glancing over towards the still pouting man, he indicated he could finish off.

“Wind it up, okay? I can feel my hair growing back already, “he grunted, before reaching for the bottle of whisky for a refill.

“I’ll try my best”, slight sarcasm in his response. “Her reasons for, uh, using Connor were twofold: to cause more conflict in the hope you would become too…self-involved” Angel looked up at that with a scowl, “to be much of a threat. And of course, she was counting on Connor’s DNA connection to protect her if he came to his senses and returned to his original path. : fortunately for all of mankind, it didn’t work.”

“What about the others?” At Wes’ frown, Angel explained. “Will they remember too? Connor-?”

“If you are asking about the deal you made, well, that is already fragmenting-” at the look of instant alarm on Angel’s face, he hastened to reassure. “The moment you dealt that blow to Connor, you removed him completely from the equation.”  What little color the vampire possessed drained out at Wes’ words.

“In other words, the Connor you knew- your ‘son’, died that day; his very reason for being, resolved the moment he killed Jasmine. The boy you’ve seen since is no longer connected to you on any level, his ‘new’ life is not a fabrication, Angel, it’s a reality. And it cannot be reverted to what once was, no matter the deal made.”

“I killed my son.” eyes deep pools of grief stared across the room at Wes, who swallowed hard before replying.

“No. Wolfram and Hart simply placed a new template over the old – a weapon to hold over your head and threatened if needed. The Powers stepped in and nullified the old template.”

When a long silence again blanketed the office, Wes sighed and wracked his brain for a clearer way to explain what he meant. When he opened his mouth to try again, Angel looked up.

“I get it. Go on.”

“Well, that’s all of it, on the history side.” Wes said awkwardly.

Gunn cleared his throat and straightened up. “I have to go round up Fred and Lorne. You can fill me –us, in on what our next move is when we get outta here.  Where we meeting up?” Both men looked at him in surprise.

“We thought you were coming back here?” Wes finally spoke.

“Nu uh. After the others are clued in -and believe me when I say, that shit piles in quick with only a few words from me. That’s us done at this place,” he shrugged, feeling the relief and enjoying the gradual lessening of detachment that had gripped him for so many months.

“So… basically, we are now in a bed of vipers?” Wes asked

“It’s always been a bed of vipers, Wes, we just ignored what was staring us in the face.” Angel was rifling through the drawers of his desk, before rising lithely to his feet, the Plymouth’s car keys in his grasp.

“Damn, the visions.” Gunn stopped in his tracks, facepalming; eyes tightly closed.

“Visions? You’re having a vi-vision, Charles?” Gunn looked up, dropping his hand at the startled squeak from Wes.

“Stick. Wrong end, dawg… With Angel getting his ass out of here,”he began -then noted the unearthly stillness of the vampire.

The shit just never quit.

“Barbie’s gonna freak”…



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