The Road to Destiny?
Important note: this chapter has been edited - a passage that was in chapter 8 was moved back here because it really fits better here.
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It took them a couple of hours to get a fifteen-passenger van from the Air force. In that time, Bobby and Rufus performed a temporary protection spell using magic marker instead of a real tattoo to hide Franklyn’s essence from prying magic. In that time, even before they’d completed the tattoo research and ritual, there were no further attacks, and they decided that the danger was probably over, at least for now. They spent the rest of the time equipping themselves for the trip ahead, raiding both Bobby’s car and Dean’s Impala for magical supplies and weapons.
“You’re not coming,” said O’Neill.
“Connor’s going,” said Cassie petulantly.
“He can fight,” said Ellen. “Everyone else can fight. Can you fight?”
“No… Not really,” said Cassie, deflated.
“I’m sorry, Cassie, if this didn’t concern Connor directly and the others didn’t know about the supernatural, they wouldn’t be coming either.”
“Well, they wouldn’t be coming with us, anyway,” said O’Neill. “Short of taking them into custody, I couldn’t stop them if I wanted to.”
“No. Not as long as they have dad,” said Sam.
“Damn straight,” said Dean.
Connor and the others exchanged an amused look. It was one of the few things the two brothers had agreed about all evening.
“I think it’s a good thing we’re going together. There’s strength in numbers and I don’t think they’d want to do anything to you,” said Frank, indicating SG-1.
“From the sound of things, they probably have people in the military too,” said O’Neill.
“Yeah. I get the feeling it’s probably not as many as in some other areas. You have to understand, I’m not anyone important, so I’m just giving you my opinion based on what I’ve heard when they thought I wasn’t paying attention. It’s not close to complete info, OK? Wolfram and Hart is the kind of place where their secrets have secrets, you know?” Frank addressed O’Neill.
O’Neill nodded. “I get it. Tell us what you know.”
“Well, I get the idea that they like to stay under the military’s radar. I think they try to influence things indirectly – with people like Brucker and your friend Kinsey,” said Frank. “No point putting the most powerful force in the world other than them on alert.”
“You think they’re as powerful as the US military?” asked Carter.
Frank shrugged. He didn’t want to offend them, considering that things had gone a lot better than they could have. The hunters had even saved him from the knives and probably the original magic attack too. However, he knew a little bit too much about Wolfram and Hart. The US branches of Wolfram and Hart alone were more powerful than most of the militaries on the planet. Although in raw firepower, the US military would probably win over the US branches, firepower was far from the only thing Wolfram and Hart had at their disposal. He wasn’t close to being ‘in the loop’, but he’d seen some scary things in his time at the Chicago office – both science based and magical. He had no reason to believe that things in the L.A. office would be that different, given the company they kept.
One of the scariest and most powerful he had ever encountered was Cyvus Vail, a mage who had apparently altered reality several times. Vail was so full of darkness, it rolled off him in waves that even Frank could feel, and he knew he was not one of the more magically sensitive people in the world. He decided that Vail was one of the things he urgently needed to share with his new associates.
A petulant teenager derailed the discussion, however
“So, you’re really going to go to Los Angeles and leave me here alone? What if someone decides to come back and kidnap me?”
“Who exactly do you think would want to kidnap you, Cassie?” asked Carter.
“Those guys kidnapped Sam’s dad,” said Cassie.
“Wolfram and Hart has no interest in you. They don’t view you as a threat,” said Frank.
O’Neill didn’t like the idea that Wolfram and Hart knew about Cassie at all. For them to decide she was not a threat, they had to have investigated her to some degree. He filed that thought away for further consideration.
“There’s no more guys like you? How about that demon? Are there more like it?”
“The hunters don’t know anything about you, Cassie,” said Sam.
Sam deliberately didn’t answer the second part of the question. He was too familiar with the demon world to give anyone assurances. Even if the demon was dead, he had no assurance it didn’t have associates. Demons that powerful always had agendas. Agendas usually meant alliances of some sort.
“I don’t think you’re in any immediate danger from the demon,” said Bobby.
“’Cause Connor killed it, you mean?” asked Cassie.
“Yes,” said Bobby, irritated. “That’s what I was getting at.”
“Doesn’t it have… like family or something? Do demons have family?” asked Cassie.
“It depends on the demon, Cassie,” said Bobby, revising his last impression of the young woman a little. “Most of them just possess humans and they’re not related by blood. Some kinds of demons are born into families, but I don’t think the Yellow Eyed demon has family.”
“He might have associates,” said Dean. “Thing is, he would have had to have communicated with them that Cassie was involved. I really don’t think there was time for that to happen.”
“Does that mean that Jess is still in danger?” asked Cassie. “I mean, he was there to kill her, right?”
Again with the difficult questions, thought Bobby.
“Possibly,” said Sam, looking very unhappy about it.
“Have you told her?” asked Cassie.
“Yes,” said Sam.
“Maybe you should do the same spell on her that you did on Frank?” said Cassie.
“That won’t help her if they already know she’s here,” said Sam. “If they decide she’s supposed to die…”
“The burnings have stopped,” said Rufus. “There was a wave of similar killings recently - just like what happened to Sam and Dean's mom. It seems they’ve stopped.”
“So you think whatever the demon was trying was stopped by Connor?” asked Carter.
“We don’t know yet,” said Bobby. “We’re researching it. We weren’t sure that Connor wasn’t part of it.”
“You still think that?” asked Jackson.
“No, Daniel, I don’t,” said Bobby. “I don’t know what to think about him, or what the prophecy means, but no, I don’t think he’s evil.”
“What about the rest of you?” asked Jackson.
“I agree with Bobby,” said Ellen.
“Maybe the prophecy applies to something else. If we’re lucky, we’ll find out what when we get to Wolfram and Hart,” said Rufus.
He didn’t address the question of whether Connor was evil or not.
Carter and Connor both noticed that omission.
“You still think the prophecy applies to him?” asked Carter.
“I do. I just think we don’t have the whole picture. The fact that Wolfram and Hart is watching him tells me there’s something going on with him,” said Rufus.
Connor was listening to the whole conversation and trying to decide what he wanted to share about his dreams. He trusted Sam, Jack, Teal'c and Daniel and he was pretty sure he could trust Sam Winchester too, but he was not sure that telling the other hunters about his strange dreams would lead to anything good. He really wished he’d had a chance to talk to Jack and the others before Sam arrived.
“So you’re really not letting me come with you?” said Cassie.
“Maybe you should stay with your friend Jess and protect her,” said Ellen. “Here. Take these.”
Ellen handed her a large knife and a small bundle tied up in a faded handkerchief.
“Cool knife,” said Cassie. “What’s this?”
“It’s for protection,” said Ellen. “When you get to Jess’s apartment I want you to put down salt…”
Ellen pulled Cassie aside and began to explain the basics of demon proofing.
____ (appended section begins)
Jessica had not held a gun in her hand for nearly a decade and no real interest in guns or shooting at this point in her life but that didn’t mean she didn’t know how. In her father’s family, such things were a right of passage – at least, they had been in her old life. Her father had been a cop in a small town and Jess was the only child of a man from a family of brothers, all of whom had sons.
When they weren’t hunting, fishing or hanging out playing sports, they were working. By eight, her father Jim had started taking her hunting with his four brothers and their young sons. At ten, Jessica had been by far the best shot of any of the kids and convinced her future was in law enforcement just like her father. Then her father had been killed by a drunk driver on his way to a call and everything had changed.
Her grief stricken mother Iris had found everything about their old life just too painful and within the year she’d moved them from the tightly knit West Virginia town where Jess had known everyone, back to Northern Virginia where Iris’ own family lived and where she could finish nursing school. Jessica had always been a good student but the combination of grief, knowing no one and being stuck in soulless suburbia, meant she spent most of her time alone. She and her mother lived in the basement apartment of one of her mother’s cousins and every night they studied together.
At first, she’d been very angry and very resistant to their new life and the new school, but after a very bumpy start when Jessica had struggled with anger and depression and floundered at her new school, she’d begun to understand her mother’s no nonsense attitude. By the time Jessica Moore had moved on from the worst of her grief, she was near the top of every one of her classes. The year Jessica graduated from high school, her mother had begun a new job as a nurse practitioner and Jessica was headed to California, to Stanford.
Now, Cassie, Sam and Ellen had showed up in the middle of the night talking about threats and hunters and bunch of other stuff that hadn’t really registered, because she’d been sound asleep when they arrived. What had come next brought her back to thoughts of her old life for more than one reason.
“What’s going on this time?” she’d asked.
“Jess…” Sam had stopped awkwardly, as if he was ashamed to bring up the topic.
“Out with it, Sam,” she said, crossing her arms resolutely. “Whatever your brother’s got you involved with this time, just tell me.”
“It’s not my brother… well, not really. Look, a lot happened tonight…”
“So, spill,” Jess was spooked and it was clear that the older woman talking with Cassie was in a hurry. Something was up. Something big.
Sam gave her a brief version of the night’s events.
“I’m sorry, I don’t have time to go into more, but we have to get on the road.”
“I’m coming with you,” said Jess.
“No Jess, you’re not,” he said. The look on her face told him he had to come up with something better than that. He said the first thing that came into his head.
“Look, I need you to take care of Cassie, please?”
“You just don’t want me to come,” said Jessica, crossing her arms and glowering at Sam.
It didn’t work.
“It’s too dangerous for someone like you,” said Sam, knowing as soon as he spoke, that he’d said precisely the wrong thing.
“Someone like me? Well clearly, you don’t mean a woman. After all, she’s
going with you,” said Jessica, her voice rising as she spoke. She jerked her head in the direction of Ellen, who was discussing something with Cassie.
“It has nothing to do with you being a woman, Jess. You know me better than that!” said Sam. “You’re a civilian. She’s a hunter.”
“A hunter? You mean like you?”
“Yes,” said Sam.
“I can shoot,” said Jessica, evenly.
“You can shoot?” he echoed, surprised.
“Remember, I told you my dad was a cop?”
“I thought he died when you were little?” Sam tensed.
“I was ten,” she said.
“And you haven’t shot a gun since then?” said Sam.
His relief was palpable.
“I was very good at it,” said Jessica defensively. “I started shooting when I was five.”
“They have trained soldiers, Jess,” said Sam. “I’m not sure we’re
a match for them. They got a drop on Ellen and the others and they’ve been doing this a while.”
“You’re gonna be in a lot of danger, Sam. Do you really have to go?”
“I do,” he said. “They have dad.”
“I’d feel better if I came with you,” said Jessica.
“I’ll feel better if I know you’re safe,” said Sam. “If you’re with me, I’m just going to be worrying that you’re going to get hurt.”
She stared at him. He stared back. He could tell he’d won, but he felt like shit. He embraced her. She clung to him in a way that was unusual for her, yet her body felt stiff and tense.
“Please. I have to go,” he said, pulling away reluctantly.
“Be careful,” she said.
“I will. Wait. Are you sure you know how to shoot?”
“Of course I’m sure, Sam,” she said rolling her eyes.
“Then maybe you better come with me outside,” he said.
He opened the trunk of the Impala and unlocked a hidden compartment. Jessica was stunned to see a whole selection of firearms. He selected a pump action shotgun and a gun that looked very much like her father’s service weapon, the only gun that was left from her father’s collection, the one her mother kept locked in the small safe under her bed. Jessica was sure she was breaking a bunch of California laws, but given the circumstances, she couldn’t bring her self to worry about that too much.
He handed her the 9mm, and in spite of what she’d said, Sam was still surprised to see just how comfortable she was as she checked it out. The part of him that was a hunter was reassured by that. The part of him that had never wanted any part of his old life to touch her felt dead and old as if that darkness that he’d sought so long to outrun had finally caught him and now it was filling his lungs with something cold and black and sucking him down. From a distance, that part of him had the sick realization that nothing in their lives or their relationship was ever going to be the same again. The part of him that had been a hunter as long as he could remember shoved that shiny new Sam Winchester down, and shut the lid on him as firmly as he shut the trunk compartment of the Impala. It was time for Sam Winchester to get back to reality. His only hope was that both Jess and he would both survive it.
________ (appended section ends)
A lot can happen in a six-hour plus road trip. What started out as a somewhat uncomfortable alliance slowly became comfortable, then relaxed. By the time they finally hit the greater Los Angeles area early next morning, things were friendly.
The conversational permutations were fluid and everyone got to know everyone else. Frank, O’Neill, Carter, Bobby and Rufus ended up trading stories about military life, the places they’d seen and the people and situations they’d encountered. Carter, Jackson and Ellen talked about magic with input from both Rufus and Bobby. Dean slept most of the way and Sam studied or played on his laptop when he wasn't talking to Bobby. Connor mostly talked to O’Neill. Other than that, Connor did a lot of listening.
O’Neill could tell there was something Connor wanted to tell him, but it was only when they stopped for breakfast around dawn that Connor managed to get him alone by choosing the restaurant that O’Neill had chosen for the express reason that it wasn’t the one the others had selected. It was a hole in the wall dive, not a shiny chain restaurant, but O’Neill wasn’t in the mood for more burgers anyway and he’d hoped Connor would take the hint and follow him. O’Neill had a theory that if it looked as crappy as it did and it had indeed been open as advertised ‘since 1956’, the food was probably at least decent. It surpassed even his modest hopes.
“So, what was it you wanted to tell me?” he’d asked as they stood in line.
“I’ve been having some dreams I want to tell you about. Once we get our food,” Connor had said.
Once they’d sat down, it became clearer why Connor had not been keen to speak in front of the random strangers in the line.
“Shoot,” said O’Neill as he took a sip from his large coffee and set it on the well-scrubbed diner table in their ancient, but generous booth.
“You know how Frank said that Wolfram and Hart has a new boss called Angel?”
“Yes,” said O’Neill, feeling the hairs on the back of his neck prickle.
“That night… after… the thing with the demon,”
O’Neill noticed Connor didn’t want to say the word ‘kill’, even though their booth was at the furthest end of the restaurant, and since they had been amongst the first customers, the restaurant was almost empty. O’Neill had a feeling people would have been more shocked by the word ‘demon’, but he didn’t say anything.
“What happened?” he asked instead.
“I dreamt I had a different family,” said Connor. “Not the ones I grew up with, but different people completely.”
O’Neill tried not to react, but Connor could tell he knew something.
“You know,” said Connor.
“No, I don’t know anything, Connor,” said O’Neill.
“You don’t seem surprised.”
Connor’s look was just a little too polite to be combative, but it was getting there.
“It’s just that… even though there’s nothing bad in your history…”
“It didn’t seem right?”
“I had… questions,” said O’Neill. “What does this have to do with Angel?”
“I think… well, I dreamed he was… my father,” said Jack. “It was a dream. It didn’t really make sense… there was this group of people… they all seemed to really care about me… and they seemed to think I was a good fighter. They were proud of me. There was Angel and Darla… my parents… and my aunts and uncles… Cordelia and Wesley, Charlie and Fred – Fred’s a girl by the way,” he said in response to O’Neill’s raised eyebrow. “And then there was this… other guy… I think he was green and he liked to sing… but I think that must have been dream weirdness, right?”
“Interesting,” said O’Neill. “Who knows?”
Green? Really? Nope, not going there. O’Neill resisted the urge to say something snarky.
“So, anyway… maybe this Angel? Maybe he’s not evil?” said Connor, hopefully.
O’Neill regarded Connor thoughtfully. “Maybe.”
Connor looked slightly dejected.
“He might not be your father either,” said O’Neill.
“Then why is he watching me? And why did he have his thugs go after the hunters who were coming to kill me? I mean, you don’t hire a small army to protect someone if you don’t care about them, right? Frank said there’s two whole teams just to watch me.”
“Let’s find out more before we jump to any conclusions, Connor. We’ve already seen how dangerous that can be,” said O’Neill.
O’Neill found Connor’s assessments a little too astute and found himself once again thinking about Carter’s idea of recruiting him. He wished he could reassure the young man, but nothing about this whole situation made sense and unfortunately, Connor’s analysis made a great deal of sense.
“What if they had found me by myself? The hunters, I mean,” said Connor, looking suddenly anxious.
“I think you probably would have survived,” said O’Neill.
what I’m worried about, Jack,” said Connor. “What if I had killed them?”
“You didn’t kill those mercs,” said O’Neill.
“I wasn’t fighting for my life, and I knew you guys were there to back me up,” said Connor. “If you guys hadn’t been around… what if I’d acted on my instinct like last time? I could have been a killer. I don’t want to be a killer, Jack.”
“It would have been self defense, Connor,” said O’Neill.
Connor stared at him.
Connor had inhaled the food at first; relishing what had been the best pancakes he’d had in a long time, possibly ever. It was a high calorie, but extremely tasty breakfast, way better than anything he could have had in the fast food place. He hadn’t been surprised that the place was beginning to fill up. Now, however, an ugly picture had pushed its way into Connor’s head. The image of Rufus, Bobby, Ellen and their friend John lying dead on the floor of his apartment while he stood in their midst, bloody and victorious.
“That is supposed to make me feel better?” said Connor, pushing what was left of his food away and tossing his napkin onto the plate. He’d completely lost his appetite.
“It’s supposed to… God, Connor. You’re right. Hurting others is never fun unless you’re a sicko,” said O’Neill.
“I don’t know how you deal with it,” said Connor. “Sometimes— sometimes I feel OK about what happened with the demon – but sometimes I just feel like a killer, you know?”
Connor didn’t mention that this feeling had been getting stronger as the weeks passed and the dreams continued. He had declined to share anything but the very first dream, in fact. Either he was crazy, or he was someone very dangerous.
“Yeah, I do, Connor,” said O’Neill.
“I suppose you do,” said Connor.
O’Neill found himself having even more misgivings than he had had earlier when Daniel and Sam had asked him if he was certain he wanted to bring Connor on what could become a very violent mission. He’d assured them that it would be all right, and Teal'c had supported him. Of course, Daniel had been right again.
Whatever the real truth of his life was, as far as he could remember, Connor was just an average – well, above average – upper middle class kid – smart and intuitive, but rather sheltered. Connor was young in a way that he himself had never been – a way that none of the other men with them probably had ever been either. Daniel had witnessed his own parent’s deaths while he was still a child. Rufus and Bobby were both rural men who had been in the military by eighteen, just like Frank. From what he’d overheard en route, Sam and Dean had grown up hunting demons, and occasionally when times were hard, food as well.
Unlike O’Neill and Carter, Connor didn’t come from a career military family and he hadn’t even grown up hunting and dealing with the realities that come with that. People die, creatures die, frequently in unpleasant and bloody ways, often by your hand. You didn’t always like it but you learned early on to deal with it.
Teal'c of course, had come from a martial culture where he’d trained to be a soldier from the time he was able to lift one of those wooden staff weapon thingies. Teal'c’s individual tragedies had made him even harder than the average Jaffa, even earlier than usual. Of course Teal'c had agreed with him. Damn.
O’Neill had felt that Connor needed answers and that this trip would probably give him at least some of them. Now he was less sure. He hoped the tradeoffs would be worth it. If Connor was the child of this ‘Angel’ person, there had to be a reason why Angel had hidden his son from his real life and even his own memories.
Frank and his colleagues were proof positive to O’Neill that whoever Angel was, evil or not, he was far from forgetting about Connor. He found himself wondering if he wouldn’t have considered kidnapping someone if he’d thought that person had represented a threat to his son Charlie. Charlie would have been about Connor's age now, if he’d lived. What would he have done if someone had planned to kill Charlie? No, the better question was, what wouldn’t he have done?
“So, what you think of the plan?” asked Bobby.
“I think it’s a very good idea,” said O’Neill. “I can tell this isn’t your first rodeo.”
Bobby grinned at him.
“Are you sure you really want to do this?” asked Frank. “If they catch you…”
“Then, you and the colonel and company can rescue us,” said Ellen.
“If you survive,” said Frank.
“If we don’t survive, you’ll have cause for a real investigation,” said Rufus stoically.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” said Carter.
“Indeed,” said Teal'c, pulling his fedora lower.
Frank’s passkey still worked. Bobby, Rufus and Ellen entered the lower level by the security entrance and passed unnoticed into the building, heading directly to the elevators leading down to the sub-levels. Ellen hit S17 and the doors slid shut.
"Welcome to hell," said Ellen drolly. "Going down..."
NOTE: I made up Jessica’s background. As far as I’m aware, we don’t have a detailed background for her since she was killed off so early. (If you know different, please PM me or let me know in your review). She never struck me as a shrinking violet kind of woman and the kind of girl that would appeal to Sam, even while he was still in his denial about his old life would be someone physically confident. Anyway, I hope you like the character ‘augments’.