Angel was having a bad day. His team had refused to leave him alone so he could interrogate John Winchester properly. Things had gone far beyond anything he had imagined.
“I don’t want any part in this. I can’t stay here if you’re going to be torturing people,” said Fred. “Being in this place has changed you, Angel.”
Gunn and Wesley exchanged a look. There was a part of Fred that still saw Angel through rose-colored glasses. Cordelia would never have made such a statement. Cordelia might have loved Angel, but she never forgot what Angel was capable of or what he really was.
“No, I don’t think that’s it at all, is it, Angel?” said Wesley. “You haven’t changed. You’ve become obsessed. You’re acting like Angelus. I know you, Angel. When you’re obsessed, you’ll do just about anything. Don’t think I’ve forgotten what you did with Darla and Drusilla, and all those lawyers. I’ve no interest in working for Angelus, Angel. I don’t think any of us do. You’d do well to remember that.”
Wesley’s tones were clipped, almost cold. Angel was reminded of oddly of Giles. Sometimes he forgot just how ruthless watchers were trained to be and how dangerous Wesley had become both as a warrior and as a leader. Lately, Wesley had been absorbed in his research and the day-to-day challenges that came their way. Their relationship had been collegial, comfortable even, and Angel had slowly begun to let go of his antipathy toward his friend over what had happened with Connor. Of late, Wesley had been more relaxed than Angel could remember him being in a while. This Wesley by contrast sounded remarkably like the man who had taken over Angel Investigations, become boss, and pulled things together even without his input.
Angel cringed. He hadn’t stolen more memories from them than necessary for them to forget Connor. In fact, all that he had agreed to was that they simply wouldn’t remember any events pertaining to Connor. Since Connor had affected a lot of the last year, they didn’t really remember last year clearly. Although it had been offered, he’d refused to take anything more, or to alter their memories too significantly, already feeling guilty for taking what he felt he had to. He’d been warned that by doing it that way, if for any reason they ever really tried to remember, they would probably realize there were gaps in their memories. Now he was beginning to regret that he hadn’t taken more almost as much as he was regretting coming to Wolfram and Hart at all.
It had accomplished nothing useful. Cordy was all but dead. Once again, his team didn’t trust him. Most important, he didn’t have his son and though he knew his son was sane and had a normal life, it seemed that the supernatural world was still after him – and the Connor Wolfram and Hart had created was by design wholly unsuited to cope with the demon world.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Angel. “I’m not obsessed. I just need answers.”
Angel’s intentionally casual scoffing went over like a bucket of cold snot.
“Nope. Not buying it, Angel. Wes is right,” said Gunn, surprising himself by sticking up for his estranged friend. “You’re acting just like you did when they brought back that Darla chick. You’re acting crazy. Did that guy down there kill one of your vampire family or something?”
“No,” said Angel bluntly, glad for a question he could answer honestly. “He didn’t kill anyone.”
“Then what is going on?” asked Wesley.
Angel didn’t answer.
“So, Angel, care to explain why Lorne told us you’re acting like papa bear?” said Fred, deliberately provocative. “You’re acting as if he killed your kid or something.”
Angel just stared at her. If he’d been human, all the color would have drained from his face, but even without that tell, Angel was still unable to hide his reaction.
“Shit,” said Gunn.
“But… you don’t have children,” said Fred.
“Vampires can’t have children. Angel. I want the truth. Now. What did you do?” Wesley closed his eyes, reaching out with his magic. He could feel echoes of magic in his mind. By Wolfram and Hart standards, Wesley wasn’t a particularly powerful mage, but he was a competent practitioner, and now he focused, he was suddenly certain that something was very wrong. He just didn’t know what. “Angel, what’s going on?”
“Why are you lying to us?” asked Fred. “Did Wolfram and Hart give you a child?”
“Lying to you?” echoed Angel, unable to deny it. He tried and failed to come up with an explanation. He smiled reassuringly at Fred. She didn’t smile back.
“Don’t deny it. I can tell. I know you, Angel. I know your devious look – when you’re doing something you know we’re not going to like,” said Fred.
“Did you sell us out to Wolfram and Hart?” asked Gunn. “Did you give up the redemption gig for the big time? What did they do? Is Fred right? Did they offer you a kid?”
“No, of course not,” said Angel, glad to be able to answer truthfully. “Don’t be absurd, Gunn.”
“Naah, man, that ain’t gonna do it. All this lawyer jazz they put in my head? It helps me to analyze everything I hear extra careful – and Angel, I knew bullshit long before I came to this place. Dis is me you talkin' to, yo! I remember how you almost got Cordy and the rest of us killed when you went all Ahab over Darla. I only gonna ask you the one time, Angel. What da fuck is going on?”
Gunn’s question came out as a dangerous snarl, his silken lawyerly diction morphing to street fighter.
Angel stared at him, not knowing what to say. Then Angel’s intercom buzzed.
“Not now, Harmony!” he barked.
“But boss…” Harmony whined anxiously.
“NOT NOW!” bellowed Angel.
“But— ,” Harmony began.
Whatever Harmony was going to say was cut off as Angel terminated the communication.
“I don’t have time for this,” said Angel, his affect almost belligerent.
“I don’t give a rat’s arse what you’ve got time for Angel,” said Wesley. “I didn’t sign on for torture. I want to know what the hell is going on and I want answers now.”
“Do not fuck with me today, Wesley,” said Angel, trying to push past him.
“Do try to act like an adult, Angel,” said Wesley, deliberately getting in his path.
Angel, being Angel, evaded him easily. Wesley grabbed his arm as he strode past. Angel tried to pull his arm from Wesley’s grasp, but without using his full strength, because as angry as he was, he didn’t want to hurt his friend.
“Please, Wes,” he said.
As he spoke, he turned back toward Wesley and that was when Gunn punched him hard. Wesley put his foot out, and Angel lost his footing, landing awkwardly on the ground, completely stunned by the unexpected attack.
“Now,” said Wesley.
Fred emptied a greenish-grey slurry of herbs onto Angel’s chest. It began to glow slightly as Wesley said a few words in Latin. Angel found he couldn’t move. Gunn and Wesley picked up the immobilized vampire and sat him in his chair.
“Now. You’re gonna tell us what’s going on,” said Wesley. “Either that, or we’re out of here.”
“Your contracts…” said Angel.
“I can void them. Already got everything drawn up. Wes here has it all hidden so no one will see it coming ‘til I can get it filed.”
“No magic can hear whatever we talk about in here, so talk,” said Wesley.
“I can’t believe you did this,” said Angel, looking down at the bits of herbs on his nice suit. The crisp white shirt was probably a total loss.
“I can’t believe you think it’s a good idea to torture people,” said Fred. “And I can’t believe you’re lying to us.”
“I haven’t tortured anyone,” said Angel.
Fred noticed he hadn’t denied lying.
“You haven’t had the chance,” said Fred, crossing her arms across her chest, her expression pinched.
“I just want to know what he’s up to,” said Angel, sounding almost petulant.
No matter how hard Angel tried, he couldn’t get his muscles to obey.
“He’s a hunter. I imagine he hunts demons. Same as we used to do, if you remember,” said Wesley.
“Connor is not
a demon,” said Angel vehemently.
“Who the hell is Connor?” demanded Gunn loudly.
That was when the door burst open.
“That would be me,” said Connor.
“Connor!” Angel stared at him, horrified. “What are you doing here?”
Connor sauntered into the room followed by four other people. Angel and the others exchanged glances. It was clear no one had any idea who any of the others were.
“He doesn’t look as if anyone’s hurt him,” said Gunn. “In fact, he looks quite healthy.”
“That’s because I protected him,” said Angel.
“About that,” said Connor. “When, exactly did I give you permission to hire thugs to spy on me?”
“Thugs? Spy?” Angel echoed.
He wanted to tell Connor who he was, how much he cared. How proud he was that Connor was doing well. He looked at his expectant colleagues and said nothing. He tried to stand, but he still couldn’t move.
“Frank?” said Connor.
Frank walked into the room. Other than several nasty bruises, he was none the worse for the wear.
“What is…” Angel recognized the attire, if not the person wearing it. “You’re not supposed to be… You brought them here?”
“Not supposed to be what?” asked O’Neill. “Alive? You order him killed?”
“What the hell are you talking about, ‘killed’?” asked Gunn, beating Angel to the punch. “We don’t kill humans. Angel?”
“What? No! I didn’t order anyone killed. I might have to reconsider about Phillips though,” said Angel, obviously furious. Maybe it was the rage, but he realized he could now move his arm, so he hit the intercom, though his aim was clumsy and he had no sensation in his fingers. “Harmony! Find Phillips. Get him in here. NOW!”
“Yes, Boss,” said Harmony.
“So Connor, who are your friends?” asked Angel.
“This is Dr Samantha Carter, Dr. Daniel Jackson, Colonel Jack O’Neill and—”
“The Samantha Carter?” blurted Fred. “The astrophysicist! Oh my goodness, I should have known!”
“Daniel Jackson?” said Wesley at almost the same time.
O’Neill gave Jackson a warning look and Jackson said nothing.
“Which Samantha Carter are you thinking of?” asked Carter cautiously, not eager for these people to recognize her, but even less interested in having someone recognize Daniel.
Fred plunged in eagerly, completely oblivious to Carter’s concerns.
“It’s definitely you. I recognize you. Your theories are fascinating… especially what you wrote about wormhole theory. I think they might just be right too… for one thing, your calculations were really quite extraordinary – and of course, the wormhole would have to be one way. That makes so much sense because of course you can’t have…”
Fred stopped. She was suddenly aware that she was in full gush and that both O’Neill and Carter were staring at her with unreadable, but equally unhappy expressions.
“Are you a physicist?” asked Carter.
“Well… not exactly…” said Fred, looking more than a little embarrassed.
“Of course you are,” said Gunn. “My girl knows her stuff.”
Gunn didn’t notice the look he got from Wesley. Wesley quickly schooled his emotions.
“Actually, Fred is quite talented. She published a very interesting paper on P dimensional space last year,” said Wesley. “She was invited to speak at—”
“You’re Winifred Burkle?” asked Carter, her face lighting up eagerly, the mission momentarily forgotten.
“Yes, I’m… well, yes I am,” said Fred, looking stunned and sounding almost meek. “It was just… well… this little theory I’ve been working on.”
“No, it’s brilliant! We tried to find you, but the university didn’t have any information and the address the journal had for you came back as a bad address.”
“You tried to find me?” Fred looked stunned.
“Well, of course. I’m sure others did as well. Your idea about distance scales being inverted by T duality is very audacious. Very interesting ideas. I would love to see some more of your work. It could lead to… well, if it’s anything like your article, the implications are quite…”
“Carter,” O’Neill said in warning.
“Sorry, sir,” said Carter.
“Phillips is here, boss,” said Harmony through the intercom.
“Send him in,” said Angel.
“You wanted to see me, sir,” said the chief of security, approaching Angel’s desk.
Angel regarded him with open hostility. Phillips was barely aware of the others in the room. He knew he was in deep trouble.
“What did I ask you to do?” said Angel.
“About Roberts,” said Angel, obviously furious about something
“You wanted me to get rid… to make…” he hesitated.
“Please… Do tell me what was it that I wanted?” said Angel softly, leaning back in his chair as feeling slowly returned to his legs.
“You wanted me to erase all traces of him…” said Phillips.
“So you did order him murdered?” said Jackson hotly.
O’Neill placed a restraining hand on Jackson’s arm. He wanted to see how this played out.
“No. I did not order him to kill anyone,” Angel answered without taking his eyes off Phillips, whose six-foot plus frame seemed to shrink a little. “In fact, I was quite clear in my instructions not to kill him, wasn’t I, Phillips?”
“Yes sir, Mr. Angel sir,” the man said, suddenly looking very anxious.
“So… maybe you can explain to us exactly how you carried out those very clear instructions?”
“Well…” the man looked uncertain.
Angel scared him. He didn’t know who any of the newcomers were, and he didn’t really care. In some corner of his mind, he wondered why they were here, but mostly he was just terrified. He had visions of his head rolling across the room and those images made it quite difficult to focus.
“Do tell us,” said O’Neill.
“Who are these people?” said the chief.
“Don’t worry about them. Worry about me,” said Angel in a dangerous voice. “I want to know why you disobeyed a direct order.
“Well… sir… I tried to do what you wanted. The witches removed all traces of him from the records, but they were unable to erase his memories – which should be impossible. He must have had some really good kind of protective spell – probably more than one.”
“So then you tried to kill him?” asked O’Neill, keeping his voice even and matter of fact.
“I—,” the chief looked back and forth between Angel and O’Neill.
“Answer his question,” said Angel.
“Yes Mr. Angel. I thought… that is… I only did it because you asked me to make sure… I thought you wanted… Well, what I mean is – they said they didn’t think it worked… It should have worked even if he had magical protection. I don’t know what happened,” the man’s excuses and dissembling came out in a nervous rush.
“Why didn’t it work? What exactly did you do?” asked O’Neill conversationally.
“We… well, it’s quite clever really,” the man said, thinking O’Neill might be an ally. A tiny, hopeful part of him was hoping the ingenuity of his idea might actually impress Angel and his visitors. “We used magic to activate all the weapons and metal nearby. You know – even if he could protect himself against magic, this should have worked – because magic just activated the weapons – Once we launched them, they were just projectiles. They couldn’t tell me why it didn’t work.”
“So you’re saying that you screwed up on cutting him loose, so you decided to murder him?” asked Connor, stepping from behind O’Neill.
“Mr. Reilly?” said the chief, all color draining from his face. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to meet the person who tried to kill someone who was trying to protect me,” said Connor with that same slightly manic smile that had made O’Neill’s blood run cold.
“You’re not supposed to be here,” said Phillips, frowning. “You’re not supposed to know about… Oh god…”
“Whose fault you think that is, chief?” said Frank, turning from the window where he had been standing, partly blocked by Teal'c’s bulk. “When I figured out you were trying to kill me, I told them about all of Wolfram and Hart’s dirty little secrets. I told them everything I know about the firm… about this branch and about Chicago too. If you hadn’t tried to kill me, I never would have told them anything. I figured if you were terminating me, I didn’t have much to lose, now did I?”
The man blanched. Frank grinned at him
“You can’t talk about Wolfram and Hart. You work for us. We own you. You are just a tiny cog in the machine of Wolfram and Hart.”
“I decided I didn’t like that option,” said Roberts, “So I kicked over the traces. I don’t work for you anymore.”
“You can’t do that. You know that’s not how things work,” said Philips, with certainty.
“You just admitted you tried to erase me from your records. No matter how you look at it, I don’t work for you.”
“You signed a contract. You’re in a world of trouble.”
“I don’t think so,” said O’Neill.
“Who are you?” said Phillips.
“My name is Jack O’Neill. Colonel Jack O’Neill.”
“Colonel?” asked Phillips, nonplussed. “With all due respect, Colonel, this is a Wolfram and Hart matter. You need to stay out of this.”
“Not gonna happen,” said O’Neill.
“You don’t understand…” said Phillips.
“I think you’re the one with the misunderstanding, Phillips. You see, I’m his commanding officer. He works for me,” said O’Neill. “To be more specific, he works for the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations.”
There was silence in the room as that sank in. Then Phillips erupted.
“What? What the hell is he talking about? Roberts?”
Phillips was turning red.
“I decided to reenlist,” said Frank cheerfully. “They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse!”
“That’s… preposterous!! You can’t do that. You can’t work for anyone else until we release you from your contracts,” said Phillips angrily. “And you know that will never happen.”
“Nope, sorry, wrong answer!” said O’Neill almost gleefully. “Ya know… he told me you might say something like that. That’s why he’s been involuntarily recalled to duty. He didn’t get a say in the matter. I had this feeling that even Wolfram and Hart wouldn’t want to go up against the Pentagon.”
“You can’t do that!” said Phillip.
“Actually, Mr. Phillips… he can do that,” said Gunn quietly, “He’s quite correct in his assessment. If anyone is drafted or recalled to active duty, they’re released from their contracts…”
“You – you can’t be serious!?” said Phillips, turning to Gunn, his expression belligerent.
“I’m quite serious. Something about Wolfram and Hart deciding a long time ago that it was too much trouble to get into pissing matches with the armed forces of the most powerful country on the planet,” said Gunn. “December, 1941, to be quite precise. It’s actually one of the few ways to void a Wolfram and Hart contract. They tend not to advertise it for some reason. Why do you think they like to erase our people from military records?”
“Oh,” said Phillips.
“When did this happen?” asked Gunn. “When did he reenlist?”
“This morning, before we got here,” said O’Neill.
“I’ll file the papers to release him from his contract as soon as we’re done here,” said Gunn. “How’d you manage it so fast?”
“I spoke to SECNAV and the Secretary of the Air Force,” said O’Neill. “Told them I needed certain expertise.”
“Just like that?” said Fred.
“They might have owed me a few favors,” said O’Neill smugly.
“Owed you favors?” said Gunn. “What you do? Save the world?”
“Trust me, it’s above your pay grade,” said O’Neill, his smile smug.
“I kinda doubt that,” said Gunn.
O’Neill didn’t like the sound of that, but decided not to pursue it.
Instead, he handed copies of the reenlistment paperwork to Gunn.
“I think you’ll find it’s all in order,” said O’Neill.
“I’m sure it will be,” said Gunn.
“When did you have time to do this?” demanded Phillips, who still didn’t want to believe what was happening.
“About an hour before we got here,” said O’Neill.
________ Earlier that morning, in front of a car dealership.
“You really gonna do this here?” asked Dean.
“All we need is a flag,” said O’Neill.
“Well, that’s one hell of a flag!” said Connor.
“No shit, Sherlock!” said Dean looking up at what had to be the biggest American Flag he’d ever seen.
The flag had looked enormous from the highway, like a beacon under early morning floodlights. Close up, it was almost overwhelming. After getting the paperwork faxed to them, at an all night copy shop, they’d driven for nearly forty miles before seeing the enormous flag flying over the dealership from more than a mile down the highway.
“Are you ready?” asked O’Neill.
“Yeah. Not sure if this is gonna work, but what the heck! It’s worth a try, right? I’d rather work for you guys anyway,” said Frank. “Let’s do this.”
Frank and O’Neill stood on the base of the flagpole facing each other. The flag flapped loudly in the wind. The others stood on the asphalt, slightly below them.
“Under the authority granted to me by the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of the Air Force, I hereby recall you to service…” O’Neill began.
Connor watched with interest. He’d never had much contact with military, but his grandfather had served in the war and he had photographs and other memorabilia on the walls of his home office. Connor had asked him about it, but he never seemed to want to talk about it other than to tell stories about his friends, most of whom were dead.
The whole thing was over far more quickly than Connor had expected. Frank raised his right hand.”I, state your full name, do solemnly swear,”
“I, Franklyn Everett Roberts, do solemnly swear,” Frank repeated, inserting his name.“That I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States”
“That I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States”“Against all enemies, foreign and domestic;"
“Against all enemies, foreign and domestic;” “That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;”
“That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;” “And that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States”
“And that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States” “And the orders of the officers appointed over me”
“And the orders of the officers appointed over me” “According to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”
“According to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”“So help me God.”
“So help me God.”
“Congratulations!” said O’Neill.
“Thank you, sir,” said Frank.
Frank and O’Neill shook hands.
“Everything’s in order, Angel,” said Gunn, handing the Frank’s documents to Angel.
Angel took a quick look before handing them back.
“Good,” said Angel. “Phillips?”
“Yes, Mr. Angel,” he said obsequiously, still hoping for a reprieve.
“You can’t do that!” His protest came out in a whine. “I work for the senior partners…”
Angel ignored him.
“I’m just trying to decide what should be done with him,” said Angel. “Gunn?”
“We’ll remove all the protections on him as an employee of Wolfram and Hart – just like he did with Roberts,” said Gunn. “I know for a fact he’s made some interesting enemies… enemies we would be doing a favor by withdrawing our protection. Good people have suffered because of his behavior. Remember what happened with the Marksell and the Spider clans?"
“I remember. That should do it,” said Angel. “Make sure you let the Marksell and the Spider demon clans know that he’s no longer in our employ.”
“You can’t do that!!” said the man, suddenly terrified almost to the point of panic.
“Oh, and Wesley?” Angel ignored Phillips.
“Have the magic division check him out for any charms or protective spells, please. Make sure they’re very thorough.”
“I can do that,” said Wesley. “I’ll make sure they do a CT scan to check for internal talismans.”
“No – please, I’ll confess… to anything… just let me go to prison…” said the former chief, looking hopefully at O’Neill.
“You would prefer to go to prison?” asked Jackson, taken aback by the man’s reaction.
“The only place I’ll be safe is in a Supermax. You don’t know what they’ll do to me!!”
The former chief actually whimpered.
“What who will do to you?” asked O’Neill.
“His enemies. The most recent incident was when he annoyed the Marksell demon clan. They wanted to put him on trial for what he did. He disturbed their very important, once-in-five-century succession ceremonies,” said Wesley. “I’m sure they aren’t the only ones.”
“Wasn’t stopping demons a good thing?” asked Carter.
“If they’d been evil, perhaps. They’re quite peaceful. They live mostly underground, near aquifers. They worship water. They actually protect our water supply. They live on insects, mostly ants. If you see them from a distance, you’d mistake them for native peoples. In fact, other than their blue tongues, they look quite human,” said Wesley. “They’re no threat to anyone... at least, not under normal circumstances. I have no idea what the penalty for causing so much trouble would be. At least we know they’ll give him a fair trial.”
“A trial? Really? Fascinating,” said Jackson.
O’Neill gave Jackson a narrow-eyed look of warning.
“What exactly did he do?” asked Carter, who had missed O’Neill’s look.
“He destroyed their ritual and that forced a fight for succession that decimated the leading clan and caused completely unnecessary battle with the Spider Demon clan… It took them weeks to sort out the mess and reestablish peace. There were a lot of deaths in both clans. He single-handedly prevented the peaceful ascendance of their new leader even though he was informed that the portents were not indicating anything bad. I would have fired him for it then, but Wolfram and Hart usually doesn’t care about hurting demons unless it’s demons they care about. Frankly, the main reason he still has a job is that the senior partner’s liaison overruled me firing him only two weeks after the last chief. The only reason I didn’t fight it was that he was actually an improvement over Hauser. That bastard tried to kill me my second day here.”
“What happened to him?” asked Connor.
“I shot him,” Angel said flatly.
Angel didn’t think that description was as bad as saying he’d blown off the top of the man’s head with his own weapon, but for some reason, his visitors did not react well. Connor looked horrified. O’Neill’s expression was hostile.
“I’m sorry, Connor. It was self-defense. He was going to kill me and go after a little boy. He and his team planned to exterminate the boy’s entire class and anyone else who got in their way. I didn’t have any choice,” Angel said after he saw the look on both Connor’s and O’Neill’s faces.
“Oh,” said Connor.
“Sorry, son,” said Angel automatically. “I didn’t mean to…”
“That’s OK… dad,” said Connor, unable to resist the temptation.
Angel stared at him.
“How?” he blurted.
“So it’s true!” said Connor. “You are my real father!”
“You’re not supposed to remember that,” said Angel.
“Oh my God…” said Fred. “Oh my god…! Lorne was right! He’s your son!”
“Bloody hell,” said Wesley.
“EVE!!!” Angel practically bellowed into the intercom. “Get your skanky ass in here.”