Is That All?
Chapter Fifteen: Is That All?
At first, Jonathan wasn't going to say anything. He already knew, after all, and he wasn't one of Wesley's friends; these people were. It was their reactions he wanted to hear. When Cordelia started off about some guy named Groo, though, he had to say *something*. Couldn't they see Wesley was terrified? Every line of his tense back screamed "father issues" loud and clear, and probably "Angel issues" too.
"Guys!" he hissed, hoping that would get the point across.
Everyone quieted down; then finally, Angel reacted.
They weren't considered a manly thing, usually, these powerful expressions of emotion. For some reason, though, the word 'sissy' didn't even surface in Jonathan's thoughts as he watched them. There was something primal about it that defied PC categorization.
"That's so sweet," Fred whispered, clutching at one of Gunn's hands.
They might all have stood there forever, agreeing with her, but they were interrupted by a sudden sound at the front of the building. Jonathan blinked, suddenly back to reality, and glanced towards the front doors. "Um, guys? I think the Watchers are back. And there's four of them this time."
"Four of them? I'd swear no one left before I did. They must have taken the bloody Concorde." Giles scowled as his four fellow Council members began to enter the hotel, then sucked in a sharp breath. "Bugger. It's Richard Wyndham-Price."
Angel cautiously unfolded his arms, stepping back far enough so that he could look into Wesley's face. "Your father?" he said quietly, with an intense, concerned expression.
Wesley shook his head. "Not anymore."
That got a smile out of Angel, a quick flash of teeth and a suspicious mistiness at the corners of the vampire's eyes.
"Are we interrupting something?" Quentin Travers said coolly, watching the pair with a disapproving expression.
The four Watchers ranged themselves just inside the lobby doors. Everyone, including Jonathan, started to gather closer to Angel and Wesley in response, as if circling the wagons. Giles and Gunn stood nearest the front, with the others ranged behind them, all in defensive postures.
"We're here to speak with my son." Richard Wyndham-Price was dressed impeccably, wearing an expensive suit as though he were born to it, not a thread out of place. He wore an expression of aloof disdain, with a slightly disapproving curl to his upper lip.
"You don't have a son, *Dick*," Angel announced, with a hint of growl in the back of his throat.
Wesley's erstwhile father raised his eyebrows at that. "Ah, but I do," he said, "and I believe I see him standing there right next to you. We have some questions for him about information he has been withholding from the Council."
"He owes the Council nothing," Giles said, as belligerent as Angel, in a quieter, more British way. "You fired him, or have you forgotten?"
"Ah, hello, Rupert. We fired you once too, as I recall. Sometimes I wonder why you are still on the payroll. You cannot be doing your Slayer much good from your flat in Bath."
What an asshole! Years of being condescended to weren't enough to develop armor against that tone of voice, as Jonathan knew from experience. He was perfectly ready now to hate this guy on Wesley's behalf.
Wesley shook his head and sighed, addressing the other elder Watcher. "Travers, I did ask you to come back today, to answer your questions. And I will. There's no need for unpleasantness. The short version is that you do not need to worry about the prophecies you mentioned any longer."
"What?" Travers blinked at him, incredulous.
Wesley continued. "However, the tale more properly begins with a portal, and a child left on your parents' doorstep thirty years ago."
"I see." The elder Wyndham-Price sighed heavily, interrupting his story. "I had suspected something of the sort. And you say the prophecies have been, or are being, averted?"
Well. That was a strange reaction. Surely he didn't mean that he knew about it already?
"I believe so," Wesley said, slowly. "In the sense that Buffy was prophesied to die at the Master's hands, and still closed the Hellmouth afterwards."
Richard shook his head in reaction, and smiled a little. "I saw it happen, you know; I was on my way to visit with Quentin's father. I knew from the beginning that no child who came to this world as you did would have a normal destiny. I could not pass up such a challenge. To be the one to mold a child of fate ... Of course , it always seemed that no matter how thoroughly I tried to prepare you for what might come, you never quite measured up."
He dropped the reminiscent tone, and his face went hard. "So forgive me for doubting your word now. I believe some sort of proof would be in order. We came here for information, and we will not leave without it."
Angel moved restlessly as the speech wound up, slipping into vamp face, and took a step forward. Neither of the elder Watchers reacted, but the younger ones flinched and reached nervously for stakes.
Wesley reached a calming hand to Angel, then put in his own two cents. "You need proof? Did you not hear me earlier when I compared myself to Miss Summers? Ask the research deparment, Fa... Richard. Ask them about 'The Father Will Kill The Son,' and consider that it was the son of Ethan Rayne who gave me CPR. I believe that's all the proof you need."
"So that's what you meant about the translation," Fred said suddenly, glancing at Wesley and then Angel with a horrified expression. "It wasn't faulty. It really happened."
"Yes," Wesley said softly.
"Messed. Up." Gunn enunciated clearly, then swore under his breath, without taking his eyes off the Watchers. "But then, you could say that about most of us. Messed up, I mean."
"Typical," Richard said, frowning at them with a bitter twist to his voice. "You fail even in succeeding, and still keep company with the enemy." Then, he pointedly turned his back on them and addressed Travers. "Come then, Quentin. You've dragged me all the way to America for nothing; we had best get moving, if we are going to find some other way to justify this trip to the Council. Perhaps a visit to the dark Slayer?"
The elder Wyndham-Price threw one last bitter, superior look back at the man who used to call him Father, then strode out of the hotel, followed quickly by Quentin Travers. The nameless younger Watchers shrugged, and joined their elders. Within moments, the lobby belonged solely to Angel Investigations and company again.
It was over, as quick as that.
"That's it?" Cordelia exclaimed in disgust, breaking the stunned silence.
"It ... would appear to be so," Wesley answered her. He sounded like he had swallowed something very unpleasant.
Jonathan shook his head. "I don't understand. You told him you died, and he didn't get upset at all, except to criticize. I mean, the bad father vibes were obvious, but that was heartless."
"Yeah, and when exactly did this dying thing happen?" Cordelia demanded.
Wesley shook his head. "It's a long story," he said, "and not important right now."
"The hell it is," Gunn said.
Wesley sighed. "The dying, well, it was an accident. No need to elaborate. As for Fa-, I mean, Richard ... I thought, when I realised the truth, that it could have been ... it must have been the fact that I wasn't his own flesh and blood. That he had always measured me against what his own son could have done. But this ..."
Wesley paused again, locating a chair, and then sat down heavily. "I think ... I think he never even saw me as a person. I was a project to him. A puzzle, dropped through a portal at his feet."
"But you were just a baby," Cordelia said, sadly.
"And Slayers are just little girls," Wesley said, sharing a look with Giles. "It's a logical outgrowth of the Watcher mentality."
"Wes ..." Angel moved closer to Wesley, and gripped one of his son's shoulders.
Wesley shook his head. "I ... I think I need some time alone," he said. "I know there is much still to be said, and the fact that I turned out to be kidnapping myself does not really excuse my actions over the last few weeks ..."
"Wes ..." Gunn began to object.
"No." Wesley stood up, and looked around the group, matching gazes with each of them. "I need to think. There's still Sahjhan to worry about, and more translation to be done, and ... and it's all too much." He sighed again, and for a moment, he looked older than anyone else in the room.
"That's understandable." Giles studied him for a moment, then glanced over at Jonathan. "I think I shall make a quick journey to Sunnydale. As long as there's nothing I can do here, I'd like to spend some time catching up with Buffy on recent events and make sure this young miscreant's friends haven't gotten out of hand. Then, I'll return to help with the translations."
"I'd appreciate that, Rupert," Wesley said, smiling faintly.
Giles nodded, then picked up his suitcases from their resting place by the counter and exited the hotel. He paused only to fix Jonathan with a sharp look, and a quick word of advice. "If you truly intend to improve yourself, I suggest you stay here and learn from these people. If you ever set foot in Sunnydale again, however ..."
Jonathan agreed quickly. Only a fool, or an army, would mess with Giles when he had that expression on his face. "I have no problem with that."
He'd been sort of leaning that way, anyhow. What was there left for him in Sunnydale? Except for the Scoobies and his former partners, his only ties there were his adoptive parents, and phones existed for a reason. He'd always be one of the "lesser men" in that town, the ones who couldn't win, but here, there was a chance to start over. He'd be stupid to throw that chance away.
The doors shut behind Giles.
And then there were seven.
Wesley seemed to sense that the others all had questions to ask and things of their own to say to him, regardless of his request for thinking time; he snatched his keys from where Jonathan had laid them on the counter and was gone, muttering "Tomorrow" as explanation.
And then there were six.
Gunn and Fred shared a thoughtful look, holding tightly to each other's hands, then excused themselves. "I'll leave my cell phone on, in case of visions," Gunn told Cordelia as they left. "We'll be around."
And then there were four.
"Angel ..." Cordelia said tentatively, laying a hand on the vampire's arm.
He shrugged it off, almost impatiently. "Go home, Cordy. I'm sure Groo is waiting. We'll talk tomorrow, okay? When Wes is back."
Cordelia gave him a troubled look, then picked up her purse and traced the same path the others had taken across the tiled floor and through the double glass doors. For once, she did not bother with a snappy comeback.
And then there were three.
Lorne snorted. "You want to follow him, don't you? Make sure he doesn't suddenly disappear before tomorrow?"
Angel blinked, startled. "It's daylight out, Lorne. And I'm sure he'll be fine."
"Oh go on. I'm sure if you think about it, you can figure out where he's going. If you can't get there by sewer, well, you can get close enough to find him quick once the sun sets."
"You sound like you're trying to get rid of me."
Lorne smiled. "Sugar, not to be rude, but if you're planning on being Mr. Broody for the rest of the day, anyone would want to get rid of you."
"You have a point there." Angel smiled back, briefly, then headed for the basement.
And then there were two.
"So tell me, Lorne," Jonathan said, casually. "Are things always this interesting around here?"
Lorne laughed. "You have no idea, kid. You have no idea."