Disclaimer: 'Angel' and characters are not mine, and I make no profit from this.
Feedback: Thanks again to everyone who reads and reviews, your opinions and critique is highly valued. Special mentions go to gopie, MysticWolf1 (hope I can make Angel more convincing, and thanks for the review on my old story), cheebs, Ruth Quist, Enfleurage and LoganAlpha30. I'm glad you liked the latest chapter.
Author's note: I am right in the middle of writing my final dissertation that has to be handed in at the end of April, so updates are going to be slow until then. I hope you can bear with me. Also, I have just set up 'Divine Intervention: The Angel Challenge Forum' here at and I'm looking for more people to submit challenges of their own. Or come along and accept one. And if you want some dark Angel fic, check out my C2 'The Deeper Well'.
Okay, on with the story…
Hey. Hey, you….
That's right, I'm talkin' to you, genius. Not falling asleep on me, are ya? I'm not even halfway through this little tale yet. Do you think you could concentrate? I'm getting to the good bit.
I bet you can't wait to find out what's gonna happen. I can smell the anticipation from here. Well, hang onto your panties, 'cause it's gonna get rough. In the meantime, I've got an interesting little aside for you, just in case you want to know.
You might recall that in the previous run of this little story, and at around this point in the timeline, I became rather 'inconveniently' trapped in an urn. (And yes, I'm using the highly sarcastic air-quotes at this point.) Yeah, you remember that bit. It's kinda the point of this whole sorry ordeal. Let's just say I'm not looking to repeat the experience.
Said urn has been thoroughly disposed of now, I can assure you. That old coot Cyvus sure did squeal some. Unfortunately for him, he noticed it approaching on an uncannily accurate path towards his wrinkly face just a tad too late. But that's a story for another day. Suffice to say the stupid jar is gone, and Vail ain't gonna be crapping no magic any time soon.
All very tidy, I hear you say, but what's that got to do with our perky heroes? Well, let me enlighten you.
Wolfram and Hart like things to run on their own time-scale. The Senior Partners are infamous for their apocalyptic plans, as I'm sure you know, and they have their very many scaly and pointy fingers in a lot of pies. The frikkin' weirdos are control freaks of the nth degree. You should have seen them try to rein me in. But anyway, I'm getting off topic.
The Circle of the Black Thorn was one of their key instruments in this dimension, and you can bet that every single member of it had a broad and thorough knowledge of just about everything that concerned the Senior Partners, including the comings and goings of Angel and co. It's true now, and it was true last time.
Whether the doddery old cripple knew it or not, Vail's services had been employed twice in that previous timeline; once when Angel took over the L.A. branch, and once before that, before any thoughts of such a grand 'new management' offer had even crossed the Partners' collective, incorporeal minds.
That's right boys and girls, they'd been mind screwing our little group for a good, long while.
The thing is, this first attempt wasn't really anything to with their 'must-have-Angel-on-a-tight-leash' obsession at all.
Odd, you might think. And yeah, I'll give you that. If I had such resources at my disposal, the temptation would certainly be there to use them. But see, what you've got to understand is, cheating tends to come back and bite you in the ass. The Partners, in all their evil, transcendent wisdom, knew this well enough. Hell, it's not like they haven't had millennia to practice.
No, they figured they had to win Angel over fair and square, or risk null and voiding the whole prophecy gig. They're lawyers, for Christ's sake. Not gonna happen.
Pulling out the big guns was reserved for emergencies only, and when it came to someone trying a sneaky apocalypse on their turf, you can bet it qualified. Jasmine, this uppity Power That Be type that fancied a trip down with the great unwashed, wanted to try just that.
The way I figure it, the L.A. branch mystics must have gotten wind of this some time back when the kid was newly spawned, but I guess they didn't count on the whole Beast debacle cutting it quite so close to the bone. Otherwise, you can bet they'd have done a tiny bit more about it before it got so ugly. As it happened, Wolfram and Hart was gutted at the time, which knocked them back a notch or two, but our dark hero eventually stepped in a saved the day in the end. Phew.
But you knew all that anyway.
What I'm saying is, even though they couldn't have predicted the eventual gory outcome, they knew this Jasmine chick was bad news. Heaven on earth wasn't exactly what they were aiming for, you know? And as for her having total control? Not gonna fly. So they tried to put her back a bit. They probably thought they'd done a good job too, maybe even put her off indefinitely.
They messed with her vessel's mind. The seed had been in the Seer from the beginning, since the visions were passed. It needed the demonic element to spark the growth, which with it should have brought on a greater awareness of evil. By rights, it should have prepared the way, influencing the Seer and controlling events until the final transmission could be orchestrated.
As it happened, Wolfram and Hart had a little Vail mojo brought in, and hey presto! The Seer carries on, virtually unaware of the effect that's going on apart from the odd few subconscious nudgings and the occasional floaty light…thingy. The Partners had stalled Jasmine's arrival by restoring the majority of the Seer's own control.
Course, the darker Powers got a tad impatient at this stage. Once they were sure the kid had gone off the deep end and would play for their team, they sucked their vessel straight out of the dimension and did some direct mind-tinkering of their own. And yeah, you know the rest.
This time, obviously, things are going to go a little differently. I kill Vail, no mind alteration by the Partners, Jasmine's plans aren't delayed and so on.
Ah, but wait. Here's the complicated part. I kinda accidentally screwed up the kid's destiny. Oops. Now there's no Destroyer to bring on the arrival of Jasmine with a bit of in-the-sack action. At least not yet, anyway. You can bet that pissed the Powers off.
So, what'll they do? I'll tell ya. They're gonna get their foothold in there now, before anything else can go wrong, that's what.
The Seer should be back any time now. I'd keep my eye on her, if I were you. The Powers won't let a golden opportunity like an absence from the group go unused. But I'm spoiling it for you. I'll let you wait and see. Don't want you missing all the surprises, now, do we…
Faith only had to take one step inside the hotel lobby for the sickly, cutesy baby smell to hit her full-on in the face. She wrinkled her nose and cursed it at the same time, wishing for once to have just an average, run of the mill cold. Anything to soften the blow. Stupid Slayer senses.
Wesley entered right behind her and let the door close slowly, concealing their entrance by default. No one arrived to greet them.
Making an effort not to appear too nervous, Faith stomped down the steps and swung around slowly, her eyes sweeping the balconies and the high ceiling. A smile plastered itself across her lips as her revolution brought her facing Wes, and he looked mildly amused by her appreciation.
"Sweet crib", she murmured approvingly.
Piles of open books and papers lay abandoned on the counter; some used take-out cartons stacked roughly to the side. Someone had used a large and heavy paperweight as a bookmark and another tome lay flat and open, spine-side up. Faith could practically feel the wince behind her.
Other than that, it all looked pretty empty.
A squeal of delight from the inner-office broke the silence, followed by a muffled but pleased sounding voice. Faith looked at Wesley and received only a raised eyebrow in response.
She approached the half-open door at the entrance to the room, pushing it wider with a cautious hand. She peered in and was surprised at what she saw. She'd never seen Angel with a child before.
The infant was laid on his back on the desk, his father attentively tending to his clothes. He tucked the tiny little sweater into Connor's miniature pants, patting down the resulting bulge of fabric and beaming proudly.
"You are so cute, yes you are," Angel whispered to him, poking his chest with a waggling finger.
He balled up the baby-wipe debris and launched it towards the bin on the other side of the room. It bounced off the wall, fell into the can and Angel preformed a little victory dance, much to the enjoyment of his audience.
"Yeah! And he scores! The crowd is going wild!"
Fully dressed and highly entertained, Connor gurgled happily. He waved his tiny feet at his father energetically and reached to pull off a sock.
"Oh no you don't," Angel admonished him playfully, taking the little fist in his own hand. He bent his head down and grasped the two failing legs in the other, tickling the soles of Connor's feet with his nose. Another bubbling giggle rewarded his efforts and he grinned.
"Anybody home?" Faith asked with a smirk, and Angel spun like he'd been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
"Faith!" he squeaked, "Uh, I was just… Connor needed a diaper change."
He cleared his throat and picked up his son, cradling him to his body. His serious face descended. "What can I…um, you're back."
"Ten out of ten for observation", Faith smiled, indicating Connor. "You're good with him."
Angel relaxed perceptibly and allowed a small smile to escape, seemingly relieved. "That's kinda my job," he said warmly. "Say hi to Faith, Connor."
Connor's small fist was eased from his mouth and waved roughly in Faith's direction, glistening dribble and all. Faith couldn't help the absurd laughter threatening to erupt and was almost tempted to wave back. She crushed that urge immediately.
After all her reservations so far, this happy little scene didn't sit right with her fears, and she didn't think she'd ever seen Angel so comfortable. It eased her significantly and she found she was genuinely pleased for them. She'd made the right choice.
"So, this is the urchin, huh? Ugly little monster, just like his dad."
Angel frowned at her and moved to put his hands over his son's ears.
"Don't listen Connor, she's only jealous," he admonished, breaking into another smile as she snorted in disbelief.
Settling Connor more securely against his chest, Angel lowered his voice. His tone became serious, and Faith realised that they were done with the jokes for now.
"Is Wesley here?" he asked her, and she nodded.
"Out there," she replied.
He took a deep and unneeded breath. "Okay, I can do this. I think we all need to talk."
Faith couldn't have agreed more with that. She waited for Angel to stow the baby safely in his cot patiently, noting the care he took. Connor settled remarkably well and without a fuss, a testament to his father's skill. He turned back to her with a softness to his expression that she had rarely seen.
"So, how have you been, Faith?"
He moved round the desk and she turned to follow him into the lobby, all the while thinking how to best answer the question.
She realised they'd had little time for catch up, and now was certainly not the best time to get into the visitations thing. She'd long accepted that her part in Angel's life could not have remained prominent indefinitely, not that she'd needed him to hold her hand.
At the same time, she was not going to apologise for her behaviour the previous day. They all had unresolved issues, but business had to come first. For the moment, if they could play nice, that was all good, and they could get personal later on. She decided to go with a simple answer.
"Oh, you know," she started with a shrug. "The usual. Jail kinda sucks, but I'm doing good. The counsellor says I'm making real progress." She allowed the sarcasm to creep into her voice and was convinced she'd heard Angel chuckle to himself. "Not gonna get all guilt-trippy on me now, are ya?"
"You're a big girl now, Faith", he told her by way of explanation, and she was glad.
"Fab, 'cause I'm so over it."
"So we're still good?" he asked then, and the sincerity gave Faith pause.
"Were we not?" Angel gave her a brief look over his shoulder and she ignored him. "You know, I'm touched. I feel like we've bonded."
He didn't push the issue any further, and she felt grateful that she'd kept her cover. Angel's friendship had always meant a lot to her. He'd been the only one never to give up on her, and to lose that relationship with him would be more devastating to her than she'd ever admit to herself. She'd not let on to his face, of course, although she suspected he already knew.
She liked to play her cards close to her chest, but for all his social inadequacies, Angel could be remarkably perceptive. It was a game they played, and she always liked play the self-schooled, intentional loner. Didn't necessarily mean the pretence was the truth.
Wesley had spread some of his own information along the counter-top and looked up as they approached.
"I'm glad you're here," Angel said simply, "both of you."
"We figured we have a job to do," Faith explained. "I gotta say you're methods could use a serious amount of thought, but if you need me, I'm in."
She left it open-ended, and Angel smiled his thanks. "That's great!" he said with enthusiasm, mellowing somewhat as he turned cautiously to Wes.
Wesley couldn't dispel the feeling of history repeating itself as he lowered his eyes. He decided to be blunt about his feeling this time around.
"I'm still not good with this, with us," he said, and Angel momentarily looked as though he'd been slapped, "but if you need my help, you have it."
Angel seemed to take that in and accepted it for what it was worth. He nodded his understanding and made an effort to meet Wesley's eyes.
"It means a lot", he said.
Clearly uncomfortable, Wes immediately changed the subject. "I've brought some more of the sources I was using from before… from when this prophecy came to light. I was hoping to spend some more time on it. We might come across a better explanation of this whole thing."
"That's good", Angel said, trying to sound confident. "Fred and Gunn should be back soon, maybe they can help. They went to ask around about the spell we did, see if we should expect any more surprises."
"What should I do?" Faith asked. "Just stand around and…protect stuff?"
"Um, I guess."
"Great. I get to be super-mom. I know crap-all about kids."
"Well then, why don't you make yourself useful and acquaint yourself with the coffee machine?" Wesley suggested, to which she smiled cheerily. She casually flipped him off on her way past.
He snickered darkly and went back to his book, shouting "Two sugars!" as a second thought. Angel was sure Wesley didn't hear the 'bite me' that was muttered back.
"So, I see you two have… talked."
"She bought me groceries", Wesley said cryptically, not taking his eyes from the text.
"Right," Angel said, slightly confused. "So, you're okay with that? With…her?"
Wesley sighed. "Not that it really concerns you, but I believe I'm coping perfectly well, thank you. I've managed a whole night without needing to be rescued once, and the minute she threatens to take a knife to me I'll be sure to let you know."
Not quite sure how to reply to that, Angel let the pause stretch.
"I was worried last night," he eventually admitted sheepishly, and Wesley's sharpness relented.
"We've come to an understanding," Wes elaborated, and left it at that.
Angel considered this. Several unanswered questions about the events of the previous night continued to prick at his thoughts, but he decided not to ask. The tenuous truce was not worth risking for the sake of demanding more information, and it would be safer to talk to Faith about it at a later date.
He pondered the changes he'd seen, and everything that had been said and done. He didn't know how to take it all back. Wesley's air of professionalism was almost unbearable, but if it was what he needed, then he'd let him have it. He'd just try to keep things smooth until the holes could be repaired.
Wesley finally looked up pointedly, and Angel realised he was hovering.
"Is there something you can be doing?" Wesley asked impatiently, and Angel moved away.
"I'll just go help Faith bring the coffee over," he said lamely. Trying not to appear chastised, he made his way towards the fresh smell and Faith smirked at him knowingly. He ignored her look and she handed him two mugs.
"Hope it's strong enough," she said. "I don't really do the whole domestic-goddess thing."
"Don't worry, you'll learn," he said suggestively, earning him a particularly poignant scowl. A jibe well repaid, he deposited his cargo back on the counter. "I'll just go check on Connor."
Before he could cross to the office, the hotel door opened and he turned, expecting Gunn and Fred to have returned from their reconnaissance. Instead, Cordelia stood at the top of the steps, a bag in each hand and a thunderous glare on her face.
"What the hell is she doing here?" she demanded.