Finally, after months of waiting, here is another Angel chapter. I'm trying to write a chapter a day on all my stories so hopefully I'll be getting to back to Peter Pan and Batman. Grad school is still going strong, but I have cut out all TV except for Supernatural so I should be getting a little more done.
As always, I enjoy the comments about my writing and I love to hear from all of you.
Disclaimer: I don't own them or make any money.
Connor followed Gunn into the dining room. Illyria was close behind, her movements as Fred stiff and unnatural. No one was in the dining room, but a small assortment of food lay on one table: cold cuts of meat, cheese, bread, and salad.
Connor and Gunn got some food and sat down at a nearby table to eat. Illyria sneered at the food.
"Human waste," she scoffed. "Nothing natural." She grabbed at the arrangement of flowers and took all the blossoms. She began eating them, tearing the flowers apart with her teeth.
"Should we stop her?" Connor asked worriedly.
"People can eat flowers," Gunn shrugged, biting into his thick sandwich.
"Yeah, but those flowers are plastic," Connor pointed out.
"If she don't know the difference, it won't hurt her," Gunn decided.
Connor looked at him carefully.
"What?" Gunn asked, still chewing.
"Are you forgetting?" Connor asked bluntly.
"Forgetting?" Gunn deliberately looked away.
"You know – the law stuff."
"Oh," Gunn's head shot up, "the black guy starts using vernacular American English, and suddenly he's from the hood."
"No, not that –" Connor protested, but Gunn refused to listen.
"I'll have you know the lawyer thing is permanent now. I signed for something to come into Wolfram and Hart, and that something killed Fred. So, yes, I have the lawyer thing, and I always will, but I don't want to talk about it."
Connor flinched. This was not the Gunn he remembered, the Gunn that he used to talk to for hours about important stuff and dumb stuff, too.
"Sometimes, I like to use the old home talk," Gunn continued. "It reminds me of where I came from, why I started on this whole fight, why I signed up to fight. And you pull any stunts with me, I'm not afraid to take a page out of your dad's book and tan your hide, too."
Connor's eyes grew wide, and he glanced to Illyria to see if she would threaten him as well. But Illyria was spitting pieces of chewing plastic into a coffee cup.
"These humans have no idea of the right way to live," she declared, sitting down in the chair next to Gunn. "I find their food unsatisfying."
Connor wasn't sure what to say to Gunn. When he had decided to come back, he saw himself having the same relationships with everyone that he had had before, maybe with a little less drama. Cordy wasn't there, and he no longer wanted to kill Angel, so Connor had seen a lot of hanging out with the team. Yeah, they would fight evil, but for the most part, he would be one of the gang, younger than the others, but still an equal.
It had been a great idea until Angel went on his power trip and got all alpha male and strict father bent. Even after that awful punishment, Connor had felt certain someone would stand up for him. Fred would have, had she been there, but Connor doubted that Illyria cared what happened to him. Wesley might have objected, but he hadn't made it past the grim night. Spike – well, Connor didn't expect another vampire to feel anything for him. But Connor had been sure Gunn would have something to say about Angel punishing him so roughly. However, Fred's death had changed Gunn.
Connor glumly decided that everything had changed, and not to his advantage.
"No!" Gunn suddenly exclaimed. "Don't eat the napkins!"
"I hate this," Illyria declared as she flung the cloth napkin to the floor. "You humans are so pathetic yet selfish as you expect all creatures to understand your strange customs. You put all these things before me, yet expect me to know what I can and cannot eat. Arrogant presumption for such pitiful creatures!"
"Humans know what they can eat and what to leave alone," Gunn told her. "They're taught what to eat as little kids so they know as adults."
"He did not," Illyria pointed a finger at Connor. "I heard he tried to eat garbage when he first came back, though I do not know exactly what garbage means."
"I didn't," Connor protested. "I knew enough not to eat trash."
"I was not speaking to you," Illyria told him. "Angel would not like you yelling at me."
"I'm not yelling," Connor objected. "I was just saying what happened."
"And now you disagree," Illyria coolly regarded Connor. "I will tell Angel that you spoke so, and he will hit your back as punishment again."
Connor's cheeks flamed red, but Gunn shook his head. "No, that's not how it works, Illyria."
"I heard Angel hit him," she turned to Gunn. "You told me it was not brutal torture, only punishment. Was that not the truth?"
Gunn looked awkward and tried not to glance Connor's way. "Yeah, but you can't threaten Connor with it."
"Why not?" she raised her shin slightly, a cold look on Fred's normally sunny face. "You just did the same because he asked a question about the way you talked. You did not like his answer, so you threatened him and he went silent. Why can I not do the same?"
She made a good argument. Connor glanced to Gunn, eager to hear what he would say.
"It's different with me," Gunn persisted. "I knew Connor as a baby and I was here when he came back. I took care of him when Angel disappeared –"
"I'm over eighteen," Connor interrupted. "I take care of myself."
"And," Gunn gave Connor a look that told him to be quiet, "when we realized that Connor had dumped Angel in the bottom of the ocean, I kept Connor at the hotel until Angel came back. And I was with him through the whole Cordy/Beast mess. I earned the right to tell him what to do because my loyalties belong to Angel. You took over Fred's body and stayed with us because you had nowhere else to go. It's not the same. You don't get the right to boss Connor around until you've fought, bled, and suffered for this side, and that is the end of it."
Gunn was a pretty good lawyer, Connor thought as he watched Illyria for a reaction.
"I fought last night," she said simply. "I fought for Weasley. I might have died for him."
"Then you're on a good start," Gunn told her. "Give it four more years, and you'll have it."
She moved the corners of her mouth a little, almost smiling.
Connor thought about making a smart remark that by then no one could tell him what to do, but he stopped himself in time. No reason to tick Gunn off.
Connor finished his food and pushed his plate away. He wondered what they would do next for the rest of the night.
Connor thought he might still be a little tired, but he had slept the day away and he saw no reason to suggest that he would go back to bed so early.
"Can we go out?" Illyria asked. "It is not late."
"Angel wanted us to stay here," Gunn objected. "I'm going to start making calls, see where Wolfram and Hart landed after this fight. We took out some major players, but I'm guessing the second tier of evil will be up and coming. These new guys will want power and be willing to pay for it, so we'll look like heroes to them and they'll want us to work for them."
"Is that how it works?" Connor asked, careful to keep his voice respectful. "We take out the greatest evil and the second greatest takes their place?"
"Of course," Gunn took a sip of water. "Evil never stops fighting, so we can't stop either. I'm going to the lobby to make the calls for a few hours. That way I can stand guard here and keep some kind of base in case Angel calls for backup."
"And me?" Illyria demanded. "Am I to sit like a stone and do nothing? I want to help, too."
"Why don't you go out on the street and search for weapons?" Gunn suggested. "You can take care of yourself – I saw you punch Angel this afternoon. But only go a few streets out, and come back every hour so you will be here in case I need help."
"I will," Illyria nodded.
"Change to look like a homeless person," Gunn advised. "That way no one will stop you."
Illyria blinked, and then she morphed. She lost Fred's pretty face and wave hair and turned into an old woman with dirty hair, filthy clothes, and missing teeth.
Connor blanched, surprised that she could morph into anyone. He thought she would could only turn into her host's body, but apparently Illyria could become anyone she liked.
"You'll come in handy later," Gunn promised, impressed at her morphing. "Get going, but remember to keep checking in."
"Yes," she croaked, her old lips pinching together. She stood and began to march towards the door.
"Move slower," Gunn told her. "You got to act the part, not just look it."
Obligingly, she slowed and began to shuffle towards the door.
"Weird, but it'll do," Gunn shrugged, picking up his glass to finish the rest of his water.
"What about me?" Connor asked. "I want to do something. I know," he rushed to say before Gunn could object, "that Angel told me to stay here, but I hate to sit here and be useless. Surely I can do something."
Gunn hesitated, and then he leaned over the table towards Connor.
"What exactly did you agree to do for Wolfram and Hart?"
Connor swallowed, afraid to reveal how much he had done. He hadn't been quite polite to the Powers, and he had fought his way there to talk to them, nearly getting cut in half more than once. "I-I said I wanted my old life erased. It wasn't real and I wanted my fake family to go back to the way they were. So I asked the Powers, and they said they could do nothing because Angel made the deal. I told them I was willing to make a new deal. I offered myself up – oh, no my soul," Connor hurried to assure as Gunn's eyes widened suddenly.
"You're sure?" Gunn demanded. "Because if you did, we got bigger problems than you think."
"No, they asked for it, but I said no. I said I would be willing to work for them, but just work. I said my soul is my own, and I'm not giving that away. They seemed interested in the work thing, and I said I wanted to do something good for the company. They gave me a contract, and I read and signed it, just in time too because then you guys attacked. The moment that happened, I found myself on the streets, and I started fighting until you found me."
"What did the contract say?"
"It said I had to work as Vice President for Wolfram and Hart for the next twenty years, breakable only by death. I have a copy of it in the pockets of my old pants."
"Go get it," Gunn advised.
"I don't have the key to the room," Connor realized.
Fifteen minutes, after getting a key from the manager who still looked crazy with worry, Gunn parked Connor in the room chair and sat down to read the contract.
Connor waited nervously in the chair, chewing on his fingernails and trying not to squirm while Gunn went over every word silently. Part of Connor wished he had shown the contract to Angel, but another part of him felt relieved that Gunn read it. Gunn probably knew more about contracts than Angel did, and he would know how to react better than Angel. Connor had the sinking feeling that some of the wording such as "non-negotiable" and "absolutely binding" would have freaked Angel out more than Gunn.
Gunn finally finished, and he lowered the papers, shaking his head. "Lucky," Gunn announced. "That's what you are - lucky. Most of the stuff is worded very vaguely so what you actually do can be debated. But it could have been much more serious. Connor, I want you to know – Connor, look at me – you do not sign anything else without me there. Nothing, not one single document without me there."
Connor stared into Gunn's eyes, almost scared by the intensity he saw there.
"I don't care if they want you to sign off on buying more toner for the printers," Gunn continued. "You never sign another paper without me there. If this document had said that you work for them indefinitely, you would be going to hell and working for them there."
Connor flinched, the blood draining from his face.
"If this contract said that any attempt of withdrawal would be met with termination, they could have killed you if you ever mentioned trying to get out of it. I know Angel is busy with leading this team, but if he had understood exactly how serious this is, he would have done more than whack you a few times last night. He would never let you leave his side. So you understand, no more signing anything."
"Yes, sir," the words slipped from Connor's lips before he knew he had said them.
"Good," Gunn nodded. "Well, I think if you are going to be a vice president of a law corporation, you should know something about said corporation. Therefore, I will make a list of things for you to research."
"There aren't any books here," Connor said, hoping he sounded it was a genuine objection rather than an excuse not to study.
"We'll find you a laptop with internet connection," Gunn told him. "You can study until one. Sound good?"
It didn't sound like the most fun, but Connor nodded along. He had signed up for it after all.
"We are never going to get anywhere if you keep trying to eat me," Angel sighed as he jumped out of the way of the werewolf's claws. "It's an hour to dawn, and we're almost at the hotel so – hey! That's my hand, not a chew toy." He yanked his hand back before she could bite it.
The werewolf growled, but the sound was weak and tired.
Angel glanced at her, wondering if she had been beaten down too much. All night they had been finding people and talking to them. Well, Angel had been taking – the werewolf tended to snarl and snap and lung for the people and Angel had to hurl her back. He reflected that this was the first woman he had ever been so violent with as Angel. Angelus had – Angelus ripped women apart and enjoyed, but Angel had never. And he felt guilty about it, but he couldn't figure out how better to control her other than pushing her around.
But he had gotten information. Turning on his vampire face and having a raging werewolf next to him seemed to help loose people's tongues, human and demon alike.
As they neared the street of the hotel, Angel began to go over the information he had gathered. Hours of questioning had gained him the knowledge that all the powers of good and evil were shaken up, but they were both fighting back. Everyone was uneasy and confused, but all were ready to jump into action at the least provocation.
Angel blinked, realizing he was alone. He whirled around, ready to run after the werewolf. Instead, he jerked to a stop as he saw the werewolf in the middle of the street. She was looking at him and whining softly, seeming to shrink smaller and smaller.
He glanced up at the sky. The moon was sinking, and dawn seemed not that far behind.
The werewolf moaned pitifully, and then she changed. Her fur disappeared and her monstrous face drew back into a woman's, and she stood naked in the street, trembling.
Angel hurried over to her, taking off his long black coat as he went. He reached her and wrapped the coat around her shoulders.
"Th-thanks," she whispered, shaking and grabbing onto his arm for balance. "Where – where are we?"
"Almost to the hotel," Angel replied.
"Good," Nina nodded, still gripping his arm. "Did anything happen?"
"I got the information I needed," Angel confirmed. "You helped. You scared almost everyone into talking."
"Good," she smiled weakly. She looked up at him and gently reached to touch the scratches on his face. "Did I do that?"
"A little bit," Angel said kindly. "But it's fine – I heal quickly. Let's get back to the hotel and see how the others are."
She tied the coat around her waist, but before they could walk any farther, she stopped. "Angel . . ."
"What?" he asked softly.
"You and me," she glanced down at her bare feet before meeting his eyes. "Are we – anything?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "I was so sure I would die last night. I couldn't think beyond it."
"And now?" she seemed so hesitant so uncertain. He wanted to smile; minutes ago she had been a monster ready to rip his head off. Now, she looked vulnerable and almost shy.
"You don't remember," Angel told her, "but I was pushing you around all evening. At one point, I knocked you into a wall and you walked crooked down the rest of the street until you regained your balance."
"I don't remember it," she confessed. "But I'm glad you didn't let me hurt anyone."
"Then I guess for now it's just us," he decided. "You and me."
"Vampire and werewolf," she smiled, taking his hand in hers. "I think we make a good team."
Angel thought for a second. Nina was no Buffy; she lacked the beautiful innocence and youthful determination of Buffy. Nina wasn't Cordy either, but somehow Angel thought it fine that Nina was just Nina.
"We do," he decided. "But I'm warning you things could get crazy. I still work for Wolfram and Hart, and we got Gunn with his lawyer guilt, and Illyria is an ex-goddess, and Spike's a pain always, and now Connor –"
"Connor's good," Nina interrupted. "He was just misguided for a while. He'll be fine now."
"I don't feel like I can ever take my eyes off him," Angel objected. "You didn't know him before. He was out of control, crazy with grief and hurt and anger and a whole mess of things I'll never understand. You don't understand Nina – I spend three months at the bottom of the ocean, hungry and hallucinating. I was unconscious half the time, and I couldn't tell reality from my dreams. I wanted to kill him, and I hated myself for feeling that way and I hated him for making me feel that."
He felt her hand tighten around his.
"I won't let that happen to you again," she promised. "I swear, Angel, no one will ever do that to you. I'm watching over you now, and I'll keep you safe."
His smile grew. "That's usually my line."
"Say whatever you like, but I'm serious. And I know you're thinking I'm just a little blond woman who couldn't save herself much less anyone else, but I promise you," she leaned her head against his arm, "I have a monster inside me."
"Now that I believe," Angel said as they walked up to the hotel together. "I'll trust that monster to keep me and Connor in line."
"Grrrr!" Nina growled softly.
And they walked into the hotel together as the morning sun started to rise behind them.