Disclaimer: Whedon owns all. Small nod to the movie, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. The Exies. "Ugly.". Head for the Door, 2004.
Summary: He felt guilt and pain for those he had murdered when he'd had no reason, no rhyme. Protecting his children, however, was a different matter altogether.
Notes: I just don't think there are enough Angel-centered Firefly stories and then an idea hit me so I'm going with it. The only thing I'm changing is that Angel didn't stake Sam at the end of 'Why We Fight'. I'll just leave it at that. ANGEL: After the Fall is canon, as well, though Angel found something to be vastly different once he'd forced Wolfram and Hart to turn the clock back...
Part I: Unraveling
Angel was watching the captain of the ship help his crew stow their various contraband onboard and desperately wanted to take hold of Sam's hand to keep him from falling away into his memories. It was so difficult to tell when these...Connor called them 'mental health days' but Angel could never see anything healthy about them.
That didn't matter, however. What mattered was that he and Connor get Sam onboard this ship and contained before the 'day' happened. It was bad enough they had to keep him tranquilized most of the time or he'd squirm out from underneath his blankets and get himself burned in one of the now-many sunlights.
Angel forced himself to stop thinking and simply concentrate. The captain was speaking to them all about where they were allowed on the ship and Angel could hear him, but he knew Connor's own mind had to be wandering by now. The trip away from Jianying had been hard on him, bringing up long-buried memories of Quor'Toth that Angel would have given anything to erase once more.
He'd give anything for his boys and this wasn't anything different.
Connor had scrubbed his hands raw after they'd managed to find a way to Persephone, crying all the while because he couldn't get the stench of Quor'Toth back out of his soul. He insisted that once Cordy died, once Wes smashed the Orlon Window, everything holding all his darkness away from him came rushing back and he'd had to fight, to hunt. Fighting was in his very blood.
Angel watched over both of his sons but never let either of them know he took care of each in turn.
Money, it's no cure -- a sickness so pure...Are you like me? Are you ugly?
It was always dark out in space where there was no world to turn and tell them what or when time was. Connor slept so little, but it was better than Sam, who barely ever did. Angel gave Sam his wrists to save the passengers on ships, but that wasn't enough. He'd managed to smuggle a cache of live rabbits from Jianying that Connor had caught, but Sam could go through as many as five in one sitting.
It was lucky they mated so often. As long as Angel could keep Sam from eating two, the supply would eventually be replenished. For that to happen, he had to force Sam to sleep or gag him and chain him to the bed.
Being in the brig, his Sam called it and Angel couldn't blame him.
There was the sound of someone stomping back past their room and Connor was immediately glued to the window as the one who reminded them all of Hamilton -- Angel had almost broken Connor's hand forcing him not to kill this mysterious bastard on sight (Dress for Less, Connor called him and Angel had remembered instantly why, his guard already raised and now hard as steel) and simply guided them into their room -- but Angel managed to pull him back before Connor could get the door open.
It was going to be a very long several days.
Angel awoke suddenly to find Connor gone and Sam laughing at the open doorway. Cursing himself, Angel quickly grabbed a shirt and threw it on, dashing out into the ship and following Connor's scent.
It was only a moment before Angel could see Connor perched in perfect balance on one of the banisters above what appeared to be a very confusing scene.
The captain was torn between glancing upward at Connor, who was staring down at everyone, and the large box of cryogenically frozen human flesh (Angel could now see it was the form of a girl) the young doctor had brought on board.
The girl awoke suddenly, screaming, and Connor leapt down to the ground floor, Angel just behind him, as the doctor -- Simon, Angel believed he was called -- insisted he needed to check her vitals.
"River," Connor said quietly and the doctor froze, his eyes wide as he stared at Angel's son.
"H-how did you know that? Who are you? Are you from the Academy?"
Connor only snorted, a secret hidden in his subsequent laugh. Angel fought the urge to tear something apart. So Sam, Connor, and River had been trapped together in that thrice-damned place.
When he'd found them, Angel had known at once why Connor and Sam had both disappeared all those years ago. They'd likely wanted to know why a boy from Earth-That-Was, over five hundred years old, didn't look a day over sixteen. Why a man not much older seemed as dead as they on the inside, but not quite so much.
The Academy had been the only place Angel felt confident and clear-headed about letting Sam and Connor run free. They'd been used as test subjects, his boys, and Angel had simply watched, the demon in him reveling as his boys had taken their pound of flesh from every monstrous soul they'd come across.
From there, Angel had taken them to Jianying, intent on getting to Persephone, but he hadn't counted on the Snatchers. They'd wanted Sam for his leadership abilities, probably. Connor for his hunting. The Snatchers hadn't lasted more than five minutes before his sons were free again, and their leader not ten seconds after Angel, himself, had gotten a hold of him.
He felt guilt and pain for those he had murdered when he'd had no reason, no rhyme. Protecting his children, however, was a different matter altogether.
Angel snapped himself back to the scene at hand and watched as Connor ignored the guns trained on him now, bending down and staring directly into River's eyes, the pair of them each so alike. Neither spoke, River no longer rambling.
"What the hell is this?" The captain asked and Simon, perched beside the box and dividing his time equally between his visual examinations of both River and Connor, looked up at him, still stroking River's hair as Angel, himself, walked up.
Ignoring the guns immediately trained upon himself, Angel gave Connor a mildly chastising look and gently pulled him a little further back from River, though he let go when Connor screamed and began to cry, River reaching for him, silent tears trailing down her face.
"I gather she's yours?" Angel asked Simon, who nodded. "My sister."
Angel nodded, frowning slightly as he wrapped his arms protectively around Connor's shoulders and listened to Sam's laughter clearly from his hold.
"One of my sons. The Academy?"
"Yes, they -- "
"Okay, what the hell is goin' on here, I believe I asked that already," the captain snapped, angry at losing control of the situation.
Angel sighed, "You care to do your honors, doctor? Mine are going to take a bit more time and some effort on your parts."
Simon nodded carefully, sensing there was something extremely dangerous about this man, but for some reason tying it directly to the equally dangerous boy in his careful, yet gentle embrace, and another he'd caught glimpses of, but nothing more.
With that, Angel switched his dominant hold on Connor with long practice and helped Simon lift River from the box. The Companion, Inara, Angel had heard her name to be, quickly wrapped River's naked body in her robe and Angel and Simon then steered each of their charges into the infirmary.
Angel held Connor's hand as he was given another tranquilizer and led off into a safer, dreamless place. Simon had already done so for River, both of them unwillingly ignoring both their charges' whimpering protests. The captain demanded answers and it seemed it was up to Angel and Simon to give them.
Angel hoped they wouldn't be away too long, or Connor and River unconscious too long.
His youngest, he knew, hated to dream.