E-mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Disclaimer: The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy; the character of Wolverine is also owned by 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics. No copyright infringement is intended. I'm not making any money off of this, but if you'd like to be-------------------------------------------
a patron of the arts, I won't object. ;-) Oh, and Bob and his bunch are all mine - keep your hands off!
Summary: While Angel attempts to discover who's trying to open a Hellmouth in L.A., Logan goes after some answers of his own, with neither liking what they find.
Notes: Takes place after the events of "X2" and immediately after "Memory Of Water".
Angel barely even glanced at the money, and Bren didn’t know how he did it. He felt like throwing himself across the room and grabbing it, before she closed the case and took it away. “I told you to get out,” Angel snarled.
But Sagawa just gazed at him haughtily, not as scared as she should have been. “Don’t you want to even hear what for?”
Angel had his stone face on, the one that seemed to be his impersonation of a brick wall, and he crossed his arms over his chest, glaring down at her like she was an especially pesky bug. “You guys never get any new tricks. How stupid do you think I am?”
She barked a laugh that sounded sharp and brittle. “You think it’s all about you? How remarkably short sighted, Angel. There’s more going on than you realize.”
His glare was unwavering. “So it’s a bigger trap, is that it?”
“Come now, Angel, I think your relationship with us has moved beyond threats and insults. You may think we hold a grudge, but believe me, we don’t.” He scoffed, but her sly, sharp smile remained fixed on her face. “You never hurt us, Angel. The Senior Partners exist across time, space, and dimensions. Did you think destroying a single building and a few employees meant anything at all? It wasn't even a drop in the ocean, and you could kill us from now until the end of your existence, and still not make a ripple. Bit of an ego blow, isn't it?"
Ouch. Bren couldn't help but grimace, but luckily neither of them were looking in his direction. "What if I kill you?" Angel shot back.
Her smile became broader, and just slightly insane. "Well, I am a normal Human. I don't think that would fit your hero image very well, would it?"
"Should I call Logan?" Bren interrupted, fixing her with a glare of his own. She shot a sudden, sharp look at him, but he was pretty sure that got her attention. To be honest, Logan wasn't going to kill a woman in cold blood, but even she had to know he wasn't bound by the same codes as Angel was. From the briefly startled look in her eye, she did know that.
"Maybe in a minute," Angel replied, keeping his eyes fixed on Sagawa.
"This charade is amusing, but a waste of my time," she said coldly, meeting Angel's gaze once more. The mention of Logan seemed to have short circuited the verbal pissing contest. "We want to hire you to find out who it is that's trying to open a Hellmouth in the city and stop them."
It was Angel's turn to look surprised. "What?"
"You think we don't know when something's trying to make an incursion? We do, and we know you and your little entourage shut down the initial attempt. But surely you know that wasn't the last."
He shook his head, more in bewilderment than anything else. "What kind of shitty trick is this?"
"It's not a trick. We haven't sanctioned this, and we won't allow it. We have tried to discover who is behind it, but the problem is there are so many heaven dimensions -"
"Hell dimensions," Angel interrupted.
She rolled her eyes. " - whatever, that by the time we pinpoint it this whole thing could all be over. Since you're already involved in this, it seemed like the wisest course of action to simply finance your continuing efforts."
Angel studied her for several long seconds, as if trying to see through her. Finally he chuckled humorously. "The Senior Partners are scared."
The expression on her face soured, sharpened, and suddenly she didn't seem as attractive anymore. "They don't have anything to fear."
"Yes, they do. Even demon gods meet their match from time to time, and this is one of those cases, isn't it?"
"Did you get that wisdom from Bob?" She said his name like it was a venereal disease.
"At least he's willing to admit when he's outmatched." Angel reached down and shut the briefcase, clicking the locks before shoving it back into her hands. Bren almost stood and almost said "NO!" but managed to swallow it back. It felt like agony, like swallowing razor blades. "I don't work for you people, ever. Get out."
She took a step back, and grunted in ill humor, shifting the briefcase to her left hand. "Are you seriously telling me that you're not going to pursue this? That's bullshit and you know it."
"I don't accept blood money."
"Oh Jesus, listen to little miss melodrama. We want you to find this thing as soon as possible, and for that you need capital. You can't find a fucking thing while broke, Angel. Considering how long you were a homeless bum, you should know that."
Okay, that was nasty. (Angel was homeless once too? When?) Angel's look twisted, his eyes narrowed, and Bren was pretty sure he was trying hard not to vamp out. "I will never be beholden to you people again. Get. Out."
Again? Whoa, hey, he was missing an awful lot of back story here. The problem was, he wasn't sure Angel would ever tell him. (Maybe he should ask Xander - perhaps he'd know.) "Fine, be that way." She turned sharply on her spiked heels, but on her walk out the door she snap tossed a card that landed on the desk right in front of Bren. It was a card that looked like it was made of aged parchment, and said, in blood red ink, 'Kaya Sagawa Esq., Wolfram and Hart ,Extra Human Division/Extra Dimensional Liaison'. Extra Human? Was that a nice way of saying demon? She had an office phone number, a cell phone number, a pager number, a fax machine number, and e-mail address listed, and something called an "extra dimensional locator code", whatever the hell that was, on the card. It was a fascinating blend of the mundane and the bizarre. "Call me if you regain your sanity and grow a pair."
As soon as she was out the door, Angel slammed it behind her.
Bren waited a moment, the air so tense and thick he was pretty sure he could rip out big hunks of it with his hands, then said, "Umm, you know, we could've used -"
"Don't," he snapped, wheeling towards him. Angel was about a moment away from vamping out; he could almost see the vampire lurking just beneath the surface of his skin, and it took him aback. He hadn't realized he was quite that angry.
Angel paused, looking away and swallowing hard, and as soon as he got his temper under control, he looked back at him, his expression one of purely Human disapproval. "I know financially we're in a hole. But there are strings attached to that money, and if we accept it, we'll be trapped. Do you understand? We can't trust them."
"I know, but ..." he sighed, rubbing his hand through his hair. Yes, he was right, and he had no argument for it, except they were so fucking poor they might actually have to go out of business. But he knew Angel would rather do that than sign up with Wolfram and Hart again. "Shit. And now we have a new worry. I mean, if the Senior Partners are bugging out about this, shouldn't we be extra concerned?"
A muscle in Angel's jaw jumped, and Bren knew that wasn't good. Bob had doubts he could find this ... god, demon, whatever the hell, and now the Senior Partners had doubts. So what could flummox the power of good and the power of evil equally?
Bren couldn't even begin to guess the answer, but he knew from experience that whatever it was, they'd be lucky to survive it.
Maybe it was shell shock, or maybe he'd lost his nerve; Logan didn't know, and honestly, he almost didn't want to know.
Faith would be leaving for Tokyo in two days time, and he told Marc he wanted to be with her until them, mainly because he didn't want her to worry about him. It was a lie, as he wasn't going to tell her anything about this.
But Marc agreed easily and readily, once again proving he was the best friend he had on this entire planet. He said he'd go ahead to Toronto and track Lafayette's movements, see if he could spot a pattern to his movements or who he met with, so they'd be ready to make a good move when Logan was ready. It actually sounded like a solid plan.
He thought he was being clever and sneaky, but the night before she left, he took her out to see a revival of Le Samourai at an art house theater downtown - he couldn’t believe she’d never seen it - when she turned to him as they waited for the lights to go down, and asked, “Are you gonna tell me what’s wrong?”
He kept his look neutral as he glanced at her. “What d’ya mean?”
“You’ve been very quiet lately.”
“I’m always quiet.”
She rolled her eyes. “Quieter. You know what I mean.”
He shrugged, and lied. “Not really. I guess I’m not sure where I’ll go once you’re gone.” See, that was a good thing to say to a girlfriend; it always got you credit. The fact that it was partially true was almost beside the point.
She smiled and put a hand on his arm. “You’re a lying sack of shit. But I appreciate it.” She then leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. Luckily the lights went down, so he didn’t have to come up with something else.
They got caught up in the movie, and by the time they left, they were too busy discussing where they wanted to eat and she was teasing him about liking French films. She accused him of being “closet pretentious”, and he began suggesting even grottier places where they could eat.
The theater wasn’t in the best neighborhood, but they had no problem walking, no matter the loiterers or the broken streetlights - what did they have to worry about?
They’d decided on a restaurant a couple of blocks over, fairly casual but with a good selection of beer and a damn fine cheeseburger - now he was going to show her that poutine existed, after that “pretentious” comment she probably deserved worse (but Tim Horton‘s coffee was just too cruel) - but when they came to the corner, they were suddenly confronted by a large young man, maybe six seven and nineteen years old, reeking of alcohol and methamphetamines, and brandishing a hunting knife. “Give me your wallets,” he grumbled, trying to sound menacing. The nervous flop sweat coming off him smelled like cat piss. A slightly less smelly friend crowded in behind them.
He and Faith exchanged a look, and Faith was unable to keep a straight face. “Oh my god, you can’t be serious,” she said, bursting into laughter.
Logan couldn’t help but snicker too. “Outta all the people out here, you pick us? Bub, you have the shittiest instincts in the world.”
“Shut up!” he snapped, and jabbed the knife towards Logan’s face. He didn’t rear back, and the tip came within an inch of cutting his face. The would be mugger was startled by his lack of movement, but wasn’t ready to give up so easily. “Give me your fucking money!”
Faith managed to stop laughing, but she was slightly red faced and wiping tears from her eyes. “Dude, I really don’t wanna hafta kick your ass. So just walk away now, okay?”
“Shut the fuck up, bitch! Give me your goddamn money before I cut your fuckin’ throat!”
That was it. They’d given him more of a chance than he deserved, and now Logan was sure whatever patience he had was gone. “Zero or one hundred?” he asked Faith.
They were directional descriptions; zero was the man behind them, one hundred was the man in front of them.
“One hundred,” she said.
“What the fuck -” the stinky guy snapped, but that was all he was able to say. Faith kicked the knife out of his hand, then spun and gave him a side kick right in the side of the head. Logan had spun at the same time, grabbing the outstretched arm of the second attacker (he too had a knife, but it was smaller) and twisting it until it snapped like a tree branch. He had inhaled to scream, but Logan had already given him a right hook to the face, hard enough that there were more cracking noises, and he was unconscious before he hit the ground. Looking back, Faith’s guy was down and out as well, as the kick to the head had been it for him. Faith was still standing in a ready position, hands curled into fists and held up in a classic defensive stance, and she seemed a bit disappointed that he wasn’t trying to get up. “Damn it, I think I hit him too hard,” she noted. “I’m still more accustomed to demons.”
“Maybe we should spar sometime.”
She scoffed and lowered her fists. “Yeah right, Iron Man, I’m gonna take you up on that.”
“You could wear gloves.”
“And where’s the fun in that?” She kicked stinky guy in the leg gently, but he still didn’t move. “So what do we do now?”
“We could leave ‘em to rot,” he suggested, but she frowned at him, and he knew that wasn’t going to fly. So he pulled out his cell phone and called an ambulance, giving nothing but the street name and a vague description before hanging up. They couldn’t trace a cell, so he wasn’t worried about it.
They walked on, but not before he and Faith blunted their knives by breaking the blades; fucks like this shouldn’t have weapons. They were almost two blocks away when the ambulance screamed past, and he couldn’t help but notice how bright Faith’s eyes were, how rosy the glow of her skin. “Felt good, didn’t it?”
Embarrassment briefly flashed through her eyes, but then she remembered who she was with. “Yeah. I’m kinda sorry they didn’t last longer, ya know? I haven’t had a good fight in a long time.” She grimaced then, looking down at the pavement. “Shit, I sound like old evil Faith now.”
“No. Yer a Slayer - you girls are born to fight, right?”
“So why don’t we go find some?”
Her look was curious, intense, and she was fighting down a smile. “What? You mean now?”
“Sure. It’s night, and Vancouver has vampires; I know, I’ve seen ‘em. So let’s go kick some undead ass, build up an appetite.”
She paused, and Logan had to stop so he didn’t walk right past her. They were in a better lit, more crowded area, one with light and sound, and no one looked interested in mugging anyone; several of them did look drunk though, and smelled almost as bad. “I haven’t been hunting in a while,” she said, and she sounded half aroused and half terrified.
He knew she still felt terrible over her “bad days” (or as she liked to say “crazy ass evil days”), but he also knew that she was a woman of action, and beating down demons was always a treat. He also knew fighting sent her sex drive into overdrive, but that was kind of a negative, as her sex drive was pretty revved up all on its own. (How she treated men without the gift of a healing factor he had no idea, but he wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d accidentally killed one.) “Where do vampires normally hang out?” he prompted. He actually knew - or at least could guess - but he wanted her to make the choice.
She did, with frightening ease. “Nightclubs, especially trendy ones that skew young. All that innocence and sexual energy draws ‘em likes flies to shit; virgin blood is like an espresso to them.”
“Great, there’s one up the road. Let’s hit it, dust a few bad guys, then go grab a burger. What d’ya say?”
A lush, full smile seemed to light up her whole face, making her look too young and more frighteningly attractive than usual. “I say hell yeah, let’s go.”
At least it didn’t take much to make her happy. And he wouldn’t have to tell her that as soon as she was gone, he might become the most wanted in all of Canada.
Well, at least that probably wasn’t new.
When Bob stared at you in that way, it was impossible not to squirm. It was like being pinned down by solid spotlights, his pupils almost swirling as the energy threatened to come out. “Say that again,” he said, although he said it like a threat.
Angel faked a sigh and dry washed his face, mainly so he could tear his gaze away from Bob’s. Sometimes when he was highly emotional, Bob could accidentally become the humanoid equivalent of a magnet, making you riveted to him until he became aware enough of it to break the trance. “You could talk to them if you’d think they’d respond better to you -”
“Are you kidding me, mate? They’re fucking fed up with me; they’re on the verge of revoking my powers as it is. If they wanted me to know something, they’d have told me already.”
“Shouldn’t they be concerned?”
Bob scoffed. “They don’t have much to do with this plane, believe it or not. They’d rather leave it to others.”
“And I’m one of those others, right? Their “champion”. So I need to talk to them.”
All day he and Giles had exhausted all their contacts and all avenues that they thought might yield information. Even Bren and Kier had helped out, hitting their contacts and quizzing the most knowledgeable demons on the street, but no one knew anything about demon lords itching to open a gateway to this dimension. Giles called the re-formed Watcher’s Council in Australia, but since he wasn’t of them anymore, they all but hung up on him. He still had Watcher friends, but they’d heard nothing, seen no portents, and seemed reluctant to talk to him for long.
So they were pretty much fucked. They had no information on the potential Hellmouth, no idea where or when it could spring up, or who or what might be behind it. Bob was their last shot, but when Angel finally got a hold of him, he’d had no luck either.
Angel had come down to the Way Station as soon as the sun went down, and now they were sitting in Bob’s back office, where the crates of supposed weapons sat piled against the side walls, some with really startling and presumably funny (to Bob) labels. Angel’s personal favorite was the one that said “Light fuse and get away quickly” in Romanian. He could hear the bass line of some Public Enemy song bleeding through the walls, and for some unexplained reason the office smelled of fresh hay, even though he couldn’t see any of it anywhere.
This was an idea born of total desperation: he decided to talk to the Powers That Be. The problem was that wasn’t easy. He knew there was a place where they used to make contact with people, but they weren’t there anymore, and he had no idea if there were any other places where they would leave themselves open to communication. But if anyone would know, it would be Bob.
He thought Bob might not be overjoyed at the idea, but he didn’t exactly expect this level of resistance. “Angel, look,” Bob sighed, running a hand through his hair and ruffling it. He was sitting behind his desk, wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the baffling phrase “Australian Curling Team Reject - Not Drunk Enough To Qualify”. “If you force communication with them, they could get pissed off, and not only tell you nothing, but hurt you in some way.”
“I’ll risk it.”
Bob glared at him again, but this time it didn’t feel like a physical blow. “You’re needed here and now. I’m not sure I’m willing to risk you.”
“It’s my choice, Bob, and if you have a better idea, I’m willing to hear it.”
A pen suddenly appeared between Bob’s fingers, and he tapped it restlessly on the desk. “Degei’s got his snakes scattered about, trying to get information from various dimensions.”
“And how long will it take before he gets back to you with something useful?”
Bob scowled at him, and seemed to be beating a tattoo on his desk with the pen before he made the pen suddenly disappear. “Oh fuck,” he cursed, shoving himself away from his desk and levering himself to his feet. “You’re gonna be sorry about this, Angel. Maybe I should do it; at least they’re already pissed off at me.”
Angel shook his head. He was sure Bob was right that they would have told him if they had wanted him to know. Maybe they didn’t care, but they did owe him an explanation. He was their champion, right? Their bitch? The least they could do was talk to him. “I need to do this. Where do I make contact with them?”
“Where?” Bob walked past him, giving him a “follow me” gesture with his hand. Angel did, but not without a certain amount of wariness. If Bob decided to talk to the PTB’s and stop him from doing it, there was nothing he could do to stop him.
He followed Bob down the small, darkened hall in the back of the Way Station, but oddly enough it seemed longer and darker than usual, and the music seemed to recede as if it was on a ship rapidly sailing away. It was so strange he looked up the hall, but he could see the front room of the bar and its delicately yellowed light quite clearly; it seemed barely ten feet away from him.
So why had he been following Bob down the hall for two minutes?
Finally Bob stopped in front of a weathered wooden door, one Angel was sure he’d never seen in the bar before. “If I didn’t think there was a chance they’d be more receptive to you than me, I’d do it myself,” he said. “And if things get … heavy, just shout Makara.”
Bob flashed him a weak smile that pretty much said he wasn’t going to tell him. “It’s a safe word. Don’t worry about it.”
He glared at him. “Where do I go, Bob?”
“Through the door.”
He looked between him and the door in disbelief. “You have a mystical portal to the Powers That Be in the back of the bar?”
Bob shrugged a single shoulder, and Angel saw that the phrase on the t-shirt had morphed into symbols he didn’t recognize, but looked runic in nature. “They keep me on a tight leash.”
Angel knew that couldn’t be the entire explanation, but he doubted Bob would tell him what it was. Angel steeled himself, wondered briefly if this was a joke (he’d kill Bob if it was), then wrapped his hand around the doorknob. Oddly enough it felt cold; cold enough that his flesh might stick to it. He turned it and shoved the door open, and took a single step over the threshold -
- and then found himself falling, plummeting in Stygian darkness at a thousand feet per second, with no door, no boundaries, no visual cues whatsoever. As far as he knew, he’d just materialized a thousand feet above the earth.Oh yeah, he was definitely going to kill Bob.