Roger Burkle’s eyes widened at the sight of his daughter standing on the doorway looking like nothing so much as a drowned rat. “Fred?” he asked in surprise.
“Hi daddy,” she whispered.
A thousand different thoughts went through Roger’s mind. Why was she here? How had she survived? Why show up like this, suddenly, without warning? Why not send some word? But for all that his thoughts were racing, he didn’t hesitate for a moment, but immediately hugged his daughter for all that he was worth. “Fred!” he exclaimed.
His wife, Trish, called from where she was tending the fire in the living room, “Roger? Who’s at the door?”
Trish poked her head around the corner, and a moment later, she too rushed over to Fred and embraced her. “Fred, honey, what happened?” she asked, deliriously happy to have her daughter home safe and sound, but still in that state of disbelief, where unexpected good fortune yet seems too good to be true.
“Mom!” Fred exclaimed, and began to cry.
They stood there for a moment, united once more as a family. For that one moment, it was perfect.
Roger blinked in surprise. “Here we are, standing in the doorway while you’re soaked to the bone!” he said, “Come in, come in!” He motioned towards the warm, dry interior of the house. “Let’s get you into some dry clothes!”
Trish led Fred back to her old room, then, and Fred followed, dripping water with every step.
“I got lost again, Mom,” Fred said brokenly as she stepped into her old room. Tears flowed down her cheeks. “I’m still lost.”
Nothing had changed in the room. It was exactly as it had been left when Winifred Burkle had left home to attend the graduate physics program at UCLA, so many years ago.
Trish hugged her daughter, trying not to cry herself. “We’re gonna make it all right, Fred.” She pulled some of Fred’s old clothes out of the dresser by the bed. “Here,” she said.
As she took the clothes, Fred met her mother’s loving gaze with eyes filled with infinite sadness. “I don’t know if you can.”
by P.H. Wise
An Angel crossover fanfic
Chapter 5 – The Importance of Being Doyle
Disclaimer: I don’t own Angel. I don’t own Stargate. Please don’t sue me. This story contains spoilers for the final episode of Angel.
“Offworld activation!” Walter called. A moment later, General Hammond came striding into the control room.
“Receiving SG-11’s IDC, Sir.”
Hammond nodded. “Right on time. Open the iris.”
With one hand on the palm scanner, Walter depressed the manual iris release mechanism, and the thin sheet of metal that had stood between Earth and certain doom so very many times rotated open.
A moment later, the four members of SG-11 came through the gate, sans the food and supplies that they had taken to the band of Jaffa refugees on the planet they’d just visited.
And then, seconds before the gate closed, the Groosalug also emerged from the wormhole, though none of the humans present could see him.
But then the TER scan came online – standard practice upon disembarkation ever since the incident with the Reetu during the Stargate Program’s second year of operation.
In the presence of the TER scan, the invisibility field which the Groosalug had been using to escape detection, flickered, and for a moment, he was rendered visible.
In an instant, the TER beam was refixed upon his position, and every single one of the weapons in the gateroom (of which there were a considerable number) was fixed upon his partially visible form.
“PUT YOUR HANDS OVER YOUR HEAD!” one of the soldiers ordered.
The Groosalug took stock of his options... and then complied.
This was most certainly not what he’d had planned when he’d decided to follow SG-11 through the Stargate this morning.
Wrapped in blankets, a mug of hot cocoa in hand, Illyria, in the guise of Winifred Burkle, sat comfortably in front of the fireplace in the Burkle home, with Fred’s parents sitting close at hand. That hated feeling was back. Guilt. They were happy to see... the shell. The girl that she had killed. The girl that she sort of was.
And she was allowing them to believe that their little girl was just fine.
Illyria felt guilt.
“When we heard about the terrorist attack on the Wolfram and Hart building, we didn’t know what to think,” Roger said, wiping tears from his eyes. “We tried to call you at your apartment, but we couldn’t get a hold of you. Then, when your friend Charles was found dead in the alleyway behind that hotel y’all used to work at...” Roger shook his head. “We feared the worst.”
Trish nodded in agreement with her husband. “What happened in LA, Fred?”
That horrible sense of guilt swelled within the Old One. She could not continue this act much longer. “I died,” she said softly.
Trish and Roger stared at their daughter.
“What are you talking about?” Roger asked.
Fred smiled sadly. “Daddy, I love you like pancakes, but you had to ’ve noticed something when y’all came to visit.”
Neither Trish nor Roger said a word, but waited for Fred to go on.
“It started when a big ol’ sarcophagus was delivered to my lab...”
In the Wolfram and Hart science lab, Fred and Knox stood staring at the most recent addition to their workspace – the sarcophagus.
“I couldn’t find any invoice,” Knox said. “I thought maybe you went crazy on eBay.”
Fred shook her head. “No. No eBay.” She circled the sarcophagus slowly. “After that commemorative plate incident, I’m living clean. Did you run a spectral analysis?”
“Yeah. Everything’s bouncing off it, which doesn’t thrill me.”
“Yeah. Let’s not be hasty about opening it. It’s probably just a mummy.”
“It was big. It looked like it was made of sandstone, and it had what looked like a big old iris on top, surrounded by crystals the size of your fist.” Fred shook her head. “I was only curious.”
Her parents said nothing.
“I touched it. The iris opened, and it blasted me in the face with a gust of air. And that’s what killed me.”
“People don’t die from a little gust of air, Fred,” Trish said, sounding very patient.
“I did,” Fred replied, and she was very close to tears again. “Turns out it wasn’t such a little gust of air after all.”
“I have to work,” Fred said, knocking over a glass beaker, which shattered on the floor.
“You have to lie down,” Wesley replied, his eyes full of concern.
“I am not...I am not the damsel in distress,” Fred insisted, her face flushed, “I am not some case. I have to work this. I lived in a cave for 5 years in a world where they killed my kind like cattle. I am not going to be cut down by some monster flu. I am better than that!” Her voice became soft. “But I wonder... how very scared I am.” She looked away.
Wesley looked Fred in the eyes. “I swear on my life, we will stop this, but you must be back in bed. That's where I need you to fight.”
“Like I'm 6 years old?” she asked, and then collapsed.
Wesley caught her before she hit the floor.
Fred shook her head, gazing about in disgust. “This is a house of death.”
Wes stood her up and held her, and she spotted one of his sourcebooks on the counter of her laboratory.
“That can call up any book you need?”
Wesley nodded. “Every one.”
“Then bring it. Take me home.”
“Turns out it was chock full of a very, very old demon named Illyria. It went to work like a pathogen, raising my body temperature, spreading through every cell. Angel, Spike, Charles, Lorne, and my Wesley, they all tried to save me. But in the end, there was nothing they could do. I tried to fight it, but it was too strong.” Her voice became soft. “It was stronger than anything. It liquified most of my internal organs, and I died in Wesley’s arms.”
“That’s crazy, Fred,” her father insisted. “You’re not dead! You’re here, with us, now.”
Trish said nothing.
Fred met her father’s eyes, and in that moment, she shifted. Her clothing rippled, hardening into red leather and spreading to cover her in a kind of catsuit. Her eyes seemed to freeze over, and blue streaks ran through her hair and across her exposed skin. In an instant, their little girl was gone, and in her place was a creature whose movements and bearing were utterly alien.
Roger’s jaw dropped open, and he backed away from the creature that had killed his daughter. Trish didn’t move.
The voice that spoke then was Fred’s no longer – the pleasant Texan twang was gone, replaced by a colder, harder edge. It seemed Kingly for all that it was filled with distress. “Winifred Burkle was supposed to have ended then, not merely dead, but utterly destroyed, her soul consumed by the fires of my rebirth. But somehow, intolerably, that was not the way it happened. I do not understand how it happened, but instead of simply ceasing to exist, her soul became my soul, and all that she was passed into me.”
Both Trish and Roger stared at Illyria in mute horror. The bottom had just fallen out of their world, and all the nightmares that they had passed off as ridiculous suddenly come true.
Illyria quailed before the horrible sense of absolute guilt. This, she knew, was HER FAULT. It was HER priests who had arranged for her resurrection. HER servant who had delivered the sarcophagus to the laboratory of Winifred Burkle. HER essence that had consumed that human body from within...
Yet once more, the Groosalug was marched through the hallways of the SGC. Yet once more, he was bound in handcuffs. “I MUST speak to General Hammond!” he called out.
The soldiers didn’t stop. He was far stronger than they, but they outnumbered him by a significant degree. With guns to his back, they marched him through the silent corridors that led back down to the brig, and there they cast him on his face, though not before removing the wristband that permitted him to become invisible.
He snapped the handcuffs as soon as the door to his cell was closed, and struck the door violently. It dented slightly, but the intense pain in his knuckles showed him that he would damage his hand far more quickly than the door. His face a picture of vexation, he sat down, and waited.
It was nearly an hour later that the door slid open, and George Hammond, accompanied by three armed guards, stepped through.
Groo rose to his feet as the General entered the room.
“All right, son,” Hammond said, “You’ve got exactly five minutes to explain yourself.”
“Four minutes, fifty five seconds.”
Groo grimaced. “General Hammond, I am not one who can sit quietly and accept imprisonment. I am a Champion. By nature, I must fight. Surely a man such as yourself can understand this.”
Hammond nodded faintly. “I see.”
Groo went on. “When last I was in this cell, I heard a strange noise in the hall. The door opened, and I pretended to be asleep. I could see nothing enter, yet I knew that I was not alone.” His eyes were full of intensity as he spoke. “A man appeared, wearing the very same clothing that I wear now. He stripped himself of it, and then he fell bonelessly to the ground. A very small demon came out of his neck, and lunged for me. I caught it, killed it, and escaped. Once I discerned how best to work the invisibility device, I attempted to escape, yet to no avail; your base is large, and the passages confusing. Yet I did learn much while I walked this place unseen. Then, finally, I decided to follow one of your groups through the giant stone ring. You know the rest of the story.”
Hammond nodded again, and his harsh expression softened ever so slightly. He considered what he might say next for a few moments.
“Have I committed some crime that I am to remain locked in this cell?” Groo asked.
Hammond shook his head. “No. You have committed no crimes.”
“I have seen what you do here, General. As I said, I have watched your people for several days. I saw your team feeding the hungry. I’ve heard tell of many great battles against a superior foe. I wish to lend my sword to your cause. For I too am a Champion, and I too fight as though the world were as it should be, to show it what it could be.”
Hammond smiled bemusedly. “I’ll take that under consideration. But for now, you’re free to go.” He gestured to one of the soldiers standing close at hand. “One of these airmen will escort you off of the premises.”
Groo shook his head. “General, I have nowhere to go.” His voice took on a slightly hopeless note. “I have no way to return to my homeland, and everyone I care about on this world is dead. Whither shall I go?”
The General didn’t have an answer for that.
“When?” Trish asked. It was barely a whisper.
“Approximately a month and a half before you came to visit me at Wolfram and Hart.”
“Why?” Roger asked.
“I had no choice in the matter. It was done by an insufferable little man named Knox. Wesley killed him.”
“Good,” said Roger, his expression grim.
“And you... masqueraded as our Fred?” Trish again.
That was the question, wasn’t it? And it had burned in Illyria ever since that very day. It had only been recently that she had been able to admit the truth: she had done it because she did not want to break the hearts of Trish and Roger Burkle.
“WHY!” Trish screamed.
“Do you not understand? This was never supposed to happen! Old Ones don’t HAVE souls! We are renders of souls. Devourers of life. I was god to a god, traveling all of the dimensions as I pleased, living seven lives at once, and destroying whatsoever it pleased me to destroy! Winifred Burkle was supposed to have ceased when I was reborn inside her shell.” Illyria clenched her teeth and shook her head violently. “This... this... gestalt... this human with the power of an Old One, this Old One with a human soul... this was never supposed to happen!” She dragged fingers curled into claws across her face. “She’s IN me, infecting me with humanity, and I can’t dig her out!”
Trish took the cross that hung from the chain around her kneck and held it up, then, and stepped forward, a desperate hope growing in her eyes. “You get out of my daughter right now in the name of Jesus, you unclean spirit!” she commanded, her tone imperial.
Illyria looked at the cross, then up at the desperate face of Fred’s mother. She placed her hand on the cross. “It’s too late for that,” she said, and the gentleness of her tone was strange, and almost unnatural in light of her inhuman appearance.
Trish fell to her knees, and began to weep. “Why did you come here?” she asked, now utterly broken. “Why didn’t you just stay away and tell us this? We woulda been just fine without knowing this!”
Roger put his arms around his wife. “... our daughter is dead?” he asked hopelessly.
“Not in the sense that you mean it.”
Neither Burkle said a word to that.
Illyria’s heart clenched. What she said next was difficult for her to express, mostly because she didn’t WANT to express it. But it was the truth, no matter how she wanted to scream denial of it. “I tried to deny it. I tried to fight against it, but I could not fight what had become myself. Among my kind, adaptation is a weakness. We do not adapt. We force everything else to adapt to us. But no matter how much I may wish it otherwise, I am not the same being that walked the Earth as an absolute ruler. Winifred Burkle is in me, as I am in her. There is now no distinction between us.”
The Burkles clearly did not understand.
Illyria cocked her head slightly to the side. For all her best efforts to explain, they still did not understand. “If I am not Winifred Burkle, then I not Illyria, either. I am both and neither.”
At last, Roger nodded. “I see.”
Illyria looked Roger in the eye, studying him very carefully. After a moment, she nodded, and her expression softened. “’What though the field be lost? All is not lost.’ Once, long ago, I heard the Morningstar speak those selfsame words, and I laughed to hear it, thinking them the pathetic mewling of an insolent child who could not bear stern discipline.” Her tone became soft. “Now, I know better.”
About an hour after the Groosalug’s release from the brig, SG-1 was once again seated in the briefing room within the Cheyenne Mountain complex. A television/VCR combination sat on a rolling cart close at hand; they had only just finished watching what had been on the tape. George Hammond sat at the head of the table, with a thin folder laid open in front of him. He glanced down at the contents of the folder to remind himself of the necessary information, and then began to speak.
“Winifred Burkle,” he began, “born in northern Texas in 1976. A straight-A student, she lived with at home with her parents until she graduated from college at the top of her class. Her only criminal record to speak of dates back to her high school days, and involves being caught in possession of small amounts of marijuana. After graduation, she enrolled in the graduate physics program at UCLA, where she worked primarily with a professor named Oliver Seidel. By all accounts, she was absolutely brilliant. We actually had considered tapping her for the Stargate program, until she disappeared.”
“Disappeared, sir?” Jack asked.
“She held a part time job as an assistant librarian at one of Los Angeles’ many public libraries. According to the statement given by the head librarian to the police,” Hammond picked up a piece of paper and read from it, “It was creepy. One minute she was cataloguing in the foreign language section, and the next minute she’s gone.” He replaced the paper in the folder.
No one said a word.
“After her disappearance in the library, she remained missing for five years, after which she reappeared suddenly, now working for a detective agency in Los Angeles by the name of Angel Investigations. She worked there for two years with a Mr. Angel (first name unknown), Lorne (last name unknown), Charles Gunn, Cordelia Chase, and Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. Angel Investigations had only just recently moved its offices to the site of the Hyperion Hotel.”
Daniel blinked. “Wasn’t that the...”
“Yes. The site that you made contact with Illyria and ‘The Groosalug, immediately beside the alley in which that same Charles Gunn was found dead.”
“Curiouser and Curiouser,” Jack said.
“Two years after Winifred Burkle began working for Angel Investigations, miss Cordelia Chase fell into a coma, cause unknown, and the entire staff of Angel Investigations moved into the Los Angeles offices of Wolfram and Hart.”
“The law firm?” Sam asked, her mind racing.
“Yes. As I’m sure you’re aware, we suspect that Wolfram and Hart is involved in, shall we say, unsavory dealings, not limited to providing legal cover and funding for certain N.I.D. operations and experiments.”
“Anna,” said Daniel, his expression grim.
“We believe so,” Hammond replied, “but we’ve been unable to prove it. Wolfram and Hart is nothing if not VERY good at covering their tracks.” He took a breath, and went on. “Once they’d moved in at Wolfram and Hart, Mr. Gunn’s talents as a lawyer won them no small number of cases in court,” Hammond’s voice showed his deep disapproval of Mr. Gunn, “most of which involved people who were obvious criminals of the worst sort being freed on technicalities.”
“How’d they go from private investigators to that?” Daniel asked.
Hammond shook his head. “I’d ask them, but as it happens, each of them are either missing and presumed dead, or just dead. On the night of the attack in Los Angeles, the Wolfram and Hart building collapsed in on itself, presumably the result of a significant quantity of explosives planted in its basement. Several objects were recovered from the wreckage, among which were a number of swords, axes, and other medieval weaponry, several blank books, and the videocassette, which you have each already reviewed, with a recorded advertisement for Angel Investigations featuring one Francis Doyle, who worked at Angel Investigations two years prior to Miss Burkle’s reappearance until his death in an unspecified accident.”
Hammond looked at each of the members of SG-1, his expression serious. “I don’t know what changes Miss Burkle may have undergone since she began calling herself ‘Illyria,’ but she is obviously extremely dangerous. We received a call today informing us that she has been sighted at her parents’ home. I want you to bring her back here. Are there any questions?”
“Yeah,” Jack said, “I got a question. We barely took her down last time, and that was with concentrated zat fire, which didn’t work anywhere near as well the second time we tried it. What do you suggest we use this time, sir? Harsh language?”
Hammond shook his head. “Do whatever it takes, just get her here, and come back safely.”
There were no other questions.
Hammond nodded. “All right. SG-1, you have a go.”
They stood up, then, and began to file out of the room. Daniel remained behind long enough to take the tape from the VCR. As the door shut behind the last member of SG-1, Hammond sighed.
“Godspeed,” he said.
Several hours later, a black SUV pulled up in front of the Burkle home. The rain had stopped, and clouds were breaking up, the ghostly stars beaming through so as to bathe great swathes of the country in starlight, even as the rest remained under cloud-shadow.
Clad in civilian clothes, Jack, Daniel, Sam, and Teal’c stepped out of the car. None of them were entirely certain of what to expect, so they moved cautiously, with military precision, towards the closed front door of the house. There was no sign of disturbance. For all that any of them could tell it was just another house in the Texan countryside.
They knew better.
It was Jack who knocked on the door, rapping out the beat of ‘shave and a haircut.’
Roger Burkle answered the door, his face more drawn and sorrowful than Jack remembered from the pictures they had been shown. The man looked like he had been crying recently, and the sound of his wife’s sobs drifted gently out the open door and into the starlit night.
“Look, this isn’t a good time,” Roger began, “We’ve just had some very bad news, and it’s hittin’ us pretty hard. I don’t know what y’all are sellin’, but why don’t you come on back some other time?”
“Afraid not, sir,” Jack said, holding up his ID. “United States Air Force. We need to speak with you on a matter of national security.”
Roger met Jack’s eyes, and just stared at him for so long that Jack almost suspected that he wasn’t going to let them in. But then he stepped aside, and gestured for SG-1 to enter. “Right. Come on in, then.”
SG-1 filed into the house.
It wasn’t terribly large, the Burkle home, but it had the air of a place that had been lived in and well. Small, terribly comfortable, and the only thing missing that Jack could see was a pond to fish in.
Trish Burkle looked up and wiped her eyes as SG-1 came in. “Who are they?” she asked, her tone an angry one.
“These here men and woman are from the United States Air Force,” Roger replied gently, “Said there’s a matter of national security to talk to us about.”
“Are you here for Illyria?” Trish asked, her anger fading.
Jack nodded. “Yes Ma’am.”
“She’s in the back yard,” Roger said. “Said she didn’t like being cooped up in the house, and that she wanted to go listen to some kinda song of the green.”
Trish gave Roger a plaintive look.
Roger nodded. “Listen, if you’re going to take her, please just do it quickly. The sooner she’s gone, the sooner... well, I don’t rightly know if heal is the right word, nor accept, but maybe we can forget.”
Jack nodded, taking pity on the couple. He waved his hand toward the sliding glass door that led out into the back yard before heading off towards it.
His team followed.
She stood amidst the grass and wildflowers, arms outstretched, her back to the door to the house - Illyria, the human god-king, the Old One with a soul. She was yet clad in her peculiar leather catsuit, and her blue-streaked brown hair fell loosely about her shoulders.
“Whatcha doin’?” Jack asked lazily.
Illyria turned smoothly, and for all her partially recovered humanity, her movements still seemed lizard-like. She did not respond, however, but only took in the sight of SG-1 standing in Fred’s parents’ backyard with an eerie sense of calm.
Jack waited for an answer.
At length, Illyria replied. “I am listening to the song of the green.”
Jack raised his eyebrows. “Right. Do you know why we’re here?”
“Yes. You seek to return me to that cage of a mountain. Your efforts are in vain. You barely stopped me before, injured and weakened. I have had more than enough time to recover my strength; I go where I please.”
“Fred?” Daniel asked. “Can I call you Fred?”
“The praenomen by which you address me is irrelevant,” she replied scornfully.
“Right,” said Daniel, not entirely convinced. “Are you still Fred, or did becoming Illyria completely change who you are?”
Illyria looked at SG-1, then – really looked – and immediately walked to Teal’c and removed the black winter cap under which he had hidden his golden tattoo. “You belong to Apophis,” she murmured. “I remember when he and those like him first descended from the sky.”
Teal’c arched an eyebrow. “You know of the Goa’uld?”
“Yes,” she said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, “Although I have never before seen one of their symbols branded upon the forehead of a human.”
“Wahuh?” Jack asked.
Daniel’s eyes lit up with fascination. “Are you originally from another world that they’ve harvested for hosts prior to their use of humans?”
Illyria met Daniel’s gaze. “They have been here before. Once, long ago, they came to enslave one of the lesser races. We let them; we had little interest in the slime that eats itself.”
All of SG-1 looked confused at that. Jack considered tuning out completely, just KNOWING that Daniel was about to go into some hyper-excited mode of geek-speak. It was only by sheer effort of will that he restrained himself.
“The Goa’uld have visited earth in the past?” Daniel asked.
“Yes. They took many beings called Unas. As I said, we cared little for the dealings of such creatures.”
Jack frowned. “And you’re telling us this because...?”
Illyria turned away. “It suits me to do so,” she said, and although her tone was arrogant, Jack thought that there was also a generous amount of defensiveness therein.
“Right. SO, about coming back with us...”
“I will not.”
“Right.” He turned to the other members of SG-1. “I got nothin’.”
Daniel looked slightly annoyed with Jack, but said nothing. “Fred, if you are still Fred at all, We know all about Angel Investigations. We know about what you did there. Helping the hopeless, right? Well, that’s what we do as well.”
Illyria turned to look at Daniel. “It seems that my half-breed pet spoke truly,” she mused. “There really is no shortage of warriors in this world.” Her voice became cold. “It matters not. You will stand little chance against me.”
“If you can remember being Fred, then you know why we have to take you back to the mountain.”
Illyria considered that. “... You believe me dangerous.”
“You believe me a threat to your world.”
“You are correct.”
Daniel produced a videocassette from within his jacket pocket. “What we do at the mountain is much like what your friends did at Angel Investigations, Miss Burkle. We’re trying to protect people. That’s why we need you to come with us – in your present state, you may well be a danger to the people around you. We can help you. Maybe even bring you back to the way you were before Illyria... Look, I want you to watch this tape. Once you’re done, you can decide whether or not you’ll come with us.”
Illyria glanced at the videotape, then met Daniel’s eyes, and nodded, ever so slightly.
As they all filed inside, Jack pulled Daniel aside for a moment. “Daniel?” he asked.
“Jack?” Daniel replied.
“Care to tell me what you’re doing?”
Daniel shrugged helplessly. “Finding out how much of Winifred Burkle is left in Illyria?”
He stepped inside, leaving Jack quite thoroughly annoyed out in the yard.
Jack came in a moment later.
Illyria had sat herself down in front of the television, and Daniel was in the process of loading the tape into the VCR. Roger and Trish had gone upstairs, neither of them ready to see Illyria again so soon.
With the click of a button, it began.
A skinny young man with dark hair and earnest eyes appeared on the screen. Jack recognized him from his own earlier viewing of the tape in the briefing room: Allen Francis Doyle, one of the founding members of Angel Investigations, the group of private investigators that Fred Burkle had worked for before moving to Wolfram and Hart.
“If you need help,” Doyle said, looking straight into the camera with an earnest look, “Then look no further. Angel Investigations is the best! - Our rats are low."
A female voice – a voice that Illyria recognized as belonging to Cordelia Chase – came from off screen.
Doyle pointed to something just behind the camera. "It says 'rats'.” He shrugged. “Our rates are low, but our standards are high. When the chips are down, and you're at the end of your rope you need someone that you can count on. And that's what you'll find here - someone that will go all the way, no matter what.”
Jack was very tempted to roll his eyes. Allen Francis Doyle would have won no Oscars.
“So don't lose hope. Come on over to our offices and you'll see that there's still heroes in this world.” Doyle cleared his throat. Is that it? Am I done?"
There was a faint click, then, as if someone had tapped the power button, but without enough pressure to actually turn the camera off. The tape continued, and Cordy’s voice came again.
"I don't know. I'm not getting every man, I'm getting weasel. We don't want weasel."
Doyle smiled faintly, now considerably less wooden that he believed the camera wasn’t pointing at him. "I don't know. I think people will be pouring in as soon as they hear about our low rats.” He shrugged. “I could take another crack at it."
“I don't think so.”
“Weasel factor, huh?”
“Doyle, I didn’t mean it like that. I’m sorry. I’m just... I feel kind of hopeless with him down there doing the non-profit brooding. It’s not like he has a heart. How could it be so broken?”
"I guess seeing Buffy again just got him where he lives,” Doyle replied.
"That's all very sad, but we live here too."
"I'll talk to him."
"Maybe if we get him a costume!" Cordy exclaimed.
"Well, the guy is a bona fide hero, would it kill him to put on some tights and a cape and garner us some free publicity?"
Doyle tried not to laugh. “I don't see Angel putting on some tights.” He took a deep breath and shook his head. “Ah, now I do, and it's really disturbing.”
The tape ended, and the voices of the dead faded away. A moment later, Daniel shut off the television, and ejected the tape.
Illyria looked up from the blank screen, met Daniel Jackson’s eyes, and nodded. “I will go.”
As they filed out the front door and headed over to the SUV, Jack couldn’t help but wonder what kind of meaning such a cheesy commercial could possibly have held for something like Illyria. Winifred. Whatever.
He didn’t give it much thought, usually, but he supposed that his team did count as ‘bona fide heroes.’
Jack wasn’t sure he liked that thought.
What did heroes generally get for all their heroism? Honour, a friend, anguish, untimely death?
And far away, in the alley behind the Hyperion hotel, things were very different now. The corpses of demons had been long since cleared away, although even the best efforts of the cleaning crews could not remove the bloodstains from the pavement, which yet bore the stain of demon-gore.
It was night, and it was unusually cold for Los Angeles. And Fred’s voice echoed there, far away, long ago, but still clear. “Once upon a time there was a girl who lived all alone in a horrible cave, so far from home it made her chest hurt.”
It was night, and Angel was dead. And Spike was dead. Both ensouled vampires had long since turned to dust.
”And every day in that horrible cave, the girl tried to figure out a way to escape.”
Gunn was dead.
Wesley was dead.
Cordelia was dead.
Doyle was dead.
“None of her plans ever succeeded, of course, and she'd almost given up hopin' when one day, just like in a fairy tale, a handsome man rode up on a horse and saved her, and took her back to his castle.”
Heroes all, and not forgotten. Not passed from the hearts of those whom they had saved, and those whom they had loved. Not gone from the memories of those for whom they had made a difference.
“Now you'd think that was the end, wouldn'tcha?”
No vampire walked there now, and demons avoided it as if it were a holy place.
“Dumb old fairy tales and their happily ever afters.”
And there, on the very spot where Gunn, Spike, and Angel met their end, a faint breeze picked up, and stirred the bits of trash that lay scattered there, beneath which rested, forgotten now, tarnished and lost, a claddagh ring.
End Chapter 05
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