Disclaimer: The characters and setting of the Buffyverse are the property of Whedon and company. Of course they, like everyone else, will grovel before Her Majesty, the Omniversal Empress Illyria, once she rebuilds her former empire.
Author's Note: Okay, okay, I give. Apparently, the title 'A Drop in the Ocean' is also in use elsewhere on this site. I don't concede use of the title, as I wrote this fic a couple of years ago, but to avoid confusion I'll slap another label on it for purposes of posting on TtH.
Author's Note II: This story takes place exactly one day after the Angel Season 5 episode 'Underneath', and roughly twelve days before the events in 'Time Bomb', where much of Illyria's power was stripped from her.
He found her on the rooftop, staring out over the sparkling lights of the city. The fire door that provided access from the stairwell was lying to one side of the doorway, its heavy steel warped and twisted. Apparently she had been uninterested in puzzling out the operation of the handle, and had simply pushed it out of her way, ripping it off the hinges in the process.
“A doorknob is hardly the most complex bit of technology that you’ll have to deal with,” he said dryly. “And unless you want to learn about this world from the perspective of a homeless person, you’d best learn how to take better care of this building.” There was no response from the figure, no movement at all except for the night breeze blowing her brown and blue hair gently about. He frowned, and walked slowly forward. “It feels as though it may rain soon; I presume there was rain, in your time?” Still nothing. Moving carefully, he circled around until he could see her face. Her eyes were open, their brilliant blue gazing blankly outwards, towards the densely populated hills of Los Angeles. That meant little; she seldom closed her eyes, seldom even blinked. “Are you resting?” he asked, purposely refraining from using her name. Even if it had no power to compel or control a being as powerful as she, it would certainly suffice to rouse her from… whatever this was. He’d seen her do it before, and if it wasn’t sleep then it was as close as she came to that state. “I thought we might continue our discussion of the electrical distribution system. You had asked why it was necessary to have so many power lines strung from poles here in the city….”
There was no response, and he nodded to himself. If she’d been conscious she would have looked at him. She always looked at whoever was speaking, with the same air of rapt fascination a human would give a field mouse who suddenly sat up, waved his paws, and began giving a lecture on particle physics.Though that may be understating the difference in scale, between what she is and what we are… and the degree of alienness, too. Men and mice are at least both mammals; we share some degree of understanding, we both know what it means to be hungry, we both seek shelter from the elements, we both have a drive to perpetuate our species. As large as the gulf is between us, we are both products of the same world. Whereas
she… she is something very different. Something unbelievably older, and vaster, and more difficult to understand.
He shook his head, breaking free of his musing with some difficulty. She still hadn’t reacted to his presence in any way, but lingering here was not going to improve his odds of survival. He eased back, out of her field of view.
From beneath his jacket came a small, glittering knife.
He took a slow, deep breath; what he was about to do was insanely dangerous… possibly. Or perhaps it wasn’t, he simply had no idea how she would react if she noticed his actions. It seemed likely, though, that such an affront would cost him his life.
The thought made him smile faintly. His life had not seemed particularly worthwhile or valuable, of late; it would matter little if he lost it now. And so with great care but little real fear, Wesley reached out his hand, and the knife, and gently cut away a lock of blue-streaked hair. It was softer than he’d thought it would be, indistinguishable, really, from the way Fr-- He stopped that thought short, reflexively, and grimly carried on with the task at hand. No matter what they felt like, those chestnut and sapphire strands would have ignored anything as puny as mere scissors. For that matter, a chainsaw would have made little impression, either. Which was why he’d brought the specially-blessed knife from Wolfram and Hart. Even it would have barely scratched her nearly invulnerable flesh, but for this it sufficed. When he’d gathered his prize, he took a step back, watching for any reaction.
There was none; the ancient being still stood motionless, staring outwards. The small section of hair that he’d cut away from the back was noticeably shorter than the rest, yes, though she would never see it without using a hand mirror in conjunction with the one on her dressing table, and he thought that unlikely. I’m still alive,
he thought, faintly surprised. Now all I need do is strike a suitable bargain with those who can make use of this.
The knife went back in its sheath, and he dug in his pocket until he found the rubber band. A rather mundane thing, this, to bind even a small bit of Demon-Goddess….
Odd, how his mind would not be still, even now. Winding the band securely about the hair, he hurried towards the doorway. Those he sought were difficult for most to find, yes, but few possessed his resources. It shouldn’t take him very long at all.
Because he was in a hurry, he didn’t look back as he started down the stairs.
And so it was that he failed to see Illyria, as she turned around and stared, her head cocked slightly in puzzlement.
* * * * *
The fallen goddess hadn’t been sleeping; sleep was as foreign to her as every other aspect of the human animals’ lives. She had been looking inward, examining the structure of the shell, watching as it continued to acclimate to her presence within it. The carcass bore little resemblance to its former human form now, at least internally. For one thing, it no longer contained what a human would call organs; those had been destroyed, and replaced with masses of semi-solid crystalline matter with a molecular structure that was able to serve several functions simultaneously. The shell was also now far, far more durable than before her transformation of it; as flexible as when it had been human flesh, yet immune to extremes of heat, cold, radiation and vacuum. True, she could still be harmed by the application of sufficient kinetic or magical energy, but she had yet to encounter anything of that power level in this place.
There were, however, things about the shell which troubled her. Despite it’s pitiful frailty and puny size, the human body had still somehow managed to influence the process of her fusion with it. There were… flaws, aspects of the transformation that deviated from the template she had patterned into her viral form so many eons before. True, she had never imagined that her new host body would be a human, or that her rebirth would be so long delayed. In point of fact, she was lucky that it had worked at all, with so many factors conspiring against her. She was greatly weakened, yes, unable to access much of what she had once been… yet the world had changed greatly. The other great powers of the Primordium were gone entirely, having failed to manage even as much as she. And she was
alive once more; possessed of a fair degree of power, and inhabiting the form of the planet’s current dominant species.
It was a place to begin.
If only she could resolve those tiny, troubling aberrations in her electrochemical subsystems….
Despite her intense concentration, Wesley’s appearance on the roof had been noted. Although she had been occupied with completing the latest analysis of her inner structures, she would have deigned to notice him in due course… if he had not proceeded to perform a most peculiar act. Leaving the question of the shell’s adaptation for another time, she stared at the empty doorway through which he had gone after the….
What had it been? An attack? It seemed unlikely; what possible harm could have thought to inflict by—?
She put a hand to the back of her head, gloved fingers instantly locating the place where the shell’s cranial strands had been cut short. So far as she could tell, this ‘hair’ served no purpose beyond decoration, but Wesley’s removal of it without her permission smacked of dire insult.
Perhaps she should be angry….
A sound from the street below caught her attention, and she turned to look down. Wesley had exited the structure upon which she stood, and was in the process of entering his mechanical conveyance, one of the clever toys the humans called ‘cars’. Even from here she recognized the residual energy signature clinging to the bit of herself he carried with him. The goddess cocked her head to one side as she watched him drive away.
Putting her hand to her hair once more, she effortlessly recreated the missing strands, restoring them to their former state. That, of course, did nothing to redress the affront the human had dealt her, or answer the question of why he had stolen even so trivial a part of her.
Illyria considered her possible courses of action carefully; she still knew almost nothing of this time and this place. Destroying him, painfully and utterly, seemed
to be the proper response; certainly it was what she would have done in her long-ago kingdom. Now, though…. Once taken, such an action could not be recalled, even by such as she. Before she exacted retribution she needed to be sure.
* * * * *