Hidden Past, Chapter Three
POWER RANGERS:- Demon Wars
Angel was silently kicking himself as he and his son walked back to the hotel where they were both staying. He should have been able to smell his own son. It had to be that annoying taint. There was no other word for it. He smelt off right, down into his core, that had to be the reason.
"What is it?" The boy asked impatiently. Angel tried not to be surprised that he could be read so well. "Oh come on I know that look, and that one. I've seen them enough times in the mirror."
"Damn." Angel cursed under his breath. "Alright, why?"
"Stanford, or here. Take your pick." Angel got to the point, neatly dodging the real problem.
Connor took a deep breath and sighed. "I didn't belong there. Dad, I tried I really did but it wasn't me."
"Yes, yes it was."
Connor snorted with laughter. "It might have been the son you wanted, but we both know how that turned out. Dad, I'm sorry I really am but you couldn't expect me to just sit back and do nothing. Not when I know what's out there, what you fight."
Angel shook his head slowly. "Connor, do you know…"
"What you sacrificed? What it cost for my new life? I think I do. You made a deal with the devil and it got a lot of your friends killed. That sum it up?"
"I didn't do it all for you." Angel admitted, hopping to lessen the guilt he heard in his son's voice. "I needed a way in, under their skin, but that doesn't mean I didn't want that life for you."
"But it was a lie." Connor said darkly. "It's always lies, it always has been. I wanted, I needed a truth. Who I was, what I could do and why I did it. At Stanford that wasn't me."
"And now you're you, finally?" Angel asked as they turned a corner.
"I don't know if I'm ever going to be me, but at least I chose this. It feels right to be here and now. To do what I'm doing."
There was the opening Angel needed. "And just what are you doing, here of all places?"
He stopped, just as Connor could read Angel he found he could read his son like a book. He was going to lie. "I'm not sure, it feels right. Faith's got me a job at the Coffee Shop and I'm stating to make my own way in the world."
"With Faith and Dawn?" Angel said directly, sure he'd made his point.
"Who know who I am." Connor repeated, trying to change the subject. Angel stopped, they were in sight of the hotel and Angel wasn't going any further until he got something from his wayward son and they both knew it.
"Look dad, when you sent me out there into the world you trusted me to make the right choice. Has that changed?"
Angel tried to hide a growl, knew he had failed and just ended up scowling. "Someways. You know who you are now. Last time you did, well we both know what happened."
Connor had the good grace to scowl back. It wasn't his fault at the time, not really. He'd lost everything and didn't have the emotional foundation do deal with any of it. Connor went mad with grief, strapping explosives to a shop full of people demanding answers. Luckily when Angel had Connor's memories made for him he was able to erase those of his son's victims. "They might not be real, but I still have the memories of that other me. The rest is like a really bad dream." He'd said that before. "But I can't ignore it, any of it."
It all pieced together. "The Power Rangers, that's why you're here. You want to help them don't you. But what's that got to do with Faith and Dawn?"
Connor burst out laughing, like he had said some cosmic joke. With crystal clarity Angel suddenly remembered the gang he'd just met. All wearing bright colours, Yellow, Blue, Black, Green and the Red tee his son had on. The strange, but similar, smell each of them gave, the sense of power in the room, even the way they all behaved with each other.
Angel was sure if he had a blood flow he'd have gone white.
Dawn threw the dress on her bed and sat down in a huff. "I have party dress, smart casual stuff, jeans and tee. I've even got covered in demon goo clothes but no lunch with the president clothes!" She almost wailed in despair. "I mean you'd think I'd get more warning than a phone call the night before! The shops weren't even open!"
Marcus tried not to laugh, but he was too busy grinning from ear to ear.
"Thanks" Dawn said flicking his arm with two fingers. "Boys have it easy." She complained. "Shirt and tie. That's all you need, a closet full of them. You don't even need the tie!" Dawn looked up at her own closet, seeing all sorts of stuff in the far too small space. There was stuff in there she could pull off. But they would all be a little too flirty.
There was no way she was going to do flirty. Not today. "We do need pants." Marcus said with a straight face, pulling her back to the conversation. "Shoes too."
"Shoes are always good." Dawn managed to say before bursting out laughing. Somehow he always knew how to make her smile, even when she thought she couldn't.
After a moment Marcus put his hand on hers and it suddenly felt very warm. "Can I help?"
Dawn raised an eyebrow, Marcus wasn't exactly fashionable, but she really couldn't decide. She'd been at it for more than an hour now and felt like a complete fool. He'd only been there for the last twenty minutes but he'd gotten the worst of it. "Go for it." She flashed him a smile.
After a moment Marcus nodded, quickly finding a pair of slacks she'd thrown away almost with out looking earlier. They were white, not shiny and new but not too faded either. They weren't too tight either. Dawn was turning them over in her hands, looking for a reason to throw them in a corner again when he pulled out a top. Light green as always, short sleeved but it was long enough to come down over her hips. It would have been perfect, but for one thing.
"I'd need a neckless to go with that." Dawn pointed out. "The neck's too bare." That was why she hadn't chosen it in the first place. There was nothing else that went with the trousers and it was just missing that one vital piece. She had a small jewellery box, but they were all these big gaudy plastic things. A little girls costume jewellery.
Marcus suddenly looked very shy, he hadn't done that in so long. He pulled a little box out from his jacket. "I know, I was going to give you this last night." he told her and opened it. Dawn's breath caught in her mouth as she gasped.
It couldn't have been too expensive, she never would accept it if it was, but it was beautiful. A single silver chain that knotted around in the middle, nestling three stones. Two about the size of a fingernail, shiny black and between them a slightly larger one. It couldn't have been an emerald, it was too dark for that and had a rainbow coloured sparkle deep inside, but it was still green. "Where did you find this?" She whispered taking it from him.
The neckless wasn't too heavy, but it felt the right weight. He'd done it again, found the perfect thing to say or do at just the right moment. "It wasn't hard, you can't go anywhere in Amethyst without finding somewhere that sells this stuff and I thought…"
Dawn didn't let him finish his thought, she almost jumped out of the chair as she kissed him. For a second he was shocked, but then he was kissing her back as Dawn wrapped her arms around her boyfriends neck.
A'Zores looked around at the assembled Demon Generals. Rank'van, Sormeghe and the Rogue were all there. Each one ready to kill the others for anyone of a thousand slights and petty arguments that had sprung up over thousands of years serving the Warlord. But Theodor, the two sided man, was also there. Both his halves stood, immobile and at the head of the table, looking at the others.
Theodor was a legend, it was said he was once the Warlord's greatest warrior. One day he had stood before the Warlord and argued with Him over a point so trivial that it was long forgotten by both of them. The Warlord had supposedly lost His temper and split the warrior in two with a single blow. Hours later He had supposedly resurrected the warrior. Each half becoming a whole person, but the same one. Each a mirror opposite of the other. No one knew if he had one brain or if the two talked to each other some other way but they were identical in thought and deed.
A'Zores had met him once before. Trying to hold a conversation was difficult, but not impossible. What he was doing here was anyones guess, but almost automatically they had all deferred to the powerful pair. Then came the next surprise. Tretrax walked into the camp.
He was flanked by a new friend, at least he was new to A'Zores. Wearing bright gold armour he too had blue skin. He also had an impressive wingspan, but A'Zores doubted it was practical. "What are you doing here Tretrax. Generals were invited only." A'Zores announced.
"I am a General." the fool snarled.
"Were." A'Zores pointed out.
"I will hear him out." Theodor said in stereo.
"Agreed." the Rogue tossed her scarlet hair back and smirked at A'Zores. She never missed a chance to get under his skin, in more ways than one.
"This is not a democracy." Rank'van slobbered, stamping his feet.
In a flash A'Zores found his rapier drawn and at the throat of the Warlord's son. "Until we agree on a new Warlord it is." he pointed out.
There was a deadly silence as Rank'van stammered. The others looked at him, evaluating his opinion. "So that's why you called us all here." the Rogue said sliding up to him. "And I thought you were getting lonely."
A'Zores gave her a second. "I still have the scars." he admitted. Even if he was getting lonely she was the last person he'd call. Also the first. He didn't really have a long list of contacts for that sort of thing.
Right now though he wasn't interested. A'Zores was counting on their mutual dislike of the fat brat to hear him out. They weren't that fond of him either, but that was the gamble. "Democracy." Sormeghe spat, twirling his moustache with his hook. A'Zores didn't know how much of his persona was an act or how much was who he was. He knew Sormeghe was putting at least some of it on, occasionally the mask slipped to show a deadly and decidedly practical creature. "I don't like democracy, too many compromises." At that last word a blade popped out from a slot next to his hook, trimming his whiskers at the tips.
"Without the Warlord what choice do we have?" the Rogue said, becoming suddenly serious. "My little boy-toy here is right. We are now the leaders…"
"He was my father." Rank'van pointed out. "It's my right."
A'Zores tapped him under the chin with his blade. "Rights? What about my right to slit your neck and leave you to drain out on the dirt?"
"That's enough!" Barked Theodore, taking charge. "I know you too well A'Zores. Democracy wasn't the answer I expected. What's your real solution?"
"A new Warlord." A'Zores admitted.
"You?" Tretrax hissed scornfully. "How? We're going to vote you in because you ask nicely."
A'Zores laughed dropping his sword back into it's sheath. "No. I suggest a competition. The winner gets the title."
"You always were a man of vision." the Rogue said seductively as she wrapped herself around his arm.
"Even when you tried to pluck it out?"
She licked her lips hungrily as she toyed with a talon like fingernail. "Oh, especially then."
Rank'van though wasn't listening. "It's my right, as the Warlords…"
"Oh do shut up. about rights." Sormeghe drew a magically enhanced flintlock and pointed it into Rank'van's eye. "I don't like you very much. In fact I've known you for about five minutes and I'm surprised your father didn't strangle you at birth." He turned his attention on A'Zores. "Winner takes all? Why shouldn't I just kill all of you here right now."
"Because you'll need us, if you win." A'Zores said quietly. "And if you turn on one of us we all turn on you." Side stepping away from the Rogue, who put on a great show of pouting, A'Zores knew he had control of the meeting now. "We need rules here, we need to follow them."
Theodore nodded in an odd double time, one head going up as the other went down. "Chaos. If we fall on each other the empire will break apart. No one wins. We set the rules. Now"
A'Zores smiled and nodded slightly. Theodore looked around, both of him. "No killing each other." One said half. "And no stealing the glory at the last minute." The other pointed out. All around the assembled Generals looked at one another. Gauging each other and slowly agreeing to the simple outline.
A'Zores grinned, openly. This was going to be interesting.
President Henry Hayes was having trouble reading the girl in front of him. She was nervous, that much was obvious, but other than that she kept changing. One moment a confidant young woman the next a little girl that was lost and then an old soul that had seen too much and saw everything with a wry sarcasm.
Henry had always been good at reading people, it was a good trick for a politician, and he was more and more concerned that she was all of these. "So I have to admit I'm surprised, a beautiful young woman like you saving the world. Sort of like a saturday morning cartoon."
"Sometimes I wish it was, at least there'd always be a happy ending." Miss Summers said quietly and Henry saw a way in.
"I had hoped that most of the difficulties I saw on the news were for show, or blown out of proportion."
The young woman shook her head. "We've had our fair share of close calls, but we've pulled through. I'd be lying if I told you it was getting easier, but we're holding our own."
"You and your team don't have to." Henry lent forward. "Not on your own. Jack and the rest of the SGC can help, you know."
Miss Summers smiled, "It won't work. This is our fight. Look at it my way, these guys have invaded countless realities. Killed who knows how many Jack's, Tim's and Marcus's. We're something new and we're getting the job done."
Henry didn't know what she was talking about and said as much. "It's kind of hard to get it all in your head," she explained. "But there's more than just one of you. There's all these other earths, each one slightly different for one reason or another."
"I thought different dimensions were all different layers, or something like that."
"That's different dimensions, I'm talking parallel. Think of it like other realities. Someone turns right in one, but turns left in another. Not a big difference sure, but elsewhere the big one could have hit California and LA is under water."
Henry frowned at her. "So what does that mean for us here?"
She took a deep breath. "That other things have been tried before. Elsewhere there's a Henry Hayes and a General Jack O'Neill that have attacked them with spaceships and nuclear weapons. That hasn't worked."
"Alright, but if we think of it like that what's to say you Rangers haven't been tried before?"
"Me." She said with a finality that had Henry wondering just what she had left out about herself. "There's only one of me."
"Only one. So there's only one of me having this conversation with you right now." She nodded. "How… how do you know this?"
"I… I can't tell you, the thing is this hasn't been done before. That's all that's important." Henry recognised that pushing this point would get him nowhere. He was going to have to be careful, one push too far in the wrong direction and it could all explode in his face. After a few moments she started again. "There's no guarantee we'll keep winning, but that's where you can help."
"So you're saying you're the first line of defence and Jack's the second and you're okay with that."
Standing up Henry walked to his desk and lent with his back on it, sucking in air through his teeth. "Miss Summers, Dawn, I have to be seen to do something. Just siting here waiting for you to fail is killing me politically."
"But you're not waiting for us to fail." She said dangerously. "You're helping every way you can and saving lives by letting us do our job."
"I've been saying that for months." Henry pointed out "And it's not working anymore. People need to see their government doing something about this."
She shook her head. "Not the wrong things."
Henry laughed, he didn't mean to be cruel but that was how it came off. "In politics you'd be surprised." Then he had an idea. "What if we do make that mistake, or at least make it look like we did?"
Miss Summers blinked at him, "Look like we did?"
Spike knocked on the door to Dawn's room and it was her roommate that answered. 'Oh hello.' she said. It hadn't been easy dodging sunbeams to get there, not everywhere had sewer systems like LA or old Sunnydale. He had to settle for keeping to the sides of buildings and the longer shadows.
"Hello, urm, Cassandra, is the niblet about?"
The brunette gave him a frown. "You mean Dawn? No she's," Then the girl paused and her strange sent flickered. "She's at that interview she got last night."
She was lying to him, he might have had trouble reading, her but he picked up on that just fine. They hadn't said anything other than it was with someone the niblet knew through the child he was talking to. Still he wasn't there to confront her. felling uncomfortable about the whole thing Spike shoved his hands into his pockets. "Know when she'll be back?"
"Eager to get beaten up again?" She teased and Spike couldn't help but shift his weight from foot to foot.
"Not really, there's just a few things we need to talk about." She got his meaning and took a few steps back, but didn't properly invite him.
"I need your invitation."
"Huh?" She asked him. "Oh right, vampire. How's that work anyway, you can't enter a place someone lives?"
Spike shrugged. "Dru tried to explain it once, but between Dru being crazy and me being an idiot we didn't get very far. It's something to do with a living spirit infusing the walls or something."
"Oh, I guess that makes sense. Sort of. You can come in." Cassandra said the last sentence in that stilted overly formal way they always did when thinking about it. "Just don't try to bite me, alright. I don't know when she'll be back, shouldn't be too long though"
Spike grinned. "After last night I don't want to know what Dawn would do if I got her angry. She once promised to set me on fire, and that was before she was a Slayer."
"Dawn's a Slayer?" Cassandra seems shocked at the idea.
"Oh yes, I've been punched by them before. She's not as strong as her sister but Dawnie's getting there." Her roommate seemed genuinely surprised at this. "You're not a Slayer though, are you?"
She shook her head. "Nope."
"Not a witch, or part demon?" She didn't smell it, but Spike couldn't be sure.
Cassandra shook her head. "Nope, plain old regular human. Just like… Sari."
"Sari, the red headed girl?" Spike struggled to keep the scepticism from his voice
"The robot?" He said straight out.
It was then Dawn opened the door and came in. "Spike, what are you doing here?" She asked after squeaking in shock, just like she had done all those years ago when he'd caught her sneaking out of Buffy's birthday party.
At least some things didn't change. "I thought we should talk." Spike told her seriously.
"That's my cue to leave." Cassandra said, grabbing her bag. If she was just getting out of the way or trying not to answer his question Spike wasn't sure.
There was an uncomfortable moment where Dawn shrugged off her green jacket and draped it on the back of what he guessed was her chair. "Who's going to start?" She asked, channeling her sister.
"You've grown." Spike said simply.
That wasn't what she was expecting. "What?"
"I mean it, you never really fit in with your friends in Sunnydale. Here you do, and I can't say why, you're all so different…"
"We're all freaks," Dawnie said with a toss of her head. "Freaks get along."
Spike shook his head. "It's more than that, it's good to know you've found you're own way."
She squinted at him, trying to see if he was being serious. "Thanks Spike."
"But the boy."
"No your boyfriend." Spike said getting to the point. "What was his name? Mark?"
"Whatever. How far have you gone?"
Dawn threw her hands in the air. "Gees Spike! That's what you want to talk about, if I've boinked him yet?" Spike tried not to notice she was blushing. "You're not my brother, or my father, so why should you care?"
"Because I care if you get hurt."
"Oh yeah, then why didn't you tell me you were alive, or undead again whatever!" The way she was on the offensive and trying to change the subject was all the proof he needed that she hadn't gotten that far with him.
If only he could say that was a good thing. "You remember Captain Cardboard?"
"Riley?" She didn't see the connection. "Sure?"
"You remember why he left?" Spike asked sitting down on the side of what he guessed was Dawn's bed.
"No, never did understand." She said shortly. "What's this got to do…"
"Niblet, Dawn. it's got everything to do with it. Look, to know he's loved a man needs to know he's needed. Not just for the big things, but the little ones too. Riley was a good man, maybe not the perfect on but he was good. I could see it was never going to work for them because your sister didn't need him. Not that way, and not enough. She couldn't see that and it tore her heart out to see him leave. So I've got to ask; do you need Marcus?"
"What sort of…."
"Dawnie I can tell he's a nice guy, from what I saw last night. The way he looked at you I could tell he worships you, but do you need him?" He asked again, hoping to get the point across. "Would you tear the world apart for him, walk up to God himself and spit in His eye for him and does he know you would, like he would for you?"
She looked back at him, trying to speak but she stopped herself each time. Eventually her bold front crumbled and she wasn't as old anymore. She was little Dawnie again, facing a life so much bigger and more complex than she could ever imagine. "I don't know." She admitted turing away and reaching for her necklace.
"I'm sorry Niblet, but until you do know you'll just be hurting him. Hurting both of you." Spike felt unbelievably guilty. He never wanted to hurt the girl, but he might as well have staked her for what he'd just done.
But he knew Summers girls. He knew the only role model she'd had in this world had been her sister and the mess she'd made over the years "Is that why you didn't tell us?" Dawn asked hollowly, turing to face him. If she had cried it wasn't obvious but the catch in her voice told him a lot more than he wanted.
Standing up he stepped up to her and gave her a hug. "No, you're sis needed me, but she didn't love me. If she loved me, really loved, she'd have done everything she could to bring me back her own self now wouldn't she?"
That was true, he'd known it all along. She pulled back and looked at him to tear stained eyes, she saw what he was saying a sniffed loudly. "What about me?" Her voice wavered. "I needed you too you know."
"Oh Niblet, look around you. You've got everything you need right here."
End Chapter Three