The Devil In Miss Burkle
“Midway through life's journey, I went astray from the true road and found myself alone in a dark wood.”
- Dante, Inferno, Canto I
A Kingdom By The Sea
An Angel Crossover Fanfic
by P.H. Wise
Chapter 6: The Devil In Miss Burkle
Disclaimer: I don’t own Angel. I don’t own Highlander. I’m not making any money off of this.
Illyria awoke as if from a long slumber, and though she could remember everything that had been experienced by the Burkle Persona, it seemed dull, muted. And it enraged her to think that it had achieved dominance over her for such an extended period of time. Dominance. That was the real kicker; that a lowly human shell could control HER. The shell’s friends, and Wesley – her flesh warmed at the sight of him – watched her warily. When she spoke, her voice was cold. “What have you done to me?”
“Fred?” Lorne asked, though from his tone he knew it wasn’t her.
“Illyria,” Wesley said evenly, meeting the Old One’s gaze. “How nice of you to join us.”
Her eyes fixed on his, and for a moment, the others allowed themselves to believe that this might end well. But the car was too confined. It was a convertible, but the top was up, and she could feel the walls closing in around her. Her breathing quickened, and she seized Wesley by the throat, kicked the door open, and stepped out of the car.
The others were quick to follow her.
It was better out here, on the side of I-5, just short of the Oregon border. She could hear the Song of the Green all around her, and the scent of the forest filled the air.
“Put him down,” Angel said commandingly.
Illyria met Angel’s gaze, smirked slightly, and opened her hand. With a peal like thunder, a portal spiraled open by the side of the road, and, still holding Wesley by the throat, Illyria stepped through. The portal snapped shut behind her, and both she and Wesley were gone.
“Oh bollocks,” said Spike.
The others could only nod their agreement.
He was hurtling through a tunnel of blinding light, yet somehow he could still see. Pulses of greater and lesser light spiraled along the tunnel in gentle waves. He had no eyes. He had no hands. He had no body. Yet he was. There was another beside him: A terrible presence of blue light and power, and with it a terrible, loving presence of lightning and sharp, cutting intellect.
They emerged through the far side of Illyria’s portal, and Wesley felt his body materialize around his awareness.
And there was shrimp.
Shrimp, everywhere, in every direction, as far as the eye could see – nothing but shrimp – an utterly featureless mass of wriggling, crawling shrimp, and lit by a seemingly sourceless light. They pressed up against him and all around him, smothering him for but a moment before Illyria waved her hand and dispersed a small pocket of shrimp to accommodate their presence.
Wesley coughed as she released his throat. “Shrimp?” he asked weakly.
Illyria glanced about. “Yes,” she said. “That is this place.”
Wesley’s voice gained strength (and incredulity) as he spoke again. “You brought me to a dimension full of nothing but shrimp?”
Illyria nodded. “It seemed the thing to do.”
That didn’t sound very Illyria-like. Wesley looked at her. Her eyes were almost Fred-like, though not quite. “Couldn’t you have brought us to a place more... conducive to human existence?”
She drew herself up proudly and opened her mouth to utter some excruciatingly arrogant statement, and then stopped, looked confused for a moment, and said, “Wesley? How did we get here?”
Illyria jolted as if from sleep. “Remember your place, Shell,” she snarled.
“That’s a laugh!” Fred said, her voice following on the heels of Illyria’s statement so closely that it almost seemed as though she had begun before Illyria had finished speaking, despite the fact that both voices came from the same mouth, “My place is in my body! YOUR place is in a handful of mummy-dust sealed up in a dried up old sarcophagus. Or did you forget?”
“How dare you!” said Illyria. “I will not be spoken to in such a manner by a mere human, indigestible soul or no!”
Wesley watched, fascinated, as the two beings bound up in Fred’s body argued back and forth, their voices rising and falling, sometimes the one actually interrupting the other, even as they floated in the endless sea of shrimp. At length, and growing thoroughly concerned, he interrupted the two of them. “This is not the best place for an argument,” he said, feeling a peculiar sense of surreality.
Illyria turned and met his gaze, and then, after listening to Fred’s voice (silent to Wesley this time), sighed. “I tired very quickly of this place the last time I was here. I see that it has not improved in my absence.”
She seized Wesley’s arm, opened a portal, and threw him bodily into the event horizon, stepping in behind a moment later.
Methos stepped off the plane and began the slow, shuffling climb down the stairway from the plane and onto the wet concrete runway. Slow and shuffling, yes, and only that because there were twenty some people in front of him also trying to climb down that same stairway, with perhaps forty more close behind. It was cold and muggy, and it was drizzling. The whole airport was wreathed in gray, and he felt supremely comfortable in his long overcoat. Yes, he decided, he definitely preferred the cooler climates of the world.
In a few minutes, he would retrieve his car, go home, unpack, and then drive on down to Joe’s Blue’s club and enjoy a pint of well-earned beer. He certainly wasn’t going to think about Hamilton, and what it meant for the Game that there were super-powered Immortals running around who were capable of tearing people apart with their bare hands.
No, he wasn’t going to think about that at all. Not even a little bit.
For a moment, he was in a dark hallway, his pulse pounding in his ears as he fled, and the wet, tearing sound of a mortal being torn limb from limb echoed loudly.
He blinked, and refocused his eyes. No, he wasn’t going to think about Hamilton.
And suddenly, he felt the need for more than just a pint.
An hour later found him sitting on a bar stool nursing his first pint, bound and determined to drink until he couldn’t see straight.
Joe hobbled in through the back door, and Methos cursed in Sumerian. It was quiet. None of the regulars (save Methos) were here yet. There would be plenty of activity tonight, but little happed in Joe’s Blue’s club before sundown.
“Find what you were looking for, old man?” Joe asked.
Methos took a long sip of beer, and said nothing. Joe sat down on the stool next to him. “I see,” Joe said. When Methos remained silent still, Joe spoke again. “MacLeod knows.”
He raised his glass in toast. “To MacLeod, then,” he said, and drank.
“He was furious when he found out that you’d gone to LA. Said you were a damned fool, and were going to get yourself killed.”
“I am a damned fool, Joe,” he said.
Joe raised an eyebrow. “And getting yourself killed?”
“Still hoping to avoid that. What else did MacLeod say? Did he follow me to LA?”
“He was all packed and ready to leave, but I called him when your plane landed and told him to hold off. What did you find, Adam?”
Methos drank the rest of his beer all in one great gulp, and met Joe’s gaze. “I found the end of the Game,” he said, and laughed faintly.
Joe looked... concerned. “What do you mean, ‘the end of the Game?”
“Imagine an Immortal so strong that he can put a fist through a man’s heart without trying hard, and so tough that even being run over by a car doesn’t phase him.”
Joe’s eyes widened. “What’s his name?”
“... This could be a problem.”
Methos helped himself to another pint.
Wesley nearly staggered when he felt solid earth beneath him once more, and a palpable sense of relief washed over him as he looked up and saw the sky. He had been sure that he was going to die in that god-forsaken world of shrimp. He felt his throat. Yes, those were the bruises one would expect from being nearly strangled to death.
He took in his surroundings. The sky was gray, and it was drizzling. He was standing on the grass in what looked like some sort of city-park, but he didn’t recognize it. He sat up. No, he didn’t recognize it at all - neither the park, nor city.
Illyria stood beneath a nearby tree, her arms extended, fingers outstretched, eyes shut, her face pointed at the sky. She looked... oddly content, actually. He went to her.
“Illyria,” he said.
She turned and met his gaze. “Wesley.”
He raised an eyebrow. “So you do know my name, then?”
“I know everything that the Burkle persona knows.”
He nodded faintly. “And does she know everything you know?”
Wesley considered that. Another piece to the puzzle of what was happening in Fred’s body. “Where have you brought us?” he asked.
“A place of resonance.”
He waited for her to elaborate. She didn’t.
“I wish to speak to Fred,” he said after a moment.
Illyria met his gaze with an imperious look. “I refuse.”
For an instant, he felt a terrible, burning rage. He wanted to destroy this creature - this thing that had infested his beloved’s body. He wanted to tear it to pieces. He wanted it gone. He shuddered, took a calming breath, and tried again. “Is Fred watching now?” he asked. “Can she hear what you hear?”
Illyria nodded. “She is. She can. You may communicate to her through me if you wish, but I will NOT be subservient to her will.” She seemed to think for a moment. “Nor yours,” she added.
“Of course not. Though perhaps we may wish to get out of this rain.”
“The atmospheric conditions of this pathetic world of humans is of no concern to me,” Illyria said.
Wesley grew slightly frustrated. For a moment – and only for a moment – he wished that Spike were here. He seemed well able to convince Illyria to cooperate. “Then you won’t mind if we get out of the rain,” he said.
She looked confused, and then narrowed her eyes. He was already heading out of the park. “I go because it suits me,” she said, and she almost believed it.
As he walked, Wesley glanced about, looking for some sign of where Illyria had taken them. They were still on Earth. Or at least, he thought they were. The citizens of the city around him were human (or looked human). At length, he found a discarded newspaper that revealed the name of the city she’d taken him to: Seacouver. He frowned. Seacouver was quite a ways north of where they had been.
He took out his cell phone and dialed Angel’s number.
“He never did know how to use one of those,” Wesley mused. He glanced over his shoulder to see if Illyria was still following him. She was. He nodded, and then headed for what looked like a promising location – Joe’s Blue’s Club. At the very least, it would be a place to kill some time until he was able to get through to Angel.
It was quiet – the only people in the club were the old bartender and a youngish man sitting at the bar. The lights were low, but not too low. The atmosphere was a comfortable one.
Illyria stiffened as they walked through the doors, and immediately looked about. The man who had been sitting at the bar looked towards Illyria, and then chugged what was left of his beer, and headed for the back exit.
Wesley stopped short. “What’s wrong?”
“That man,” she said. “I can feel him.” She bared her teeth ever so slightly. “How does a mere human dare to impose his presence upon me? I will not have it.”
Wesley grimaced. He’d almost forgotten. Immortality. “Illyria, calm yourself.”
She whirled on him. “I do as I please,” she said. She wanted to hurt him. She wanted to snap him like a twig. She wanted to tear out his eyes for daring to look upon her glory. She wanted to ravish him. She wanted him to love her. Her head was pounding, and she clutched it. “What have you done to me?” she demanded of him once again.
He shook his head. “I’ve done nothing.”
Her eyes seemed to thaw, and then froze again. “Wesley,” she whispered. And then her eyes rolled back in her head, and she fainted.
He was at her side in an instant. “Fred?” he asked. “Fred, can you hear me?” He shook her, but she was unresponsive.
Wesley grimaced. Something needed to be done about Illyria. Something needed to be done soon.
Far away, Connor sat in his empty home. His family had left some two hours earlier, headed for Vegas for the weekend, at his urging.
It all looked so different when it was dark, and empty. Not that dark had ever bothered him – he could see as well in the dark as in the light. But here, it seemed wrong, somehow. A home shouldn’t be empty, and dark, and cold.
He’d heard the car coming up the long dirt drive that led to his home about a minute ago. So now he sat, and waited, and wished that he still had some of the weapons he’d had during that other life.
The door opened, and Lindsey Macdonald walked into Connor’s home, sword in hand. He shut the door behind him.
Connor rose to his feet.
“So you’re Angel’s boy, are you?” Lindsey said. “Brooding look. Caveman brow. I can see the family resemblance. I hear you caused all sorts of trouble for Wolfram and Hart back in the day.”
Connor shrugged. “I was a handful. But everyone’s entitled to a little teenaged rebellion, aren’t they?”
“Sure,” said Lindsey. “Though yours wasn’t exactly ‘little.’ Is it true you were there when the Beast took out the old offices? Killed everyone and raised them as his zombie horde?”
He nodded. “It’s true.”
“That would have been a thing to see. Almost sorry I missed it.” He brightened. “But hell, it must be odd for you, sorting through two sets of memories like that. Your life as Angel’s son. Your life as Connor Reilly. Which one’s true? Which one’s the lie? Very tricky.”
“Not that tricky.”
“Yeah, but doesn’t it bug you that Angel finally saved you with yet another lie?”
Connor frowned. “You know a lot about me.”
“What can I say? I do my homework.”
“I knew you’d come, you know,” said Connor, refusing to take the man’s bait.
“Did you now? Then I expect you know why I’m here.”
“This’ll go a lot easier for you if you surrender.”
Connor shrugged in a noncommittal manner. “It might.”
Lindsey frowned. “But you’re not going to make this easy for me, are you?”
Connor smirked. “No, I’m really not.”
Lindsey raised his sword.
A moment later, the door burst apart, torn in half and right off its hinges by the force of the blow dealt it. Lindsey came flying out into the yard, hit the ground hard, and slid to a halt some five yards from the door. He stood up, brushed himself off, and rubbed his jaw. “Damn. Kid packs a punch.”
“So, do you give up, or do I have to hit you some more?” came Connor’s resonant voice from inside the house.
“Give up?” Lindsey asked. “Hell, I’m just getting started.”
Sword in hand, he attacked, and their meeting was like a battle between wind and water, and the noise of it could not be contained by the house, but spilled out into the forest. Lindsey’s heavily enchanted blade shattered the air itself as it passed, each slash met with the crack of the sound catching up with the blade; yet Connor remained untouched, ducking, dodging, and weaving, and counterattacking with a grace that was far, far beyond human.
But then, Lindsey was hardly a normal human himself.
Connor could feel the Destroyer rising up within him, and he let it. His attacks grew more and more savage, his technique more and more brutal. His awareness stretched, and in that moment, he saw the hole in Lindsey’s defense – a hole so miniscule that even a master might not have noticed it. But the Destroyer did.
And the windows of the house exploded into a thousand glittering shards.
Fred gasped for breath, and came to with a start. "That was bad,” she managed between deep, gasping breaths, “but it's better now. You won't leave me?”
“Fred?” Wesley asked. He was at her side almost the same instant that she spoke. After she had collapsed in Joe’s Blue’s club, Joe had been kind enough to provide her a place to lie down to recover – a hammock he had set up in the back room. Time had passed, though she wasn’t sure how much. She looked at the man, standing there by the door, and she was sure that he knew who they were. He had a look of recognition in his eyes, though he didn’t say anything about it. Instead, he said, “Is she going to be all right?”
Wesley nodded wearily. “Yes, thank you. She should be fine. She has these fainting spells occasionally, but it’s nothing to be concerned about.”
Fred sat up.
“Is she...?” Wesley began to ask.
“Still here? Yeah. Sittin’ there right behind my eyes.” Her eyes were sad, and she looked away.
Joe took a mug and filled it up with water, and then hobbled over to hand it to Fred. “Here, drink some water,” he said. “You’ll feel better.”
As he handed her the mug, Wesley glanced down at his wrist. He glanced down at the man’s wrist, and his eyes widened. Fred took the water, and had a sip, and then looked at whatever it was that Wesley had seen.
A watcher’s tattoo.
“Fred, we’re leaving. Now,” Wesley said. For a moment she was tempted to tell him that she did not bend to his whims, but the urge faded quickly, and she was not entirely sure where it had come from. Instead, she tried to rise from the hammock. She was unsuccessful.
“Something the matter?” Joe asked.
Wesley helped Fred out of the hammock, and then turned to glare at Joe. “Leave her alone, Watcher,” he said.
And then, perhaps the worst thing that could have happened did. She felt that strange buzzing sense of another Immortal’s presence. “Oh God, not now!” she said.
Wesley did not have time to ask what was wrong before a loud, angry male voice bellowed from the bar, “MACLEOD!”
They made for the back door.
“WHERE ARE YOU HIDING?”
There was the noise of approaching footsteps, and a grizzled, middle-aged man stepped into the room. His eyes met with Fred’s, who was nearly out the door at that point, and he smiled unpleasantly. “I was looking for MacLeod,” he said, “But I suppose you’ll do.”
He drew a sword.
“You’re in front of witnesses,” Joe said warningly.
“And why should I care about that?” the Immortal replied.
Wesley placed himself squarely between Fred and the hostile Immortal. “I won’t let you touch her,” he said, and Fred backed further towards the door.
The Immortal laughed. Wesley drew a pistol, but the Immortal was quicker. A quick slash to the hand sent both the gun and a small splatter of blood flying into the wall. The gun discharged when it hit the ground, and though the bullet did not hit anyone, it was enough to send the patrons of the club in the other room into a panic. The sound of screaming and of fleeing people filled the air.
Wesley reached for his other pistol, but once again, the Immortal was too quick. He lunged forward and struck Wes hard in the temple with the hilt of his sword. Wesley went down.
Joe meanwhile produced a pistol of his own, but the Immortal simply sneered and kicked his wooden legs out from under him. Joe fell and cracked his head on the floor.
With Wesley now unconscious and Joe recovering from the nasty hit he’d taken to the head, Fred scrambled out the back door and away from the Immortal. “Wait,” she said pleadingly, “Please, we can work this out!”
He swung his sword, and she let out a little shriek as she tried to avoid it, but it found its mark. Her skin resisted it – Illyria’s presence had left its mark, and even her Immortal regeneration had not fully undone it – but without Illyria’s energies actively reinforcing it, it was not impermeable. The sword scraped across her collarbone, cutting deep into her flesh, albeit with difficulty. She fell backwards against the outer wall of the building. “Please,” she said.
The Immortal looked at her impassively. “There’s nothing to work out, little miss Texas,” and he spoke with a mocking faux Texan drawl. “There can be only one.”
He raised his sword, and then brought it down upon her neck in a swift, smooth arc. Yet even as it descended, Fred’s eyes seemed to freeze.
Her entire demeanor changed, all of her flighty, nervous mannerisms gone, replaced in an instant by cool arrogance and the assurance of command.
Joe had managed to get back to his feet, and began to raise the gun. But it was too late.
The Immortal noticed the change in Fred, but he certainly didn’t stop the decapitating swing of his sword. He barely had time to register that there was something wrong before his sword connected with her neck... and shattered, sending metal fragments flying everywhere.
Joe’s jaw dropped open.
Illyria rose to her feet, cold and imperious. Her gaze could have frozen the sun itself. “You have attempted to bring harm to my shell,” she intoned. It was surprisingly draining, manifesting herself in this way, shoving the Burkle Persona aside and assuming control of their shared body. It didn’t used to be. The thought annoyed her almost as much as this creature’s attempt on her life.
“What the hell?” the Immortal asked, and took a step away from the woman.
He didn’t move quickly enough. With the speed of a viper, Illyria surged forward, seized the Immortal by the throat, and threw him bodily into the back wall of Joe’s Blue’s Club. The force of the impact stunned him, and he looked stupidly up at the Old One in human form, unable to comprehend what was happening. “What? Wait...”
But Illyria neither waited nor abated. Instead, she seized the Immortal’s arm, and in one great wrench, tore it off.
Blood splattered everywhere, and the man screamed in agony as the sound of bones snapping like kindling filled the night. She took his severed arm and tossed it aside. He laughed deliriously, staring into her cold, pitiless eyes. He saw his death. He saw the death of every Immortal. He saw the end of the Game forever.
And then she made a trophy of his spine.
When Wesley awoke, he was quick to return to his feet. He looked at Joe, who was standing as one transfixed, staring mutely out the back door of his club, his face the very picture of total and complete shock.
There, in the alleyway, Illyria crouched over the mangled corpse of the Immortal who had challenged her, feasting upon his heart’s blood. The air was thick with the smell of blood, and the features of his beloved Fred were splattered with red. In one hand, she held the man’s severed spine. In the other, she held what was left of his heart.
The immortal’s body lay cold and still upon the ground. His head was only partially severed, still linked to shoulders by torn muscle and flesh. His face was frozen in an expression of abject terror.
And then she turned towards him. Her eyes met his, and she held out her hand, offering him the last of the Immortal’s heart. “Eat,” she said, with every expectation of being obeyed. “Eat and grow strong. I will not have a guide who is not strong enough to play his part.”
Yes, they were definitely going to have to do something about Illyria.
“How is she?” Angel asked. He was speaking into his cell phone. Their car was now well into Oregon, and it was night.
“She’s sleeping now,” came Wesley’s voice from the other end. “But Angel, what Illyria did...”
“You know what she is, Wes. Did you really expect anything different?”
“No.” There was silence on the other end for a moment. “She said that if I did not make Fred able to defend herself without the need for her to intervene, she would have to take ‘measures of her own.’”
Angel nodded, and then immediately felt silly for nodding at the cell phone. “So train her.”
“Train her, Wes. She’s not some delicate flower. She survived five years in a hell dimension. She survived Illyria. Train her to survive this.”
Wesley was silent again, and then he spoke, his voice weary. “I will train her.”
“We should be there in a few days. I’ll call when we’re a bit closer.”
Wesley hung up, and Angel did the same a moment later.
And far away, in the San Rafael Mountains near Santa Barbara, Connor ran.
It was night, and he was surrounded by forest, and he ran: through tree-shadow, over root, and under bough. His pursuers followed, but he was the Destroyer. He grinned a feral grin. They might chase him now, but soon the hunters would be the hunted.
One of them was right on his heels. He slid to a stop in front of an old, gnarled tree and turned around, and the vamp came on. At the last possible moment, Connor stepped smoothly out of the way.
The vampire, unable to halt his forward momentum in time, slammed hard against the tree. More to the point, he slammed hard against the short, thick, sharp branch that Connor had stopped just short of. It pierced his heart, and he exploded into a cloud of dust.
Connor was vaguely disappointed that the creature left no corpse, even as he had known it would not. But the rest of the pack was approaching, and he had no time to linger. He snapped off the branch that the vampire had impaled himself on, and ran on. This, he knew, was the best way he could fight such a mob. Run. Let them chase you. Some of them would run faster than the others. It turned what could have been a fight of twelve against one into twelve fights of one against one, and those odds were much more to his liking.
Back in the cabin Connor called home, Lindsey sheathed his sword. He had to admit, the boy was good. Lindsey was a master swordsman with quite a bit of magic backing him up, and he’d been unable to overcome the kid. But the kid had run, and he’d sent his backup after him – a dozen powerful vampires.
He shook his head ruefully. It had been a simple enough plan. Get in, grab the kid, and hold him hostage until Angel showed up to play the part of the noble, self-sacrificing hero like he always did – for truth, justice, absolute good, and all that nonsense. Why did things always have to get so complicated?
END CHAPTER 6
I was dissatisfied with the version of this chapter that I originally posted, and so went and revised it, though not before accidently deleting it (*grumbles*) and having to repost it.
Changes made: an additional scene added, several scenes altered, some explanation offered as to why Illyria can't just take permanent control of Fred's body, and a hint dropped as to why Seacouver was chosen as her final portal destination. Connor material retouched and expanded slightly.