Hellmouth, Fanfiction.net, and Fonts of Wisdom. No real spoilers, this is AU Angel season 3, BtVS season 6. Warning, character death.
This is a BtVS / Angel / Lou Grant crossover fiction, a sequel to my earlier story Family Issues, a BtVS / Men in Black crossover. It isn't necessary to have read Family Issues, all essential information will be included in this story, but it helps. For details of how this story ties into series continuity see part I. For more information on the Lou Grant TV series see the author's note, published as a separate chapter (at the end of chapter 1 on fanfiction.net)
Characters and settings are used without permission, and with no intention of damaging copyright in the original stories. This story may not be distributed on any profit-making basis. Distribution Fanfiction.net, Twisting The Hellmouth, Fonts of Wisdom, other sites please ask. I'm British, so's my spelling - live with it.
by Marcus L. Rowland
Somewhere a woman was saying "I think she's coming round."
"What the hell happened?" said a man.
"Something bad," said another woman. "Angel and Connor are missing."
"She took Connor," said Billie, trying to open her eyes. "Justine took Connor."
"But where's Angel?" said the first voice, which Billie vaguely recognised as Cordelia.
"He's gone... can't hurt Willow now. Can't hurt the baby."
"Who can't?" asked the man... Wesley.
"Angel," said Billie, trying to make them understand "I made sure. He'll never hurt Willow."
"What have you done?" said Willow. "What the hell have you done?"
"I don't understand how I didn't see it before," said Tara, gazing into Billie's eyes as she sat one of the offices off the lobby. "Someone's really done a number on you."
"What do you mean?" said Billie, trying to understand.
"Someone's used something on you, I'd guess magic but it could be drugs. Made you obsessive about protecting Willow."
"But I had to stop him from harming her, can't you see that?"
"Willow's known Angel for six years, Billie. Why would she be in any more danger now than she was before?" Billie tried to think of an answer as Willow came in carrying a steaming copper beaker, followed by April and Cordelia.
"Drink this," said Willow.
"There's nothing wrong with me, can't you see I've saved you?"
Willow nodded, and April put her hands on Billie's shoulders and gently pushed her down into the seat. Cordelia held her arms.
"Are you sure about this, sweetie?" asked Tara.
"Positive," said Willow. "It's too late for Angel, but Connor's in danger, and we need everything that Billie knows. For that we need her sane. Billie, I'm sorry." She held the beaker to Billie's lips and said "Please. Drink it." Billie clenched her mouth closed. Willow sighed and pinched her nostrils, waited until she was forced to gasp for air, and made sure that she swallowed. After an agonising minute she let go.
Billie felt the drink go down her throat like liquid fire. Then there was an explosion in her head, an agonising fire that seemed to spread from her forehead to the back of her head, followed by an icy chill. As the pain cleared she began to feel nauseated and started to choke.
"Let her go," said Willow; April complied, and Billie bent forward and vomited onto the floor. Someone - Tara, she thought - gently rubbed her back as she coughed and spluttered. A minute passed as she slowly began to think clearly and realised what she'd done. Then she vomited again.
"It's a lot like the thrall some vampires can use," said Willow, "only a lot sneakier. It feeds on natural fears or a suggestion and makes the victims act like... well, like Billie acted. It's real hard to spot in the early stages, which is why I guess neither of us caught on."
"I just can't believe I killed him like that," Billie said numbly. "I was grateful to him for finding you, and somehow it was twisted into, into, I guess fear once I knew what he was. I had to protect you from him. Nothing else mattered. At first I was just helping Holtz, then somehow I was volunteering to kill Angel. It all seemed so right when I was doing it."
"In a way it's natural," said Wesley. "All of us can remember the dark side of Angel, and you heard enough about him, from us and from Holtz, to make it easy to fear him."
"That's one way of looking at it," Cordelia said harshly. "Another is that Billie betrayed Angel and Connor, lied to all of us, and let a child be stolen by someone who wants to see him dead."
"That wasn't Billie." said Willow. "Not really."
"I don't think that's Holtz's plan," said Billie. "I don't understand why he would have her take Connor if I killed Angel."
"He's the son of the vampires that killed his family," said Cordelia. "Isn't that enough?"
"I think it would have made sense while Angel was alive, but now... no, I don't think he was thinking in those terms at all."
"You like him?" asked Wesley. "Even now?"
"Not like, exactly, more respect. He did save my life. And I still feel pity for him, for what Angel did to his family."
"The hell of it is she's right," said Wesley. "Holtz is an admirable man apart from his obsession. Even Angel acknowledged that. And he may not have been entirely wrong about Angel."
"What?" said several voices.
"The prophecies I've been researching, the ones that relate to Connor. For the last week I've been trying to find an alternative translation for them."
"Why alternative?" asked Gunn.
"Because the one I've got reads 'The father will kill the child'. It's academic now, I suppose."
"Holy crap," said Cordelia. "That's not the only thing that's academic. All of the prophecies, everything that talks about a vampire with a soul, it's all wrong. No participation in the final apocalypse, no Shansu, nothing. Just dust."
"Maybe that isn't all bad," said Gunn. "'No fate... no fate but what we make.'"
"Terminator Two, when the chick decides to change history and whack the computer guy. 'The unknown future rolls toward us'. Everyone's level. Us, Wolfram and Hart, everyone else who thought that they knew what was coming. They were all wrong. Fred said, 'Screw destiny'. We've really screwed with it now, we're making it up as we go along and so are they."
"Except that there are still the predictions about Connor," said Wesley, "and even without Angel there's still enough there to put him in deadly danger. Without Angel to protect him..."
"We don't have time to worry about predictions now," said Cordelia, "we need to concentrate on finding him."
"What about the police?" asked Billie.
"At the moment I hope that only we, Justine, and Holtz know that Connor is missing," said Wesley. "If we involve the police Wolfram and Hart will soon know, and word is bound to get out to the demon communities. There are a dozen different factions that want to see Connor dead or worship him as the new messiah."
"Always assuming that Holtz or Justine isn't working for them."
"Not Holtz. Everything we know about him says that he wouldn't be a party to anything like that. Justine though... how much do we really know about her? Fred?"
Fred looked up from her computer, her eyes red from crying, and said "Not really a lot here. She had a twin sister who was killed a few months ago, the report says an animal attack but it sounds like vampires to me. There's no current address listed, she has a driving license but there's no indication that she owns a car. That might mean that the car she bought Billie in was stolen or rented, or just wasn't registered in her name. Are you sure you didn't notice the license number?"
"No," said Billie, "I'm not even sure it was a Taurus."
"What about magic?" asked Gunn. "Is there any way you can trace him?"
"I'm not getting any visions," said Cordelia, "Why the hell would the Powers let us down now?"
"Maybe we can do something," said Tara, "it's a simple enough spell if they don't have him screened some way, but it needs a lot of power, much more than to find a demon. Willow could do it better than me."
"What?" said Willow. "Are you kidding?"
"We don't have an alternative. If I try it I'll probably blow it, and muddy the waters so badly that nobody else can do it. It has to be you."
"Us. If we do it together we can use a different spell, one that needs a lot less power. You remember, the invocation of the Goddess. We could spirit-walk to find him. That way we'll be working the spell together and you can anchor me and keep me from going critical."
"Oh. Um... yeah, we could do that." Tara was blushing furiously. So was Willow.
"What's the problem?" asked Cordelia.
"Nothing," said Willow. "It's just... it's kinda the first really powerful spell we did together. Brings back memories."
"I think we have everything we need for it," said Tara, "We'll need something of Connor's, something like clothing or a lock of his hair."
"I've got that," said Cordelia. "Angel kept his first little shirt and his..." she began to sob helplessly.
"I think I know where he kept those things," Wesley said hastily, "start making your preparations, I'll find them. Charles, Fred, get maps and photographs, everything we have that might help Willow and Tara pin down a location."
"What can I do?" asked Billie.
"Go home," said Gunn, "I think you've already done enough harm."
"She can't," said Willow, "the potion I made her will only work for a few hours, after that she'll be under the spell again. Removing it completely will be a lot more complicated. For all we know there's another compulsion waiting to kick in once Angel is out of the way, so we have to keep Billie under observation, make sure that she doesn't hurt herself or someone else when it starts up again."
"Are you saying I'm a prisoner here?" asked Billie.
"Only until we can remove the spell," said Tara, "shouldn't be more than a few hours, but we've got to find Connor first."
"You know," said Willow, "Billie was part of the spell we did to protect Connor, and she's got a little mojo, although she doesn't really know how to use it. If she helps with the locator spell it might help us to get a lock on him."
"Me? How can I help."
"You'd just have to follow us in some simple movements and chants, maybe help support me if I go out of body. It'll look like I've fainted. Having you in it would give us a little more power. It might even give us a way to home in on whoever cast the spell on you if we can't find Connor."
"Can you adapt the spell for three people, one of them untrained?" asked Wesley.
"I think so," said Willow, "if not we probably won't be any worse off than we are now. Tara and I can do it on our own if we have to. Billie, are you willing to help?"
"Of course, if it'll help find Connor."
"The Inward Eye, The Sightless Sea,
Ayala flows through the River in Me..."
Willow, Tara, and Billie sat on a padded gym mat on the lobby floor, their right arms linked and left arms holding crushed crystals, repeating the chant. Billie was trying to keep in step with the verses, aided by hastily scrawled cue cards that Wesley and Cordelia were holding up. All three of them were sweating, breathing deeply, in unison.
"This is like that show with the three witches," Gunn murmured to Fred. "Only it looks a lot sexier somehow."
"Charles, Angel's dead and you're talking about bad TV."
"My way of coping, Fred."
"The Inward Eye, The Sightless Sea,
Ayala flows through the River in Me..."
All three cast handfuls of crystal in an arc, streaming them out to make a circle around them. Somehow their movements were perfectly synchronised. As the last crystals showered onto the floor they began to glow, softly at first then searingly bright, and Billie and Tara fell back onto the mat, Willow somehow supporting both and laying them down without hurting them. Wesley and Gunn moved to help, but Willow held up a hand and said "It's okay, just give it a little time, looks like Billie and Tara get to fly this one without me." She sounded confident, but everyone could see that she was worried.
White. Billie tried to look around and saw nothing, not even her own body, just white nothingness. She tried to say "Where am I?" but heard nothing. There was no smell, no taste, no feeling. She thought of blinking, tried to do it, but there was nothing but the light.
"We're astral," said Tara's voice.
"Where are you?" thought Billie.
"It's difficult to explain. We're out of our bodies right now, and we need to get orientated. Relax and try to think of your body, Billie. Imagine it, imagine the clothes you're wearing."
"I'll try." Billie did as she was asked, and gradually began to feel her body, slowly at first then suddenly snapping into focus. She tried to raise a hand, felt her arm move and saw it rise in front of her face. It wasn't broken.
"That's good," said Tara's voice, the first thing she'd heard since the spell took effect. Somehow she turned to face her, and saw... not Tara, but a goddess. "You look beautiful," said Billie.
"That probably means I'm idealizing too much," said Tara. She seemed to concentrate, and somehow looked more human, a little plainer. There was still nothing else to see, just the white nothingness and Tara. Billie wondered what her own face looked like if she could see it, and held up her hand again. The skin looked a little younger and firmer than usual, the veins a little less visible. She had a feeling that she looked about thirty.
"We'd better start at the Hyperion," said Tara. "Try to visualise the lobby, the way it was when we were casting the spell. Imagine it the way it was, with the mat on the floor and us sitting there." For what seemed like minutes nothing happened, then the lobby seemed to appear around them, ghostly, translucent. Willow was sitting by their recumbrant bodies, a worried look on her face. Everyone was motionless. "It's probably just a couple of seconds since we went astral," said Tara, "time's different on this plane."
"How do we get back?"
"When we're ready just lie in your own body, and remember that it's you. I'll help you."
"Okay. What do we do now?"
"Think of the past. Remember where you and Justine were standing, what you said, as you were talking to Angel. Try to visualise it."
Billie tried. There was nothing at first, then two ghostly outlines, misty and insubstantial. "I can see us, just about. Why isn't it any clearer?"
"We're not really seeing the past," said Tara, "it's a residue, a psychic trace left by your auras. I can barely see it, you can probably see it a little more clearly because you were there. Is one of them much brighter than the other?"
"Yes. I think it's me. Why can't I see Angel?"
"He was a vampire, Billie, they don't leave that kind of psychic trace. Sometimes seers can see them in visions, but that's a whole different ball game. There might be a very faint trace left by Connor, but he's a baby, it'd be almost impossible to see. I think Willow was too optimistic about that."
"What do we do now?"
"Can you see a faint trail for each of you? Like a vapour trail left by a plane?"
"That shows where you've been. What we want to do is fast forward a little and follow the trail, see where it takes us. I need you to visualise everything that happened up to the moment that Justine went out the door. Take it slowly... that's good."
The misty replica of Billie did something, paused for a moment, then fell to the floor. Justine walked out, slowly at first then faster until it looked like a speeded-up movie.
"Too fast, Billie," said Tara. "Take it back a little until she's in the lobby, then forward a little slower."
"But she went through the doors. They didn't open."
"They didn't open now, but they opened when she went through an hour or so ago. Don't worry about it. We're not physical, Billie, we can go anywhere we can imagine, up to a point. Just follow her through the door and out into the street."
They reached the road, after several false starts, and saw hundreds of misty trails. "Why is it like this?" asked Billie.
"Everyone who drives past leaves a trail. The low ones are cars, the high ones buses or trucks. What we have to do is find the one that leads to Justine and follow that."
"Let's take it back a little, to when she coming out of the hotel. I think I can remember where she parked, that ought to give us a good starting point."
They followed the trace that Billie prayed was Justine to the side of the road, about fifty yards from the ghostly replica of the Hyperion, then saw it move onto the road. "Are you getting a feel for it yet, for her aura?"
"Maybe," said Billie. "I'm pretty sure this track is her. But there are hundreds of others. It's like that film Koyaanisqatsi, like the tracks left by the tail-lights of hundreds of cars. How do we follow just one of them?"
"Think of it as a.. oh, as the rails on a flight of stairs. Imagine yourself sliding down it."
"What? How can we do that?"
"Billie, we're not really here. Everything we're seeing is our mind interpreting psychic traces. We can walk, or slide, or even fly, if we put our minds to it. Do whatever you think will make it easiest to follow the trail."
Billie thought for a moment, and remembered a team-building exercise she'd once taken part in, sliding down a rope that seemed a couple of hundred feet long. She imagined the wheeled mechanism that she'd held onto, visualised it clipped to the vapour trail. Suddenly it was there. She grabbed it, took her weight from her feet - except that there didn't seem to be any real weight, just a gentle pressure on her arms - and slid forward, slowly at first then faster as she gained confidence.
"That's great!" said Tara. Billie looked back to see her following on another roller. By now it felt like they were travelling as fast as a car. Faster. Much faster. Their route seemed to twist and turn, through side streets and back alleys, along the busiest roads. Billie guessed that someone trying to follow in a car would have had difficulty keeping up. Faster, the trail seeming to get stronger as they got closer to the present. An office block made of mist loomed ahead, and the trail swerved towards the entrance to an underground parking garage. Abruptly they jerked to a halt. It felt like they'd hit a solid wall.
"What happened?" asked Billie.
"We hit a barrier," said Tara. "Someone's got a privacy spell up, to keep out psychic snoopers. Looks like it stops us too." She tried to walk forward, and Billie was irresistibly reminded of the force field barriers in old science fiction movies. Something seemed to throw Tara back and wasn't gentle about it.
"Won't try that again in a hurry," said Tara. "They've got some serious mojo protecting that building. Any idea what it is?"
"Not a hundred percent, it looks different when it's made of mist," said Billie, "but I'm pretty sure that if we went round to the front we'd see a sign saying 'Wolfram and Hart.'"
To Be Continued