Actions

Work Header

Salt on the Briar Rose

Work Text:

"The reign of the Old Ones did not end with a curse or with a cataclysm. There was no mythic bang that brought their rule to an end; rather, it was an endless, sordid withering.

"Their subjects grew resentful, then rebellious. The armies disobeyed orders, and the congregations refused to pay homage.

"The Old Ones destroyed these unfaithful upstarts, but the humans were like sand, or germs, ever-present and ever-producing.

"Our time waned, and we fell asleep. Many of us sleep still."


Willow leaned her head back against the wall. The moon's light seemed to drip through the cracks in the ceiling, and Illyria's voice coiled around her like a fog. "It's funny," Willow said. "I guess we're just as indestructible as you. Humans, I mean. Just in a different way."

Illyria tilted her head, prowling the perimeter of the room. "We found you infuriating."

"I never thought of it like that," Willow said. She wrapped the blanket more tightly around her shoulders. "Huh."

Illyria's stare was impenetrable, interminable. "Your glee is incommensurate with the tale."

"It usually is," Willow replied. "You have first watch?"

"My gaze is endless," Illyria said.

"Cool," Willow responded, then she turned her shoulder to the wall and fell asleep.

*

The sun rose, and quiet fell over Los Angeles. Standing in front of the broken window on the Hyperion's fourth floor, Willow looked out over the quiet of the emptied city. "I bet the traffic doesn't suck as much now."

"Do you speak of cars?" Illyria asked. "They litter the horizon like scarab shells, memorializing life and promising little else."

"I'm glad the coven helped me open that gate, then," Willow said. She scratched the inside of her elbow. "So when do I get the tour?"

"You may follow as I survey the city," Illyria said. She crouched, then jumped out the window.

Willow leaned through a gap in the glass and watched Illyria's landing crack the concrete below. "Huh," she observed.

"I grow weary," Illyria cried out.

"I'm taking the stairs," Willow shouted back.

*

The day was spent, as Willow had hoped, traveling between focal points of magic and the nests of demons scattered throughout the city. After Angel had declared war on Wolfram and Hart, Los Angeles had imploded three times as terrible as when the sun had gone out. Illyria opined on various weaknesses of the demons in question, and Willow used a handful of scrying spells to ascertain what Illyria couldn't.

At noon, she commandeered an abandoned Vespa, trying not to consider what had happened to its owner. (The splotch of blood on the headlight was a hint.) Illyria scoffed, but they covered twice as much distance within the hour, and Willow even let her kick the crap out of a bunch of vampires before she set them on fire.

An hour until sunset, Illyria paused, perched on the bent railing of an overpass. "We must return to our sanctuary," she intoned.

"I'm pretty sure we can get back before dark," Willow said.

"I feel them stirring," Illyria replied. She glanced sharply at Willow. "They have charged me with your safety."

Willow smiled. "That's so sweet."

Illyria tilted her head, then turned and began running again.

*

The moon spilled into the room again, and Willow rested, standing against the wall. Illyria slunk into the room, a paper sack in her hand.

"Humans require sustenance," Illyria said. She held up the bag. "I have brought you doughnuts."

"Really?" Willow asked. She took the bag from Illyria's hand and opened it, sniffing deeply. "Yum." She rose on her tiptoes and pressed her lips against Illyria's. They were cold, but sweet. "Thank you."

Illyria stepped backwards, something like frown between her brows. "I only do what I must."

Willow smiled, and she held the bag up. "Want one?"