Illyria looks around at the rows of offices which surround her on all sides. “The wolf, the ram, and the hart,” she says, recognizing it as the place she spent so much of her life those weeks in L.A. “This was destroyed.”
“Twice actually,” says a woman behind her. “But they keep coming back, like that cat in the song?”
Illyria examines her surrounding. Every detail intact, exactly as it was. “What is this?”
“Remember that moment in Casablanca when Humphrey Bogart says to Ingrid Bergman, ‘We’ll always have Paris’? Of course you do, because Wesley and I watched it together, and you have my memories. Well, this is Paris. Only not literally. Although I do hear the Paris branch of Wolfram & Hart does look a lot like this.”
“These are memories,” Illyria realizes, as she feels the texture of a potted fern in a corner. “Mental recreations of past events. Illusions.”
“Evidently my brain still works. Good to know.”
For the first time, Illyria turns and faces the woman. She is a slender brunette in an attractive brown sundress. But Illyria’s eyes are drawn to the woman’s face, which is a mirror image of her own, except it is missing the characteristic strokes of blue which set Illyria apart from all humanity. “You are her. The shell.”
Fred shakes her head, chidingly. “No, actually, you are the shell. I just happen to be its previous owner.”
“You were destroyed,” Illyria insists. “In the Fires of Resurrection.”
Fred just shrugs. “Just my soul. There’s more to me than just that. Like my memories, which lives on in you. And my personality, which most emphatically does not. The soul is important, but not everything. Just ask any vampire.”
Illyria puts on her most superior air, one designed to cow even the most belligerent creature into submission. “I am not a half-breed.”
“My body and your . . . whatever. Two sets of memories—three, even. Sounds like a hybrid to me.”
Illyria frowns. “This illusion, it displeases me. This mental labyrinth, this—”
“I do not dream.”
Fred doesn’t seem to be all that intimidated. “Perhaps not,” she admitted, agreeably. “But I do, and you’re stuck with my body now. And while you’re at it, you might want to stay away from anchovies. I’m allergic.”
Illyria looks around at the offices of Wolfram & Hart, L.A. branch. Where can she escape from this barrage of memories, these mental recriminations? “I wish this to end.”
Fred smiles. “I’m not really a vengeance demon or anything like that. But—” She shrugs. “Wish granted.”
Illyria emitted a startled gasp as her blue eyes suddenly snapped open. Exhaling slowly, she looked around. She was back in Cleveland, in her small apartment. In her own bed, so many miles from L.A. and all it represented. She was safe, she assured herself, even as she could feel the shame burn through her. How she had fallen .
Now awake, she got out of bed, pausing only long enough to modulate her form so that the naked flesh of the shell’s body is clothed by her red and blue outfit. The costume of a king, she reminded herself. Even if her kingdom had long ago been destroyed.
Alec and his buddies were prowling the street, looking for any easy human meal to feed upon. Unfortunately, the dark alleys of Cleveland seemed to be empty this night, and the chances of them going hungry seemed to be getting greater and greater.
Suddenly, Eddie—the unofficial leader of the trio—spoke up. “Look, boys, it’s the Blue Fairy.”
Alec looked in the direction Eddie was pointing. Indeed, a single woman was making her way down the street. Her hair seemed to be died with some rather outrageous blue highlights, and there was what seemed to have some type of blue makeup on her forehead. Hell, with Alec’s vamp vision, it looked like she was wearing some type of blue lipstick and eyeshadow.
“Yow-ee,” he agreed, looking at her. “Just look at that outfit.” She was wearing some type of red and blue leather catusit which tightly hugged her not inconsiderable curves. The woman was slender and—well, she was hot. Alec didn’t feel the need to deconstruct the notion any further. “Looking for some action, babe?” he asked, raising his voice so he would know she could hear him.
The woman cocked her head, looking at them strangely. “I am disturbed,” she said at last. “I wish to engage in violence.”
The three vampires looked at each other, grinning. “Happy to oblige,” said Malcolm as all three vamped out.
The woman didn’t seem to as much as blink as the three came after her. Instead she simply blocked their attacks, moving so fast that none of the three could manage to get their fangs into her neck. She punched Alec in the nose, and he reeled backwards, clutching his nose as she watched her backhand Malcolm with such strength he went flying across the street. He must have fallen on the park bench in such a way as to be impaled by some of the wood, because even as he landed he exploded into dust.
Eddie began backing away from her. “Wh-what are you?” he asked.
“I am Illyria,” she answered, grabbing his hair and lifting him off the ground. “The ancient source of all destruction.” She grabbed his shoulder and ripped his head off. Dust.
By this time, Alec was already running as quickly as he could, and he didn’t stop until he was halfway across Cleveland.
Across the street, Faith the Vampire Slayer stood with a stake in her left hand and a cigarette in her right, watching as a strangely-dressed woman with blue hair slayed two vampires. “Now isn’t that interesting,” she said to herself, before taking a drag on the cigarette and exhaling it slowly.