Title Ascension
Author: Celeste
Rating: PG-13 for the occasional dirty word.
Disclaimer: Joss owns all. Even if he's sort of a meanie head. I only own the OCS. Which makes me feel like a hypocrite because I usually hate OCS.
Pairing: elements of A/C and D/C (isn't that a band?)
Summary: Cordelia's ascension brings her face to face with a new mission and a surprise encounter. (Post "Tomorrow")
Feedback: keviesprincess@netscape.net
A/N: Yeah, so a plot bunny sort of hit me while watching the season finale of Angel. I also got one for Buffy but I'm so depressed after the whole Spike fiasco that I decided I'll let the other, more capable authors deal with it. *Sniff* He doesn't need a soul!!!!! Oh, and while we're SO on topic, **…** denote character thoughts.
Dedication/Thanks: Special thanks to Prism for seeing fit to look at this fic ahead of time, despite how stupid it got/is at numerous times. The story itself is dedicated to Skye and Mel, because they graduated this year, and will need such frivolous things as fic dedications and lava lamps to decorate their dorms in college. :P I'm sorry if it's an extremely boring story. My muse does that sometimes. But you two are great and understanding friends and realize that I have nothing of monetary value to give you. :P Happy Graduation! Archive: Let me know.

Prologue: Gods and Generals

I can't stand to fly
I'm not that naïve
I'm just out to find
The better part of me

I'm more than a bird
I'm more than a plane
I'm more than some pretty face
Beside a train
And it's not easy
To be me

Wish that I could cry
Fall upon my knees
Find a way to lie
About a home I'll never see

It may sound absurd
But don't be naïve
Even heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed but won't you concede
Even heroes have the right to dream
It's not easy to be me

He sighed and concentrated on scrubbing at the blade of his sword with a cloth, the rust-colored stains smudging against the cold steel as he applied some elbow grease to the job. Down in the commons area, his men sat, tired and bleeding as orderlies scurried around, seeing to the wounded while others dragged black bag after black bag of dead out the sliding metal doors towards the graveyard for a mass burial that would commence hours later. Something twanged regrettably in the pit of his stomach at the thought, but he clenched his jaw slightly and leveled his sword in front of him as if single-minded concentration would rid him of the unwarranted feelings of guilt and remorse. He was fighting a war. Casualties were to be expected.

Amidst the murmurs of the troops below, a low, keening wail was heard, solitary and mournful, someone's private dirge of grief revealed to the world because the pain was too great to hold in until a more appropriate moment. The chatter of the men stopped, dead in the background, and the wailing was allowed to go on unaccompanied, a solo that twisted in the inner pits of his stomach, made gastronomic juices well like a tide against the full roundness of the moon. He bit down on his tongue and turned away from the window in his quarters, swiveled the chair back to face the perfect mahogany stained desk to where his weapons sat, laid out before him and ready for their weekly maintenance. He was a general. The laments of his soldiers were not supposed to weaken his resolve, to hurt his loyalty to the cause.

He continued polishing, tried to think of more pleasant things than the loss of so many lives, tried to think about perhaps having a drink later with his officers, perhaps sequestering himself in his quarters to do some training in order to clear his mind. The copper layer that marred his weapon began to rub off so that he could see the clear reflective surface underneath. He turned away when his own battle scarred countenance appeared, looking back at him with a mixture equal parts bewilderment and disgust. After a moment, he gave up and set the blue blade gingerly along the table with the others before folding his hands over his mouth to rest his chin on. He closed his eyes and took a long shuddering breath, blinked back the mysterious mist of moister gathering behind the lids. He was a general. Casualties were expected. Always.

For a moment, he let his mind's eye drift towards happier times, a lifetime ago to a place where he didn't have to play the hero, wasn't expected to do more than deliver one message at a time and wait on the sidelines for a response. He'd been a gambler, an occasional drunk, sometimes a liar and sometimes a cheat. All those qualities that signified someone that wasn't the hero. He groaned and lowered his forehead to rest against his left bicep. **That's right boyo, you were nothin'. An' wasn't it better that way?**

"Not getting nostalgic on me now, are you, General?"

His eyes darted upwards to regard head poking into his chamber doorway, though he made no other movement. "Aren't you supposed ta knock before ya barge in on a man, Colonel?" His mouth turned into a bit of a frown though it was more weary than annoyed.

The Colonel smiled in response, a flash of long silver fangs, before dropping to all fours. "Sorry General, kinda hard to knock with the paws…I sorta just make a scratching sound … tends to scare little kids and old women," he explained, examining a massive foot paw jokingly. "Oh, and Whistler's here to see you, sir."

The General felt a tiny, threatening pressure building in the back of his brain at the mention of Whistler. He groaned and shut his eyes again. "Couldn't ya've told 'im I died in the battle last night or sumthin'?"

The Colonel padded over with a look of mirth; tail swishing back and forth like a furry python, a sign of arrogance. The General would have chopped it off and used it for a hat if he didn't need his second in command so much.

"I would have, but accordingly, you died during his last visit, remember?" The wolf-creature's tone of voice sounded apologetic, but the glint in his quicksilver eyes belied his true nature, which consisted of general amusement over his superior's predicament.

The General groaned and pulled his head up from its state of repose against his arm. "Damn. I need ta think up a new excuse. Didja ask him what 'e wanted, Maj?"

The wolf shrugged one shoulder, jumping up to rest forepaws against the edge of the desk to bring him eye level; ignoring the slight look of protest his general gave him in response to marks that would undoubtedly be left behind. "He was all properly cryptic. I figure if it's none of my business I won't hit him up for any unnecessary chit-chat unless it interests me."

"Gee, thanks, Colonel."

"My pleasure, sir. Should I send him in?"

The question was answered with a resigned wave of a hand. **Might as well get it over with…see what the Powers 'ave to say. Maybe they'll fire me.** The prospect welled a certain amount of delight within him, the thought that perhaps the position he had been unwillingly placed in was about to be stripped from him and he would be allowed to return to his former life, never to play the reluctant hero again. **Well, for the most part…**

A moment later, and also without knocking, Whistler strolled in, hat titled at a jaunty angle on the crown of his head while he chewed on a toothpick, oily smirk plastered on his oily face. The fitting image of every slimed up sleaze-ball the General had ever met in the past, shabbily dressed and sauntering as if it had taken a great feat of effort and skill to pull that particular look off. In response, the General arched his eyebrows upward and assumed the role of a commanding officer with something better to do. "Somethin' I can help you with, Whis?"

The demon's smirk widened if possible, toothpick splaying against his cheek with the gesture. The General wondered why it didn't just fall out at that angle.

"You still got some of that good scotch holed up in here, Gen?"

He gritted his teeth as Whistler began to root through his chamber, tossing aside major battle plans and terrain maps in hopes of finding the General's secret stash. "If ya came to get drunk, you shoudla went down to Earth… they got more o' it down there than up here."

Whistler, abandoning his search at the sound of the warning in the other man's voice, stuck his hands into his jacket pocket and strolled towards the desk. "Drunk? Nah. Got work to do. How are things going up here?"

The General forced himself to remain neutral. "Same ole, same ole…" **I got two thousand bodies to burry before the night's over, letters of consolation an' medals to give out, an' too many injured men to fit in the infirmary. I've STILL got medical teams out in the field cleaning up the mess and bringing in more dead an' injured every five fuckin' minutes. My officers are startin' to doubt my leadership, an' the whole boat could go down unless somethin' good happens in the next few weeks.** " … everythin's fine."

Whistler looked unconvinced. "Sure it is."

"You said you had work to do? Or did the Powers construct a new chit-chat division and decided to let ya head it?"

Amused, Whistler hoisted himself up on the corner of the desk, wary of the weapons inches from his posterior. "We found another one to bring up," he explained, smiling largely and grabbing a paperweight from the desk. "You're gettin' help in the next few days." He tossed the crystal globe from one hand to the other.

Eyebrows arched higher. "That so?" he asked, reaching in-between and grabbing his paperweight mid-flight and setting it back on the table with a look belying to Whistler the fact that if he touched the weight again, the next thing he'd be tossing from hand to hand would be his teeth.

Whistler got the hint, and nestled his hands in his lap. "Yeah… demon hybrid from Earth. We're thinkin' of making her an officer right off the bat. Got some powerful blood in her, didn't even corrupt half way. She's comin' up."

The General assumed the dutifully impressed expression. "From Earth?"

Whistler nodded, tongue in cheek, as if trying to suppress something. The 'I-know-something-you-don't-know' type of something. He would have made a terrible poker player with that expression on his face. "Took some convincing, but Skip got her to come up. She's gonna help save this realm."

**Somethin' I couldn't do…** The General shook his head. "She takin' over, then?"

"Oh c'mon there, Al… don't look so relieved. You're still top dog in these parts. Powers wouldn't replace you for no one…not even one of their souled vamps. And that's the truth."

A quirk of interest flashed in the General's eyes. "Plural, souled vamps?"

Whistler picked up a dagger and examined it, nonchalantly before remembering the earlier threat. He put it back down hastily and continued to talk. "A new development on Earth… the Powers are milking it, believe me. But that's not the point. The point is, expect someone new in about fifteen hours. I think you'll want to show her the ropes, personally."

Blue-green eyes narrowed in response. "I get the feelin' I'm not gonna like this."

A chortle escaped Whistler's throat, and the toothpick fell out of his mouth and landed on the desk with a minute, wet sounding smack. Sheepishly, Whistler snatched it up with his hand and, much to his companion's disgust, stuck it back between his teeth before speaking again. "Depends on your definition of like, Doyle-boy."

The General's eyes slitted. "How many times I haveta tell you not to call me that?"

Another laugh from the other demon. "You're a hoot, kid. Love it. Anyway, that's all I got to say. I'm out. Gotta go see a vampire about a mission. Boy, Angel's gonna love it when he finds out who Soul-boy Jr. is…" Whistler hopped off the desk with a certain amount of practiced flourish and headed for the door.

"Angel? Wait…" Doyle stood up, calling after Whistler.

The other demon paused just in front of the door, head tilted to the side. "Yeah, kid?"

The Irishman felt partially stupid for even asking, for being so transparent. "Angel…how is he?"

Whistler shrugged one shoulder lazily. "Still on the path. Hit a road bump or two. He'll get over it."

Doyle sat back down slowly, watching the demon messenger's back as he left the office. "Oh." The door clicked shut.

I can't stand to fly
I'm not that naïve
I'm just out to find
The better part of me

I'm more than a bird
I'm more than a plane
I'm more than some pretty face
Beside a train
And it's not easy
To be me

Wish that I could cry
Fall upon my knees
Find a way to lie
About a home I'll never see

It may sound absurd
But don't be naïve
Even heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed but won't you concede
Even heroes have the right to dream
It's not easy to be me