Author: Jedi Buttercup
Summary: Five gifts, five anniversaries, and one reclamation, Illyria-style. 1500 words.
Disclaimer: All your Angel are belong to Joss Whedon & etc.
Spoilers: A:tS through "Not Fade Away" (5.22)
Notes: I have no explanation for this one. It just happened. Please let me know what you think. (Also, for those of you tracking me: expect a chapter of BAH within the week. I make no apologies for taking time off this last month for Yuletide and holidays, but things should pick up again soon.)
On the first anniversary of Wesley's death, Illyria returned to the hall of Vail bearing a small, lacquered box. His body had been removed many months before; Angel had insisted upon retrieving the discarded flesh after the battle, and had taken it away to be burnt like a sacrificial offering.
Illyria had approved. Wesley's shell no longer held his spirit; like his lover's before him, it had been hollowed out and made empty. It had seemed only fitting that his form should burn as hers had, though there was no other entity waiting to inhabit it anew.
She set the box down on the floor, atop the bloodstain where he had fallen, and removed a small slip of stiff paper from a pocket. It had been printed with the names of a popular theatre and their most recent offering of entertainment, a piece of cultural history that bore the designation 'Hamlet.' Spike had recently taken up the task of introducing her to human experiences relevant to the life and origins of her guide, and this 'play' had captured more of her attention than most.
"To die: to sleep; no more; and by a sleep to say we end," she murmured, staring meditatively at the ticket, then bent again and opened the lid of the box to place it reverently inside.
"It has been three hundred and sixty five days since my last visit," she said as she did so. "I have slain ninety-five lesser demons, forty-six half-breeds, and one human since our battle with the Circle of the Black Thorn."
Her voice rang from the walls of the vacant hall; there was no answer. She had not expected one. She closed the lid of the box, then strode from the building, leaving it behind as a monument to her visit.
On the second anniversary of Wesley's death, Illyria journeyed to the hall of Vail once more. The box lay where she had left it; but though the cold floor lay thickly covered in dust, its dark, lacquered surface was unclouded by particulate debris. She smiled to see it, a quirk of blue lips as eloquent as a cry of triumph.
She wore her blue-marked form again that day, rejecting the lie of Fred's face in this place that resonated of him so strongly, but covered it with standard human textiles: the heavy blue leggings known as 'jeans', an upper garment with sleeves appropriate for the weather, and matching footgear. Today, the weather was warm enough for a tee shirt; she had chosen a pale one printed with the image of a stack of tomes and the legend, "So many books. So little time."
She took from the right front pocket of her jeans a soft crocheted square, three inches on a side, worked in a checkered pattern of blue and brown thread. Angel had made it his goal in recent months to inflict upon her the capacity for creation in some fashion that did not involve violence or death. She still did not see the value of the endeavor-- it was not a natural skill for her, and made waste of time she could more productively use in the hunt-- but had humored him this far, that he might think he had accomplished something of worth in Wesley's memory.
"It has been three hundred and sixty five days since my last visit," she said, placing the square inside the box next to the ticket. "I have caused Angel to bray with laughter six times, Gunn twenty-three, and Spike forty-nine."
Silence was her only answer. Contented with her progress, Illyria left.
On the third anniversary of Wesley's death, Illyria was unavoidably detained. She arrived at the hall of Vail three days too late to mark his passing, wearing the battle-scarred red leather she had been rebirthed to. A heavy bruise darkened the skin over her right eye, and she walked with a slight limp.
"It has been three hundred and sixty eight days since my last visit," she said, narrowing her eyes at the box of keepsakes. It had moved approximately half an inch to the left of where she'd placed it, and at a slight angle; though it still spanned the bloodstain, none of the wooden feet upon which it rested touched any part of the darkened floor material. "In that time, I have mourned the deaths of one vampire, seven Slayers, ten Watchers, and twenty eight humans of variable allegiance."
Carefully, she reached up and unbuckled the one incongruous piece of clothing she wore that day: a black, spiked collar, three quarters of an inch wide, that had previously graced the neck of the greater demon in human form she and those she mourned had struggled to vanquish the week before. Illyria, it seemed, had not been the only one to pursue such an idea-- merely the only one to attempt assimilation thereafter.
It had been this man's fault. And he had failed to properly appreciate her efforts.
Grimly, painfully, she knelt and placed the leather collar inside the box: a memento for what she was, not what he would have had her be. "He was not granted the Shanshu," she added bitterly, remembering the devastated expression of the blonde Queen of Slayers as the dark-haired half-breed had crumbled into dust.
She snapped the box shut with a forceful click, then vacated the mystical structure with no further comment.
Four years after Wesley's death, Illyria very nearly arrived at the hall of Vail a full day early. She had no use for human calendars; she followed the patterns of those with whom she dwelt, and had little patience for artificial ways of marking time. Three hundred sixty-five days equaled a year, this she knew-- except, apparently, when it didn't. Fortunately, her pattern had been consistent enough that Charles spoke up when he saw her leaving, and notified her of the significance of the date.
She had cut her hair short since her last attempt to exorcize the spirit that called her there; it was styled in a manner that made her natural blue-streaked coloration seem fashionable enough to expose on a daily basis. She had experimented with 'business casual' clothing as well, pursuant to the new occupation she had accepted with the American branch of the Watcher's Council, and that day wore a lightweight skirted suit in a shade that would exactly match his eyes.
"It has been three hundred sixty three days since my last visit," she informed the empty air above the memory chest. "I have taught sixteen Slayers to successfully combat an opponent of superior strength, educated six Watchers in the vocabulary of my native tongue, and enlightened a sufficient quantity of inferior beings as to the nature of their inadequacies." (Such a label, she felt, best captured her weekly quota of hunting and her interactions with senior Watchers alike).
From her pocket, she drew a thin square of linen, marked in the corner with her initials: I.B. She had instinctively left room for another, but drew no attention to its absence as she folded the item into the box.
The sound of her heels striking the floor echoed from the walls long after her exit.
On her fifth yearly trip to the place of Wesley's defeat, Illyria did not enter the space alone. This time, she had asked the surviving souled half-breed to pay witness; he stopped just inside the entrance, igniting a pungent tube of tobacco and fouling the air with its exhalations.
He watched her carry the stake to the lacquered box, and tip the lid up to add it to the collection. "Paper," he muttered in surprise, identifying the other objects within: "Cotton, leather, linen-- and wood. Pet, you do know those are traditional gifts for wedding anniversaries?"
Of course she did; it had seemed appropriate to commemorate such a transformational linking of one life to another, though she would never say as much aloud. "It has been three thousand, one hundred and seventy six days since your passing," she said quietly, instead.
"Don't you think it's been long enough?" she added, intentionally modulating her voice to match Fred's for the first time since Wesley's death. "Isn't five years enough time spent in hell?"
Finally-- finally-- the emptiness shattered. A translucent form wavered into being before her, called into focus by her emotion, the significance of the tokens placed there, and his renewed will. "I never asked you to do this," the long-missed voice admonished her.
"It needed to be done," she said, firmly. "Fred may not wait for you, but there are many others."
"And what makes you think she is the reason I stayed behind?" Wesley asked, quirking an eyebrow at her.
"This is an ineffectual way to go about haunting me, if that is the case," she replied, smirking victoriously as she picked up the box.
The startlement on his face as he felt the tug of his new, painstakingly established anchor was a thing of joy to behold.