Author's note: I'm still doing my other thing, so updates on this might be t hin on the ground, according to my schedule. But I figured maybe a little something was better than nothing.
Disclaimer: The character of Wolverine the X Men is owned by 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics. No copyright infringement intended. The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy. Bob and his crew are all mine. Please ask for rental rates on Bob and his crew
Angel wasn't sure at first what woke him up. It was just a bad feeling, or perhaps more correctly, a feeling that he was far from alone. He wished it was new.
It was just before sunrise, but he'd already been in bed, as it had been a far too long day/night already. Wolfram and Hart were back to their old tricks again, and god, it was tiring. He could believe this was hell, in the sense that sometimes he felt like Sisyphus, and this would be a stone he would forever roll uphill only to have it come back and flatten him again.
He got out of bed and headed to the living room, too weary to sneak. If there was something out there, he was kicking its ass and going back to bed.
He knew instantly he was dealing with something strange. Now normally, as a vampire, he couldn't feel cold – he couldn't feel hot either, even as his skin was burning and falling off (unless the sun set him on fire or holy water was thrown on him). You just didn't feel those kinds of things when you were undead. But he felt the slightest chill when he stepped into the room, and he knew it was supernatural. He saw the back of a rather Human looking man trying to look through his dark tinted windows that kept out the sun. He was wearing old jeans and a brown leather jacket, hand cupped over his eyes and his face pressed against the glass. "This is some fancy ass set up you got here, mate," he said, with a faint Irish accent lightening his voice. "You musta done pretty well for yourself, huh?"
Angel was reasonably certain he wasn't dreaming. "Doyle?"
Doyle turned around, and grimaced at seeing Angel in his boxer shorts. "Wow. You bring new meaning to the phrase "fishbelly white". And comin' from an Irishman, that's really sayin' somethin'. You know they got spray on tan now, yeah?"
Okay, if he wasn't dreaming, this was a trick. "You're dead."
"Well, so are you, if you wanna get technical." He reached into the pocket of his jacket, pulled out a crumpled cigarette pack, and then frowned at it. "How come I'm here?"
"Why am I here? I mean, last thing I remember was gettin' dissolved by a big bloody light. Now here I am, in your fucking posh penthouse, trying to figure out what the hell's goin' on. Didja conjure me up or something?"
Now Angel was deeply confused, and the distant itch of the sun beyond the blacked out windows did him no good at all. "You didn't come here of your own accord?"
"No. Hey man, didja finally spend all that money I just knew you were sockin' away somewhere?"
"The digs, man! Ain't no way you could get this place on a detective's salary."
"Logan gave it to me. He got it as a gift from someone in the Yakuza ... or was it the Triad? I dunno, some Asian gangsters."
"Whoa. Is this Three Legs Logan we're talking about here? 'Cause, trust me, you do not wanna get mixed up with him and his gangster problems."
Three Legs Logan? Now he knew it was really Doyle – he seemed to know the most unsavory people in the L.A. demon underground. "No ... you don't know this Logan. I think he inherited the place, but I'm not clear about it. Partly I think it was a payoff so he wouldn't come back and kill them."
"Wow. Hard case?"
"Made of concrete and adamantium."
Doyle's blue eyes flashed with a warning before he scowled at him. "You runnin' with a rougher crowd now?"
"Not rougher, just ... weirder. Are you a ghost?"
Doyle walked over to his coffee table and kicked it. His leg went right through it, harmlessly. "I'm gonna take that as a yes," Doyle admitted, and sounded vaguely disappointed. "Can I still smoke? I mean, I still got me cigs."
"I ... have no idea."
"Ain't you supposed to know this kind of stuff?" Doyle pulled a single cigarette out and looked at it warily before sticking it in his lips. He then began searching his coat for a lighter.
"Well, it depends on what kind of ghost you are. There's different kinds." Angel rubbed his head, trying to figure out why, after all this time, Doyle would return as a ghost, and return as a ghost in a place he'd never visited in life.
"Think the Powers are fucking with us?"
He shook his head and shrugged helplessly. "Maybe, but why would they? I think I'd better make a call."
"Not Ghostbusters, I hope."
"No. Not exactly." His first impulse was to call Giles, as he might have some idea what was going on, but Doyle's mention of the Powers That Be made him reconsider that.
There was someone else he should call first.
It was the first dozen reports of puzzled ghosts that set off his warning bells.
One actually was an old customer, and when he tried to reclaim his old stool at the end of the bar, he ended up falling through it as soon as he attempted to sit down. Another ghost came in, obviously distressed and seeking his help. They would be the first of many, of that he had no doubt.
Not to give the Powers too much credit, but this was too pointless and juvenile for them. Besides, some of these people would have no truck at all with the Powers, nor the Powers with them. So what was going on? This was the work of a full on asshole – which didn't narrow the list at all. But the fact that they were all dead was a clue.
He imagined an elevator bringing him down slowly, dropping down from absolute darkness to stratas of earth and stone, and metal and magma just for a kick. "I wanna see you all buried alive," Bob sang, as he imagined the doors sliding open on Osiris's realm, the endless library of the dead. "And I'll be up top carrying on over you, only for you." He walked out to see that nothing had changed, as it had never changed over the millenniums. There were marble floors that had veins of what looked suspiciously like god and demon blood running through them, and endless rows upon rows of bookshelves that contained tomes made of the flesh of a variety of species, most intelligent. Carnivorous vines clung to the top and gripped the sides, draped over the books as languidly as spent lovers, moving with the sinuous movements of snakes. As he walked down the aisles, they cringed away, some curling back over the top as if trying to escape. It was his energy; what he gave off was unpleasant to them, much like he found Osiris.
"I asked you nicely once, but I won't do that again," he sang, and knew Osiris must have known he was here by now. What game was that bastard playing now? "Sy, you Seth kissing mongoose tumor, don't you even try and hide from me!"
Bob had found his way to the book stand, where Osiris wrote the names of the dead, and while there was an open book of Human flesh there, the quill pen resting in a bottle of blood, the pages were blank. Had he scarpered at the idea of his visit? "C'mon, you weasel turd, come out and take it like a man. You started this, not me. What the fuck are you playing at?" Still nothing; he didn't even sense an angry energy surge. Sy was really prickly and thin skinned – it was easy to push his buttons. Fun too. Oh sure, he was a coward at heart, but he had too much pride to hide in his own realm. He was a death god, after all.
Bob reached out with his mind and sent out a pulse of mental energy, knowing that wherever Osiris was in this dimension, he'd nail him.
Which was why it made no sense when he hit nothing.
He opened his eyes and scratched his head. "Huh. He couldn't have gone on vacation, could he? Where do miserable bastards go? Miami Beach?"
He noticed movement out of the corner of his eye, and saw one of the vines sneaking down cautiously – if a semi-intelligent energy form in the form of plant life could be said to be cringing, that's what it was doing. It twined a tendril around the edge of a book and rocked it back and forth.
"Trying to tell me something, Lassie? Is Timmy down the well again?" He reached out to grab the book, being sure not to touch the vine (he would kill it; he wouldn't mean to, but it wouldn't survive contact with his kind of energy), and noticed that the book was loose.
The book shouldn't be loose. The books contained the names of all that had died and would die for several different realms and dimensions; that's why the shelves stretched on forever. There was no end to death, so there was no end to the shelves, to the books – they were stacked so tight, one against another, that you'd need a pry bar to get one down. Bob reached his hand in, and realized there was a gap in the shelf. "Fuck me cross-eyed, there's a book missing." The vine curled up the stacks, getting away from him, sure he'd gotten the message.
So there was a book of the dead missing, and Sy himself missing. Okay, this was very, very bad. Impossibly bad.
Bob suddenly had an idea of how the ghosts had returned, and while it was impossible to say why someone – and it would have to be a very powerful someone – would do such a thing, he knew how they were popping up.
Sy wouldn't do this. He liked death, liked his control over the dead, and he was super anal about the books. He actually had a filing system, which seemed insane when you had an infinite number of books that you never needed to consult for any reason.
Someone had just declared war. But Bob wasn't sure if it was on the living or the dead.
Logan was having a really nice dream.
He was in back of his cabin, chopping wood with a small ax, which struck him as a little silly. He could just pop his claws and make short work of these logs, but there was something strangely meditative in the repetitive movements of chopping, the way his muscles burned from exertion and his lungs were scoured raw by the sharp intake of frosty air. He felt almost Human, and if he didn't think at all, he could almost fool himself.
"Chopping wood in the Alberta highlands in a vest? You are just all kinds of homo-erotic, aren't you?" Bob said cheerfully, waving at him from the back porch.
Logan scowled at him, and then looked down to see what he was wearing. Boots, jeans, white tank top. "What d'ya mean vest? You using the British term?"
"Oi, it's Ozzie."
"It was British first. Deal with it, kangaroo boy."
"Oh, so we're gonna play it like that, huh?"
Suddenly the mindscape changed, and he was standing on the patio of Bob's Sydney place, looking over the broad expanse of the harbor, the water as blue and tranquil as a dream. His ax was gone. "Goddamn it," he snapped, glaring at Bob, who was sitting at the patio table, drinking a beer. He was now wearing very loud board shorts and a teal tank top that had a happy bar of soap on it, saying 'Rub me on your butt!' He hadn't seen Bob for a while, and this was a sad reminder of what he hadn't missed. "You couldn't just ask politely?"
"Where's the fun in that?" he replied, giving him shit eating grin number three – or was it five? Fuck it; he was never any good at organizing.
Logan sat heavily in the lone empty chair, and asked, "Are you buggin' me for a reason, or just 'cause?"
"Can't it be both?" he asked, still grinning. But then he seemed to sober up instantly, his smile fading as he put the beer down on the table. "Sorry mate, but things are fucked up. Think I'm gonna need your help here."
"World ending again?" He reached across the table and snagged the beer can. If Bob objected, he made no mention of it.
"Not precisely ... although that could be an after-effect. Dead people are popping up all across Los Angeles."
He took a swig of the beer. He could barely taste it. "L.A.'s full of dead people."
"Yes, but these are people who are honestly supposed to be dead. Not undead, but dead dead. And it's going to get much worse before it gets better, if it ever gets better."
He wished he was surprised, but it was hard to be surprised when you knew Bob. "We talking zombies here?"
"Ghosts for the most part. But yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if we get zombies too. And vampires. Ooh, maybe even zombie vampires."
"What's going on?"
"Well, to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure. What I do know is someone has stolen a book of the dead, and they're erasing the names. They may have also done something to Osiris, but honestly, that wanker can rot."
"Book of the dead?"
"Sy was very conservative; he loved the pomp and circumstance of tradition. So while he didn't technically hafta, he wrote down the names of the dead in his books. Someone stole one – someone powerful – and now they're taking out the names."
"And that makes them come back to life?"
"Not to life, no – but they're not dead anymore either. It's a kind of an existential grey zone."
Logan tried to make sense of that for a moment, but couldn't. He was giving himself a headache, so he gave up. "How many names in a book?"
Bob tapped his nose. "Ah, got to the heart of the problem. Anywhere from a few million to a billion or so."
Logan stared at him for a very long moment. He said it so casually, almost cheerfully, that he could have believed it was a joke. But it wasn't a joke. It was just so shitty that Bob opted to laugh rather than cry. "A billion dead people?"
"From all dimensions and places in the timeline. I'm rather hoping the ghost of Attila the Hun comes back and starts chasing people with a ghost sword, but that's just me."
"Do you know what's gonna happen? It's gonna be chaos, if not an all out massacre if they're zombie or vamps."
"I know. It's why I came to see you."
He shook his head. "To kill zombies?"
"To track down who has the book. It's gotta be someone powerful enough to take out a death god, which really leaves few suspects. I mean, everybody hates Sy – he's a berk in any dimension – but only a handful could've gotten him outta the way for any length of time."
"Oh god, more god shit?"
"Most likely death god shit. Usually only one death god can take out another death god."
"Isn't that like a paradox or something?"
"Yes and no. Like most things involving gods, it doesn't make too much sense, and kind of depends on what angle you're looking at it from. Mainly, it'll just make your head explode, so try not to dwell on it."
"But what's in it for them? I mean, if they're a death god, why let so many dead people out of their purview? I mean, isn't that what they do? They're putting themselves out of a job." Logan heard himself talking, and wondered if he should just pop his claws against his own forehead. That actually made sense to him, which indicated some form of severe brain damage.
Bob nodded. "Too right." Then he was silent.
Logan wanted to reach across the table and slug him, but he'd see him coming and he'd never be able to land the hit. "That's not a fucking answer!"
"Yeah it is. You hit it on the head. Somebody wants to quit."
"Somebody's tired of being a death god. So they're just throwing 'em back. They want somethin' to put 'em all back, I dunno." He then grinned at him brilliantly, his teeth almost blinding. "That's what we're gonna find out."
Logan sagged in his chair and let his head fall to the table with a dramatic thud.
He hated god shit; he really did.