Guiding Spirit

by Wolfling

(Rated G)

 

Rieff was restless.

This wasn't anything new; for most of his life Rieff had felt restless. When he was younger he'd never been free to move about like he wanted to, first having to hide from humans, and then, later on, from the Scourge. When you're forced to hide and stay out of the light all the time you built up a lot of energy with nowhere to burn it off.

Things were different now, had been since they'd finally made it to Briole four years ago. The stories of sanctuary had been true -- truer than any of them dared hope. The community he was living in now counted both humans and demons like him among its members, and there was no hate or fear of anyone based solely on appearance or heritage. There were still problems -- as there will always be in any group living together, no matter their ancestry -- but they were the sort of problems that would've happened in an all human community -- or an all demon one.

But being a demon -- or being a human -- didn't matter here. That had taken some getting used to, no matter how much Rieff had dreamed and wished for such a place when he was a child. Maybe because he had long since given up hope that such a wish was anything but a childish dream. As wonderful as it had been to be proven wrong, it still took some time to adjust to.

Rieff had had to do a lot of adjusting when he had first arrived here, and not all of it had been because of this place. Some of it was also because of how he and the rest of his family had gotten here in the first place. He'd had to do a lot of thinking and examining of his beliefs, which ultimately resulted in a 180 degree change in his opinion of things like bravery and selflessness, belief and faith.

It was difficult to remain a cynic about such things when you watch a myth come to life sacrifice himself to save you and your family from dying horribly.

After witnessing that, Rieff'd had to admit that maybe, just maybe, there was something greater than they were, that was trying to look out for them and maybe even sending the occasional helper their way.

The rest of the community certainly thought that way about the whole incident; the story had spread through the entire community like wildfire when they'd first arrived, growing more fantastic and full of import and meaning with each retelling. It got to the point that Rieff could barely recognise it as the same experience that he'd actually lived through. That had threatened to disillusion him again, but when it came down to it, all the important elements were still part of the story, and if anyone deserved to have great stories told about him, it was Doyle. So Rieff had kept quiet as the tale grew more and more fabulous with each retelling, merely nodding in agreement with all the accolades bestowed on the Promised One.

As the story spread, Rieff himself found he was a bit of a figure of awe among his peers in age in the community, due to his having spent time alone with Doyle. He was asked all kinds of questions about what the Promised One was like, what he had done and said, and how he had done and said it. Many of the girls, human and demon both, also seemed to want to know if the Promised One was very cute.

Rieff answered the questions when asked as honestly as he could: Doyle had seemed like an ordinary guy, albeit one that actually spoke to him and treated him like an equal instead of a kid. That Doyle had been very brave and had risked his life to save Rieff from the Scourge patrols that had almost caught them both. That he hadn't noticed if Doyle was very cute or not as males of any species, even Promised Ones, were so not his type.

But he never told anyone exactly what the conversation he'd had with Doyle consisted of; that part he held back, kept private. It was his way of keeping his own memories pure and unembroidered, his own personal touchstone that it had all really happened and just wasn't a story he'd heard so many times it had become real. The talk about Hallowe'en and Angel and faith, that's what Rieff thought of when he wanted to make sure he was remembering the real Doyle and not everyone else's Promised One.

Rieff had other ways of remembering as well. Though his family in particular, and a good many of the community in general, marked the day of the Promised One's sacrifice as the day to honour and remember, Rieff had picked another day to do a more personal memorial. One, he thought, that Doyle would have approved of.

October 31st. Hallowe'en.

The community celebrated the holiday much the same way Rieff remembered it being celebrated back in the States where he grew up -- save for one small detail.

He was expected to wear a costume just like all the humans did.

All the demons were; since they walked around and interacted all year round without having to hide their faces, they weren't considered 'dressed' on Hallowe'en unless they did come as something they weren't. For Rieff, that more than anything drove home the fact that they were just like everyone else here.

That first year he'd agonised trying to decide on a costume, wanting something that was both good and reflected how much this all meant to him. The idea, when it came to him, had been just so perfect that he'd often wondered if something had put it in his mind for him.

The actual construction of the costume had taken some thought and ingenuity, but come Hallowe'en night, with some prosthetics and green makeup, his Promised One costume had been the hit of the party.

After the party, Rieff had gone for a walk and ended out on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. He hadn't planned it, but he'd found himself speaking aloud to someone who couldn't have possibly been there.

"I don't know if you can hear me," he'd said, "but I'm going to believe you can. After all, I have to put my faith in something, don't I? I just... I wanted to say thanks. This place is great -- beyond great -- and I never would have made it here if not for what you said to me, and what you did. You were right -- there was a genuine hero there that night. You. So I just..." Rieff had shrugged, running out of words. "Thanks, Doyle."

He'd stayed out there most of the rest of the night, just thinking, remembering, dreaming, but didn't feel the need to speak again to Doyle -- that night or again for the entire year.

But the next Hallowe'en had found him back out at the cliff again, once again talking to a ghost, or a memory, or whatever you called it when you talked to someone who had been dead for two years.

He talked longer that second year, talking of the community and his place in it, of his friends and his studies and his life in general. It had been a way of looking back at where he'd come from and at where he was then, and realising just how much distance separated the two. He had ended that year's monologue the same way he had the year before -- with a softly spoken, "Thanks, Doyle."

He was back again on Hallowe'en the next year, his third on the island. That year he spoke of the girls who flirted with him, and how he had started flirting back. How he'd gone on dates with a few of them and had had fun, but hadn't felt any real sparks. How it had made him wonder about love and if he'd ever find it and with who. And how thinking of finding someone to spend the rest of his life with was something new and wonderful because it meant he was thinking about the future. The "Thanks, Doyle," he ended the monologue with that year was a heartfelt whisper.

That night had started Rieff seriously thinking about the future in other ways besides finding someone to fall in love with. Things like meaning and purpose and just a general what did he want to do with his life. None of the answers that Rieff was coming up with really seemed to fit him.

The more he thought about it, the more convinced he became that he wasn't going to find an answer that fit which in turn made him more and more frustrated. With the growing frustration, Rieff found the restlessness that had been so much a permanent part of his mood as a child slowly creeping back in.

He hated it; it was like a constant itch he couldn't scratch, making him feel uncomfortable in his own skin and interfering with his ability to enjoy the good things that did happen.

Eventually the restlessness led to his avoiding gatherings and events that he'd happily frequented before; he just got so tired of everyone asking him what was wrong and him not having any answer that he could put into words.

The next Hallowe'en, Rieff even skipped the annual party entirely. He had planned to just stay home, reading and trying not to think about the things that were making him restless and dissatisfied, but somehow, a few hours after dark, he found himself heading out to the cliffs as he had on this night for the past three years.

There was only a crescent moon in the sky so there wasn't much light, but Rieff knew the way well enough to make it blindfolded. Also, there was something about moving through the darkness like he was that seemed to personify the struggle he was having with his thoughts and emotions; it seemed... appropriate somehow.

He got to what he had come to think of as his spot, and for a long moment just stood on the cliff's edge looking out into the darkness and listening to the soft rustle of the waves below. It was familiar and calming, and by the time he finally spoke, the restlessness within him had settled down to a quiet melancholy ache.

"Hi Doyle," Rieff said softly, continuing to look out into the blackness as he uttered the words. "Sorry I'm late. I'm almost didn't come at all this year actually; I don't want to complain, not to you, but all I have to tell you this year are complaints.

"And I don't want to complain -- I really don't -- because even with how I've been feeling lately, this place is still so amazingly better than where I was before that I don't want you thinking for one second that I'm not still grateful for being here and what you did. It's just..." Rieff trailed off with a sigh and turned to take a few steps away from the cliff to where there was a rock the perfect height for sitting.

He sat down and stared at the darkness some more before speaking again. "I've been doing a lot of thinking lately -- probably way too much -- and it's... There's questions that I need answers to, but the more I think about them and try to wrap my mind around them, the less there seems to actually be any answers."

"Maybe you're just looking for them in the wrong place."

Rieff started so violently that he almost fell off the boulder he was sitting on. Ignoring for the moment that the voice with its Irish brogue was all too familiar from his memories, he strained both his eyes and his ears for any sign of whoever it had to be that had snuck up on him, and for whatever reason, had decided to pretend they were Doyle.

Nothing. The night seemed as dark and quiet as ever. As far as Rieff could tell, he was still completely alone out here.

"Things aren't bad enough," he muttered to himself, moving to sit back down again, "now I have to start hearing voices. Great."

"Generally that's what happens when someone tries to talk to you."

"Geez!" Rieff leapt to his feet again and spun around desperately looking for the speaker. "Who's there?" he asked, beginning to get creeped out.

"You know who it is, Rieff." The voice was full of amusement. "You've only been talking to me for the last four years."

Rieff slowly turned around three hundred sixty degrees, searching, but the voice didn't seem to be coming from any particular direction. It was just there, coming from everywhere and nowhere all at the same time.

It couldn't possibly be.... Could it?

"But... you're dead," Rieff protested, beginning to believe in spite of himself and beginning to really get creeped out by that belief.

"Yeah, I know. But it didn't stop you from talking to me, did it? Why should it stop me from talking back?"

"That's different." Rieff continued to turn in a slow circle, not certain in what direction he should be addressing his comments.

"Why?"

"Well for one thing, I'm not dead." Though Rieff was beginning to wonder if he was touched in the head. "Just because I talk to you doesn't mean I expect you to answer."

"What -- so dead people are supposed to be like that old saw about children? Seen and not heard?" There was a short pause, and Rieff got the feeling the voice was listening to something that Rieff couldn't hear. Yep, he decided. He was definitely losing his mind when he was imagining his voices hearing voices. "Oh right. Sorry."

The air in front of Rieff began to glow and shimmer ever so slightly. As he stared, the shimmer resolved into a vague outline of a man. It continued to glow and grow until Rieff could recognise the familiar if transparent form of Doyle standing there and smiling crookedly at him.

"Sorry," Doyle said again. "I keep forgetting to manifest when I talk. Bad habit of mine."

Rieff stared. "You're a ghost," he blurted out, then inwardly rolled his eyes as that was perhaps the most stupid thing he could've said.

Doyle's smile widened. "Yeah, that would kinda follow from the being dead part. Actually I prefer the term 'spirit'; I just think it sounds better, lighter somehow, y'know? Besides, 'ghost guide' just sounds hokey and wrong."

"So you're a... spirit guide?" Rieff was beginning to wonder if he'd fallen asleep and was just having a very surreal dream. Maybe he should hope he was, as that seemed to be the least disturbing explanation for what was happening.

"And that sounds almost as hokey, doesn't it? I guess it doesn't really matter what I call myself; it's what I do that's important. Though names and titles can sometimes hold power even without you realising it - which is actually part of what I need to talk to you about."

Yes, a surreal dream, Rieff decided, had to be what was happening. "So... you're saying you're here to act as my spirit guide?"

"Sort of," Doyle said, tilting his head from side to side in an iffy gesture. "I wasn't officially sent to guide you, but yeah, I have some advising I'm gonna do, off the record as it were." He grinned. "I've got a personal interest in you finding your path, what with the helping to save your life a couple of times and all."

It would be easier on his nerves, Rieff decided, if he just accepted that this was really happening. For the moment at least; he was sure he would have his doubts about it later.

It was the offer of advice that decided him; even if this was a dream or a hallucination that his subconscious had coughed up, he was all for it if it could help him find some answers to the questions that had been haunting him more surely than any ghost.

"All right," he said, spreading his arms out as if to say 'bring it on.' "I'm listening. Advise me."

Doyle grinned and moved to sit down beside him -- which meant he was sitting on thin air. Rieff tried not to let that freak him out any more; after all, when you can see through a guy the fact that he's sitting on nothing but air doesn't seem quite as important.

"You were saying you had questions that you couldn't find the answers to," Doyle said. "I take it we're talking about the big, meaning of life type questions?"

"Yeah, pretty much," Rieff replied. Pushing the weirdness of the situation to the back of his brain, he concentrated on seriously explaining. "It's more what's the meaning of *my* life than the meaning of life in general questions. I look around, trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do with my life and it's just... there's nothing. Nothing important, nothing that really *fits*, y'know?"

"Maybe you're just not looking in the right place."

"You said that before," Rieff observed, remembering the first words that had come out of the darkness. "So what is the right place, then?"

"Now that's something only you can answer." Doyle gestured towards the sea. "But there's a whole world out there that you haven't even been considering."

The suggestion created a cold ball of dread in Rieff's stomach, and he pulled his knees up to his chest, wrapping his arms around them in an effort to keep warm and stave off the sudden chill. "Not for me."

Doyle just looked at him for a long moment then asked, "Do you know how this place got started?"

Rieff shook his head, puzzled by the sudden subject change.

"It was back in the 1940s. A family of demons running from the Scourge met a clan of gypsies hiding from the Nazis. They were both facing the same kind of hate, just different ends of the same stick. It created bonds across lines where bonds had never existed before, and drove home the truth that it doesn't matter what face you wear or what blood flows in your veins. Together they managed to flee Europe and make their way here. They started this community as a safe haven for any who needed it, human or demon, and to create a place where their children could live like they had imagined, where what you are isn't as important as who you are. Did a pretty good job too, don't you think?"

It took a second or two for Rieff to realise that Doyle was actually expecting an answer. "Well, yeah," he said, trying to imagine what it had to have been like back then. With his own past he feared what he was imagining was probably horribly close to the truth.

Doyle nodded in agreement. "It was a huge accomplishment. And once they had this haven set up, they were safe. But they knew there were others out there who weren't. That's why some of those original members of this community, both human and demon, left. They spread the word of this place's existence where it was needed, helped guide people back here when they could."

Rieff wasn't stupid. He knew when a point was being made even when it was supposedly a subtle one. Which he didn't think this one was at all. "So that's what you think I should do? Go out and play Pied Piper, find some demons and lead them away from the big bad world with a pretty song?"

"I'm not telling you to do anything," Doyle told him, leaning back on his non-existent rock with a grin. "I'm just relating the tale of what some others did, pointing out some of the possibilities."

"Yeah, sure you are." Still, Rieff found himself thinking about it, trying to picture himself in that kind of life.

"Besides," Doyle continued casually, "I wouldn't call it so much being a Pied Piper as being the Promised One."

Rieff swung his head around to stare at him. "What?"

"Did you think there was only one?" The look Doyle gave him then, full of affection and wisdom, made Rieff believe that the bit about being a spirit guide was nothing more than the truth. "It's not a person so much as a position, like parent, teacher, lover. To the demons that helped start this place that gypsy clan were the Promised Ones. Angel was my Promised One, just as I was you and your family's. I think you have the potential to be somebody's Promised One too, but that's gotta be your decision."

Rieff let the words sink in, let them steer his imagination as he mulled it over. He imagined a family like his own had been, hiding and on the run, but with nowhere to run to and no way to get there even if they did. He imagined himself there, telling them of this place, helping them get here, stealing them away from the Scourge.

It felt... good. Right, in a way that nothing had for at least the last year. It felt like an answer; it felt like a purpose. And not just the part about saving people, but also the part about beating the Scourge, stealing their targets right out from under their noses... *That* part really spoke to him.

"Okay," he admitted. "Maybe I can see myself getting into something like that. But..." Reality set in. "I'm not- I can't-" Rieff sighed. "I don't know how. And... I wouldn't know where to start learning."

Doyle grinned at him. "Good thing you have a spirit guide who can point you in the right direction then, isn't it?"

"So you're going to teach me?"

"Y'know, I'd be more offended by the disbelief in your voice if the answer was actually yes," Doyle told him, "but no. I'm just the guide pointing you in the right direction. And the right direction for you is Los Angeles. Hold out your hand."

Rieff blinked. "What?"

"Your hand. That thing at the end of your arm. Hold it out."

Not sure exactly why he was being asked to do so, Rieff held out his left hand.

Doyle reached over and covered Rieff's hand with his own; Rieff felt a bunch of pins and needles, like tiny electrical shocks wherever their hands 'touched'. There was a bright flash of light accompanied by a sharp jolt -- like lightning had just gone through his body.

Doyle pulled his hand back and, blinking, Rieff looked down at his own hand, still outstretched. Resting on his palm was a man's silver ring, curved into some intricate Celtic knotwork.

"That and my name should get you in the door," Doyle told him, then added with a grin, "It should also help convince you that this really happened whenever you start thinking you're crazy and imagined this entire conversation."

"Yeah, I might just need that," Rieff admitted. He picked up the ring and looked at it; it was just an ordinary ring as far as he could tell, just one that belonged to a ghost.

Following his instincts, Rieff slid it onto his right hand's middle finger, where he would be able to touch it as a reminder whenever he doubted. "Thanks," he said softly.

He was quiet for a moment, taking inner stock in light of what he'd been told and what he was deciding. The restlessness he'd been feeling was still there, but it had changed. It had a purpose now, a direction, just like he did -- to fight the Scourge and help its victims.

Turning to Doyle, Rieff straightened up and met the other's eyes. "So where in Los Angeles should I go to find a teacher?"

"There's this law firm called Wolfram and Hart." Doyle gave him a smile full of secrets. "The guy you want is running the whole show..."

 

-fin-

 


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