WAKE UP DEAD
E-mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Disclaimer: The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy; the character of Wolverine is also owned by 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics. No copyright infringement is intended. I'm not making any money off of this, but if you'd like to be-------------------------------------------
a patron of the arts, I won't object. ;-) Oh, and Bob and his bunch are all mine - keep your hands off!
Summary: When the dead start flooding the streets of Los Angeles, Logan and Angel have to find out what's going on before the situation gets any worse.
Notes: Improves upon / takes place after the events of "X3" and shortly after "Free Fall".
Looking at the morgue, she
wondered if it would make a decent horror movie setting anymore.
The morgue had been redesigned to make it look different from the hospital. Up above, the halls of Saint Joseph’s were painted a soothing blue, with multicolor lines on the soft white floor leading towards different wings, different sections. The morgue, in what was called “the basement” (but wasn’t really), had been redesigned to look totally different, futuristic and cold, all stainless steel and hard white, like an arctic tundra. You couldn’t mistake the morgue for any other part of the hospital - it was like a different world entirely. It was walking out of the warm comfort of chaos and into the chilling stare of ultimate order.
But the smell - oh yeah, that could be a horror movie itself.
Rachel Choi only really noticed it when first stepping into the morgue from somewhere else. They did all they could to hide the smell of preserving chemicals and decaying flesh, but there was only so much you could do. The smell bothered her a bit while she could smell it, but after she was down here for a while she got used to it and didn’t smell it anymore. It was amazing what a person could get used to, given time.
With a sigh, she saw there was no new papers on her desk, although there was a new gurney in the corridor. She walked over to see if the clipboard was there, but it wasn’t. She lifted the white sheet to have a look at the new body in her realm. It was a small white man, his flesh the strangely waxy cast of the recently dead, and so skinny she could guess his cause of death - cancer or AIDS, some disease that wasted a body away, ate a person from the inside out, left the skin a taut yellowish covering pulled tight over prominent bones. He had mottled patches that could have been bruises from IVs or treatments or melanomas or other forms of cancer - since most of them were lower on his body she couldn’t tell without stripping off the sheet. But there was no paperwork, and she figured one of the new interns was sent down here with the body, a kind of hazing ritual, and was so freaked out that he or she forgot to bring the paperwork with them. That was all she pretty much did! down here - paperwork. She wasn’t the coroner, just an assistant; a glorified nurse, really, only a nurse for dead people. At least she didn’t have to worry about one of them impatiently ringing a buzzer.
She pulled the sheet back over the dead man, and walked back to her desk. She called back up to the main unit, and let Paca know that some idiot newbie brought a body down without papers while she was off on her lunch break. She told her to get that idiot to bring that stuff down as soon as possible, and maybe give him or her a little kick in the ass whilst doing it. The new ones were always terrified of the morgue, often of dead bodies, but after a while they got used to it and shook all the horror movie conventions they grew up with. Nothing ever happened in a morgue besides paperwork, identifications, transportation, and autopsies. There were no zombie rampages, no reanimated corpses running amok - in fact, that might have broken up the boredom. There was never anything but the occasional devastated family member, and the ever present, pervasive smell of chemical death.
She was searching her desk drawer for her favorite pen - it had a little skull and crossbones motif, which always seemed a little too on the nose for her line of work - and when she found it she sat back in her chair, which creaked like a squeaky hinge, and noticed movement out of the corner of her eye. She though it was just a vague reflection of her own movements in hazy stainless steel, but when she looked, she saw that the man on the gurney was sitting up, sheet pooled around his waist, looking at his own hands as if he didn’t recognize them.
She was so stunned, so sure she wasn’t seeing what she thought she was seeing, that she just stared. The man finally looked up and saw her, and his eyes had a slightly yellowish cast that suggested he had jaundice before he died. “Can you tell me what’s going on?” he asked, his voice a rusty scratch from lack of use.
It took her a moment to find her voice. “Umm, what?”
“I’m a seventy eight year old woman,” the man said in his raspy voice. “Jane Washington. I’m a grandmother of six, with skin as black as coffee. I do believe the high blood pressure finally killed me. So what the hell am I doing in a little white man’s body?”
Rachel just stared at the man, not sure she was processing any of this. Did she just have some really bad fish at the sushi place? Or was there a dead man talking to her? A dead man having some kind of a psychotic break?
This day had suddenly gotten a lot more interesting.
Angel wasn’t sure what woke him up at first, but something had. He sat on the edge of his bed and waited, listening, but there were no noises except for the occasional whispery howl of the wind outside.
The Santa Anas were probably coming in, harbingers of the fire season, and the bedroom window wasn’t as tightly weather stripped as it should have been, so high winds always leaked in around the edges. He actually found the sound oddly comforting at times. It was such an expensive apartment, one much nicer than anything he’d ever bother to get on his own, that it was good to know that there was a flaw in it.
The blinds were pulled, and dark paper was taped to the window panes, but even beyond all of that, he could see a slight glow of light at the edges, a suggestion of daylight beyond the walls. He thought he could feel it, but he was so groggy he wasn’t sure. He’d been working both days and nights lately, screwing up his sleep schedule beyond immediate retrieval. He probably needed two solid days of sleep to get back on track once more.
He padded out to the spacious living room, and while it seemed empty, devoid of people, he got the slight shivery feeling that he wasn’t alone. It was a supernatural feeling too, not his sixth sense for knowing when a Human with tasty blood in their veins was in his proximity. This was a feeling that some other creature that shouldn’t be was invading his space.
He let his vampire side out, feeling the shift of bones in his face, his vision tunneling to that of the hunt, but as he sniffed the air and turned, he came face to face with what he was searching for.
“You know this is wrong,” Lila Morgan insisted, not at all off put by his vampiric appearance. The dead lawyer did look him up and down, though, as he was only wearing boxer shorts, and when she looked back up at him, it was with a slightly sardonic smile. “If you want to be an intimidating vampire, maybe you should wear some pants.”
He let his face shift back, and he crossed his arms over his chest. “What the hell do your bosses want with me? Don’t they take no for an answer? Or didn’t we put enough of your people in the hospital last time?”
She rolled her eyes, and nervously fingered the scarf around her neck, presumably hiding the puncture wound in her neck that killed her. But since she was a ghost, he had no idea why the wound would even be there. Then again, there were different rules for different ghosts, and he got confused by them all. Some physically manifested; some didn’t, but could still manipulate objects; others could manifest but couldn’t manipulate objects; some could move around at liberty; some were stuck in certain places or with certain objects. Usually only a Watcher could keep track of all the arcane rules, and even then they usually needed access to their library. “Didn’t you hear me? I’m not supposed to be here. I wasn’t sent here by Wolfram and Hart.”
He’d started walking back to his bedroom to find some pants, but that made him stop. He looked back at her, scratching his head. “What stupid new game is this?”
He didn’t know how a ghost could click her tongue impatiently, but she managed. “Do you know where I suddenly manifested? At a fucking strip mall. Apparently that’s where the Hyperion used to be. I had to walk here, and I was never sure if anyone saw me or not. At least I can walk through walls.”
He stared at Lila, trying to figure out why she’d be making up such a story. Of all the sleazebag lawyers in Wolfram and Hart, she was usually pretty forthright in her scumbaggery. (Okay, that wasn’t a word, but Angel honestly felt it should have been, if only in Los Angeles.) “How did you know where I was if Wolfram and Hart didn’t tell you?”
“Some of the other ghosts told me.”
Now he was staring at her, wondering if he was still asleep. He slapped himself across the face to make sure.
Lila raised a well shaped eyebrow at him. “I always knew you were into S & M.”
Okay, yes - he was awake, and this was the real Lila Morgan. “What do you mean the other ghosts told you?”
She flung an arm angrily towards the blacked out window wall. “Haven’t you looked outside?! It’s - oh, it’s daytime.”
“Nice of you to remember after chiding me about being a vampire.”
She scowled at him. “You don’t have to be a smart ass. Do you know what the Senior Partners will do to me if they think I broke protocol and came back on my own?”
“Do you have the power to do that?”
“No.” Her eyes darted around furtively, as if searching for recording devices. “But there are ways around everything if you know where to look.”
“Spoken like a true lawyer.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment. You know, Angel, I’m actually impressed. I didn’t think your tastes were this expensive.”
“They’re not. Logan gave me this apartment.”
Her eyes goggled in genuine shock. “Logan? As in Logan a/k/a Weapon X, a/k/a Wolverine Logan? The homeless homicidal freak who doesn’t seem to know grunge is dead?”
Angel frowned at her description of Logan, which was needlessly harsh. He wasn’t homicidal. “He inherited it from a Triad gang leader and gave it to me. Don’t ask, just accept it.”
His phone started ringing then, and he gave her a wary look as he crossed the plush living room carpet to grab the handset. Yes, it was a really nice place if he thought about it, but since he was usually only here to sleep, shower, or get dressed, he hadn’t had much time to appreciate it lately. He still didn’t understand what Lila’s game was here, and he really would have believed he was dreaming if his cheek still wasn’t stinging from the slap. “Yeah?” he said into the receiver, stifling a yawn. How much sleep had he gotten - two hours? Three?
“Angel?” Bren asked, sounding strangely nervous. That instantly put him on edge. “Sorry to wake you, but you really need to get down to the office now.”
“What’s wrong?” He asked, as Lila turned to look at him with interest, and a very smug smile.
“Umm, well … I don’t know how to put this.”
“Think of a way.”
“Okay. I don’t want to sound melodramatic, but it looks like the streets are filling up with dead people.”
He shot a harsh look at Lila, who continued grinning smugly. “See? I told you I wasn’t alone.”
Oh bloody hell.
Logan sat at the counter of the diner, picking at his huevos rancheros and idly conversing in Spanish with the plump, pleasantly looking waitress currently in charge of the place. She actually wanted to practice her English on him, but he was telling her of the usage of some odd English phrases, such as women - like her boss - saying “don’t bust my balls” when she clearly didn’t have balls. He forgot how fun a language English could be at times.
He hadn’t been back in California since that Magneto nonsense, and it was kind of weird. He wasn’t sure he was ready to face San Francisco yet, but Los Angeles was pleasant in its blasé attitude and familiar strangeness. He was nothing here but another freak in a town chock full of them, and the open faced waitress, whose name tag said “Lucia”, just saw him as a strange Caucasian who was perfectly fluent in her native tongue.
The bell over the door chimed, and he knew before he looked back that one of them had arrived. He glanced over his shoulder, and standing in the doorway, looking healthily muscular and fit in jeans, a sleeveless black t-shirt, and weather inappropriate black leather jacket, was Sid. In his one nod to the bright, hot day, he was wearing mirrored sunglasses, which he quickly took off. “Hey Logan,” he said, smiling, and joined him at the counter. Sid didn’t attempt to hug him, and he appreciated that.
Sid had been working with Marc for the past six months - well, with Marc and his boyfriend, Matthias Gosteli. As it turned out, Matthias was a mutant, and according to e-mails Sid had sent him, Matthias had recognized “Wolverine” on sight, but was afraid to talk to him due to his “reputation”. (Oh, how fun was this?) But seeing him with Marc had made him warm up to him, mainly because he thought he and Marc were a couple, because they seemed so relaxed and comfortable around each other. Marc had, of course, found this hilarious.
Matt - and both Marc and Sid referred to him as Matt - had control over water, or anything in liquid form really. It was a self-admitted “stupid power” without much use, but Marc had been trying to help him figure out uses for it. According to Sid, he once made the tide go out, and that was “pretty cool”, but that seemed to be the extent of his powers to date.
Matt was a nice guy, according to Sid, and they’d been helping him with his English, which was actually pretty good since he tended bar at a hotel with lots of Western tourists, and he found helping Marc “thrilling”. According to Marc, Matt though of him as “kind of like a black James Bond - but sexier”. Logan just bet Marc added that last bit.
They’d heard about what happened and were worried about him, although he had no idea why. They just finished up the job they were stuck on when all this shit happened, and had flown in today from Russia. “Marc thought I should go on ahead,” Sid explained, as he slipped up onto the stool beside him. Lucia came by, and Sid politely ordered a glass of ice tea. When she went to get it, he said, “It’s still weird to think of them as dead.”
“I’m sorry we couldn’t be here to help.”
He shrugged. “We coulda used ya, kid, but that’s the way it goes. Besides, what could you have done?” Actually, it would have been nice to have a guy he knew could hand to hand combat fight with the best of them - and with impenetrable skin to boot - guarding his back and protecting the weaker fighters, but hey, they managed. Mostly. “It’s okay. You got your own life to lead. How is it?”
“My life?” he seemed startled by that question, and it showed that not that much had changed with Sid. “It’s okay. Industrial espionage is more complicated than I thought, as well as more lucrative. And Marc has taught me a few things … many of which I’d rather forget.” After that, he flashed him a brief, bright smile. That was different - and welcome.
Logan gave him a faint smile in return and a friendly clap on the back. He wanted to ruffle his hair, but that would be condescending. Especially since he could smell he was packing heat.
They talked about Rogue until Marc and Matt came in. Sid was shocked that she took the cure, he saw it as a form of “self-mutilation”, and while he did basically agree with him, he also saw it as her choice to make. She had intended to stay at the mansion, but the last time he was there, he helped her pack up for her move back home. Logan couldn’t help but think “now you want her back because she’s not a freak anymore”, but he never said it to her or even hinted at it. Again, she was an adult, and she could make her own decisions, even if he disagreed with them.
When Marc came in, he sarcastically bellowed, “Hairy!” Logan gave him an evil look for that, but Marc hugged him anyways, giving him a manly slap on the back. He looked good as well, wearing a sleeveless dark blue muscle shirt that showed off his muscular chest, and a lightweight duster that helped conceal some of the armaments he was currently carrying. Yeah, he could have used Marc there too - he could fight, he was strong, he could improvise, and he had an actual sense of humor, which, while occasionally annoying, was still a help - but oh well. Matt trailed behind, smiling politely and awkwardly, waiting for official introductions.
Matt was the same excellent example of Nordic genes - clear skinned, fair, with white-blond hair and bluer than blue eyes, tall and lean - but he was dressed like any number of questionable guys you might encounter in West Hollywood, in a red tank top and khaki walking shorts, black sunglasses covering his eyes, his blond hair artfully tousled. His arms were lean but fairly well muscled - realistically, not like he spent hours in the gym - and he had a tattoo on his right upper arm, a band encircling his arm with a somewhat jagged tribal design. He looked just like the boy toy he probably was.
Marc introduced them, though, and they shook hands, and Matt smiled nervously, saying he was a “big fan”, a puzzling comment that made him want to snap, “What the fuck do you think I am, an actor?” But he didn’t, because he still made the kid nervous, even though Marc had surely told him you couldn’t believe everything you saw about him on YouTube. (Most of those clips were taken out of context.)
The four of them moved to a window booth, with Matt and Marc sitting on one side, and he and Sid sitting across from them. They all had tea, and they talked about everything but what they actually wanted to talk about. Marc wasn’t going to talk about Jean in front of Matt, a stranger to their world, and maybe not in front of Sid, who was not a stranger, but wasn’t as privy to his complicated history with Jean as Marc was. Logan simply listened as they told him how screwed up their gig in Russia got, which was supposed to be a simple job for a corporation, but had them coming up against Russian gangsters. As Sid put it rather succinctly, “They won’t be bothering us anymore.” Oh, he just bet.
Matt got more comfortable and talked a bit, although it was clear he was picking up on the tension, the things not being said. “So I’ve been thinking,” Matt said, in his musically accented voice. A Swiss accent was actually oddly lyrical, and not at all like the “Swedish chef” caricature that most Americans knew. “You all have great code names: Wolverine, Scorpion, Saracen. I know my powers are lame, but I thought I could have a cool code name. I’ve thought of a couple, and wanted to run them by you.”
The three of them all looked at each other, and Logan shrugged for the group. “Sure, go ahead.”
“What about Tsunami?”
Logan grimaced. “Insensitive.”
Since Matt looked confused, Marc added, “Especially in Southern Asia.”
He got it. “Oh … yeah, I guess so.” Matt paused briefly, glancing down at the tabletop. “Okay. What about Tidal?”
Marc shook his head. “Sounds like “title”. It’ll confuse the hell out of everyone.”
“Umm, I guess so. Huh. This is harder than I thought.”
“What about Riptide?” Sid suggested, trying to be helpful.
Marc shook his head again. “Crappy ‘80’s t.v. show.”
“Oh, was it?” Sid still needed to catch up on his pop culture references, especially the American ones. But Logan felt this one must have been obscure, because even he didn’t know what Marc was referring to.
Sid tried again, sticking to a water theme. “Undertow?”
“Tool album,” Logan pointed out. “But it was a good one, though. So throw that in the “maybe” pile.”
Matt considered that, frowning at his glass of tea. He was a good looking kid, but what was he, twenty five at the oldest? He had to tease Marc about robbing the cradle, just like Marc did to him when he was dating Faith. “There really aren’t a lot of macho water based terms, are there?”
“Not really,” Marc commiserated. “Don’t worry, we’ll think of somethin’ for you eventually.”
Logan couldn’t suppress the smile as he said, “Aren’t you overlooking the most obvious one? Aquaman.” He could barely hold back the laugh until it was out of his mouth, and then he couldn’t hold it back anymore.
Matt gave him a dirty look. “I don’t talk to fish.”
Marc frowned at him, and gave him a light kick under the table. “Hey, that’s my man you’re dissing.”
“Sorry, sorry. I just couldn’t resist the joke.”
Sid looked slightly baffled. “Who’s Aquaman?”
This set off a new round of laughter, but at least this time everyone joined in - except Sid, who really didn’t get the reference. What a limited life he had in Rhajan. Oh sure, he knew every form of martial arts known to mankind, but nowadays the knowledge of stupid cartoon characters was likely to get you farther.
That was when a strange feeling crawled up Logan’s spine. It was a sense of being watched, but a familiar one - and not earthly. He looked behind them, near the door of the diner, which hadn’t opened … and yet, he was positive someone had come in.
“What is it, bud?” Marc asked, and he heard the fake vinyl of the bench seat creak as he craned his neck to see what he was looking at. “Okay, what the fuck is that? I’m getting a heat differential, but no one’s there.”
“Differential in what sense?” Sid asked, sounding wary, like he was getting ready to assume battle posture.
“A cold spot, a heat sink in a vaguely humanoid shape. It’s moving.”
“It’s a ghost,” Logan told them. He’d gotten this odd creepy feeling of being watched before, namely in that hidden Watcher’s library in London, which was tended by the ghostly librarian Anna.
“Are you serious?” Matt asked.
Suddenly an empty coffee cup that had been sitting on the end of the counter was picked up and flung against the far wall, where it shattered in a million pieces. Logan snapped at the ghost, “Knock it off!” Even though he couldn’t see it, he had the sense that the ghost knew he was talking to him, knew he was there.
“It’s stopped,” Marc told him, acknowledging his guess. “It doesn’t have a face that I can see, but I’d swear it’s giving you the stink eye.”
Logan had no idea why, but he looked out onto the street, and he saw shadows, evanescent and seemingly moving with a life of their own, and also saw people who were slightly transparent at the edges disappearing into buildings. He also saw a man in a paper hospital gown standing on the sidewalk across the way, looking around like he didn’t recognize the city at all, a large gash sealed with thick black stitches bisecting his bald scalp. He could swear he saw a gleam of white bone beneath the stitches, but there was no blood oozing from the wound. Probably because he was clearly not breathing. Oh, he was walking around, looking deeply disoriented, but his chest wasn’t rising and falling.
The rest of them had followed his gaze, and they all saw for themselves this weird tableau. Luckily, most of the living people on the street and driving past didn’t seem to notice, but then again, this was L.A. - if you wanted to stand out, you had to do more than simply be undead.
“What the hell’s going on?” Matt asked, sounding slightly alarmed. It was a damn good question.
Logan grabbed his cell phone and called Angel’s office, figuring if anything supernatural was going on, they’d know. The phone was picked up by Bren on the second ring. “Kid, what the fuck’s going on?” he asked.
“Oh shit! You were comin’ into L.A. today, weren’t you?” Actually, Logan came in last night, but he was enjoying the anonymity, and actually slept about eighteen hours straight in a shitbag motel room. He had no dreams he could remember, and felt lucky for that. “You’re here now?”
“Yeah, in a diner near the private airstrip. We seem to have an influx of ghosts here.”
“Yeah, that seems to be going on citywide,” Bren told him, sounding a little stressed. He could hear him typing rapidly on his computer keyboard. “We’re getting reports of dead people showing up everywhere. Giles is trying to figure out what’s going on, but so far we have no fucking clue. Can you get here? Giles seems to think it’s better if we’re all in one place, in case this turns violent. ‘Cause if it does, we’re so totally fucked.”
Of course they were. They weren’t zombies, which at least had a physical form you could deal with. How did you kill something that didn’t need a body to exist? If they decided to attack, how could they fight back? “We’ll be right there,” he told him, hanging up.
So much for a bit of peace and quiet.