Speaker-to-Customers (speakr2customrs) wrote,

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Shellshocked: Chapter One

I’ve been short of writing time since I finished my last night shift; I’ve had to spend most of my time shifting furniture out of my daughter’s room ready for her new carpet to be laid, and then I’ve made a start on shifting it back. Also the carpet fitter left without replacing the room doors, which he had taken off to trim the lower edges so that they cleared the new thicker carpet, and I had to put them back myself.

Consequently I haven’t had time to do much work on the next chapter of ‘Angel of the Morning’; however I had already done a substantial chunk of the first chapter of ‘Shellshocked’, following on from the previously posted Prologue, and so I’ve finished that off today.

Angel Season 5; what if someone else had been infected with Illyria instead of Fred? This chapter isn’t fluffy at all. There may well be comedy in later chapters, but there’s some serious stuff to get through first. 4,400 words. I’m not sure about the rating, but maybe we’d better say ‘R’ just to be safe.

I’ve changed the timeline of Illyria’s background slightly; it makes no sense that she should be familiar with humans if she really is millions of years old. She has to post-date at least the evolution of homo erectus, and probably the evolution of homo sapiens. I’ve settled for her kingdom being 70,000 years ago at the height of the Tahoe period of the Wisconsin Glaciation.

The Prologue was Here.


Chapter One

Harmony lay in the hospital bed and looked up at the crowd gathered around her. “You’ve all come to see me? I, uh, really, I, you didn’t have to. I mean, I’m not that important.”

“Are to me, Harm,” Spike told her.

“Oh, sure,” Harmony said, a hint of bitterness creeping in to her voice. “Like I’m gonna believe you’ve ever cared two cents for me.”

Spike’s mouth twisted. “Know I’ve never treated you well, pet, and I’m sorry. Make it up to you if I can.”

“Yeah, you …” Harmony began, but then her gaze focused on Angel and she abandoned whatever she’d been going to say to Spike. “Boss!” she said, struggling to sit up. “I’m sorry. I really am ill. I know vampires don’t get sick but I really am. I’ll be back at work as soon as I can.”

Angel averted his eyes from her. “It’s okay, Harmony, I know you’re sick,” he assured her. “Just lie and rest. Take as much time as you need. You don’t have to come back until you’re completely better.”

“I won’t lose the job?”

Angel swallowed. “No chance. The minute you’re well, it’s all yours. Don’t worry.”

Harmony slumped back. “Oh crap. I must be really, really, sick. I – I’m not gonna get better, am I?”

“Harmony, my dear, I assure you that Wolfram and Hart have considerable resources, and they are all being devoted to finding a cure,” Wesley told her.

“I’m gonna die. Crap. I don’t want to die. I’ve done it once and it sucked but at least I was still around.” Harmony sniffed. “I’m too young to die. I never even got to go to Paris!”

“You’re not gonna die if I have anything to say about it,” Fred said. “You saved me, Harmony. I won’t forget that. Plus,” she smiled her widest smile, “you’re my best girl friend. Who else could be my bridesmaid? Uh, that is, if I ever get married.”

“Oh, I’m –” Wesley started to say, and then chopped himself off short. He exchanged glances with Fred, and her cheeks colored slightly.

“Bridesmaid? Really?” Harmony’s mouth opened wide. “Fred – I – hey, wow. No way am I gonna let myself die now.”

Fred took hold of her hand and squeezed. “That’s the attitude, Harmony. Stay strong and fight it, you hear? I’m gonna get back to the lab now. Ain’t gonna rest ‘till we’ve beaten this thing.”

“Yeah, you fight this, girl,” Gunn put in, speaking for the first time since he’d come into the room.

“I’ll try,” Harmony promised.

A doctor stuck his head around the door. “I’d like to run some more tests now she’s conscious. Could you bring the visit to a close, please?”

“Of course,” Angel said, and stood up. “Come on, guys, lets give the docs room to work. Get well, Harmony.”

“Yeah, you do that,” Gunn said.

“We’ll do everything in our power for you. I promise,” Wesley told her. “Farewell for now.”

Fred bent over Harmony and kissed her forehead. “I’ll be back, honey. I’ll bring you a unicorn, okay?”

“Uh, should you have touched me? ‘Cause, this thing? Not fun. Plus, if you caught it off me it would kinda spoil the point of me saving you.”

“You’re not infectious,” Fred assured her. “See you, Harmony.”

Spike remained after the others had left. “Wasn’t kidding about you being important to me, Harm. Never treated you as well as you deserve, you know that. Know I’ve taken advantage of you. But I mean it now, Harm. What you did, saving Fred, that was real. Not gonna forget it.”

“I didn’t know I could get bad sick,” Harmony confessed. “If I’d known, I don’t know if I could have gone through with it.”

“Don’t think you had time to add up the pros and cons, did you, pet?” He reached for her hand, and she didn’t pull it away. “Not gonna promise to save you. Made a promise like that before, and I couldn’t bloody keep it. But whatever I can do to get you through this, I’ll do it. That is a promise.”

- - - - -

“Anything yet?” Wesley asked.

“Not a goddamn thing,” Fred said, wiping the back of her hand across her brow. “It’s liquefying her organs from the inside and nothing we try has the least effect on it. Dammit, I feel so helpless, you know? Could have been me, which case I’d probably already have been dead.” She gritted her teeth. “I’m not gonna let this beat me.”

Wesley gazed at her with concern in his eyes. “When did you last eat?”

“I don’t know. Oh, hell, we had a date! Sorry, Wes, I just went right on working through.”

“No need to apologize, my love. Your concern for others is one of the things I love most about you.” Wesley gave a wry smile. “And, to be honest, I was deep in trying to back-track the sarcophagus, and our date time passed without registering on me either. I’ve brought you some coffee.”

Fred took the coffee with a grateful smile. “Thanks, I sure needed that.”

“Where’s Knox?” Wesley asked. “I brought a cup for him too. I was sure that he would be here.”

“He’s gone for the day,” Fred said. “He’s not going above and beyond the call of duty on this one. When it got to quitting time he was straight outta here. Jerk.”

“That’s odd. Normally he is only too eager to spend every possible moment in your company.”

“Jealous? No need to be, Wes. Hey, maybe it’s just that now he knows that he ain’t got a shot with me, he’s kinda losing heart.” Fred frowned. “Funny thing, he don’t seem to like Harmony. He’s just going through the motions on trying to find the cure, you know? And, okay, she can annoy people, but I wouldn’t have thought she had that much contact with Knox. First time I noticed that he didn’t like her was …”

“When did you notice?” Wesley prompted, when Fred’s voice trailed away and she remained silent for several seconds.

“It was when she saved me,” Fred told him. “He gave her this look, you know? Kind of like he resented her for it.”

“You mean that he wanted to be the hero for you so much that he would hate someone else who stepped in? Do you think that perhaps I ought to watch my back?”

“I don’t know, Wesley, I don’t know. I thought I knew Knox pretty well, but, maybe he’s not the guy I thought I knew at all.”

“If he’s only going through the motions with regard to Harmony, Spike is going to be somewhat annoyed with him. Perhaps you should point that out.”

“Yeah, maybe. I can’t think of anything that might motivate him more than getting the idea that he might get his throat ripped out.”

The lab door opened in the middle of Fred’s speech and Spike and Angel entered. “Talking about me, pet?” Spike asked.

“Hiya, Spike. Yeah, I was. Knox isn’t pulling his weight on this thing, you know? Wes was just saying I oughta warn him you’d be pissed about that, and I was agreeing that it would be pretty motivational.”

Spike’s eyes flashed yellow. “Bloody better be motivational. What’s the pillock think he’s up to, slacking off? Reckon he thinks that he won’t need his todger now you’re fixed up with Wes, so it won’t matter if I rip it off?”

Fred wasn’t a hundred per cent sure that Spike was joking there, but laughed anyway. Wesley joined in.

Angel raised a weary eyebrow. “Please don’t fold, staple, or mutilate the staff, Spike. As long as Knox is working his allotted hours, that is. If he’s goofing off when my secretary’s life is at stake then you can do what you like with him. I’d always thought that Harmony wasn’t much good, but the pinch hitter is hopeless.”

“Harmony was the second highest rated member of the typing pool,” Wesley informed him. “She’d have been promoted soon even if I hadn’t elevated her to be your assistant.”

“Oh? Who was the highest rated?” Angel asked. “Maybe she could take over.”

“Hardly. That was Tamika,” Wesley pointed out. “Harmony dusted her on the conference table, remember?”

“Oh. So, the girl I’ve got now really is the best available?”

“I’m afraid so.” Wesley gave a grim little smile. “Oh, and Harmony really was right about the camel. I think it would be a nice gesture if you apologized to her about your remarks on that occasion.”

“Okay, okay.” Angel pulled a notebook from his pocket. “We found out something from Eve. Something that might give us a line on the sarcophagus. Ever heard of the ‘Deeper Well’?”

- - - - -

“It’s called Illyria,” Wesley revealed. “An Old One. A great monarch and warrior of the Demon Age, murdered by rivals and banished to the Deeper Well.”

“Which is?” Angel prompted.

“A burial ground. A resting place of all the remaining Old Ones.”

“In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming,” Spike muttered. “That the sort of thing?”

“Indeed,” Wesley confirmed. “Illyria would have been perfectly at home in the Cthulhu Mythos.”

“Guess it ain’t waiting no more,” Gunn said.

“It would seem not. Harmony’s skin is hardening like a shell. This … thing seems to be hollowing her out, using her to gestate so that it can claw its way back into this world. That’s speculation, but her imminent death is not.”

“Old Ones would be true demons, like the thing that the Mayor became?” Angel frowned.

“More so,” Wesley said grimly. “Illyria was a ruler among such creatures. The Mayor’s ascended form would have been but a foot-soldier.”

Angel’s frown became more pronounced. “If she’s dying anyway – maybe we should put her out of her misery. Stop this thing before it gets a foothold in our world.”

“No fucking way!” Spike growled. “Promised her I’d do whatever I could to get her through this. Letting you put her down like a horse with a broken leg doesn’t sodding well qualify.”

Fred turned reproachful eyes on Angel. “It could have been me,” she reminded him. “She saved my life, Angel. Help her. There must be some better way than just to kill her.”

“She’s a soulless vampire,” Angel pointed out. “Okay, she did a good thing, but she’s still evil.”

Spike glared at him. “Soulless doesn’t equal worthless. Had enough of that from the sodding Scoobies. Every good thing I did had to have a selfish motive. Yeah, right. Don’t see anything selfish in what Harm did. Not gonna let you just write it off.”

“I’m with Spike,” Fred said firmly. “I’m not gonna give up on Harmony.”

“Oh, all right,” Angel sighed. “We cure her, or we fight an Old One. Any ideas on how?”

“The Deeper Well is in the Cotswolds,” Wesley said. “England,” he expanded for Fred and Gunn’s benefit. “It’s like a prison for the dead. If something gets out, it can be drawn back from the source.”

“That’s a start,” Angel nodded. “We’d better get someone there. Wolfram and Hart has executive jets, right?”

“Oh, yeah, has it ever,” Fred beamed. “We’ve got access to pre-production models of the next generation of supersonic business jets. Five years at least ahead of anyone else. We could be there in less than half the time a commercial flight would take.”

“The Well will have a guardian,” Wesley pointed out. “Maybe several.”

“I’ll go myself, then,” Angel said, “plus back-up. Coming, Spike?”

Spike sucked in his lips and then shook his head. “I’ll stay with Harm. Anything happens, think she’d want me to be there.”

“I’ll come with you,” Wesley decided. “I think I’ve done all I can at this end.”

“I’ll get back to the lab,” Fred said. “Maybe there’s something I’ve missed.”

“You want the whip cracking over that Knox pillock, you just say so,” Spike told her.

“Sure thing,” Fred replied, flashing a brief smile.

“Right, I’ll tell Harmony to get the jet …” Angel began. “Oh. Sorry. I’ve just got into the habit of relying on her. I mean, her replacement.”

“Do us a favor, Angel? ‘Fore you go buggering off to the Well, drop in and apologize to Harm about that camel thing.” Spike’s face was grave. “Might be your last chance.”

- - - - -

‘Is your love strong enough?
Like a rock in the sea.
Am I asking too much?
Is your love strong enough?’

Bryan Ferry’s voice crooned from the speakers as the credits for ‘Legend’ rolled.

Harmony sighed. “That was just so beautiful. And, you watching it with me? Perfect.”

“Not a bad flick,” Spike conceded. He squeezed Harmony’s hand. “Glad you liked it, poppet.” He reached across and ejected the DVD.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been happier,” Harmony went on. “Okay, dying, pretty much a bummer, but this? Almost makes it worth it. I’m glad I saved Fred. That was a good thing, wasn’t it?”

“Damn right, Harm. ‘Bout as good as it gets. Bloody hero, you are.”

“Do you think I’ll go to Hell? I mean, vampire here, damned and all that, but I did a good thing. It’s got to count for something, hasn’t it?”

Spike choked back a sob and forced himself to speak calmly. “It counts, Harm. Don’t worry yourself. Still doing everything we bloody can to save you, pet, but if it comes to the worst you’ll still be okay. ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’. John chapter fifteen, verse thirteen. ‘Bout as authoritative as it gets, poppet.”

“I hope so,” Harmony said weakly. “I don’t want to go to Hell. I wasn’t too evil, was I?” She winced at a sudden stab of pain and gestured feebly at the water glass that stood on the bedside table. Spike hastened to grab it and hold it to her lips. “Thanks,” Harmony gasped, after drinking. “You’re so good to me, Spikey.”

“Not as good as you deserve, pet. Wish I’d treated you better.”

“I wish I’d been stronger,” Harmony said, confusing Spike for a moment until she elaborated. “If I hadn’t betrayed them just for some shiny robes I could have been with Angel’s crew all this time. Maybe I could have saved Cordy.”

“Don’t think there’s anything you could have done, petal,” Spike soothed her. He still wasn’t clear about what had happened to put Cordelia into the coma, but Angel had given him the impression that it had been related to her visions. “Was her time, that’s all there was to it.”

“Yeah,” Harmony sighed. She slumped back into the bed. “I think I’m going to sleep for a while.”

“That’s it, love, get some rest. Keep your strength up. Give us some time to beat this thing.” Spike held Harmony’s hand until he judged that she had fallen asleep, and then he summoned a nurse and left the room.

Once outside he let the control slip and tears began to trickle down his cheeks. He snarled at himself, wiped them away, and walked off quickly towards the laboratory.

- - - - -

Wesley and Angel stared down into the void below the bridge. Rank upon rank of coffins lined the sides of the chasm, descending far out of sight.

“How far does this go down?” Angel asked.

“All the way,” responded Drogyn, Guardian of the Deeper Well. “All the way through the Earth.”

“So the coffin disappeared,” Angel mused. “Teleported. But it was delivered to us.”

“Illyria was a great power,” Drogyn reminded him. “So great that even now, after tens of thousands of years dead, there are still acolytes yet upon this Earth.”

- - - - -

“Cryogenics is a bust,” Knox reported. “The vampire’s tissues freeze, but the organism is impervious. Just keeps on working away like it’s a sunny day in LA. Remarkable.” His eyes gleamed and the corners of his mouth twitched as if he was suppressing a smile.

“You don’t seem disappointed,” Fred said coldly. “Just what have you got against Harmony, anyway?”

Knox’s eyes widened. “Against Harmony? Nothing. I hardly know her.”

“Then what was with the glares after she saved me? And you seem to be pretty much rooting for Team Illyria …” Fred’s mouth dropped open. “It was you. You were the one who arranged for the sarcophagus to be delivered here, weren’t you?”

Knox started to shake his head but then shrugged his shoulders and smiled. “I guess there isn’t any point in denying it any longer. You’ll all know soon enough. Yes, I serve Illyria. It can’t be stopped now.”

“Wesley and Angel are at the Deeper Well. They’ll come up with something,” Fred said, adopting a tone of confidence that she really didn’t feel.

Knox chuckled. “There isn’t anything that they could come up with. Not that they’d be willing to go through with, anyway. It was all pre-ordained a thousand centuries ago and there isn’t anything that can be done to prevent it. Even if the vessel isn’t as worthy as the one I would have chosen.”

“Vessel? You chose me?” Fred’s eyes flickered around the room, searching for a potential weapon.

“Well, yeah. You’ve got this warmth that just makes everything cold and distant melt away. You’re the most beautiful, perfect, woman I’ve ever met. That’s why I chose you. You’re the only one that was worthy.” Knox’s lips tightened. “That creature spoiled everything. I hope she suffers every possible torment before the transformation.”

“You’re gonna do some suffering yourself when Spike finds out,” Fred warned him. “I don’t think Wes is gonna be too pleased either when he finds that you planned it for me. Or Charles, or Angel.”

“Maybe I’d better take a little time off,” Knox said. He jumped forward and, even as Fred snatched up a fire extinguisher, he punched her on the jaw and knocked her to the ground. He took a moment to don his jacket and then made for the door, only to be forced back through it by Spike.

“Going somewhere?” Spike growled. “Don’t think it’s –” He broke off as he noticed Fred picking herself off the ground. “What happened, love?”

“It was him. Knox planned it all,” Fred told him. She rubbed her jaw. “He hit me and tried to make a break for it.”

“He hit you?” Spike grabbed Knox’s forearm with his right hand, and Knox’s hand with his left. “This the hand you used, twat? It’s coming off.” He began to pull and twist with a terrible, inexorable, strength. Knox whimpered and fell to his knees.

“Spike, wait!” Fred ordered. “Don’t do it!” Spike reduced the pressure and Knox sighed with relief. Fred stepped up to him and glared into his eyes. “Unless he doesn’t talk, that is.”

- - - - -

“The power to bring back Illyria lies in there,” Drogyn explained. “It requires a champion who has traveled from where it lies to where it belongs.”

Angel’s white-knuckled grip on the bridge’s rail slackened slightly. “You’ve got two of those right here. Let’s get to it.”

“It’s not that simple.” Drogyn sighed. “If we bring the sarcophagus back to the Well it will draw Illyria out of your employee … and into every single person between here and there. It will become the mystical equivalent of airborne. It will claw into every single soul in its path to keep from being trapped. It won’t succeed; but it will destroy them in its attempt. Like an Ebola outbreak. Tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of people will die in agony if you save her.”

“No,” Angel said flatly. “That’s not an option.” His grip on the rail tightened again. “We have to kill Harmony now.”

“Spike will fight to protect her,” Wesley pointed out. “He made a promise, and I believe he will keep it.”

Angel gritted his teeth. “You’re right. We have to get back there. I’m probably the only one who could get past him without killing him in the process.”

“If only we’d brought Harmony and the sarcophagus with us,” Wesley mused. “Although the practical difficulties of transporting someone who to all intents and purposes is an Ebola Fever victim through Customs and Immigration might well have defeated us anyway. Too late now. No point in dwelling on what might have been.”

- - - - -

“There’s only a few of us now,” Knox related. “I came to LA because I knew that this is where its kingdom lay. It was supposed to teleport back to its base of power, but sea levels have risen quite a bit, maybe even a bit of continental drift, and it came back a few miles offshore. It had to be retrieved by ship and – would you believe? – it got impounded by Customs. Still, we took care of that. Got an order signed to bring it into the lab. I’m just one small part of a great machine.”

“A broken part,” Spike said coldly, and jerked hard. Knox cried out in pain as his wrist snapped. “Give me a way to stop it.”

“It can’t be stopped. The process is irreversible,” Knox gasped out, sounding triumphant despite his pain. “Only the power of the Deeper Well might have done something, but that would infect everyone between here and there. No way would Angel go through with it.”

Spike released Knox’s wrist and pushed him backwards just as Gunn came into the lab.

“Hey, man, what’s going down?” Gunn asked.

“Bad things,” Spike said. “Fill Charlie in, would you, Brains?” he asked Fred. “I’m going back to Harm. Got a feeling it’s not going to be much longer, and I want to be there for here when it happens.”

- - - - -

Harmony writhed in agony on the bed. She no longer reacted to anything Spike said to her, only rambled in painful delirium. “Hurts,” she mumbled. “Burning up. Make it stop. Please, God, make it stop. I didn’t ask to be a vampire. It’s totally not my fault I killed people. And I stopped, right? I did a good thing, didn’t I? Please. I don’t like being in Hell. It’s totally not fair. Please, God, let me out.”

Spike sat helplessly beside her. The doctors had given him a tranquilizer for her, and they’d assured him that it would work on a vampire, but the needle had broken off on her hardened skin. He no longer bothered concealing his tears.

“Look, God,” he prayed aloud. “Don’t know if you exist or what, but, if you do, show some bleeding mercy to the poor daft bint. She’s bloody right about not having asked to be a vampire. Not like she was ever all that evil, and she tried to be good. That ‘greater love’ thing has to mean something, right? Wouldn’t be right for her to go to Hell, not after she saved Fred. If she’s damned just ‘cos some fanged twat bit her, well, that just isn’t fair. Doesn’t seem fair to me that I’m going to Hell either, but sod that. Not gonna beg for myself. But chuck some of that infinite mercy Harm’s way. Think she’s had enough suffering, what with this, and with what I put her through. Maybe you might not want her caterwauling hymns and making a pig’s ear out of playing the harp, but there’s got to be something better than Hell. Let her have some of that peace and comfort that Buffy talked about. That feeling that she’s safe and loved. Okay? Please? Amen.”

He tried to take Harmony’s hand again, but she was thrashing about so violently that he couldn’t keep his hold. His face set in lines of grim determination. “Know I promised you I wouldn’t do this,” he said, pulling out a stake from inside his coat, “but I can’t take seeing you like this. Reckon you’ve only got minutes anyway, so, maybe I can save you a little suffering. Sorry I couldn’t love you the way you deserved, pet. Hope you find Heaven, or at least peace.” He took aim and drove the stake at her heart with every ounce of his vampire strength.

It shattered.

“Oh, shit!” Spike tossed away the fragments and licked his palm where he’d lost skin when the stake was so abruptly halted. “Wonder if an axe will work? Or Holy Water?”

Harmony’s convulsive movements stopped and she lay still. Her forehead was now tinged with blue. She opened her eyes. “Spike?” she said.

“I’m here, lamb,” he responded, taking her hand. “I’m here for you.”

“It doesn’t hurt any more,” she said. “Only, I can’t feel my legs. I – are you holding my hand? I can’t feel it.”

“’Course I’m holding your hand, poppet.”

“Everything’s going sorta grey,” she murmured. “I think this is it. I love you, Spike.”

“Know you do, love. Shame I was too bloody stupid to know a good thing when I had it, Harm. Wish I could have loved you back.”

“Love you,” she murmured softly, and her eyes closed. She lay perfectly still.

Spike squeezed her hand. It was limp and unresponsive, and he wondered if Harmony was now dead. None of the normal signs of death were relevant to a vampire, and presumably the organism that had infected her would prevent her from turning to dust.

Suddenly her eyes opened again. They were a deeper, more intense, blue than he had ever seen them, and the whites were also tinged with blue. The blue stain on her forehead grew more pronounced; and her hair began to acquire a blue tint, spreading along the blonde strands as if drawn by capillary action. Her hand tightened on his, so hard that her crushing grip made him wince in pain, and then she convulsed violently and threw him away from the bed. He hit the wall and bounced off it to the floor.

When he picked himself up he saw that Harmony had left the bed. She stood beside it, her hair now completely blue, and held her hands up in front of her face. She flexed her fingers and then briefly ran her hands over her body. Her mouth twitched into a shape that resembled a smile, but it did not reach her eyes. She glanced in Spike’s direction, her expression devoid of interest, and spoke.

“This shell is … satisfactory.”

To Be Continued

The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER ©2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox. ANGEL ©2001 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The ANGEL trademark is used without express permission from Fox.

Tags: fic, shellshocked
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