Speaker-to-Customers (speakr2customrs) wrote,

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Shellshocked: Chapter Two

Happy Birthday to keswindhover

Lots of my F-list have won awards at Love’s Last Glimpse and at the Raison d’Etre Awards in the past couple of days; I’m going to be posting congratulations in a day or so, when I’m not posting fic.

I’m afraid that anyone who has been waiting for the next chapter of ‘Angel of the Morning’ during this five-day period is going to be disappointed. I’m reluctant to work on it in the absence of my beta, and I haven’t felt cheerful enough to work on the overtly comic ‘Savage Beauty’ or ‘Sunnydale Passions’, and so I’ve continued on with ‘Shellshocked’.

Angel Season 5; what if someone else had been infected with Illyria instead of Fred? This chapter is 5,650 words. I’m not sure about the rating, but maybe we’d better say ‘R’ just to be safe. Totally un-beta read, I’m afraid – as was the last chapter.

Previous parts here: Prologue / Chapter One.


Chapter Two

Illyria strode purposefully through the corridors of Wolfram and Hart. Spike trailed after her with his face frozen in an expression of grief and desolation. A purple bruise marred his jaw where she had casually backhanded him through a wall when he had attempted to stop her leaving the medical facility.

A security guard blocked her path. “Hold it!” he ordered. “Who the hell are – Harmony? Huh?”

“Aside, worm!” Illyria ordered.

The baffled guard moved aside as ordered, his brows furrowing. “Jeez, who’s got a stick up her ass?” he muttered. “Hey, shouldn’t you be in Medical? And what the hell have you done to your hair?”

“Do not presume to question my movements, vermin,” Illyria warned him. “Such disrespect shall incur my wrath.”

The guard backed off. He looked questioningly at Spike. Having felt first hand the strength of the god, and having had his stake shatter on the shell, Spike decided against calling for an assault upon Illyria. He waved the guard away and the man walked off, shaking his head, and saying under his breath “frigging delusions of grandeur just ‘cause she’s the boss’s PA …”

Illyria cocked her head on one side and stared at Spike. “What meant he about my hair? Is there a defect in the tendrils that frame my awesome countenance? Guide me to a reflective surface, creature.”

“Wouldn’t call it a defect,” Spike told her. “Just, blue’s not a usual color for you.”

“I would examine it for myself. A reflective surface, now. Do not prevaricate; obey my commands upon the instant!”

“Okay, okay, keep your blue hair on,” Spike replied. “Mirror, mirror. Not that big on keeping track of where the mirrors are, not like they do a lot for me, but – hang on, think there’s one in there.” He showed her to a rest room, wondering whether this being would even show up in a mirror, and followed her inside.

Illyria stood in front of the mirror and scrutinized her reflection. Her face was expressionless as she ran her hands over her hair. “I see no flaws,” she announced. “All is as it should be, within the limitations of the pitiful half-breed whose form I am compelled to inhabit. Yet my apparel lacks something. It is crude and shapeless compared to that in which the vile humans are clad. I must acquire raiment worthy of a god.”

“’S hospital wear,” Spike explained. “You – Harmony – were sick and in bed. Not like we thought you were gonna get up and start prowling the building. She had some good stuff at her flat, I guess, always pretty well turned out. Want me to show you where it is?” He had an idea that getting her away from the Wolfram and Hart building might be a good strategy in the short term, at least until Angel and Wesley returned from England and they could make plans for how to deal with this strange being.

“I have access to the shell’s memories of the route,” Illyria informed him. “I shall not avail myself of the shell’s raiment. It is fit only for a servant.” She directed her impassive gaze upon Spike and once more cocked her head to one side. “The reflective surface does not acknowledge your presence, half-breed.”

“Yeah, well, vampire here, pet.” Spike shrugged his shoulders. “Goes with the territory.”

“The shell regretted this,” Illyria said. “It is of less than no importance to me. Take me to the container that was my resting place. With haste, lest you suffer my wrath.”

“As you wish,” Spike replied, bowing, and smiling a bitter ironic smile that he was sure would be lost on the god.

“Indeed,” Illyria said flatly. “Or there will be no survivors.”

Spike led her from the room and headed towards the lab, shaking his head perplexedly. Had this deity from distant prehistoric times really riffed on his quote from ‘The Princess Bride’?

- - - - -

“I swear to you, I had no idea it was important,” Gunn said. “I didn’t think it was that big a deal. I sign all kinds of papers. Hey, if they’d just said it was this artifact for study I’d probably have signed the damn thing without the blackmail. You think I’d have done it if I’d had any clue I was putting you at risk?”

“Oh God,” Fred sighed, averting her eyes from him. “How could you? It didn’t hit you that it had to be as shady as hell or they wouldn’t have put the pressure on you?”

“I know that now. But I was just so confused. I felt like everything was falling apart. I was losing everything that made me special.”

“Hee hee!” Knox chortled.

“Shut up, weasel!” Fred snapped. “Special? Charles, you were special to us without all that legal crap. You had courage, and integrity, you stood up for what was right – you really thought that we wouldn’t value you just ‘cause you lost some knowledge of frigging case law?”

“Yeah,” Gunn admitted. “I did. God, nothing you say makes me feel worse than I feel anyway. You could have been –” He broke off as the lab door was thrown open and Illyria strode into the room.

She sized up the situation in one quick glance around the lab. “Release my Qwa'ha Xahn,” she commanded.

“Huh?” Gunn stared at her in amazement. “Harmony?”

“Illyria,” Fred corrected him.

“You acknowledge my true name. You have intelligence, for a vermin,” Illyria said, as Spike joined her in the room. “Yet you have not obeyed my command.”

“I knew you’d come for me,” Knox addressed her. “My life is yours. I worship you.”

“Of course,” Illyria said, with a fractional dip of her chin. “Again I command you, creatures. Release my Qwa’ha Xahn or be destroyed.”

“Better do it, love,” Spike warned Fred. “She’s a damn sight stronger than me and she’s got a hell of a temper on her.”

“Not until she answers a few questions,” Fred said.

Illyria lashed out with eye-defying speed. Spike cried out in fear, remembering the power of the blow that had struck him, and expecting to see Fred’s head shattered by the god’s fist. Instead Illyria seized Fred by the front of her blouse and jerked her to her feet. “I could slay you in an instant,” she said. “Yet I sense that you were the beneficiary of the shell’s greatest deed. It comes to me that slaying you would negate that, and so dishonor the shell. I shall therefore spare you for the moment.”

Gunn tried futilely to free Fred from Illyria’s grasp. Her head turned to face him. “I sense grief upon you, and shame. It sickens me.” Her other hand cocked for a blow. Spike grabbed it and was ignored. “I sense also that your grief would have given the shell … pride. Again I shall spare you the fate that your insolence deserves, for the sake of the shell. I will not spare you a second time. Release my Qwa'ha Xahn or perish.” She released Fred and pulled her arms effortlessly free of Spike’s and Gunn’s grips.

The three reluctantly untied Knox from his bonds and the lab assistant stood up, grimacing as he clutched his splinted wrist with his other hand.

“My last Qwa'ha Xahn was taller,” Illyria said. “You are damaged. Imperfect. And, your socks? So don’t match.”

Spike’s mouth dropped open in shock, as did Fred’s. Gunn stared at her with his eyes wide.

“These unbelievers assaulted me,” Knox explained. “It’s not my fault.”

“You remain functional. That is all that is important.”

“I am your priest. Your servant. I am your guide in this world,” Knox went on.

“The pale-haired ursine one has served as a satisfactory guide up to this point,” Illyria said.

“Pale-haired ursine one?” Spike muttered. “Blondie bear?”

Knox fumbled at his shirt with his left hand, failed to cope with the buttons, and dragged the fastened shirt and his undershirt upwards to display his chest. Two of the buttons tore off and fell to the floor. “I’ve taken your sacraments and placed them close to my heart according to the ancient ways,” he babbled. “That’s why you were called to me. We are bound together.”

“You will serve me, as is your function,” Illyria replied dispassionately. “I came to this room for raiment.” She ripped away the hospital gown from her body and stood stark naked.

Fred blushed. Knox stared open-mouthed for a moment and then averted his eyes. Gunn’s jaw dropped. “Hot damn!” he muttered.

Spike’s eyes widened. He had forgotten just how beautiful Harmony could be. The puppy fat that had obscured her features in Sunnydale had melted away during her time in Los Angeles, either because of her exercise regimes or because she was living on animal blood that didn’t have the same nutritional value to a vampire as did human blood. Her body too was slimmer, tauter, and her breasts stood out proud and firm. Her nipples were now a deep blue, strange and yet somehow extremely erotic, and her pubic hair was a tuft of royal blue that seemed alien and enticing. Spike felt himself growing hard at the sight, and shame at the involuntary reaction flooded through him.

Illyria’s gaze passed across Spike without any flicker of interest in her expression. She strode to the sarcophagus and placed her palm on one of the crystals that surrounded the iris. A mauve rubbery material oozed from the crystal and flowed up her arm. Gradually it covered her entire body and shaped itself into a suit of something approximating to form-fitting armor.

Illyria ran her hands over the suit. “Satisfactory,” she announced. “Show me a reflective surface. I wish to know if this apparel does justice to my glory.”

Fred pointed at a stainless steel cabinet. Illyria gazed at her reflection for a moment.

“The image is flawed, yet it will suffice for the nonce,” the god declared. “I shall examine myself with greater clarity in the room that the pale-haired one showed me. Then I shall travel to the dwelling place of the shell, for there is a pair of boots that would be just totally amazing with this suit. See that no harm is brought to my Qwa'ha Xahn in my absence, or I shall visit great torments upon you.” She spun on her heel and left the room.

“You hear that?” Spike asked. “Harm’s still in there!”

“Impossible!” Knox sneered. “The might that is Illyria consumes utterly the paltry essence of the host. Even the soul is destroyed.”

“Yeah, well, Harm don’t have one,” Spike retorted. “And you just shut your trap or I’ll snap your other wrist, great torments be damned.” He turned his attention to Fred and Gunn. “I’ll tag along with Her Mightiness. Give her a ride over to Harm’s place. Maybe I can keep her from doing too much damage along the way. You okay keeping an eye on Quacker Khan here?”

“You bet,” Gunn said. “Like you said, great torments be damned. He stays here and shuts up or he’ll lose teeth. Angel should be here in three hours. Maybe we can work something out then.”

“Yeah. See you, Charlie.” Spike headed off in pursuit of Illyria.

“How do you think he’s going to react when he finds out that you’re responsible for Illyria destroying his friend?” Knox taunted Gunn. “You think I’m the only one who’s going to have broken bones then?”

Gunn squared his shoulders. “I did a dumb thing. If he wants to give me a licking, well, I have it coming. I’m not gonna bitch about it.”

“At least you owned up,” Fred said.

“Yeah, like I wasn’t going to drop him in it in about five seconds,” Knox dismissed Gunn’s confession.

“She said not to harm you,” Fred told him. “She didn’t say anything about not tying you up again.”

“Oh, crap,” Knox moaned.

“Okay, you get to go to the bathroom,” Gunn said. “Then it’s back in the ropes. And this time, wise guy, you get to wear a gag as well.”

- - - - -

“Fascinating,” Wesley remarked. He received a hard stare from Fred and hastily added a rider. “In an extremely disturbing way, that is.”

“At least she isn’t fifty feet tall with tentacles,” Angel mused. “If this thing is in Harmony’s body, it’s – she’s – subject to some limitations. She might be strong, she might be armored, but she should be beatable.”

“You can’t seriously hope to oppose the awesome might that is Illyria,” Knox said scornfully. “Armies are straws before her.”

The telephone rang. Fred snatched it up, listened, said “Thanks. Keep us informed” and put it down. “Illyria is in the building,” she announced. “Spike’s still tagging along with her. What do you think?”

“Go to Code Black?” Gunn suggested.

“We’ll talk first,” Angel said. “We can always fight later. You say Spike thinks there’s part of Harmony still inside Illyria?”

“Well, she did talk about a pair of totally amazing boots, and commented on Knox’s socks not matching,” Fred confirmed. “That don’t seem like the kind of thing an ancient god-king would come out with, somehow. And she held back from killing us, said something about dishonoring the shell. He might have a point.”

“Or maybe she’s a rational being and we could negotiate a peaceful co-existence,” Wesley said. “Her kingdom has been gone for millennia. She must share this world with humanity whether she likes it or not. A single being, no matter what her power, could never conquer the planet, and she must recognize that. Perhaps she would be satisfied with some nominal authority within Wolfram and Hart and some of the trappings of material success in this world.”

Knox laughed. “Get real,” he said. “She’s a god. Why don’t you just accept the inevitable and worship her? Get in on the ground floor.”

“Why couldn’t you have just jerked off over porn mags like any normal teenaged boy instead of fixating on things that should have just stayed dead?” Gunn growled at him.

“Both of you shut up,” Angel said. He cocked his head, listening. “There’s something coming.”

Lorne, who had been sitting quietly not contributing anything to the discussion, cocked his head too. “Hey, now that’s something I never thought I’d hear,” he said. “The bad-ass vampire singing Bryan Ferry.” He winced and shook his head. “That boy’s got some serious pain.”

“Bryan Ferry?” Gunn enquired. Lorne didn’t get a chance to elaborate. The door opened and Illyria entered, with Spike following at her heels. He broke off his rendition of ‘Is your love strong enough’, with which he had hoped to revive some further spark of Harmony’s personality, as he came through the door.

Angel stood up. “You are Illyria?”

“I am Illyria the god-king. Ruler that was and will be again,” Illyria confirmed. Her hair was now brushed and glossy, high-heeled boots were on her feet, and a unicorn pendant hung about her neck. She stared at Angel with cold eyes. “You are Angel. The one whom the shell saw as her king. She trembled before your wrath, glowed with pleasure at your few kind words. If you would talk, then I will hear you out.”

Angel suffered a momentary pang of guilt at Illyria’s mention of his ‘few kind words’, but put the thought aside and spoke out. “We know what you are, Illyria. We've seen the rest of your kind. All the Old Ones, sealed away forever, like you were. Where you should've stayed. Well, now you’re out, but you’ve been away a long, long, time. This world has changed, Illyria. It belongs to humans. Billions of them. There is nothing that you can do about that, and you’ll have to adapt to the changed circumstances. Forget any ambition you might have to rule this planet. It’s a lost cause. All you can do is either to return to the Deeper Well, or to find a role in the world as it is now. Maybe we could help you in that.”

“I hear nothing of meaning in your words,” Illyria replied. “The forces of this world shall crumble before my legions, and I shall take my rightful place as supreme ruler of this realm. I shall take my Qwa'ha Xahn and depart. Stand aside and hinder me not.”

“Legions?” Fred echoed nervously.

“You can’t be aware of the forces that will oppose you,” Wesley warned Illyria.

“I have seen the teeming numbers of humanity. Ridden in one of their internal combustion vehicles. Seen the humble dwellings of their kind,” Illyria replied. “Such technology as you possess is no challenge to my might. Oppose me not. Come, Qwa'ha Xahn, my legions await.”

“I exist only to serve you,” Knox said, and stood up to join his god.

“Not so fast,” Gunn said. He took out a radio mike, glanced at Angel for confirmation, and received a nod. He spoke into the mike. “Security. Stop Illyria leaving the laboratory area. You are authorized to use deadly force.”

“That was foolish,” Illyria said. “I go where and when I will. None can hinder me.”

“You’re not going anywhere until you explain what you mean by your ‘legions’,” Angel told her. He seized Knox by the collar and brought the scientist’s progress to an abrupt halt.

“This bores me.” Illyria moved with a speed that caught even Angel and Spike off balance. She seized Angel, pulled him away from Knox, and tossed the vampire across the room and sent him crashing into the window. Glass shattered and Angel flew out into the street and plummeted towards the ground.

“Grab her!” Gunn yelled. Spike flung himself at her neck. Illyria waved her hand and a ripple of distortion emanated from it, billowing out to fill the laboratory and beyond. Spike froze in mid air. Fred, Gunn, and Lorne all stood as still as statues. Illyria picked up a rigid Knox and carried him out of the lab, walked past motionless security guards, and made for the stairs.

- - - - -

“Great,” Angel grumbled. “She’s super strong and she can alter time.”

“And she’s got legions,” Gunn said. “Don’t forget the legions.”

“It makes it complicated, but it doesn’t change what we’ve got to do,” Angel said. “Wes, Fred, take the lab apart. Check the sarcophagus, Knox’s files, work on the assumption that the little creep was hiding things from us, find some way of getting Harmony back. Or, worst case, of destroying Illyria.”

“I’ve got a contact I want to check out,” Gunn volunteered. He caught Fred’s eye and jerked his head; she nodded in confirmation that she understood his meaning.

“Getting Harmony back,” Spike muttered. “Hang on. The sneaky little bastard said something about Illyria consuming even the soul of the one she took over, and I said Harm didn’t have a soul. Well, that doesn’t mean she can’t have one.”

“You mean, get her soul restored? Willow?”

“Exactly. It’s out there, floating around in the ether somewhere. Red can stuff it back into Harm. Might be enough to boost her personality enough to take control.”

“Say, that might work!” Fred exclaimed.

“I concur,” Wesley nodded.

“Worth a try,” Angel agreed. “I hate to say this, Spike, but that really is a good idea. Thanks. Now, how do we get hold of Willow?”

“Last I heard she was in South America,” Spike told him. “Dunno where, exactly.”

“We’ll have to reach her through Giles,” Angel said.

“Not looking forward to that,” Spike said, lowering his eyes.

“What time will it be in London?” Wesley asked. “I’m afraid that after two consecutive transatlantic flights I’ve become totally confused about the time.” He looked at his watch. “Good heavens! Is it really nearly two in the morning?”

“Yeah, it’ll be about ten a.m. there, no problem about phoning,” Spike confirmed. “Rather you did it than me, Angel.”

Angel twitched an eyebrow. He didn’t understand Spike’s reluctance to let Buffy know that he had returned from his fiery death, but he wasn’t going to object. “Okay.” He picked up the phone and dialed for an outside line.

- - - - -

“Are you saying you won’t help?” Angel said unbelievingly. “Just because I’m at Wolfram and Hart?”

“Oh, for pity’s sake, give the bloody thing here,” Spike cut in, extending his hand. Angel passed him the phone and Spike spoke into it. “What the fuck do you think you’re playing at, Rupert? Need a little help here. Get off your arse and give it to us.”

“Who is this?” Giles asked, suspicion evident in his tone.

“Your son ‘Desperate for a shag’ Giles, you git,” Spike told him.

“Spike died in the Hellmouth,” Giles said coldly.

“Didn’t mean I had to stay dead,” Spike replied. “Look, that sodding amulet turned up at Wolfram and Hart, spat me out of it, and I’ve hung around here ever since. Not bloody important right now. Important thing is, we’ve got a hell god to deal with here. Damn sight tougher than Glory ever was, and she’s blabbering on about getting her ‘legions’. Don’t fancy waging a bloody war in LA. Thing is, she’s in Harmony’s body, and if we can get Harm’s soul back in there it might stop this god thing without a fight. What’s to bloody lose by trying?”

“Spike,” Giles said. “It’s really you?”

“Weren’t you bloody listening? Look, I’ll tell you the whole story later. For now, just give us Red’s number.”

“I can’t,” Giles replied, and then, as Spike snarled into the phone, he hastened to elaborate. “I’m not being deliberately obstructive here. I genuinely can’t reach Willow by telephone. She’s in Tibet, in a remote monastery with no phones and no road access. I could ring the nearest town, but it would take two days at least for a message to reach her by foot messenger.”

“Oh, bollocks. We’re bloody screwed. No satellite phones? Please, Rupert. Look, you get us Willow, and I’ll make you a promise. I’ll stay away from Buffy for ever. Give her a chance to make that normal life.”

“Are you threatening to return to her life if I don’t accede to your demands?” Giles asked, his tone still cold.

“No. I’m offering, no strings. Still haven’t bloody decided. Taken me a while to get my nerve up, you know? Bloody scared she won’t want to see me. Couldn’t deal with that, so I’ve been hanging around here biting my sodding nails. Dunno which way I’ll go in the end. Just, if you do this for us, I’ll go with the staying away for ever option. Otherwise, might stay away, might not. That’s my offer, Rupert.”

“I’ve made decisions for Buffy in the past, and regretted it,” Giles said, much to Spike’s astonishment. “She deserves the right to make her own decisions, and her own mistakes. You need make no promises. I will do my best to get in touch with Willow. The coven in Cornwall may be able to make contact with her through the Astral Plane. I will pass on your request to her, and leave it up to her whether she assists you or not.”

“Decent of you, Rupes,” Spike said, surprised by the speed at which Giles had acquiesced to his request. “If you’ve got anything in your books about Illyria, Old One, imprisoned in the Deeper Well for bloody thousands of years, let us know, right?”

“I shall indeed do so,” Giles agreed, “and I shall inform Buffy of your survival, or rather your resurrection.”

“Rather you didn’t,” Spike objected.

“As I said, she deserves the right to make her own decisions,” Giles said. “Would I be correct in deducing that Andrew knew that you have returned?”

“Yeah. Made the little so-and-so promise to keep it secret. Don’t chew him out too bad, okay?”

“Remarkable. I would have thought him incapable of remaining silent on such a matter,” Giles said. “I shall not discipline him too severely. Goodbye, Spike.”

“’Bye, Rupert.” Spike put down the phone. “Well, that went better than I bloody thought it would,” he remarked. “The old bugger’s going to try to get through to Red. Probably be too late, but at least he’s trying.”

“If all else fails I could attempt the soul curse myself,” Wesley suggested.

“No offense, but I think we’d better leave it to the girl who’s done it before,” Spike said.

“None taken.” Wesley scanned the room. “I need a hammer, a crowbar, something I can use to dislodge one of the gems from the sarcophagus.”

“I thought it was indestructible?” Angel frowned.

“I found an inscription that referred to a series of concussively timed intervals,” Wesley explained. “I believe a repeated sequence of hard blows may enable me to detach it. It is the focal point of the sarcophagus. It may contain energies that could be of use to use to counter Illyria’s abilities. Unless, of course, it is already drained.”

“This do?” Spike said, proffering a fire axe. His face twisted. “Sodding memories. Why do people have to bloody die?”

Wesley had no idea what Spike was talking about and took the fire axe with no comment other than “Thanks. This should do very well.”

“Joyce?” Angel asked. He had heard from Buffy about how her mother had hit Spike with a fire axe; and later he had seen Spike, unchipped and unsouled, sitting peacefully with Joyce over a cup of hot chocolate. “You really cared for her? Even though you never had the soul when you knew her?”

“Shows how much you bloody know,” Spike sniffed. “’Course I cared for her. Just ‘cos you never gave a toss for anybody without your soul doesn’t make it true for the rest of us. Some of us had human friends.” He sniffed again. “Like Harm. What she did for Fred …” He patted his coat pockets.

“No smoking in here,” Angel told him. He winced as a sudden crashing noise assaulted his eardrums.

“Don’t see it’d do any harm. That sodding great Angel-shaped hole in the window lets in enough bloody fresh air,” Spike pointed out, shouting to be heard over the noise of Wesley’s repeated blows with the reversed head of the fire axe. He took out his cigarettes and lighter.

“Oh, all right,” Angel conceded. The noise came to an end, and Spike lit up a cigarette.

“I have it,” Wesley announced. “If my deductions are correct, the bearer may be able to resist Illyria’s ability to distort time.”

“Great,” Spike said. “Just got to cope with her being as strong as Glory and armored like a sodding tank. No problem.”

“And we have to locate her,” Angel said. “Have you found anything else?”

“Three missed calls on Knox’s cell phone,” Fred reported. “All from the same person. Doctor Sparrow. The guy who Charles is questioning.”

“Think I’ll toddle along and give Charlie-boy a hand,” Spike said. He exhaled a plume of smoke in Angel’s direction and prepared to flick the cigarette out of the broken window.

“Uh, Spike, before you go,” Fred said nervously, “there’s something I think you oughta know.”

- - - - -

“Vahla ha’nesh,” Wesley announced. He laid his mystical tome on Angel’s table. “This is what the doctor’s confession meant. Illyria’s fortress temple.”

“That’s Illyria?” Angel asked. He stared at the creature portrayed in the picture on the page. It appeared to be a statue rather than a living being, although it was difficult to be sure.

“In her, its, true form,” Wesley confirmed.

“No beauty,” Spike muttered. “No wonder she said that Harm’s shape was ‘satisfactory’.” The being in the picture was huge, vaguely reptilian or molluscoid, with four arms, a body resembling a nest of coiled snakes, and a multitude of snake tails instead of feet.

“Fifty feet tall with tentacles, more or less,” Angel said.

“What are those?” Spike asked, indicating a host of small dots behind the Old One.

“Illyria’s Legions of Doom,” Wesley read out.

“Bloody thousands of the sods,” Spike said. “Bugger.”

“Entombed at her death, awaiting her return,” Wesley continued.

Gunn was hanging back from the group, avoiding meeting their eyes, but he spoke up now. “So, guess they’re somewhere out under the sea?”

“Alas, no. Right here in Los Angeles,” Wesley dashed his hopes. “She returned to her palace, but the fortress temple was on the fringes of her city. About a mile and a half from here, if my calculations are correct.”

“You’d think I would have noticed a place like that,” Angel remarked, gazing at the vaulted halls in the picture.

“It has been buried beneath the ground over tens of thousands of years,” Wesley said. He smiled briefly. “After all, one does not stumble over mastodon skeletons on Wilshire Boulevard. One must excavate for them.”

“They turned up in the subway diggings,” Fred put in.

“Exactly,” Wesley said. “Anyway, it’s out of phase with our time stream. Only Illyria can open the gateway.”

- - - - -

Gunn seized Knox in a headlock and held him as Illyria battled Spike and Angel.

“I thought Spike would have killed you by now,” Knox said. “I guess he doesn’t know.”

“Wrong,” Gunn told him. “Maybe he’ll kill me later. Hell, maybe he should. But for now he just says I’m beating myself up enough that he doesn’t need to do it. Guess the guy knows about guilt. Now, shut the fuck up. Killing you ain’t something that I would feel any guilt about at all.”

Wesley opened fire; Illyria waved her hand and the bullets crept through the air, easily avoided, and she punched a stationary Spike. Angel hit her from behind and knocked her to the ground.

“How?” Illyria gasped, rolling over and looking up at him.

Angel opened his hand to reveal that he was clutching the crystal from her sarcophagus. “This is connected to you. I’m connected to it.” He closed his fist again and advanced.

“That is just totally sneaky,” Illyria complained. She swung her leg at her ankles, felling him, and leaped to her feet. She waved her hand once more and a shimmering portal opened in front of her.

The time wave ended and Spike rejoined the fight. Wesley realized that he was aiming at empty space and swung his guns to reacquire his target.

Illyria dived through the portal. Spike followed, and a second later Wesley just made it through before the portal closed. Angel was a split second too late and the space where the portal had been was nothing more than empty air by the time he reached it.

“You are too late, mortal and half-breed,” Illyria declaimed triumphantly as she strode up the stone steps of her temple towards the chamber that held her statue. “My legions shall rise, and this world shall be …”

She stopped in her tracks. Spike caught up with her and seized her by one arm. She did not resist and Spike looked around.

The temple stood empty. Its columns lay toppled. The statue was a crumbled ruin. There was no sign of the legions save for scattered piles of dust and occasional pieces of what might have been bone.

“This can not be,” Illyria wailed in despair. “Where are my legions? Gone. My world has gone.” She stamped her foot. “This is just totally not fair!”

“Harm?” Spike pleaded. “You in there? Come back to me, love.” His grip on her arm changed from being the first move in an arm-lock to being a hold intended to comfort.

Wesley joined them and pointed a pistol at the back of Illyria’s head. She sank to her knees and scrabbled at the dust on the ground. “All is lost,” she said. “Dust and ashes. There is nothing for me now.” Wesley let his pistol sag towards the ground.

“Harmony?” Spike said again.

“Do not presume to address me by the name of your paramour!” Illyria snapped, raising her head, but then the momentary fire faded and her head sank again. “I am lost and alone. What can I do? Must I live as the shell? Inhabit a small chamber devoid of servants and attendants, bereft of glory?”

“Couldn’t hurt to give it a try,” Spike said. “Wouldn’t say there’s no glory. Harm went out in a blaze of glory. Gave her life to save her friend. Did that myself, came back from it. Thought maybe she might come back too.”

“Some of her memories live on within me,” Illyria confessed. “I feel … unaccustomed sensations. Affection towards you. Respect for the one who stands behind us. Gratitude that he saw potential within the shell that none other did.” She climbed to her feet. “Even a wish to … belong.”

“If you were prepared to join our team,” Wesley said, slowly and with some reluctance, “we could find a place for you.”

“You are worthy warriors, for vermin,” Illyria conceded. “Perhaps that is all that is left for me.” She tossed her head. “Hey, not like I’ve got anything else to do.” She pulled her arm away from Spike’s gentle grip. “I will need guides to show me the customs of this world. My Qwa'ha Xahn is unsatisfactory for that role. Traitor to his own kind. Recluse. Plus, can I say, total dork?”

Spike bit back one of the flashes of hope that kept filling him every time Illyria used one of Harmony’s expressions. “Wasn’t exactly the life and soul of Los Angeles,” he agreed.

“I shall appoint you as my new Qwa'ha Xahn,” Illyria declared.

“Hang on, pet,” Spike objected. “Don’t mind showing you a few of the ropes, but I’m not letting you call me that bloody stupid name.”

“Very well,” Illyria conceded. “I shall create a new title for you.” Her face, normally impassive, creased in a brief frown. “I shall call you my … Blondie Bear.”

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: birthday wishes, birthdays, fic, shellshocked
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