Title: The Red Curse
Pairing(s): Various/Spike, Fred/Wesley, others as story develops
Rating/Warnings: NC-17 (Non-con/Rape, BDSM, torture, violence, language) Previous Parts
Part 16: Breaking Down
Gunn had considered joining the army once, when he was about 16. It had been a very brief consideration, more of a fantasy than anything. The thought of having a constant meal, of not worrying about vampires, had been heaven. He'd been young, but even then he'd never taken the thought seriously. He'd been needed – by the gang, and by Alonna.
Besides, it looked like becoming a member of the military didn't exactly guarantee you wouldn't have dealings with vampires. It didn't even guarantee that you wouldn't end up with a girl who used to date
one. Or two.
Gunn didn't know Riley, but the dude had been so narrowed in on Angel that Lorne hadn't even warranted a comment. That sort of focus wasn't healthy.
Not that Angel was making things better. Gunn was never more thankful that they had Kate with them.
They descended in an elevator and down a stone hall. Gunn wondered how deep underground they were. That giant hole in the dirt had seemed to go own pretty deep. He figured he should mention that. “You guys know there's a big-ass hole outside the fence upstairs, right?”
Riley nodded. “We're going to have that taken care of soon. In the meantime, I asked the tiger if he would guard it.”
Angel scoffed. “Somehow, I doubt he's going to listen to you.”
Gunn thought back to the way Xue Fei had stood over the hole when they'd arrived. “Seemed to me like he was listening pretty well.” Gunn directed his next words at Riley. “You didn't fight him, did you?” Off Riley's confused look, he continued. “The big cat is part demon. Setigris. They have a code of dominance. You beat him in a physical match, he'll obey you.”
Riley shook his head. “I didn't fight with him. He just kind of showed up. Helped kill those demons and get Spike loose.”
“Thanks for that, by the way,” Lorne said.
“I was too late. No thanks needed.” Riley squinted at Lorne. “I've never seen one of you before.”
Lorne made an uneasy choking noise. Gunn answered for him. “He's Pylean, formerly of the Deathwok Clan.”
“Sounds cool. Any special defenses?”
Lorne grimaced. “Not especially.”
“He can hit a note that will make your ears bleed,” Gunn supplied.
“And wear clothes that will do the same to your eyes,” Kate said dryly.
“Hey!” Lorne protested. “Miss doom and gloom 'I hearken to the darkness,' the world can only take so much black. Sorry, Angel.”
Angel gave an irritated grunt in answer.
“My clothes are for camouflage,” Kate pointed out.
They'd arrived outside of a doorway, at which Riley leaned in and gave a vocal identification password. The door slid open, and inside were stone walls and a single large table set in the center, with chairs on either side. It looked a bit too much like an interrogation room for comfort.
“You're going to want to stay in here for now,” Riley said. “My superior will speak with you soon.”
Gunn looked to Angel, and wasn't disappointed when the vampire stood his ground. “No. You're taking me to see Spike.”
For a second, Riley's eyes fluttered. The dude looked tired. “We're putting up defenses around Spike at the moment. It's a delicate process that will take a few hours. After that, if he gives permission, you can see him.”
Angel clenched his hands. “You mean if your superior lets us.”
“No, I mean if Spike lets you. The reason he agreed to come here was so if the hellgod took over, his friends would be out of the line of fire.” Riley eyed each of them. “I'm assuming you're all his friends.”
“Some more than others,” Gunn said.
“I'm just warning you, he might not want you in the room with him. For a number of reasons.”
“What about Fred?” Lorne asked. “Can we see her?”
“And Lindsey,” Kate added. “Is he still alive?”
Something in Riley's expression didn't bode well for good news. “There were two people recovered in the desert – a man and a woman. The demons buried them alive.”
Gunn shut his eyes. Fuck, he hadn't expected it to be that bad. He could only imagine the terror Fred had gone through.
Suddenly, Angel stiffened. “The hole above ground,” he said.
Riley nodded. “So you knew about her condition.”
Gunn scowled as he tried to follow the conversation. “What condition? Illyria?”
“Illyria attacked Spike and caved in his skull,” Riley explained. “Then it tore free from the base. We couldn't track it – it has some sort of super speed. Even our cameras couldn't keep focus on it.” His expression one of sympathy, Riley shook his head. “I'm sorry. I have to go, now.”
The sound of the door closing echoed around the room. In the silence that followed, Gunn's thoughts chased themselves around in disbelief. When he saw Angel's expression, something else clicked into place, and sudden anger replaced the building grief. “You don't seem too surprised.”
“I didn't know for sure,” Angel admitted. “Spike said that she was 'gone,' but I thought there was still a chance...”
“And you didn't tell Wes,” Gunn said.
“I talked to him about that already,” Kate said. She looked like she was considering shoving a stake through Angel's chest. “He gave me some bullshit about needing Wesley to stay together.”
Lorne took support from the wall, his face tightened in sorrow. “Oh, poor Fredikins,” he murmured.
“I won't believe it,” Angel said. He fairly shook with desperation, a strange light to his eyes. “There's always a way.”
“You mean like sacrificing yourself to Wolfram and Hart?” Gunn asked. “Because that's what Wes did for Fred. And you know as well as the rest of us that there isn't always a way. That's why we sent her to that other dimension in the first place.” Gunn swallowed down the lump in his throat, a wave of sadness pulsing upwards through his body. “Wes won't find anything new at Wolfram and Hart that could help us get her back.”
Wesley's stomach lurched and he fell to his knees in disorientation when Illyria released him. They were no longer on the street. He braced himself on trembling hands as he looked about at the records room of Wolfram and Hart. He saw a body against one shelf with its skull sunken in – likely the record keeper.
“I have done as you requested. You will look for clues of my sarcophagus.”
Wesley wanted nothing more at that moment to find a weapon of some sort with which to kill Illyria – his shotgun had been left behind on the jet. He gazed at her again, and swallowed against his sore throat. There would be a ring of bruises left where she'd gripped him.
She stared back with unblinking eyes, the taint of her infection all too plain to see. Splotches of blue trailed over shoulders and down bare flesh. Though she'd undoubtedly caused most of the destruction in this building, there were no visible wounds upon Illyria's bare skin.
Wesley pursed his lips and clenched his eyes shut.
“This building crumbles. It will not stand for long,” Illyria warned. “If I have no use for you, I will bludgeon you to death and be done with it.”
Wesley barked out a miserable laugh. “That's quite the incentive.”
Tears blurred his vision, but Wesley managed to push himself to his feet. Though Fred was gone, Illyria remained. He planted a new seed in his heart, one that would see Illyria dead for what she'd done to his love.
He searched the archives for any information about what had happened to the sarcophagus. Somewhere, something exploded. The building trembled. Wesley quickened his movements, until he found the information he sought.
“I have it,” he said, holding the file close to his chest.
A few seconds later, a hand clamped onto his shoulder. “We leave now.”
Again they were outside, but now beyond LA, staring out into the small string of smoke that drifted into the air. Wolfram and Hart's destruction was now miles away. Wesley swayed and slumped with great nausea, bile at the back of his throat. It took several seconds to regain control of his body.
“Do you have any other method of travel?” he asked, reeling with dizziness. He was certain another foray into the breathless nothingness would have him lose consciousness.
Illyria tilted her head. “I may slow time for you as well.”
“Thanks,” Wesley said, at the same time the full extent of Illyria's power hit him. Power over time. That meant whatever attack he could launch would be easily avoided.
He looked at the file once more. The sarcophagus had been moved to a secret military base in California in hopes of keeping it hidden from Illyria, to prevent her returning to full power. Eve had taken only a few key staff members to place up wards so Illyria would not be able to sense its location.
Wesley knew without a doubt that this was the base where Spike had been taken. And it was where Angel and the others were, now. Where Fred was supposed to have been.
Wesley had studied the sarcophagus at length upon Fred's initial infection. He knew if there was any chance of stopping Illyria, it was within her casket.
If he was wrong, Illyria would regain full control of her abilities.
He threw the file aside. As far as he was concerned, the world could burn in hell. He would attempt this one last thing, and then, – hopefully – he would go to ashes along with it.
Angel knew Spike was somewhere nearby. He could smell the despair that coated him. Of course, when he'd tried the door to their room, it had been locked. The inability to do anything made his fangs itch. His demon craved action and violence.
It took effort to not shift faces when the door to their room was finally opened. A man with grey hair entered, and he scanned each of them before he spoke. “I'm General Sharp. Are you allies of the hostile currently in custody?”
“His name is Spike,” Angel hissed. “And yes, we are.”
“Do you have any information on how we can extract the hellgod within him, or prevent its emergence?”
“Erm, not on us, strictly,” Lorne said.
Gunn moved forward so he was standing face to face with the general. “We have someone at Wolfram and Hart researching for us. Real smart guy.”
General Sharp's face tightened. “Wolfram and Hart is gone.”
Angel felt a thrill of sick fear. “What?”
“We just got noticed of an attack on Los Angeles. Minimal public casualties, but Wolfram and Hart's entire firm building was cleaned out. If your friend was inside, he's probably dead.”
The wards were in place. Spike's demon senses had screamed warning of oncoming magic before the ritual had been started. It must have been hours before it was finished. Now, tired and hungry, he hung from his restraints. His skin felt tight, but his wounds were now completely healed, and there was a disturbing tingling feeling in the back of his head.
“Johnson” looked to be double checking a few things. He came to stand in front of Spike, with a bit of a self-congratulatory smirk. “All right, you have the all-clear for talking.”
“If I never come across another spell, it'll be too sodding soon,” Spike said.
They were quickly joined by Eve. She looked over the wards, and nodded in satisfaction. “Looks good,” she said. “Nice work, Dr. Johnson.”
Spike stared with narrowed eyes at the shoulder pat that lingered a bit too long.
“What was the call about?” Johnson asked.
Eve's eyes drifted to Spike, and then away again. She wore a smile she couldn't quite hide. “It's done,” she said.
Spike's hackles immediately went up. “What's bloody done?”
Eve leaned in close, and Spike resisted the urge to draw back at her proximity. “The Los Angeles section of Wolfram and Hart has been completely destroyed. Again.”
“Right. And I'm supposing you knew Illyria would go searching for her sarcophagus.”
Eve shrugged. “She tore the place apart looking for it. There were no survivors.” Her smile spread. “Guess I'm out of a job.”
They were only about ten minutes into the time lapse travel when Wesley took back his earlier wish for the less nauseating option. He indeed did not feel ill when Illyria brought him into the time shift with her, but he quickly realized that it would feel as if it was real time for him, and that meant walking across California towards the military base. It would seem like days, and his body was already almost beyond functioning, so wrung out was it from the stress of the days before.
So he asked for her to shift him out again, and then braced for the horrendous feeling of being dragged through time without an anchor.
When it happened, his vision blackened and his breath froze in his chest. He convulsed and gagged, and bile coated his tongue.
He realized he'd passed out when he came to outside of a fenced area in the desert. A single building stood within its perimeter.
In front of the building, was Xue Fei. The tiger stood with spines fully extended and back arched.
Illyria curled her lip. “Another miserable half-breed,” she spat.
Wesley tried to get up, but the most he managed was to roll himself from his back to his belly. He watched Illyria's blue-coated bare feet move forward.
Xue Fei snarled wildly in threat as she approached. Illyria was unfazed, and Wesley knew he was about to witness the death of the setigris hybrid.
Suddenly, the double doors to the fenced building opened. A man dressed in green stood between them. He stared at Illyria with wide eyes, his gun raised. “Shit,” he said. “Get inside – now!
Wesley realized the man was speaking to Xue Fei when the tiger immediately retracted its spines and threw itself back towards the doors. The man slammed the entrance shut, and Wesley heard a lock slide home. Illyria continued to move towards the entrance, neither quickening nor slowing her pace.
Wesley struggled up, and stumbled towards her. He knew he'd doomed everyone inside the facility, but it was likely their only chance of taking Illyria down. If he could just get himself close enough to the crystals that held her essence...
“This is where I woke,” Illyria said. “They hide beneath the ground like worms.”
“They will not keep me from my sarcophagus.” She raised a fist, and swung it down in an arc. The metal dented beneath her hand.
When Riley rushed into his cell, wide eyed and panting, Spike knew it wasn't to give good news. “Illyria's here,” he said.
“What?!” Eve stepped a bit closer to Spike. “We should have had more time...”
“Well, she's knocking down the damn door as we speak. Are you sure the wards are done?”
Johnson nodded. “The crystals on the sarcophagus are cycling energy in a large radius. Illyria won't be able to get in.”
“You gonna bet your life on that?” Riley asked, as alarms began to cry shrilly throughout the facility. He checked out into the hall, and then moved away as something huge pressed its way into the cell.
Johnson shoved Eve behind him and backed her towards the wall with a curse.
Xue Fei ignored them as he stepped towards Spike. A moment later, Spike had several long whiskers tickling his belly. He could see the dirt and blood that caked the once white paws. “Puss,” Spike said, at once happy and worried at the cat's presence. “You look like hell.”
“Get that thing out of here!” Eve shrieked.
Riley ignored her fear. “He helped me. I owe him.” To Spike, he said, “He was going to face down Illyria alone.”
Spike smiled. He would have given Xue Fei a fond pat on the head, if he'd been able. “Of course you were, you bloody daft cat.”
Xue Fei groaned.
Riley stepped closer to them, and all at once Spike's focus was redirected. He nosed the air, and a new rush of anger filled him. “Angel's here,” he snarled. “You've been near him.”
“Right,” Riley said. “I forgot vampires can smell better than dogs.”
Johnson made a noise of disgust. “You guys are fucking idiots.”
“Have to agree with him,” Spike said. “What happened to the pep talk? 'I'd rather be in a room full of people who hate me when the bomb goes off.' Remember that?”
Riley's patience finally frayed. “Give me a break, Spike. They just showed up. General Sharp wanted to see if they had any helpful information about your condition. Angel was about to go up in flames from the sun, and the rest of them would have been pulverized by Illyria if I'd left them out there. Which reminds me – Illyria wasn't alone. There was some guy with her. He was on the ground, but I couldn't see any serious injuries, and he got up easily enough.”
“Might explain how she got here so fast,” Johnson said. “Someone gave her the hint.”
Eve looked murderous. “I made sure none of my staff would speak a word, even under threat of death.”
“Your newest employee wouldn't have been around about then,” Johnson reminded.
Spike jerked as he realized who they meant. “Percy. Oh, for fuck's sake.”
“What?” Riley asked.
“He and the girl the demon took over, they were an item,” Spike explained. He sighed and looked ceiling-ward. “Bloody – forget what I wanted. You said these wards will confuse her? Get Angel in here as fast as possible.”
Before Riley could answer, the tingling in the back of Spike's head suddenly increased deafeningly. He gasped and tilted his head back. Xue Fei snarled and backed up a pace.
“What is it?” Riley asked.
“Dunno,” Spike panted. “Something... the wards must be messing with my head.”
“They're not supposed to do that,” Johnson said, and the wary tone in his voice did not make Spike feel better.
“Did you do them right?” Eve asked.
“I did them perfectly,” Johnson hissed back.
Spike shut his eyes as he tried to ride out the sensation. He thought he heard laughter, high and feminine.
“Oh, bloody buggering fuck.” Spike's eyes snapped open again, and he snarled desperately at Riley and Puss. “Run!