Disclaimer: Don't own, etc., etc. Joss Whedon rules supreme and retains pretty much everything. Only written for personal enjoyment and because this plot bunny just wouldn't die, even after some serious staking…
Summary: Occurs shortly after How To Kill Your (Psycho) Boyfriend In One Hard Lesson (Part 2). In every generation there is born the Chosen One, one girl in all the world…she alone shall have the power…until Buffy Summers turned the Slayers into a franchise. And did we really expect Evil to simply shrug its shoulders despondently and say, "Oh well, it was fun while it lasted"?
NB: This is the third-from-last story in my "The Blood Will Tell" series, and I have to admit, the longest story. It is in Six Parts, with each part subdivided into chapters for the benefit of readers. I apologise for this, but Shadowed Souls is the 'pivotal' story and what is included here is important for the ending to my series, which hopefully will all be posted by the end of 2010. I apologise for the length of time this has taken, but I have a very demanding career and suffer indifferent health. I also lost Parts 2 & 5 of this story and had to "reintegrate" them after I suffered a corrupted hard drive. So here goes…
"Illyria!" Angel's fist was not gentle on the wood of Wesley's apartment door, but before he had time to strike more than a single blow, his fist encountered empty air as the door was yanked open and the demon Illyria, its skin glowing deep blue in agitation, stood in Wesley's doorway.
God-King of the Primordium or not, even Illyria hesitated as Team Angel With Guests en masse surged into the apartment. "Up there!" The demon whispered, pointing imperiously towards the sleeping nest where its mate lay.
"Whoa." Lorne's soft exclamation and his double take caused them all, bar Spike (who having lived here was used to the décor), to arrest their forward progress abruptly.
Angel, Gunn, Lorne, The Groosalug and Harmony exchanged mutual 'majorly-creeped-out' glances as they took in the masses of sharp metal weaponry hanging all over the walls, the gruesome panoply of menacing looking objects and bric-a-brac 'ornaments', all of which seemed to incorporate at least one spear-point or serrated-edge motif, and the bookcases stacked with the sort of heavy, black-leather bound tomes that looked as if they'd go for your throat if you even thought about picking one up.
"It's like…Darth Vader meets Ted Bundy…with a hint of Martha Stewart." Gunn muttered.
"You can critique Wesley's serial-killer chic later," Spike snarled, "not like you haven't seen it before people – remember that night you lot came bursting in here full of the self-righteous with Wes's brother's fiancée Miss Not-So-Nice-Manners in tow?"
"Yeah, but at the time we weren't really in a place where we were up to noticing the fact that this pad is decorated like a psychopath's penthouse." Gunn's tone, perhaps understandably, was a bit acidic.
Angel moved forward in front of the TV and main U-shaped couch, heading towards Wesley's bedroom as Illyria, completely uninterested in their unease over the décor, waited impatiently on the first of the spiral steps leading up. Privately however, Angel agreed with Gunn's pithy assessment.
When they had burst in on Wesley with his future sister-in-law Fifi Whatshername tagging along they had been half-expecting to find a blood-spattered Spike chowing down on the ex-Watcher's lifeless body. The sharp conflict between Angel and Wesley that had ensued at that point, and the team's subsequent rapid embarrassed withdrawal, meant everyone had been so totally focussed on the immediate crisis that nobody had taken the time to really look at their surroundings.
Even Angel's photographic memory had brought up Wesley's apartment as little more than a big blur, which was why all the plethora of weaponry took everyone aback. The fact that Wesley was in person a reserved, reflective character who very rarely raised his cultured, well-educated voice made this array of brutal axes and vicious-looking swords and knives all the more disturbing. For an instant as Angel saw Wesley's apartment and caught the scent of the man, he was reminded instead of Marcus, the vampire who had stolen the Gem of Amara from Spike and gone out into daylight hunting children.
"What's the problem?" Spike asked Illyria, right behind Angel as the older vampire followed her up to the bedroom area.
Angel braced himself for all sorts of nightmares; they had all been in the office since well before seven o'clock in the morning (not hard in Angel's case since his penthouse was in the building) and it was nearly ten before someone realised they hadn't laid eyes on either Wesley or Fred-stroke-Illyria. As if waiting for such realisation, Angel's private line had rung and he found himself conversing not with Fred but instead an agitated Illyria, the warrior-demon telling Angel that something was wrong with its mate; somehow Angel had found himself accompanied by his current entourage by the time he got to his private parking garage in Wolfram & Hart's basement.
"I believe he may have been poisoned." The warrior-demon said, using the vocal chords of its human host Fred quite superbly to intonate what would happen to the perpetrator of this crime against its mate. "Possibly with bread or cereals."
Angel and Spike surged towards the bed, Gunn, Lorne, Gru and Harmony on their heels. Poison was never good – usually far from painless, there was also a point of no return, after which the body had absorbed too much of the toxin to recover. Wesley lay in the centre of the bed, almost in a foetal position under the bedclothes. His hair, face, neck and shoulders were so wet with perspiration that it looked as if someone had just tipped a bucket of water over him; his face was twisted in pain and his features were quite literally a dull rain-cloud grey, his breathing shallow and laboured. Wesley made no acknowledgement of any of them in any way, showing no sign that he was aware that they were there – which, given what they were, and the dangerous potential they possessed, was the most frightening thing of all.
Lorne narrowed his eyes as he took in Wesley's aura, "Wait…this is definitely physical, not mystical, at any rate."
"Did he say anything?" Gunn asked of Illyria, keeping a wary distance from the agitated demon, whose body had erupted into the full covering of chitin-like armour; dangerously unpredictable at the best of times, Illyria was about as trustworthy as a wounded tiger when angry or upset.
Illyria snorted, "Only foolish things. He was like this when I awoke; he spoke in a whisper through clenched teeth, he said to let Fred emerge and go to work and he would be all right when I returned this evening, but Fred-human was distressed within my brain cortex. Wesley has never been like this."
"He didn't mention poison?" Angel clarified in surprise; if Wesley had been conscious and alert enough to try and give Illyria the I'm-fine-really brush off then he would certainly have been capable of explaining to the demon that he'd been poisoned and to get Team Angel here with Antidote X pronto.
Illyria shook its head. "I am not sure. What he said did not make sense. He blamed his illness on wheat." She pointed back down through the platform balustrade to the table where a box of popular breakfast cereals sat unopened. "But he has this for breakfast many days without pain."
"He said his cereal made him ill?" Gunn pressed, exchanging confused looks with Angel as Spike leaned past the older vampire to scrutinise the still figure in the bed.
"Yes, he said that the cause was his grain…"
There was a momentary pause as Angel tried to unravel this, then Spike suddenly jerked straight upright as if he'd been shot. "He said, 'my grain'!"
"Yes…" Illyria was getting impatient; it had just explained this to its mate's friends.
Illyria's entire body went very still as the English vampire rapped the command in a manner that was plain suicide.
Everyone's eyes widened at Spike's sudden Generalissimo attitude, but the blond vampire had more important things on his mind. "Illyria, go downstairs, fill the bowl in the sink with warm but not hot water and soak a clean, soft cloth in it. Lorne, Gru and Gunn, I'd wager my soul that somewhere in this homage to homicide there is a supply of thick curtains – get them and put them over all the windows. I don't want a chink of light in here. Harmony, go to the bathroom, get the strongest painkillers you can find, and fill a glass with tepid water – not warm or cool but lukewarm…move."
Galvanised by the snap he put into his tone, all of them including Illyria scrambled to obey, while Angel hesitated, staring at his grandson's sudden transformation into Buffy when she was in full Superhero Motivational Oratory Mode. "What…?"
Yanking open the drawers along the back wall of the bedroom platform, Spike growled, "There should be some sweats here…" picking up a pair of the baggy casual pants, he discarded them again, "not soft enough…here." Grabbing the more faded pair, he nodded towards the still figure on the bed. "Can you carry him to the bathroom?"
Angel didn't deign to even snort derisively at this question, he simply scooped Wesley into his arms, sheets and all, as if the man was a child, helped by the way Wesley was curled in on himself. Giving Spike a look that quite clearly said he could stand there all day holding Wesley without fatigue if he chose, Angel instead very carefully began to make his way down the spiral metal staircase to the ground floor one stair at a time, manoeuvring his body so as not to let Wesley's head or feet hit the staircase rail.
"Watch it – he's probably going to puke very soon." Spike said in a low tone as he followed on his grandsire's heels.
Gru, Gunn and Lorne were ransacking cupboards as Angel and Spike carefully made their way across the room; with Wesley's torso resting against his own, Angel could feel the ex-Watcher's stomach starting to roil and churn. Sparing a glance at the other three, he saw that Wesley's cupboards mainly consisted of more unpleasant-looking books and ancient, fragile scrolls.
As Gru ferreted through another cupboard, a battered scroll that looked as though it had been used to scrub floors fell and rolled directly into Angel's path as if straight out of one of those old Three Stooges/Marx Brothers comedies where the hero steps on the ball/banana skin and ends up somersaulting on his ass. Stopping the scroll's progress by placing the sole of his shoe on it, Angel glanced down, seeing the letters N-i-before he used the toe of his shoe to flirt it back out of the way to the cupboard it fell from, making sure he didn't jar his precious burden.
With a soft grunt of surprise, Gunn suddenly came away from another cupboard with his arms full of neatly folded curtains; there was even an unopened packet on top that read: Blackout Curtains and the name of a company with a Union Jack logo. Swiftly taking some off him, Lorne and Gru started tacking them up over the already-closed vertical blinds currently dimming the sunlight shining on the windows, the ease with which they managed to find the appropriate equipment showing them all that Wesley was not unaccustomed to doing the job.
Illyria had finished at the sink and was now tracking them like a missile guidance system, its crystalline blue eyes almost sapphire in hue; Harmony likewise hovered, uncertain, in the bathroom doorway.
"Illyria, please would you change the bed – strip it and put on the softest new bedding you can find? Harm' give her a hand, pet." Spike spoke to the warrior-demon in a much more moderate tone than he had previously used as he followed Angel into the bathroom and shut the door firmly in their faces. "Uh-oh, Angel."
Hearing the bile rise in the ex-Watcher's stomach, Angel deftly supported Wesley as the Englishman vomited into the toilet bowl, sweat soaking his body, though at no time did Wesley open his eyes, his twisted features indicating he was in great pain. Wishing he could temporarily switch off his acute sense of smell, Angel instead turned his head to where Spike was adjusting the shower heads so that the water was lukewarm only, and that the spray did not come out with its usual force. Using one boot, Spike pushed off his other boot, then raised his leg and pulled the remaining one off with his hand, revealing black socks that he likewise removed to show white, rather bony feet. Shrugging out of his customary black leather duster, Spike unbuckled his belt and popped the button on his jeans, unzipping the fly and shoving them down his hips to the floor before stepping out of them, revealing that he had been 'going commando'. As if oblivious to Angel's wide-eyed stare and his own semi-nudity, Spike pulled his T-shirt over his head and dropped it beside his other clothing, now completely nude.
"What are you doing?" Angel managed to ask as Wesley vomited again, wretchedly, but the Englishman had nothing in his stomach to bring up.
"I forgot to bring a travel bag, and the wet look isn't me." Spike retorted. "We need to get him in the shower, genius. Either get out of your skivvies and lend us a hand, pet, or just give him to me."
Wesley's retching spasm had passed for the moment, so Angel laid him on the cool floor tiles and quickly disrobed himself of his own all-black clothing, which, as with Spike, didn't include underwear. Picking up Wesley and getting rid of the tangled bedclothes, Angel stepped into the tepid shower. He held Wesley and watched in silent amazement as Spike, displaying the same cautious care as someone holding a delicate, priceless Ming Dynasty vase, carefully wiped the sweat from Wesley's body with a touch that was tender yet impersonal and not embarrassing – assuming Wesley was aware of it at all. As the ex-Watcher shivered and whimpered in his hold, Angel felt the first bite of fear – he had never seen Wesley so incapacitated, even back in the day when Wesley was proclaiming himself a 'rogue demon hunter' despite being the ultimate geek with all the lightening reflexes and agile co-ordination of an arthritic tortoise.
Making shooing motions with his hands, Spike indicated for Angel to take Wesley out of the shower again. Laying the Watcher down on the mats directly outside the shower, Angel followed Spike's lead as the blond vampire carefully patted Wesley dry rather than just rubbing the towels over his body. Snagging the sweats with one hand even as he used the other to support Wesley's upper body close to his chest, Angel got them on and with Spike's help eased them up, glad that he hadn't fed so no blood could make his face blush as he carefully pulled the sweats up to Wesley's waist and averted his eyes from the Englishman's genitals. Once Wesley was back, he was going to absolutely hate this, presumably why Spike had been so careful to shut the door.
Spike took Wesley into his supporting embrace as Angel quickly dried off and re-dressed, then Angel cradled Wesley again as Spike did the same; holding Wesley to him, Angel followed Spike out of the bathroom, his vampire sight adjusting to the fact that the entire apartment was now in thick gloom. Had it been night instead of mid-morning, the entire place would have been truly pitch-black. Like servitors at a posh hotel, the others were lined up at the bottom of the spiral staircase as if awaiting some ultra-important guest. Spike led the way back up and seemed satisfied with the bedding, nodding to Angel to put Wesley back; nobody spoke, having seemed to catch on to the fact that Spike was avoiding talking.
Laying Wesley in the centre of the bed, and pulling the covers around him, Angel looked up and Spike nodded approval, before jerking his head in a way that clearly commanded they vacate the area; the blond vampire led the way back downstairs in total silence.
"What do we do now?" Illyria demanded of the blond vampire since it seemed to know how to aid its mate, unconsciously keeping its voice low as the blond vampire's attitude seemed to indicate that noise distressed Wesley.
"You all go into work, I'll stay with Wesley." Spike said in that unnaturally low voice.
"Me too." Angel said in a non-negotiable tone.
Illyria shook its head, "No, I-"
"Illyria, you are hurting Wesley by being here. All of you are." Looking at their offended faces, Spike explained, "Wesley has a human medical condition called a migraine. It is not fatal or permanently damaging but it causes terrible pain, and unfortunately the only thing to do is let it run its course. Believe me Illyria, if you allow Fred to emerge and go into work, Wesley will be fine by the time you return home this evening."
"Migraine." Illyria repeated the unfamiliar term. "Wesley will have more of these?"
"Yes. Nobody really knows what causes them, but they differ from person to person. Some people have a lot of migraines that they can still function through, while others only have migraines rarely…"
"…but when they do, hello breaking the pain barrier?" Gunn asked.
"Pretty much." Spike admitted.
"But why cannot I stay with my mate?" Illyria pressed.
"You make too much noise." Spike raised a hand as the demon made to speak again. "Before I became a vampire, when I was human, I too suffered from these migraine headaches and they are excruciating. When you have a migraine – everything is agonising, it's like your senses have been 'dialled up' twenty times higher than normal. Even a little light is terribly painful, like someone stabbing hot knives into your eyes. The faintest smell is a vile stench; to Wesley, that aftershave Gunn and Lorne are both wearing is literally nauseating. The smallest sound is like a heavy metal drummer in your brain – which reminds me, we need to stop everything in here that ticks or hums or buzzes; take all the batteries out of the clocks, turn off the microwave. Even the sound of your breathing is too loud right now."
"But you can stay with Wes and look after him in total silence, 'cause you don't need to breathe." Gunn acknowledged; as long as Angel and Spike retained enough air in their lungs to force pass their vocal chords when they needed to talk, they could simply not bother to breathe for the duration.
Understanding finally, Illyria did not waste time dawdling; with the humans it went around the apartment, disabling the clocks, turning off the computer and television, both of which were on standby, and anything else that gave out any faint sound. Then the demon seemed to slump and shrink in on itself, the armour being absorbed into its body and the blue colour fading away before raising its head to reveal a pale, drawn-featured Fred rather than Illyria. With a grateful look, Fred and the others bar Spike and Angel crept out of the apartment and closed the door carefully behind them. Both vampires tilted their heads, listening, but the sounds they could pick up were in no way audible to human ears, meaning Wesley now lay in a cocoon of total silence.
Continued in Part 1 – Chapter 2
© 2004 & 2010, C. D. Stewart