ImMortal part 13: Crazy Mad
Alarms filled the maze of halls within Wolfram and Hart as panicked employees rushed to escape the building before lock down. A militia of heavily armed men marched hastily through the corridors, hurrying past the paranormal science division, catching Fred and Wesley completely off guard. Watcher and scientist hurried after the troops. Gunn rushed to catch up as he and Lorne came off the elevator. The green demon was quickly swept up in the wave of people, battling to keep his Sea Breeze from spilling along the way. Xander, Willow and Anya pushed their way upstream through the escaping workers, spotting the back sides of Fred, Wesley, Gunn and Lorne all heading toward the medical wing. Warning lights flashed and high alert status sirens clattered around them. Everyone burst through the frosted glass doors to the sound of dozens of guns being locked and readied for fire. All movement skidded to a halt at the scene before them.
"Dawn...?" Giles called out softly, eyes glancing nervously between Buffy unconscious across the room and the blue hued young lady examining the lab. He stood in the center of the room, dusty and bloodied, his face contorted with vampyric symptoms but tainted even more by the webs of dark magicks swelling within him. His hands were clenched, sparks arcing as his eyes flamed between yellow and black revealing his internal struggle for balance.
“What lower place is this?” the young lady asked, features unfriendly and confused as she scanned the crowd. “This is not Vahla ha'nesh.”
“Vah-la whosits?” Lorne repeated confused. “Dawny's lookin' like she's got the Vegas headliner makeover workin' but the act is lacking.”
“Silence!” the blue lady ordered disapprovingly. “This is not my temple. The preparations were not aptly made. I am unsatisfied.”
“Oh my god…” Willow gasped.
“You would claim to worship me yet fail in your…”
“Hold it, worship?” Lorne shook his head. “Who said anything about worship, princess?”
“If you are not my disciples, then irritate me no longer.”
“Is that… is that Dawn?” Xander asked.
“Not anymore,” Anya answered, worry stretched across her face as she noticed Buffy unconscious across the room. “This isn't going to end well.”
“Dawn,” Giles pleaded gently again, reaching out to offer the girl a passive hand as his features returned to their human structure.
“Half breed, you dare to address me,” she cursed and swatted it away. Giles' distraught expression turned sober.
“Then you don't know Dawn?” He asked evenly.
“Only that this dawn will see your end, vampire, if you dare speak to me again.”
“I'm sorry,” Giles whispered. His eyes grew black once again and with a barely audible phrase, streams of energies blasted out from his hands, slamming into the unfriendly blue creature.
“Giles no!” Willow screamed out in panic as Xander held her back, keeping her from falling victim to the unexpected attack.
The militia stood at alert, uncertain what course of action they should seek and watching Wesley for a command. The young Watcher's eyes went wide with witnessing the sudden change in Giles. This was new, disturbing and all too powerful. The smoke and light faded to reveal the blue lady standing untouched and not the slightest bit amused.
“A half-breed capable of evoking dark magicks, this plane has changed much since I rested. Your quaint castings are little more than itches to me, vampire. I am surrounded by specks, useless things to be trounced upon and ignored.” The blue lady began to walk toward the crowd and Giles lunged forward to impede her advance. With an easy push, the vampire was sent careening into a row of empty beds, each buckling with the force of the shove.
"Again, you dare to defile me with your words, your touch? You are below me, you and the primitives. Bother me no more, halfling."
Knox rushed through the doors talking quickly. "Sorry I'm late, had a bit of a mix up. You came earlier then scheduled." He froze when he spotted the blue figure and delight spread along his mild face. “I knew you'd come for me. My life is yours. I…I worship you.”
The soldier's rifles took aim, bouncing aim between the two, uncertain.
"You are the Qwa'ha Xahn?" She asked Knox.
"Yes. I am your humble priest and guide in this realm. I worship you, my king." Knox fell to his knees and bowed forward.
“This world has changed from since I left it.”
“Oh yeah. Sorry about that. Not much I can do there,” Knox shrugged.
“Who is… what being is this?” Wesley asked charily.
“Illyria , the greatest monarch and warrior of the demon age murdered by rivals and left adrift in the Deeper Well.” Knox rambled on excitedly. “I've taken your sacraments and placed them close to my heart according to the ancient ways.” He revealed the stitched skin of his chest and Illyria traced a finger along the misshapen lumps beneath. “That's why you were called to me. We're bound together.”
“This is not as it should be. This shell is unprepared… draped in clothe. Take me to the sarcophagus.” She demanded.
“I'm afraid we can't permit you to leave,” Wesley said, calmly stepping forward.
“Afraid…” Knox smiled, slipping behind the blue lady “… you should be.”
“I don't seek permission from the likes of you, worthless primates. You grew bold with my absence, evolving into insubordinate fools. A behavior I will soon correct with your extinction.”
“Just a hunch, kiddies, but I'd say that doesn't sound like Dawn,” Lorne said somberly.
“I'd have to agree,” Wesley responded, face stiffening with a harsh resolve. “Open fire.”
“No…that's…” But Xander's' objections were drowned out by the deafening roar of gunfire erupting.
“You'll only make her cranky,” Knox warned, amused, hiding behind his king.
As the guns emptied, spent shells rained to the hard floor. The room went quiet, Illyria stood unmolested with her head cocked curiously sideways. With the realization that their weapons were ineffective, the opposing militia scrambled a cowardly retreat.
“So much for the best security that money can buy,” Gunn grumbled.
“I grow tired of this. Why do these inferior beings meet me with their incompetent attacks? I was to be resurrected at my temple, surrounded by my worshipers,” Illyria said disapprovingly to Knox.
"Yeah. Sorry again about the poor timing. After the little mix up with the paper work, I had to resort to getting a secondarie's signature.”
“So someone knew,” Fred winced. “Someone knew what this thing could do. Someone let that thing in here, let Dawn die.”
“Oh come on folks, what's with the long faces?” Knox said cheerily. “This is a glorious day. Dawn served a purpose millions would gladly accept in the demon age.”
“Only Dawn didn't get the memo or the chance to accept the proposal,” Gunn argued. “You killed her.”
“I didn't kill her. This is a celebrated gift, to be the shell of the king. I mean, she wasn't the one I had in mind but if the body fits.” Knox smiled crookedly. “But I've gotta thank you, Gunn, for helping out and coming through for us. Couldn't have done it without you."
Gunn's face fell into shock with the news. “Me? Wha… what?”
“Yeah, it's your cat scratch that made this possible. You signed off on the paperwork to permit the sarcophagus through customs.” Knox shook his head. “Cut right through that pesky red tape.”
"You did this,” Giles seethed as he forced himself unstably to his feet, forehead drizzling with a fresh and ragged wound.
"No. I didn't know anything." He backed away as Giles stepped toward him.
“That's not what the paper trail says, buddy.” Knox smiled.
"Shut up!” Gunn ordered sharply then pleaded to Giles, “I didn't know. I swear!”
“Then someone falsified your signature?” Wesley asked. “That's highy improbable being that Wolfram and Hart have signature verification and anti-replication safeguards.”
“No… I mean… I signed a lot of things. I'm a lawyer. Paperwork comes with the job descrip. I just signed a packing order. That's all." Gunn insisted.
"That's all? Don't be so humble.” Knox stood back up. “By signing that order, you allowed the sarcophagus into the building. You see, Wolfram and Hart has a mystical barrier shielding that doesn't allow the opening of such artifacts. Preventative measures, they like to be the ones arranging these kinds of meetings. In the know, and all. Anyway, if it weren't for you signing off on that slip, my king couldn't have returned to me."
“I didn't know.” Gunn winced, pleading for anyone to believe him. “Tell them I didn't know.”
"Well, yeah. I doubt you read the fine print. But then again you didn't want to know, hey lawman. Still, got what you wanted, a little upgrade upstairs, filling in the gaps in the mind department so you could play Perry Mason.” Knox shrugged. “All's well that ends well. And because of your efforts, Dawn has the holiest of honors being chosen as the king's vessel in this world. I thought it was going to be Fred then Dawn just couldn't keep her pretty little hands off..."
In a fury of motion, Knox was driven towards and pinned to the wall. A squeezing grip crushed his throat closed as the blazing eyes and snarling fangs of the vampire were inching closer to his face.
Wesley hurried forward. "Giles... we need him alive. We don't know..."
With one savage bite, Giles tore out the assistant's throat and watched the body drop to the ground, convulsing as blood pulsed from the gory flesh. Then the vampire swiveled fast and charged toward Gunn, easily knocking Wesley aside. Gunn faltered backwards, trying to escape the aggressor but with a kick to his chest, went shattering through the glass doors and skidded to a halt in the hall as the others scampered to get out of the way. Giles continued to pursue him, eyes returning green as his face sunk back to human. No one noticed Wesley hurry out the doors.
“I didn't know… honestly. I would never hurt Dawn…” Gunn pleaded with blood dribbling coughs and gasps.
Giles stalked up to the fallen man, reaching down to lift him up by his throat. Gunn's eyes were wide with panic, struggling for breath as he was lifted higher, feet dangling in effort to reach solid ground. With a thrust, Giles threw Gunn, sending him colliding into the opposing wall. The beaten man fell to a bloodied heap on the floor.
“Giles no!” Xander yelled. “He said he didn't know.”
“She's gone. Dawn is gone and it's because of him,” Giles growled, advancing.
“Please, Giles. This won't help. We need…” Willow hurried forward, pleading with Giles only to be pushed sternly away. Fred rushed forward to try and prevent any further harm only to get the same rough treatment.
“You didn't know. I believe that,” Giles said composedly, gripping Gunn's jacket and forcing him back to his feet. “But you should have.”
“I'm sorry,” Gunn whispered, lips split and bleeding, nose shattered and bruising. “God, I am so sorry.”
“I'm sure you are,” Giles replied with a quiet fury just as Wes reappeared from around the corner raising up a rifle and ready to shoot.
“Release him!” Wesley demanded. Giles glanced over with a calculating smile.
“My thoughts exactly.”
It happened in a supremely violent motion, two hands gripping Gunn's head and with a brutal twist, the warriors head wrenched sideways as an eerie snapping of bone echoed throughout the room. Everyone gasped, shocked as Giles released Gunn and watched pleased as he collapsed lifeless to the floor. A rifle shot rang out, sending a dart to pierce Giles in the neck. His features immediately vamped as he charged the former Watcher, growling in rage. Willow lifted a hand, blocking the attack with an invisible barrier. The vampire roared as he ricocheted off the barricade, striking out with a torrent of dark magicks aimed at the witch. Willow was knocked back, colliding hard with a wall.
Xander charged Giles with series of punches only to be leveled by a powerful uppercut. Finally finished reloading, Wesley fired the rifle again, striking Giles in the chest and the vampire snarled, resuming his pursuit of the Watcher. Wesley hurried to reload again as Giles took a threatening step in his direction. Then the beast's legs weakened and began to wobble until soon his knees buckled, sending Giles hard to the floor. He scratched out, trying to claw his way to reach the gunman. Wesley took steady aim again as Giles lifted up to reach for him. The dart struck with a bone fracturing sound, hitting Giles mid forehead, finally sending the vampire motionless to the floor.
It took a moment for everyone to realize what had just happened, slowly rising to their feet to inspect the devastation. Fred dove toward Gunn, checking his vitals. Her face fell, tears welling in her eyes.
“He's dead,” she sobbed and everyone stood in a daze, unable to fully understand. Meanwhile, Wesley knelt beside the unconscious vampire and carefully positioned his arms to his sides. He took out a pair of handcuffs and locked Giles securely within them.
“Giles is out,” Wesley said flatly. “For now.”
“Sheesh… what'd I miss?” Cordelia asked, eyes examining the wreckage as she entered the lobby. When her gaze fell to Gunn, bloody and lifeless, she gasped.
“Uh… guys, where's little miss smurfette?” Lorne asked.
The generously sized employee lounge was empty except for Willow , Xander, Cordelia, and Anya who sat evenly spaced around one side of a circular table set near the windows. The sun slowly sank below the horizon, casting a warm orange glow across the room and along the row of gloomy faces.
“I can't believe Gunn is dead,” Cordelia whispered somberly, slowly rotating her untouched cup of coffee sitting on the tabletop.
“Dawn is gone,” Willow wiped another tear away, off in her own world of sorrow.
“I can't believe Giles is evil,” Cordelia shook her head.
“Evil? Who says he's evil?” Xander objected, offended by the statement.
“Me, on account he killed Gunn, a good friend of mine and a good man.” Cordelia said angrily. “Survey says evil.”
“Well your good man Gunn signed off on letting that artifact of doom in here. Maybe we ought to be looking into his hidden agenda.”
“Gunn would never hurt one of ours,” Cordy insisted.
“Well, maybe Dawn wasn't one of yours,” Anya suggested bluntly.
“And maybe Giles is evil,” Cordy restated sternly then retracted her defensiveness just a little with a apologetic glance. “Look, I don't want him to be. I really don't. But from what I heard of what went down and the results of his rampage… we're hiking into charted territory… Angelus' territory. I know the symptoms and it leads down a very bad road. You guys know this. You lived the horror too. Why won't you wake up and smell the lack of soul?”
“You think he's lost his soul,” Willow clarified.
“If the fangs fit,” she shrugged.
“There are varying degrees of evil. Perhaps Giles is only moderate to elevated evil.”
“This is Giles we're talking about, Ahn, not the Homeland Security Advisory System.”
“Giles isn't evil,” Willow said softly. “I would know… I would feel it.”
Cordy crossed her arms, frustrated. “Then Gunn's death…”
“Was an act of grief and rage,” Willow replied quietly.
“And vengeance,” Anya added. “Something we all have experience in, right Willow?”
Willow couldn't be angry at mention of those difficult memories; Anya was just trying in her own way to show the Scoobies solidarity. “Yeah, we do.”
“Well, I don't know vengeance but I know badness when I see it and guess what…” Cordy paused, searching the gang's faces, “Its coming and we better be ready or it will tear our throats out or snap our necks. Trust me… I know.” She pushed her chair back from the table and stood.
“I for one am not going to wait for my number to come up. And I sure as hell am not going to let any more of my friends die. Neither will Angel.” She stormed off, leaving the rest of the gang to exchanged nervous glances.
“There was a time when Giles was one of your friends,” Willow winced sadly, knowing the words fell on deaf ears.
“You think Cordy is on to something?” Xander asked. “I mean… with all this time working with mister original cursed soul himself, maybe she has the inside track with these things.”
“Something is going on but Giles is not evil. I won't believe that until I absolutely have to,” Willow insisted. “Besides, the last thing Buffy needs right now is evilly talk like this. He'll be fine… we all will.”
“And on that note, how is Buffy?” Xander asked. “I haven't seen her since… well, since.”
“I haven't see her either,” Anya admitted.
Willow thought for a moment then shrugged uncertainly. “I'm sure she's here somewhere. She probably just needed some time alone.”
“Yeah…” Xander responded with an unconvinced tone. “You're probably right.”
All of them stared out the window, watching the quiet sunset and the only peace they'd found in the day's events.
The lab was dark; the lights from the midpoint of the room down were off, nearly masking the metal bars dividing one half from the other.
“Precautions?” Willow asked softly.
Fred thought for a moment. “Um, reinforced steel bars over 2 inches thick…”
“I meant mystical, Fred,” Willow smiled.
“Oh, right. Containment spell surrounding the cell with a counter-magicks reinforced barrier sealing the lab to him. Meaning he can't zap outta here like he did before and anything he tries magicks wise gets absorbed by the containment...”
“I know how it works, thanks.” Willow examined the lights with a curious gaze.
“He requested the lights turned off,” Fred explained softly. “Wes compromised, wanting to keep a clear view of him through the…”
“Camera's, yeah. Probably a good idea,” Willow nodded. “Can I see him?”
“Of course… I mean, he seems to have mellowed out so I think he's safe.”
“I kinda meant alone.”
“Um, yeah… but he's under high security until Angel gets back so only alone in the sense of a full live action camera feed direct to Wes, complete with audio track.” Fred gestured above to a duo of cameras aimed down at the shadowed cell.
“I'll take what I can get,” Willow sighed.
“You sure you don't want me to stick around in case he goes all grrh again?”
“I'll be safe. He won't hurt me.”
“Um… okay. If you need anything…”
“Thanks, Fred. Really, I'll be fine.” Fred turned to walk away and Willow called quietly out to her, “I'm sorry.”
Fred turned back, confused. “For what?”
“For Gunn; he didn't deserve that. I'm really sorry.”
Fred shied back a little, uncertain how to respond. “Thanks, but it's not yours to apologize for.” She glanced down into the shadows and with a heavy sigh, started toward the door again. Willow watched her leave then turned to face the cage, dismayed at what Giles had brought on himself. She approached the bars and stopped, finally seeing the form of Giles shape from the shadows with her adjusting sight. He was sitting there, motionless, hunched forward with his face buried in his hands.
“This seems awfully familiar,” she sighed.
“It's for the best,” he said softly.
“Is that what they told you or what you honestly believe?”
“It does to me, Giles. We need you, now more than ever. Dawn is dead!”
“I should have been here.”
“Yeah, you should have. Where were you?”
“I thought I could get it back.”
“Get what back.”
“My humanity.” He hid his eyes still, avoiding her. “Instead, I think I'm losing it even more.”
“I don't understand.”
“Why am I back, Willow?”
“Because we need you. Buffy needs you.”
“No, she only thinks she does… as well as the rest of you.”
“Now you listen to me. I've lost too many people I love and I'll be damned if I'll lose you too.”
“That's what I'm afraid of.”
“Damning you… every last one of you.” He finally sat up and Willow noticed the chains binding him to the wall. His faintly glowing gaze pierced through the thick shadows, a color both green and yellow, as if changing with his words. “It's becoming harder everyday, ignoring the hunger, the instinct to feed.”
“Why didn't you say anything?”
“It only reminds you of what I am. Guess now it's perfectly clear.”
“Your not the monster you think you are, Giles. What happened to Gunn was… was horrible but it doesn't make you…”
“Even. It makes us even, Willow," He concluded. "Eye for an eye. A death for a death.”
The cold logic of his tone sent a chill up her spine and she suddenly felt the need to get out of there and back to a well lit area.
“Um, well… you look, you look kinda tired, Giles. It's been a long... bad day for all of us. Think I'll leave you alone to get some sleep.”
“Buffy…” he called out and Willow stopped her retreat. “Is she alright?”
“Um… yeah. She's being all avoidy-like but she's strong. She'll get through this like she always does.”
“Thank you, Willow .”
Later that day...
“Where is he?” Angel asked, storming through the science division hall.
“Angel, you look horrible. What happened to you?” Fred asked, rushing to his side.
“Disagreement, fists, disappointment.” He stopped, turned to face Fred, shoved his hand into his pocket and revealed a handful of what looked to be concrete and dirt.
“Analyze this.” He poured the curious substance into Fred's outstretched hands and hurried onward.
“For what?” She started after him again.
“Something got spilled on it and I want to know what it was, down to the last molecule.”
“Where is he?”
“Secured in the lab holding facility.” Fred answered, hurrying to try and keep up with Angel's furious pace through the hall. “What are you going to do?”
“From what, Angel. He's stopped.”
“He's locked up. He can't hurt anyone.”
“And I'll make sure it stays that way.”
“We don't know yet what happened.”
“Giles killed Gunn. That's all I need to know,” Angel snarled as he swiftly turned a corner and hastened his strides, gaining distance from Fred. “And he cost me my…”
“Your what, Angel?”
“Never mind, it doesn't matter now.”
“We already lost Dawn and Gunn today. How many more have to die?” Fred blurted out, barely holding back her tears. “And Buffy… she's…”
Angel stopped and pivoted quickly, grasping at Fred's shoulders. “She's what? What's wrong with Buffy, Fred?”
“Dawn died in her arms, Angel,” Fred choked out. “She watched her sister die and before she even had a chance to grieve, Illyria came and attacked. Then Giles went crazy and… and killed Gunn…”
“Wes already filled me in on what happened, Fred. I need to know what's wrong with Buffy?” Angel urged her for a direct answer.