ImMortal part 17: Parting Ways
“Is Buffy okay?” Angel asked, pacing nervously across his office. “I mean, did she say why she left… where she went, anything?’
“Not so much with the whereabouts. Come on Angelcakes, what do you think? Lady Sings the Blues with all the heartache lately. But she’s back so things are looking up, right?” Lorne offered a smile.
“Wes, you and Fred have anything more on Illyria and restoring Dawn?” Angel asked, hopeful. “Give me something, here.”
“According to all the manuscripts and Knox’s notes, the process is irreversible.” Wes explained solemnly.
“Poor thing,” Cordy sighed.
“I’m sorry, Angel,” Wes offered sincerely.
“Are you going to tell Buffy?” Fred asked sadly.
“For all I know, Buffy doesn’t know what’s going on. Last thing she saw was Dawn dying in her arms then was knocked unconscious. I’m not sure what I should tell her.”
“Here’s a wacky concept, how about the truth?” Lorne suggested, thick with sarcasm. “There is a serious epidemic of need-to-know going around with the leaving the Sunnydale squad on the outs of it. I gotta tell you, morale is low… bordering on buried and if we don’t pull them into the loop on the works around here, they're gonna look elsewhere for answers.”
“I think Lorne has something,” Cordelia agreed. “Not feeling the love on either side at the moment. If we’re going to work together, there has to be some sort of peace treaty.”
With a knock, Harmony came through the office door and flashed a friendly smile to the gang.
“Hey guys, security just buzzed, said there was something fishy going on in Willow’s office,” the blonde said with an uncertain shrug.
“Is Buffy okay?” Angel asked, stepping towards the door.
“Wouldn’t say. Told me to send you down to surveillance pronto. Guess they want you to see something on their Big Brother reruns.” Harmony gave another shrug and took off.
“Wes, I got a bad feeling about this,” Angel grumbled. “Get down to surveillance and see what the red level is all about. Fred, see if you can catch up to Willow, find out what’s going on.” He stormed to the door.
“I’ll see if I can find Xander or Anya,” Cordy said, rushing to follow.
“What are you going to do, Angel?” Wes asked.
“Pay a visit to our guest in the lab.”
She comes for you, begs for you with whispered calls hushed with breathes that plead for your touch. Let her come. She’ll let you in.
Giles woke with a start, jerking upright, hands trembling and a cold sweat speckling his brow. It took a moment to remember where he was, what had happened. His mind was hazy, blurred with images of Dawn melting into Illyria, Willow’s eyes stained black, and Buffy gasping. Then the ache of the cuff cutting into his wrist cleared his head and he remembered he was safely secured in his cage and under the watchful digital eyes of the lab cameras.
He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and clawed his fingers restlessly along his scalp. Immediatly, the hunger awakened, churning want in his stomach and making his teeth itch for a bite. The cups of Harmony’s specialty brew just didn’t provide what he yearned for, what he craved for that was only a broken link from his grasp. They deserved it, the mindless drones willingly serving Wolfram & Hart. Every one was sacrificial meat, walking corpses unaware of their imminent deaths at the whim of the institution they worship. If he could pull just a bit more, stretch the metal to bust the link, he could help them realize their sins one drop of blood at a time. He licked his lips with the inviting thought, smelling the heady scent of pulsating life on the air. But with it came a familiar perfume carried on the breeze of the air-conditioning and Giles jumped to his feet with his recognition of it.
“Buffy?” His voice rasped as he saw the figure at the end of his cage. It was her, looking awfully tired and anxious.
“I’m sorry I...”
“Are you okay?” Unthinking, he rushed forward only to be rudely reminded of his bondage with the sharp sting of the metal cuff and an abrupt stop. He gave it an angry tug then surrendered a few inches backwards to relax the tension.
“No, but I will be,” she said softly and stepped through the breach in the bars. “You’re coming with me.”
“You think that wise?” Giles glanced bitterly up at the cameras, wondering how long it would take for security to respond.
“We don’t have much time.” She hurried to him, taking his secured hand and examining the cuff. “I’m getting you out of here.”
Giles watched her struggle with the chain, then the cuff, and finally the bolts, all the while smiling at her futile efforts. “I love you.”
“I know. That’s why I’m doing this,” she tried the chain again, pulling with all her might to shatter it but it was useless.
“Can go to hell,” Buffy said flippantly, stopping to look determinedly into Giles eyes.
“Been there, done that. Overrated, if you ask me,” came the self-assured voice, but Buffy held Giles’ stare, undeterred from her goal.
“We didn’t,” Giles growled, shifting his gaze beyond Buffy to the vampire approaching the bars.
“What are you doing, Buffy? He’s dangerous; killed two of my men, one happened to be a good friend of mine.”
“Giles isn’t some heartless beast,” Buffy growled as she tugged again and again on the chain, watching carefully for any sign of weakness.
“I know. He’s a vampire with a grudge which can be a hell of a lot more dangerous. Trust me.”
“I don’t, Angel, not anymore. That’s why he’s coming with me and we’re leaving.”
“Leaving?” Giles whispered as Angel echoed the question.
“You don’t want us here. We don’t want to be here. We leave, end of problem.”
“It’s not that simple. Giles isn’t…” Angel considered a delicate phrasing, “…he isn’t well.”
“I’ll take care of him.” Buffy gave the chain a few more yanks but it held strong.
“Buffy, I know you’re hurting, we all are…”
“Don’t give me the ‘crazy with grief’ speech, Angel. I know exactly what I’m doing.” She began to pry at the cuff but to no avail.
Angel sighed in frustration and decided to take a different approach. “If you want to leave, I can’t stop you.”
“You’re right about that,” Giles snarled as a flare of yellow fury sparkling in the green of his eyes.
“You see?” Angel pointed accusingly to the vampire. “Right there, Buffy, does that sound like the Giles you know?”
“It sure as hell does! I’m not letting you take him off somewhere so he can go…”
“What, Angel?” Buffy turned around, facing off with her former lover. “To go Angelus on me? See, that’s where you have it wrong. He's not like you. You don’t understand, Angel. You never could.”
“I want to, Buffy. Help me understand," Angel pleaded.
“I believe the cuff has been mystically imbued,” Giles mumbled low. “I can’t break it and I don’t suppose you’ll fare any better.”
“Unchain him,” Buffy said.
“Angel, I’m asking nicely.”
“Can’t do that,” the vampire responded firmly. “You know I can’t.”
“Now I’m demanding angrily, unchain him!”
A streak of blue crossed the dark as Illyria made her graceful entrance.
“Have you recaptured your desire for freedom, Halfling?”
“Yes, if you would.” Giles lifted his chain, staring smugly at Angel. Illyria approached and gripped the chain. She gave it an inquiring tug and smiled.
“Dawn?” Buffy gasped.
Angel stepped forward, hand outstretched in objection. “No… that’s not…”
“Pitiful webs, as easily undone as if by a breeze.”
“Dawn? How can this be?” Buffy muttered in shock. “What’s happened?’
“No… Illyria stop!” Angel ordered.
Illyria effortlessly snapped the chain like thread and addressed her adopted guide. “Does this please you, vampire?”
“Very much. I am indebted to you.” Giles grinned and stepped up to a still dazed Slayer, frozen with the sight of her reanimated sister. He placed a kiss to her forehead and said, “Give us a moment, luv.” He continued past her and approached the bars where Angel stood.
“Back down, Giles, you don’t want this.” Angel warned, hands curling to fists and ready for a standoff.
“You’ve yet to grasp the obvious, Angel. This isn’t about what I want. Never has been. It’s about what Buffy wants and what I’ll make certain she’ll have.” Giles gave his forearm a swift swing, sending the dangling length of chain still secured on his wrist in motion. It wound around his forearm and over his knuckles, coming to a stop when his fist clenched it tightly within his grasp. “Let us go. We don’t belong here.”
Meanwhile, Buffy stared in disbelief at Illyria who mirrored her curiosity.
“You are the one called Slayer, duty bound to obliterate his kind from the face of this realm. Yet you choose instead to bond yourself to him.” Illyria tilted her head in fascination. “You are as much a contradiction as he.”
The doors to the laboratory slid open as wave after wave of heavily armed soldiers rushed in and hastily took aim. Spilling in amongst the crowd were Xander, Willow and Anya, all carrying duffle bags and arms full of gathered equipment. With a quick assessment of the situation, they promptly pushed through the opposition to stand determinedly beside their friends.
“Get back, Willow… Xander,” Angel urged.
“We’re thinking, no!” Xander insisted. “What are you going to do, dead boy? Kill us all? Can’t say it would be much of a shocker.”
“We don’t want to hurt you, Giles.” Angel negotiated. “We don’t want to hurt any of you.”
“That’s good to hear because I don’t want to be hurt,” Anya responded agreeably.
“Ah, but you’re rather good at it when you have the mind to. Isn’t that right, Angel?” Giles said evenly. “Not to worry, I’ve other plans.”
The Watcher pivoted around and offered Illyria a knowing smile. “Just as I'd counseled you, these insolent drudges would dare to conspire against you. You’ve tasted their treachery before, struck down by useless attempts to strip you of your magnificence. They intend to deny you of your being.”
“Hey, that’s not entirely true,” Angel protested halfheartedly.
Willow, Xander and Anya exchanged perplexed looks. With a shrug, Anya nodded in agreement and advised, “You should listen to Giles. He’s usually quite right about these sorts of things.”
“I don’t understand,” Buffy said with a dazed sigh.
Anya urged Willow and Xander with a stern look to follow her example and after a brief moment of indecision, they did.
“Behold, they threaten you with guns. See…see the guns?” Willow asked, pointing accusingly at the nervous herd of soldiers, some of which apparently remembered previous dealings with the troublesome stranger and had already begun to shuffle back. “Not nice guys.”
“Especially the tall broody looking guy, there,” Xander added. “Feel free to hurt him a lot.”
“I said we didn’t want to hurt anyone. That goes for… um, blue girl… Illyria too,” Angel protested clumsily. "Let's just calm down and discuss this like civilized..."
“Do you hear him, Illyria?” Giles encouraged the goddess who stared dissatisfied Angel. “He is disrespectful and deserves to suffer your wrath. Silence his spiteful tongue.”
“I concur,” Illyria said and stepped brazenly toward Angel.
“Oh damn.” Angel cringed in anticipation of more punishment from the Old One as she approached with the sounds of rounds being chambered.
“Willow, if you would be so kind as to provide a small barrier,” Giles suggested discretely as he huddled them together. “Something to protect against stray…”
“Hold your fire!” Angel ordered but it was too late.
The first shot rang out and Buffy quickly pushed her friends back and as close together as she could. Giles stood tall, keeping close to his group in an attempt to block the barrage of bullets that followed the first. Willow spoke the incantation with a practiced tempo, evoking magicks as quickly as she could. Grimacing as she watched Giles suffer hit after hit, she forced herself to remain focused. Within seconds of the first storm of gunfire, the mystical barricade solidified before them all, giving Giles a reprieve from his torment. Buffy surveyed his injuries as he tried to dissuade from concern with a shake of his head.
"I'm fine. Just stay back," he advised.
Instinctively, Angel took up a defensive stance but with a single powerful uppercut, Illyria sent him colliding into the foremost line of soldiers. The collision triggered a domino effect of falling men, sending many crashing into those immediately behind them. The few remaining upright raised their rifles, ready to fire only to find themselves promptly overpowered by the blue haired girl and tossed aside like rag dolls. Seeing Illyria distracted with overpowering the small army, Giles maneuvered around the mystical shield and charged the few stragglers she’d missed. With the brutal wrenching of wrists, weapons were sorely discarded as the vampire made short work of the grossly under prepared men. With a few skillful kicks and strikes, the men collapsed to the ground in an eager surrender.
Meanwhile, a pair of soldiers had snuck through the onslaught, taking up position behind the vampire and blue goddess, preparing to attack. Buffy sprang into action, quickly disarming them with a swift tug of their guns which tumbled to the floor and slid to a halt at the edge of the cell opening. She followed through with a sweeping kick, knocking her assailants off balance and flat on their backs. Then with a heavy stomp, Buffy knocked each startled man unconscious, one after the other.
As the vampire, the goddess, and Slayer took control of the situation, Xander rushed forward to retrieve the discarded pistols. He slipped one behind his back, under his shirt and tucked it securely within his waist band. Anya took the other, mirroring his actions the best she could with her skirt. Willow let the mystical barrier evaporate and hurried over to the nearest computer, quickly hacking into the security mainframe.
“They're coming. More of them,” Willow said nervously. “A lot more.”
Pain filled groans rumbled in the lab as Giles inventoried the damage with a pleased smile. He walked up to bloodied and shot Angel who was still struggling on all fours to get upright. In a flash of motion, Angel’s hand was around Giles neck and lifting him from the floor.
“You aren’t walking out of here,” Angel snarled through his fangs, brow bent and eyes blazing.
“True colors,” Giles said smoothly, grinning and unconcerned as Angel’s grip tightened.
A loud crack sounded and Angel let out an anguished yelp. He released Giles before folding forward and grasping at his thigh, wincing in pain.
“Buffy… don’t do this!” Angel pleaded through pain clenched teeth as Willow, Xander, and Anya took up their bags and various weapons and headed toward the doors. Illyria stared down at the vampire with seeming indifference.
“Shall I dispatch him for you, Halfling?” She asked.
“No,” Buffy said anxiously, stepping between the Slayer and vampire. “Absolutely not! Let’s just go, there’s a limo waiting for us downstairs.”
“Willow, why don’t you, Xander, and Anya go on ahead,” Giles directed them calmly as he retrieved a small arsenal of discarded weapons delivered by the soldiers.
"Buffy, you're in danger..."
Buffy stared at the blue stranger, protecting Angel from further attack. “Giles, please… tell her not to…”
“Dawn,” Giles said in a gentle tone. “Escort Buffy and the others out. I’ll be along shortly.”
Illyria stared narrowly at Giles who bowed forward in a show of respect.
“Please,” he said with a tender smile. “Go with her.”
“I will permit it.” She responded flatly, gripped Buffy’s arm and forcefully directed the Slayer along with her. Buffy glanced hesitantly back at Angel and Giles as she was lead off.
“Buffy, he’s dangerous,” Angel yelled as they Scoobies disappeared down the corridor. “Why can’t you see it?”
Angel slumped a little as the pitiable moans and suffering cries of soldiers echoed through the lab. Giles smiled sympathetically at Angel, head cocked sideways as he tucked a pistol away in his belt and shifted a rifle over his shoulder.
“Don’t try to find us,” Giles warned. “I’d loathe to harm any of you and yours, Angel. Leave us be and we’ll pay you the same service.”
“If you hurt her, so help me, I’ll kill you!” Angel clawed out, barely grazing the fabric of Giles’ jeans.
“I once thought you virtuous man, Liam. You held such promise, seductive with your cursed quest for penance. But you’re as much a sheep as the rest of the slaughtered here. Pity you fail to see it.”
Giles shrugged subtly as he turned and maneuvered through the sea of wounded. Angel watched helplessly as a blur of motion streaked across the plate glass of the lab wall. It was a lone charging soldier quickly gaining on the escaping vampire. Without stopping his stride, Giles effortlessly aimed his commandeered rifle and fired a single shot, blasting the young man’s head to a pulpy spray before he’d even managed to unsheathe his weapon. The body buckled to the floor as a wash of red drizzled down the glass separating Angel from the cold-blooded killer.
“Pity,” the Watcher repeated and disappeared around the corner.