How to Treat Your
Chapter 54: Step 4 – Reconciliation (Part
Los Angeles, an abandoned building
The sky glowed with streaks of flaming meteors as they descended on the city only to extinguish themselves by the time they hit something solid – a building, a street lamp, the pavement. Once they established that neither had a concussion from the latest round with The Beast, Angel and Spike left the building through the sewer access and made their way to the hotel.
Los Angeles, Hyperion Hotel, Lobby
Fred sat at the reception desk, nervously tapping her foot against the bar stool as she listened to the radio reports of the bizarre phenomenon occurring all over the city.
“A series of earthquakes and what authorities are now calling ‘meteor showers’ have ravaged the Southland tonight, igniting fires and explosions throughout the L.A. basin. As fire and rescue teams assess the ongoing threat, government officials are asking people to stay in their homes and off the street,” the announcer said.
The telephone rang; a shrill sound in the cavernous hotel. Fred jumped at the noise and then rushed to pick it up. “This is Fred. No, that’s right. Yes, ma’am, it’s Angel Invest—I know. It is scary but . . . if she’s only an hour late . . . I’m just saying maybe it’s a bit early to panic. A little fire falling from the sky doesn’t necessarily mean the end –”
She looked up when the door opened. Wesley, Lorne and Gunn walked into the hotel bruised, battered and bleeding.
“Oh my God,” Fred said and hung up on the caller. She hurried around the reception desk. She ran to Gunn, throwing herself into his arms. “I thought you were dead. I got back here and it was empty. I panicked and with the radio and the fires around the city . . .”
Wesley walked past the couple eyeing Fred’s embrace of Gunn with a sour expression.
Gunn either didn’t notice or ignored him altogether as he hugged Fred. “I know, baby, I know. Me, too. It was like the end of the world out there and all I wanted was you.”
Wesley nearly gagged at Gunn’s heartfelt confession that sounded like it was straight out of a movie script.
“Well, you’re safe now,” Fred assured him and looked at the other two, adding, “All of you.”
“Yes. We’re all safe,” Wesley commented without emotion at all.
Fred wiped away the tears that fell when she saw Gunn. Looking around Gunn at the door expectantly, she asked, “What about Angel and Spike? Where are they?”
“We got separated,” Gunn replied. “I’m sure they’ll be here soon. What about you? Are you okay? Where’s Cordy?”
A small hysterical laugh escaped Fred. “If she wasn’t with you, then she must be up in her room.”
“I’ll go check,” Wesley hastily volunteered. He’d do anything to get away from the two sickening sweet lovebirds right now. Watching them was giving him a toothache.
Fred spared him a fleeting look before focusing on Gunn. “I’m fine. I just needed some air. I didn’t know I’d be gone so long.” Glancing at the diagram on the floor, she commented, “Looks like there’s some other things I didn’t know either.”
Gunn nudged her out of the way to set his weapon down on the counter of the reception desk. “Plenty of time for updates later. Right now we need to regroup and think about getting back out there and mixing it up with that demon-y thing.”
“That’s not what Angel would do,” Wesley said as he came back down the stairs followed by Cordelia.
“Thanks for your opinion and I don’t remember asking you,” Gunn snapped.
“What demon-y thing?” Fred asked confused.
“Oh, I believe he’s referring to the big, bad and possibly invincible demon-y thing that nearly killed us all before he ring-mastered tonight’s Cirque de Flambé,” Lorne replied.
“Was that the pain and suffering and despair thingy you saw when you read me?” Cordelia asked.
“Afraid so, pixie-cat. And if there was ever truth in advertising . . .” Lorne said.
“Charles, if he’s really that big and bad, maybe we should wait for Angel and Spike. I mean, if they couldn’t stop him . . .” Fred said pleadingly.
“So we just wait because we don’t know what Angel would or wouldn’t do?” Gunn asked.
Angel and Spike stumbled through the front door having come up through a manhole in the street. They were leaning heavily on each other, trying to hold themselves up as they moved.
“Would I do what?” Angel asked having caught the tail-end of Gunn’s query.
“Angel, you’re hurt!” Fred said, shocked by the vampires’ equally battered appearance. Even with their healing abilities, they still looked no better than Gunn and Wesley.
“I’ll be . . .” Angel started to say.
“Let’s talk about this in the morning, or after we’ve had a decent day’s sleep,” Spike interrupted. He turned Angel in the direction of the stairs, groaning painfully as they climbed the steps. “Are you sure you don’t want to get that elevator fixed, mate? It’s not like you’ll throw another grenade at it or anything.”
The group watched the vampires ascended the staircase. “Man, it looks like they were hit by a tank,” Lorne observed.
Gunn agreed, “Spike’s usually hyper after a fight.”
“Can’t really blame either of them,” Wesley commented, looking pointedly at Fred. “No one likes to lose, whatever the circumstance.” He headed for the door. “Well, there’s nothing to be done tonight. I have more research material at home. I’ll have to read through it all to see if we missed anything.”
Gunn’s lips thinned into a grim line annoyed that Wesley didn’t seem to know the meaning of ‘regroup’. Not that cared much lately about the former watcher.
Los Angeles, Wesley’s Apartment, the next day
Wesley sat on the couch researching the material from Wolfram & Hart. A knock at the door broke through his concentration. Carefully putting the books aside, he got up to answer it only to find Lilah on the other side of the threshold. The second she saw him, she gave a relieved sigh and smiled.
“Okay, I was just checking,” she said.
“I’m alive,” Wesley commented disinterestedly.
Taking in his appearance with healing wounds and disheveled clothing, she replied, “Not by much from the looks of it.” She walked in and hugged him. “I left you a couple of hundred messages last night. Don’t feel obligated to return any of them.”
Wesley noted the accusation in her tone, but couldn’t bring himself to care. Instead, he opted for a perfunctory, “And you’re all right?”
She smiled genuinely at his concern, or lack thereof. “I’m fine. I slept at Wolfram & Hart. FYI: safest place to be in case of an apocalypse. You, on the other hand . . .” she tilted her head coyly. “Bet I can make you feel better.”
Lilah leaned in to kiss him but Wesley turned his head aside and stepped out of her reach. She looked at him quizzically. “You know, it’s weird. There was a rain of fire, whole city burning . . . why do I feel a chill?”
“I can’t do this anymore,” Wesley said softly.
Lilah smirked. “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it a million times, cowboy. We both know how it ends: you, me . . . broken furniture.”
“It’s over, Lilah,” he stated with more confidence.
She looked at him, studying him for a moment and saw the determination in his eyes that hadn’t been there before. “You’re serious?”
“After what I saw last night, I believe a day of reckoning has arrived,” he said.
“And you just reckon you’ll toss in with the good guys?” Lilah sneered.
“I’m choosing a side,” he said simply.
“And the girl of your dreams just happens to be on it. What are the odds?”
“This isn’t about Fred or anyone else, for that matter. It’s about right and wrong,” Wesley clarified.
“And you have such a clear grip on those concepts,” Lilah said in an accusatory tone.
“I’ve made mistakes.”
Her brows furrowed. “You’re making a big one right now.” With that she turned and walked out.
Los Angeles, Hyperion Hotel
After a day and a half of sleep, the vampires had stumbled down the stairs to get blood and Angel barricaded himself in his office. Spike stayed at the reception desk for a while looking over the information Fred had collected until his eyes crossed. An hour ago he gave up and followed Angel’s cue, barricading himself in Angel’s office.
Fred sat behind the desk with the laptop while Gunn leaned on the other side of the desk.
“I don’t get it,” Fred said in exasperation. “I’ve run stats through every possible database, cross-checked against prophecies, and still come up with squat. How can a creature with that much firepower not leave behind some kind of parchment trail?
“There’s a trail,” Gunn said. “Problem is the trail guide was drawn by a crackhead.” He handed her one of the runic pages. Cordelia came down the stairs from her bedroom. Gunn looked up and smiled. “Hey Cordelia.”
Cordelia smiled a greeting as she joined them. “The sky should not be made of fire.”
Inside the office, Angel sat behind the desk while Spike sat on the other side trying to make sense out of the pages in front of him.
“Do you suppose it’s a coincidence that this hell-beast jumped out of the ground behind Caritas?” Spike mused distractedly.
“Really?” Angel asked sounding mildly surprised and then shrugged. “Sure, it could be a coincidence that means nothing. Strange things happen. It’s about how to get rid of it now.”
“Strange things happen to normal people, Angel. Not us,” Spike pointed out.
Los Angeles, Wolfram & Hart
Gavin Park walked into Lilah’s office and set a cup of coffee on her desk while she was on the phone.
“Listen, Frank, I don’t care if you have to lojack the damn thing,” she was saying, “Find that beast or I swear to God I will . . .”
“Boil you alive,” Gavin offered as he motioned for sugar.
Lilah scowled at him and shook her head. “Boil you alive.” She hung up the phone and looked at Gavin. “How hard can it be to find a giant horned thing?” She took a sip of the coffee and made a sour face. “Or a decent cup of coffee?” She dropped the full cup in the trash. “Why are you still here?”
“Intel confirms that it was the creature that triggered the pyrotechnics last night,” Gavin reported. “They’re just not sure why he did it.”
“I’ll tell you why: because it can. It’s the 800-pound gorilla. It can do whatever the hell it wants. I get that. But other than char-broiling everything in sigh, I don’t think it has an agenda and that makes our job tricky.”
“What job?” Gavin asked nervously.
“The Senior Partners want us to try and cut a deal with it,” Lilah scoffed.
“You can’t be serious,” Gavin said in disbelief.
“Well, it wants the same things we do. An apocalypse, an end to the world, yadda, yadda, yadda. The Partners feel it might speed things along and save a few bucks,” Lilah explained.
“What if it’s not interested?”
“Then, I’ll change its mind. I’m not losing this one.” Lilah looked up at the ceiling as the lights suddenly went out and the building trembled on its foundation. She grabbed the phone and dialed security, but the line was dead. “We have to find security personnel and figure out what’s happening.”
Lilah reached into her desk drawer and removed a semi-automatic pistol. She slapped in a magazine and chambered a round before going out the door with Gavin following. The scene they came upon shocked Lilah and that wasn’t easy considering where she worked. There were bloody, mangled corpses all over. This thing turned Wolfram & Hart into a slaughterhouse.
“What exactly is this thing?” Lilah wondered aloud. “Gavin, you go that way and see you can find anyone alive. I’ll go this way.” Not waiting for him to acknowledge her, she went down a corridor. He shrugged and went in the opposite direction.
A half hour later, the Beast strides down the corridor, looking for new victims. It paused at the door to a janitor’s closet when it heard muffled sounds coming from inside. It pushed the door open to find Gavin Park frantically searching the shelves of the supply closet. He looked over his shoulder, terrified.
“Uh . . . hi,” Gavin said in fearful greeting.
The Beast reached out and seized him by the throat, lifted him up off the floor and snapped his neck. It dropped Gavin’s corpse in the hall and moved on.
On the other side of the corridor, Lilah found her way into the conference room. Lilah backed into an office, away from the Beast, firing her weapon as she went. The rounds struck the creature point-blank but the Beast didn’t even flinch. She emptied the magazine into the Beast and it never broke stride. Instead, it lifted her up and slammed her down on the conference table. It wrapped its massive hand around her neck. She dared to look up at the thing and for the first time in a long time, she felt real fear.
“I can help you,” Lilah said shakily. “Anything you need.”
The Beast ignored her and sunk one of its claws deep into her abdomen. She gasped and choked in pain as the Beast’s talon ripped its way into her gut. Suddenly, it stopped and pulled its claw out of her. It hurled her off the table and onto the floor. It turned and faced a terrified lawyer who stood up from his hiding place nearby.
Moaning in pain and holding her bleeding stomach, Lilah used the Beast’s distraction to stagger out of the room and down a corridor. She looked back at the Beast who followed her with purposeful strides. She tried to move faster but her strength was fading fast. As she passed one of the shattered offices, someone grabbed her and yanked her inside. She gasped as the person set her down and went back to the doorway.
Lilah breathed a sigh of relief when she turned and saw it was Wesley. “I don’t understand.” The adrenalin pumping through her veins made her legs wobbly and she began to collapse but Wesley caught her. “Why are you here?”
“I have a man on the inside,” Wesley replied nonchalantly. He glanced around as a heavy rhythmic thumping sound resonated throughout the building. “What’s that?”
Lilah flashed him an ironic smile. “That’s the fat lady singing.” The rush of the chase left her exhausted and she started to swoon again.
“Lilah!” Wesley said as he caught her before she fell to the floor. He scooped her up in his arms and took off in the direction opposite the echoing noise.
Lilah blinked up at him as he carried her down the hall. “The building automatically shuts down under full-scale attack.”
“When you ‘shut down’ . . .?” Wesley started to ask when suddenly a massive steel shutter slammed down over the window in the office behind them.
“All windows, doors, air vents . . . nobody gets in --” Lilah whispered. She was cut off by the office door being yanked off its hinges and the Beast stood silhouetted in the entrance, snarling. Wesley picked up Lilah up and ran out the side door and into the corridor.
Wesley ran down the hall with Lilah in his arms. “Stay with me! Come on, Lilah, there must be a way out for someone like you. Think! A back door, something.”
The Beast strode out into the hall behind them as an unconscious lawyer starts to regain his senses and get to his feet.
“Around the corner, supply closet,” Lilah replied.
Behind them, the Beast seized the hapless man and ripped him to pieces. The sickening sound echoed through the corridor as Wesley ducked around the corner and set Lilah down.
“What are you stopping for?” Lilah asked bewildered.
Wesley reached into his supply bag and held up a grenade.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” Lilah slurred tiredly.
Wesley pulled the pin and tossed the grenade at the feet of the approaching Beast. The creature looked down at it curiously as it detonated with a tremendous blast. Wesley helped Lilah up and staggered down the hall.
“Will it kill him?” Lilah asked.
“No, but it might distract him for a moment,” Wesley replied as they came to supply closet.
Lilah recognized Gavin Park’s dead body near the door. “Gavin. Poor bastard.”
“Lilah,” Wesley said to get her to focus.
“It’s in here,” Lilah said.
Wesley dragged her inside the small room and shut the door as the Beast strode out of the wreckage further down the corridor. Inside the room, Lilah frantically pulls paper, pens and rolls of toilet tissue off the shelves. “Come on! Where is it?”
“You sure this is the right closet?” Wesley asked anxiously.
“Yeah, third floor and lobby.”
He joined in, yanking everything off the shelves. Finally, Lilah found a steel handle set into the wall. She twisted the handle and a metal panel slid back, revealing an escape chute.
The Beast ripped the door from its frame only to find the supply closet empty. It looked around for a second then moved on with a menacing snarl.
Los Angeles, Hyperion Hotel
Angel, Spike, Lorne and Cordelia lounged around the lobby, pouring over books, researching. Fred sat behind the reception desk working on her computer while Gunn sat nearby reading as he nervously tapped a pencil on his book.
“Can you not do that?” Fred said irritated.
“Oh! Sorry, it helps me think,” Gunn said apologetically.
“Didn’t mean to snap,” Fred said.
Cordelia slammed her book closed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I’m ready to crackle pop myself. The last twenty-four hours haven’t exactly been normal. We’re all tired.”
Angel walked past her, reading as he headed for the reception desk. Along the way, he kicked Lorne’s leg, startling the empath demon awake.
Disoriented, he sat up on the settee. “Just . . . just meditating on the problem,” Lorne said in weak defense. “Yeah, asking the inner Lorne for a little backup.”
“The devil-y guy emerged from the portal behind Caritas – or at least what’s left of it?” Gunn inquired.
“Yeah, that whole block is a big fat inter-dimensional happenin’ hot spot,” Lorne replied.
“Except this thing didn’t emerge from a portal so much as a pothole,” Cordelia clarified.
The doors to the front entrance suddenly burst open, catching everyone’s attention as Wesley entered.
“Oh, good,” Gunn said sardonically. “More bad news.”
“Can you just try to get along? He was your friend,” Fred pleaded.
“Heavy on the ‘was’,” Gunn reminded her as Wesley walked down the stairs into the lobby.
“You know where it is. The Beast,” Angel commented.
“Inside Wolfram & Hart,” Wesley replied.
“That answers a lot of questions,” Gunn said as if Wesley’s revelation confirmed something for him. “They’re probably having a big sit-down, breaking bread.”
“It’s killing everything that moves in there,” Wesley corrected.
“I’ve heard worse news.” Gunn shrugged and went back to his book.
“Why go after your own bloody team?” Spike spoke up.
“Maybe all it wants is to eliminate the competition,” Angel suggested.
“Doesn’t give us much to look forward to, does it?” Fred asked nervously.