"I never understood why people kept going to that island," said Aggie when Billy Mays interrupted "Fantasy Island" to talk to them about Space Bags.
She and Angel had fallen into a somewhat companionable silence as they watched Mr. Roarke battle the devil for possession of his immortal soul.
"Imagine the customer testimonials," she continued. "I just wanted to talk to my dead husband and he tried to kill me! Or, I wanted to be popular and instead I broke both my legs playing varsity football. I mean, who hears about that and says, 'Cool, where do I sign up?'"
She glanced at Angel and noted with some alarm that he'd gotten significantly weaker in the just the last twenty minutes.
"Can I get you anything?" she said.
Angel shook his head.
If his little posse didn't get back with those spell ingredients pretty damned soon there wasn't going to be much point.
Shortly before the big Mephistopheles vs. Roarke showdown came to a head, the front door banged open and Fred and Lorne bustled in carrying several paper sacks.
"Who knew brimstone smelled so bad?" complained Lorne, holding his bag away from his face. "Don't suppose you've got a hermetically-sealed safe we can put this stuff in?"
"We'll open a window," said Aggie, ushering them into the kitchen.
"Any word from the others, yet?" asked Fred.
"Not yet," said Aggie. "But I'm sure they're fine," she felt compelled to add, though she was sure of no such thing.
"Of course they are," said Fred, sounding like she was trying to convince herself. "They always manage to come through, right?"
"Think there'll be any madder root left over?" asked Lorne, rifling through the bags. "It makes a creme rinse that's just to die for."
The two women stared at him.
"What? Hair this silky doesn't come from a bottle of Pantene, you know."
"How's Angel doing?" asked Fred.
"About the same," lied Aggie. "We've been watching 'Fantasy Island.'"
"Seventies or nineties?" asked Lorne.
"Seventies," said Aggie. "The one where Mr. Roarke faces the devil."
"Talk about jumping the shark," said Lorne. "That episode jumped the whole Mariana Trench. And poor Roddy McDowell--he was cursed by a shaman, you know."
"I'm gonna go check on Angel," said Fred, and disappeared into the living room.
Lorne looked over at Aggie. "So how's our patient really doing?"
"Not well," admitted Aggie. "He's doing a decent job of hiding it, though."
"If there's one thing Angelcakes is good at, it's hiding," clucked Lorne. He gave her another appraising look. "What about you? Still wanting to scratch my eyes out?"
He narrowed his eyes at her. "You are not."
"I am!" Aggie tried her best to sound indignant.
"Don't even try to lie to me, sweets, I'm not having any of what you're serving. I knew you'd like him once you got to know him."
"I don't like him. He's creepy. And way too broody."
"I won't argue with that," said Lorne. "But don't pretend you can't see it. I don't know what it is, but there's definitely something about our Angel."
"Sure there is," conceded Aggie. "It's called... what's that phrase again? Oh yeah. Eternal damnation. And in case you hadn't noticed, I'm not one of those eyeliner-happy, Anne Rice-loving, goth head cases who finds that a turn-on."
They heard the front door open again, and went into the living room to find Spike, Wesley and Gunn newly arrived, looking tired and rather chewed on. Spike seemed to be covered with some kind of oozy yellow goo.
"What happened?" asked Angel, trying to sit up.
"For future reference, black cat spirits do not work against attack dogs," said Wesley.
"Or Arioch demons," added Spike.
"But did you get the shielding stone?" asked Fred, apparently disinterested in further details of their travails.
Wesley held up a dark crimson stone roughly the size of a baseball.
"That's great!" exclaimed Fred.
Wesley and Gunn beamed with triumph. Spike dripped demon mucus on Aggie's floor.
"I admire your dedication to looking all menacing," she said, "but that's just gross."
Spike glared at her. "Funny girl. Where's your loo so I can wash this muck off?"
Aggie pointed the way and Spike stalked off.
"That is one gorgeous bauble," said Lorne, taking the stone from Wesley and holding it up admiringly. "What it's made of?"
"It's essentially a dragon's... er, kidney stone."
Lorne curled his lip. "You mean it--"
"Was excreted through a dragon's urinary tract, yes."
Lorne gave the stone back to Wesley. "'Kay, that's something you tell a guy before he starts fondling the dragon excrement."
"Were you able to get all of the other ingredients?" asked Wesley.
"Every one," said Fred.
Wesley glanced over Angel, who had sunk back into the couch with his eyes closed. "Angel?"
"I'm okay, Wes. Just do your thing." His shirt was soaked with sweat and it was clear that even talking had become a great effort.
"Come on," said Aggie, leading them all back into the kitchen. Wesley looked over the spell ingredients while Aggie ran some cold water over a towel. She handed it to Fred. "For Angel."
Fred gave her a grateful look and disappeared back into the living room.
Under Wesley's supervision, Aggie and Lorne worked on the preparations for the counter-curse. It was a complex ritual, and there was a great deal of work that needed to happen before the actual spell could be performed.
While they did that, Wesley translated the text of the spell. It was--naturally--in ancient Etruscan and he had decided it would be best to work from a phonetic copy of the text rather than try to read aloud from the original Etruscan glyphs.
They had just about finished when Gunn popped his head into the kitchen. "Guys? Sooner would be better than later."
"Is the elixir done?" Wesley asked.
"Yep." Aggie was already pouring the hot liquid, which had filled the kitchen with a sulfurous stink, into a mug. Lorne took the mug while Aggie gathered up the other spell components and some matches. Wesley followed them into the living room with the spell book, his notes and the shielding stone.
Fred looked up when they walked in. Beside her, Angel was twisting restlessly on the couch and muttering.
"How is he?" Wesley asked.
"He's delirious." Fred looked pained. "I think he's talking to Cordelia."
Wesley frowned. "We'd best hurry."
Lorne and Fred forced the smelly elixir down Angel's throat while Aggie set the Hand of Glory on the floor and carefully tucked a Dead Man's Candle between each of the fingers. She looked up at Wesley. "Ready?"
He nodded, doing a fair job of disguising his nervousness.
Aggie lit the candles. When the last one was burning Wesley began to recite the spell.
"Ita tmia icac heramashva vtiexe... Unialastres themiasa mex thuta thefaiei vlianas sal cluvenias..."
Aggie glanced nervously at Angel, but could detect no change yet. She hoped it was working. There were only about a million ways they could have screwed up the spell and so far she wasn't feeling any juice being generated by their efforts.
"Turuce munistas thuvas tameresca ilacve ulerase. Nac ci avil xurvar teshiameitale..."
Wesley was holding the shielding stone in his right hand, arm extended towards Angel. As Aggie stared at it she realized that she could feel something after all. There was an odd prickling on the back of her neck. It was a boding, an emptiness that occurred just before something happened, like the space before a lightning strike.
The front window crashed in, sending a shower of glass spraying all over the room. A dozen dark-robed figures rushed into the house.
[Go on to Chapter Seven]