Desperate Passages Series
Part 6 ~ "Bittersweet Loyalty"
by Just Human
Notes, disclaimers and dedications in Part 1 ~ "Unclean"
Additional Disclaimer this chapter: Dr. Seuss, would have probably been offended to be called a God, but I'm sure he would have tried some green eggs and ham.
ial thanks once again in this chapter to the Defenders of Wesley, who with unflinching courage dived into Wes' closet despite the bright colored shirts of the Virginia time and the god-awful white suits.
"Good afternoon, I'm Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. My access code is 9901084." Fingers tapped the code into the keyboard, and soon Wesley was greeted by dark brown eyes.
"Welcome to Wolfram & Hart, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce, how can Files & Records help you?"
"Well to start with, you can call me Wesley and I should call you..." Wesley smiled at the clerk
"Files & Records, it's my job," she smiled back.
"But surely you're much more than your job, and you have a name." Wesley wasn't one hundred percent sure about that, but you caught nothing if you didn't fish a little.
Her eyes spun for a moment. "That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.' William Shakespeare-"
"'Romeo and Juliet'-" he interjected.
"Act II, Scene two," she finished. The clerk cocked her head to one side and blinked a few times. "You are the first person who has persisted in asking for a name in 34 years."
His initial instinct was to make a polite comment about how she didn't look a day over twenty-five when Wesley realized that she probably stopped aging at twenty-five and that was about thirty-four years ago. "But, you have, or at least had a name?"
"Oh yes, I had a name. Now, I'm Files & Records." She smiled brightly at him.
"While I'm sure it is highly accurate, 'Files & Records' is a bit of a mouthful. Might I call you something else?"
"Ah, well..." Deciding that this tact wasn't getting him very far, he attempted to alter his approach and pulled a small package from behind his back. "Miss Files & Records, I suspect that we will be working closely together during my time here. Perhaps you'll accept this small token as a gesture of the friendship that I'm sure we will share." He slid the small box with gold paper and cream-colored bow across the desk.
Opening the box carefully, Files & Records' eyes grew a little bigger as the aroma of chocolate began to waft out and fill the room. She broke off a small piece, popping it into her mouth, savoring it. The alarming spinning motion began in her eyes. "This is a bribe to undoubtedly convince me to do unapproved favors for you."
Now it was Wesley's turn to blink. "Does that mean that you'll do unapproved favors for me and not tattle?"
"Well, there are certain obligations to my superiors. For instance, you are only cleared for certain records, and I am to tell Mr. Linwood if you request any document from the vault, whether you are approved for it or not."
Smiling widely, Wesley watched her take another bite and took a seat in front of the desk. "Excellent, I think we understand each other. So, who else receives reports about my inquiries from this department?"
"Wesley, it's Gunn." Feeling like an idiot, Gunn banged his head against the pay phone. "Yeah, like it would be anyone else. Fred and I found the spell book this morning. She's figuring out how to locate Angel, and I just arranged to for a boat. By the way, Wes, it'd been helpful if you'd told me *before* I went to see these things that they looked like the creature from the black lagoon. If Fred figures everything out, we're going after him two nights from now." Biting his lip, Gunn studied his shoes.
"Look, I know we shouldn't be fighting on the answering machine, but I'm pissed and just a little fucking scared. Fred's nervous all the time now. She put me in charge of calling, so it's just you and me talkin'. Let it fly, because I'm going to."
"We're missing family. We got people breathing down our necks and you're sitting at the Gates of Hell. I don't know what you and Angel were hoping to get out of that place, but it ain't gonna do squat if we don't find Angel. Walk out of there, Wes. Come over Cordelia's and the three of us will work together to get the two of them back. I'm not promising that I won't be angry, but damn-it we're supposed to be a fucking team!"
Wesley had a book open in front of him, but he wasn't paying any attention to it. Instead, he was contemplating cats. Never having had a pet - never being allowed to have a pet, he amended -Wesley had never adopted the easy attitude that most people seemed to have with their pets. Certainly, he had encountered both cats and dogs at other people's homes, but he treated them much like any other study on a demonic species. As was his usual manner, he sat quietly and watched them from across the room. Having acquired a comfortable vantage point, Wesley had been content to make his observations from afar.
More often than not, a cat would wander over and rub itself against his legs or be cheeky enough to climb into his lap. Apparently, the beasts had an instinctive need to go to the quiet ones, a problem allergic people had as well. With the appeal of a succubus, they would lull him into petting them and scratching their ears. That's when they would lay their insidious trap by rolling onto their backs, exposing their soft bellies for a rub. Even after Wesley had learned the behavior, he still tested it on every cat he met. Without fail, as soon as his hand approached the belly, front claws would dig in to immobilize his hand and rear claws would begin a furious assault on whatever they could reach. It was a technique that feral cats used to kill their prey.
Dating Lilah was like that. She had no problem reminding him that she had claws before they started their relationship, not that he needed the reminder. The knowledge seemed pointless when he began to pet the generous curve of her breast or to lick the hollow of her hip. Like a cat, she writhed against him begging for a stroke, a touch, a scratch. With practiced care, Wesley accepted her invitation and could feel her front claws sinking into him. There was no doubt that they could hurt and have an impact, but the key now was to evade the deadly rear claws and remember that his hand was still on her soft underbelly.
Without looking up from the book, Wesley said, "Hello, Lilah."
Finally making some noise, Lilah stepped up to the table, "What gave me away?"
Sitting back, Wesley rested his elbows on the chair arms, folding his hands in front of his chest. "With the exception of myself, no one in this firm comes and pulls a book off the shelf. If someone needs a book, Files & Records retrieves it. Since she has no need to be, let's say sneaky, I've become used to the sound of her. When I detected the sounds of someone stealthily approaching I had to assume that whomever it was was coming after me. Most people coming after me would be intent on harming me. So, saying your name was just wishful thinking."
Smiling down at him, she murmured, "So, longing to see me?"
Looking thoughtful, Wesley finally gave her a decisive nod. "Since you're more likely to want me alive, at least for the moment, yes, I was longing to see you more than anyone else." Frowning, at the large gray object draped across Lilah's arm, Wesley asked. "What's that you've got?"
"No guesses, Sherlock?" Unfolding it, Lilah dropped a garment bag on the table.
"Would you accuse me of whining if I stamped my feet and said I didn't want to go?"
"Yes, but if that would involve you sticking out your lower lip for me..." Lilah rested a hand on his shoulder and nipped at said lower lip with her teeth. Reaching over, Wesley grabbed her by the waist and pulled her into his lap. While they kissed, Wesley's hand moved under Lilah's skirt, tracing delicate patterns on her thigh. Coming up for air, he suggested, "I can think of better things we could be doing that don't involve stuffy new suits, shoes that pinch or any clothing at all."
"I bet you can." Lilah tapped his nose playfully and then removed Wesley's hand from her thigh. "However, we have an appointment in an hour and a half. Get dressed." Lilah stood up and began pulling Wesley to his feet.
Dejectedly, he rose. "What about you?"
"My dress is upstairs. It'll only take me five minutes to change." Lilah reached for the front of Wesley's pants only to have her hand slapped away.
"I can get dressed myself. Speaking of which, we're in a public place; mind if I go to the men's room to change?"
Crossing her arms in front of her, Lilah shook her head. "I'm not giving you a chance to run out on me."
Whispering, "But, Files & Records -"
"-Is just going to have to learn that she's sharing you. Come on, clothed adventure, my department."
Sighing, Wesley loosened his belt. "This verbal agreement has many nuances that I had never considered. This is the second time today that I've stripped down to my underwear for you, first the department store and now *this* place." Lilah smiled as Wesley made a somewhat helpless gesture around the room. Wesley continued, "I deserve some hazardous duty pay for all this."
Unzipping the garment bag and handing him the trousers, Lilah shook her head, "It's not like I'm asking you to dust a nest of vampires. We're going to a party; it'll be fun."
"Gourmet hors d'oeuvres and free champagne." Lilah tossed Wesley's shirt over his head as he kicked off his shoes.
"Linwood and Gavin."
Draping the silk tie around her neck, Lilah folded the belt in half. Stepping up to Wesley, she pushed the halves of the belt together and then pulled sharply so that they snapped. "And afterward, satin sheets."
Lilah resisted as Wesley tugged at the ends of the tie, trying to pull her forward. There was a minute quiver that ran through her body when he took a step closer. "You know," he began, sliding the tie back and forth so it gently rubbed her neck. "If done correctly, one can tie up a person with silk and not leave a mark." Allowing him to take the belt from her hands, Lilah locked her hazel eyes with his. There was less fight as he pulled her closer and wrapped his arms around her. Lilah's breath hitched as the belt slid across her buttocks and thighs, Wesley molding it to her body.
"Tell you what. If the party is boring, you can take it out of my hide later."
Gunn stepped into the apartment shouting, "Hi Honey, I'm home! Look what I brought you. Tacos!" Triumphantly, he raised the white paper sack in victory and then frowned when he realized that the room was empty. The coffee table was littered with piles of salt, bowls of water and a hodge-podge of random items. Without any notice, the door closed behind him and an insistent force tugged his sleeve towards the bathroom.
The sounds of splashing greeted him as he stepped into the room. Fred was in a bubble bath, playing with shampoo bottles like they were boats. Gunn just stared for a moment and then decided to interrupt the motorboat noises she was making. "Fred. Fred!"
"HI!" Fred started to stand up.
"Whoa, whoa. Sit down." He laid the bag of tacos on the sink and then gently settled the giggling woman back into the bath. "What happened to you? Have you been in the liquor cabinet?"
"Nope. Just trying to do some magic. See, the spell was trickier than I thought. Dennis and I decided to loooocate that rose you brought me the other night. Dennis stashed it, and I did the spell and just thought 'flower' except I just said the word and the spell led me to the bag of flour, in the kitchen. Cordelia doesn't cook much, why do you suppose she has flour?"
"Well, Wes mentioned something about bricks that looked like brownies once. Okay, slow down a little. What made you all...you know...loopy?" The spell book floated in front of Gunn and with a pencil, Dennis pointed out a paragraph, which Gunn read aloud.
"Naturally talented witches use the 'inner channels' to funnel magic from deep within themselves. Instinctively, an inexperienced caster will utilize these same channels but without proper training and/or inbred talent, the newcomer, more often than not, becomes ungrounded. This state is often mistaken for drunkenness."
"Okay, how many times did you cast that spell?"
"Well, there was the flour that wasn't actually a flower. Then there was the flower that was a flower but it was the potted one outside Mrs. Flannery's door. Turns out that it was physically closer to me than where Dennis hid it in the bedroom. Of course, after that, I did the spell and specifically visualized the rose sitting in its vase and then I found it. Then I looked for other stuff. I could show you! Want me to do it again?"
Fred started to rise out of the tub and Gunn held her down. "No, no, no. I think you've done more then your fair share of magic today." The book floated in front of Gunn, the pencil pointing to a different paragraph. 'Grounding the inexperienced spell caster can be difficult. Some simple things are to have them lie on the earth or in a body of water and ask them to sit quietly.' Fred was making motorboat noises again.
"Nice try, Dennis, but I don't think it's working." The pencil tapped the page and Gunn read further. 'Food is a good grounding tool.'
"Gotcha! Say Fred, do you want a taco?"
Carefully turning the page, Wesley held the book steady so that the illustration would be pointed towards his dwindling audience. In a voice just above a whisper so as not to disturb the sleeping spectators, he conveyed the drama of the hero's plight.
And then came the Winter...the snow and the sleet!
And icicles hung
From his trunk and his feet.
But Horton kept sitting, and said with a sneeze,
"I'll stay on this egg and I *won't* let it freeze.
I meant what I said
And I said what I meant....
An elephant's faithful
One hundred percent!"
Wesley was about to point out the highlights in the illustration of the ice covered elephant, sitting in a tree, when he realized that the last member of the small crowd gathered around him had drifted off to the land of nod. Currently, she was drooling on the pant leg of his new suit. Somehow the situation didn't seem all that ridiculous to him until he glanced up and saw the two Hispanic nannies and Lilah watching him.
Across the playroom, the rather large mirror, partially covered in an impossible number of stickers, revealed the source of the women's amusement. Seated on an overstuffed sofa, dressed in his less than one day old suit, Wesley was draped in the randomly placed arms and legs of three sleeping girls while his foot lightly bounced their infant sister in some new age version of a cradle. Accessorized with a doll's dress on his head, a burp cloth on his shoulder, several bears and other stuffed toys, Wesley wasn't at all surprised that Lilah was beginning to turn red in what he assumed was an effort to not burst out laughing and wake the children.
The nannies, with ever indulgent smiles, quickly peeled the children off him and took them to their bedrooms, leaving Lilah and Wesley to face the aftermath. Dropping somewhat inelegantly on the sofa, Lilah propped her feet on a doll's house. While he stacked the toys on the couch, Wesley asked, "So, did the police haul off our client or not?"
Giving him a tired smile, Lilah answered. "Unfortunately, yes, both he and his current wife. Linwood took off, after proclaiming our client's innocence to the press. Gavin will probably be up all night at the jail arranging bail. I have just successfully convinced the police not to call child services after vouching that the house staff was in no way involved with the drugs or the unfortunate death." Pulling the spit rag off of Wesley's shoulder, Lilah started blotting at something on his back. Wesley couldn't see, but it wouldn't take much conjecture to determine what the stain was.
"I suppose you're somewhat angry because I wasn't more help," Wesley speculated.
Lilah tossed the cloth away and patted his thigh in a conciliatory fashion. "Sorry to disappoint you, but you did a fine job of representing Wolfram & Hart tonight. By staying out of the way of the professionals, you did the right thing. Besides, getting the kids away from the dead body scored us bonus points with the police. Linwood called it, 'quick thinking'. I know better, of course." Wesley raised an eyebrow at her, and Lilah made a dismissive noise gesturing to the room at large. "Look at how I found you, draped in the arms of three other women and a fourth one at your feet."
Giving a short laugh, Wesley interjected, "Well, despite the repeated demands to play horsey and the incessant fighting between the eldest and the middle child, my time up here was more pleasant than the party."
"How'd you get them to stop fighting?"
"I didn't, actually. I was trying, unsuccessfully, to make peace between the older two when Linwood walked in and started cooing at the children, saying what pretty little girls they were. The girls were largely unimpressed, and then he started talking about his own children."
"He told the kids the part about the senior partners taking his kids?"
"For Linwood, he was being very diplomatic, but the girls were smart enough to catch on. I won't tell you where my imagination was going. Lilah-" Wesley sat up straighter and looked down at her very seriously. "I know you have mentioned that everything was taken care of and it's been terribly irresponsible of me not ask for more detail, but on the subject of birth control..."
Lilah sat up with a horrified look on her face. "You better believe it. Better living through chemistry and regular visits to my herbalist who dabbles in the darker plant magics. She assures me that running the copy machine will the closest I ever come to reproducing." Breathing a sigh of relief, Wesley's hands slid up and down Lilah's back, which was exposed by the cut of her forest green evening gown. Smiling again, Lilah leaned forward and kissed him.
"So tell me the rest. Linwood had scared the kids and..."
"The rest isn't so exciting, I suppose. Faced with Linwood or me, there were suddenly three children clinging to me while I was feeding the baby. I noticed the youngest one had a book in her hand and mentioned to Linwood that I was going to read to the girls. As the five of us settled on the couch, Linwood became bored and left. I started reading and well," Wesley wiggled his eyebrows at Lilah, "I'm told that my accent has a hypnotizing effect on American women."
"Hmmm, looked like you put them to sleep to me."
"Well, that..." Wesley frowned, "You are no fun at all. Now that the police and the guests are gone, can we focus on the more important things like the satin sheets in my apartment?"
"Despite outward appearances, the party is still going on. I told you it wouldn't be boring. I'm going to have to stay for a while in case the police come back." Lilah began to absently rub her neck.
Pushing her hand out of the way, Wesley gently made Lilah turn around and began to massage her neck and shoulders. "There's something I don't quite understand. Certainly the firm wants a positive public image, but I don't understand why it would want to be involved with something so sordid that will be run around the press for months"
"Normally, we wouldn't have bothered with a client like this at all. See, he really isn't our client. Our client happens to own his soul and various other bits and pieces. We're just protecting that investment."
"Ah, I see." His hands became still on her shoulders. It was becoming increasingly difficult for Wesley to deal with the unpleasant implications of the job. Of course, both he and Angel had been fully aware that Wesley might have to do some less than moral things to pull off this charade, but the little reminders that didn't phase Lilah at all were beginning to eat at him.
"Hey," Lilah's voice was soft. "You stopped. Want to tell me what's on your mind?"
Trying to cover his nervousness, Wesley resumed his massage. "Nothing."
Relaxing into his hands, Lilah asked, "So, why don't you tell your boss how your first day on the job went."
"Let's see. "First, I was forced to go shopping with a pushy, opinionated woman who made me buy shoes that pinch."
"When the shoes break in, they'll be more comfortable than bedroom slippers."
"I was forced to stand in my undergarments, while a pack of fully clothed strangers measured me from top to bottom. That doxy of a personal shopper just strutted in front of me, back and forth with this somewhat disapproving look in her eye."
"Did that scare you?" she asked with mock seriousness.
"No, quite the opposite. I was fully prepared to walk over and remove all of her clothing as well. Imagine my disappointment about having to get dressed and go to the office."
"Aren't you skipping the part about stopping by the gourmet counter and buying chocolate for your *other* girlfriend. How'd that go by the way? Did you wheedle all the company secrets out of her?"
"No, actually. I couldn't even wheedle a name out of Files & Records, but I did come across some other interesting information."
"It seems that Mr. Linwood wants to know anytime I make any inquiries about documents in the vault. Gavin Parks wants a summary of all files name that I access and Miss Lilah Morgan wants a full report about anything I find the time to look at."
"Ah, I suspect that this has something to do with why you looked through the illustrated sections on nymphs."
"Well, if I'm going to undermine the company from the filing room, I have to put something out there to distract Gavin. I just thought you'd find it amusing."
"Okay, so besides shopping and leafing through pornography, did you do any actual work?"
"I finished translating the first two pieces, but since you really don't care about the literal translations, I haven't submitted them yet."
"What makes you think that I don't want the translations?"
"You want me to figure out the time discrepancy in the demon ascension prophecy and the correct ingredients for the curse."
Lilah leaned back and gave Wesley a slow and thorough kiss. "Bravo. Gavin owes me money. I told him that you'd find the problem without being told." Frowning a little, "There's a time discrepancy in the ascension prophecy?"
"Yes," Wesley looked at her confused, "It's not what you wanted?"
Sitting back on the couch, Lilah put her feet in his lap with a look in her eye that was an obvious ploy for attention. Wesley obliged by removing a shoe and massaging her foot. "The pendant mentioned in there has been stolen. The firm would prefer it if this demon that it summons doesn't eat half of Southern California. Any timing in the spell is to optimize the power in the pendant. It'll be good to know the timing; keep it on the back burner. What we're really after is enough detail on the pendant to do a locating spell." Lilah watched as Wesley's academic gears shifted. It was a real pleasure to see him in his element.
"I see." Wesley nodded. "Locating spell might be tricky. The amulet has some protection against that kind of magic and locating spells are notoriously temperamental. Now that I understand better what you need, I know exactly where to look. The pendant arrived in California about three hundred years ago with a Spaniard. It was displayed on numerous occasions and changed hands several times. The regional files have some quite detailed information. I may even be able to find a sketch."
"What about the curse? The same client is waiting on the answers for that as well."
"I'm afraid it rather depends on how well the research goes. The author of the curse coded all of his works and unfortunately, he was a particularly awful cryptographer. I'm going to try and look at the source materials he would have had on hand. But honesty, isn't this a lot of trouble to go to in order to give someone boils?"
Giving a little moan of pleasure for the attention being bestowed on her foot, Lilah answered. "Don't I know it? We offered him any curse he wanted, but no, he's a traditionalist and this curse has been in his family for generations."
Switching to her other foot, Wesley asked. "Back to the demon ascension for a moment. Shall I look for ways to destroy the amulet, for when it's recovered?"
Lilah turned and looked him in the eye. "Wesley..." He noticed that there was a hint of kindness and sympathy in the harsh look she gave him. It rather made him feel like a dog that was being counseled into the idea that neutering was really in everyone's best interest.
Looking away, Wesley replied with as much detachment as he could muster. "Yes, of course, don't raise the demon for now, because it's planned for later."
"This would be the balking part. I was expecting it. Actually, I'm kind of surprised it didn't start with the curse." Lilah swung her legs to the floor and slid forward so that they were sitting next to one another on the couch, but not touching.
"Well, as you said there are worse things than the curse." Wesley was staring at his hands, trying to remaster his emotions. Traces of guilt, disgust, and anger were vying for places with a nagging feeling of doom. How could he possibly pull this off?
Picking up the book he had been reading, Lilah leafed to the back until she found the illustrations of a baby elephant with wings hatching from the egg. "Wesley, take a look at this. The elephant goes back home to the jungle with his big reward for being, 'Faithful one hundred percent.' It's a fairy tale. Look what all that loyalty really gained you. Your supposed friends won't talk to you and the lazy bird in *your* story tried to suffocate you for all your hard work."
"Bringing up the painful episodes in my past just isn't winning you any points, Lilah-."
"It's not supposed to," she interrupted. "I'm bringing it up to remind you the bill of goods they sold you as a kid. People have been using it to step on you your entire life. It's all in your hands now if you want to change that. I'm not promising you loyalty, Wesley. I'm giving you a chance to put all those skills of yours to work for yourself. There are no innocents who deal with our employer, so there's no reason to feel guilty for enabling unpleasant things to happen."
"I..." Placing his hands on his knees, Wesley made to stand up and then hesitated. This was dangerous territory in his relationship with Lilah. Giving a frustrated sigh, he let his elbows rest on his legs as his hands dangled uselessly between his knees. Giving credit where it was due, Wesley realized that Lilah was really doing an excellent job of breaking him into a lifestyle of evil. If this had not all been a game, he'd be sliding down the slippery slope right now, putting aside every principle he had learned, allowing the bitterness inside to be his only conscience. What he really wanted was to tell her how wrong she was about how goodness was its own reward even when the world seemed intent on punishing you for it. What he said instead was, "You're being very patient with me."
"You're worth the time, Wesley. I get the feeling that people in your past haven't spent a lot of time telling you that." Turning his head, Wesley looked into Lilah's eyes. He had no doubt that she was capable of telling a convincing lie, but it really wasn't her style. She preferred brutal honesty and unflinching determination as her methods of communication. It was evident right now in her eyes. There was an honesty and a sincerity there that couldn't be denied.
Suddenly, he felt guilty, not about the unpleasant business that he was participating in, but because he was lying to her. How strange that, besides his friends at AI, the only other person willing to believe in him should be his enemy. That was a thought to keep in mind. He was on a job. He was only pretending that he was becoming 'bad', and Lilah was the enemy.
Having finally gotten Fred to bed, Gunn crashed on the couch with what little was left of his cold tacos. Picking up the phone, he checked for messages.
"Look, Gunn. I've erased this message four times, so whatever comes out comes out. First off, tell Fred to be careful with the magic. If she's doing too much of it, she'll probably start acting a little drunk. Try feeding her if that happens." Gunn looked at the ceiling as he shook his head.
"Next, I'm committed to this task. We're never going to have an opportunity like this again. I'll get more accomplished here in a week than I could have gotten done at the office in a year. I promise that I'm not staying any longer than necessary.
Finally, I don't give a shit if you're angry. There, I said it. When Angel and I put this scheme together, we actually thought we'd have to work on making you and Fred stay away from me. I'm sorry we lied to you, but this experience has given me a great deal of insight into what you really think of our friendship. I have to go. The rest of my evening should be Lilah free and it may be the only opportunity for a while to follow-up on my lead on Cordelia."
As the beep sounded, Gunn was ready to shout into the phone. Realizing, there was no point, he tossed it to the other side of the couch.
Thanks to Lilah's shaman, Wesley didn't have to worry about casting the ionizing spell this time. 'Good thing, too,' he thought. The set-up was the same as the previous spell, but this time twice as large. If he was going to summon both Cordelia and Skip, there needed to be more space in the circle and quite a bit more energy. Finally, deciding that everything was right, Wesley sat down to begin the chant. Hesitating, he stopped. After an internal debate, he finally got up and grabbed an extra towel out of the linen closet for modesty.
Somehow raising demons while naked, didn't bother him, but summoning Cordelia that way did. He immediately rejected the idea of getting dressed. Having learned more advanced techniques for channeling energy during his time at the council, Wesley knew the magic to flowed more easily closer to the skin. Generation of body heat was the unfortunate side-effect, as evidenced by the puddle of sweat that had formed underneath him during the last summoning.
Settling in once again, Wesley restarted the chant. The waves of energy emanated through his voice and took substance in the air. Repeating the call over and over, Wesley began to lose count of how many times the words issued forth. It had been fairly easy to call on Lefty; Wesley hadn't considered that Skip and Cordelia might be more difficult. With renewed vigor, he poured more power into the magic. Beads of sweat were rolling down his face when finally a glow emitted from the glimmering salt, giving birth to four feet. Four *gray* feet, Wesley noted in alarm.
A booming voice from above demanded, "Who dare summon forth the Shar!ka?"
Looking up, Wesley saw a demon that could have been Lefty, and next to him, in a tattered white dress, was Cordelia, who was now gray skinned and sprouting sickle-like appendages like her companion. The transformation was obviously incomplete but disturbing none-the-less.
"Wesley? Is that you, Wes? There's something here, a little hard to see." Cordelia poked at the translucent barrier of the spell. Feeling the magic threatening to break, Wesley poured even more power into the spell.
"Cordelia, my God, what's happened to you?" Having hoped to be more congenial, Wesley berated himself a moment for not thinking harder before speaking. The summoning spell, there was something wrong with it. Once Lefty had been in the room, Wesley hadn't expended any additional energy to hold the spell and barriers together.
"Ah, hello," chimed in the demon in a more annoyed and much less intimidating voice. "Cordy, you know this chump who summoned us?"
Turning to address the demon, she scolded "Skip, he's not a chump. He's a good friend - well, he is a chump in the sense that he and Angel cooked up a dangerous scheme and didn't even call to tell me about it. No, instead they decide to go forward and expect me to approve and jump on the bandwagon when I got back." During her speech, Cordy's fists became planted on her hips as she glared down at Wesley. "Are you naked?"
"I'm covered with a towel!" Wesley protested. "Cordelia, if I might be so bold, could we focus on you." Muttering under his breath, "Shouldn't be too hard; it is your favorite subject."
"Hey, I'm a higher being now and I don't have to put up with this crap." Cordelia took a step towards the front door and slammed into the spell. Wesley became dizzy a second as he fought to reinforce the magic. That definitely had not happened with Lefty.
"Cordy," Skip tapped her on the shoulder. "We're trapped inside the pentagram 'cause of a summoning spell." Too emphasis his point, Skip pressed his palms against the invisible barrier, looking like a demonic mime. 'Oops,' thought Wesley, 'That's a repetitive thought.' It was very strange though; he had felt nothing when Skip pressed against the barrier. The aberration in the energy obviously had something to do with Cordelia's half demon state.
"So, Wesley, right?" Skip continued. "You have a point to calling us?"
"Yes. Why don't you both sit down, and we'll all have a nice talk." He still channeling power into the spell even when Cordelia was not directly interacting with it. Hopefully, if she settled in one place, the output could be lessened.
Shrugging, Cordelia sat down and Skip followed suit. It was then that Skip noticed the food. "Hot pizza, cheese sticks, beer, nice spread, Wes. Cordy do you want a slice?"
Wrinkling her nose, "No." Glancing past Skip, she pointed. "Wait, is that Cherry Garcia?"
"Yes, your favorite." Wesley offered. With considerable effort, he didn't drool over the food so close but a dimension away from him. God, he was starving.
"Thanks Wes. So, I guess you want the story. In a nutshell, the powers tested me when they gave me my demon DNA. They decided that I used it judiciously." Cordelia seemed pleased with herself for using such a big word. Skip winked at her. "Well, that and I could help better, up there." Using a spoon, she gestured at the ceiling.
"The powers didn't grant you demon DNA. Skip did." The spell seemed to have reached a momentary stasis.
"Well, Skip's my guide. The powers used him to do the transformation, right Skip?" Skip had stopped with the pizza slice half-way to his mouth and just stared at Wesley.
"Well, I'm... see the demon blood was more my idea. You know, we were looking for that compromise."
"In fact, the entire thing was your idea wasn't it, Skip?" Wesley accused. "Cordelia, did Skip tell you that he was fired from his last job, prison guard to Billy Blim?" From the look on Skip's face, Wesley knew that Cordelia had not been apprised of all the facts. Skip was alternately looking angrily at Wesley and embarrassed at Cordelia.
"Billy Blim?" Cordelia stabbed her spoon in the ice cream container. "You were the demon guarding him when Angel broke him out? My god, you getting fired was my fault."
Wesley paused for a moment when he heard the guilt in Cordelia's voices. Why was she feeling guilty? "Well, that's one way to look at it but-" Skip took that moment to interject.
"No! Look Cordelia, the only one I ever blamed for that was myself. I was fairly cocky when I was fighting Angel. I should have done better. But you know what? I'm almost glad it happened. I know what old W&H did to you. If my failing meant that you lived, I'm glad."
"But that's not how you felt when you gave her the DNA was it?" Wesley was trying to maneuver the conversation so that Cordelia got to the idea that Skip didn't always have her best interests at heart.
Wesley met the demonic glare coming across the circle at him. "Not at first." Turning to Cordelia, Skip looked a little shamefaced. "Cordelia, I was pissed at Angel and wanted to get back at him. Depriving him of his seer seemed like a good option. As demons, we're allowed to tempt people. I was trying to temp you away from your mission when I offered you life without Angel."
Wesley breathed a sigh of relief when Cordelia looked in slack-jawed disbelief at the demon next to her. "Skip, I don't know what to say." She dropped her eyes to the floor and began to nod with a grim determination. "But you know what? Your intentions weren't the best, but it worked out in the end. After all, without my demon-half, I couldn't have healed Connor of all that evil from the Quortoth. I mean that's really had to help Angel and Connor's relationship, right Wes?" She peered at him hopefully.
Wesley shifted uncomfortably. "Actually, no. Connor somehow trapped Angel at the bottom of the ocean. Fred and Gunn are trying to rescue him now. Cordelia, I think we really have to focus on your situation; there are more ramifications-"
"Angel's at the bottom of the ocean!" Cordelia was in a panic, and Skip was chortling in glee. As she began to squirm, Wesley felt the demands of the spell increase.
"Cordelia, forget Angel for a moment. We need to talk about you." Wishing that he had opened all the windows or maybe turned on the air conditioning, Wesley wiped the sweat stinging his eyes and found himself becoming angrier. What was wrong with her? Didn't she get that he had important information to convey? No, of course not, this was just like Gunn earlier. No one had any bloody appreciation for the amount of effort and sacrifice he went to in order to acquire the needed information. Damn-it, the room was hot.
Cordelia smacked Skip. "You know, Skip, I'm beginning to think it was no coincidence that you came to get me on the night I was going to confess my love to Angel."
"Look, Cordy, there were other things going on. You did use your power wisely; you deserved the promotion."
"You were high on the demon blood and it was making you excessively cheerful and optimistic," Wesley added.
"Wesley, I think this is between me and Skip. Besides you weren't there. I was certainly not acting doped up. When did you ever see me acting high?"
"Far be it for me to bring up vacationing with the Groosalug-"
"How dare you!" I love Groo...well, I mean, I loved him. I didn't *love* him, like I love, think I love, Angel..."
"Oh yes, and how is that relationship going from your position in a higher plane?" Feeling no need to hide the bitter sarcasm, Wesley considered yelling some more, but it was becoming difficult to breathe. It was amazing how much the room felt like a sauna.
Was this loyalty? When his relationship with Angel and Cordelia started, he had never considered that the two of them might end up together as a couple. When faced with the reality that it might happen, Wesley had been pleased, concerned about curses, but pleased. With or without the romantic relationship he never thought she would just walk away. After the firing debacle last year, she was the one most devastated by Angel's defection. How could she have just listened to the first demon that came along, tossing them both away?
Sitting back in the plush leather of the client's limo, Lilah reviewed the night's accomplishments. She'd protected the client's property. He had personally arrived at the house, thanking her and promising to mention her 'invaluable assistance' to a senior partner. All in all, it couldn't have been a better night. Nibbling on a fingernail, she decided that one thing could make it better. Glancing at her watch, Lilah frowned. It was late; she should just let the driver take her straight home.
When Wesley had left, he was still uncertain about his work at the firm. Walking away from the current job to reassure him was not an option. Of course, making him into a company man was not what Lilah had in mind right now. Some logical part of her brain said that lunch or the next night was soon enough for that kind of physical gratification, but Lilah wanted him now.
'Damn-it, what's wrong with this picture,' she thought. Was this part of the plan, for her, Lilah Morgan, to become addicted to sex with Wesley Wyndam-Pryce? No, that was a lie. She could have sat there all night letting him rub her neck. Heck, she could have been content to just sit next to him on the sofa, holding hands. It wasn't just about sex anymore; it was about hearing his voice, feeling his hand on her elbow.
She should go home and go to bed. Spend quality time with a toy from the bedside table, if that's what it took to get to sleep. Let the imagination run wild, thinking about old bruises and stubble against her breast. Letting out a frustrated sigh, Lilah knocked on the glass barrier and gave the driver a new address. No fucking way she was going to go home and fantasize about what she wanted, when it was waiting for her to take it.
A perpetually nagging little voice kept saying, 'you're getting too close' and 'you're smarter than this'. Lilah hadn't promised Wesley anything tonight. No guarantees of success, no promises of loyalty. It was really rather unfair, because that's exactly what she was counting on from him, not that Lilah would ever admit it. Bad boys were a dime a dozen in the world she came from. Wesley was trustworthy, honest, all those other things that make up a good boy. While she knew that she should never trust anyone, Lilah admitted to herself, that she felt safe with Wesley.
Oh, he had a rougher side that she had encouraged him to exercise. The researcher in London hadn't turned up anything particularly interesting yet in his background, but Lilah felt sure that this violent streak, this need to control her in bed was revenge for some wrong in the past. What was it that made him so desperate for that piece of control? In the end, the root cause didn't matter, because the price Lilah was paying in bruises was like getting paid to go to the Disneyland. Every sigh and moan bound him a little more to her and that was satisfying on so many levels.
"All right," she started, "I'll be the mature one. Several comebacks popped into Wesley's head, but he really only had the energy to roll his eyes. Cordelia continued, "I know everything was meant to be, because of my vision."
"Vision?" Wesley choked out.
"Yeah, I had a vision of my meeting with Skip. I saw me reassuring me that it was the right thing to do."
Shaking his head, Wesley searched for the diplomatic words. "You twit! When was the last time you had a vision of something *good* happening to someone!"
Making a move towards Wesley, Cordelia slammed once more into the spell. Wesley reeled, falling out of his sitting position and landing on his side. Fighting to sit up again, he motioned for Cordelia to stop pressing on the walls. Suddenly the pressure eased and Wesley was able to see Skip restraining her hands.
"Whoa, Cordy. We need him to send us back; quit beating him up."
The anger departing from her voice, Cordelia stared down at him, "Wesley? I didn't mean to. Are you okay? You don't look so good. I don't want to fight, but I'm sure that you're wrong about my vision."
Propping himself on his elbow, Wesley was gathering some strength to continue the argument when the tumblers of the front door locks began to turn. He felt his movements were interminably slow as he forced himself up and grabbed the spell sheets to chant the dismissal. From behind Wesley, light from the hallway penetrated the candlelit darkness.
"Hello, lover. You didn't tell me you were having friends over tonight."
Not acknowledging Lilah, Wesley began to choke out the dismissal in a barely audible whisper.
"Lover? Wesley, you're having sex with, Lilah? Are you insane?" Despite his vision beginning to tunnel, Wesley could see Cordelia moving as she ranted. Of course he didn't need to see her, as his body shuddered every time she brushed the spell.
"Cordelia, is that you? My, how your fashion sense has changed. Interesting look for you, but I really don't think that the white dress complements your new skin tone. Basic black would be a much better choice."
"Wesley! This bitch tortured me and tried to have me killed. How could you betray me like this?" Abruptly, Wesley stopped chanting. Cordelia was glaring at Lilah, pushing against the walls of the spell. Fighting for control on several levels, he felt his body surrendering to the grip of the magic as it flowed where it willed.
"I betrayed you? You didn't even talk to me after you got back. Then you just up and leave this plane without a fucking word? Bloody hell, I thought we were better friends than that. I called you here to tell you that *he* is trying to trick you!" Wesley's glare was undeniably directed at Skip. Fingernails played in his wet hair. A part of him thought that it would be wise to pay attention to Lilah, but another part reasoned that she was just having her moment of fun and therefore wasn't a direct threat. Obviously, from the look on her face, Cordelia wasn't having the same reaction.
"You know what, Wesley? Skip is owed in all this too. Skip, that's the bitch from Wolfram & Hart that gave me the killer visions, leading to your encounter with Angel." Wesley watched Skip surge against the unbreakable spell barrier; at least Wesley hoped it was unbreakable. Lilah gave an involuntary flinch. If he had to lay money on it, Wesley was betting that she was a little frightened but a good deal more aroused. That was a distracting thought because scared and hot was how Wesley liked Lilah best.
Cordelia wasn't done. "Take a look at yourself, Wesley? Which one of us is fooling himself?" Lilah's hands began wander across damp flesh and deliberately looking to violate any propriety of mixed company. With all his concentration on the magic, Wesley couldn't make a move to physically stop her. Instead he tried to stop her with words.
In a very firm voice, "Lilah, not now." Lilah licked his cheek and ear in response.
Cordelia was seething. With no energy to resolve the situation, Wesley began the dismissal again. He couldn't have Cordelia and Lilah in the same room. "Wesley! Wasn't losing the baby enough? Why are you tossing away your soul? It's not too late. Go back to Angel. Go back to Gunn and Fred."
Strangely, it was Skip who understood that this needed to end. Silently he mouthed the words of dismissal to encourage Wesley. With his eyes locked on Skip, Wesley felt the last rush of energy that would end the spell. Lilah had stood up after Cordelia's last set of comments.
"You people are amazing at kicking people when they're down. Sure you don't want to join our side? Since you were in Mexico, maybe they didn't fill you in on the part where Angel tried to suffocate him. You want me gone? I would have never had a chance to be here if his so called friends had bothered to talk to him. Wesley's worth the time and if you're going to throw that away-"
A small roar tore through the apartment, as a wind from seemingly nowhere engulfed the ritual space, extinguishing the candles and effectively silencing Lilah. Freed of the magical thrall, Wesley collapsed onto his back and took a moment to appreciate how cool the bare wood floor felt against his burning skin. Obviously, he should be assessing whatever was going on in Lilah's mind, but for the moment he could only lie there, hoping a Scottish blizzard would begin to fall from the ceiling.
It startled him when a cool trickle of water began making little patterns across his chest and stomach. Under other circumstances this could have been considered quite erotic; however, Wesley was in no way prepared at the moment to expend any more energy, no matter the temptation. Glancing up at Lilah, he managed to mouth a thank-you with his parched lips.
"You're welcome. See, I paid attention in the Magic First Aid class. Body temperature through the roof, but no black eyes or veins. That means you've been trained, but aren't considered a natural talent, right?"
Wesley nodded, wishing she'd pour some of that water into his mouth. For that matter, he desperately wanted something, anything to eat. When Wesley started pushing himself up on his elbows, Lilah slid behind him so that she was supporting him. An involuntary shudder ran through him when she placed a makeshift ice pack on the back of his neck. Sighing because he was finally starting to reach a normal body temperature again, Wesley relaxed against Lilah's chest and let her take care of him. The glass appeared before his mouth and Wesley drank greedily, but Lilah held it, making him go slowly.
"I salvaged the rest of the pizza from the center of the circle, when you think you can handle something solid. But, I think I should point out that the salt is still glowing. I scorched myself on it. I don't think you've let go of all the magic."
Letting out a deep breath, Wesley tried to speak and found that he actually could. "I'm not powering it anymore. It's the residual of what I poured into the spell. It'll fade on it's own in a little while. With the exception of making this place glow like a supernatural beacon to anyone looking, it's relatively harmless. Did you hurt yourself?"
"Nah, just a little red mark; it wont even blister." Lilah brought her wrist up so that Wesley could see the red mark on the heel of her hand. Taking her arm gently in his hands, Wesley kissed the angry red mark in apology and continued the tender ministrations on the delicate spot on her wrist.
"You trying to distract me, Wesley? Because you know that I'm dying to know what's going on with Cordelia and why you're doing magic that's over your head."
"I'm not in over my head," he protested lamely. "The spell was an enormous drain because of Cordelia's half-breed status ... or perhaps because she's still naturally connected to this plane. Of course, it was all rather pointless. I was trying to..." Wesley let out a frustrated sigh. "To rescue her from the Powers That Be, I suppose. Well, now I feel that all my former friends have personally told me to take a hike. As this isn't the best of nights, could you possible consider restraining any gloating until tomorrow morning?" Taking a deep breath, he braced himself for the emotional blow that was bound to follow.
"Wesley, I'm not going to gloat. 'I told you so's' are really only appropriate when a point isn't being grasped. You're a smart guy. I know that I keep saying it; I wish you'd start believing it. All the choices are up to you. You can come to work with me tomorrow or you can stay home and try to convince her again. Want to go find the other two and try to make up? Can't make you, can't stop you. Of course, if you were inclined to produce a locating spell that would find Angel, I would be happy to play the part of your lovely assistant."
Sitting up, Wesley turned and tried to glare at her, but he suspected that he only looked tired. She was still wearing that expensive evening gown, not looking bothered at all about the water and salt sticking to it. "I don't know where Angel is. I don't know how to find him. Don't try to tell me that you don't have some talented magic users who could do the job. Oh, and you'd really would sound more sincere if you didn't pump me for information at the same time you were comforting me."
Donning her cat like grin, Lilah just smiled at Wesley as he practically inhaled a slice of pizza and some cheese sticks. Not feeling particularly modest any longer, Wesley used the towel in his lap to wipe his mouth before he tossed it across the room. Lilah didn't even attempt to be subtle as she glanced down and gave him a somewhat wider grin.
"Happy to see me?"
Ignoring her question, Wesley asked one of his own. "The decisions are all mine?"
"Yes, sir. What would you like right now?"
"Don't rush. Tomorrow, I want to see a new list of potential assignments. No more pathetic translation jobs that half the department could do. Don't waste my time on anything that will ultimately indenture or enslave me."
"Not a problem. Now about those satin sheets..."
"Perhaps later. Right now, I want you to stand up and get rid of that dress. Slowly, if you please."
"And after that?" Sensuously, she rose to her feet and nudged the strap off her right shoulder. She didn't appear concerned that he wasn't answering the question when she turned her back and slowly lowered the zipper, allowing a glimpse of her bare bottom. Underwear apparently was no longer in vogue between the two of them, Wesley noted. Becoming impatient with his own request, he captured a hand, pulling Lilah back to the floor. There was no resistance as he pushed her back until Lilah was lying on the faintly glowing salt. She let out the gasp that Wesley withheld as they both felt the heat. It was no longer hot enough to burn, but prolonged exposure might leave some redness.
With a note of warning in her voice, Lilah simply said, "Marks."
Roughly pulling off her remaining clothing, Wesley replied in an uncaring voice. "I suspect there will be, but if you want to get off tonight, I suggest you learn to live with the idea." Lilah arched her back and gasped out a strangled cry as he bit down hard on an erect nipple while lightly scratching the delicate flesh of her inner thigh. There was an abortive attempt by Lilah to roll them over, so that she would be on top away for the grit and heat, but, having none of that, Wesley straddled her hips and pinned her arms above her head, forcing as much body contact with the salt as possible.
"I'm beginning to understand: no reward for loyalty, no fudge for good boys. If I remember my limited knowledge of law, verbal contracts aren't worth the paper that they are written on." Stealing an open mouthed kiss from Lilah's breathless mouth, Wesley ground his cock into her soft belly. "Lilah, I want to see the marks of my magic all over your body when I've got you coming so hard that you actually beg me to stop."
~End Chapter 6~
*Wesley is reading from "Horton Hatches an Egg" by Dr. Seuss. Despite Lilah's interpretations, most people understand the moral of the story to be about the importance of hard work, responsibility, oh yeah, and loyalty even when there is no reward in sight.
~end Part 6~
Onto Part 7 ~ "Hellbound Hearts & Inhuman Condition
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