Desperate Passages Series
Part 7 ~ "Hellbound Heart & Inhuman Condition"
by Just Human
Notes, disclaimers and dedications in Part 1 ~ "Unclean"
Additional thanks this chapter:
Blessings and nekkid Wesley on my brave and vicious when necessary Betas Kath (the literal minded grammar goddess) and Magpie (who's teaching me to speak English, well, like the English do). Thanks also for Merzibelle's encouragement, Shawna's obsession with showers, and Lesley's obsession with a certain souled vampire.
"Hellbound Heart & Inhuman Condition"
Staring down at Lilah, Wesley wondered again at what had brought him to this juncture. What had happened? What had occurred that made him completely content to be watching the blissfully sleeping Lilah? Was this the false euphoria of the magic from the previous night? In all honesty, Wesley knew that that was not a viable answer. The magic last night had given him an adrenaline overload, which only served to magnify the emotions that were already there.
Was it possible for someone to tell a lie while asleep? Wesley knew that what he saw now in Lilah's face would fade in the light of dawn, being replaced by sarcasm and manipulation. But, sometimes there were other things there too. At the party, she had told him that she believed in him. Powerful, powerful words, words that Cordelia and Gunn had all but denied him. Wesley regretted not having seen Lilah's face when she told off Cordelia. The passion and, dear god, the loyalty, it was all so very intoxicating. In her own way, Lilah was refreshingly open and honest.
They had never had a 'morning after' until now. He had thrown her out the first night. Lilah had returned the gesture at least one other time. For the most part, they had been careful to keep it an arrangement of mutual convenience and had preserved that impression by vacating the other's home as soon as activities had reached their natural conclusion. That had been before the exchange of keys, and now...now they had deliberately chosen the place where they would wake up together. This was nothing like the sinking feeling that Wesley had viciously taunted Lilah after their first time.
By all rights, he should be asleep, but the wild magic that had been let loose the night before had not finished running its course. Wesley debated slipping out of bed and taking care of his morning discomfort, but he couldn't bear to leave the warm body next to him, the intoxicating scent that wasn't perfume or flowers, just simply Lilah.
With tender fingers, he caressed the sweet curve of her breast, coaxing darker brown flesh into alertness with the brush of his thumb. Lilah inhaled deeply in her sleep, seemingly too tired to respond. Unable to resist, Wesley lowered his head to capture the distended nipple with lips and tongue while his hand moved to pay equal attention to its mate. Roused by his ministrations, Lilah yawned and stretched before running her fingers through Wesley's hair.
"Dear god, Wesley, wasn't three times in one night enough?" Wesley could tell that her grousing was for the sake of form, since his fingers met no resistance when they slid between Lilah's thighs, coaxing her desire.
Lifting his head, Wesley corrected. "Four. Besides, it's a brand new day; shouldn't we start the count all over?" A small surge of egotistical pride washed through him for having worn her out. Lilah was not some fading rose to lie quietly back. Indeed, she was the one who usually pushed both of them past exhaustion.
"Not until after I have coffee and food." There was a commanding tone to her voice, followed by a more needful pleading, "Please." Wesley was starving for both food and the touch of her body. Of the two, he thought food could wait.
"If we had stayed at my place last night, there'd be cold pizza right now."
"Liar. You ate all the leftovers before you pounded my body into the salt. Besides, your upstairs neighbor wouldn't stop banging on the ceiling."
"Well," Wesley leaned down, licking Lilah's lips before doing a more through exploration of her mouth. "Someone was very vocal every time she had an orgasm last night, no wonder the neighbors were upset. Jealousy."
"Okay, stud. You win." Lilah ran her fingers through the light covering of hair on Wesley's chest. "The magical Viagra you took last night did some amazing things. I think I could be interested in more, if say, someone went four blocks east to the strip mall and picked up coffee, danish and dropped off the dry cleaning."
Quirking an eyebrow, "The dry cleaning? And that sustains you, how?" Resigning himself to the idea that food was apparently going to come first, Wesley thought about getting up, but nibbled Lilah's collarbone instead.
"It doesn't, exactly." Lilah's voice filled with false innocence. "My thought is that if you drop it off now, we won't have to make an extra stop later. That means you get to try and make me scream that many more times.
Gunn was tempted to take the phone outside for fear of disturbing Fred. Dawn was pushing a faint orange glow into the living room window. There wouldn't be any vamps outside, but that didn't mean there weren't other enemies. Not being able to sleep last night, Gunn had sat up on the couch trying to figure out what the right thing to do was. Ultimately, it had gotten him nowhere because he found that his anger really hadn't faded. But thinking about it wasn't getting the job done either. He needed to give Wesley a call, give some info and ask for some back. Picking up the phone, he headed into the kitchen.
"Wes, we want to know what's happening with Cordy. You said you know something about where she is. Is she all right? Is she hurt? Can we help? Fred tested the spell yesterday and yeah, drunk was right. Do you have any more practical advice about keeping her tied to the ground during all this?" Gunn could hear the anger creeping into his voice.
"You know, I wouldn't have to worry so much about what's happening with Fred if you were here doing your job. Yeah, I hear you when you say what you're doin' is important, but I think that it's a load of crap. You're mad at me because I decided not to associate with you after you pretended to go Benedict Arnold on us? Wesley, this is the most asinine thing I've ever heard you say. You and fucking Angel have this *brilliant* plan." Gunn made no effort to disguise his obvious sarcasm. Pacing back and forth in the kitchen, he continued speaking into the cell phone. "Now you're all pissed off that it worked? You are so goddamned unbelievable. What the hell were Fred and I supposed to think? You attacked Lorne, knocked him out and then disappeared with the baby. Let me know, because I'm not getting it. Was getting your throat slit and getting the baby sucked into a hell dimension part of the plan? I don't want to hear your self-righteous crap because the way you screwed Fred and me was just fucking wrong.
We were sure Angel was going to kill you if he found you. Fred was digging around the bottom of a dumpster looking for your fucking notes. We combed half of Los Angeles looking for you and nearly got our asses kicked by the same fucking demon that sent the baby and Holtz into the hell dimension." Pausing for breath, Gunn was really glad that Wesley was on the other side of the city because the confusion was just too much. He was picturing Wesley standing in front of him with that guilty look, the one that made him look like a basset hound. The kind of face that made you want to kiss him. 'Fuck!' Gunn screamed in his head and nearly hung up the phone.
Stopping himself, he continued. "Look, I can't do this anymore. You're making all the choices and you're shutting me out. If you can't figure out why I'm mad at you than you're not as smart as you think you are."
While he had been sore tempted to ignore his lover's pleas for food, Wesley realized that it was the perfect opportunity to slip away and check for messages. Now that he had, Wesley wished that he hadn't. Gunn's anger was better than reciting cricket statistics for redirecting the excess passion. Unfortunately, the redirection was into anger.
After picking up some breakfast sandwiches, Wesley was mulling over Gunn's message while paying for the gourmet coffee. Stepping outside the shop, he saw the pay phone a few yards away and hesitated. There was no way he should reply to Gunn now, not only because Wesley was sure that irrational things would be pouring out of his mouth, but because he needed to get back to Lilah's apartment. That infuriated him more. When he had left Lilah, they had been practically cuddling, and Wesley was looking forward to more of the same. Would she buy that his anger was because someone cut him off in traffic? Wesley decided that he had precious little in the way of choices. There was vital information that needed to be conveyed. Resting the cup carrier on top of the phone, he dialed.
"All right, we're both furious, but I don't have time to answer your anger and accusations now. We've got several large problems concerning Angel and Cordelia.
Whether Fred is ready or not, you have to look for Angel as soon as possible. Lilah let it slip last night that Wolfram & Hart doesn't know where Angel is. Their locating spells must be failing because they haven't figured out about the water, *yet*. Gunn, some mage with an ax hanging over his head is going to eventually try everything to find what they want. You have to go tonight if you can. I'm sorry about Fred becoming ungrounded; she must have worked hard at perfecting the spell. All I can say is watch her carefully for the signs. Feed her and give her plenty of water.
I talked to Cordelia last night. I don't have time for the full details, but basically she became seduced by her demon spirit guide, Skip. She's on a higher plane, not in our dimension. She's...she's becoming something like an angel except with armor plated gray skin. Look, I think there's a possibility she can be convinced to come home, but I can't do it. By the way, you two might want to compare notes; she may be angrier with me than you are. If you want to try, you have to get the key and coin we used to send Angel to rescue Billy Blim. That's the plane she's on. I can't try to contact her anymore, because the magic was too much and," Wesley hesitated and finally decided that Gunn was going to bloody well have to deal with it. "And because I've been sleeping with Lilah, and I don't have any free time without her.
Look, if you decide to go after Cordelia, call me first, I think I can set you up with a guide in the other plane."
Wesley hung up and headed back to the one person least likely to yell at him that morning.
Angling her body between a full-length mirror and the mirror above the vanity, Lilah inspected the damage done to her the previous evening. The salt burns, for a lack of a better term, crisscrossed her back. The thin red welts had ached a little when she had put her weight against them while lying down. Less dramatic were the small bite marks around her breasts and shoulders, the purple finger shaped marks on the tops of her hips and the random scratch marks. Having watched Wesley dress, from her position in the luxury of the warm blankets, Lilah knew that he hadn't escaped the previous evening unscathed either. But, her body was definitely showing more damage. Lilah thought that she should be furious now and was very surprised to find she wasn't. Instead, she felt a warm flush fill her, remembering the events of the previous evening.
At least this time Lilah knew whom he had been mad at. Having gone above and beyond what a best friend should do, Wesley had been kicked in the teeth by Cordelia and apparently, everyone else. From the angry exchange Lilah had heard last night, all of Wesley's friends had now taken their turn. Often Lilah wondered how the bad guys ever succeeded in their plots with all the backstabbing, but now it was obvious; the good guys were complete idiots.
Last night's romp through the salt may have all started out as anger directed at Cordelia, but in the end it had been strictly about Lilah. It was her name he had shouted as he came, rolling her in the shattered remains of the spell. Before Lilah had even caught her breath, Wesley had been ready for round two. He was indulgent when she begged for some water, carrying her into the kitchen and seating her on the counter. While Wesley had provided her a lovely view of his ass, lit by the 40-watt glow of the open refrigerator door, Lilah had poked in the cabinets above her head finding several more boxes of salt. Wickedly, she had poured them out on the floor, asking if he did magic all over his apartment.
A few minutes later, she was teetering on the edge of the counter with his head buried between her legs. Lilah had poured honey over both of them, starting to make a silly comment about sweet counteracting the salt, when his tongue generated a wave of ecstasy that had made her lose all sense of time and space. Gently riding the wave of her orgasm, Lilah had submitted as Wesley slid her back to her feet and sheathed himself in her throbbing, molten heat. It was almost the same position they had been in the previous night, when they both thought he might murder her. Still caught in the tempest of the last wave, Lilah had become lost to the world around her with each penetrating thrust.
Shaking herself out of her reverie, Lilah looked in the mirrors again. Flushed with passion, her hands had instinctively gone to her breast and the brown curls between her legs. Maybe she shouldn't have sent Wesley out for food. On stiff muscles, she walked to the whirlpool tub and sat on the tiled ledge. As the oversized bath began to fill, Lilah dangled one foot in the tub and stretched the other leg out. Smiling at the bruise on one knee, she knew that she'd blame that one on Wesley too, even if she had caused it herself.
Sticky from the honey, they had made their way from the kitchen to the shower. Having clawed her way to the top of the corporate ladder, Lilah had always made it a practice never to get on her knees for anyone, but she had wanted a little control over the situation. Shoving Wesley back into the cold tile, she had sunk to her knees, literally grabbing him by the balls. Wrapping her mouth around Wesley's throbbing cock hadn't been about submission, but about control and how she was going to seize it from him.
Hot water had cascaded over her back, causing the salt welts to scream. For every ache, she dug a nail into his thigh or squeezed his balls a little harder. Something about mild mannered Wesley cursing up a blue streak, calling her 'bitch' and 'whore' had made it that much hotter. He had made the mistake once, just once, of pulling her hair and thrusting deep. Smiling, Lilah reminded herself to check for bite marks when the opportunity presented. When she had taken the time to look up, Wesley was caught between gasping for breath and giving her the dirty looks that turned her on so much.
Lapping at the head, Lilah had tasted herself among the salt and honey. Gently rolling back the foreskin, her teeth grazed the sensitive flesh, in part to entice and in part to threaten. Removing the hand that she had been using to claw his left thigh, Lilah slid fingers inside herself, getting off on Wesley watching her get off. Lifting the fingers, wet with her scent, Lilah held them just out of reach of his tongue. Somehow it had seemed right to torture him.
Never breaking eye contact, she had moved the slick fingers to push inside of him. At first, Wesley froze and looked startled, but then he relaxed and began to thrust back onto her hand. The researcher in London had been right about life in an English public school. It wasn't long before they had found a rhythm. The cursing, glares and dirty looks dissolved away. Up and down, her tongue massaged the cleft in the head, while Lilah sucked harder and trust faster with her fingers. Bucking involuntarily, Wesley had been calling the name of his goddess, Lilah, promising to do anything. She considered really exercising her power by abandoning him in that state, but in her infinite mercy, Lilah had allowed him to come.
She remembered how Wesley had slid down the wall and cradled her in his lap. While kissing Lilah's neck and ears, his hands had found all the familiar places until she was the one groaning in ecstasy. They might still be in his tub if the water hadn't turned cold and the upstairs neighbor hadn't started pounding on the ceiling.
The tile she was currently sitting on was much too cold and lonely. Easing herself into the hot water, Lilah turned on the jets and allowed them to massage the aches. Neither of them had been in a mood to deal with the neighbor, so they packed an overnight bag for him along with stained suits and dresses. Wesley refused to loan her any clothing and had insisted Lilah wear only a trench coat and high heels during the trip back to her loft. Like a restless baby, she had fallen asleep snuggled against his shoulder during the short ride, spent from their previous activities.
Solicitous as always, Wesley had led her to bed, removing coat and shoes. Through sleepy eyes, Lilah had fondly watched him undress and slide between the sheets warming her now chilled body. A boneless puddle, she had actually contemplated sending him away. They had never had a 'morning after', and Lilah didn't know what would be more terrifying - waking to find they hated each other, or waking to find they needed each other.
But, obviously still filled with the excess power, Wesley had had other ideas. He wanted her again and that was what made the decision for her. Hating was a fact of her life in many arenas. She knew how to strong arm people in situations where they needed her. The fact that he wanted her fluffed her ego in ways she feared to contemplate.
Where Wesley could have made the Energizer Bunny envious, Lilah's body no longer had the strength. The fourth time, she had allowed him to do what he wanted. At a maddeningly slow pace, Wesley had kissed and suckled every square inch of her flesh starting with the toes and working his way up. Occasionally, her fingers caressed whichever part of him was nearest as she drifted from half-sleep to little rolling waves of pleasure. Waking fully as the simmering pot of her desire boiled over, Wesley had clenched her tightly, his passion spent as well. In his eyes was something just for her, something just like their latest coupling: slow, practiced, gentle...loving. For the first time in a long time, Lilah felt frightened, not of an enemy or adversary, but of her own feelings.
Stepping inside Lilah's apartment, Wesley stared dumbly at the key. The contradictions of Gunn's anger and Lilah's acceptance were mind-boggling. So was the fact that Wesley was bringing his lover breakfast in bed after taking care of the laundry. It was positively domestic. It was terrifying. It was a whole world better than being abused by his so-called friends. With food in hand, Wesley investigated the watery sounds from the guest bathroom.
Stopping in the doorway, he watched as Lilah relaxed in the water with her eyes closed, stroking herself and teasing her nipples, which peaked above the foam. She'd not heard his return over the bubbling of the water jets, and was unaware of his presence at the door. Wesley took pleasure in watching her tongue dart through parted lips between harsh breaths. While he was content to watch, he began to slide out of his own clothing, stroking his half-hard cock.
Wordless noises began as her peak approached, but the one word he did make out was his own name. It surprised and aroused him that Lilah would include him in her fantasy. Her body arched out of the water as she climaxed. Eyes wide open, she turned and stared at him dumbly, obviously having no idea how long he had been standing there, watching her pleasuring herself.
In way of an apology he offered, "You're beautiful when you let go like that; I couldn't resist."
"Are you mad at me because I didn't wait?" Lilah leaned back but sat up straighter so that her breasts floated in and out of the foamy water.
"No, not mad at all." Straddling the edge of the tub, Wesley used the foot in the water to caress the back of her thigh while he broke off bite sized pieces of the scrambled eggs in a croissant, feeding them into her. Carefully balancing to avoid contacting more sensitive portions of his anatomy with the cold tile, Wesley thought that they must make quite the picture of erotic decadence. A picture that became more complete when Lilah reached out with a warm, soapy hand and began to stroke his already rock hard erection.
As Lilah ate the last bite, Wesley asked, "So, do you want to tell me what you were fantasizing about?"
Shaking her head, Lilah gave him a squeeze, eliciting a moan. "Nope, but if you want to climb in, I might just show you."
With her hand moving to cover her mouth, Fred shouted, "You better stop here!"
Gunn pulled the truck over, wishing that this little adventure could just end. At Point Dume, Fred had tried to test the location spell. If everything had gone right, a ball of light would have floated out over the water. They wouldn't have been able to track it to its ultimate destination, but at least they'd have known that they were set for the rescue operation. Instead, the spell had taken a sharp turn and flew down the coast.
And there were the retching noises, again. Jumping out of the truck, Gunn ran around to the passenger side and held Fred's hair as she tried to be discrete in the bushes along the curb. Handing her a napkin and a bottle of water when she leaned back against him, Gunn finally said, "Fred, honey, please let it go. We'll try again tomorrow night on the boat, when you're not so sick." He doubted that she even heard him as her sharp gaze searched the air for the faint glimmer of light. At least, that's what it looked like to Gunn. Fred said it was a glowing orange ball.
Locking onto her obsession, Fred started walking. "Fred, where are you going? Don't we have to get back in the truck?"
"Nope; this is the place. The spell won't work any better tomorrow night if we don't figure out what's mucking it up now. It's only going to lead us back here, and thank you very much, I've had enough car sickness from following this thing."
"Fred, Fred." He was trying to be soothing, but she wasn't interested as she marched in a slow but determined fashion towards a row of warehouses. Shaking his head, Gunn reached into the back of the truck and grabbed his axe and Fred's crossbow. Jogging to catch up, he made Fred take the weapon.
"Fred, you're hunting for 'vampire with a soul', right? Well, if we don't stumble across Angel, we don't know if we're going to get 'vampire' or, or some soul thing. Either way, it's best if we're prepared."
"Right." She marched to a door of a warehouse and indicated to Gunn that this was the place. Gunn led the way, carefully checking behind the door and peeking beyond the shelves. Shaking his head, to indicate 'no danger', Gunn started down the aisle where Fred pointed her crossbow. Carefully watching their surroundings, Fred stopped short at a large wooden crate. Gesturing for her to take a more defensive posture, Gunn began to circle the box looking for an opening. Suddenly, one side of the crate flew out, slamming to the floor, and a vamp in full game face burst out, obviously trying to get way. Unfortunately for him, his charge away from Gunn led him straight to the point of Fred's crossbow.
Gunn shouted from behind him, "That's far enough! Take a couple steps back from the lady and have a seat on the floor!"
Fred looked into the man's eyes and sympathy welled up inside of her, quietly, "It's okay, we won't hurt you. We just need to talk." Gunn was sure the guy was going to bolt, but slowly the fangs and bumps faded. The vamp nodded at Fred and sat down on the floor. Stepping around so that he and Fred were standing next to each other, Gunn sized up their opponent.
Skinny as all get out, skinnier than Wes or Fred - okay, maybe not Fred. Nothing special about the clothes: jeans and a t-shirt. Nothing special, unless you counted the fact that they were a mess, like he'd been wearing the same ones for a long time. Bleached blond hair grown out in a big curly mop, exposing the brown roots underneath. "So fang face, you got some special soul thing working for you?"
Gunn took a step back from the fear in the other man's sharp blue eyes. They were the same color of penetrating blue as Wesley's eyes except these were filled with some kind of torment and emptiness. Out of nowhere, the man started to cry, holding his head in his hands. Just as suddenly, he lifted his head, laughing between the tears and asked, "How the sodding hell d'you know about the soul? Wait, it doesn't matter. The soul was a bad idea, a bloody awful idea. Look, you came armed with the right equipment; do a bloke a favor, eh? Just end it - turn me to dust." Sitting up straight, he stretched out his arms, exposing his chest.
"All right." Gunn took two steps forward as he pulled back his ax for a big swing. The vampire sat impassively, waiting for the blow.
"No! Charles, don't!" Gunn came up short and both he and the vamp turned to stare at Fred. "We have to know why the spell that should have brought us to Angel brought us here instead."
Sighing his displeasure, Gunn stepped back and lowered his ax. The vamp sat there looking stunned and then started to giggle. "That's it, Spike. Final indignation. First, you get the soul to get the girl and then you don't have the bollocks to go back to her. *Then*, to ice the cake nice and pretty, you get mistaken for the bloody Poof." He stopped laughing and looked up to the two humans. "Right then, I don't want you to dust me. Or if you do, do it for the right bloody reasons." Sticking out his arms, Spike stared at his hands. "I've killed hundreds, maybe thousands with these hands." Rapid fire emotions traveled across his face again. With a choked sob, he said, "If you're going to kill me, do it cos I'm a monster, not cos I'm not *him*."
Holding his ax warily, Gunn kept his eyes trained on the obviously insane vampire. Spike...Spike... there was something famili- Shit! "Fred, I want you to back away some more from this thing. He's the vamp who tried to torture Angel to death a couple of years ago. Cordy told me all about it."
Fred held her ground. "Spike." She waited for the vampire to acknowledge her. When he glanced up with his sorrow filled eyes, she started asking questions. "You're Spike; you're related to Angel and Darla and Drusilla, right?" Gunn realized that Fred must have gotten the whole story from one of the others. He had never had the patience to care about the whole story. Vamps should die no matter how they're related.
"Yeah," Spike snorted, running his tongue along one side of his mouth as he cocked his head. "Yeah, you could put it that way. Dru made me, but Angel, Angelus really, he was like my dear old dad."
"Now you've got a soul. How'd you get it?" Gunn frowned at her and then it started sinking in: two souled vampires.
Scrubbing his face with his hand, Spike sadly shook his head. "Long story, love. Went to a shaman, passed the tests and he gave it back to me. Supposed to make me worthy for her love." Large tears welled in his eyes. "All it did was let me know exactly how beneath her I am."
Fred demanded, "You have to help us find Angel. You have to cast the locating spell."
"What!" A simultaneous chorus erupted from both men. Gunn could hear the vampire bitching about not wanting to have anything to do with 'the bleeding wanker', and at the same time letting his own argument be known to Fred. "Honey, what the hell are you talkin' about? You know why the spell didn't work; you can fix it now. Let's just dust him."
Spike interrupted, "Who the hell are you two anyway? What do you have to do with the Poof?"
"Oh, I'm Fred, Winifred, really, but everyone calls me Fred. This is Charles Gunn, we're dating. We both work for Angel Investigations and hey we're out to find the boss."
"And if we happen to dust a few vamps along the way, all the better," Gunn added.
"Charles," Her eyes were glazed, but her voice was firm. "He's got a soul, so we're not just going to dust him. Sounds like he worked to get it. We should at least let him have a chance of redeeming himself like Angel's doing. But he has to do the spell. The spell is going to find the nearest souled vampire. It's going to find him," Fred pointed at Spike, who was looking on in disbelief. "... on the other side of the earth because the spell thinks anything in the air is closer than the bottom of the ocean. That's what Wesley's spell book said. We don't have the ability to customize the spell anymore to look for Angel. But if Spike does it, he'll be at the eye of the storm; the spell won't see him.
Gunn was about to interrupt when Spike did it for him. "No! Look, love, like to help and all that but I've got no desire to see the Poof. I'm not doing any magic for you."
Fred turned to Gunn and very calmly said, "Then stake him."
Working for the upper echelons of an evil law firm did have its advantages. For instance, when one arrived at lunchtime with a VP, no one questioned when your starting time should be. Once everyone figured out that arriving with the VP was just part of your life, the jealous co-workers took one of two attitudes. The sycophants wanted to be your friends and the really jealous ones wanted to know why you were being punished in a cubicle just like them. Either way, Wesley figured that he was never going to accomplish anything at his desk in Ancient Symbols & Icons. Since he had intended to spend all of his time there anyway, Wesley had taken it upon himself to move into the filing room.
With the exception of a coffee mug that Files and Records didn't mind storing at her desk, all of Wesley's personal possessions, such as they were, traveled in his brief case. The two of them had developed quite the working relationship. Occupying a small table in the back of the room, Wesley made F&Rs life as easy as possible. He neatly stacked the files he used in his research on the end of the table. Every twenty minutes, she would make a sweep and write down the names for her report. So as not to disturb his work, she would not record the files he was actively working with.
This arrangement was allowing him to not only work on Lilah's assignments, but to read the detailed abstracts of the files stored in the vault. Both he and Angel were convinced, that somewhere in those documents was the information on the coming apocalypse and Angel's roll in it. Actually obtaining the document was going to be another issue, but first he needed to determine which one it was.
Of course, the problem with putting a born researcher in a library this size was distractions. In order to keep F&R from seeing the abstracts, he had resorted to grabbing the nearest available file on occasion, thus his perusal of the illustrated information on nymphs. This morning, it had been the 1998 company newsletters. Surprisingly enough, there was an interesting fact in there. A picture of Lilah at the company picnic said that she was from a small town in Northern California called Stuartsville, population 600.
That's where the distractions came in. It wasn't the five minutes spent in the wrong file; it was the curiosity that lead him to looking up the history of Stuartsville. How predictable that there would be a record of supernatural occurrences in Stuartsville, population 600. How infuriating that the event had been 'no big deal' by Wolfram & Hart standards, and now Wesley was forced to spend more of his time cross-referencing.
"Sod it! The least you could do if you've got combustible guests is to close the bloody curtains! Spike, draped in a filthy tarp from the back of Gunn's truck, charged across Cordelia's living room into to the sun-free safety of the hallway.
Gunn stepped in, looked at the curtains a moment and then sat down comfortably on the couch, propping his feet on the coffee table. Slowly turning his head, he glared at the vampire, daring him to say anything. Following the action in the room, Fred became immediately fed up and slammed the front door.
"All right, you two! We have a job to do. We don't have to like each other, but that doesn't mean we can't be civil. Charles, could you please close the curtains?" Fred looked pointedly at her boyfriend, who just as pointedly avoided her gaze. Sighing in frustration, Fred took a step towards the couch when the curtains closed by themselves.
"Thank you, Dennis." Spike was looking wary and confused at the window. "Spike, I'd like to introduce you to Dennis. Dennis is the ghost who normally shares this apartment with Cordelia."
Gunn looked towards the ceiling and continued the introduction. "Yeah, Dennis, this is Spike a worthless bloodsucker relative of Angel's whom I'm sure Cordelia wouldn't appreciate in her apartment, seeing as how he tried to kill her more than once."
A baseball bat floated threateningly at Spike. "Hey! I never personally terrorized the cheerleader. She just happened to be hanging out with the people I was threatening." Dropping the tarp, Spike held his head in frustration, leaned against a wall and slid to the floor in defeat. "What's the point? I'd have happily menaced her in the old days. The fact that I can't and don't want to is sodding insignificant in the face of the blood on my hands."
Gunn rolled his eyes. Fred, now angry with him, whipped her jacket at his chest. The stunned hurt look she received let her know that her message got through. Stepping past the baseball bat, which still hovered within striking distance of the vampire, Fred spoke gently to Spike.
"Look, changing is hard, lots of things to get used to. At least you're moving into a better place. It's not like you've been sucked into a portal to a hell dimension. Unfortunately," she glared at Gunn, "You'll have to work to convince some closed minded people, that you want to change. But hey, the universe is already accepting your new status. You were able to walk in here uninvited."
Frowning, Gunn interjected, "I'm not saying I'm agreeing about his reform, baby, but the whole invite thing doesn't work that way. Angel still needs invites to get into places."
Surprisingly, Spike agreed. "He's right, you know. I got in here cos I was invited by someone living here, or the owner's not human, or she's dead." A deafening silence filled the room. Looking up, Spike must have realized the implications. "Hey, sorry. I mean, you do know where she is? Maybe the ghostie invited me in." The bat indicated a negative reply.
Fred felt herself becoming cold and still. Suddenly a warm pair of strong arms were around her. Gunn spoke into her ear. "Hey it's cool, Fred. Wes told us he was talking to Cordy last night. She's alive. She's living on a higher plane and she's half demon. How do the rules work for half-demons?"
"If she's got a soul, same as human; I need an invite. Must be that she considers herself moved on, this place isn't home." The bat fell to the floor.
Gunn let go of Fred and started heading for Spike. "Do you know how to do anything but hurt people?"
Standing up, Spike looked defiant, "What the hell do you think I've been trying to tell you? Should've staked me in the warehouse." Spike's head snapped back as Gunn landed a right cross. Wiping a trickle of blood off his mouth, Spike returned the gesture. As Gunn staggered back a few steps, Spike doubled over and clutched his head in pain.
"Bleeding worth it!" Spike gasped out between groans.
"NO!" Fred jumped in front of Gunn trying to hold him back. Meanwhile, Spike was wrestling with the baseball bat. Despite Fred and Dennis' efforts, the combatants were coming closer together. "Dennis! Switch!"
Dashing across the room, Fred grabbed the baseball bat in mid-air and started menacing Spike until he was pinned against the wall for fear of touching her. Gunn was struggling against unseen hands on the other side of the room.
Angry curses and insults were flying until Fred shouted, "SHUT-UP!"
Pausing at the commanding tone in Fred's voice, the room filled with the sound of Gunn's heavy breathing. When some time had passed, Fred spoke calmly again.
"Like I was saying earlier, we have a job to do. Tonight, we are going to find Angel." Spike snorted, and Fred hit him in the arm with the bat.
"Oww! Defenseless vampire here!"
"What part of *Shut Up* didn't you understand?" Fred spun around and glared at Gunn who immediately stopped snickering.
"We're going to find Angel. Spike is going to do the spell because a) it's the only way it's going to work and b) because I'm still dizzy from trying it today..." Fred wavered in place and started to collapse. Spike jumped beneath her and broke the fall as Fred collapsed.
"Fred!" Gunn charged across the room, released from Dennis' hold. Spike allowed Gunn to ease her upper body into his lap and took the glass of water that floated in from the kitchen. Fred's eyes fluttered open.
"Damn, I guess I'm not so intimidating from down here." The men exchanged guilty looks. Gunn quietly held her while Spike spoke,
"I'll do the spell, and help you find the bleedin' Poof. I don't want to see you get hurt."
Still wary, but a little surprised, Gunn spoke, "I won't hurt him unless he does somethin'."
Looking from one to the other, Fred simply said, "Good."
"Good work at the party last night." Linwood closed the file folder in front of him. Lilah and Gavin exchanged insincere smiles. Opening up the next folder in front of him, Linwood continued, "Let's move on to the real work. So, can someone tell me why the dozens of magicians, witches, psychics and shamans we employ haven't found Angel yet?" Linwood had fallen seamlessly into a foul mood and was willing to share it with the other two people in the room.
Lilah took the lead. "Sir, the ones who aren't trying to trump up excuses about cosmic rays are admitting that location spells have some severe limitations."
"What the hell does that mean? What makes the limitations go away?"
"It's got to do with proximity and barriers, natural or magical. Since we've gone to the effort of acquiring personal objects and customizing the spells, we know we're not being led on a wild goose chase after some other vampire or dead person. Our spells have always worked well in the past. Angel's either way outside that range, or he's behind some kind of protective barrier. I've got two of the more honest shamans trying to figure out how to break through whatever's in our way.
"Is that before or after they find their way out of a paper bag?" Gavin piped up, mildly amused.
"So what have your *conventional* methods determined, Gavin?" Lilah didn't bother to hide her sarcasm.
"Glad you asked." Gavin stood up, pressing a button on the conference table. While adjusting his suit jacket, he moved toward the screen in the front of the room. Images of Connor and Holtz's vampire hunters appeared in a montage. "We have the Hyperion back under surveillance. As soon as we had word that the anagogic demon had left for Las Vegas, we turned the camera's back on."
"On the night Angel disappeared, we know he was meeting the Seer at Point Dume. Neither of them has been seen since that night. They didn't take their cars. If they flew out of town, they did so with false ID."
Lilah looked up at Gavin, innocently. "Don't you keep up on current events, Gavin? The Seer has moved onto a higher plane and is in the process of becoming a good-guy demon."
Linwood frowned at another open file. "Yes, I saw your report this morning, Lilah. So, Wesley managed to summon her? Talented boy."
"In more ways than one, sir. Unfortunately, her half-demon status makes the magic for summoning her a bit unwieldy. I'm not sure how much use she would be anyway. The important part is that Angel, wherever he is, is now officially cut-off from the PTB. Oh, I guess the magic did work for solving part of our problem, sorry to have misled you, Gavin. What do you have on Angel?"
Gavin's expression was murderous. "We're tracking their credit cards and we'll know the minute they make a move."
"Right, and the two-hundred fifty year old vampire never lets a day go by without using a credit card," Lilah commented dryly.
Linwood made a dramatic sigh, "Are you getting anything useful out of the watching the kid, Parks?"
"We're learning quite a bit about his super human strengths and abilities. In addition to that, we know where he is and where he plans to be. Justine," Gavin pressed a button and a still shot of Justine appeared on the screen. "She appears to be the primary motivating force and planner. Not really a people person." The screen showed Justine egging on a vampire who was in the process of beating up one of the minions.
Gavin continued. "Stephen appears to be taking a more active role in training the group to fight. He seems to have quite the military mind."
"Undoubtedly from Holtz," Lilah said thoughtfully.
"Undoubtedly. But, despite his obvious talent, they're losing people everyday. Attrition from vampires or just can't take the heat. We've made an effort to contact him, but it appears that Holtz said some unflattering things about the firm, and Lilah in specific."
"How flattering is that? My reputation has spread across the worst of all hell dimensions."
Gavin switching to a shot of Connor sitting on a bed and staring at a photograph. "When we enlarge this still..." The picture complied with a touch of a button. "We see the boy misses the only father he ever really knew." Gavin pushed another button and the picture began to move at normal speed. As Lilah continued to watch, she could see the sadness in the boy's face as he spoke to the picture.
Linwood stood up and began to pace impatiently, "In other words, we've got tons of confirmation about everything we already knew and know nothing about where a key player in the coming apocalypse is."
Gavin jumped in. "Well sir, some of the conversations we've recorded between Connor and Justine seem to indicate that they might know something about Angel's whereabouts."
"And you were saving that information because?" Linwood sneered.
"We were just waiting for some more substantial information; right now, it's only conjecture."
"What's he saying to the picture?" Both Linwood and Gavin turned to Lilah, wondering what she was talking about.
"What?" asked Gavin.
"What's the kid telling Holtz? What things is he holding inside that he doesn't feel like he can tell the human beings in the hotel?"
Gavin shook his head, "When we've monitored Stephen talking to himself, he's basically been complaining about how he doesn't understand this dimension. I think we ran into sound problems with this piece." Gavin rewound the tape and restarted it with sound.
"Father, I know it is probably blasphemy to speak to a graven image, but I cannot help myself. I am all alone in this strange world. Justine tries to help me, but I do not trust her father. She is weak and though it is not fitting for me to judge her, it would seem to me that she is inclined towards alcohol other acts of wantonness."
"See," Gavin interjected, "whining on top of his moral high horse."
Connor continued to speak to the picture. "I have tried to keep faithful to all you taught me, to the morals and obligations to stand against the dark forces. The pictures you painted in my mind of the pain and suffering that your family suffered at the hands of Angelus has not been forgotten. It only saddens me that I must add your face to those victims..." The sound stopped.
Lilah sat up, "Where's the rest of the sound? I think that kid was just going to tell us that Angel killed Holtz."
Gavin sighed dramatically like he was repeating basic laws of physics to a slow child. "Holtz is trapped in the Quortoth and nothing gets out."
Linwood's tone was more thoughtful. "The kid got out; maybe he brought company."
"Gavin, I want a copy of this," Lilah demanded.
Gavin sat down and looked condescendingly across the table. "Lilah, magic isn't going to restore the sound."
Turning, Lilah addressed Linwood. "No, but a lip-reader should be able to tell me what the kid was saying."
Linwood looked between them. "Gavin, give her what she wants. Our superiors are concerned about this issue. I've assured them that you two have the situation well in hand. That way, there won't be any doubt where the praise-"
"-or the blame-" filled in Lilah.
"-goes," finished Linwood. "It's good to see we all understand each other." He left Lilah and Gavin glaring at each other.
"It's okay, you know. You can lower the ax. No one here needs any more convincing that you’re a big dog." Gunn gave Spike a sidelong glance and adjusted his grip on the weapon.
"You're right, I should be completely relaxed on this boatload of demons. Heck, why don't I just ask one of them to hold it for me." Sarcasm was beginning to give way to anger.
"Charles, please." Fred took a beefy bicep between her much smaller hands and soothed the large man. Listening to the two of them squabble was becoming exhausting. Why couldn't they focus on the importance of the mission?
Spike wasn't ready to give up yet. "They're Arkamantus demons, couldn't give a rat's arse about harming humans and since you didn't give them all the dosh up front, they've got no call to be tossing us overboard. Although, Fred, pet, if one of them asks about a date, I'd steer clear. Sure bet what the babies would eventually look like." Fred looked nervously at the first mate, who had a distinctly fishy appearance.
Squinting into the spray across the bow, Spike turned his head slightly to the right. Pointing to what Fred saw as an occasional glimmer, Spike listened as the sailor shouted a course adjustment to the bridge. Lowering his arm, Spike continued to look straight ahead.
“Bugger. Peaches couldn’t have made it convenient and been dumped in shallow water now, could he?”
Fred looked out over the water. “It’s not like it was his idea. Can you imagine how horrible it must have been for him? His own son locking him in a box and tossing him into the ocean.” She thought about the horrible feeling of being sucked into isolation away from friends and family. Poor Angel and not so poor Cordelia. How could she have chosen to go away, to leave them?
Gunn was glaring daggers into Spike's back. “I don’t know. Is it worse than family coming back and stabbing you with red hot pokers?” Spike’s spine visibly stiffened, but otherwise, he remained perfectly motionless. The three of them sat in silence for the next twenty minutes with Spike occasionally pointing out a course correction and the crew relaying the commands.
Fred used the time to consider their situation. She really wanted to be doing what Spike was doing now. She wanted, almost needed, to be rescuing Angel. Angel had saved her, believed in her. There was no way she could let him down. Besides, if she found Angel and Angel was okay then there was hope. Cordy would be next. They could reach her, talk to her, bring her back and Wesley too. With all of them trying to convince him, he'd give up this pointless mission and come home. After all, the important thing was to be together. They could face anything as a group. They didn't need anything from Wolfram & Hart.
The Doc Martins made a resounding thump on the deck as Spike stood up. “Okay mates, time to slow it down. We’re almost on top of it.“ Fred and Gunn stood, each taking a look at the black surface of the water hoping for something they knew they couldn’t see. “All right! This is it. What do we do next? Fred?”
Fred laid a silk cloth on the deck and arranged the same spell ingredients they had used previously. Several crewmembers, the scalier ones, dived over the side and bobbed up and down on the waves. The more human members of the crew swung a crane into place and began lowering several steel cables.
The first mate, who was somewhere between human and scaly, stepped up and awaited instructions. Fred looked up from her preparations.
“I’ll cast the spell on the water and a glowing ball will descend to the target. If the divers stick a hand…” Fred looked at the divers and cleared her throat. “Or other appropriate appendage into the circle, they’ll be able to see the spell too. The only thing I’m not sure about is how to control the descent – how fast to let it down.“
The first mate slapped the button on a walkie-talkie attached to his jacket. A series of guttural noises and clicks issued from his throat. The divers, lazily floating next to the boat, adjusted their own communication devices and responded in kind. “Not a problem, two-way communication established," the mate confirmed.
“Fred,” Gunn crossed the deck and took her by the arm away from the crowd. “I thought we were going to let Spike do this? You’re still hurting from yesterday and this morning.”
Spike joined them and added his concern. "Yeah, love, the bruiser's right. You don't need to be expending this kind of energy. Besides, me in the eye-of-the-storm and all that."
“Charles, Spike, I have to do this. First off, the spell won't find Spike, because it will be searching in the water. Second, Angel, well, it was Angel that rescued me in Pylea. Not that you all didn’t rescue me, I needed a lot of rescuing, but this is important to me. Angel risked a lot when he could have let me be beheaded, and I like my head attached where it is. I need to do this. We need to get Angel back and then things will be all right again."
Looking around, trying to find an argument, Gunn found that he didn’t have one. “Okay.”
Fred performed the now familiar spell with the addition of a bowl of ocean water and two slimy looking hand things. She and the divers watched a green ball of light appear in the bowl, which Fred poured into the waves. Waving to the divers, she watched as it plunged into the deep.
The first mate was in constant communication. Without breaking his non-human speech, he gestured at Fred to speed up or slow down the spell. Fifteen minutes later, there was more excited chatter over the walkie-talkie. The first mate looked confused and turned to his clients. “You want us to retrieve one pissed off looking vampire in a box?”
Both men grabbed Fred as she started to collapse. “Yep,” said Spike, “You’d think he’d be hard to lose, but we’re talented.”
"Hi, is Wesley here?" Lilah stopped in front of Files & Records' desk.
"Wesley is located in 'Regions, California'."
Glancing around in momentary confusion, Lilah commented, "Well, that's good. He was fairly energetic this morning. I was kinda hoping he wouldn't jog off to Nevada or Mexico. Where in California did you say he was?"
Files and Records pointed past the rows of cabinets devoted to Angel. "Down this aisle, first right, first right again and the second row of bookshelves from the wall. Geographic information, local dimension, North American Continent, United States, California."
"Ah," Lilah said. "Thanks." She started moving down the aisle when Files & Records stopped her.
"Miss Morgan. I was cross referencing, and I was hoping you might confirm a fact or two."
"Your eyes spin around because you know so much and you want me to confirm some facts? Sure, go ahead." Lilah smiled at the woman.
"Your first name, Lilah, is derived from 'Delilah', the biblical name associated with a Philistine whore who figuratively emasculated a wise man in the symbolic act of cutting his hair?" Expressionlessly, Files & Records awaited the answer to her question.
Lilah took a breath to give a scathing reply and then remembered to whom she was speaking. "My mom was a big Old Testament fan, so yeah, my name is derived from Delilah. I can also see where you might think that I was out to emasculate someone." Leaning in, Lilah whispered to F&Rs. "We had sex so many times last night that I can barely walk. I got the tough job. It would have been so much easier to get chocolate." Turning on her heel, Lilah headed into the stacks.
Following the directions, she found Wesley sitting in a chair in the bookshelves. In his lap was a printout, annotated liberally in red ink. The shelves around him sported several open books and a couple of small stacks of files. The man himself had shed his jacket and was fast asleep. Despite the clicking of her heels, Lilah's arrival went unnoticed.
She liked what she saw. She liked it too much. There was no way Lilah should have let him spend the night. There was no way, they should have wiled away the whole morning making love. Try as she might, her mind wouldn't pick a more crude word for what they had been doing.
Wesley was making her soft and vulnerable. Damn! How could she be letting this happen? Was he worth it - was *anyone* worth it? Files & Records had it all wrong. She was Samson in this little play. He was the beautiful seducer worming his way into her confidence, learning the ropes so he could turn around and cut off her strength.
Smiling and shaking her head, Lilah realized what a complete contradiction this was to her attitude the previous night. Then, he was going to be her loyal little slave because he didn't know how to betray. It could still be that way, but not while her resistance was down. Lilah needed some distance. Leaning forward, she started kissing Wesley's parted lips. Books and papers slid to the floor as he shifted, taking her face in his hands and kissing back. Lilah thought that this was hardly the way to start brutally putting some separation between the two of them, but apparently it just wasn't a day to be mean.
Breaking the kiss, Lilah stood up. "So sleepy head, spell finally wore off?"
Straightening his notes, Wesley nodded through a yawn. "I don't suppose this will look good on my evaluation?"
"I think I can live with it. I was just coming down to say I'll be out of town for the next couple of days. Business." He looked disappointed and then tried to cover it up. Damn, his eyes were irresistible when they were sad. Made you want to hurt him just to see them or kiss away the bad. Damn, Lilah needed some space now.
"Yes, business. It's good timing. Here, I found this picture of the amulet." Lilah wondered what amulet as she watched his eyes. Taking the picture from him, she realized Wesley was talking about the demon ascension prophecy. "I found four pictures and none of them matched, that one in your hand is probably the most accurate. But, I did find some leads for more information. I'll have to travel. So, business, good timing."
Lilah realized that he had been staring at her legs when he suddenly started compulsively shuffling papers. Maybe she wasn't the only one who wanted some distance.
"Right," she nodded. "Business. I'll be leaving tomorrow morning."
"Yes, me too. I'll, ah, need some sleep first. Maybe after some dinner?" He was watching her with a questioning look.
"Dinner would be good." Did she just say that? It was okay, because he was looking shocked that he had asked it. Okay, there was apparently no graceful way out of this despite their efforts.
Backing off, Lilah said, "We spent a lot of time together these last two days, maybe we should take the night and the weekend off, get dinner on our own." Thank god, he looked relieved too.
"Yes, maybe that is a good idea. I'm just going to clean up here and head home. You have your car now, so no worries."
Fred rushed over to the wet box and peered into the window, seeing Angel’s face. He looked like he was sleeping. Waves of pity washed through her as the demons began cutting open the welded joints.
“Look at him. It must have been terrible; all alone, the darkness, the pressure, being ripped from your home with nothing to hang onto.” The lid came off, and Fred started leaning forward. Jumping across the deck, Spike grabbed her arm.
“Hold on, love. I don’t think you want to do that.” Spike reeled back as Gunn nailed him with a left hook.
“Keep your filthy, undead hands off of her.”
Ignoring the men, Fred headed straight to the box. Why didn't they understand? Angel was back now and she could finally feel safe. While she heard the angry shouts, Fred knew that they had nothing to do with her. She needed to help Angel.
“Didn’t you hear the divers: sodding angry vamp!”
“Angel?” Fred found a cold and clammy hand wrapped around her throat dragging her towards yellow eyes and fangs. It couldn't be happening. Angel wouldn't hurt her. He'd snap to in a second, just like when he was the beast in Pylea. He'd let go and the world would stop turning gray. They were punching Angel and pulling her away. Didn't they understand? Angel needed her.
Collapsing on the deck, wrapped in Gunn's arms, Fred gasped for breath. Looking up, she could see Spike pushing back fingers from around his own throat.
“Bloody hell, get me that cooler we brought on board!” An ice chest slid across the deck. Tossing the lid away, Spike grabbed a jug of pig’s blood and began to feed Angel. Slowly the grip relaxed and Spike mouthed to Fred and Gunn, ‘Chains.’
Wesley woke amongst the satin sheets of his own bed, alone. How ironic that the two of them hadn't christened those sheets yet. Morning light was creeping in through the window, bringing the dawn of a new day that felt...lonely. Cursing to himself, Wesley threw back the covers and got out of bed. If Gunn could only see him now. Lilah was the enemy. How long had he gone without reciting that little prompt in his head?
What he needed was a good reminder. With a little looking in the filing room, he could undoubtedly uncover all the accolades of evil she had collected, and Wesley knew that it wouldn't be enough to let the message penetrate his brain. Lilah was becoming...necessary in his life. There had to be something personal out there, something he could use against her or at least as a rallying point in his own head. Frowning, Wesley thought about the facts he was able to garner about her past.
When Lilah was about seventeen or so, a demon rose in Stuartsville with the usual accompanying amounts of death and destruction. In the newsletters, Wesley found Lilah's pictures among the group shots of interns and summer high school candidates right after the 'earthquake'. She wouldn't talk about her parents. Mom, specifically was a very sore spot. Indeed, Angel had even passed on the information that Lilah's mother couldn't even recognize her anymore. There wasn't really enough evidence to draw conclusions, but there was something completely obvious that fit the facts. Lilah was probably responsible for the demon that ate her hometown.
Wesley hadn't lied to Lilah about having out of town business. Although, he suspected that she wouldn't approve of his plans to retrieve the amulet and then, oh dear, destroy it. She probably also wouldn't approve of his new plans to drop in and visit Mrs. Ruth Morgan.
~end Part 7~
Onto Part 8 ~ Coming Soon
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