Desperate Passages Series
Part 4 ~ "Secret Windows"
by Just Human
Notes, disclaimers and dedications in Part 1 ~ "Unclean"
Special thanks 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.
It didn't matter how much Wesley pulled at the sleeves and the hem, the suit just felt uncomfortable. Not since last year's breakup with Virginia had he really been forced to dress up, unless one counted the disastrous night at the ballet. A casual jacket and occasional tie were sufficient for his former position. Frankly, he would have been content never to wear a tie again, not to mention the fact that the collar was irritating his scar. The suit was a remnant of the wardrobe that he arrived in California with over three years ago.
Wesley pulled his robe off the hook on the back of the bathroom door, uncovering a full-length mirror. Noting that like so many things in his life, the mirror was smudged and dirty. Wesley wondered if he could tell what the others saw by studying his own reflection. The pants were loose and the jacket was tight, evidence of the muscle tone he had gained in the last two years actively training and fighting.
Undoubtedly his father would be frowning in disapproval, preferring him to have remained a studious bookworm and not dirty his hands by actually working. His mother would be scandalized by the length and unruliness of his hair. 'Scruffy mongrel' was how she had addressed him once when Wesley had come home from university with hair half this length. He gave a brief laugh; his hair didn't even touch his collar. What was visible just above the collar was the scar's rough edges. No doubt Mum wouldn't have approved of that either.
With the exception of the scar, the other changes please him, but the suit still bothered him. At first Wesley thought it was the old parental disapproval coming back about the less than perfect fit of his clothes, but then he realized it was what the clothes represented. Being a Watcher had been about living up to a code of honor that often didn't take into account the real world and certainly didn't give a fig about anyone's feelings. Wesley considered how those ideals would be terribly fitting at Wolfram & Hart. 'The clothes make the man' was an old adage he was determined not to live up to.
Gunn found out a long time ago that he had the tendency to nick himself while shaving if he concentrated too hard on following what he was doing in the mirror. Usually his mind wandered, while he moved through the routine with only half his attention on his reflection. Gunn wasn't sure it was a good day to let his mind drift. The same dream had happened again this morning.
When Fred called him on it the morning before, Gunn couldn't believe what she was suggesting about his feelings towards Wesley. However, the details were much clearer this morning. Gunn and a bunch of other guys, including Wes were playing football and basketball, the sports melding from one to the other in a way that made sense in the dream world. Everyone was having a good time, shooting, scoring and then he tackled Wesley. Rinsing off the razor, he stared into the running water trying to push the next part out of his mind.
Gunn refocused on his face in the mirror trying to concentrate on what the razor was doing, but it was no good. He could almost feel the hand on his cheek, the lips kissing his. Setting aside the sharp tool, he turned off the water and sat on the edge of the tub, unwilling to face the mirror anymore. When he had tackled Wesley in the dream, they were both fully clothed and suddenly they weren't. If you took a quick glance, you could have believed they were Greco-Roman wrestlers going at it. But the hands that Gunn remembered in the dream were much more intent on pleasuring then pinning.
The knock at the door made him jump. "Charles, are you almost ready? We should get going soon." Fred's voice, 'thank God,' he thought. Focusing on her smiling image in his head, he began to relax.
"Almost done, I just gotta finish shaving." Standing up, he purposely took up the razor and began finishing the difficult area around the chin. Gunn's mind strayed to kissing Fred and letting his fingers tangle in the wild sea of brown hair. The image became soft around the edges as the pleasant feelings started glided across his body.
Blood dribbled down his neck from the newly made nick, when he realized that the brown eyes in his fantasy had drifted to blue.
Lilah glanced down at the vase of fresh flowers in the ladies executive washroom. 'Wonder how much of my bonus money goes into that each year?' she thought bitterly. Turning back to the mirror, she silently cursed the lighting. Everywhere else in the building, there were harsh florescent lights, but the ladies executive bathroom had indirect soft lighting to create a soothing atmosphere. It played havoc on trying to touch up make-up. Impressions counted for a lot in her profession, so Lilah spared no expense in making sure she looked good.
Today's appointment didn't have a big fat checkbook, but he had other assets that were in high demand. There was the inside info on Angel Investigations, not that that was looking necessary at the moment. Angel, it appeared had gone missing with that sassy little bitch Cordelia. But, Angel was still part of the prophecy and Wesley's knowledge would come in handy eventually. In the meantime, he was still a guy that her firm would have paid top dollar for at any time. Sure they had translators and magic users stashed in every corner but most of them were automatons, doing exactly what they were told. Wesley didn't just turn the words into English, he put them in context and knew how to get to the next step.
Lilah was looking forward to sharing that little tidbit about Angel at a vulnerable moment. Fixing an errant strand of hair, Lilah contemplated what Wesley's reaction would be - jubilation, distress, surprise, not that it mattered much. Wiping that indifferent condescending look from his face was what it was all about. Wesley didn't react to the obvious buttons anymore. No, if she wanted a reaction then Lilah needed to dig under his skin to find the hidden ones. So far she'd only been able to drag out derision and violence, but that was okay. Having become immune to everyday emotions a long time ago, Lilah thought it was probably a little unhealthy how easily she got off on the little death threats and the occasional bruise, and yet, it didn't bother her at all. If nothing else, there was a good fuck to be had at the end of their encounters, and what evil woman would pass that up?
While Lilah painted on another layer of lipstick, she considered what a perfect little pawn Wesley was. In his anger, all that beautiful frustration, Wesley had convinced himself that he was something more, that he was a forced to be reckoned with. Rubbing a smudge of red off her tooth, she resisted the urge to laugh. She could play along with Wesley's overconfidence, polish up his ego, until he let all that buried talent out to her advantage. In the end, she'd have him under her thumb begging for release, or she'd break the goodness out of him and really make him into someone to be feared. Double-checking her appearance in the large mirror, she thought, 'Behind, and often beneath, every great man there is a woman.' It made the trip to the top much easier with a shield in front of you.
Sneaking into the hotel from the parking garage had been a no-brainer. The Hyperion had to be the worst defensive position in the entire universe, a fact which Fred and Gunn were taking advantage of. Quietly working their way up the back stairs, the pair arrived unnoticed on the roof and began searching for Wolfram & Hart's broadcast equipment.
A little while later, Fred gestured for Gunn to join her. "Here we go." Fred knelt next to a very new looking steel box, which was pushed up against the wall of the main pipe chase.
"This is it?" Gunn looked somewhat dubiously at the three-foot cube.
"Well, this and the wire heading to that little broadcast dish. Here, help me get this thing open." Grunt work, Gunn knew he could manage that. Pulling the heavy box back from the wall revealed a gaping hole with about ten thick coax cables running down along the pipes.
"Damn, each one of those is for a camera?"
"Actually, more like five for each line." Fred took a screwdriver and began disassembling the back panel.
"Fifty cameras? They got fifty cameras in there?" Gunn stood back, looking at the pile of wires, and thought that his ax would be a good solution to all of this.
"Well, up to fifty cameras. They probably have half-a-dozen in the lobby and the office to cover every angle, one or two in each of the occupied rooms. Most of these are probably just hooked up to one camera. You know, easier to run a new line than an extension from an existing line."
"The occupied rooms - that means those bastards at Wolfram & Hart have been watching you in your bedroom?" Gunn's tone was becoming a little belligerent. Fred thought his protectiveness was kinda cute.
"Yeah, I guess so."
"Why didn't we go looking for this stuff last month? How come you're not upset about them watching you?"
Reaching out a hand, she stroked his denim-clad calf. "Hey, calm down. I was a cow for five years remember? A little breach of privacy just doesn't have the same impact now. Besides, we got a little overconfident in Lorne's ability to hear the cameras. Heck, they may not even be watching right now, afraid we would know about it."
Gunn looked around for a second and then visibly calmed, Fred's soothing done having worked its magic. He smiled down at her. "Okay baby, you win. I won't go storming off to rip the heads off the peeping tom lawyers."
Fred was smiling back and then averted her eyes a little as she flushed red. "Seems to me that it's only fair that my boyfriend have the same information that the evil lawyers do. So, maybe tonight you won't sleep on the couch." The invitation was a little bold for Fred and she bit both lips as the rose tint on her face turned bright red.
Gunn squatted down and stroked her cheek. "Sweetie, I..." He looked away trying to push the dream image out of his head. Damn-it this was real life that he was letting pass by. The Wesley thing had to be stress, but before that had even been a factor, he realized, that he had been holding back. Fred was something special. Turning back and focusing on her very brown eyes, Gunn told her what was on his mind. "Fred, I've led a pretty hard life. I've hooked up with women in some pretty rough circumstances, a lot rougher than Cordelia's queen sized bed. But you know, I really did want things to be a little special our first time." Now he was biting his lip and trying not to look embarrassed.
"You know, it's not like I haven't done this before. I think *us* just being with each other is special enough. And you know, with everyone disappearing, I wonder sometimes if we'll make it through all this-"
Gunn reached out and gently grabbed her shoulders. "Baby, we are getting through this." Her smile returned. Gunn took a deep breath and the idea that this was real life crossed his mind again. "You know, one of the things Cordelia told me was that we have to live for today because we don't know about tomorrow. Tonight, yeah, maybe we could-"
Both of Fred's arms locked around his neck, stealing his words by covering his mouth with hers. Gunn was a practical man who had just decided to live in the present. He didn't question the warm and willing body attached to his. After a few minutes of strict attention to each other, they broke apart.
Fred cleared her throat. "Sorry, I got a little carried away. We're on a mission in enemy territory. We should get back to work."
Gunn pushed down thoughts of Wesley telling him what he could and could not do on the job and kissed Fred's nose. "Remember, we're going to have it all. You get carried away anytime you want. But the faster we finish this, the faster we're back at Cordy's."
"Right on time, Wesley," Lilah reached out and shook his hand, holding on to it a fraction too long. "Come in and have a seat. We'll go over the contract proposals." Lilah was smiling from ear to ear as she took a blue folder from her secretary.
'Said the spider to the fly,' thought Wesley. Stepping into Lilah's office and sitting in front of her desk, he felt his stomach do a flip-flop. Lilah tossed the folder in front of him as she sat in her chair and leaned back smiling at him. "You don't have to read those if you don't want to. Just feel free to sign and we'll go for an early lunch."
Sitting back, Wesley folded his arms across his chest and glared at her. "Really, not a single clause involving murder, mayhem or perpetual damnation?"
"Oh, Wesley." Her voice was overly innocent and in opposition to the way her eyes raked him over like he was a particularly tasty piece of chocolate. "Would I do anything to make you uncomfortable? Besides, I would've thought you were used to those things by now. The first page has a description of the different levels of contract projects and the relative pay scales."
Glancing up from the folder, Wesley commented, "I'm not seeing the specifics of the contractor obligations for these levels.'
"We'll get to the fine print a little later. Once you've gotten a feel for that info, I'd like to take you on a little tour and show you some of the facilities and our resources." Taking in the frown on Wesley's face, Lilah tutted, "You know, you're no fun when you're all business. No wonder you're friends aren't begging to put you back on the *pay*roll." She watched in smug satisfaction as he almost tossed the folder back at her.
Deciding to give a little, Lilah walked around the desk and leaned very close to Wesley on the pretense of finding the appropriate papers. "The obligations are on the project specific pages, since they do vary. Don't waste too much time reading them; we don't want to be late for lunch." Leaning in even closer so that her lips brushed his right ear, Lilah confessed in breathy tones, "I'm very hungry." Wesley suppressed a slight shiver when she nipped his earlobe in emphasis.
Fred pushed the hair out of her eyes as she concentrated on configuring the last connection on the computer. Stabbing the enter key, she sat back on the sofa and watched the dial-up process begin. Her musings were interrupted by a burning sensation on her right arm. At first she tried to yank it back, but then realized it was Gunn applying some antiseptic to the four-inch scrape along her forearm.
"Come on, Fred. Sit still a minute so I can clean this up."
"Oh, it's nothin'. It can wait." Fred waved her other hand in a dismissive motion.
"Oh, really? Well then I guess you're volunteering to explain the blood on the cushions to Cordelia. This cut's not that little, and we can wait five minutes more to figure out if everything was hooked up right." Gunn shook his head at the computer screen and then at Fred's arm. The job was supposed to be simpler than it had turned out. Adjusting the connections in the roof top box and securing and hiding the laptop had all gone smoothly. Gunn had thought they were done, when Fred let him know that they were going to have to run a cable to the telephone switchboard in the basement.
"Tell me again, why you had to crawl through that pipe that was smaller than your body, getting all scraped up in the process?"
"Because there were a dozen people in the basement, training with sharp weapons; you didn't know how to hook up the phone line, and I was the only one small enough to fit."
"Based on the amount of flesh you left behind on the tunnel walls, I'd say you didn't fit. What I meant to ask was why didn't you just use Wolfram and Hart's broadcast dish."
"Mostly money. We don't have, and can't afford, to go get the set-up we'd need to intercept and decode the transmission. Besides, I arranged everything so that we could see what was going with Connor, and I can disrupt the other signal anytime we want. Wolfram & Hart will assume that it's sunspots or loose connections. If we'd turned it off completely, they'd probably sneak in and undo everything we put together. Our connection will be slower because I had to use the phone lines, but it should work."
"I hope it does, because we're not going back. It scared the hell out of me when they heard you and started going towards the room you were in. Thank god they just thought it was mice."
Fred pulled a handful of messy hair out of her face. "Well, they weren't far off, if you look at the rat's nest my hair has become. I'm taking a shower, once I know the connection is running." As if on cue, the computer beeped and began connecting to the remote cameras. Fred tried a few channels, and in no time they were looking at the lobby of the Hyperion. Adjusting the volume of the speakers, they heard one of men order takeout.
Gunn pulled her back into his arms. Fred, you did it!"
"Nope, we did it. I'd have never been brave enough to go in there without you." She smiled up into the warm brown eyes and kissed Gunn gently. "Tell you what, you saw how I changed cameras right?" Gunn nodded and kissed her lower lip. "You test each one and write down what rooms they're in, while I go and stop smelling like the basement."
Pausing on her way to the bathroom, Fred turned back to Gunn. "Charles, you know we have something to tell now. Do you want me to make the call?"
Gunn snorted and looked away for a second. Yeah, they needed to call Wesley, but he was still pissed about this whole conspiracy and just a little upset about the dreams. "Fred, go ahead, take a bath and relax. I'll take care of leaving Wesley a message."
They had seen the coffee station, the cafeteria, and the employee gym complete with weapons training room. Now they were exiting a small firing range in one part of the basement and walking to the other end. Wesley wondered why the hell they were doing this. It wasn't like the company subsidized lunch program was going to turn his head. Although, Wesley had been thinking about the lunch she promised him. Based on Lilah's treatment of his ear, Wesley was betting that they weren't eating in the cafeteria today.
Lilah pause outside a plain gray door marked 'Files and Records'. "This is the last part of our tour. I can see that the rest of the facility hasn't thrilled you much; let's hope this isn't another disappointment."
There was something about the way she said it that made Wesley think that there might actually be something worth looking at in here. The cold cement walls, endless rows of file cabinets and stacks of white boxes were certainly not remarkable. Lilah addressed the attractive young woman behind the desk. "Hi, Lilah Morgan, we met a few weeks ago."
"Yes, Ms. Morgan, I remember you. I will require your code before I can process any records for you."
"That's all right, we're on a recruiting tour. Mr. Wyndam-Pryce is considering accepting a job offer, probably a contracting job to start with." Lilah looked back and quirked an eyebrow at Wesley before continuing. "Can you give us an overview of the information stored in this room?"
"Certainly, I'm Files and Records; it's my job. The room houses the cumulative records of the casefiles of Wolfram & Hart along with associated research files and general reference texts."
Wesley and Lilah had been looking at each other throughout the tiny dissertation. Again, Wesley raised a bored eyebrow at Lilah. Trying not to look embarrassed, Lilah frowned and turned back to the record keeper. "Is that it? That's the description?"
The young woman blinked and replied. "We also store files related to the business affairs of the corporation including purchase orders, accounting files and human resources records."
"My code is 0112773, and I take responsibility for any information disseminated to Mr.Wyndam-Pryce through the use of that code." Lilah paused while the librarian confirmed the code and acknowledge it by smiling back up. "So, give us that overview." Lilah's smug gaze landed on Wesley again.
"Files and records contain all the mundane transactions of the legal cases handled by Wolfram and Hart as well as information pertaining to the running of the corporation. However, the true value of this department as a resource revolves around the sheer volume of mystical, demonic and alternate dimension data. Exceeding the individual libraries of other well-established occult organizations, Files and Records is the largest source of mystical data in this dimension. In addition to this file, which you see, this department also oversees the text volumes in the employee library and the more fragile, valuable or dangerous artifacts in the vault. Only the Vatican has a larger collection of mystical artifacts."
The young woman paused unnaturally, drawing both Lilah and Wesley's attention. Repressing a mild shudder, Wesley was immediately fascinated by the way the record keeper's eyes spun as she was obviously accessing more information before she continued. "With the continued corporate purchasing efforts such as the recent acquisition of the Nyasian scrolls by Ms. Morgan, it is expected that by year's end, the artifact collection will match and surpass the Vatican." She ended the description by smiling widely at her visitors and saying, "Files and Records, it's my job."
In an effort to look unimpressed, which Wesley knew he was failing at, he asked Lilah, "Acquisition of the Nyasian scrolls?"
Lilah showed all her teeth in a ferocious grin and licked her lips. "You really shouldn't have left precious objects lying around the hotel lobby - never know who might walk in.
Wesley nodded and sat on the edge of the desk, directing his question to the record keeper. "So, tell me. How much information do you have on say Polgara demons?" The record keeper's eyes spun and she began to rattle off the names of half-a-dozen demon texts with pertinent information. Wesley stopped her before she could complete the list of the dozens of volumes with vague references. Smiling at Wesley, Lilah crossed her arms, leaned back against a file cabinet, and waited for him to concede the point.
"What about the vampire known as Angel?"
"The Angel casefile is contained primarily in 35 file cabinets and is fully indexed and cross-referenced. The file is divided into four major categories corresponding to his human life, initial vampiric existence, referred to as the Angelus years, the re-souled years up until he accepted the position of champion with the Powers that Be in Manhattan, 1996, when the current cycle began known as the champion or prophetic stage. The file contains interviews and commentaries through the centuries with associates, victims, witnesses, families of victims and other knowledgeable sources." As if for emphasis, she reached under her desk and illuminated the rows of filing cabinets. "Could you make your question more specific?"
Visibly paling, Wesley simply said, "No, that won't be necessary." Lilah raised both eyebrows, wondering if he was done. Considering that he should quit while he was behind, Wesley decided to try one more question. "You have personnel records and contracts?"
"Yes," the record keeper replied disinterestedly.
"So, you are aware of proposals submitted to me for potential employment?"
Now Wesley grinned at Lilah as she became more wary. "Ignoring the possibility that many of the proposals may require certain acts that in most religious systems will lead to damnation, which proposals have clauses with consequences of death, soul loss, or damnation as part of the terms and conditions?"
Her eyes spun. "Of the thirteen proposed contracts, numbers two, three, and six through thirteen contain some or all of said consequences under failure to perform. Proposals eleven and twelve have soul loss as part of the conditions to complete the contract." While the woman spoke, Wesley pulled out a pad from his inside pocket and made notes.
"Well," Lilah commented sarcastically, "Anything else you'd like to know? What about my shoe size?"
"Eight," the other woman replied without looking, catching both Wesley and Lilah off-guard.
"One more," replied Wesley, as he turned to address Files and Records again. "Assuming that you're still at least partially human and therefore eat, do you like chocolate?"
Lilah screwed up her face and interrupted, "What? Are you flirting with her?"
"Not at all. But I suspect the young lady and I will become good friends once I start working here." Lilah's frown turned upside down.
Files and Records answered, "Dark, bittersweet, high quality, Swiss."
The towel wrapped around Fred's hair created a tall cream-colored turban that threatened to topple over when she bent down to look in the cabinet beneath the bathroom sink. Not surprisingly she found a small bag of cosmetics, probably a travel kit. Cordelia had a dressing table in her bedroom overflowing with eye shadow and lipstick, but Fred wanted a little privacy.
Looking into the mirror, Fred took in the dark circles beneath her eyes. With her nosed pushed close to the glass, she could see the beginning of tiny frown lines. They weren't anything that other people would notice, but to her they were scars of her harsh existence in Pylea. There were other scars as she glanced down at her damp skin. Most of them were small and could be mistaken for a badly healed childhood injuries. Only Fred really knew that some of them were caused by claws, mailed gloves and in one case a pitchfork.
The new scrapes on her arms proved that life in LA didn't exactly treat her any better. But Gunn did, and he worried too much about her getting hurt. He didn't want to accept that Fred's life wasn't peaches and cream; neither, she noted, was her complexion. Opening up the cosmetics bag, she found several tubes of lipstick that were really too dark for her skin, among other small plastic cases and containers. Spilling the contents of the bag into the sink, she reached blindly and started applying color and concealer. The whole time, she thought the next layer of beauty in a tube would erase the harshness that Charles didn't want to see. That by smoothing it out, he would have back the innocent girl that he wished, and sometimes she wished, that she still was.
Laughing sadly and quietly at the mirror, she wondered if it looked better or worse with the now red swollen eyes and the tear stained face. Defeated, she began to scoop the cosmetics back into the bag when she saw the bedroom door open behind her. Turning quickly, she was confused for a moment, as a white box floated into the bathroom and the door closed. With her left hand and arm she tried to cover her body, while she wiped her nose with the other hand.
"Dennis, I think I'd like some privacy." The box passed slowly in front of her face on its way to the sink, so that she could see that they were makeup removal cloths. Another cream-colored towel opened in front of Fred, and she gratefully wrapped herself in it. Fred reached for the box and it was pulled away. A gentle force pushed her towards the toilet and lowered the lid. She sat because it was expected, and one of the cloths drifted to her face. When Fred tried to take it, the tissue was pulled back. Lowering her hands, she let the gentle unseen force clean her face and dry her tears.
"Dennis, I don't...I mean, thank you. I don't know what I was thinking. I guess I just wanted to be beautiful for him, to be the girl he expects. I'm not pretty like Cordelia is and I'm not as sweet or as innocent as he treats me." Fred paused to sniff and a Kleenex drifted to her hand. "Thanks again." She blew her nose while the towel was being unwound from her head.
"You're a good friend and a good listener. Well, I'm sure you'd be a good listener even if you could talk. This small little room kinda reminds me of being in the cave, except this time, I'm not alone. I didn't have a friend that whole time I was there, no one to talk to, no one to listen. I guess I'm still afraid that will happen." She gave a nervous little laugh. "You'd think that after all that time alone, I wouldn't have hid in my room at the hotel for so long, but see, I thought this was all a dream."
Something tilted her head down as a comb began to work the tangles out of the long dark hair. "Then I realized it wasn't a dream and I came out of the room and everyone wanted to be my friend, and I wanted to be everyone's friend so much that I clung a little...well, I guess a lot." Breathing deeply Fred calmed herself a little more as the comb was exchanged for a brush, moving in long strokes. "It's kinda silly for me to be this insecure, afraid that if I'm not everything he expects he'll stop being my friend. I guess it's really stupid because he isn't pushing for anything, and he does everything for me. I do love him, Dennis, because he's my best friend. If he went away, I think I'd miss him as much as he misses Wesley."
Fred lifted her head as the brush floated back to the sink. Rising, she returned to look in the mirror. Smiling sadly, she noted, "Same old me. What do you think, Dennis? You must have watched Cordelia put on her make up hundreds of times." Fred reached for a tube of lipstick and it moved away from her as all the cosmetics started returning to the bag.
"But, Dennis," Fred said quietly watching the make-up vanish. "I want to be beautiful for him." Fred felt her head being gently lifted, and she found herself looking in the mirror again. There was a tickle under her chin and she smiled big and blushed a little. "Dennis..."
Wesley was finding that he wasn't the hard negotiator that he wanted to be. The lure of Files and Records had knocked him for a loop. Certainly, he had known that Wolfram & Hart would be a treasure trove of occult information, but he had never predicted they would have a resource like the clerk. The shear volume of their information was astounding. Before he came to California, he had read everything the Council had on Angelus, even gaining access to the reserved files. The sum total of the information would have barely filled one drawer, let alone thirty-five cabinets. He'd been definitely off his game when he had attempted to tell Lilah that the money she was offering was too low and the conditions were outrageous. He would have paid anything to wipe the self-satisfied look off her face.
"Tell you what, Wesley, we keep the payscale and the conditions intact and I'll get you an access code for Files and Record. We both know it's a wet dream come true for you. Now, the firm won't approve of you having a high level access, but for the duration of your time here, I'll let you use my code."
Somehow, he managed to keep from barking out a yes immediately, but while he sat there trying to come up with a formal sounding response, she had offered to wipe the drool from his chin. How would Cordelia have phrased it? Slut. He was a slut, a complete knowledge slut.
As he perused the amended proposals, Wesley decided that today's incident was all right in some respects. Acting without thought was what Lilah had been hoping for. Having lowered himself to her expectations, she was less likely to question his relatively easy acceptance of the job and would be prepared if he decided to fight her later on about some of the potentially less palatable aspects that were bound to develop.
Wesley was about to test Lilah's honesty, when Gavin Parks and a man he didn't recognize came bustling into the office. Linwood cut straight to the point, "Well Morgan, I heard you had interesting company." Lilah stood up casually and walked towards them.
"Mr. Linwood, I don't believe you've formally met -"
"Wesley Wyndam-Pryce." Linwood finished the sentence for her as Wesley stood up and assessed the man in front of him. Angel had filled him in on who this man was and why Angel might not be on his list of favorite un-dead people. "Ex-watcher and former employee of Angel Investigations. Nice work with the flame thrower last month."
"Thank you, I hope your hidden camera's picked up my good side. So, Gavin, run any old ladies out of their rent-controlled apartments lately?" Wesley pulled his arms behind his back and caught the slow smile spreading across Lilah's face at his remark before returning the appraising stares of the two men.
Gavin wasn't particularly good at hiding his real feelings. Wesley could see the anger under the surface, even though Gavin's tone was pleasant. "No, I've been much too busy watching Angel get run out of town by his son." Wesley hid his reaction, but Lilah didn't. Gavin turned to her. "What Lilah, you haven't heard that Angel and the seer are missing?" He made a tutting noise at her obvious failure to keep up with current events.
Lilah didn't bother to remove the condescending tone from her voice. "Yes, Gavin, I'm aware of that; however, I was saving it as a surprise for Wesley...*after* he finished signing his contracts." Turning to the man in question, she added, "I thought you'd be ready to celebrate the fact that the vampire who tried to murder you was missing at the hands of the child you tried so hard to save."
With all eyes on him, Wesley fought done his panic at all the alarming news. This explained why Angel hadn't responded to his last message a week ago. Realizing that he was taking too long to answer, he decided to let his reaction go over the top. He started laughing, laughing so hard that tears came to his eyes. It really was the perfect outlet for the emotions passing through him. Worry over Angel and Cordelia, the irony that he was about to commit to a mission that may ultimately be pointless, and might cost him his life or worse, not to mention he had lost his links to the agency. Fred and Gunn were never going to believe this was all an elaborate scam.
Gavin and Lilah looked a little uncertain about his response. It was Linwood who walked over and clapped an arm on his shoulder. "I know how you feel, Wesley; all that pain grief and hard work, then someone else steals the revenge right out from under you. I mean, do you know how much pleasure I was going to take watching that bastard turned to dust in front of my eyes?" Linwood released Wesley's shoulder and began to make theatrical gestures. "I'd be sitting there with a glass of scotch, comfortably seated while four of our best boys beat the snot out of him." He turned to Wesley, "I suspect he wouldn't give me he satisfaction of begging, but I always fantasize it that way. Anyway, he would plead for his undead existence, and I would give the thumbs down and he would explode into dust."
"Beautiful image, sir. I'd be happy to be a part of that." Gavin chimed in.
Not to be left out, Lilah responded more shrewdly. "Yes, that's a wonderful dream that I could say I share. But of course, sir, neither of us would be so rash as to act against the individual so deeply entrenched in the coming prophecy. There is corporate policy to consider." Lilah was looking up at the ceiling as if she thought someone was there listening. Since Linwood and Parks also glanced in that direction, Wesley assumed that someone *was* listening.
"Of course you're right, Lilah. Just idle musings, but I'm sure that Wesley feels the same way."
There was no way that Wesley was going to reply directly to any of this. Wiping the tears from his eyes, Wesley smiled at Linwood. "Yes, well, I suppose that you won't be requiring my services then."
"Nonsense, we're always looking for good experienced people. Lilah, I hope you've made the man a reasonable offer." Linwood walked over and skimmed the contracts on the desk. "These projects would seem to be rather run-of-the-mill. Surely Lilah, you've made Mr. Wyndam-Pryce a better offer than these?"
"Oh, I've made several better offers but Wesley isn't comfortable yet with some of the responsibilities associated with higher level contracts. But I believe that he was just about to sign?" Lilah looked expectantly at Wesley.
"Yes." Wesley pulled a small cloth bag from his inside pocket as he returned to the desk, spreading out all the contract sheets. At Linwood's questioning look, Wesley responded, "I've made some blood sacrifices for my profession lately and didn't find the results satisfactory. I'll not be making the same mistake again." Sprinkling green powder onto the contracts, he chanted, "Veritas, veritas, veritas!" A green glow erupted over the papers leaving behind purple lettering in places.
Wesley picked up a page and turned back to the startled trio. "Ah, the rest of the contract I see. My, what interesting terms concerning my next of kin."
Lilah sputtered angrily and glared towards Gavin, "I ordered a clean contract."
"Yes, I see Mr. Park's signature next to these additional clauses." Wesley looked up rather confidently and waited for the disavowal and arguments.
Linwood glanced between the three of them and just laughed. "Nice find, Lilah. He's a keeper. That is, unless he's been so offended that he and *the valuable information* he represents walks out." Linwood turned a cold stare on Gavin who was opening and closing his mouth like fish gasping for air.
Wesley tore the adulterated papers in half and dropped them on the desk. "I'm sure there's no need to worry, Mr. Linwood. Lilah was going to take me out to lunch. Undoubtedly, she can find some way to convince me to come back and sign a clean copy of the contract. Of course, the pay scale will be upped by fifty percent across the board, medical benefits will start immediately and yes, I believe that if I am to even consider more challenging contracts, I will need extensive access to files and records. I'm sure Mr. Parks can take care of such a minor task while we're gone."
Linwood laughed some more as Gavin sputtered. "You're good, Wesley. Be sure your work reflects that." The last part was delivered in what could only be interpreted as a threat as he shook Wesley's hand. Turning to Gavin, "Well, it seems you have your work cut out for you. There must be a dozen forms to fill out for personnel to change those contract amounts." Linwood walked out without closing the door behind him.
Holding out his arm, Wesley turned to Lilah, who was grinning from ear to ear. She took the offered arm and the pair headed for the door. Stopping as they crossed the threshold, Lilah turned back to Gavin, who was still standing in the same place in the middle of the office. "Ah, Gavin? No need to rush, it'll be a late lunch today."
Gunn flipped from camera to camera, shaking his head, little windows into someone else's world. Recording the camera numbers and locations, he was able to make out where most of the twenty-eight cameras were. He spent some time listening to some of the conversations, but generally, there was nothing interesting going on.
Of course, what he was supposed to be doing was calling the answering machine and leaving info for Wesley. It would probably be a good idea to write down what was on his mind, so he wouldn't miss any details and so he wouldn't explode. He tossed the pen down and ran the palms of both hands over his head, trying to shake off the angry trembling.
Trying to find a way to forgive Wesley for the lack of trust was going to be challenging enough, but how was he supposed to talk like a sane person with the dreams running through his head?. Gunn couldn't believe that he missed that loser so much that the man appeared in dreams where rightly there should be the devoted *girl*friend. There was certainly not going to be any mention of the dreams, but Gunn couldn't avoid the fact that they were coloring his whole outlook.
All right, it was all over now. No more tantrums, no more embarrassing questions from Fred, and no more god-damned dreams. Gunn was going to pick up that phone and nice as you please say that he was pissed, but that wasn't getting in the way of him and Fred helping. Give the short list of details about the MIA and an agreement for daily check-in. Simple, to the point, business like. Then the only thing left to do was reassure the woman in the next room by making love to her until she screamed in rapture.
Wesley studied his distorted reflection in his wine glass. The stemware was expensive and matched the hotel suite. It would take several paychecks, even on his new salary, to pay for a suite like this. Apparently, Wolfram & Hart rented it on a yearly basis, and it was vacant most of the time. It was a bit intimidating to consider the financial resources the company had. He wanted another glass badly, but he had already had three and was beginning to feel it. In another hour or so, he would be back in Lilah's office again, signing away a piece of his life. Was this worth it? To carry off this charade, there were bound to be questionable or downright immoral actions, and he had no idea if Angel and Cordelia were even alive.
"Hello, earth to Wesley," His reverie broken, Wesley looked at Lilah, as she continued. "Done with your food? I thought we could indulge in some more relaxing activities before we head back to the office." Lilah slowly pulled off her silk blouse, reveling a see thru lace bra, which of course was reveling everything. Draping the blouse across her chair, she waited for a reaction. Indifferently, Wesley poured another glass of wine. She continued her striptease, which was beginning to having the desired effect on him. Suddenly, Wesley wasn't feeling as concerned about whether or not this was a good idea. As she moved in and out of the light, the dark rounds of her nipples showed more and then less through the sheer material.
Her skirt puddled on the floor exposing the matching see-thru thong and stockings with lace tops. When Wesley didn't move, Lilah prodded, "Are you going to get undressed?" Initially the thought that went racing through his mind was that he was being rude. A few months ago that would have probably led Wesley into something clumsy in an effort to to make up for the slight. His next thought was that he should tease her, make her work for what she wanted, continue their routine of letting Lilah feel in charge. However, now it felt like they were moving onto something else; Wesley was about to hand the keys to Lilah and let her drive.
Wiping his mouth and discarding the napkin, Wesley approached her and ran a nail down the edge of the sheer green material, causing her to shiver. It was time to remind Lilah that even though she was driving, he had the map and the emergency brake. Lilah put a hand on her hip, waiting for an answer about whether or not he was undressing.
"No." Wesley's hand covered her breast. He teased her nipple for a second before pinching it and twisting viciously. Attempting to slap him as she doubled over, Lilah found herself spun around and immobilized, one arm pinned at her side and the other twisted behind her back with Wesley's thumb digging into the sensitive spot on her wrist. When he continued speaking, there wasn't anything pleasant in his tone. "You were sloppy, and it nearly cost me quite a lot. Really, Lilah, I was fully expecting you to stab me in the back and not endanger me through incompetence."
"Okay. Gavin surprised me - magic isn't his style. I'd say you more than made up for it by having Linwood agree to all your additional contract terms." Continuing to pin her arm, Wesley allowed his hand to slide up and began applying pressure to Lilah's throat.
"Yes, I did do fine on my own. Tell me why I shouldn't just go back alone and sign those contracts?" God, he thought, how much of this was the wine talking.
Lilah was breathing heavily, but took some grim satisfaction that she wasn't trembling like a scared teenager. "Getting in is easy, surviving it is another matter. As much as we are *not* friends, I'm still the best that you've got."
"Very possibly true, but despite my recent failures, I can make new friends. I've also been known to be quite the kiss ass. I suspect that would go over well in your organization. So, why shouldn't I keep squeezing?"
Lilah was trying hard not to wonder if he would really kill her or not. The danger, the thrill of possible death, was creating a throbbing, molten need between her legs that wanted to be satisfied, immediately. Point in fact, she didn't believe he was capable of murdering her, at least not for this trumped up excuse. She just wanted to relish the idea that he might. Looking at her options, Lilah decided she could play along, because she knew she was ahead. "Because I'm so horny right now over this impressive set of balls that you've grown, that I'm willing to do just about anything to fuck your brains out."
Wesley's tone softened as his hand worked its way down, pinching the already wounded nipple and sliding into the top of her soaked underwear. "That's much better. You should keep this attitude in mind for the future."
"I wore the hand cuffs last time. I thought it wass my turn to be in charge," Lilah complained with false sweetness, and then bit her lip when he twisted her arm harder and slide two fingers inside at the same time.
"The way I see it, Linwood hasn't done anything useful since he was promoted last, and Gavin is so pathetic it's unreal. Which means that if I want to get ahead, I should be polishing your high heels."
"Hey," she gasped, as his fingers started to move faster. "Boot polishing doesn't usually come with a healthy dose of pain."
"But you do," Wesley said this as he twisted her arm just a little harder and pinched her clit. Falling back against him, Lilah gave a mixed cry of pain and pleasure as she came. Releasing her arm, he brought both hands into play, making her twitch as he barely touched too sensitive skin.
Leaning back against his chest, she did not attempt to restrain the roaming hands. "So, what do you want to do about all those observations?"
"In its most simplistic form, since you're going to be in charge when we're clothed, I'm in charge when we're not."
"So, are we going to shake on that or have my secretary draw up some papers?"
"I was thinking that your earlier suggestion of 'fucking my brains out' would work."
Lilah turned in his arms and in the same motion, began unbuttoning Wesley's shirt, "Sounds like we've got a deal."
Fred came out of the bathroom in an oversized nightshirt with a Native American art print of a circle of crows emblazoned on it. Bouncing on the couch next to Gunn, she peered at the computer screen, wondering exactly what he was watching so intently.
"They're cleaning the floor?" Fred looked at Gunn, wondering why he found this so interesting.
Turning to her, he said, "They actually managed to get some of the red paint off. I was just trying to figure out what they're using. You know, for when we rescue the missing and reclaim our rightful domain." She smiled at his newfound optimism. "Hey, I know that shirt, Wes and I bought one just like it for Cordelia last Christmas. She was getting laid up on a regular basis with the vision headaches. We figured she should have something to wear to bed that actually covered some skin."
"Well, it is kinda Cordelia's. Dennis found it for me and based on the tag I cut off, it probably wasn't her style, sorry," she shrugged and looked away, a little embarrassed.
"See, no taste. I picked out the shirt for the cool lookin' black birds and Wes said it was appropriate because crows are messengers from the spirit world." Gunn rubbed his nose along Fred's cheek and gave her a light kiss. "You look better in it anyway."
Smiling she turned and kissed him. "Speaking of Wesley..."
Gunn sat back and blinked hard. "Wesley, we weren't talkin' about Wesley. We were talking about you lookin' good, which very distinctly has nothing to do with Wesley." She gestured at the nightshirt. "Oh, yeah, except for that part where we were talkin' about him."
"Did you make the call?"
Catching onto her point, Gunn let himself breathe easier. "Yeah, I told him about everything."
"Can I call and listen?" Gunn took her hand into his as she reached for the cell phone.
"I'm...well, I might have said some things man to man about our...my displeasure about the secrecy. Maybe things that a lady might not want to hear."
Trying to assuage her anger, "Now baby, I made it clear in no uncertain terms that we were going to help him. There are some things that men just have to say to each other."
Fred couldn't be angry with the man in front of her. "Okay, but I make the next phone call."
"Great idea. You're great." He bent down and kissed her properly while slowly running his hand up and down her thigh.
Flushed with excitement, Fred got up when the kiss broke. "Let me just rig up the VCR, so we can see what they're up to tomorrow morning. We can only record two cameras, split screen. Do you know which ones might be good?"
"Well, there's nothing exciting among the minions. Connor and Justine seem to be spending a lot of time in Angel's room and maybe the lobby. Split screen's set up."
"And so's the VCR." Turning on the TV, they saw the empty suite and the group of people scrubbing the lobby floor. "Right, now I just switch the feed to the TV and presto." The Dodger's replaced the feed from the hotel.
"I thought you only tolerated baseball to make me happy?"
Fred smiled down. "Not for you silly. We have other plans. The game is for Dennis."
"Ever wonder why Cordelia has the full cable sports package?
"Right on. Hey Dennis," Gunn shouted to the empty room. "Enjoy the game, man. The lady and I are gonna be keepin' busy."
Fred blushed as Gunn took her hand and led her to the bedroom.
With the contracts signed and Lilah purring from lunch, Wesley felt like he had accomplished something. Today's events had been a good beginning, anyway. The first assignments were translation jobs that he would start tackling tomorrow. On the way home, he stopped at a convenience store for milk. Spotting the payphone in the back near the restroom, Wesley debated whether or not he should call. That really shouldn't be any question, since he was in neck deep. Now wasn't the time to give up hope. Eventually Angel or Cordelia would call.
Putting his milk on top of the phone, Wesley dialed in and was almost surprised to hear there was a new message. Quickly hitting the proper keys, his eyes opened wide as he heard Gunn's voice.
"Wesley you're a fucking bastard. I can't wait until all of this is over so I can beat the shit out of you for lying to Fred and me. By the way, that same sentiment is addressed to both Angel and Cordelia, but I don't think they're going to answer. Look man, Dennis tipped us off about the answering machine and we heard you're last message to Angel. Angel and Cordy disappeared..."
Wesley broke out his notepad and he tried to catch all the details in Gunn's message; he'd have to replay it again. Wesley smiled when he heard the part about the cameras and spying on Connor. There were already thoughts coming to mind about frustrating Gavin.
"Okay, gotta go now, but we're going to call in every day. You know, Wesley, it feels good to be working with you again, even if I do owe you a big kick in the ass. Been thinking about you man, miss you."
Wesley frowned at the phone. Gunn was sounding awfully sentimental for, well, Gunn. It was really sentimental for a guy who wanted to kick his ass, which pissed Wesley off a little. Certainly their last conversation had been designed to throw Gunn off the trail, but Wesley didn't even have to try. Gunn didn't want to bother to listen and now he was on his high horse about being left out. Hitting the replay button, Wesley decided he would respond in the morning when he had a chance to think about it. In the meantime, he had a much bigger problem. Since Gunn and Fred felt sure that Cordelia and Angel weren't together, Wesley was sure he needed to act quickly if they were going to find Cordelia.
On his way out of the convenience store, Wesley asked the clerk if he knew where to get good buffalo wings.
~end Part 4~
Onto Part 5 ~ "They Dance Alone"
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