Desperate Passages Series
Part 5 ~ "They Dance Alone"
by Just Human
Notes, disclaimers and dedications in Part 1 ~ "Unclean"
Special thanks once again in this chapter to the Defenders of Wesley, who with unflinching courage dived into Wes' closet despite the bright colored shirts of the Virginia time and the god-awful white suits.
"They Dance Alone"
They're dancing with the missing
They're dancing with the dead
They dance with the invisible ones
Their anguish is unsaid
They dance alone They dance alone
"They Dance Alone"
~*~ *~*~*~*~*~*~*~ 1 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Then you'll find your servant is your master,
And you'll be wrapped around my finger.
I'll be wrapped around your finger.
Juggling his purchases, Wesley unlocked the front door and stopped when he noticed the light was on inside. Without hesitating, he quietly put everything down in the foyer and stepped cautiously into the living room. A noise from the bedroom caught his attention. Snatching an axe off the wall, Wesley had begun heading towards it when he became entangled in a familiar looking skirt. In fact, he found himself following a trail of familiar looking clothing all the way into the room. Allowing the axe to swing loosely at his side, Wesley took a deep breath, reminding himself that this was all part of the game. Leaning casually against the doorframe, he was prepared to play his part, but his inner calm was shattered by the sight that greeted him.
The aroma of scotch hung in the air from glass and open bottle on the bedside table. Dancing lights reflected in the glass from the candles strategically placed on the windowsill. Interestingly enough, his cotton sheets had transformed into satin. Lilah was dressed in one of his button-down shirts, stockings, and high heels. If the picture had ended there, Wesley felt that he could have handle the situation with a minimum of fuss. However, Lilah appeared to be in the process of sorting through his clothing, rolling her eyes at various shirts, frowning at wear marks. There were several stacks of shirts, slacks and jackets across the bed and over the chair in the corner. Wesley could feel the flush of anger bringing warmth to his face. 'Who does this bitch think she is, sitting in judgment of the contents of my closet?'
Laying one of his suit jackets on the neat pile of clothing already on the bed, Lilah finally deigned to glance in Wesley's direction. While giving him a come hither look, she turned one leg ever so slightly, affording Wesley a fine view from ankle to the top of her thigh. When he didn't respond right away, she raked him up and down, finally focusing on the axe with mild amusement. "When I was hoping you'd bring the heavy equipment to bed, I wasn't expecting anything so...deadly?"
Looking away, so that her legs wouldn't tempt him, Wesley asked, "Did I miss a paragraph in the contract that said you got to move in and redecorate?"
The deep-throated laugh she gave him was not helping the situation. "No, I just thought we might celebrate."
"Not that I object in principle, but isn't that what we did this afternoon?"
Lilah walked towards him. The crisp white shirt only had three or four strategic buttons done up, more than hinting at her substantial cleavage while providing minimal modesty for everything else. All the better to accentuate her legs, the traitorous portions of his anatomy reminded him. A hand rested on his shoulder while a nail traced his jawline, playing with the light stubble. Most distracting was the two-inch heel working it's way up and down his calf.
How Lilah managed to make her green eyes look innocent, Wesley would never know. "Oh, don't tell me, you're...too tired from this afternoon. I know you're not seventeen, but-"
"What are you doing with my clothes?" Wesley was torn between the sudden desire to toss her on the bed and tossing her out the door.
Lilah smiled her catlike grin and started running her nails around the outer curve of his ear. "Well, I got bored waiting for you, so I decided to snoop a little. You're not mad are you?" Loosening his death grip on the axe, Wesley tried to remind himself that to Lilah this was all foreplay. But, bed or front door, he only saw this encounter ending violently. Realizing that he needed to be out of that room immediately, Wesley pushed Lilah away with a minimal amount of force. "I left the front door open."
Going back out to the living room, he propped the axe near the door, retrieved his packages and headed straight to the kitchen. While he wasn't quite slamming the cabinet doors as he stashed away the salt and other supplies for the summoning ritual, Wesley knew he was letting his anger get away from him. Bracing himself against the counter, he closed his eyes a moment to refocus. It was pointless to be angry over Lilah's lack of social graces. Based on the fact that his bedroom closet was nearly empty, she had been there quite a while. Since she could have been searching more incriminating things, he decided to count himself lucky.
"Hot wings?" Wesley hadn't heard Lilah follow him into the kitchen until she spoke. He opened his eyes and focused on the bucket still on the counter. The high heel attached to the shapely leg right next to him dragged his attention away from the chicken. "If I'd known you went for *spicy* things..." She shifted the foot on the counter to lightly brush his arm. "Isn't that an awful lot for just one guy, or were you expecting company after all?"
If his plans were to succeed, Wesley reminded himself that he would have to be able to adapt to unexpected circumstances such as these. He couldn't allow Lilah to witness any weakness or insecurity. Fortunately, it was easy to distract her. Turning so that he was facing her, Wesley slowly began to run his index finger up her leg, pausing at the sweet spot behind the knee. "No, company was a bit of a surprise tonight. Not an unpleasant one," he added quickly, feeling the flush of anger replaced by desire.
"Mmm," Lilah barely licked her lips with the tip of her tongue, obviously appreciating the attention her leg was receiving. "Y'know, I like this shirt." Wesley's eyes followed as the painted tip of her finger traced a path down the open collar onto her thigh. "It goes really well with my shoes." Dutifully, his gaze traveled the length of her leg to the shoes.
"So, what did I do to give you the impression that I found you're legs attractive?"
"Most guys talk to my chest; you talk to my ankles. So, it is the legs, and not the shoes? I wasn't sure."
"Ah, I wasn't aware that my behavior had been so obvious. Yes, definitely the legs and not the shoes." Inwardly, he wondered what other aspects of himself his behavior had given away about him.
"Good." Lilah reached forward to remove her aching foot from its uncomfortable footwear.
"Oh, no, dear." Wesley gently admonished, capturing her hand. "Not that your legs wouldn't look stunning without the heels, but..." Wesley leaned down and kissed the top of her ankle before gently biting. Cradling the back of her calf, he slowly lowered her leg back to the floor allowing his hand to travel up until it was cupping the soft curve of her bare bottom. "Now, tell me, why aren't I throwing you out so I can have the fine view of your legs move down the street just as they are?"
"Because, if you're nice to me tonight, it'll go much easier for you tomorrow."
Continuing to stroke the generous curve of her hip, Wesley leaned down and began to nibble on Lilah's ear. Resigned to the idea that he wasn't getting rid of her anytime soon, he granted himself permission to enjoy the pleasures of her flesh. "I assure you that I have more than a passing familiarity with all those languages I need to translate; therefore, I'm not anticipating any difficulty."
"Not the office." Lilah gave a little moan of pleasure. "After work."
Sliding his hand over the stolen shirt, Wesley stopped to hold her breast and to rub the already swollen nub through the stiff cloth. "Well, since our after work activities tend to fall in my arena, I assure you that I am not anticipating any difficulty there either."
Lilah pulled back a little so she could look at his face. Tapping a nail on his chin to emphasis her point, "Oh, no, dear. Clothed activities are my area."
The initial anger he had felt at the invasion of his home swiftly returned, her comment reminding him of the snooping she'd done through his closet earlier. Stopping the idle exploration of his hands, Wesley asked, "And tell me, exactly what clothed activities do *we* have planned *after* work?"
"Despite the fact that I intend on spending a good deal of time naked with you, I expect that there will be corporate functions and client dinners to attend. Tomorrow night, one of our clients is hosting a reception to celebrate his new film. Rich movie star who wants to look pretentious, thus a pack of lawyers among the entourage. You did catch the part of the contract that said, 'present a positive public image of the firm'?"
"There, there was nothing-" Wesley stopped the string of profanity that was threatening to erupt. Logic fought for dominance over the anger, which was rapidly threatening to take over. Quickly regaining a bit of composure, logic winning out for the moment, he forced himself to continue in a more conversational tone. "I wouldn't be your best spokesman and besides, if you want good looking in an expensive suit, shouldn't, well, Gavin be going?"
"Gavin is going, so is Linwood. All of Special Projects is going to be there." She patted him on the chest. Welcome to the team. Some things from your closet can be salvaged for everyday at the office, but for these types of functions, you will need a new suit. One made in the last decade."
Becoming offended, Wesley snapped back, "What's wrong with my clothes? Is that what your little inspection was all about?" The look on Lilah's face conveyed to Wesley exactly how childish she thought he was being. He realized that he was being stupid; of course that's what she was doing. How typically female for Lilah to be primarily concerned with his appearance.
Lilah reached down and unfastened Wesley's belt, drawing his attention back to the conversation. Pulling at the waistband of his pants, she looked up at him. "This is what I'm talking about. What are these pants, two sizes too big? And the jacket is worse. A little tailoring can probably take care of the one you wore today and the blue one. Did you live for a time in South America?"
"Whhaaat?" Wesley sputtered.
"I'm just trying to figure out the excuse for the white, plantation owner's suit - which should be burned. I'm a little disappointed that Cordelia didn't badger you into a better wardrobe." Lilah patted his shoulder, condescendingly. "We're going to fix the image tomorrow morning. You and I have an appointment at nine am, clothes shopping."
Inwardly affirming that this woman was *not* going to rule his life, Wesley spoke calmly. "The contracts were talking about everyday work appearance and you know it. I have no desire whatsoever to be a public spokesperson for the firm. Since I am not contractually obligated to attend these after hours events, I won't."
"The contracts you signed didn't have any of those things as terms and conditions. The verbal one you made this afternoon..." Lilah held her bruised wrist in front of his face, "did. I'd also like to point out that in our earlier discussion about marks and bruises, I made the distinct demand that none be visible. Since this one can be disguised, I'll forgive you, this time. It won't happen again."
The commanding tone of Lilah's last statement enflamed his anger even more. Wesley became fixated on the purple mark that he had put on her skin. Was it so long ago that he had wept bitterly over similar marks he had placed on Fred? Guilt had wracked him at that time over something that he had had no control over. No pangs of conscious troubled him now as waves of rage rushed against his calm exterior. Instead, he could feel the creeping edges of a dark desire to beat Lilah into submission, to force her to succumb to his will.
Without looking away from her bruise - his bruise, the one he gave her - he simply demanded. "Tell me where I'm meeting you tomorrow morning and then get out."
Moving both arms around Wesley's neck, Lilah's nails began to play in his hair. The sarcasm was evident in her petulant whine. "What about the part where you're nice to me so that I go easy on you tomorrow?"
Wesley felt like he was looking at the scene from far away as he slammed Lilah into counter and tore open the shirt she was wearing. Despite the certainty that it was his own voice, he felt like it must be someone else when the sound filled the room. "This is your last chance. Get your own clothes on and get out. Fail to do so immediately and the only thing I want to hear out of your mouth is where you want that next bruise, because it will be the last consideration you get tonight."
~*~ *~*~*~*~*~*~*~ 2 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
And now she turns
This way she moves in the logic of all my dreams
This fire burns
I realize that nothing's as it seems
The refrigerator light was nearly blinding in the darkness of the kitchen. Pouring himself a glass of milk, Gunn quickly closed the door and rubbed his eyes. It was a wonder he managed not to trip over anything on his way back to the sofa. A quick check of the computer screen showed no activity in the hotel.
Tonight with Fred had been perfect. Under all that Bible Belt upbringing and the shy glances was a passionate woman waiting to burst free. Raising his glass in a toast to whatever god put her in his life, Gunn closed his eyes a moment, remembering what had transpired just hours before.
Tiny hands traced paths of fire brazenly down his skin, allowing no taboo or reticence to bar their progress. Combined with soft and demanding kisses, Fred had washed away any reluctance in his mind and body. Allowing himself to be consumed by desire and the insatiable need of loneliness, Gunn had lost any restraint he might have shown to the lover half his size. Normally, he might feel guilty over this lack of consideration, but Fred had entreated him and pushed him the entire time. It was as if the desperation in his own lovemaking were but a thimble full, in comparison to the aching need in her.
Crashing down from their fleeting moments of ecstasy, they had clung to each other, almost as if they were in fear of being swept away. In the darkness of the room, he had been thankful that she could not look into his eyes. For everything that had been so passionate and perfect there had been something missing. Gunn knew that if Fred could have looked into his eyes at that moment, she would have seen the empty place that he now knew she could never fill. The streets had beaten the tears out of him long ago. Wishing he could shed them now, Gunn sat in misery and anger over the fact that he could not love Fred enough.
~*~ *~*~*~*~*~*~*~ 3 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
That's my soul up there.
I have stood here before in the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running 'round my brain.
Wesley really wanted the shaking to stop. It would be so much easier to calm down and look at it thngs rationally if his body would just stop trembling. From somewhere far away, he had watched a mixture of emotions pass across Lilah's face. Wesley would never be sure what made her decide that leaving would be her best option. Pushing him away without a word, she'd grabbed a pen near the kitchen phone and wrote down the time and location. Wesley had stood silently where he leaned against the counter, gripping its edge like it was the only thing holding him place.
He had remained still as the sounds of Lilah dressing in the other room, then the door slamming, reached his ears. At last, falling out of his self-imposed stasis, Wesley glanced at the clock. An hour had passed since he'd arrived home. Moving through the apartment, the only evidence of Lilah's presence was the state of the bedroom. Glancing at Lilah's unfinished drink, Wesley reached for the glass. 'No use letting that go to waste,' he thought as he swallowed the last of her glass in one gulp and poured another.
~*~ *~*~*~*~*~*~*~ 4 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Lest we for get how fragile we are
It wasn't unusual for Fred to wake up terrified in the middle of the night. Nowadays, it didn't bother her the same way it had the month immediately following her return from Pylea. Recognizing at once that she was alone, some of the old fear crept through her. Where was Charles? Where did he go? Was he never coming back?
Slowly, she began to calm down. Her breathing slowed and she released her death grip on the sheets. Reaffirming in her mind that people just didn't disappear, except for Cordelia and Angel and, well, herself... Dropping that line of thought as being not helpful, she decided to take more positive action and look around the apartment.
Fred was flooded with a sense of relief when she found Gunn asleep on the couch. Seated in front of the computer screen, it appeared that he had drifted off while watching the goings on inside the hotel. Removing the half-full glass of milk that was teetering in his hand, Fred curled up next to Gunn and rested her head on his chest. Her movements woke him up and Fred found her self encased safely in Gunn's strong arms.
"Hey," she whispered into his chest.
"Hey," he said back.
"I woke up a little scared to be alone."
"I'm sorry. I just wanted something to drink. Guess I sat down for a minute and fell asleep; didn't mean to, I swear."
"No, no it's not. I don't want you to ever believe that I'd walk away and hurt you." Gunn made a promise to himself at that moment, that no matter what else he was feeling, taking care of Fred was going to come first. No matter what other confusion was going on inside, it took second place to the woman next to him, even if he had to pretend to do it.
~*~ *~*~*~*~*~*~*~ 5 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Check my records, check my facts
Check if I paid my income tax
Pore over everything in my C. V.
But you'll still know nothing 'bout me
Glad that her raincoat covered the disheveled appearance of her clothing, Lilah made her way to the basement of Wolfram & Hart. Files and Records was at her desk looking as fresh and perky at this late hour as she did first thing in the morning. Briefly, Lilah wondered if she ever left the building at all. She must have a locker in the training room with changes of clothes. Was there a laundry service that picked up her clothes periodically and did the take out restaurants have a schedule for regularly dropping off food? What about holidays and weekends? Shaking herself out of it, Lilah remembered that she really didn't care.
Giving a perfunctory greeting and her code, Lilah thought for a second about what she really wanted to look at. Before tonight, Lilah thought she'd known everything about Wesley that she needed to know. She had read everything in his file and nothing in it really pointed to the violent streak she had just experienced. The anger and frustration pent up in the man were evident to anyone who bothered to look. The look in his eyes tonight as he pinned her to the counter, that was something else. Wesley had come from a proper, well-off family, so, Lilah's years as a lawyer told her, any skeletons in the closet would be buried deep and covered up well.
The file on Wesley wasn't going to tell her anything new. Since it was already morning in England, she shouldn't have any problems arranging for an investigator at the London office to dig a little deeper for her. Just as she was about to turn around and head to her office, it suddenly occurred to Lilah that there might be some answers in one other file. Smiling at Files and Records, she made her request.
~*~ *~*~*~*~*~*~*~ 6 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Blessed St. Theresa the whore of Babylon
Madonna and my mother all rolled into one
Wesley wasn't completely drunk, but he wasn't completely sober either. Performing magic under these circumstances was ill advised at best. He tried not to let that disturb him as he poured the reheated wings from the oven back into the bucket and placed it in the center of the circle. Not bothering with the cleansing ritual, he shed his clothing, sat on the floor, and began to chant. Having utilized the smaller of the two crystals to disrupt the camera, Wesley knew that his summoning time was going to be limited tonight.
Rocking in place on the floor, the texture of the room altered itself as the magic took hold of his chant. Wesley inserted Lefty's name where he thought it appropriate, and in half the time it originally took, he was face to, well, knees with the familiar gray demon.
"Yo, Wes! Good to see you, man. Whoa, did you stick your finger in a light socket?" Lefty was pointing at Wesley's head. In turn, Wesley touched his hair and realized it was standing on end.
"Ah, no. I have an ionizing spell going to disrupt any potential electronic surveillance equipment. Last time I did the ritual, I had time to shower. This time I was in a rush. Sorry."
"Not an issue, man." Lefty sat down and opened one of the cans of Boddington's. "Wes, these wings smell good; thanks a lot."
"Yes, please enjoy yourself. Sorry for rushing the conversation along, but as I mentioned..." Wesley paused to watch Lefty consume a wing, bone and all. Clearing his throat so as not to appear rude, he continued, "The ionizing spell won't last that long."
"Long and short of it, Cordelia is on a higher plane, preparing to be a higher being." There was a slurping noise as the demon took a big swig of the beer.
"What? You're telling me that Cordelia Chase is metamophasizing into some form of angelic or saintly entity?
Licking some sauce off his fingers, Lefty spotted the ranch dressing and celery sticks and dived in. "Well, we talked about it last time; the girl's exceptional. She'll make a great champion once her demon transformation is complete."
"What do you mean complete? Didn't we talk last time about how Skip did a bad thing by making her part demon?"
Juggling his food and beer, Lefty suddenly looked a little sheepish, as much as a six-foot tall armor plated monster could look sheepish. "Well, there are kinda some technicalities."
"Technicalities?" Wesley had forgotten his earlier guilt about having performed the summoning ritual under the influence. Right now he was wishing that he had finished an entire bottle and not just half.
"Well, see, Cordelia actually volunteered for this."
"Wha-What? How? Volunteer?"
"Yeah, see, the elders let me read Skip's weekly reports and it's all on the up and up." Lefty smiled that disconcerting smile, now that he was back on solid ground in the conversation.
"Weekly reports? I thought Skip was being shunned?"
"Yeah, but remember, he can get reinstated by doing acts of good. So, he submits a weekly report to the elders apologizing for his failure and listing how he's used his powers. So the first entry I found was when Skip gave Cordelia her powers. Said he went to tempt a champion with worldly possessions, to lure her away from the cause."
Wesley blinked in total confusion, "Exactly how does that serve the good, to tempt away a champion?"
"Well, if we can do it, so can someone else. We are demons, Wes. We offer tests to champions all the time to check out their worthiness." Wesley's head hurt trying to wrap his brain around that logic. Finally, he just gestured for Lefty to continue.
"The report said that he thought he'd been successful but that the seer had then resisted the temptation and returned to the true fight."
"That was when Cordelia took back the visions."
"Right. Then Skip realized exactly what a great servant of the Powers she was and offered her the demon blood, which she accepted. Thus, she volunteered."
Wesley opened and closed his mouth wordlessly for a few seconds as his brain caught up on the convoluted logic. "But, but he never explained to her that she was going to change into something that couldn't live on the physical plane."
"Well, it was kind of another test. See, I'm reading between the lines a little. I think Skip did all this to get back at Angel, separate him from the seer. All that power he gave her was a big test. Okay yeah, he shortcutted the process and didn't test her for more then a few weeks, but she passed. He mentioned something about recruiting her as she was about to attach part of her soul to the physical plane."
"She was going to see Angel the night she disappeared. From what I know and have gotten from friends, they were going to confess their love for one another, finally."
"Exactly. That love would have bound a piece of her to him and thus to this plane. Skip came down and told her that she'd have to choose between the two of them."
"And she picked becoming a saint? She just up and left us with no other word." Wesley was stunned and hurt.
"Hello, Wes. The offer to become a force for the greater good is supposed to be a reward that you don't refuse. Don't be too mad at her. These type of offers never give you time to straighten out your earthly affairs." Assured that the situation was on the up and up, Lefty contentedly popped another wing into his mouth and crunched the bone.
"Lefty, I can't believe she understands all of the ramifications and that this is her choice unless I speak with her myself. Can I summon her with the same ritual I use to call you?"
"Well, it'll probably work. She isn't full demon yet and hasn't finished the transformation, but it should work."
"But could she come back? I mean, how far along is the transformation? Would it be safe for her?"
"Look, Wes, gotta be honest with you. I think she made the right choices, and because I can't talk to Skip, I can't get close enough to talk to her or assess the situation. Maybe you should summon both Cordy and Skip. Air all this stuff out and then you'll be reassured that it's the right thing." Sucking some sauce off his fingers, Lefty took a good hard look at Wesley's frazzled appearance. He had smelled the booze the second he materialized, but didn't mention it because Wes looked like he had it under control.
"Hey, Wes, something else bothering you? You want to talk?"
"I..." Wesley looked at the demon, thinking that this was not the appropriate forum for airing his dirty laundry. But, when he thought further on the idea, he realized that this might be his only forum; besides, who would understand better the struggle for good and evil that was currently being waged inside of him.
~*~ *~*~*~*~*~*~*~ 7 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
I'll be missing you
"Come on, Fred. Let's go back to bed; we've got hours before dawn." Gunn rubbed a hand up and down her back. Fred sat up a little and gave Gunn a kiss before she shifted to stand. The remote control and a small note floated before them.
"Dennis?" Fred took the remote and read the note frowning at Gunn. "1:45?"
Gunn looked at her in confusion for a second and then pointed at the computer with the images of the Hyperion still on the screen. "Dennis must have seen something interesting at 1:45. Why don't you rewind the tape?" Fred nodded and got up to rewind to get to the appropriate time. The lobby was empty at first, then Holtz's band of vampire hunters started coming into the room, obviously jubilant over turning the bad guys to dust.
They watched for a while, both wondering what Dennis had found that was so important. Nothing interesting or out of the ordinary had been said. Eventually, the only ones left in the lobby were Justine and Connor. They had just said good night to each other when Justine suddenly stopped him. Going behind the reception desk, she pulled out a cigar box and looked seriously at Angel's son.
"Stephen, I know that you miss your father. This won't make up for that, but I thought you might appreciate it." She withdrew what looked like it could be a photograph from the box.
"This is my father's image," noted the teenager.
"Yes, there are things, cameras, that take pictures of people so that you can remember them better."
He looked at the woman very seriously, "I could never forget my father."
"Of course, you wouldn't! I just...I just thought..."
Connor nodded, and turned to the stairs, staring at the picture as he walked up.
Gunn frowned at Fred and she shrugged back. There didn't seem to be anything important in the exchange. Fred watched in surprise as the remote was lifted from her hand by an unseen force. The fast-forward was clicked and Gunn and Fred watched Justine speed walk around the lobby, closing up the place. The tape returned to normal play when Connor entered Angel's suite still staring at the picture.
~*~ *~*~*~*~*~*~*~ 8 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
In the empire of the senses
You're the queen of all you survey
All the cities all the nations
Everything that falls your way
There is a deeper world than this
That you don't understand
There is a deeper world than this
Tugging at your hand
Having completed arrangements with London for the investigation she wanted, Lilah took a sip of her coffee and settled in at her desk to read the file on Virginia Bryce. The firm kept files on all the players in the human/demon business world. Virginia had shied away from the arena after her father failed to sacrifice her to his patron. 'Wimp,' thought Lilah, just as she was realizing that the file seem too big for a person so largely disconnected from mystical dealings.
A copy of a purchase order requesting additional surveillance explained the file. Good old Lindsey had thought it important to follow around Angel' associates even during the group's short break up last year. There was an extensive photo collection of Wesley and Virginia together, as well as of Virginia alone. Whoever had been doing Lindsey's filing had done a poor job. Most of the shots had not been copied into Wesley's files and there hadn't even been a note about cross-referencing this one.
Neatly stacking the photos, Lilah ticked off the info she was gaining from this little in-depth investigation. Wesley looked good all dressed-up; however, Virginia's obvious attempt to dress him in bright colors was a mistake. When Wesley decided he was with someone, it really showed. There wasn't a photo in the collection where his hand wasn't somewhere on the redhead's body. Lilah felt a strong emotion course through her body. After a beat, she recognized it as jealousy. 'What the hell...' she wondered.
Sitting back in her chair, she took a deep breath and let all the thoughts rise up and speak their peace, before she pushed them into the background again where they belonged. Spoiled little rich girls had always been a pet peeve of Lilah's. Given everything on a silver platter, they were never content with what they had; they always wanted more. Lilah didn't come from money and had always resented those who did. And yeah, she was willing to admit for a split second that she was just the tiniest bit jealous over the attention that Wesley had obviously paid to the poor little rich girl.
Returning to the file, Lilah tried to figure out what had caused them to break up. After a few minutes, it wasn't hard to piece together the facts. Wesley had been shot; they stopped seeing each other; and all of Virginia's dates after that had been little rich boys who worked ten to four in nicely made suits. They were all bankers or accountants, stable, non-dangerous and boring. Lilah found her original assessment to be correct; Virginia was a wimp.
The photos also answered the question that had led Lilah to Virginia's file in the first place. Low backed evening gowns, swimsuit shots, none of them showed a cut, bruise or scrape on Ms. Bryce's flawless skin. So, Wesley didn't make a habit of beating up his dates. 'Now doesn't that make me feel special,' Lilah thought nastily. 'I bring out the animal in him.' When she thought about it more, it wasn't so nasty after all. Lilah knew that in a few short weeks, she had seen more of the inner workings of that man than Virginia would have seen in twenty years of marriage. It made their relationship more intimate, and so did the bruises.
~*~ *~*~*~*~*~*~*~ 9 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
As I returned across the fields I had known
I recognized the walls that I once laid
Had to stop in my tracks for fear
Of walking on the mines I laid
"It was the most overwhelming feeling I have ever had in my entire life. I've been ashamed, embarrassed, terrified out of my mind, but the anger coursing through me tonight...It was like nothing I've experienced since that night Billy possessed me. I almost..." Wesley stopped and just rubbed is eyes. He was lying on a blanket strewn across the floor near the salt circle containing Lefty.
"It's okay, Wes, you already told me about that night. You don't have to say any more about it." Sitting Indian-style in the circle with his elbows casually resting on his knees, Lefty's sharp claws formed a steeple beneath his nose.
His arm across his eyes, Wesley shook his head. "No, I think there is. I told you about Fred and what I was feeling, but I didn't tell you the other part."
"When all the misogynistic thoughts started rising to the surface, I was only annoyed that Fred was there. The person I really was looking for was Cordelia."
"Same champion for the cause of good, striving to be an angelic force in the universe?"
Wesley gave a short laugh, and continued. "Yes, but you haven't gotten a chance to know her yet. Cordelia has a few flaws. She's often vain, occasionally mean, has a mouth the size of he Grand Canyon, and is not afraid to use it. Don't get me wrong; I love her despite of all that, or maybe because of all that, but... But, she's taken one too many cheap shots at me now and again. Usually, I let them roll off and hit her with one of my own. Occasionally, she says something that really digs deep, hit's places I didn't know could hurt me so much." Wesley glanced at Lefty and caught the nod that let him know that the demon was following. "When Billy took over, my first thought was to find Cordelia and torture her for every single thing that she had ever said to make me miserable."
"Still, Wes, that wasn't you. You really were possessed and getting a little back from the person who had annoyed you. That goes along with the whole scenario, right?"
Wesley swallowed a few times and finally spoke. "I didn't just want to hurt her for the things she said. I wanted to beat her until she couldn't move, rape her until she begged for death and ...and to give her what she asked for." Wesley could feel himself fighting to hold back tears, when he said very quietly, "I wanted to do that to Lilah tonight."
Lefty gave Wesley a minute to calm down before he spoke. "Wes, you've told me alot about your life. You've made some mistakes, but overall, you're one of the good guys. The fact that you told that woman to leave tonight is a sign of that. This mission you're on, it's tough, man. Frankly it's one of the bravest things I've seen a human try to do. Old Wolfram & Hart is one of the most dangerous enemies on this or any other plane. The stress is huge and without your usual team to help you through it, it's gotta be tough."
Tired of the pep talk, Wesley interrupted and sat up. "Yes, well that must be it, the stress."
"Hey, not done here, man." Lefty's voice took on the authoritative tone of a warrior. "Maybe Billy unlocked something in you that you weren't expecting. It doesn't mean you can't handle it. You're strong, Wes. Don't let anyone tell you different."
Wesley sat there a moment, feeling a little stunned by Lefty's certainty. It wasn't often that he found himself with such unwavering support. "Thank you, Lefty. The hardest part of all this is not having my friends around. Talking to you tonight, well, it reminds me of talking to Gunn. He's my best friend, even if he does want to kick my ass right now."
"Whoa," Lefty raised a hand to stop Wesley talking. "Let's not get mushy now." Standing up and stretching, Lefty stuck out his hand to shake Wesley's and ran into the protective barrier of the circle. "Oops, almost forgot. I'm glad you're feeling better, Wes. I don't talk to that many humans and the few I do, well, almost none of them are worth the effort. I like you, Wes. You summon me anytime you want to talk."
Running a hand through his hair, Wesley realized that it was no longer standing on end. Panicking, he stood up. "Bollocks! The ionizing spell is wearing off. Sorry to be abrupt, Lefty, but I've got to get you out of here and this place cleaned up, or it might blow my cover."
"No problem, Wes, I'm good to go. Do your stuff."
Wesley quickly completed the chant and the candles blew out, leaving the room with only the light form the street lamps. Grabbing a robe from the bathroom, he came back into the living room and kicked at the salt until the ritual symbols were indecipherable. Dashing into the kitchen, he grabbed a broom and fumbled in the cabinets, finally grabbing a box of sugar. Tossing the sugar box into the middle of the floor, he began to sweep up the mess.
~*~ *~*~*~*~*~*~*~ 10 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
If I had my way I'd take a boat from the river
And I'd bury the old man,
I'd bury him at sea
Fred and Gunn continued to watch the video. The lobby was now empty and Connor was sitting at the foot of the bed just staring at Holtz's picture. Gunn was wondering what was up and was just about to ask Dennis when Connor started to speak to the picture.
"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."
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 endured at the hands of Angelus has not been forgotten. It only saddens me that I must add your face to those victims.
Perhaps it will ease your soul to know that I have punished the vampire Angelus for all the crimes he has committed against our family and all of humanity. I must confess to never fully understanding the stories that you spoke to me about the ocean. When I saw it, Father, I...I could have never imagined a such a might force in the realm from whence we came.
With Justine's help, I have buried him. Buried him deep in tomb form which he will not escape. We sealed him in an iron coffin where he can spend eternity at the bottom of the ocean contemplating his sins in a hell created especially for him. While it may come to pass that he will pray for release and forgiveness, I have no doubt that his prayers will go unanswered. He cannot scream because there is no air and hunger will be his companion until sanity flees from him. I have done this for you. I love you, Father."
Fred was shaking in Gunn's arms, and he could barely breathe.
~*~ *~*~*~*~*~*~*~ 11 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I'll be watching you
Having finished in her office, Lilah returned the Bryce folder to Files and Records. If she headed straight home, Lilah figured she could grab a couple hours worth of sleep before she needed to meet Wesley at the department store. She had her purse and her raincoat was on, but before she could reach the elevator, there was the sound of a familiar voice coming through an open doorway. Stepping to the entrance to the closet, Lilah saw Gavin, chatting amicably with his AV geek. The multitude of video screens showed different shots inside the Hyperion, with mostly empty rooms.
"What the hell did he spill all over the floor?" Gavin asked.
"Not sure. I didn't see the spill. I don't know what goes on in his neighborhood, but this is the second time I got complete snow on his lines. Wait...got it! There's a sugar box." Gavin shifted and Lilah could see Wesley on the central monitor sweeping up piles of white off the floor of his living room. The two men hadn't noticed her presence, and she didn't feel a need to announce it.
Gavin laughed. "I mean, how sad is this guy's life? It's four in the morning and he's carrying around a whole box of sugar, probably for one cup of tea."
'That's one assumption,' thought Lilah, 'but it's wrong.' Lilah had snooped around enough of the apartment to have her own ideas about Wesley's current activities.
"Yeah, this guy is pitiable. I mean, earlier tonight he had that hot bitch, Lilah Morgan practically naked and crawling all over him, then he throws her out." Lilah gave a half smile at the compliment.
"Well, Jeremy, my boy," The AV geek apparently had a name, Lilah noted as Gavin laughed and clapped the young man on the shoulder. "Maybe there's hope for him yet, for showing some taste." Lilah raised both eyebrows in bored amusement as the men shifted their attention to the screen replaying her earlier drama. It afforded her with a better view of Wesley cleaning his living room. The three beer cans and the empty bucket of hot wings seemed out of place in the middle of the 'sugar' mess. No wonder he had wanted her out of there. Her visit was going to disrupt some big plans. Watching carefully, she saw him pick up a pile of papers and carefully tuck them in a notebook. Stopping by the TV, he picked up what looked like a small black rock and gingerly placed it in a small black pouch. Both the notebook and the pouch ended up in one of the bookcase cabinets, something to look into on her next visit.
"Oh damn. A shoe fetish would have been a hell of alotta fun to blackmail him with." Gavin shook his head in disappointment.
With the horniness of a young man, Jeremy replied, "But you can't blame him for loving those legs. Man those are great legs for someone as old as her." Lilah frowned and returned her attention to Wesley, who was pushing the sofa back into place. Shifting her gaze to another monitor, she saw him turn on the bedroom light and give the sheets a gentle caress before he frowned and pulled the blanket off the bed. The scotch bottle looked empty. Turning off the lights behind him, Lilah saw him settle onto the couch for the rest of the night. Interesting, maybe he'd prefer flannel, she mused.
"Jeremy, that's why you shouldn't date a woman with an education. See the way she's got him pussy whipped and pushed up against the ropes? Man, I wish we could put cameras in the company suite. Those two must have been something else this afternoon." Gavin sighed in resignation. "Mustn't piss off the senior partners."
Lilah thought that lunch assignations with Wesley were becoming a better and better idea. Gavin wasn't done. "Look, you tell me when you're ready to settle down, and I'll arrange a mail order Asian bride for you. She'll be pretty, won't speak a word of English, will cook and obey your every command." Jeremy smiled and nodded at the generous offer.
"Ohhh, hellllo, that's gotta hurt." Wesley had just thrown her against the kitchen counter. It had stung for a second but it really hadn't hurt. Gavin continued with all the false sincerity he could muster, "Poor, poor, Lilah." They rewound the section and played it again. Lilah shook her head; they were so pathetic.
"Here comes my favorite part." Jeremy was practically salivating. From her new vantage point, Lilah watched the scene replay itself. Now removed from the action, she could see that Wesley was visibly shaking when he tore open the shirt she had been wearing. The murderous glint was still in his eye, just like she remembered it. That still bothered her; there was a piece to the Wesley Wyndam-Pryce puzzle that she hadn't figured out.
While the men in front of her chortled over her standing naked in the middle of the apartment pulling on her clothes, she watched Wesley in the kitchen. The murderous gleam slowly faded from his eyes and was replaced with something else. Fear? 'What are you afraid of, Wesley?' she wondered.
"Mr. Parks, can't we put a camera or two in her apartment?" Jeremy asked. Lilah decided to answer for him.
"Sorry to disappoint you, Jimmy Olsen, but Clark Kent here has already tried. The shaman who comes around to do regular psychic extermination on my place blows out the camera equipment every time. It's a shame, all that damaged company equipment." Jeremy was blushing furiously and looking for a place to hide. Gavin was surprised at first but immediately put on his smarmy grin.
"Lilah, looks like you had a busy evening. I'm surprised you're here at this hour. Something apocalyptical going on?"
"Nope, just heard you got some interesting footage tonight and I thought I'd check it out." The expression on Gavin's face changed as soon as he realized that she might have ways of spying on him. Lilah just smiled and said, "Goodnight boys."
~*~ *~*~*~*~*~*~*~ 12 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
I'll send an SOS to the world...
"Fred, how are we going to find Angel on the bottom of the ocean and rescue him?"
"I, I don't know. We're going to definitely need help. Damn-it!" Gunn looked at her, shocked to actually hear her curse. "I wish we could have blocked Wolfram & Hart's signal."
"Well, we can't win them all, sweetie." The computer monitor swung towards them and the mouse moved to the right corner of the screen.
Fred took a careful look and exclaimed, "Dennis turned off their sound!"
"Dennis, man, you are so much a part of this team. Give me five!" Gunn put his hand in the air and it was greeted by the firm slap of the TV remote.
Fred picked up the phone and began dialing. Handing it to Gunn, she said, "Here, you check and see if he left a message. I don't want to hear yours."
Looking a little ashamed, Gunn confirmed that the last message was the one that he'd left. Fred took the phone and left the next message.
"Hi, Wesley. I'm very relieved to know that you've been with us all along, but like Gunn, I'm disappointed that we weren't included. We just found out that Connor locked Angel into some kind of iron coffin and dumped him at the bottom of the ocean. We could use some help locating and rescuing him. Neither one of us is a strong swimmer. Have a good night, pleasant dreams."
At Gunn's look, Fred hung up and said, "Okay, you're in charge of leaving the phone messages."
~*~ *~*~*~*~*~*~*~ 13 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Logic so inflexible
Pulling up to a pay phone at a gas station, Wesley called and listened to Fred's revelations about Angel. Deleting all the messages, Wesley rethought his response to Gunn. Being angry at each other wasn't going to solve anything and besides, Fred might pick up the messages. He and Gunn could fight when they saw each other in person.
"Fred and Gunn, I'm relieved to hear your voices and know that you're both all right. It's too complicated to explain all the reasoning over the phone. As you've already guessed, my position is somewhat precarious. Please only use the answering machine to contact me. Just so you know, I'm proceeding with the original plan and have started working at Wolfram & Hart. I'm sure if you're publicly faced with this fact, you can muster the appropriate amount of disgust. Know that I share in that feeling.
One of the notebooks I told Fred to take in case of fire is titled "Basic Spells". Believe me, they are laid out simply enough that even someone who has never done magic will manage. There is a locating spell in there that can be customized. If you combine soul and dead body you should get a small green ball that will lead you to Angel. Here's the catch, this will lead you to the spot in the ocean he is at. The spell will won't work in the ocean. It's too complicated to explain in a message, but think of it as being similar to the way light bends changes from air to water. Once you're over the spot, you'll have to cast a second location spell using the variations for casting in salt water. In either case, whoever casts the spell will be able to mentally control it. In the Rolodex is the number for Innsmouth Marine Services; if Joe can't help you, he should be able to find someone who can. Good luck."
Wesley hung up the phone, feeling guilty for not being able to help them, perhaps a little guiltier about not mentioning Lilah. Next phone call, he promised himself.
Wesley bypassed the valet parking and took a nearby spot for the SUV. Lilah was waiting for him, with an extra cup of coffee. Holding the garment bag with some of his suits to be altered in one hand, Wesley gratefully took the coffee in the other. The gates were still down, since the store didn't open for another ten minutes or so.
Deciding that he couldn't take the uncomfortable silence that developed, Wesley spoke first. "So, are we going to yell at each other for last night or pretend it didn't happen at all?"
"I'm inclined to go with forgetting, but I think we should resolve a small point or two, in order to avoid rehashing the situation at a future date." They were both staring at the mannequins, wearing various styles of suits and carefully avoiding looking at each other.
"Seems like a good idea. Would you like to go first?"
"Sure. Do you object to satin sheets?"
Wesley thought it was a strange place to start, but at least it wasn't an uncomfortable place. "No, actually the sheets were very nice. I, ah, well I felt a little guilty last night and didn't sleep on them. Felt like we should christen them together, so to speak."
Out of the corner of his eye, Wesley could see her nodding. " I like how you think. How about tonight, after the reception?"
"Agreed. So, my turn. Do you have an actual key to my apartment or did you find some other method of getting in?"
"The locksmith believed me when I said my husband was going to kill me for losing the key. He made me a spare right there on the spot. I didn't realize how potentially prophetic that statement was going to turn out to be, but it got me in." Lilah was inspecting her nails when Wesley stole a glance in her direction.
Her invasion of his apartment really had made him angry. Realistically though, there was no way he could stop her if she really wanted in. If he just went with the assumption she could walk in at any time, it might make him more cautious. "Well, I suppose it would cause an undue amount of trouble if I asked for it back, you having to find another way to sneak in."
"Yes, probably. I do have a compromise." Lilah turned to him and held up a plain key ring with three keys on it. Ticking off each key, "Outside door, top lock, bottom lock, my place." Wesley stared at her for a moment and she shrugged, "You're inventive; it's really only a matter of time before you'll want to sneak into my place, for good or for bad. It would save us both some extra effort."
Wesley hesitated, then accepted the keys, frowning as he looked at Lilah. "Does this make us boyfriend and girlfriend?"
"Between the keys, the sex, me picking out your clothes, and the occasional incidence of domestic violence, we'd have a hard time denying it in court. Whatever we might call our relationship, which by the way is not exclusive, I think we'd make our lives simpler if we went with the common terminology that others will undoubtedly apply to us.
"That's a very reasonable stance. I agree with you on all points." Turning back to the mannequins, Wesley felt that they had reached the uncomfortable part. 'Murder' and 'domestic violence' were not pleasant descriptions, no matter how accurate. Clearing his throat, he continued. "So, did you want to talk about the domestic abuse and potential murderous aspects of our relationship?"
Joining him in his perusal of the mannequins, Lilah agreed. "I think there are some points we could clarify there."
"To be honest, I don't have much experience in the pain/pleasure arena, but I am a fast learner. It was an unintentional faux pas on my part to bruise you in such a visible location. Please accept my apology and assurances that I will be more careful in the future." He was studying her profile when Lilah turned her head and locked her eyes on his. They both recognized that, for a moment at least, they were sharing a level of honesty that most couples never achieved.
"You're forgiven. But about the murderous streak..."
Wesley inspected his shoes before looking her in the eye again. "By deciding to organize my affairs, you pushed a very old button that I was somewhat unaware of. Push it again and I won't hold myself responsible for the consequences." Wesley hadn't really intended to threaten her, but there it was. There was no way he could guarantee holding that kind of anger in place; admitting that was better than burying it.
A slow smile spread across Lilah's face. This was the attitude she was going to use to propel him up the corporate ladder at Wolfram & Hart. "It's an exciting little button. I'm afraid that I may just have to play with it a little here and there. Of course, I accept that it may have detrimental consequences. Should that occur, I suspect that we would begin a long spiral of revenge and retribution."
"Unfortunately, yes. Do be careful in your exploration."
"I've been warned. Ah, speaking of which, I've arranged something."
Sighing, Wesley looked down on her. "Yes, and what would that be?"
"Well, I was going to offer you extra sugar for your coffee as a joke, since yours seems to have spilled all over the floor last night, but I'm just too tired this morning." She watched for his reaction. He went stiff as a board and didn't move a muscle.
"I went to the office last night and caught Gavin and his AV goon watching our little confrontation in the kitchen on video tape," she admitted. "It seems that your neighborhood had interesting electronic glitches, because the next noteworthy thing they saw was you sweeping up - sugar." Lilah watched Wesley let his breath out before she continued. "I've arranged for the shaman who cleans my apartment to take care of yours. It will blow out Gavin's cameras and only cost you fifty dollars a week for three visits."
Wesley's eyes opened wide. "That's extraordinarily inexpensive. Are you sure he does an adequate job?"
"I get him some hard to acquire supplies from overseas. Besides, to him it's mostly daily prayers; he doesn't have to put that much effort into it. For an extra twenty, he'll also scare rodents into your neighbor's apartment."
"Will he be coming by today so that when we break in the satin sheets later it won't be a public event?"
"Absolutely. Gavin is incredibly good at digging up irritating facts. Fortunately, he's a complete idiot when it comes to interpreting them and putting them together. For instance, he didn't seem to notice that the sugar box was closed and there was too much of the white substance on the floor to fit into such a small box." Lilah's slight frown showed her false concern over the mismatched facts.
Wesley's surprised response was just as false. "Really? That's an interesting observation."
"Yes, and the fact that the furniture was all moved didn't even faze him."
"Gavin is truly unobservant."
"He didn't show a concern in the world that you were still standing after half-a-bottle of Scotch, three beers and an entire bucket of hot wings. What is your secret for hiding all those calories?"
"Well, I am English and that should explain my ability to drink. As for the wings, well, I was hungrier than I thought. Are you finished?" He pointed at her coffee. Lilah handed Wesley her empty paper cup and he dropped both cups in a nearby waste bin. Apparently she was going to have to do some more research to determine what he was really doing last night. That was all right with Lilah; she liked a challenge.
Just as he was returning to her, the metal gates were pushed back from the doors and other patrons began moving into the store. Swinging the garment bag over his shoulder, Wesley placed his other hand on the curve of Lilah's hip. "Shall we?"
The gesture surprised the hell out of her, but she covered it with one of her Cheshire grins. Wrapping an arm around his waist, the pair headed to the men's department.
1. Wrapped Around Your Finger
2. Desert Rose
3. King of Pain
5. Epilogue (nothing 'bout Me)
6. St. Augustine in Hell
7. I'll be Missing You
8. Love is the Seventh Wave
9. Fortress Around Your Heart
10. All This Time
11. Every Breath You Take
12. Message in a Bottle
~end Part 5~
Onto Part 6 ~ "Bittersweet Loyalty
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