As promised, the next chapter. Where you find out what's worse than a dragon. :)
(This is one of my favourite things I've written, btw. One of my reasons for deciding to post this fic was so I could share this chapter!)
First chapter & notes here
, and Master post of whole 'verse here
I own nothing. Rating:
Spike, Angel, Illyria, Buffy, Scoobies + cameos from more or less everyone in the 'verse.Feedback:
Is bloody ambrosia! (The secret ingredient is otter...)Word count:
2600 words approx.Setting and Summary:
As before. (Post-NFA epic quest thing.)
“Oh come now Boss - you don’t mean that!”
The immaculately dressed woman sitting cross-legged on the desk smiled at him widely.“Lilah...”
he said, eyes narrowing. “What are you doing here? Was there a backlog in the torture chamber?”
She chuckled. “No, Stupid. This-” she spread her arms wide, “-is my little slice of afterlife. Look - they even gave me a desk after I talked you into working for us!”
Angel looked at her in silence for a moment and then let his eyes travel around the room. It was rough, carved out of the rock like all the others. The floor was covered in dirt and illumination came from a single, undoubtedly enchanted, naked light bulb suspended from the ceiling. The only other thing in the room was the large, expensive-looking desk.
He slowly nodded. “They’re good. Sometimes I forget just how
good... But I’ve got to hand it to them - this is inspired.”
Catching her eyes he asked, “I don’t suppose you can leave?”
Her smile was slightly forced this time. “Well... the door has no handle on the inside!”
“Of course.” He smiled back at her, beginning to see exactly how to play this.
“Lilah...” Spike said, thinking, eyes narrowing. “That’s
it - you were Wesley’s bird!”
His eyes travelled appreciatively from her head to her toes and back up again, raising an eyebrow. “Gotta say the guy had taste!”
Taking in the promise in the blue eyes and the soft lips, the confident stance and the rough, rugged look that came from weeks of living outdoors, she smiled back. “You must be Spike...”
Then she turned back to Angel, lifting an eyebrow. “Hey - you couldn’t have locked me in a cellar with him?”
Spike smiled widely, charm turned up to 110 percent. “Like what you see, eh? Sorry pet, but I’m spoken for!”
He shot Angel a swift look, letting him know that he was ready to go with whatever Angel thought best, but Lilah’s eyes darted from one to the other, mouth falling slightly open, then catching herself.“Really?
I knew Angel had a thing for blondes, but...”
Angel smirked. Slowly he walked up to the desk until he was face to face with her; then leaned in, mouth almost brushing her ear.
“Oh wouldn’t you just love
to know?” he purred, voice low and seductive. She looked at him sharply, but he moved away and smiled back, face unreadable.
“You waste time!” Illyria complained, and Lilah stared at her.
Did you just have a really bad hair day or...”
Angel tried very hard not to grind his teeth. Trust Her Impatient Highness to trample all over his game... Even Spike was able to judge a situation without difficulty (and unfailingly backed him up when called for, which was something he was still adjusting to, but it sure made life easier), but Illyria...
He looked back at Lilah. “Fred is dead. This is Illyria, an Elder God from before the time of men...” He sighed. “Long story.”
Lilah blinked, but he ignored her.
“Illyria - can you be patient for just a little while? Lilah is a lawyer
and she’s dead
- facts I’m sure you remember. If I thought I could get any answers out of her by torture, she’d be in several different pieces already. We’ll need to... negotiate!”
Illyria stared back coldly for a moment, then shrugged and began to inspect the walls.
Angel turned back to Lilah.
“Now... negotiation... Simply put, we all want something, Lilah. It's the way of the world. Everybody's got an agenda. Even you.”
“I really don’t Angel - I’m not in
the world anymore, am I? There’s nothing you can offer me!” She smiled back, as smooth and confident as ever.
“So... you’re happy here? Spending eternity in a tiny box? Because let me tell you something - there’s nothing out there. This world is used up, dead and forgotten. You won’t even have pleasure of being ripped to shreds because the only demons outside are too dumb
to use a door handle. Wouldn’t you like... I dunno? A chair? Some chocolate? Peace?”
“Aw Angel, that’s so sweet!”
She clasped her hands together and pressed them to her chest, and if she could have faked a tear he was sure she would have. Then she shook her head lightly, a touch of a smile on her lips.
“But sorry, Wesley already tried that one, bless him. Didn’t work!”
Angel didn’t smile back. “I’m not a gallant ex-lover Lilah, nor an unyielding Champion fighting for people’s souls... or have you forgotten? I’m a man who knows the value of compromise and how to beat the system from inside the belly of the beast.”
He fixed her with a cold stare. “I took the job. As a result all my friends are now dead and I have the blood of heroes on my hands. I couldn’t give a crap about your fate, but I’m guessing we’ve each got something the other wants!”
“Now now, no need to be so blatant,” she replied, shooting him a coy look from under her eyelashes.
He gave in and chuckled as he shook his head. “Oh Lilah - I never thought it was possible, but I think I’ve actually missed this. If only they’d sent Lindsey here as well it’d have been a proper reunion.”
She looked at him sharply. “Lindsey’s dead?”
Angel’s smile turned frosty. “Ah yes, he came back like a bad penny, full of crazy schemes. Gave me a real headache, even though he came in useful.”
He shrugged, made a face. “I had him killed in the end - too big a liability.”
He could see how his statement affected her far more than any of his previous ones - for the first time she seemed to really take on board just how much he’d changed. She knew that he could be ruthless, knew the lengths he’d go to when he had a personal vendetta. But seeing in him the W&H quality par excellence - the ability to cooly and impersonally use and then discard people with a view only to own advancement - that
made an impression.
Studying her, he kept the smile in place - that perfect, ‘friendly’ W&H smile that they both excelled at.
“But - lets talk about you Lilah. What exactly are you guarding?”
“Is that supposed to mean something?”
She could still keep her composure, he had to give her that.
“Stop the games. They’re fun, but take too long. You were one of their top people, head of a department, on the fast track. They didn’t just put you here for punishment, they put you here on the off chance that someone like me ever dropped in, so you could stop them getting at whatever W&H are hiding in this place. And as I said, I’m willing to trade. Because I? Can offer you the most valuable thing in the world - something stronger even than loyalty.”
“And what would that be, Mr Speech giver?” She was curious now he could tell, in spite of herself.
She turned that over in her head. “Hope... hope... Hmmm...”
Then with apparent sudden illumination she looked back at him. “Oh yes - I remember that one. Sadly for you that one is filed away beside ‘love’ and ‘peace’. But nice try!”
Condescending didn’t even begin to describe the expression on her face, and Angel decided to just let the thought and the subsequent curiosity brew for a moment before he showed his hand.
“I’ll explain more later - right now I’m wondering what exactly you’ve got hidden and if it’s worth the price. And where...”
He looked around the room again, saw Spike leaning against the wall, observing and a little bored, but keeping quiet. Illyria had stopped walking and was now studying a bit of black wall intently, and if he hadn’t known better he’d have thought she was trying to kiss it.
“Here!” she said, and he could sense the momentary - but quickly calmed - panic in the dead woman beside him.
“Well then Lilah, going to show your boss what you’ve got in there?”
Her smile was forced this time.
“If you’re here, trying to barter with me, that means you’re not the boss anymore - doesn’t it?”
Well at least she wasn’t still trying to deny that she was guarding something. He wondered if Illyria would be able to open the safe and how long it would take... But thinking about it he realised that he wanted to win this battle with Lilah himself - if for no other reason than to prove that he could. That he could beat the Senior Partners at their own game.
“Thank you Illyria,” he said. “Let me handle it from here on - please?”
Illyria turned her head, her eyes moving from him to Lilah and back again, unreadable. Then to his immense relief she inclined her head and stepped back. Maybe she remembered their dealings with Giles? Who knew. She never let on by what bizarre thought processes she operated.
Then he stepped in front of Lilah and slowly studied her face. “The thing is - I know you. They might think you’re loyal, because you always tried to be the best. Always followed the rules. C’mon - the only reason you were there was because they offered you the best deal. I can offer you something better - and you know what? You’re going to take it, because when it comes down to it - you’re always looking out for Number 1.”
There was a long moment’s silence, then her eyes narrowed and he could see that for the first time she let the mask down, if only a fraction.
“What did you mean ‘hope’?”
He didn’t move a muscle. But he could feel a smile spreading inside, a separate thing altogether like a Cheshire Cat’s. He had her.
Spike might enjoy primitive killing out in the wild - but this... oh this was his
sort of hunt. The slow luring of the prey until it was inside his trap without knowing it. Killing didn’t even enter into it - it was all about the capture.
Keeping his voice perfectly neutral and even, he replied:
“We’re trying to undo the power of W&H. If we succeed I’m expecting a lot
of contracts will go off to Never Never Land, no longer worth the blood they were signed in. Don’t know what exactly that’d mean for you
, but I’m figuring it’d be better than this!”
“Undo their power? Riiiight
, that’s going to work!”
If it was possible to pour more scorn into a voice Angel wasn’t sure how it could be done. Didn’t matter - victory was just a question of time now, so he readily elaborated.
“There’s a key, made for that purpose, but W&H broke it. We’re looking for the pieces - and we’re figuring you might have one! Spike?”
Angel turned and automatically picked the grey lump out of the air, but nevertheless sent Spike an intense scowl. Spike of course only grinned back, utterly unconcerned.
Lilah wrinkled her nose. “That is not
“Well if you have another piece, that should prove me right!”
She was thinking now, hard. Seeing was believing, and she’d seen plenty to know that he wasn’t bluffing. Then she asked: “So why are you doing it - still hoping for that shanshu?”
He shook his head dismissively. “Signed it away. Spike is the Destiny Boy now. Me? I’m a free Agent. And since you asked - I’m mostly in it for the vengeance.”
He saw how everything clicked into place then. Because Lilah was smart and knew what he was capable of - and what he was ready to sacrifice.
She jumped off the desk with almost a spring in her step, laid her hand on the wall where Illyria was standing, and, focussing hard, recited something long and complex that made Illyria look almost impressed.
With the softest ‘whoosh’ a perfect square of wall evaporated, and Angel could sense Spike at his elbow peering in. There was a low, soft whistle. “What’s that golden thing? Looks very
“No!” Angel said, and, ignoring all the shiny objects, the ancient talismans and the feather-light parchments, reached for the small knobbly nugget at the back. Bringing it out he looked at the two pieces, one in each hand, and frowned.
Illyria, gritting her teeth and looking almost green, plucked them out of his hands and held them against each other. And without sound or movement the two pieces were suddenly one.
“Bugger me!” Spike said, impressed. “Maybe old Mr Feathers was right after all...”
Angel looked up at Lilah, and she swallowed. He could see that she had indeed found what he’d promised - the knowledge that maybe one day things would change...
Spike shoved the Key back in his pocket and Illyria drifted over to the door; but Lilah bit her lip, then slowly looked up at Angel.
“What - what happened to Wesley?”
“He was killed by Cyvus Vail.”
He saw the name sink in, knew that she had to have been the one to handle the negotiations. Ah, the inevitable justice of life - the way every single
thing would always come back and bite you on the ass, just when you thought there was nothing left.
She nodded slowly, and he continued - wanting to let her know that Wesley had done good. “He died in Illyria’s arms... They had a thing. Well - he and Fred
had a thing, but Illyria sort of became attached to him too.”
Lilah looked up in surprise and Illyria met her eyes. “Wesley died an honourable death and my retribution was swift. The bones of Vail now adorn Wesley’s grave.”
After a moment of trying to work all this out, Lilah smiled.
“I like you. Thank you...” she waved a hand in Illyria’s general direction, “...your God-what-ever-ness!”
Illyria briefly inclined her head, then turned on her heel and left the room. Spike, standing by the door and obviously itching to leave, did a little wave.
“Um - nice meetin’ you and all. Enjoy your desk! I’d help you with that if I could, trust me.”
He winked, and then slipped out.
Slowly Angel walked away, but turned at the door. Lilah was standing silently by the wall, looking oddly helpless and - although she was hiding it well - he knew that the endless loneliness that lay ahead terrified her. He could easily stay longer - tell her about everything that had happened - but she wasn’t going to ask and he wasn’t going to offer. Either scenario would be based on only one thing - pity. And he knew her well enough to understand that it was something she’d never accept.
But he could still offer her a sincere goodbye, with the respect she needed.
In the swiftest of moments he was by her side and she almost jumped. Odd how humans - even the dead ones - never
got used to vampire speed.
She was studying him uncertainly, but with utmost gentleness he took hold of her hand and softly kissed it.
“Goodbye Miss Morgan. May we never meet again.”
He sent her a melancholy smile, and she suddenly looked as though she was going to burst into tears.
When he was at the door again he sent her one last look. A single lonely figure in an empty room; empty mountain; empty world. Damn that soul, because he actually felt sorry for her.
“Goodbye Angel,” she said quietly, “and good luck.”
“Thank you,” he replied, and closed the door.Chapter 5
Tags: divided destiny, my fic