Everything either belongs to Joss or it should, no infringement is intended and no profit is to be made. When you get right down to it I’m not really worth suing anyway unless you want a share of an underpaid civil servants wages and it just wouldn’t be worth the hassle trust me.Wolfram and Hart Building – Los Angeles – June 2003
‘I’m sorry but I don’t have you listed as having an appointment with Ms. Morgan today’ the receptionist told them. ‘If you would like to contact her secretary I’m sure one could be arranged’ she added with a businesslike smile.
‘You know we could
just go back to the Hyperion, round up the rest of the girls, a few choice pieces of hardware, come back here and level the place’ Faith suggested. ‘Just saying is all’ she added in response to Buffy’s look of reproach.
Buffy turned back the receptionist and smiled. ‘I’m sure Ms. Morgan will make an exception in our case’ she told her.
‘Indeed she would, and in fact will’ the tall brunette who exited the private elevator agreed. ‘Lilah Morgan’ she introduced herself, holding out her hand which slightly to her surprise Buffy took. ‘You’re not planning to break my fingers are you?’ Lilah asked in a slightly sardonic, verging on superior, tone of voice.
‘More Faith's style than mine’ Buffy replied. ‘I believe you’ve met before?’ she asked.
Lilah's smile reminded Buffy why people often referred to Lawyers as sharks. ‘We’re acquainted’ she replied, giving Faith a nod but pointedly not offering her a handshake, Faith was the type who actually would
break your fingers Lilah knew. ‘We hired her to do a job once but she just couldn’t manage to go through with the deal’ she told Buffy.
Faith shrugged. ‘I saw the light’ she responded. ‘I mean It's one thing associating with demons or scum on the streets, but when you’ve really hit rock bottom and you find yourself hanging out with lawyers
, well a girl’s got to take a long hard look at where she’s ended up’ Faith said sadly, looking downwards and shaking her head.
Lilah chuckled. ‘Surprised to find you hanging back there with the help Angel’ she said loudly. ‘Not the Alpha Leader any more?’ she asked sarcastically.
Angel continued to lean back against the support column arms and legs crossed observing placidly. ‘I’m just here to watch’ he replied dispassionately, ‘it's her show’ he said, nodding slightly towards Buffy. ‘I’m really just hoping that you piss her off enough to get smacked in the jaw’ he said, ‘because that would make my day’ he told Lilah with a hint of a smile.
‘I suppose I should invite you up to my office’ Lilah told Buffy, ‘I assume you’d rather bring some of your muscle with you than come alone?’ she queried.
Buffy nodded thoughtfully. ‘They’d better be someone there who can pull me off you if that smacking you on the jaw thing comes up’ she said. ‘I doubt your security people are up to it’ she told her honestly.
Lilah turned and led with Buffy, Faith and Angel following. ‘If we don’t check in on schedule’ Buffy addressed the three girls who remained behind in the lobby lounging on the reception chairs, ‘kill everyone in the building’ she ordered. Despite herself Lilah took a sharp inhalation of breath at Buffy's words, you couldn’t be too sure of these new slayers, the Senior Partners were very concerned that Illyria’s influence might warp them into some kind of death squad or something.
Kennedy reached for a magazine and started to leaf through it. ‘No problem boss’ she replied to Buffy, not looking up from the page.
‘Hey!’ Vi said happily. ‘Cosmo’ she continued, reaching for a magazine of her own.
‘Thought you were into Guns & Ammo or Soldier of Fortune now?’ Rona asked, taking a copy of the New York Times for herself.
Vi started paging through the copy of Cosmopolitan. ‘They’re alright for work but they’re not a fun read’ she replied, leaning back in her chair.
Inside the elevator Lilah looked Buffy over. ‘I’m sure you hear this all the time’ she said, 'but I always thought you’d be taller’ she told the slayer honestly.
Buffy narrowed her eyes in annoyance as Faith fought down the urge to laugh. ‘On the other hand you’re
very much like I pictured you’ Buffy replied reasserting herself and looking Lilah over in turn.
‘Yes? How so?’ Lilah asked.
‘A mixture of edge and insecurity hidden under a killer suit and balanced on high heels, which are very nice by the way’ Buffy replied. ‘I can certainly see why Wesley was interested’ she said.
Lilah smirked. ‘So how is Wesley these days?’ she asked. ‘I wait by the phone pining for him but he never calls, he never writes’ she said. ‘I think our relationship is going through a rocky patch.’
‘Didn’t he dump you before
he cut your head off?’ Angel asked. ‘Either of those events should have given you a hint your “relationship” was pretty much past tense’ he said reasonably as the elevator doors opened and Lilah continued to lead them through the building towards her office. The various Wolfram and Hart staff congregated in the open space turned and stared at the sight of the boss leading not only the ever present thorn in the firm's side Angel, but they had already had the heads-up thanks to the rumour mill that there were slayers in the building, plural.
‘He’ll come running back’ Lilah said confidently.
‘Hey Wes has some issues but I don’t think necrophilia is one of them’ Faith told her. Angel just snorted as Lilah pushed open the double-doors that led to her office and reached for the remote control opening the window shades, pressing a button and filling the room with bright sunlight. She turned quickly hoping to find Angel diving for cover but instead he blinked a few times in the glare and walked over to the window to look out at the city.
‘Necro-tempered glass’ Angel said, reaching out and tapping the window. ‘Having this put into the Hyperion as part of the refurbishment’ he told Buffy, mentally thanking Illyria for yet another heads-up.
‘Cool’ Faith responded, ‘and not just in the you not bursting into flames way’ she added.
Lilah leaned back against the edge of her desk, if Buffy had been a man, or of known lesbian leanings, she would have sat on it and crossed her legs for the psychological advantage but instead she just preened slightly and checked her nails. ‘Not that I don’t appreciate a visit from the slayer’ she began, ‘but why did you decide to drop in on our little operation?’ she asked.
‘Not “the” slayer’ Buffy replied. ‘More accurate to say “a” slayer, one of many’ she told the Lawyer. ‘I could live with “Chief Slayer” though’ she added, causing Faith standing behind her to roll her eyes. ‘As to why I’m here well that should be obvious’ Buffy said.
‘Should it?’ Lilah asked with a wry smile.
Buffy crossed her arms. ‘Wolfram and Hart, or should I say the forces of the entities known as the Wolf, Ram and Hart, allied themselves with certain elements that were, how can I put this delicately, trying to kill
us’ she said, putting an edge to her voice at the end. ‘That sort of thing tends to provoke a few negative feelings on our part’ the slayer stated angrily.
‘What would make you think that anyone in our organisation could possibly be involved in…’ Lilah started to say before Buffy raised a hand to signal her to stop.
Buffy sighed. ‘Unless you want to eat that very attractive, and I’m sure highly expensive Chinese Vase over there you’ll cut out the lawyer crap and just talk to us like we’re not idiots’ she told Lilah. ‘We know you did it, we even caught and interrogated one of your people’ she said, ‘two if you include the God you sent after us’ she continued. ‘That was a good one by the way, totally out of left field’ Buffy admitted, ‘so let’s put all our cards on the table yes?’
Lilah crossed her arms. ‘Oh please let's’ she replied with a smirk.
‘Okay here’s our hand’ Buffy said. ‘I’ve got going on forty slayers most of whom have seen the kind of on-the-job-training over the last few weeks it took me years to accumulate, I’ve got a witch who kicked your best guys ass without breaking a sweat, I’ve got more money than I can figure out what to do with and I’ve got an ancient Demon God who hates your guts, personally and collectively, and who’s so mean she currently has the God you sent after us polishing the Lobby Floor at Angel’s place.’
‘Oh yeah’ Buffy said, nodding. ‘Now I know you Wolfram and Hart assholes have been having things pretty easy until now’ she said, ‘only one slayer, Watchers Council spread thin, you with branch offices all over the place, thousands of demons working for you. Hell you're the supernatural superpower’ Buffy told her. ‘Well guess what’ she continued with a feral grin, ‘It's not a lone superpower world any more’ she stated. ‘You've got real competition, and the new player in the game is lean and hungry while you've got fat and lazy up here in your ivory tower’ Buffy observed, looking around.
‘You can't know what you're dealing with’ Lilah blustered.
Buffy laughed. ‘If you really thought we weren't a threat you wouldn't have made a pact with the devil, or should I say The First’ she replied scornfully. ‘If you ever find where it's hiding tell it I say “Hi” by the way and remind it that we've still got unfinished business’ she told the Lawyer. ‘I don’t know what Firsty was thinking?’ Buffy asked rhetorically in mock amazement. ‘I mean, only what five thousand Turok-Han versus us
?’ she said dismissively. ‘Geez at least they could have made a showing there at the end.’
‘Girls were just starting to get warmed up when we won’ Faith interjected. ‘Had to lay on an extra couple of hours training just to burn off the excess energy’ she added deadpan.
Buffy looked to the ceiling. ‘It’s a problem you know’ she said. ‘All those excitable teenage girls with superpowers’ she continued. ‘Every day it’s “when are we going to burn down the Wolfram and Hart Building Buffy?” or “Is it true that you have to put a stake through a lawyers heart like a vampire to kill one Buffy?” I mean it’s starting to bug me so much I might just get sick of it and let them off the leash one day’ she said, lowering her head again to look Lilah straight in the eye. ‘Let's be one-hundred percent fucking clear’ she snarled. ‘As far as we're concerned Wolfram and Hart have declared war on the slayers’ she stated. ‘The Senior Partners jumped right to the top of the shit-list the moment they started to interfere with my people and if you think we’re going to let that
slide you’re dreaming’ she declared.
Lilah stopped leaning on the desk and walked around it to take a seat. ‘So are you here to negotiate a deal?’ she asked.
‘No I’m just here to make sure you know where we stand’ Buffy replied. ‘Now I’m willing to take the kettle off the boil and let this situation settle down into a nice steady Cold War between us superpowers for the time being’ she offered. ‘Illyria wants to retaliate immediately but I think I can calm her down for now, but if you try any other major offensives against us then this Cold War will go hot again faster than you can believe’ Buffy vowed. ‘If we take the gloves off you’re going to find out why slayers are the things demons have nightmares about’ she promised.
‘You know that during the real Cold War it wasn’t always that peaceful’ Lilah told her. ‘There were still a few little skirmishes, Korea, Vietnam, maybe you’ve heard of them but then again you never did graduate college did you’ Lilah asked rhetorically with a little of her old venom returning.
Buffy smirked. ‘Hey I never said there was going to be peace
did I?’ she responded. ‘I’m just saying that I’m willing not to start chucking nukes about. Anything you do we’ll retaliate in kind, we’ll probably clash a bit on the frontier, foil each others plans, but we won’t push the button if you don’t.’
‘While both sides stockpile for when we eventually do?’ Lilah asked rhetorically, ‘If you don’t mind me extending the metaphor you’ve been running with.’
‘Seems likely’ Buffy admitted, ‘balance of terror I think they called it. Oh yes and when I said about not chucking nukes around that wasn’t
metaphor’ she told her. ‘Illyria would be only too happy to get to get the chance to put the “kill” into kiloton if you know what I mean, better pray I don’t get provoked into taking her
advice on what to do because it would make World War Three look like a food fight’ she said.
Faith started checking out the office furniture. ‘Can I get an office like this in the new place’ she asked Buffy. ‘As I'm like the Deputy
Chief Slayer?’ she said.
‘New place?’ Lilah queried.
‘Long term plan’ Buffy replied. ‘We’re going to be putting up a little Headquarters somewhere, a base of operations you know the thing’ she continued, ‘nice landscaping outside, plenty of marble on the walls, mosaics on the floors, defences like a fortress, maybe a moat around it?’ she said looking to Faith ‘we could get those Japanese Fish to put in it’ she suggested.
‘Sushi?’ Faith asked, confused.
‘Koi Carp she means’ Angel responded with a sigh.
‘Right those, or piranhas, Illyria would love
piranhas’ Buffy said. ‘Sorry about that’ she apologised to Lilah, ‘we get carried away with plans sometimes, I suppose its all part of the new image.’
‘I can imagine it’s all quite a culture shock’ Lilah replied sardonically.
‘Oh yeah’ Faith said, ‘I mean everything’s changing so fast’ she agreed. ‘We’ve got slayers carrying guns and shit, magic weapons starting to come off the production line, Wesley’s screwing a God, I’m not trying to kill Buffy every chance I get, it’s just so exciting to be alive right now’ she told the lawyer enthusiastically.
Lilah made a sort of choking noise. ‘Wesley’s doing what
?’ she gasped.
‘You didn’t know?’ Buffy asked in feigned ignorance. ‘Illyria decided he was the one for her, she’s a chick you know, looks just like Fred but more blue, but yeah anyhow they’re happy as anything’ the slayer told Lilah. ‘We keep finding them making out on the couch, whispering sweet nothings in each others ears, plotting world domination, they’re such a sweet
couple’ she said.
‘Just adorable’ Angel agreed, fighting back the laughter that the expression on Lilah’s face was provoking. He felt slightly bad about it though, it was strangely comforting to get such a human reaction from the woman, it seemed she really did develop strong feelings for Wesley even if it was likely she had only gone after him at first to use as leverage.
‘Well I said my piece’ Buffy said, ‘now you can go talk to the Senior Partners and get back to me with their response’ she told the Lawyer, offering her hand to shake over the desk which Lilah took, standing up at the same time and regaining some of her composure and professionalism.
‘The girls downstairs are going to be pissed they didn’t get to break anything’ Faith told Buffy. ‘Want me to take them to find a vamp-nest to dust? Blow off some steam?’ she asked.
‘Good idea’ Buffy replied. ‘Crap nearly forgot,’ she said suddenly and pulled something out of her pocket which she dropped to the ground.
As soon as the amulet hit the floor it released a tornado of swirling dust, ash and energy which formed rapidly into first the skeletal shape of a man then quickly fleshed out, looking almost like watching a vampire get staked in reverse.
‘Whoa cool’ Faith said as the whirlwind finally ended leaving Spike, his face contorted in agony, facing Lilah.
‘What the hell?’ Spike exclaimed.
‘Turn around Spikey’ he heard Angel say behind him and span to find himself looking at Buffy instead.
Spikes jaw dropped then his face shifted into near ecstasy and he leaped to put his arms around her… and went straight through her instead. ‘Oh bugger’ he said.
‘Long story short’ Angel told him. ‘You came out of the amulet, you’re a ghost, of sorts, but we can repair you, we have the technology’ he joked. ‘We can’t make you any better than you were before though which is a crying shame though’ he opined.
Buffy picked up the amulet again. ‘We kept trying everywhere else but we think it would only activate in this building’ she explained to Lilah, ‘tied to the place we think’ she said. ‘Come on Spike let’s go home’ she told him.
‘But I died’ Spike said nonplussed.
‘Yes’ Buffy replied.
‘This isn’t the afterlife?’ he asked.
‘No’ Buffy confirmed. ‘This is a building full of evil lawyers set in the middle of LA’ she told him. ‘Demonically evil lawyers I mean’ she continued, ‘not everyday, ordinary evil lawyers’ she explained in more detail.
‘I saw you and I thought I’d made it to heaven’ Spike told her.
Angel rolled his eyes. ‘Look you can hear the whole damn story on the way Casper’ he told Spike. ‘Now get your ectoplasmic ass in gear and come on’ he said.
Lilah was still watching in almost as much of a state of shock and confusion as Spike. ‘Like I said it’s an exciting time to be alive’ Faith told her. ‘Or to be dead for that matter’ she continued, indicating Spike.
‘Hang on a minute I came out of the amulet?’ Spike said, still trying to get his bearings.
Buffy nodded. ‘Illyria rescued it, I mean you inside it, from the cavern when it collapsed’ she explained. ‘She knew you’d come back she just didn’t want to deprive you of your glorious death by telling you it wasn’t as permanent as you might have thought’ she said.
Spike closed his eyes. ‘So I’m a ghost and Illyria knew
all this bollocks was going to happen in advance?’ he asked through gritted teeth.
‘Right’ Buffy replied nodding. ‘But nobody else did’ she told him
’ Spike swore, opening his eyes again. ‘Do you remember when she first said I had to wear the bloody amulet to save the world?’ he asked. ‘The bint actually said
my actions would come to haunt Angel, I thought she was speaking figuratively but she was making a sodding joke
all along’ he realised.
Faith laughed. ‘I just knew
there was a comedy genius hiding under that blue hair’ she said.
‘I guess we’re all playing Illyria’s game now’ Buffy observed with a smile. ‘Come on hero we can't hang around Evil Incorporated all day’ she told Spike who followed her out of the office shaking his head, Angel following on close behind them.
Faith was the last to leave and turned back to Lilah at the door before she did. ‘Keep that in mind’ she said. ‘Don’t think it’s your
game anymore’ she told the lawyer. ‘We’re playing by different rules now’ she warned, then winked at her before grinning broadly and turning around to follow the others.
Lilah dropped back into her chair. ‘It’s not the different rules’ she said to herself quietly. ‘It’s that you’ve finally learned how to cheat.’
Note from the Author:If you liked this story taking a few seconds of your time before you move onto the rest of the series to write a review, or maybe even put in a recommendation to encourage others to read it too, would be very much appreciated.