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Chapter Data

Chapter Sixteen: Gavin

Fan Fiction: Never Look Back

Chapter Sixteen: Internal Politics

SATURDAY, JUNE 8, 2002, 9:46 AM PST (5:46 PM GMT)


"Wolfram and Hart, Special Projects, Gavin Park speaking."

Gavin answered the phone that way out of habit, some part of him still in mourning for the big office, the expensive suits, and the power that went with the title. It wasn't entirely false, of course; he was still on retainer for the firm, although these days he fell more into the category of a paid informant for the New Orleans division. Why the Senior Partners didn't just order the Los Angeles branch rebuilt, he didn't know-- although he suspected internal politics-- but they seemed content to pay one of LA's two Special Projects survivors to spy upon the other, and until today he had been quite satisfied with that role.

"Gavin, you little bastard, what are you up to?"

The voice on the other end of the line was moderately calm, but Gavin could almost taste the tightly-suppressed anger that hovered just beneath the surface. He let his mouth stretch wide in a grin that he knew his caller would hear, if not see, and reached for the button that would turn on the recording device.

"Lilah. I was just thinking of you," he said brightly, glancing across the surface of the desk at his open laptop, which displayed a stilled image of her face. The morning batch of video surveillance files had been very enlightening, and more than a little entertaining. "I just had the most interesting chat with Colonel McNamara."

"You're supposed to be dead," Lilah hissed, and he could just picture those dark eyes of hers flashing with fury. No denials, no accusations; it was as good as an admission that he already had her outmaneuvered. The feeling of triumph that gave him was nearly as potent as the dark joy of Billy's touch, still fresh in his memory; cleaner, perhaps, without the irrational rage and misogynistic violence, but the idea of putting Lilah in her place still made some primitive part of him thrum with satisfaction.

"Surprise, surprise," Gavin replied, glancing down at the fading rope scars on his wrists. "I would say the same thing about you, but I don't think I could manage the same level of outrage; I've had a few weeks to get used to the idea." Once he'd gotten over the shock and indignity of being bound half-naked in the Los Angeles sewers, showered with the dust of a former client, then put out of a job by Linwood's flawed machinations, the first thing he'd done had been to look for other cockroaches who might have survived their pocket apocalypse. He'd expected Lilah to be one of them, and he hadn't been disappointed.

"You had my apartment bugged, didn't you?" she spat back, and he could hear the determined click of heels on tile as she paced around with her phone. Kitchen, by the sound of it. She'd never find the camera in there by sight; it was wedged into the workings of her expensive coffee machine, where a searching eye would glide over the chrome fittings without pausing to examine every crevice. "I'm going to have the apartment swept, and you are going to send me the information you got from McNamara, and you are going to keep out of my business, and then maybe I won't have you killed."

"All that cash you came up with this morning would go a long way toward making sure of that, wouldn't it?" Gavin reached for the laptop, tapped in a few commands, then wound the morning's footage back a few hours. "Hmm. Seven million, four hundred thousand, wasn't it? You certainly counted it enough times. I hope you're aware, however, that none of that money is yours to spend?"

He had a fairly good idea where the money had come from-- the only outstanding contract in the seven-figure range in Special Projects when the firm collapsed had been the one regarding Faith Lehane, wanted alive, cash payable on delivery. It would be interesting to find out just how Lilah had subdued the brunette Slayer, but at that moment that aspect of the problem was peripheral to his concerns.

"What do you mean, it's not mine to spend?" Lilah spluttered, indignantly. "I fulfilled the contract, I earned it, and there's sure as Hell not an office here for me to sign it over to anymore. Until the Senior Partners rebuild it or send someone to tell me otherwise..."

"Consider yourself told," Gavin cut her off, smirking at the perfect lead-in she'd given him. "Mesektet has yet to be heard from, but in her absence Master Tarfall has made a few suggestions regarding the disposition of remaining Los Angeles branch assets, which include all outstanding cases, contracts, and projects that predate the destruction of the office, along with any resultant proceeds."

"Master Tarfall?" Lilah demanded. "You contacted New Orleans? Just how stupid are you? Did you even read the fine print in your contract?" She made a noise of disgust, then abruptly changed the subject. "And even if it's true, that doesn't explain the little stunt you just pulled with the Initiative. The deal I made with Sahjahn was mine, and our association was never down on paper at Wolfram and Hart to begin with. He won't negotiate with you, and any opportunity I might have brought to the firm because of the information he would have given me is going to be wasted because of your stupidity."

Gavin shook his head and hit a few more keys on the keyboard of his laptop, pulling up the information the Colonel's assistant had sent over from their Hostile 17 file. It was voluminous, very detailed, and worth far more in his opinion than any name that might be supplied by an incorporeal, unpredictable demon. Connor would surface sooner or later, betrayed by his very uniqueness, and in the meantime the child's uncle-- nephew?-- could be put to all sorts of entertaining and beneficial uses.

"Let it die," Gavin replied. "There are other ways to find Connor, and far better ways to use a leashed vampire than to turn him loose to kill indiscriminately. You might want to thank Sahjahn for reminding me Spike existed, though; I wasn't in Special Projects the last time he was in town, and I hadn't kept up with the details of his file."

"And just what do you plan to do with him?" Lilah demanded.

"Ah ah, what kind of opponent would I be if I told you everything I was planning?" Gavin teased her. "Oh wait-- that's your strategy. Suffice it to say, he's about to be involved in a rather delicate operation overseas, and a little... selective programming might turn the outcome decidedly in our favor."

"In favor of New Orleans, you mean," Lilah growled irritably. "You know very well that the prophecies state..."

"A lot of things that won't ever happen," Gavin broke in, "if Mesektet remains among the missing, and if she doesn't, well, whatever happens is between her and Master Tarfall. If I were you, I'd be more worried about the fact that you're going the way of Lindsey, and they aren't very accepting of that in their oath-bound employees."

"I am nothing like Lindsey," she hissed in reply, and Gavin thought for a minute she would hang up out of spite. Of course, she didn't-- she hadn't gotten the answers she wanted-- but he could almost hear her teeth grinding in frustration.

It was more true than she wanted to admit, and both of them knew it; no matter what loyalty she thought she was exercising, the fact remained that she was expressing loyalty in the first place, and while that was a worrisome but acceptable positive impulse in general for W&H employees it was a warning sign when other do-gooding impulses accompanied it. He could still remember her verbal scramble to cover herself after she had instinctively objected to their plans for Darla's baby.

"Prove it," he challenged her. "Go to New Orleans. Hand over the fee. Let go of this obsession you have with Angel and his kid. The firm will set you up with a job and an apartment just like the ones you left behind, and it'll be like none of this ever happened."

"And leave everything to you?" Lilah hissed. "You have no idea how to handle these people. Code violations on the hotel, for fuck's sake! You're going to screw everything up again, and this time I'm not going to clean up after you."

"I assure you, that won't be necessary," Gavin said crisply, and hung up on her.

When they rebuilt the firm, he made a mental note, there would be no more bright young lawyers plucked straight from law school to serve Special Projects. That entire class of charmingly initialed inductees-- Lilah Morgan, Lindsey McDonald, and Lee Martin-- had been rather ambivalently evil as a whole, and largely incapable of the detachment required to handle the department's work load. Gavin, by way of contrast, had put in several years in the Real Estate department first, and found the experience very helpful in his new role. Not only had he mastered the condescending attitude so necessary when dealing with lesser beings, he had acquired a really productive set of resources to draw from. Who would ever have imagined, for example, that the firm's transaction records for a certain secret army base would contribute so much value to later negotiations?

The Colonel's secretary-- aide? What did they call them in the military, anyway?-- had stonewalled him at first, but the mention of a "certain subterranean property in Sunnydale, California," had managed to get him through that initial roadblock. That benighted one-Starbucks town was as sensitive to the reformed Initiative as Los Angeles was to the rest of Wolfram and Hart.

"Note to self," Gavin mused, and reached for a legal pad. It would be interesting to find out if McNamara was aware of the Hellmouth's new status; they could hide a much larger operation in a city the size of L.A. than in a burg like the Slayer's home town. Future negotiation potential, there.

He tapped the ballpoint pen across his knuckles for a moment, considering whether he might have missed any other opportunities in the conversation, then keyed a few more commands into his laptop to bring up the audio file.

"McNamara," the Colonel's voice announced in a curt, gruff tone.

The Gavin in the recording took a deep breath and confidently began his appeal. "Sir, my name is Gavin Park. I'm an attorney with Wolfram and Hart..."

McNamara cut him off impatiently. "I've already heard from you people once this morning, and I'll tell you what I told Ms. Morgan; the U.S. government is not interested in providing that kind of proprietary information to a civilian law firm."

"Sir, you misunderstand me," Gavin replied, closing in for the kill. "The Hostile 17 project is not within my purview. My concern is the property that we assisted you in procuring beneath the UCSD campus. According to our records, you reported a large-scale fire and destruction of all contents in May of 2000?"

The Colonel hesitated before replying, and when he did, he sounded much warier. "Yes. We were forced to close operations and report the facility as a total loss, but all the property loans you assisted us with had been paid off by then. I don't see what there is to be concerned about."

"Insurance fraud, sir," Gavin said crisply. He'd arranged for an investigation after the last of the soldiers, one Riley Finn, finally packed up and left the town behind; just a precaution, but it had come in very handy today. "The Initiative claimed several million dollars' worth of destroyed equipment and other property that has been observed to still exist, not to mention a rather unique selection of quote, laboratory animals for whom no purchase records were ever filed."

There was silence on the other end of the line, followed by a muffled curse and the shuffling of paper. After a moment's pause, McNamara cleared his throat and took a deep breath. "I am a reasonable man, Mr. Park. Should I happen to somehow lose a copy of the Hostile 17 data, might I count on the reciprocal disappearance of this line of questioning?"

"Consider it disappeared, sir," Gavin announced. "And might I suggest that the following fax number is a useful place to lose information?"

Gavin stopped the recording before the copy of his voice could list off the ten digits of his modem line, and considered the situation with a smug grin. Lilah stymied: check. Valuable resource acquired: check. Possible source of additional 'lost information' in future: check. The continued esteem of his current boss: assured.

It was shaping up to be a very good day.


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