Slayer Central 3: Damaged Goods
Timeframe: Some time post "Chosen".
Summary: Faith confronts an old enemy.
Lilah stared at the documents in front of her, willing them to vanish. The paperwork declined to cooperate, and Lilah sighed and scribbled her signature on both sheets before picking them up and dropping them in the Out box, where they shimmered and vanished--off to the mailroom. <At least I don't have to look at them.> She was reaching for the next document with a resigned expression on her face when her office doors flew open, revealing a dark-haired woman who appeared to be about twenty--her eyes were angry and her jaw was set.
"Miss Morgan, I'm so sorry--she just barged in--should I summon Security?" Lilah's assistant was a Modar demon--they were unparalleled in their ability to organize schedules, but atrocious at keeping out unwanted visitors. This was fine with Lilah--she found that she ran through less assistants by letting people barge in if they were so inclined. She shook her head and motioned for the demon to depart.
Lilah's assistant sighed in relief and closed the doors. Lilah folded her arms and looked over at the intruder. "Well, it's been a long time, Faith. Got any rousing tales of prison life to entertain me with?"
Faith moved over to the front of Lilah's desk and leaned in--grasping the antique oak hard enough to make Lilah wince--and snarled, "What's your game?"
"Well, I'm pretty good at tennis, but I'm going to have to give it up-- unsightly scars and tennis outfits just don't match." Lilah smirked at the fury visible on Faith's face, and added, "I suppose I could find a new game- -like picking up people in bars, then threatening to beat the crap out of them if they don't hand over their valuables." She paused, then concluded with a look of mock surprise on her face: "Oh wait, that was your game when we met, wasn't it? I don't want to wander onto your turf."
"Oh no, the evil lawyer is reminding me of my wicked, wicked past--I don't think I can bear it!" Faith's eyes remained locked with Lilah's as her sardonic reply echoed through the office. Lilah raised an eyebrow, but remained silent as Faith added, "Angel told me that he's in charge of this place now, and that you were the chief stooge--I had to see it for myself."
"I always liked 'minion' or 'lieutenant' better--they both have that sinister touch that makes me feel all special when I come to work in the morning." Faith's expression remained carved in stone, and Lilah sighed. "Three years in prison and you still have no sense of humor, Faith. I'd have thought you'd pick one up just to stay sane."
"I had a lot on my mind--that was enough to keep me out of the squirrel factory." Faith straighted up and folded her arms. "Lilah, I won't ask again--is Angel your boss?"
"Yep. I'm the head of Administration for Wolfram & Hart, Los Angeles. Every piece of paper that details significant projects for this firm and how they are funded comes across my desk, and I submit a summary for Angel's inspection every evening. I was set to go back to Hell after being Messenger Girl, but Angel insisted on keeping me here as part of the deal. For some reason, the senior partners thought that it would be a fitting substitute for an eternity of blinding torment--and what do ya know, they were right." Lilah gestured in irritation at the pile of papers in front of her and paused a moment before asking, "I don't suppose you'd like to rip my head off? Shouldn't be hard--they always do a half-assed job of reattaching them down in Services."
"Thanks, I'll pass." Faith smirked, and studied the older woman for several seconds before asking, "Didn't you spend most of your time pushing paper anyway? What's so bad about having to do it now?"
Lilah reached out and grabbed the top part of the stack of documents in front of her and tossed them over to Faith. Faith hesitated, then reached out for the papers--expecting to see a lot of incomprehensible legal gibberish. She looked at the first document and blinked in surprise: "Hey--these are written in regular English."
Lilah scowled. "Yes, that was the first directive Angel passed down. Keep reading."
Faith quickly read the document, and Lilah noticed that the Slayer's mouth was twitching as she read. When she finished, she looked up at Lilah and kept a deadpan expression for about five seconds before leaning on the desk again and bursting out into loud, mocking laughter that brought tears to her eyes. Lilah folded her arms and sighed in irritation before waiting for Faith to regain her composure. Faith stopped laughing, and Lilah commented quietly, "Well, if you're done amusing yourself at my expense--"
"It's just so funny--particularly after you just accused me of not having a sense of humor. This is something I'm going to put away for times when people I care about really need to be cheered up." Faith straightened up again and added: "He's making you give money away--anonymously, so the firm can't get tax write-offs or publicity for it. I'm amazed you haven't thrown yourself out of one of the windows yet."
"Unbreakable--tried it." Lilah reached out and reclaimed the documents. "As I was saying, if you're through with your fun, I've got a lot to do today."
"You haven't answered my question yet--what's this whole thing about? Why did your senior partners give this place up to Angel? This is all part of some scheme to get them on their side, isn't it?" Faith spit the questions out like a machine gun, trying to catch Lilah off guard.
Lilah looked at Faith as if she had encountered an angry child, and sighed. "Well, of course they're trying to manipulate Angel, that's what they do. Angel knows it, I know it, everyone in Angel's little crime fighting club knows it, except Cordelia--she's kind of out of it these days." Faith's eyes narrowed angrily, and Lilah sighed again and continued: "But if you're asking me exactly what their wicked plans are, I don't have a clue. I'm not exactly considered reliable by anyone these days--it's why I'm here instead of suffering eternal pain or doing a job that doesn't make me want to do a swan dive into a wood chipper."
"So if everyone knows that something is up, why are they going for this whole thing--something stinks." Faith shook her head in confusion and anger.
"I thought you, of all people, would know why, Faith." Lilah got out of her seat and walked around her desk, moving next to the Slayer and staring directly into her eyes as she continued, "Everyone has a price, Faith. Maybe not for the big, total betrayal that people write epics and soap operas about, but everyone has a point where they will compromise at least a little on the principles that their lives center around, and that's where someone can get them--by using that little concession as a point to bring their whole value system crumbling down around them. Angel has a price, Gunn had his price, even--" Lilah hesitated, and turned away.
"Even Wesley?" Faith divined the cause for Lilah's hesitation, and pressed. "So you had no problem with selling out the one person who's given a damn about you--"
"Shut up!" Faith's eyes widened--this was the first genuine emotion she had ever heard in Lilah's voice. The lawyer turned back to Faith and snapped, "Do you think you have the slightest right to bring him up? He's been fighting demons for four years here, and most of the scars on his body are the ones you gave him. He still wakes up in the middle of the night from nightmares from what you did to him. After everything that happened, he still can't get over having failed--" She paused in mid-sentence and visibly composed herself before adding, "Of course, I was taking notes-- it's always good to know what buttons you can push on someone."
Faith wasn't buying Lilah's cynical dismissal of her outburst, but decided to pursue another point. "Wesley still thinks he failed me? Maybe he did-- but he didn't deserve what I did to him, and I'll never be able to really make it up to him." Lilah remained silent, and Faith's expression softened somewhat as she said, "He really got to you, didn't he?"
Lilah shrugged and walked over to the window before replying, "When we brought them here to make them the offer, Wesley escaped from the ex- Watcher we had showing him around, evaded six different security measures, and found my contract with the firm and burned it--he thought he could save me. I had to tell him that it wasn't that easy." She shook her head and whispered, "Fool."
"Sometimes they'll try to save you no matter hard you try to fight it," Faith murmured, remembering several people who had not taken no for an answer in her own life--all of them waiting for her back at the Hyperion. She turned away and walked to the office door, pausing as she reached for the doorknob. "Lilah, I'm going to do my best to protect them from whatever your bosses have planned--and if it comes down to it, I'll go right through you to stop it."
"I'll be here." No bravado, just resigned certainty in Lilah's voice.
Faith shook her head in sadness and anger and departed. Lilah took a deep breath that she no longer needed and walked back to her desk. The paperwork was still there, and a merciful decapitation seemed unlikely to materialize. She sighed and went back to work.
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