Author : hold_that_thought
Summary : Lilah takes her first step up the corporate ladder.
Rating : R
Spoilers : Pre-Series - vaguely through Season 2.
Feedback : Greatly appreciated (APostModernSleaz@aol.com)
Archive : More than likely okay, but please ask first
Disclaimer : The characters used within are the property of Mutant Enemy, Twentieth Century Fox, and of course Joss Whedon. It's their sandbox, I'm just playing in it.
Notes: Big love to my lovely betas, sunbrae and Nongenius.
As the elevator came to a stop on the 8th floor of Wolfram and Hart's offices, Lilah smoothed her gray Donna Karen skirt -- a loan from her cousin Tess until Lilah's first paycheck arrived -- and stepped out. Her head was still swimming from the influx of information she'd been given over the past week's orientation. Sure, she knew Wolfram and Hart wasn't an ordinary law firm, because no normal firm would recruit a recent graduate, offer a six-figure base salary, company car, and beautiful apartment in the nice part of town. Not unless the employee was willing to make some sacrifices in return.
Lilah'd assumed sacrifices meant working odd hours, maybe staying on-call for unusual cases 24/7. Human sacrifices? Working with demons and vampires and other fairy tale monsters? That was unexpected. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. Somewhere between the five pages of confidentiality clauses and the living will, there was a form that made vague references to the end of days and her soul.
Definitely not an ordinary law firm.
Not that she minded. Wolfram and Hart was, after all, a prestigious firm with good connections, and none of the other recruiters had offered her even a third of what they'd laid out on the table. Lilah could finally get her mom the care she needed and make sure she'd never have to go back to fucking Akron with her tail between her legs like her stepfather had predicted the day she'd set off for college. And frankly, that alone would have been reason enough to sign on, no matter the cost.
But her flippant bravado suddenly trickled from her spine, down her legs, and out of her Gucci pumps as she made her way down the plush carpeted hallway towards the door marked Special Projects. Before she could knock, it swung open, revealing Holland Manners.
"Ah, Lilah!" He smiled, guiding her into the room. "I trust you had no trouble with security?"
"No, sir, my employee ID was at the front desk this morning."
"Good, good." Holland rubbed his hands together. "Lee told me your orientation went well. I was pleased to hear it. We usually weed out the weakest of the herd just through that. But you're here now, and that's half the battle, so, best to jump right in, eh?"
"Yes, Mr. Manners," Lilah said, taking in the room. A row of windows stretched across the far wall, overlooking most of Los Angeles. The walls to her right and left had several doors leading to private offices, and the rest of the room was packed with cubicles and small conference tables, around which several lawyers consulted notes or jabbered excitedly into their phones.
"Excellent. Your cubicle is over here. You can put your briefcase down then come meet your team."
She paused at her desk to take a deep breath before following him to the table. She could do this. The firm had recruited her for a reason, right? Lilah had just as much brains and talent as everyone in the room.
"Everyone, this is our newest employee, Lilah Morgan. Lilah, I'd like you to meet Laurel Mattamouros."
An older woman with blonde hair pulled back into a severe bun, a broad forehead, and cheeks that abruptly tapered into a sharp chin, stood up and shook Lilah's hand.
"Holland's told us so much about you, Miss Morgan. I'm really looking forward to working with you," Laurel grinned.
Lilah smiled back, wondering what exactly Mr. Manners had told them.
"And you've already met Lee Mercer at orientation," Holland continued. Lee nodded at Lilah. "Laurel, where's Lucas?"
"I believe he's in his office, sir."
"Here I am. This the newbie?"
Holland turned towards the sound of the voice.
"Lilah, meet Lucas Madsen."
She turned around and saw a tall, slender man with shaggy black hair and light blue eyes. He took her hand and gave a quick, perfunctory smile before turning to Lee.
"I just got off the phone with the shipping company, and we're going to need to send a containment unit to the docks at sundown," Lucas said.
Holland turned to Lilah. "I'll leave you to your work. If you need anything, my office is down the hall. Welcome to the Wolfram and Hart family." He lowered his voice. "And don't let Lucas intimidate you," he said, winking, before he left.
"So, Lilah, did Holland tell you about our current assignment?" Laurel asked as Lilah sat down between her and Lucas.
Lilah shook her head. "Nope." Suddenly feeling like an ungainly teenager who'd stumbled into her parent's dinner party, Lilah sat up and cleared her throat. "No, he did not."
"Okay, well, the firm owes offerings to the demon Mach'nai as payment for some services we used earlier this year. So we're coordinating the arrival of the required sacrifices, which include some smaller demons native to Jamaica, several vampires, and two humans. The vampires are easy enough to obtain, but we need adult humans who can disappear without any notice from family or employers, and Mach'nai specifically requested no homeless people."
"He got indigestion from the offering last time," Lee smirked.
"Right," Laurel nodded. "And the Hamnlin demons can only travel by sea. Since Wolfram and Hart does not currently have any privately owned barges, we've had to find a shipping company that would discreetly smuggle them into the country. It's mostly just a matter of making sure nothing can get traced back to the firm and coordinating all the arrivals to make sure the sacrifices are ready for Wednesday."
Lilah nodded, taking notes. She could do this.
The sun had set and risen again before Lilah stumbled into her apartment. She kicked her shoes off the instant she'd closed the door behind her and headed straight to the bathroom for a nice, long shower. Man. Okay, she knew being a lawyer might mean fighting for the bad guys. Drug dealers, rapists, baby killers. Lawyers have to take the cases they're given, and give them equal care and passion. She didn't, however, expect to arrange the kidnapping of a newly-arrived illegal immigrant with no friends or family in America; someone who wouldn't be missed when the firm fed him to a demon in two days.
At least, not until her second or third year.
Lilah would have felt guilty, but hell, she'd sacrifice three or four more people if it meant keeping her apartment. She still got a buzz every time she walked in the door. High, white walls. White everything. All her stuff was still in boxes -- Lilah'd been reluctant to unpack, in case Wolfram and Hart changed their mind about her before she started or something -- but it was still a breathtaking place. The kind of home she'd dreamed about since she was a kid who'd been too embarrassed to invite her friends over to her house and let them see the peeling blue paint and untended lawn. So, okay, it meant Ignacio Chavez was gonna die so Lilah could keep the apartment along with all the other little perks, but maybe that's how it had to be. Fate and all. Hell, maybe Ignacio was marked to die anyway, and if the firm didn't do it, something else would have. Disease, lightning, car crash. It's not like Lilah knew how these things worked.
And she really, really liked her apartment.
"Hey, new kid, you write up your report yet?"
She spun around in her chair to see Lucas leaning against the side of her cubicle. Damn, he was a smug bastard. Smart, Holland's favorite, good looking and he knew it. Plus, he had the best office in the division. Lilah wasn't sure whether she hated him or really, really wanted to fuck him.
Not that the two were mutually exclusive.
"Not yet. I still have to track down information on Mr. Chavez's family I should have it in an hour or so."
"Great. So, why don't you drop it by my office when you're done?" He dipped his eyelids slightly and smirked before turning on his heel and leaving.
Definitely the latter. Followed by the former.
Just then, Laurel came around the cubicle bank with a plate of cookies, which she deposited on Lilah's desk with a smile. "Lilah, honey, how're ya holding up? First day not so bad, huh?"
Lilah picked up one of the oatmeal raisins and broke off a piece. "Thanks. I'm okay."
Laurel smiled and left.
And Lilah really was okay. Or, she would be. It was just an adjustment. Like school. One day, Lilah's valedictorian of her tiny high school in Akron. Three months later, she's one of a slew of nameless English Majors at Bryn Mawr. She climbed her way back up the social and academic ladder, only to slide back down to the bottom when she went on to law school. Only to climb her way back to the top again.
Lilah didn't much like being on the bottom. Not in school, not in sex, and not in this law firm. But this situation was temporary, anyway. Lilah was an employee of Wolfram and Hart, and a permanent one at that. Permanent, of course, in every sense of the word, assuming they were serious about that Standard Perpetuity Clause. And considering the fact that she was currently helping to arrange a demon sacrifice, Lilah was pretty sure they were serious. At any rate, as an employee, she had nowhere to go but up.
And hey, baby sharks start out as the smallest swimmers in the pond before they grow up and own the place.
The fax machine to her right beeped. Lilah slid her chair over and plucked the paper from the tray.
"Good news?" Laurel said, poking her head over the divider between their desks.
Lilah nodded. "Very good. Ignacio Chavez doesn't have any living relatives."
"Oh, the bosses will be thrilled to hear that. They hate spending money to silence whiners. 'Wah, wah, Mister, you killed my daddy!'" Laurel rolled her eyes and giggled.
Flashing her a tight smile, Lilah scooped up her report and headed to Lucas's office. The door was closed, so she knocked and waited. When a muffled, "Come in!" rang out through the thick oak door, Lilah pushed it open and walked over to the desk. It was her first time inside the room and, with its high, paneled walls and enormous windows, it really was the nicest office in the department.
"Here's my report on Mr. Chavez. He's the perfect candidate for the operation. No family, few ties to the world, in good health as far as we can tell, and he's in the country illegally."
Lucas nodded, glancing at the paper. "Good work, Morgan. Most employees need a period of adjustment before they're comfortable preparing our expenditures."
Lilah crossed her arms and tossed her hair. "I'm not most employees."
"So I'm noticing," he smiled.
Just then, a bald man with thick, black-rimmed glasses knocked on the door and slid into the room.
"Ah, Mr. Reed," Lucas said, standing up. "Lilah, this is Nathan Reed, a Special Representative of the Senior Partners. Mr. Reed, this is Lilah Morgan."
Nathan took her hand and smiled. "Welcome to the family. So, Mr. Madsen, how are preparations for tomorrow's events progressing?"
"Everything's running smoothly," Lucas said, smiling widely. "We located a young girl in Chino whose parents are in debt to the firm. And just a few minutes ago, I secured the perfect candidate for the second sacrifice. An illegal immigrant. No family, few ties to the world. Mach'nai will be pleased with my selections, I assure you."
Lilah felt her jaw drop as she watched Lucas smoothly take all the credit for her work. Bastard. Face flushing with anger, Lilah started to interject when Lucas caught her eye. Christ, she'd walked down the streets of Los Angeles at three in the morning and felt nothing. A single girl in the city alone and zilch, fear-wise. But the look in his eyes sent shivers down her spine.
Taking the fact that she had no proof he was human, really, into consideration...and even if he was, she didn't want an enemy in the office on day two...Lilah opted to dig her fingernails into her palm and keep her mouth shut.
"Well," Nathan nodded, "sounds like you have everything under control. Good work. Miss Morgan, you'd do well to keep an eye on Lucas here. He's a real winner."
"Yes," Lilah said, shooting a glance at Lucas. "A real winner, sir."
When Nathan was gone, she whirled around and glared at him. "What the hell was the meaning of that?"
Lucas raised his hands up and smiled. "Hey, sorry. Thanks for letting me take the credit there. I lost an important client last month. Lost literally, that is. We think he may be in a small dimension populated by trolls. Anyway, I really need to rack up the points with the Senior Partners, and this sacrifice may be enough to keep my ass from frying. Again, literally."
"Kid, it's only your second day. You'll have plenty of chances to screw me over in return. If you play your cards right, that is," he winked.
Lilah couldn't believe he'd actually seemed intimidating a minute ago. Must be sleep deprivation or something. Because Lilah Morgan does not get scared of smug, overgrown fratboys.
Lucas grabbed his coat from the back of his desk chair and walked over to Lilah. "Whaddya say I buy you a drink?"
"Scotch. McMaster's, neat."
The bartender nodded and turned to Lucas, who was staring at Lilah with an eyebrow raised. "I'll have the same. You know, Lilah, I appreciate a woman who knows what she wants."
"I'm sure. And to save you the trouble: I'm a Leo, and I'm not interested."
"Ah." He smiled knowingly and took a sip of his drink.
God, he was grating. "Ah, what?"
"I should have guessed. You're a dyke."
Lilah rolled her eyes. "Real nice."
"You assume because I'm not interested in you, I'm not interested in men period."
Lilah snorted and took a swig of the scotch, closing her eyes and letting it trickle down her throat. Then she opened her eyes to glare at Lucas. "Were you always this big a prick?"
"No one's as big a prick walking into Wolfram and Hart as they are walking out, Morgan. Look, I like you. You covered for me with Reed, you're not afraid to go for what you want, and you got a great rack. I didn't get by the past seven years on my good looks alone. Stick with me and I'll get you through this in one piece."
"I can take care of myself, thanks."
"Mm, that I don't doubt." Lucas downed the rest of his scotch, then turned towards Lilah, tracing a finger up her thigh, edging past the hem of her skirt. "But isn't it more fun to let someone else take care of you for a while?"
His blue eyes sparkled with mischief and just a hint of danger. When he grinned and squeezed her thigh hard enough to leave a bruise, Lilah moaned and hazily thought, God, I'm gonna regret this tomorrow.
"Okay, kid, I'm gonna take off. I have some work to do in the office this morning. Don't be late. Manners is a real stickler for punctuality." Lucas finished buttoning up his shirt and gave Lilah a goodbye salute. When she heard her front door slam shut, she rolled over and groped for the alarm clock. Seven in the morning? Christ.
A quick shower and a cold bagel later, she was in her Benz heading to work. The regret hadn't hit yet. Maybe it wouldn't. After all, it wouldn't hurt to have an ally in the office. It helped that the ally was open to occasional, no-strings sex.
She still thought he was a smug bastard though.
Laurel held the elevator for Lilah as she dashed across the lobby. "Thanks," Lilah said, shaking out her umbrella. "Rain in Los Angeles. Who knew?"
"Right?" Laurel shook her head. "I'm from Seattle originally, so it doesn't bother me much. Does make me homesick though. So, today's the big day, huh? You excited?"
"I guess. I mean, I haven't been to a ritual sacrifice...uh, ever."
"They're actually pretty fun. As long as you don't get any, you know, viscera or anything in your hair. That stuff never comes out, believe me. Still, fun. The firm usually holds a small wine and cheese reception after."
Lilah smiled. "Sounds great. What do we have to do during the ritual?"
The elevator dinged to a stop and they got out, heading towards the Special Projects office. "Well, Lee's gone ahead to retrieve the Hamnlin demons from the dock. The two humans and the vampires have already been brought to the cave. As soon as we report to Mr. Manners and pick up Lucas, we're gonna take a limo to the sacrifice site, an underground cave in Exposition Park."
Holland and Lucas were waiting for them just inside the office.
"Ladies," Holland smiled. "Ready to go? The limo's out front. Lucas was kind enough to give me his report already."
I'm sure he did. Wonder what he took credit for this time.
"All set, Mr. Manners," Laurel said.
"Good, good. Now, I don't need to remind you how important Mach'nai is to the Senior Partners. If he's not happy, they're not happy. So, if you value your jobs -- among other things -- I'd make sure he's happy."
Yeesh. Lilah nodded. "Yes, sir."
Lucas clapped Holland on the shoulder. "No fear, Holl. You got me leading the team. Lee's reliable, Laurel's a pro, and Lilah...is a real giver." His eyes flicked almost imperceptibly towards her.
"I'm glad to hear it. Now, you should get going before the rain gets too bad."
Holland turned and left, and Lucas held the door open for the girls. Laurel went out first, and as Lilah followed, Lucas subtly grabbed her ass, squeezing hard enough for Lilah to feel as if she'd pass out.
Yeah, that's definitely gonna match the bruises on my thighs and back. Lilah grinned.
"...tu tagesh katrek...."
Lilah shifted from foot to foot. If someone had said she was gonna be standing in a dank cave for an hour watching a dark priest chant, she might have worn flats.
"Oh, crap," Laurel said. "I almost forgot to anoint the human sacrifices!" She pulled a small jar out of her purse and walked over to the stout Hispanic man and young brunette girl who were lashed to a rock formation. Pouring a bit of oil in her palm and dabbing it onto their foreheads, she said, "I anoint you in the name of Mach'nai, I anoint you in the name of Mach'nai, I anoint you in the name of Mach'nai, yadda yadda yadda. There." She rejoined Lilah, Lee, and Lucas. "All better."
"...batret ohgesh manlai, Mach'nai!"
The priest raised his arms, splattering some ceremonial blood onto Lilah's cheek. She grimaced and wiped it off just as the air inside the cave grew warm, crackling with red bursts of light.
A portal snapped open and an immense, tar-black demon with glowing emerald eyes stepped out. Though she'd seen pictures of assorted demons at her Wolfram and Hart orientation, Lilah wasn't quite prepared to see one in the flesh. The dripping-with-secretion flesh.
Lee stepped forward and extended a hand. "Mach'nai, Lee Masters. On behalf of Wolfram and Hart, I hope you enjoy our offering."
The demon looked at Lee's hand, snorted, then turned to the pen holding the Hamnlin demons. Lilah was pretty sure it grinned as it grabbed all the demons in one gigantic claw and popped them into its mouth. The crunching bones echoed through the cave. Mach'nai then turned towards the lawyers and spit the demon skulls at their feet.
"Ew," Laurel said.
Vampires appeared to be the next item on the menu. When Lilah turned her head from the carnage, she noticed something weird about the young girl Lucas had procured for the sacrifice. Namely....
"Hey, uh, are the humans supposed to have knives?"
"Huh?" Lucas said. "Oh, shit!"
The girl grinned madly, ropes in shreds at her feet and a large knife clutched in her hand. Before anyone could move to stop her, she raised the knife high in the air, bringing it down swiftly into her gut. As she crumpled onto floor, she said, "This flesh I give unto thee, Karkresh!"
"What the hell was that?" Lee shouted.
Lucas waved his hands around. "How the fuck did she get a knife?"
Laurel simply smacked Lucas upside the head. "You ass, you should have told us she was one of those Karkresh cult members!"
"Uh, guys...." Lilah said, but Lucas interrupted.
"What does that matter? I just wanna know why she had a knife! Didn't anyone pat her down before tying her to the rock?"
"Guys!" When they stopped bickering long enough to look at her, Lilah pointed to Mach'nai, who had finished with the vampires and now stood sadly staring at the girl.
"Defiled," it muttered, shaking its head sadly.
"Great, now what?" Lee hissed.
Lucas pulled a small bottle out of his jacket pocket. "I've got it under control."
"What's that?" Lilah asked.
"Vanquishing potion, for the Mach'nai. In case of emergency, and I think this counts. The Senior Partners are gonna be pissed as hell to lose his services, but at least we won't die at the hands of a crazed demon." A pause. "At least, not this crazed demon."
"Are you kidding me?" Lilah crossed her arms. "No way, nowhere near good enough."
"Oh, fine, then what do you suggest? Huh? You've never even seen a demon up close, you have no idea what they're like." Lucas smiled at her. "C'mon, kid, you don't have to be scared of the Partners."
"I'm not." It's now or never. Grabbing the jar from Laurel's hand, Lilah dipped a finger into the oil and smeared it on Lucas's forehead. "But that doesn't mean I'm ready to commit career suicide in my first week."
"Lilah, what are you doing?" Lucas said, eyes wide with anger and, more satisfyingly, fear.
"Screwing you over," she smirked. "I anoint you in the name of Mach'nai!"
His screams echoed through the cave long after Mach'nai had finished with him. After the priest returned the demon to his own dimension, Lilah turned to Lee and Laurel, who were looking at her with a mixture of horror and amusement.
Lilah tossed the jar back to Laurel and sauntered out of the cave, not bothering to looking back.
"Knock knock!" Laurel pushed the office door open and peered over the large fern. "Brought you a little office-warming present."
"Oh, thank you!" Lilah swept her arm around the room. "You like? I redecorated most of it. Lucas had crap taste in furniture."
"It's wonderful. Well, I'll let you get back to work. Another big sacrifice next week, huh? Does it ever end?"
"It does. I hear the Partners are aiming for twenty years from now."
Laurel giggled. "Good one. Ciao!"
After she left, Lilah leaned back in her chair and looked out the window. Her window. Holland said she was one of the few employees to be promoted in their first month, and only the fourth employee to sacrifice a co-worker before their first week had passed. He'd said he was proud of her, as long as she didn't make sacrificing a co-worker a regular thing.
Over the weekend, she'd bought herself a whole new wardrobe, shipping the borrowed clothes back to her cousin Tess in Akron. Lilah was moving up in the world, and she had no intention of slipping back down. No matter who she had to step on or crawl over to get ahead.
Especially if it netted her the best office in the department. Christ, she could get totally lost in her picture-perfect view of Los Angeles.
A rapping at the door drew her attention back to the real world.
"Come in," she yelled.
The door opened, revealing Holland. "Lilah, are you busy?"
"Good. We have a new employee, and I want you to show him the ropes."
Lilah smiled. "Not a problem, I'd be happy to help."
"I'm glad to hear it. Lindsey!" Holland ushered the young man into the room. "Lindsey McDonald, this is Lilah Morgan. Lilah, Lindsey. I'm sure you two are going to get along swimmingly."
Lindsey's eyes swept the room appraisingly, and he let out a low whistle. "Well, Miss Morgan," he said, faint hint of an Oklahoman accent coating his words. "I must say, I love your office."