Title: Guiding Star
Author: babies stole my dingo (agilebrit)
Fandom: Angel the Series
Rating: PG-13 (default)
Length: Short story (around 6000 words)
Disclaimer: Joss is the genius behind these characters; I am but a lowly follower. I make no money from any of this, so please don't sue me.
Feedback: Concrit adored! If you see something that can be improved upon, please let me know.
Written for: The LJ Comm CYA Ficathon. Request was: Wes loses his memory; Lilah and some other character are both looking for him and trying to get him on their side.
Notes: Takes place right after the end of S3 & goes AU from there.
She'd started out to seduce him, plain and simple.
But nothing about him was plain or simple. Lilah had thought that, with Wesley's basic support system stripped away, with her as his only real contact with others, it would be easy to woo him into Wolfram and Hart. Instead--and she found this hilarious, when she could bring herself to think about it--she was the one being corrupted.
"I wasn't thinking about you when you were here." Well, he probably hadn't been. Probably still didn't, even though they'd been going at it pretty steadily since that night. She'd done her level best to choke him with those words, but nothing in his enigmatic stare told her if she had succeeded or not, and they hadn't talked about that particular subject again.
However, he'd loosened up considerably around her. They would always verbally joust, because it was fun to match wits with someone who was actually her equal (her better?) intellectually, but he was showing her a side of himself that was a whole lot less stuffy and staid than she'd expected. Oh, the anger and resentment were still there, smoldering under the surface. Which, she decided, just made this whole...thing all the more arousing.
Her attempts to pump him for information met with a blank wall, if she was unlucky. If she was lucky, well, she still didn't get any intel, but he could be imaginative when he wanted to shut her up. She could get used to this, she decided.
Of course, that's when everything went disastrously wrong.
"You did what?" Lilah didn't screech, she never screeched, but she was beyond furious at her immediate superior. She kept her voice at a reasonable level, but her knuckles were white, and she was making a real effort to not snap her five-hundred-dollar Caran d'Ache hexagonal pen in two.
Linwood sat back, crossing his arms. "You say you can't get any information out of him. Maybe this will help."
She wanted to smack the smug expression off his face. Oh, yes. Stealing Wesley's memory would do wonders for their rel-- She stopped herself before she used that word, even mentally, and went back into battle mode. This was such a bad idea, and only proved that Linwood knew nothing whatsoever about dealing with someone who still thought he wore a white hat. "I can't get any information out of him because he doesn't know anything." You moron, she was careful not to say. "He hasn't had any contact with Angel Investigations since long before Angel disappeared. Remember the whole 'kidnaping Angel's kid' thing that resulted in the whole 'smothering with a pillow' thing? He's not exactly on speaking terms with them, even with the head vamp out of the picture."
"You have a problem with my actions here?" He lifted his eyebrow, oh, so casually.
"I have a problem with you wasting the firm's resources on something like this when they'd be better spent, oh, I don't know, finding out where Angel is, maybe? Besides, how do you expect him to give us any intel when he can't remember anything, including who he is?" Lilah lifted her own eyebrow in turn.
"Well, that's where you enter the picture, Lilah." Steepling his fingers, he gave her a half-smile that made her loathe him even more. "You get his confidence, bring him in, we restore his memory, and he realizes that he owes you. He comes to work for us, and that big brain of his that you're always gushing about doesn't go to waste after all."
She stared in disbelief. Did he really think that would work? How in the world had this idiot hack risen so far, so fast, in the company? And, shit, there went her pen, right in half. It had been her favorite, too--didn't clog at all when she filled it with blood instead of ink. One more reason to be pissed as all hell at him. "Where is he?" she asked tightly.
Lorne put his head in his hands and shook it back and forth wearily. Most of the time, he managed to steer clear of Angel's hellspawn, but the kid had lit into him for no reason at all tonight before joining Fred and Gunn out on a case.
Freddikins and those eyes. She'd turned the puppy-dog look on him when Angel and Cordy had failed to return; how could he say no to that? So, he cancelled his trip to Vegas and held down the fort, answering the phones and generally being a demon-of-all-trades around Angel-less Investigations. But if Junior didn't start minding his manners, he was going to find out that the Jolly Green Empath wasn't all pacifism, all the time.
Lorne huffed out a sigh and decided to go for a walk. A new karaoke place had opened up a less than a mile away, and he'd heard they made a mean Seabreeze, which he was totally in the mood for right now. He turned on the answering machine, grabbed his hat, and headed out the door.
A moan from an alleyway a few blocks from the hotel interrupted his journey. "No, no, I'm off duty," he groused, and started to walk on by. He was only able to take three steps before his conscience kicked him enough that he turned back, grumbling about being a demon and wondering what the hell he was doing with a conscience.
He stopped grumbling abruptly when he saw who the moaning came from. He hadn't really had any contact with Wes since the former Watcher had bopped him on the coconut and stolen baby Connor, and absence hadn't really made his heart grow fonder, but the guy looked pretty rough, thinner and scruffier than Lorne remembered. His nose bled freely, and he sat among the detritus of the alley holding his head. "Wes? What happened?"
Wesley's head came up, and his eyes widened as he scrambled backwards frantically on his rear. "Good lord! What in heaven's name are you?"
He seemed genuinely terrified, and several answers crossed Lorne's mind, ranging from "Your worst nightmare" to "Local dinner theater talent." He settled for the truth. "Lorne? The Host? Empath demon that reads you when you sing for me?"
Wes lurched to his feet. "Demon? What sort of nonsense is that?"
"Wes?" Lorne reached for him, but he batted his hand away.
"Why do you keep calling me that? My name is--" He stopped short, then tried again. "My name is...what in bloody hell is my name? Did you have something to do with this?" His hand went to his face and came away covered in blood. "Did you hit me? I think perhaps I should call the police. This is completely unacceptable."
"You have no idea." Lilah's dry voice was an unwelcome interruption.
"Stay out of this, evil succu-bitch," Lorne said without turning around.
She brushed past him. "I'll take it from here. Not like any of you heroes really want anything to do with him anyway."
"That may be, but thwarting your nefarious plans has always been a major form of recreation for us. This has Wolfram and Hart's fingerprints all over it. Wes, really, you should come with me. We can help you."
"Who are you going to listen to, Wesley?" Lilah's voice had turned sugar-sweet. Lorne wanted to punch her. He wanted to punch a lot of people lately. "The guy with the horns and the horrible complexion, or the person who can really fix this?"
Wes backed away. "I do believe that if it's all the same to you both, I'll attempt to sort this out on my own." He turned and pelted down the alley, disappearing into the night.
"Well, damn," Lorne and Lilah said together.
Wes--I suppose that's my name; that seems to be the general consensus, he thought--ran quite some ways before he was sure they hadn't followed him. The first order of business was to get himself somewhat cleaned up. He found a rather noisome pub and slipped through the dimly-lit bar to the restroom, where a conscientious application of cold water and paper towels soon set him to rights. He didn't seem injured, nothing actually hurt, but he'd had a hell of a nosebleed.
He decided to sit at the bar and try to get himself sorted out. "A pint of Guinness, please," he said absently to the bartender, taking out his wallet and starting to go through its contents.
He looked at Wes as if he'd grown another head. "We've got Bud, Coors, and Miller, dude. And it comes in glasses, cans, or bottles. We don't carry none of that fancy foreign crap."
"Oh, I do apologize." American beer was out of the question; the stuff tasted like cat pee. He remembered that much. "What about a Glenlivet, neat?"
"Dude." The barman shook his head. "You ain't from around here, are ya? I got Jack Daniels. That work for ya?"
"I suppose so. Thank you."
Sipping the drink, his driver's license was the first thing he looked at. All right, that was him, and now he at least had an address. No sleeping on a park bench tonight. He had some photographs, but he didn't recognize any of the people in them, and they weren't labeled. He felt a pang when he looked at the one with a pretty girl in red-framed glasses, and wondered if she was a girlfriend--or former girlfriend. She posed next to a bald African-American man, whose arm was wrapped around her. They looked disgustingly happy. He set it face down on the bar with perhaps a bit more force than was necessary.
A photo of the green...person from the alley nearly made him choke on his drink. Wasn't that interesting? They knew each other, then. He set that one face down on top of the other.
Stuck way in the back, behind everything else as though it was supposed to be hidden, was a picture of the dark-haired woman from the alley. So, he did know her. And...he had no idea how to get in touch with her. Brilliant.
A creased and grimy business card from someplace called "Angel Investigations" with his name on it, also shoved in the back, caught his attention. A place of employment, then. What on earth was that thing on the logo supposed to be? A butterfly? A badly-drawn owl? Oh well. At least he had somewhere to be in the morning.
Which meant he should probably go home, as it was getting late. Right, then.
He fumbled with several wrong keys at his apartment before finding the right one. But at least his hand automatically hit the lightswitch by the door when he walked in.
...To find the woman from the alley sitting on his sofa. In a black teddy. Well. That certainly made him put aside any doubts as to the nature of their relationship. Then again, what had that Lorne person called her? "Evil succu-bitch," that had been it. She apparently had a key, because he'd seen no sign of forced entry, but it was entirely possible that, with his memory gone, she was attempting to take advantage of the situation.
"Hello, lover." Her rich contralto sent a stirring through him, but whether it was fear or anticipation, he didn't know. A little of both, perhaps.
"Look." He held up a hand. "You're quite lovely, and I found your picture in my wallet, so I know we know each other, and I suppose you have a key--" He squeaked to a stop as she rose from the couch and wrapped her arms around him.
"I bet I can make you remember exactly who I am," she said in his ear.
"I don't even know your name." With his arms full of warm, willing, scantily-clad woman, he wasn't sure he cared, at this point. But the warning bell in the back of his head wouldn't shut up, so he pushed her back gently. "Really, you're very nice, I'm sure. But I'm in a situation here."
She huffed out a sigh. "No, I'm not nice at all. But, dammit, you are. Won't even doff the white hat when you've got a half-naked woman practically throwing herself at you. Which is why I--" She stopped abruptly, then continued. "Which is why I should put some actual clothes on and help you figure this out."
Lilah closed the bedroom door behind herself, inwardly banging her head on an imaginary wall. She'd damn near said entirely too much back there. Slipping into her silk blouse and designer slacks, she glanced at her shoes and stockings and decided to leave them on the floor.
She studiously ignored the closet. Explaining Justine's presence in there to Wes was going to be all kinds of awkward, and she wasn't sure she was up to it. Lilah had done the distasteful task of cleaning the bucket and feeding the woman, while silently seething at Linwood's utter stupidity when Justine peppered her with questions. If the boss man had just left it alone, Wes would have found Angel eventually with the help of his unwilling ally.
She plastered on a smile and stepped back into the living room, to find Wes staring in bemused fascination at his book collection. "I seem to have rather esoteric taste in reading material," he commented.
"Yeah, well, that reading material might help us find out what happened to you and how to fix it." She steeled herself. "You weren't whacked on the head, Wes. Someone did this to you on purpose."
His big brain had never disappointed her, and even though he'd lost his memory, the rest of it was still functioning on all cylinders. "You know something, don't you?"
She looked away from him for a second and swallowed, making a decision that would probably get her killed. Sure, she'd love more than anything to have Wes come and work for Wolfram and Hart. But, dammit, not under these circumstances. Her ethics were always slippery at best and nonexistent at worst, but everyone had a line, and she drew hers right here. "I know the who and the why. I don't know the how or the how-to-fix. And..." He'd probably kick her out for this. Wonderful. In for a penny, in for a pound. She'd never lied to him about who and what she was; she wasn't about to start now, even though she could probably get away with it. "I'm supposed to get you to go and work for them."
"Is that so?" His expression was amused, she was relieved to see.
"I can probably string them along for awhile. Not long. But awhile."
"Well, then." He ran his fingers along the spines of his books and stopped on one, pulling it out. "This one looks promising." He stopped dead for a second before continuing to the table with the leather-bound tome. "And I apparently read Sumerian. How delightful."
Lorne paced back and forth in the lobby of the Hyperion, waiting for the others to get back from whatever job they were on. He didn't have long to wait. After a little while, they came in, dripping ick from their weapons and high-fiving. He hated to disturb the party atmosphere after an assignment that seemed to have gone well, but...
"Bad news, guys."
"What? What bad news?" Gunn asked.
"It's about Wes."
Fred sat down abruptly, looking stricken. "Is he dead?"
"No, no, sugarplum, not dead," Lorne hastened to assure her, and wasn't that an interesting reaction from their lovely scientist? "But he's apparently lost a good chunk of his memory. I ran into him tonight, and my appearance gave him a nasty shock...and he couldn't remember his name."
"And we care about this because...?" Gunn said.
"Because, my little chickadees, Wolfram and Hart cares. Guess who turned up on the scene about the same time I did?" Connor shook his head, so Lorne continued. "Lilah Morgan. She told him that she could 'really' help him. And the Powers only know what that means."
"Probably that they did it to him," Fred said, twisting her hands together. "Some sort of recruitment thing? It'd be just like them to think that they could get him on their side by doing that."
Connor continued to wear a mystified expression. "I don't get it."
"Wolfram and Hart is an evil law firm that your Dad butted heads with pretty often," Gunn said. "They have whole teams of lawyers and mystics, and the Senior Partners of the firm are high mucky-mucks in the Netherworld. They've got some sort of apocalypse planned that Angel's supposed to play a major role in. Of course, no one can find Angel right now, so I guess those plans are on hold."
"If they could recruit Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, that would be quite the feather in their buzzard-y caps." Lorne frowned. "As a former Watcher and a former workmate of Angel's, he'd be a great source of intel, not to mention the other stuff he's got locked up in that devilishly handsome head."
"We can't let that happen," Fred said decisively. "We have to find him and help him before they get to him."
"He ran off before either Lilah or I could stop him. I don't know where he went."
"Why don't you and Charles start at his apartment? I'll research memory-type spells with Connor," Fred suggested.
"What are we supposed to do if we find him? Knock him out, tie him up, and bring him in?" Gunn said, lifting an eyebrow.
"Well, no. But you'll think of something. I have faith in you. Go, shoo." She waved them off and retreated to the office and her laptop, Connor trailing behind like an obedient pup.
Gunn exchanged a glance with Lorne, who asked, "When did our mousy little science girl get so bossy?"
Lilah poured herself another cup of coffee, staring blearily at Wes. The man was indefatigable, which was one reason she lov--liked him. He'd get his teeth into a problem and not let go until it was solved. Of course, this meant that anyone associating with him became an exhausted zombie after awhile. Lilah had in fact worked with zombies that had more energy than she did at this particular point in time.
She finally decided to call it a night. "I wish I could stay, Wes, but I've got to go to work in a few hours. Have to be fresh for my clients, you know."
"Your evil clients?" he said, without a trace of rancor.
"Those are the ones," she answered as cheerfully as she could under the circumstances. She rose from the table and kissed his bristly cheek. "You've got my direct number; call me if you find anything."
"I will. Thank you, love." He went back to his book, pinching the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger.
He didn't mean that, she told herself fiercely, back at her place. It was an absent-minded endearment, nothing more.
Crap. She was going to have Linwood's head as a trophy. Oh, yes.
A soft knock at his door made Wesley's head come up. Who would be calling at this hour of the night? Looking through his peephole, he saw the green Pylean demon and the bald African-American man standing in the hall.
His initial wiggins (where had that word come from?) at the sight of Lorne had been tempered by the fact that the books he owned treated demons as though they were just regular creatures, albeit evil ones, for the most part. The fact that he had an actual photo of him in his wallet made him think that Lorne was one of the not-evil sort.
He didn't have to make a very far logical leap to assume that these were his friends...and if they were, they were probably here to help him, or at least checking up and concerned for his welfare. He opened the door. "Please, come in."
"You get your memory back?" Lorne--That was what he'd said his name was, Wes remembered--inquired.
"I know my name and that you two are my friends, at least I assume so from the pictures in my wallet. I've been doing a bit of research on my quandary, but haven't been able to shed much light on it." They followed him into the kitchen and sat down at the table. He puttered around, getting them coffee. "Lilah said she knew the who, but not the how. She'll be working that angle in the morning."
Mutual expressions of distaste crossed his companions' faces as he seated himself. "What was she doing here, man?"
"I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage, Mr. ... ?"
"Gunn. You call me 'Charles.' Evil lawyer bitch was here?"
"In a rather embarrassing state of undress. She apparently has a key." He looked from one to the other. "Why?"
Lorne put his face in his hand. "This is what happens when we abandon our friends. They go over to the dark side."
"Dark side? What dark side? What?" Wes made a frustrated noise. "I bloody hate this."
"Dude, maybe we should just cut to the chase and have you sing for Lorne." Charles sat back and crossed his arms. "That might even give us a fix for this, without resorting to Lucifer's Law Firm. Fred thinks they may be behind it anyway, so going to them shouldn't even be an option."
"Sing?" Wes said, cringing. "I don't think I do, actually. Unless I'm very drunk."
Lorne hastened to reassure him. "I've heard you before. You're no Manilow--" ("Thank God," Charles muttered, and Lorne glared at him.) "--but you're not terrible."
"Well...what should I sing?"
"Anything. First thing that comes to your mind."
Well, that was "God Save the Queen," which Wesley belted out until Lorne held up his hand for him to stop, while covering his eyes with the other hand as though he had suddenly got a headache. "Was it that bad?"
"No, no...it's just...a lot of mojo going on there. Give me a minute. Holy cow. You've got...with the...Holy cow." Lorne took a gulp of the coffee and a deep breath. "Okay, that was just wow with a capital 'whoa.' Whatever did this to you is powerful and isn't going to give up just because we ask nicely. They've got big plans for you, Wesley, my boy."
"We'll just have to thwart them, then, won't we?"
Dressed to kill, Lilah swept in through the door of Wolfram and Hart like she owned the place, watching lesser minions scurry out of her way like the mice they were. Her phone was ringing as she walked in. "Lilah Morgan," she said into the handset.
"Meeting in my office in five minutes," Linwood's voice informed her in icy tones.
"Prick," she said to the dial tone. But five minutes was long enough for her to make a call of her own. She had a few markers she could call in, and doing so seemed prudent at this point. No telling how long Linwood would give her to get Wes to come; she wouldn't be able to stall indefinitely.
She entered Linwood's office with her head held high. He sat behind his desk, while Gavin, the little weasel, sat on the corner of it and gave her a superior smile that she wanted to slap off his face. Maybe later.
"Report." Linwood glared, crossing his arms.
She sat on the arm of the chair, although he hadn't told her she could. "I've gained his confidence. I think he trusts me."
"Good, good. When do you think you'll be able to bring him in?"
"I'm not sure that's a very good idea." Her phrasing needed to be judicious. "He's very confused right now, and I have a plan that doesn't involve letting him know that the company got him his memory back."
Linwood scowled. "And why shouldn't he know that our illustrious firm helped him?"
"Because he's smart. If the firm helps him get it back, he might figure out that the firm caused him to lose it in the first place. It would be better if I could do it without Wolfram and Hart's fingerprints on it. Since I already have his confidence," she reiterated.
"Of course, that makes him beholden to you personally rather than us," Gavin pointed out, lifting an eyebrow and baring his teeth in a predatory smile.
"That also makes it more likely that I can get him here in the first place," she shot back.
Linwood's voice was cold. "You have two days to get him through the front door. Starting now. I suggest you come up with a better idea."
She rose from her perch, clenching her jaw. "Yes, sir."
Wes sat on the sofa in his apartment after they left. Charles had tried to persuade him to return to the Hyperion with them, but he'd declined. It was all a bit overwhelming. They hadn't been happy about the fact that he and Lilah were an item, and the girl in the closet had been another nasty shock in a night that had been full of them.
The fact that she was still in there, and that he didn't have any real qualms about keeping her there, made him question his morals. But they'd found the map, with the sectors marked off neatly, and stopping his search for Angel when he was so close to finding him seemed stupid.
His swirling thoughts came back to Lilah. Could she be as evil as they claimed? Her concern for him had seemed genuine, but that could just be an act designed to get him into the clutches of her employers.
At the same time, Charles and Lorne had told him about the rift between him and the rest of Angel Investigations, and made it clear that he was an outcast. Their own concern for him seemed more designed to prevent him from going anywhere with Lilah than bringing him back into the fold.
Wesley leaned his head back and put his arm over his eyes. He felt very alone.
Lilah cleared her schedule and left Wolfram and Hart to go back to Wesley's place. She let herself in and found him sleeping across a book at his kitchen table. Poor guy. She wondered if he'd been up all night and decided he probably had. Stepping over to his bookcase, she perused the titles, finding one that might be relevant in a language she actually understood. She set it on the table and brewed herself some coffee.
Wes took good care of his books, she saw, sitting down and opening the cover of this one. No dust to blow off; the pages turned smoothly under her fingers as she lost herself in the ancient words...
Motion across the table awhile later made her look up as Wes awakened. He twitched when he realized she was there, but smiled. "Hello."
"Hey. Were you up all night?" She stood and poured him a cup of coffee.
He took a grateful swallow when she sat back down. "I had a couple of visitors. Lorne and Charles. I got to sing for Lorne. What an interesting experience," he said drily.
"I suppose they had all kinds of nasty things to say about me," she said with a grimace.
"They were rather unhappy with the fact that we've been...how did Lorne put it? Ah, yes, 'going at it like bunnies' was the phrase he used. The term 'evil succu-bitch' was bandied about as well." His mouth twisted to one side. "Of course, they also made it plain that I wasn't exactly on their Christmas card list either. Kidnaping Angel's son and then losing him into a Hell dimension seems to have put a damper on my relationship with my former workmates."
"You did what you thought was right. You always do that. And only about ninety percent of what they said about me is true."
"Mmm. They told me you had ulterior motives. As if I hadn't already figured that out. Good Lord. I may have lost my memory, but I'm not bloody stupid." He reached over and took her hand. "Of course you do. But so did they." The strength of his grip surprised her. "The difference is, all your motives aren't ulterior. Are they?" It wasn't really a question.
"No." Her voice was husky, and she found herself unable to look at him, which was a new experience for her. Her heart clenching in her chest, she silently promised a slow death to Linwood. These were feelings she didn't want to confront ever, but especially not now. Not that it was beneath her to take advantage of him while his memory was gone, because it wasn't...but the fact that Linwood had orchestrated all this when things were going so well made her seethe with rage.
"We're lovers. Are we friends?" he asked gently.
She disentangled her hand. "I don't have friends. Friends make you vulnerable, give other people leverage over you." People like Linwood.
"I see. Yet here you are, in my apartment...in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday. And you don't have to be."
Those blue eyes of his seemed to pierce right through to the soul she thought she'd sold long ago. "I just--" She swallowed and finally met his gaze. "I just want it to be like it was, you know?"
"Do you think we can ever really go back to that?"
"No. Not really. But I'd kind of like to try."
"Well then." He gave her a small smile. "Let's order some food and get back to it, shall we? Would you like Chinese, or pizza?"
After sharing some delicious Kung Pow Ding Beef with him, she bit into her fortune cookie and extracted the slip of paper. She nearly choked when she read it: You are the guiding star of his existence. Some guiding star she was; what horrible sin had he committed in a previous life to deserve her?
He looked none too happy with his own fortune, she noticed. They went back to swotting the books again, but in a little while he sat back with a pensive look on his face. "What?" she asked.
"I wonder if we're going at this from the wrong direction?" he said.
"What do you mean?" She put her chin in her hand. She could practically see the wheels turning in his head.
"You say your employer is responsible for this. Why don't we go talk to him?" As he outlined his plan, she remembered why she was involved with him.
"Huh. Machiavellian. I like it. Only thing is, it might get me killed once the boss man figures out what I've done."
"Can't have that. You wouldn't happen to have a copy of your contract with you, would you?"
"Always. But you won't find anything in there. Airtight, enforceable in perpetuity, signed in blood." She took it out of her briefcase anyway, handing the thick sheaf of papers across the table. "Believe me, I've looked. The Senior Partners have been at this a very long time."
"Let's just have a peek..." He paged through it, occasionally taking a sip of coffee. "Well. Isn't this interesting?"
She moved around and read the clause he pointed out over his shoulder. "But I don't--" She stopped abruptly, and he lifted his eyebrow with a sardonic grin.
Linwood picked up his phone. "Lilah Morgan on line two," his secretary informed him.
"Thank you." He pushed the button. "I hope you have good news for me, Lilah. My patience is running pretty thin right now."
"I can have him there in twenty minutes. Can you have everything ready?"
"Of course. Very good. You've managed to pleasantly surprise me, Lilah." He smiled.
"You'll find I'm full of surprises," she said, and hung up.
Linwood rubbed his hands together. The Senior Partners might give him a promotion for this. The recruitment of Wesley Wyndam-Pryce would be quite a coup.
Lilah and Wesley met him in a conference room, and he motioned them to chairs. A contract was set out on the table, and he slid it over to Wes. "This is our standard contract, Mr. Pryce. Sign here, initial here, here, and here--" He pointed to the relevant places. "--And we'll have your memory back to you in no time."
"I'll want my lawyer to look it over." He handed the contract to Lilah.
She flipped through it. "Boilerplate. Pretty close to the one I signed, in fact. I took the liberty," she told Linwood, "of preparing a pen with Wesley's blood in it before we came. If I may?"
Linwood gave her a narrow look, but she wouldn't dare cross him on this. Not with her own life and livelihood riding on the line. For this guy? "Certainly, Lilah. Excellent forward thinking on your part." Now that he had them where he wanted them, it was time to stroke their egos a little. He watched with predatory fascination as Wesley signed and initialed the contract in an almost calligraphic hand, and exhaled slightly when it was done.
"My memory? Now, if you please."
Linwood hit the intercom. "Gavin, would you bring Mr. Pryce's memory in, please? Thank you. You've done the right thing here," he said to Wes. "I believe our association will be mutually beneficial."
"I'm sure of it," Wes answered, as Gavin came into the room holding a device with a green swirly mist showing through its clear sides.
"Lilah, would you like to do the honors?" Linwood said.
"You have no idea how much."
She aimed it at Wes and pushed a button on its side. He doubled over as the green mist foamed out, surrounded him, and entered his nose, mouth, and ears. Twitching for a few minutes, with the beginnings of a nosebleed that Lilah quickly had a handkerchief out for, he finally recovered, gasping. "Oh, yes. That is much, much better. And now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be leaving."
Linwood blinked. "You work for Wolfram and Hart now, Mr. Pryce. Perhaps you misunderstood what you just signed..."
"What I just signed in pig blood? Have fun enforcing that." And he got up and walked out of the conference room.
Linwood sputtered for a few seconds, then rounded on Lilah. "You! You orchestrated this!"
"Why, yes, Linwood. Yes, I did. But it was Wesley's idea, for the record." She took out a lighter and set Wesley's contract on fire, watching it burn with no small amount of satisfaction. Then she opened her briefcase and took out another sheaf of papers. "I took the liberty of going down to Files and Records and retrieving my own contract. My own, original contract." She set it on fire as well. "Interesting clause in there; perhaps you weren't aware of it. Employer is not permitted to fold, spindle, mutilate, torture, kill, or otherwise discomfit family members, spouses, significant others, or other loved ones, unless said family member, spouse, significant other, or loved one is directly employed by Wolfram and Hart. This constitutes breach on Employer's part, and Employee is permitted to leave employ with no penalty. A carrot for the carrot-and-stick approach. Seems even our bosses have a sense of fairness. Sometimes we forget that."
Linwood stared open-mouthed at the conflagration on the conference table as the phone started to ring.
"I'm afraid you badly underestimated the depth of feeling I have for Wesley," Lilah said sweetly. "That will be the Senior Partners. I believe they want a word with you."
She walked out as well, while the phone continued to ring and Linwood continued to regard it as he would a particularly poisonous snake--and Gavin fled, leaving him alone in the room.
"Wes?" Lilah asked. They'd had lunch and a celebratory drink at a fancy restaurant. He'd called the Angel Investigations team and told them the problem had been solved. And then he'd ripped all her clothes off. Now they lay in bed in the afterglow, her head on his chest and his arm wrapped around her.
"What did your fortune say?"
One corner of his mouth turned up. "'Don't let doubt and suspicion bar your progress,'" he answered. "What about yours?"
"'You are the guiding star of his existence.'" He laughed out loud at that, and she swatted him. "Stop it."
"What? Are you going to put on a white hat and battle evil with me now?"
"Don't know about a white one, especially after Labor Day." It was his turn to smack her. "Hey, just because I'm not working for Satan's Solicitors anymore doesn't mean I've lost my fashion sense. But I'll help you go out tonight and look for Angel. If you want."
"Oh, yes. Very much..."
A/N: Many thanks to Jerib78 for helping me with the wording of Lilah's escape clause. I stole the fortunes from an online fortune cookie generator.