Title: Cages of Their Own Making

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: T

Summary: Spike and Illyria engage in a little contract negotiation with a pair of representatives from Wolfram and Hart. 2200 words.

Disclaimer: All your Angel are belong to Joss Whedon & etc.

Spoilers: A:tS post "Not Fade Away" (5.22)

Notes: Backup fic for the cya-ficathon. Challenge prompt at the end.


Shadows ebbed and flowed around the back corner table of the bar, shrouding the pair who sat there from close observation. Only a portion of the clinging darkness was natural, created by the deliberately poor placement of light fixtures; it had been further amplified for the evening by means of subtle, lingering enchantments. The taller of the two guests was especially difficult to look at for any length of time; not even his eye color could be reliably discerned.

Not that any of the other patrons cared to find out. Wolfram and Hart had taken a serious blow in the human dimension with the dismantling of the Circle of the Black Thorn, but that had only made its lieutenants more feared; now that they could no longer rule over the lesser denizens of the demonic underground with impunity, the organization as a whole had become leaner and more deadly to survive. Only the most foolhardy would dare to tangle with a pair of obviously senior representatives if it were not absolutely necessary.

The foolhardy-- or the desperate. Spike nodded to the bartender, thanking him for the cautious warning, then took a last drag off his cigarette and stubbed it out in the ashtray on the counter. He wanted his working hand free for the confrontation to come, just in case.

Blue fell in at his shoulder as he led the way between crowded tables. She was resplendent in icy skin and red leather tonight, staring with disdain at the curious who watched their passing; his look was well enough known, between the trademark bleached hair and the terrible scars left by the battle with Wolfram and Hart's army, that there was no point in his companion attempting to disguise her identity. Anyone who was anyone in the business would know who she was anyway-- William the Bloody only had one associate these days worth naming, after all. The others were mostly either dead, missing, or so sodding caught up in their own business they refused to spare any effort for a vampire reaping the "just rewards" of biting off more than he could chew.

Ironic, that. If Angel hadn't brought the amulet to Sunnydale, the New Council wouldn't be there to sneer down their noses at the thought of returning the favor. Spike didn't know if Buffy'd been informed about what was going on, or if Giles was still taking it all on his own shoulders; at this point, however, he bloody well didn't care. His death in the Hellmouth, and all that had followed, had altered his perspective on her a bit; there'd always be a place for her in his heart, but there'd never again be space for her at his side. She should have tried to personally contact Angel at least once since Sunnydale collapsed, and she hadn't; Spike would have heard. She hadn't even come to Los Angeles after the Archduke's army had overrun the place, to at least see if Angel's crew were still among the living. He refused to beg her for help after that abandonment.

A year of striving on their own had finally convinced him, however, that he would get nowhere without going straight to the major players in the business. Lilah Morgan wasn't quite the Wolf, Ram, or Hart herself, but she would do for what he had in mind.

Spike smirked at the woman as he approached the back table, taking in the neat suit, the polished nails, the festive scarf, and the smug glint in her eyes. He'd never met her before, but he'd heard enough about her from Blue's memories of Fred's life; evil seemed to be treating her as well now as it had when she was still alive.

Her companion was another story altogether. Spike had known what he'd be facing-- the rumors that had started he and Blue on their crusade had mentioned the known fates all of Angel's crew-- but it didn't make meeting that black-filmed gaze any easier. If Wesley had been slightly mad from grief and the pursuit of vengeance before his battle with Vail, that was nothing to this; his eyes were cold, flat, and foreign, no sanity left in them at all, and he reeked of dark magic. Spike had never seen Willow in her dark phase, but he'd bet a basket full of kittens she'd recognize herself in the former Watcher now. He greeted him with a grim nod.
Wes made no move in return, and Lilah chuckled. "Well, well, well," she said, opening the conversation. "The last survivors of Angel's merry men. Congratulations; I was sure we'd be seeing you before this, one way or another."

Spike glanced at Wes again, and shook his head as he slid into the booth opposite the former Watcher. Both Wolfram and Hart employees glanced down at the twisted wreck of his left hand as he crossed his arms on the table; Spike ignored them with practiced ease, though the injury, inflicted by the dragon's nerve-wrecking venom, still made him feel self-conscious more than a year after it had happened.

"Only the only way, not the other," he said, casually. "I never signed a contract, unlike some others I could name. Or didn't you get the memo?"

Lilah raised her eyebrows, and Spike smirked at her again, pressing the point. "Not disappointed, are you? Had enough of ordering Captain Forehead around, need a real vampire at your beck and call?"

She pursed her lips. "Right to the point, I see. What do you want him back for, anyway? He's not even a real vampire anymore, as you say. Sire or not, I wouldn't think you'd have any lingering obligations to him after the way it all went down."

"He was my pet, and the protector of the shell," Illyria piped up beside him, looking imperiously down her chin at the lawyer. "In the days of my youth, the Wolf, Ram and Hart were less significant than even the muck that clings to my feet; they are not worthy to look upon what is mine, much less keep it from me."

Saved by the ego, Spike thought with a fond internal smile for his companion. She made such a good distraction, especially now that she was learning to wield words as well as her hands. The less Lilah could pick up on their actual motivations for this conversation, the better; he knew damned well that he wasn't the world's best liar.

Lilah reacted to Illyria's little speech with only a soft chuckle, one that was echoed by the man seated next to her.

"Am I to suppose, then, that I am not counted among your possessions?" Wes asked, in a low, barbed tone of voice. "That was not the impression I had received of our... association."

Illyria turned her icy gaze on him, and her eyes narrowed. "I cared not when you destroyed my previous Qwa'ha Xahn, and unlike Knox you had not even worshiped me properly. Your service to me ended with your death, as had his. The half-breed's service has reached no such closure."

Spike felt even prouder of her at that pronouncement. Wesley's fate had been a point of contention between them when Spike first suggested the meeting with Lilah; she had wanted to reclaim her former guide, and Spike had been forced to explain, at length, why that was not possible, and why she shouldn't so much as hint that she'd missed him. He was fully Wolfram and Hart's creature now, bound to them by unbreakable legal and mystical ties, and any weakness they showed him would be turned immediately against them.

"His service to Wolfram and Hart trumps yours, I'm afraid," Lilah said lightly, cutting off that line of conversation. "You may not have signed a contract with us-- not as Illyria, at least, and don't imagine for a moment we're not still trying to find a way to tie you to Fred's, since you still wield the hand she held the pen with-- but Angel most definitely did."

"Just one little problem with that," Spike said, leaning forward a little and cocking his head at her. "Percy here might have signed on the dotted line on command, but Angel wrote his own check when he joined. Correct me if I'm wrong, but part of that agreement was that his sprog got a whole new life and a new set of memories."

She threw her hands up and leaned back a little, still smiling smugly. "Hey, we held up our end of the bargain. It isn't our fault that Connor's abilities brought him back into contact with his father's world again eventually."

"And the memories?" Spike said. He dragged his tongue across his teeth for effect, projecting smugness right back. "Seems to me your pal Vail dropped the ball a bit on that one."

On cue, Illyria raised a hand, and a bright blue spark leaped between the index finger and thumb. "Okay," she said placatingly in Fred's voice. "So he survived an unspeakable hell dimension. Who hasn't?"

Lilah nearly did a doubletake at that little replay; it made Spike wonder if Illyria should have come in as Fred regardless, maybe unnerve the hell-bitch a little more. A bit too late to worry about that, though. "Wes there remembers too," he continued. "Or hasn't he told you? He was there when Connor got all his marbles back. Which means a certain clause of Angel's contract no longer applies..." He trailed off, watching her carefully for a reaction.

Her jaw firmed, and she snapped off her reply, not giving an inch. "As I said before, we held up our end of the bargain. What happened afterward doesn't affect the firm's relationship with Angel in the least."

"S'not what Charlie-boy told us when he looked the contract over," Spike said idly, then allowed himself a grin as startlement flickered in her eyes. "Something about ambiguous language. And seeing as you're the ones that stuffed his head with all that legal knowledge in the first place..."

"How'd you get your hands on a copy of the contract?" she demanded, then shook her head, dismissing the question with a wave of a hand. "Never mind that. All it means is that you might-- emphasis on 'might'-- have a shot at challenging the contract in a court of law. And I guarantee we'll put all the resources necessary toward winning that case. Not just our branch either; I hear Ilona's grown quite fond of him. In the meantime, Angel will stay right where he is."

"Ilona Costa Bianchi," Spike said, thoughtfully. "Now there's a woman who really enjoys her work. You could learn a thing or two from her, I think." He glanced at Illyria and nodded as Lilah spluttered, giving the former god-king the signal that they were done. With just the confirmation Lilah had verbally given-- current Wolfram and Hart contract-maker that she was-- the mystical bindings on Angel would be weakened enough that Spike could hire a wizard to break them by main force, without bothering with the legal route. They just had to get their hands actually on him to make it happen-- and Lilah had just told them where Angel was.

"Well, sorry to cut and run," he said, sliding out of the booth after his partner, "but duty calls. We'll have to do this again sometime."

"That's it?" Lilah said, furrowing her brow at him. "No more questions or demands?"

"Only one," Illyria said, pre-empting Spike before he could reply. He turned to look at her, a bit surprised; this hadn't been a part of the plan.

She continued, as impassive as ever, staring straight at Wes. "I once lived seven lives at once, and I could do so again. Should your desire for the shell ever overcome your desire for a continued existence, seek me out. It would be a simple matter to ensure you joined in her fate."

Wesley's eyes widened, and the black film faded from them for a moment, leaving him briefly recognizable as a broken husk of the man Spike had known. His composure returned again immediately, but the foundation had been laid; Spike knew it, and Lilah knew it too, judging by the sudden fury in her expression. Not a prospect Spike had anticipated, but one that might well pay dividends in the end.

"I think we've said enough, then," Spike said, suddenly quite pleased at the way everything had turned out. In a matter of days, they'd have Angel liberated to live out his Shanshued life, and the last of Spike's obligations in Los Angeles would be undone. He could take Blue and break loose of the demon-hunting gig, traveling wherever their fancy took them as he'd used to do with Dru. He'd be able to take the time to teach her about the world in ways Wes had never been able to. The possibility of being able to end the ex-Watcher's suffering, too, was just icing on the cake.

He turned and strode out of the bar, Illyria close beside him. It might not be the life he'd dreamed of those last days in Sunnydale, but it would do.

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Prompt: Spike/Illyria, Wes/Lilah, Post NFA; Wes & Lilah both dead but on Earth, a meeting in a bar, Spike suffering injuries from the battle still. No fluff, no character death.

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