Gunn sat his briefcase on the desk. “Caught an associate we laid off trying to smuggle this out of the Voodoo Division.” Pulling a doll out of the case, he handed it to Angel.
A small, roughly made doll, it was black and wore a pinstripe suit. Holding it up in front of Gunn, Angel studied it.
“It’s a nice likeness.” He jibed, rewarded with a cynical look from his associate.
“This place just goes on and on, doesn’t it?” Spike’s voice sounded behind them, laced with disgust. Arms and duster folded tightly and protectively around him, the blonde vamp strode into the room, eyeing Angel with disdain. “Like a ruddy theme park attraction.”
Pointedly refusing to turn his gaze to the other vampire, Angel focused his eyes on the window behind Gunn. “I’m in a meeting, Spike.”
“Oh I’m sorry.” Spike shot back sarcastically. “I didn’t care.”
Gunn slipped off his suit jacket, throwing it over the back of his chair. Leaning his arm on top of it, he decided to follow his boss’ lead, choosing to ignore the new vampire. Turning back to Angel, he returned their conversation to business. “Look, we’re ruffling a lot of dangerous feathers out there. There’s gonna be a backlash, count on it.”
Angel focused his attention back on Gunn. “Well, we’ll just have to ride out the ripples for a while.”
“I’m sensing a ripple on its way now.” Gunn replied, eyes focused over Angel’s shoulder.
Spike turned and appraised the man entering the room, not bothering to step aside. If there wasn’t enough room the lawyer could bloody walk right through him now, couldn’t he? God, each suit was more boring than the last.
This really was hell.
“Yes? Uh...” Gunn grasped for a name.
“Novac, sir.” The lawyer provided before jumping straight into business, confusion plain on his face. “Uh, what’s this about you shutting down the Internment Acquisitions Division?”
Angel turned to Gunn for a translation. “Internment Aqui...?”
“Grave robbing.” Gunn supplied.
“Look, I know you fellows are in charge now,” Novac started, sliding into the role of self-assured sycophant. “And you’re doing a bang-up job. I’m with you a hundred and ten percent.” Spike sighed and rolled his eyes. Yep, no question about it. He was definitely in Hell. “But that department brings in mucho revenue to this company.”
Angel slid his hands into his pockets. “Well, we’ll just have to tighten our belts and do without.”
Novac breathed a laugh. “No, you’re not getting it.” Watching the calm smile fall from Angel’s face, he immediately back peddled. “Sir. IAD is under contract to provide fresh bodies to Magnus Hainsley... You know who he is, right?”
Angel turned to look questioningly at Gunn again. Novac shook his head before ploughing on. “Ok. He’s one of our oldest clients. Big potatoes. We stop delivering, and he is not gonna be... thrilled.”
Cool exterior at full power, Angel kept his face emotionless. “Then he’s not gonna like it when you advise him that he’s no longer our client.”
“You got it, counsellor. You tell Mr...” he coughed pointedly.
“Hainsley,” Gunn supplied.
“...Hainsley that Wolfram and Hart is under new management,” Angel approached Novac casually, the air behind his movement threatening, “and out of the grave-robbing business. Now, run along and go argue your case.”
Novac stared, motionless, at Angel for a moment before turning to exit, stopped at the door by the still-present Spike.
“You don’t have to take that from him, mate.”
“Stay out of this, Spike.” Angel barked harshly, finally visually conceding his vampiric counterpart’s presence. “You don’t work here.”
“Damn right I don’t.” Spike shot back. He snorted, the slightest smirk turning his lips. “Look at you. This is what you do now? Delegate the dirty work to spineless, low-level flunkies?” Remembering Novac, he turned to him, nodding in acknowledgement. “No offense.”
Turning back to Angel, Spike raised his voice, goading and derisive. “The mighty hero, reduced to a bloody bureaucrat. If a certain Slayer could see you now...”
“I can see him, now.”
Both Spike and Angel spun to stare into the lobby, freezing. Buffy Summers stood in the lobby, arms folded across her chest and an eyebrow cocked.
“You are talking about me, aren’t you?”
* * * * * * *
“Buffy...” Angel breathed, confused. “What are you...”
Buffy turned her full attention on Angel, arms still tightly folded. “Doing here? I’m here to see what the hell you were thinking.”
“I...” Angel’s mind lost all coherence; the actual presence of the blonde woman in the door way was making it difficult to think. After their cookie-dough discussion, he’d had trouble letting her go. Besides, he usually had a warning before he saw her. “I thought you were in Rome?”
“I was. Dawn is finishing high school there. Willow, Faith and I needed to meet up, and when Giles told me of your new... business deal, we decided to meet here in L.A.” Buffy rattled off, her calm exterior eclipsing Angel’s in the amount of edge and anger she could put behind it.
“Willow! And Faith?” Angel started at the mention of the red-headed witch and second-in-charge Slayer, his attempt to change the course of the conversation obvious even to Gunn. “Where are Willow and Faith?”
“They’re out... sight-seeing, with Kennedy.” Buffy stepped forward casually, her eyes the only indication of her rage. “I think they wanted to give us a chance to... catch up, before they came in.”
“Well that’s... who’s Kennedy?”
“Willow’s girlfriend.” Buffy’s answered curtly.
“Oh that’s... girlfriend?”
Buffy rolled her eyes, but otherwise ignored the comment. Glancing over Angel’s shoulder, she glared at Gunn. “Who the hell are you?”
Gunn started, straightening his tie before replying. “Gunn. Charles Gunn.”
“Charles? Wanna give us some space here?” Buffy raised an eyebrow at him, glowering.
Gunn glanced at Angel before fixing Buffy with his own stare, an arrogant, self-assured glare he’d picked up on the street. “Yeah. Sure. Got some ‘business deals’ to attend to.” Nodding at Angel, he grabbed his jacket, swung it over his shoulders and left his office, shutting the doors behind him.
The door shut with a quiet snap. “What the hell were you thinking, Angel?”
“I... what are you talking about?” Angel queried, mentally shaking himself. It was just Buffy. He needed to pull himself together and just talk to her. She was so... different from the last time he’d seen her. She seemed so... professional.
Gone were the bright colours and decorative jewellery. Heavy, steel-capped combat boots, simple blue jeans and a white scoop-neck shirt and a black jacket. The only decoration she had was a long gold chain ending in a simple crucifix and two oriental chopsticks tucked into the knot in her hair.
“This, Angel, this. Why the hell are you here, at Evil Incorporated? This is Wolfram and Hart, Angel!” Buffy’s voice rose, breaking as she said his name. The frantic edge in her voice belied the professional air she’d been exuding, and her eyes held a hint of hysteria that reminded Angel of the sixteen-year-old girl he’d fallen in love with.
“I know that, Buffy.” Angel stated calmly, meeting her eyes. “It’s complicated. We made this decision as a group, all of us. There were circumstances that meant that we had to...”
“What circumstances? What circumstances, Angel? What possible circumstances could there be that would lead you to make a deal with the devil?!” Buffy flung her hands up in frustration.
“Cordelia.” Angel murmured, eyes on the floor. He hated lying to Buffy, but he had no choice. He couldn’t talk to her about Conner, and besides, Cordy was part of the reason he took the job as CEO.
“Other places have doctors, Angel. Hospitals have doctors.” Buffy replied, her voice softer than before, but it still held much of her irritation. “I know about Cordy’s... condition. But you didn’t have to go all king-of-the-castle-CEO-of-evil to help take care of her.”
“We couldn’t afford to keep her on life support at the Hotel.” Angel stated, his voice low. “We had no way to keep her, she would have...” Angel broke off, staring at the ceiling before shaking himself. “Besides, if I didn’t take this job, I wouldn’t have been able to give you the amulet that helped close the Hellmouth.”
“You got the amulet from here?! The amulet that blew up the entirety of Sunnydale came from here?” Buffy shouted, all composure lost. “You didn’t even know what that amulet would do! You said it yourself, that the amulet was volatile! It could of killed us all, and you got it from the place that represents all EVIL?!”
“I knew the risks and so did you!” Angel found himself yelling back at her, his anger rising. “That amulet saved your life, and the lives of all your friends! It didn’t backfire, did it?”
“Yes, it did!” Buffy shouted, her voice breaking. “It killed...” She faltered, the break barely noticable. “It killed Spike! And you...!” Buffy spun around, to turn her anger on the other vampire.
He was gone.