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May. 5th, 2014 @ 01:20 am Never Look Back: Chapter Twenty-One
 
Chapter Twenty-One: Contingency Planning

SATURDAY, JUNE 8, 2002, 11:38 AM PST (7:38 PM GMT)
LOS ANGELES

-SPIKE-

Spike had known the minute the spell had gone off what had happened. That manipulative git Sahjhan had warned him: "Save Angel for last," and all that rot.

What he hadn't warned Spike about was that the chip wouldn't be the only casualty. The burns on his hands and the lines of charred skin across neck and wrist weren't anything to write home about, not compared to the agony in his skull, but they were still an unpleasant surprise. At least they did come with one not-quite-silver lining: the obvious wounds kept the great brooding wonder from jumping to accurate conclusions when Spike suddenly cursed in pain.

Good thing, too. He didn't think much of the incorporeal wanker's timing. For one thing, he'd hoped to drop a word in Wes' ear first, so someone who wouldn't stake before asking questions would know what was what. And for another... wouldn't have done Sahjhan any good to let the Slayer of Slayers off his leash if he'd been turned to dust seconds later by his suspicious grandsire, now would it?

The next few minutes were a bit of a blur, from junior chaos' sunscreen spell filling his nose with pungent fumes, to the lawyer bint's unexpected drive by, to little Fred taking it in her head to literally stop traffic; it was hard to think about his next move through the instant bloody migraine.

Fortunately for Fred, the driver she'd stepped in front of had the reflexes of a mountain goat, and managed to dodge round her with no more damage than a snout full of burning rubber. And that gave the second driver just enough room to hit his brakes when she started waving her arms about in front of him like a bloody cheerleader. Bumper stopped just a few inches short of her knobby knees.

Even better, the owner of that car, a luxury sedan with a paint job that would have looked better on Spike's fingernails, had a sense of entitlement larger than the Slayer's and was in no mood to properly appreciate Fred's girlish charms. He was out of his car in a hot second, waving his mobile around and prosing on about lawyers, dressed like a ridiculous cliché of a Hollywood producer. Charlie-boy stepped up and cold-cocked him before the threats got even remotely interesting, then stowed him in the boot while cars stacked up behind them on the off-ramp, horns blaring.

Was a tight fit for six in the car, but at least it was more comfortable than walking, and Spike was hardly in any mood to complain. He wedged himself in behind the driver, Lorne sandwiched between him and Angel, and rested his forehead against the window in some faint hope that it would quiet the throbbing. Between the unaccustomed sunshine and the constant nervous babble going on in the front seat, though, there wasn't much respite to be had. He shut his eyes, resolutely ignoring Lorne's side-eyed glances, and tried to sort through his thoughts about what to do next.

The last time he'd thought the chip was out, he had to admit, had not been one of his finer moments. He'd decided to prove to the Slayer that he was still the Big Bad, not the doormat she took him for, and immediately sought a warm neck to sink his teeth into. The random woman he'd accosted in an alley had emerged from the event unscathed; but Buffy... well. His attempt to drag her down to his level had misfired badly. She might've tarnished that halo a bit, might've even had a little fun along the way, but the further down she went, the more miserable she got. And that hadn't been his aim at all.

Love's Bitch, and all. He wasn't bloody Angelus. He'd just thought that seeing as how she'd come back not quite so human after all, and didn't seem to be fitting well back into the sunlight world, that she'd find her feet to both his benefit and hers in the shadows where he'd been exiled once the Scoobies decided they could live without his help. In short, he'd courted her as though she actually was another demon.

He knew better now, of course. And more to the point: so did Buffy. She'd found purpose again in that new prophecy of hers, and that had given her back some of the vitality and shine she'd been missing. She was letting herself live again. And funny thing, as her gloom had lifted, as she and her friends found something more to do than sit around and eat their own livers, she'd actually begun reaching out to him again, no prompting required. Crying on his shoulder, when he'd told her about her Dad. Trusting him with the heavy lifting. Holding actual conversations. And if it wasn't more than that yet... well, it was still progress. No more talk of him being only an evil thing; she was treating him like a man again.

The last thing in the world Spike wanted to do was derail that progress. Not even for some vague promise of his lost, lovely Dru. He still didn't give any more of a damn about random Happy Meals with legs than ever-- but while he might not have a conscience, might not have a soul, might not even have the excuse of an electronic leash any more, he was still capable of making his own choices. So what if they were more along the lines of 'do as the Slayer would do' than 'do what's right'? Came down to the same bloody thing, didn't it?

And seen in that light: his path was obvious. He'd simply have to find some other way to deal with Sahjhan; Spike had neither the patience nor the desire to string the demon along any more, when it would almost inevitably lead him to cross Buffy. Whether that meant revealing the deactivation of the chip-- he'd just have to take events as they came. It was what he'd always done; he followed his blood, no matter how many problems that might cause him.

He lifted his head away from the window as they pulled into a thankfully well-shaded car park, tossed the ticket in the boot with the still-cursing driver, and made their way into the airport terminal.

Spike had never been a frequent flyer, not as a paying passenger; too much light got in through the cabin windows for a vampire to be aloft during the day, and few flight schedules catered to creatures of the night enough to allow for both departure and arrival during the hours of darkness. But terminals of every sort were alike: long lines of people waiting at ticket counters and security checkpoints, travellers milling about with bags on rollers, children in tears as family members said their farewells, lively chaos everywhere he looked. The perfect environment for a hunt...

...if he was only looking to cull one lonely human from the herd. Finding one particular human amongst the lot? Not the easiest task.

"I don't suppose we have any idea what airline she might be using?" Fred said doubtfully, staring around the gleaming, skylit lobby of the international terminal.

"Well, I'd assume she's probably headed for London, so my guess would be British Airways," Spike replied, rolling his eyes.

"And we'd better hope she hasn't already gone through security," Angel added. "We don't have any of our magical heavy-hitters with us-- no offence, Jonathan-- and they don't let non-passengers in the departure areas anymore."

"None taken," Jonathan sighed. "Besides, I think I'd better save what I do have in case I need to reapply the sunscreen spell again-- it's awfully bright in here." He cast a doubtful glance up toward the ceiling.

"Right then. So we'd better split up; you said she was wearing a navy suit, right?"

"Right," Jonathan confirmed. "She had her hair down, no scarf or anything, but I couldn't see her shoes or jewellery."

"Then it'll be just like finding a needle in a room full of pincushions," the Host sighed.

There were a considerable lot of businesswomen amidst the throng in the terminal; Spike didn't blame Lorne for the attitude. But the plan suited him well enough. Get him away from the others; give him a bit more time to shake the rust out, get his nerves settled before Peaches started putting two and two together. "Let's get started then, shall we?" he said, shouldering past his grandsire and heading for one of the security lines.

He didn't quite shake all of the others; they scattered in pairs, Lorne keeping Angel company, and Fred with her boyfriend at her side. That left Short Stack trotting at Spike's heels. Not an unfamiliar experience, the last few months; the younger Rayne was an annoying little geek, but at least he was the non-judgmental sort. Spike lifted a shamefully unattended suitcase as he strode by a row of seats-- someone hadn't been listening to the warnings broadcast incessantly over the intercoms, their loss-- and strolled down one of the aisles of ticket counters, shielding his awkward companion with the force of his natural charm.

"You'll really think we'll find her?" Jonathan asked, as they walked past traveller after traveller. "I mean, if we got here before her, we might see her come through, but that's a pretty big if. Do you think we're really gonna catch her checking her bags? I've never had that kind of luck."

"Yeah? I think your still being alive, and working with the Slayer after all you did, might say otherwise," Spike drawled, then stopped short, gaze drawn to a woman with glossy brown locks, the poise of a professional, the aforementioned navy suit, and a clipped, impatient tone in her voice as she dealt with an agent. "See there... isn't that the bird we're looking for?"

"What? It can't be... oh my god, it is!" Jonathan hissed, grabbing his arm and dragging him off to one side, behind a forest of colourful informative signage. "It is her! Now what do we do?"

Spike shook him off with an irritable glare. His skin was beginning to tingle a little in the diffuse sunlight; it was hard to tell whether it was natural exposure after so long in the dark, or if the spell was failing, but better safe than dust. "What do you think we do? I'm going to have a little chat with her, while you recast that sunshade spell of yours."

"What?" Jonathan's eyes widened in exaggerated dismay. "But... but Angel isn't here! I'll have to cast it over the whole terminal!"

"Just the bit outside the security gates," Spike reminded him, smirking.

"Like that's any better!" he hissed.

"Should have thought of that before," Spike wagged a finger at him, then thrust the handle of his stolen bag into Jonathan's hands and sauntered toward Ms. Morgan.

The lady had finished with her business and was turning to join the lines at the security gates when Spike caught up to her. He didn't say anything right away; just stepped into her line of sight and raised a reproving eyebrow at her. He'd never actually met the woman face-to-face before, just saw the backside of her from a distance that time they'd invaded Wolfram and Hart to save Dawn and Buffy, and later glimpsed her unconscious on the floor on their way out of the building. He was certain she'd know his face, though; Lilah was a player, and she'd met the other three-quarters of the once-famous Scourge at one point or another. Not a chance she hadn't read a file on him at some point.

She stilled, freezing mid-step like a frightened doe, then visibly forced herself to relax, offering him a faint, knife-edged smile. "If it isn't William the Bloody. Well, this is a surprise. Done so soon? I'm impressed."

Done so soon? Spike wasn't quite gormless enough to actually blurt Done with what? but he couldn't stop his eyebrow from climbing higher. Of course Sahjhan had to've been working with someone corporeal, it simply hadn't occurred to him that the same woman who sold the darker Slayer to the enemy might be stirring the pot back home as well. And it should've.

Irritation crackled along his nerves, sharpening his tongue. "Might want to have your agent be a little more specific next time, luv," he replied with a chiding tsk. "He told me to save Angel for last, and that he didn't care what I did to the others. Seems to me I've already done that part. And as for enjoying my freedom?" He shifted his face, running his tongue over his fangs. "Well, that's what I'm here for, innit?"

Lilah flinched, dropping a hand to fumble around in her purse. "You wouldn't dare. Not in public. Not with the rest of your goody-two-shoes bunch around here somewhere. If you're not going to kill them, that means you care what they think of you."

"I'm standing in sunlight; do you really think an ordinary stake is going to hurt me?" He bluffed, reverting to human face as the gasps and double-takes of startled travellers began to disturb the flow of humanity around them. Better not to risk drawing security down on them just yet. "And who's to know what really happened if you just ... disappear?"

He took a long step forward, and she took a cautious step back, slipping her hand out of her purse and raising the stake between them. "I have resources," she said. "If you don't want to kill the Slayer's bunch-- there are other things I can get you. Anything you want."

"Sorry, ducks. The only thing I want is something the likes of you could never get me," he replied, advancing another step. "I'm afraid you're just going to have to resign yourself to...."

"Sahjhan won't stop," Lilah interrupted hastily, trying to take another step back, caught short as she collided with a metal pole supporting another sign. "I'm not his only contact, or his only angle of attack. He's not really even after you, but he'll ruin you if you don't stay out of his way."

"But you know how to stop him, I suppose," Spike shook his head. "Lilah, Lilah. I'm disappointed at such an obvious tactic. Don't you know, if you want to reel me in...."

He stopped short once again, interrupted in the middle of a thought-- but this time, Lilah wasn't the one causing the distraction.

The concrete under his feet shook, first with a mild, almost unnoticeable tremor, then in a sharp jerk, knocking him staggering. Screams went up all across the lobby; the light streaming down wavered, then increased as a sharp shattering noise came from far overhead. The tingle on Spike's skin briefly increased into a mild burn-- then cut off again as the scent of cocoanuts overwhelmed him for the second time in one day. Banners fluttered down from the ceiling as the shaking went on; several of those signs on poles toppled over in loud clatters against the ground, and everywhere around them people dropped to their knees, clutching the ground or skittering to defensible positions.

"Earthquake!" Jonathan said shakily, rushing up to his side as the shaking eased to a halt.

Lilah staggered in her heels, a tight grip on the pole she'd been pressed up against the only thing keeping her upright as she glared at the new addition to their little tête-à-tête. "No, it isn't. What did you do?"

She wasn't wrong; the last time Spike had felt the floor rattle that way, he'd had a pair of reading glasses perched on his nose, peeling his eyes for prophecies amongst the books at Angel's hotel. And if it was truly a sign that dark magic elsewhere was luring the Hellmouth on again... it signalled nothing good about events overseas. Events this woman's actions had set in motion.

"It isn't what we did that's the problem, luv. It's what you did," he informed her, coolly.

Her brows drew together. "I don't understand."

"Oh, you will," he said. "All the trouble you went to?" He sucked at his teeth. "A whole building lost, and how many co-workers to shift the Hellmouth to Los Angeles? And now it's moving again. I can't imagine your bosses will be pleased."

"You're lying," she spat at him. "That can't-- there's no way any of the Slayer's friends would cast a spell dark enough for that."

"They didn't have to," Spike replied, smugly. "You feel it yet? The difference? No amount of denial's going to bring it back."

Lilah's lips whitened. "If that's true, then I really do have to make this flight."

He couldn't tell if that was meant to be a plea; either way, it worked for him. "And what was that you were saying about Sahjhan?" he prompted, curling a hand around one ear.

"Spike, what are you doing?" Jonathan interjected.

Spike shrugged the boy off, still staring at Lilah. "Well?"

She stared back at him for a long moment, then exhaled sharply and reached into her purse again. Her hand disappeared somewhere into apparently enchanted depths-- then came up again with an artefact that looked like it belonged on Wes' shelves. "This is a Resikhian Urn. It'll trap his kind; it's the only thing that can. That is... if it isn't broken." She held it out by one handle, dangling it above the floor.

Spike tensed. "And I should believe that because...?"

"Believe it-- or don't, but it's the only chance you have to stop his plans," Lilah said, edging around until she stood in the aisle leading to the security gates.

"Now, Lilah, don't do anything rash--" Angel said, finally catching up to them, the rest of his flock at his heels.

She threw the urn up into the air, then turned and bolted for the nearest security line.

"Bollocks," Spike swore, reaching for the falling urn.


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never look back
jedibuttercup:
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From:ffutures
Date:May 5th, 2014 08:48 am (UTC)
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Obvious question - wouldn't they stop flights for a while after an apparent earthquake, to check that the runway's OK etc.?
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From:jedibuttercup
Date:May 5th, 2014 04:50 pm (UTC)
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Probably so; and that does figure into one of the future chapters set in L.A. But at the moment Lilah's main concern is to get to the security gates; you have to go through them to get anywhere near the terminals (where she can wait for her flight, wherever it does leave) and as shortly after 9-11-01 as this story is set? Security was pretty high, and no one would be sleeping on the job after that brief shake. She's hoping that the mortal security cordon will keep her safe from any smaller fry (like Angel's crew) who won't either cause a huge ruckus or utilize heavy magic to get to her, and that her flight will get clearance before W&H joins the pursuit.