Author: Jennifer Oksana
Spoilers: Late Angel
Characters: Angel, Lilah
Disclaimer: All belongs to the almighty Joss
Summary: So a couple of dead folks have drinks at a bar...
"Well, she wants to live her life
Then she thinks about her life
Pulls her hair back and she screams
'I don't really want to live this life...'"
--Train, Meet Virginia
And sometimes it's bad to be the once and future queen. To be the one that everyone knows is damaged goods, the bit of slime on the shoe who can be dismissed as bad, useless, or most recently, The One Who Fucked Wesley Up. It's not really a role she likes playing, because the last part is so untrue it hurts. Wesley was already fucked up; Wesley proves that every day without her presence to warp him. He survived her... he even thrives knowing that he's "made peace" with her and gone on and now he's got a whole new chance to fuck up with Fred and the universe.
Lilah on the other hand suspects that the truth be told, Wesley is The One Who Fucked Lilah Up. Got her believing that there was such a thing as love. Got her to lower those shields, and now she's dead, and damned, and hopeless. This makes Lilah extremely bitter. When there's no hope, there's no limit and Lilah is exploiting that to the very edges of her post-existence. Much good it's really doing her.
"You look like hell," Angel says by way of greeting. They are in a dark corner of the bar where everyone at Wolfram and Hart goes to drink; Lilah learned early on that nobody wants to drink with the boss or see the boss at their watering hole, but she can't stand either of her apartments, not the one in Hell nor the one in Westwood. They're meant to be soulless plastic surfaces for the woman who has everything except salvation and a chance. Thus, they're impeccably decorated, richly furnished, beautiful. No one who walked in could ever tell that Lilah hates them because they're manifestly not her. They're the cartoon her, meant to mock her entire shallow, Sex and the City meets Postcards from the Edge meets Carrie meets The Big Sleep existence. She suspects Angel picked it all out for her, and it makes her burn a little hotter every time she thinks about it.
"You look like you've gained ten pounds," Lilah replies, sucking on a cosmopolitan and watching Harmony and Fred flirt with a very light interest. "For fuck's sake, has your secretary managed to seduce Fred yet or are they waiting for engraved invitations?"
Angel blinks, and discreetly glances to where Harmony's sandal-clad foot is brushing against Fred's ankle and Fred is smiling like she's not sure if she wants to brush back or run away. This is news to him; he's been so busy watching Fred and Wesley commit a train wreck for the second time that the part where Fred had sparked with Willow last year forgot to occur to him. Meanwhile, he's also been looking at Lilah again, and feeling like maybe it's good to have someone who knows the real story and isn't a lisping ingenue with an annoying wardrobe. Or maybe he just likes not having to pretend. Either way.
"Hadn't noticed, really," he says. "Is this what you do now? Watch my employees flirt?"
"Sometimes," Lilah replies, finishing the cosmo and wishing she had six more. "After all, your amendments to my contract have given me a bit of room to run around and do a whole lot of nothing. No Wes, no public wickedness... basically I watch the world go to Hell while I sit on my hands, and you send me a paycheck. It's a pretty pointless non-existence."
Angel listens to this blankly; he does everything blankly in Lilah's opinion, and sometimes she wishes that she could tell him and his contract amendment to fuck off, but this contract amendment means she's not stuck in Hell, forgotten and writhing in eternal torment. Lilah's a smart woman, dead or alive, and she knows that any opportunity handed to her by the moron could mean a victory in the end.
"That's not why you're here, Lilah," Angel says suddenly, completely unreadable as he stares at her. "I keep you around to remind myself of what I could become."
Stupid bastard. He has no idea what he could become, nor who she is and what she became. All he knows is this image of Lilah, the false leering harlot who picked at him and picked at him and picked at him and got hers in the end. Angel doesn't know the first thing about her.
"Fashionable, intelligent, and competent?" Lilah snarls quietly. "Fuck you, Angel. All you know about me is that I'm a bad, bad girl who deserves to be punished and that you, God's very own chosen boy, are more than happy to do just that."
Angel laughs, a short growl of a laugh that sounds feral and not at all amused. If Lilah were a weaker person, the very sound of Angel laughing would raise the hair on the back of her neck, but she's not afraid of him. Not anymore and never again.
"Morgan, Lilah Jeanette. Born on the 15th of March, 1969. Father, Thomas Allan Morgan, died 1983 due to head trauma. Mother, Elizabeth Anne Reed, premature dementia," he recites in dry, dispassionate tones. "Reason for recruitment: subject pushed father down stairs, claiming that he had attempted to sexually assault her. Upon further investigation, the subject is very bright, deeply religious, and her claims that the father had assaulted her are accurate. The religious background makes her easy to manipulate, as the subject is willing to believe the worst of herself... for example, believes that she seduced her father... and yet refuse to believe that she's a victim."
He looks at her and it's not pity in his eyes, but it's not the anger-hate-contempt that Lilah's used to, either. Maybe it's intimacy. Angel knows things about her that no one... not even Wes... could ever know, now.
"You read my file," she says, a little unbelieving. "That's... unexpected."
"You're the most dangerous person I've ever met," Angel says coldly. "I wasn't about to deny myself the ammunition it took to neutralize you if you decided to become a threat to my people again."
Lilah sighs. Of course he'd think about it in those terms. Angel has never been a very creative thinker, and particularly not when it comes to her.
"And what did you decide, Angel?" she asks, weary of being the bastard's very own Whore of Babylon, the one girl in all the world so wicked and nasty and naughty that he can just condemn her eternally without feeling bad about it. She's worse than him; possibly, Lilah thinks, Angel has decided that Lilah is the only person in the entire universe who's fundamentally irredeemable.
"That you're a cold, hard bitch with blood on her hands and not a hint of regret for it," he says without flinching. "And that you were an ally I should have accepted. I should have tried to save you, because you would have been worth saving. The only woman... the only person I've ever known to fight as long and as hard as you can without any hope of victory is Buffy. And I find myself respecting that."
The words are almost a blessing; to hear Angel, of all people, admitting that Lilah isn't a weak, shallow bitch? That she might be as strong as his precious, beloved Buffy? It's almost enough to make her smile. Almost, because she's not going to smile for Angel. That would be against the Lilah Morgan rulebook.
"Hindsight, huh?" she says, lifting her empty glass in an ironic toast.
"Being dead is mostly about regret," Angel agrees. "The should haves, the would haves, the could haves. The kind of things that no one has time for when they're alive. We have all the time in the world to think what it would have been like if only."
Lilah does not accept this. She can't. If she accepts that all that's left to her is regret and observation, then she wants to burn away into oblivion, stop this non-existence, because there's no point to anything at all. As long as there's a fight, she can't stay away.
"What's the use?" she says to this passionately. "Could have, would have, should have. There's always tomorrow, Angel. There's always a way to refuse to take what you've been given. You can always fight. You *should* always fight, and not just brood like a coward."
"In other words, it's not too late?" he asks humorously. "That even we can be saved, Lilah? That someone, someday, will want us both?"
Point. She looks down, away from the knowing in his eyes. "It's better than believing that there's nothing left but wishing I'd begged him to take me with him," she murmurs. "Wouldn't you say?"
Lilah looks up then and Angel is nodding, lifting his glass. It's definitely respect in his eyes. And maybe even friendship, which is stranger than anything Lilah has ever imagined. She's figured that sooner or later, they'd end up in bed having really fantastic hate sex; but mutual admiration? That's a fairy tale. So it can't be friendship. Detente, maybe, and that feeling in her stomach that's making Lilah want to ask Angel to come to her apartment for drinks, honesty, and maybe some discreet not-quite-hate sex? Also not friendship.
She's almost sure of it.
"Maybe so," Angel says, tilting the glass toward her. "To being wanted."
Lilah clinks her glass against his. "And to refusing to stop fighting."
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