“Rupert. Is she there?” he asks, not bothering to clarify or explain how he knows the current state of affairs in London. Had Andrew slipped, damn him and his abominable indiscretion?
“Why should it matter to you?” Giles asks, a soft hand against his lover’s shoulder to keep her from an unwarranted outburst.
“Tell her I remember,” and Wesley’s tone is all apology, “Tell her…I’m sorry.”
Giles snorts, unimpressed by the sudden fit of contrition. So Angel’s Orlon Window had at last gone pear-shaped, eh? He supposes there will be all sorts of revelations and communiqués on the topic over the next few days, but he could not care less about Angel and his people than he does right now, the shadows stripping his flat of color.
“Callous little prat,” and Rupert Giles sounds perfectly reasonable, even when he knows he is striking the man at his center, “I won’t make an apology for you. Perhaps you may, some day, understand why.”
He hangs up the receiver then, looking down at Lilah, whose face is expressionless by the dim light, and who is silent with either thought or grief.
“He remembers?” she asks at last, staring at the ceiling plaster.
“It would appear so,” Giles replies, kissing her on the forehead. “Will you call him?”
“What would be the point?” Lilah murmurs, but her eyes stay open as Giles settles against her, considering sleep before the Slayers come in from late patrol at dawn. “It’s all ancient history now.”
He feels the slightest bit of elation at her words, but this is a devious, dangerous woman in his bed. One he’s been enchanted by since he found her sitting in the Council’s boardroom with her legs swinging against the table’s edge and a smile on her face.
“I’d rather say you looked like Lauren Bacall,” he’d said, enjoying the view, “But I’m sure you’ve heard that particular line all too often, Miss…”
“Stanwyck,” she’d replied wryly. “Mr. Rupert Giles? I have a business proposition for you. Perhaps more…if you like what you see.”
He had. They had. And so it has been for the past four months.
Buffy doesn’t like her, of course. He can’t blame Buffy for the antipathy between herself and Lilah. Lilah not only bore the news of Angel’s corruption, but Lilah has been, however inadvertently, too much a world-saviour for anyone’s peace of mind, and since Angel’s spell changed reality to inadvertently restore her life, she has nowhere to go. Neither Powers nor Partners are quite certain how to handle the woman’s status, which leaves her sidelined.
“I couldn’t fault you,” says Giles, his hand careful and slow as he strokes her jaw. “There are things left unsaid between you.”
“No,” Lilah replies, rising up on one elbow, looking at him. “Nothing important. I loved him and it couldn’t be enough. And there are so many ghosts, Rupert. I can’t go back.”
The truth of that statement aches in the air between them, Giles remembering Jenny Calendar and every day wondering if he sees too much of her memory in Lilah’s story…Angelus, a brutal death, love lost…hearing Anya in Lilah’s materialistic, amused tones…money, money, money, a patent disregard for Buffy’s traumas…ghosts as palpable as breath.
When Lilah looks at him, does she see Wesley? Some long-lost lover whose name she wouldn’t tell? They had gotten quietly drunk together when the Burkle woman called to tell them of Cordelia’s death, toasting the girl who had become a woman and a hero under Angel’s long and diminishing shadow.
“She deserved better,” Lilah had said of her almost-killer, eyes fierce and bright with one of her angry moods, the poisonous ones that killed with an idle smile.
“You both did,” Giles replied forcefully, bringing one of those old movie smiles from Lilah.
They are lovers and they are friends now, an alliance forged by loss rather than passion, cool heads instead of warm hearts. Between them, ghosts raggedly lie in wait, coaxing each of them toward alcoholic regret and cold, empty silences. Her presence, the eternally optimistic pragmatist who cannot even take Hell seriously, is a comfort.
Giles suspects that Lilah does not want to need him, but that after all the buffeting by cosmic forces that have spent so much attention on one lovely and wicked woman, she does need, very much, to be appreciated. And for someone to understand about Angel, about the cruelty made so much worse by its unthinking infliction.
Angel wounds mortally without understanding or care; Buffy nearly died of him, and Wesley’s wounds are so deep that he clings to the man, who does not deserve Wesley’s devotion. And Giles, better than anyone, understands why Lilah hates him, why her rare bouts of loathing and screaming are never aimed at Wesley, who was in fact the guiltier party.
Pillock. “You blame him, then?” Rupert asks, feeling one and only one tear track down her cheek. “It would be utterly fine if you did, Lilah.”
“No, I don’t blame him,” Lilah replies, kissing him, first on the mouth, and then on the shoulder. “Not for anything. But then again, I don’t need to be Wesley’s great and grand failure, some redemption he missed because I wouldn’t be a good girl and regret…”
She sounds so utterly like and unlike Anya in her passionate flurry of words, the regret that Giles still holds for never saying to her how much he, in fact, cared nearly bursts the surface.
“Useless tosser…I don’t understand how you can forgive him so readily,” Giles says, stroking her hair.
“He found my heart by breaking it,” Lilah says simply, her hands warm against Giles’ stomach as her kisses grow more ardent and his longer and deeper. “And he reminded me I could save myself by not saving me. I owe him a debt of gratitude, Rupert, but he’s not my raison d’etre. And I like coming first for once.”
The purr in her voice is inimitable, and Giles chuckles. “And second, and third, and sometimes fourth,” he teases gently. “Selfish bird.”
“You’re the one sleeping with me,” Lilah replies. “Your call, your problem, your kids having the conniption with a capital K.”
“Have I complained?” Giles asks, her body warm and delightful tangled against his. “When it comes to your selfish desires, I have none at all.”
And Lilah laughs, her hair brushing against his face as her mouth presses against his, lips crashing into teeth as his hands desperately scrabbled against her back. She is lovely, bright, and delicate…and Giles knows while he can believe her, she is inherently dangerous. She is too clever to trust, too subtle, and keeping her close is his only defense.
Yet he cannot help but think Wesley more the fool for giving this up, for losing the casually won and callously discarded love of this one, whose strength is only outweighed by her desperate nihilism. Giles suspects that they made quite the pair, did Lilah and Wesley (who is a fool not for his lack of competence, but for his delusional and dangerous ideas about himself and his duty), and that Wesley’s guilt at seeing his match in the wicked queen caused him to deny it to his detriment and to the detriment of that poor, dead woman in Los Angeles.
Lilah kisses him again and Giles allows himself to enjoy the moment, the skills of a talented lover, and the friendship of an intelligent and beautiful woman. The illusion of their relationship is, in many ways, more satisfying than any affair Giles has had because Giles harbors none about its illusory nature.
She is here because it profits her. He can keep her by making it more profitable to be here, in his arms, in his bed, than wreaking havoc at Wolfram and Hart or confronting her enemies.
He does his best.
Perhaps Lilah appreciates it.