Like her. A year after it’s begun, here they are again, at it on a long June night in Los Angeles.
“This isn’t real, you know,” Lilah whispers, kissing him on the neck. She even smells right, he marvels. Chanel and Kiehl’s rosewater lotion, which he can identify only because she forced him to buy her some for her birthday. The Powers know what they’re about when they want to know.
“I know,” he assures her. “Don’t be a spoilsport, love.”
“Mmm,” she says, curling against him. “Say that again.”
“Love,” she says, her voice aching with unstated regret. “Say it again, Wes.”
“Love,” he replies, stroking her hair. “We have tonight, don’t we? The Powers gave us that.”
“Sort of a backhanded thanks for saving the universe present,” she agrees, her body warm and tangible against his. They’re in his apartment, even though his apartment has long since been sanitized of all traces of them. In the background, there is music. Bob Dylan, he thinks, though he’s not entirely sure. “I miss you. Every minute of every day. There are a lot of things I wish, Wes.”
He nods, wrapping an arm around her. “I wish them, too. Some of them, I’m sure,” he tells her, feeling her arm slide around his waist and hold him close. “I never realized how happy we were.”
“Funny, isn’t it?” she asks, snuggling (yes, he thinks, they are snuggling and world be damned, he’s glad of it) closer. “All we ever did was play mind games, drink, and fuck. Best time of my entire life. I loved you so goddamn much–it was like every morning was worth waking up for because I knew that at the end of the day I’d get to drive you crazy. And I never thought of it as love. Love is for saps, right? I just knew that it was good. Hot and sweet and stupid. I’d never been in love like that before. Didn’t know that’s what it was.”
“No,” he says. “I didn’t, either. I don’t know what I thought. Just that you would come, no matter what I said, no matter what I did, no matter how I wanted you out of my head, and I simply couldn’t stop thinking about you. The way you looked at me. The way you said my name. The way you took off your clothes. Do you remember when you came from that horrible party last summer–”
They both laugh at the memory, already drawn of its sting. “The tank top. And the black lace panties.”
“My favorite pair.”
“I noticed that.”
He grins. “It was insanity. Delirium. How satisfying it was to pull you into my lap and hear you gasp. The way you’d do the thing with your tongue when you were getting close.”
“I did the tongue thing a lot,” she says, her free hand walking up his chest. “We were happy.”
“Yes, we were. In the way that only insane drunk people in love and with nothing to lose could be happy,” he murmurs. “I’m so sorry, Lilah.”
“Be sorry on your own time,” she says quickly. “Not tonight.”
It’s hard to remember that she’s dead, with her like this, with the apartment and the music and the way it’s going from sweet to hot with just the slightest movements on her part. She’s dead, and to apologize for it is to remind them that in the morning, she will be gone and never coming back.
“You know, as we are back here in my apartment, those pictures should be in the bedside drawer. Remember?” he asks, and she shrieks and jumps on top of him, naked to the waist and wearing a pair of his old boxers as she straddles him. “That was a memorable night.”
“You’re–” and she leans down to kiss him– “A–” another kiss– “Very Bad Man, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce.”
“I have to be a fit match for the woman I love, don’t I?” he asks. “Who is, I think, a notoriously wicked woman.”
She laughs while rubbing her leg against his suggestively. “The heavens themselves do tremble, I’ve been told,” she agrees contentedly. “Wes?”
“Yes?” he says. It will not do to say her name too often, as if to realize that this is really Lilah, and not a delusion, will end the night sooner.
“Dance with me first,” she says. “There’ll be plenty of time for the rest, but I want–dance with me.”
It’s one of the things she always wanted from him, and one of the things he always refused her. Wesley nods, and she pulls on a loose nightshirt before getting out of bed. The way her body is made delights and arouses him all over again, long lines and curves and catlike grace.
He was right; it is Bob Dylan playing on the stereo, and the song is not romantic. Fitting, but not romantic. She puts her arms around his neck; his go around her waist, and she leads, though they are doing little more than swaying and stepping about.
“I was always embarrassed, you know. I can’t dance,” Wesley confesses. “An absolute bloody mess at even trying. And you–”
“I love to dance,” she agrees. “You’re not so bad.”
“Note that I’m not trying to spin or dip you or anything at all complicated,” he says with a smile. “You can barely call this dancing.”
“I can, I will, and I am,” she says, and her smile is goofy and young and endearing and he can’t help but kiss her. The swaying stops a moment while she kisses back. He follows his instincts and kisses her mouth, her jaw, her neck to the hollow of her throat, and proceeds to unbutton the shirt, kissing a line to her stomach, and now he is kneeling before her, devouring her skin before pausing at where the wound should be.
Her voice is sharp and sudden. “Wes. *Don’t.*”
He rests his head against her stomach, where the scar (that never had a chance to form) is visible and red and angry. The things not-quite-Cordelia said about it, about what precisely the Beast took from Lilah pounds against his skull. Didn’t you know, Wes-old-boy? Couldn’t you guess?
“I should have taken you and run to the ends of the earth,” he says, feeling himself shake. “Minnesota. Georgia. Tahiti. Wherever you wanted. We could have changed our names, been other people. Been happy.”
“Wes, don’t do this to yourself,” she reproaches him, her hand in his hair. “We weren’t–it wasn’t us. You can dream of it forever and it doesn’t make it true. If we had been the kind of people who even fucking wanted to run, we would have run at the beginning.”
He knows this to be true. It doesn’t make the longing for the alternative any less palpable between them. Instead, he rests his head against her stomach, listening to her breathing rise and fall as he moves his hand up the inside of her thigh.
“It wasn’t worth it,” he murmurs. “I thought it would be.”
“What?” she asks.
“I traded you for the fight,” he says, his hand reaching the boxer shorts and not stopping. “I didn’t expect happiness. But I thought perhaps there would be some satisfaction in knowing I’d done the right thing.”
Her hipbone is just under his fingers, and he traces it through the fabric. How can she be so warm and alive when she’s going to be nothing more than a memory in the morning, an imprint on the sheets? It must be a mistake.
“I tried to tell you it was a mistake,” she says, reminding him that she’s no saint. “You’re stubborn. Ooh! Wes, that tickles.”
“Oh?” he asks, removing her boxers. She squeaks cheerfully and kicks them aside.
“But before–oh, no no, you’re going to listen to me, Wesley Edward Wyndam-Pryce,” she gasps as her knees turn to water and Wes continues his relentless assault with tongue and hands. “Before you remind me of why I put up with you, you have to hear this. You sure as hell did expect happiness. You thought that if you chose the good fight like a martyr, the universe would reward you–probably with Fred–because that’s how it’s supposed to be. Well, here endeth the lesson. The universe is not like that about love. Got it?”
“Got it. The greatest thing I’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return,” Wesley says nastily, pulling her to her knees along with him. “Feel better now?”
“Moderately. I’ll feel even better once you start fucking me,” she replies breathlessly, her arms wrapped around his neck. The next kiss is brutal, almost painful, and his stubble scratches her neck and across her collarbone. “I’ll love you even when I’m gone, you know.”
“Don’t tell me you’ll be gone,” Wes says, kissing her everywhere he can think to kiss her. “I won’t let you go. I’m going to lock you in the closet. You have to stay.”
“But you didn’t love me until it was too late,” Lilah protests, her breathing ragged as he pushes her onto the floor. “Oh, God, Wesley, don’t stop doing that–Wes–”
And it’s a hard rain a-gonna fall, Wesley realizes, knowing that morning will come. He spreads those perfect legs of hers a little further. Will he survive? Or is this gift a Trojan horse, the Powers pretending to reward them? One last night. He’s a fool. And weak. But he can’t not take what’s being offered.
And so they fall to it, pretending it’s the first time all over again.
Later, she is sitting on his bed, naked as day, and her arms are protectively curled around her knees as she watches him, all feline curiosity and tart delight in the way he’s propped up on one elbow, watching her back.
“What’s your mother’s name?” he asks, tapping her foot.
“Rosemary,” she says. “Rosemary Tallulah. Isn’t that a ridiculous name? I’m Rosemary’s baby. Maybe that’s why she went with Lilah. Though I think she named me Lilah because it sounded like Tallulah. I think I’d rather be Tallulah. Or Anne, like Anne Boleyn. Lilah Morgan. Jesus Christ, I might as well be named Eve. Or Lilith. What’s your mother’s name?”
This is also her idea, telling all the things that never occurred to them to talk about during their affair. So far, he has learned that she has an older sister in Burbank, that she played field hockey in college and was damn good at it, was Catholic in the Midwest in the 80s, and that her favorite books growing up were the Lord of the Rings books with a side of Anne Rice. She has discovered that he likes orange marmalade, despises sport, has no siblings but did have an Episcopal grandmother who was the most powerful witch in the Lower Midlands for a century, and that he much prefers the Middle English sources of Tolkien.
“Elinor,” Wesley says, giving her a hungry smile. “How many more questions?”
“Two or three–” she teases, licking her lips. “Maybe one. It depends on the next question.”
He means to ask something deeply sexual and earn himself a lapful of naked and aroused woman. Instead, he hears himself say in a quiet voice, “Are you still angry for what happened between us?”
“Wes,” she says tiredly, resting her chin on her knees. “No, dumbass. Not anymore. I love you, I forgive you, and it’s not all your fault that I’m dead. But more importantly, do you forgive me? If I magically came back tomorrow, as I am, what would you do? If I was really here, and you were going to wake up with me, would it be like this?”
He considers it. As she is. Knowing what they know. Would it be? Yes. He could do it, if she were real. Perhaps that’s the test. If he can accept Lilah, as flawed as she is, he can have her back. It seems very much like the Powers.
“Isn’t that the lesson I’m supposed to learn? It wouldn’t be easy, Lilah. You and I both know that. But yes.”
“Would you tell your little friends?” she taunts. “Who still mostly don’t know.”
“I’d bring you with me to tell them and laugh if anyone had a problem.”
“Right answer,” she informs him, jumping atop him. “Morning’s still coming.”
“To hell with morning,” he growls, nipping at her collarbone as his hands roam over the familiar and desirable territory. “I’m not going to let you go.”
It’s a test. Wesley’s figured it out, being clever as he is. One night only is too much a fairytale. Wesley simply has to figure out the answer to the puzzle and he wins. He’s certain of it.
“It’s not a question of letting,” Lilah tries to warn him, thinking that the best way will be to wear him out so when he wakes up alone, it will be less painful. There is no doubt in her mind that when dawn becomes day, she will simply be gone, no matter what they’re doing. One moment alive, the next–well. “God, I love you.”
He kisses her, feeling her heart beat underneath his fingertips. “I love you. Promise you’ll stay with me,” he says.
“Promise me,” he says, grabbing her wrist and holding it. “Lilah. Stay with me.”
“I want to,” she says helplessly. It’s not a promise she can make. Lilah has no faith in the Powers and less than none in a happily-ever-after for anything involving her. “Don’t do this to yourself. Just pretend that tonight’s not going to end. Who knows? Maybe it won’t.”
“You’re going to stay with me,” he tells her, and they are kissing again, long slow kisses that take a minute, two minutes, three to finish properly. He can feel the blood flowing underneath her skin. If he listens, he can hear her heart beat. She’s going to stay.
“If I can.”
No one gets the fairytale and the morning after. Lilah’s sure of it. She kisses him anyway, getting lost in the moment.
Better the fairytale than nothing at all.
When the clock shows six, she takes him by the hand, tugging him out of a doze. “Can we go sit outside?” she asks, hope starting to pound in her chest. “I want to watch the sun come up.”
“That’s rather unlike you,” he says sleepily, watching her pull on one of his shirts and look at him insistently. “You tend to dislike the sun on principle.”
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” he murmurs placatingly, making sure he’s halfway decent before following her out to the tiny balcony that comes with his apartment. The only thing on the balcony is a chair from the living room that she’s pulled outside and the woman who changed the trajectory, if not the aim, of his life. She is looking at him, her legs bare and her face full of questions.
“It’s cloudy,” Lilah complains as they arrange themselves in the chair, seating herself quite comfortably in his lap. “How are we supposed to know if it’s sunrise or not if it’s cloudy? Goddamn marine layer.”
He yawns again, unsurprisingly tired after the night they’ve had. Wesley has rarely had such a hard time keeping his eyes open as he’s having right now. “We’ll buy you the perfect sunrise tomorrow,” he promises. “Or the day after.”
“That would be nice,” Lilah agrees, sounding just as sleepy as he. “We need coffee. Possibly muffins. Those banana-nut ones–” she yawns, resting her head on his shoulder. “I don’t want to fall asleep.”
“It’ll be all right,” he assures her, shifting to support their weight. The chair groans in protest. “I can’t keep my eyes open myself.”
“What if it’s not?”
“It will be,” he replies tiredly, suddenly sure that they’ll be asleep within a minute or so and that when they wake, they’ll feel ridiculous for putting all the knots in their back just to try to see the sun rise. “We have plans for today, don’t we? You get to tell Angel that your redemption doesn’t involve making his coffee.”
“Yeah,” Lilah said, sounding almost delighted. “I just hope–”
Wesley’s asleep. Lilah bites her lip. “I hope,” she repeats, closing her eyes. “I hope they’re not sold out of muffins when we wake up.”
She is asleep before the first rays of the sun peek through the clouds.