Lilah/Wesley | S3/4 spoilers | ~950 words
For upupa_epops. Prompt: "Don't worry, lover. I didn't feel a thing." // "I'm sure you didn't." Many thanks to bellonablack for the fixing up.
Later, they will ask him about his regret.
"It was a regrettable time," he'll say with some diplomacy.
And the world will be happy with this.
It will be her hands that leave the strongest impression on his memory.
(Hands are important, someone said.)
The thing about her hands was that they were always clean.
"Manners isn't happy."
She had been brushing her long, thick hair before his dirty mirror.
"You should decapitate him," proposed his reflection in the background of the glass, and turned a page of the Inferno.
(On wrong days, he wonders how things could be different if he'd been there in time to --
An ordinary morning:
"I'm working late tonight, don't wait up for me."
(she had forgotten herself)
He'd been fantasising about shredding her pristine, white blouse. "Your blasted work."
She had practically beamed: gleaming white teeth, and red from ear to ear.
Sometimes, they had seemed intent on ruining everything.
"I paid a visit to your little friends today," her long fingers wrapping around a cut glass.
He'd stiffened, poured an infinitesimal amount of too much wine.
Her laugh -- like nails on glass. "You're getting better at it."
At this point, he might have looked her in the eye. "In comparison to what?"
Her shrug might have been light and happy. (Happy -- she had been happy.) "Before."
A brief pause. "Well, if I'm as good a pretender as you claim, how could you know the difference?"
She had smiled over the top of the red. "Someone has to."
(every other second of the hour)
They were both far too calculating, too aware of the lines in the sand they had drawn themselves. This is how people like them worked. Lilah had known.
You see, once, she had met him with a perfect garland of bulbous red roses.
A cocked eyebrow. "How thoughtful of you."
"You wish, lover." She had been sniffing the flowers in a highly exaggerated fashion. "A very, very sweet client."
She'd left the roses behind, afterwards. And he had skirted them angrily for days, wanting nothing more than to shred them to pieces, but possessing too much dignity to maim an unwitting ornamental plant.
He had been glad when the flowers simply died.
(Truthfully, he hadn't noticed for days.)
(in the dark)
"We should go away somewhere," he had been mumbling, his fingers threading through her hair.
She'd peered at him, boneless and sated. Then, a beatific smile, sharp as jagged glass, "Careful, lover," a finger running down his chest, "you're growing sentimental."
"The city is so aggravating," he had continued without bluster. "It's so full of… people."
"Well, I could banish them all, if you wanted."
"You couldn't do that. Banish them. Ludicrous."
"No," she'd smirked into his collarbone. "But Wolfram and Hart could."
"Ugh, your bloody work. I stand by my initial proposition."
She had said nothing, but smiled more firmly into his skin, and he'd drawn an arm tighter around her, both falling silent, neither one expecting the idea to ever reappear in the light of day again.
Sometimes, they had resembled young people "in love".
He would think this abruptly, strangely, as they sat curled around each other on his sofa, the television blaring some dreadful news about freak accidents and armed robbery.
"That poor 7/11 owner," he had muttered noncommittally, as images of a local crime (no fatalities) flashed across the screen.
"Mmmmm," she'd hummed into his neck.
And it had crept up on him then, the knowledge that she didn't care, not about this insignificant crime, nor any other kind, nor probably even natural disasters. She didn't care about the fatalities. She didn't care at all.
And it occurred to him that he didn't either.
(And he wondered if he cared about even that.)
She had been prone to generosity.
Hardly on a grand scale. But towards him.
An Alexandre Dumas on his nightstand. "What's this?"
The curve of her smile from the side. "A book."
"Yes, I can see that." He'd turned towards her. "Is it a special occasion?"
"Oh, the gratitude." But her tone had been fond. "I thought you would appreciate it. It's an original. As in," fastening gold through her earlobes, "the original, actually. You're welcome."
He had stood, awkward and touched, all the knowledge and experience within him somehow proving to be embarrassingly inadequate, insufficient for this -- whatever this had been. This inconceivable, impenetrable woman.
"Thank you," he'd finally said, insufficiently as ever.
But it had been enough for her.
"Don't fret, lover, I don't expect you to give me anything in return."
(And he didn't.)
(That was pretty much that.)
(the thing about her hands is that they would always touch him as though he were real)
(as though the humming between their mortal bodies was proof of something, anything at all)
This can't go on, he had thought, over and over, with her around him, surrounding him, inside of him. It will come to an end.
Maybe he would be relieved.
For a long time after the end (not his end) -- he simply sat, and stared at his hands.
For a long time: it was he who was the ghost, the disembodied soul, the wraith in the basement, his hands cold and strange and no longer belonging to him.
(we don't have that word in our vocabulary)
But the ghost in him had been wrong.
(he just couldn't say it out loud)
In another lifetime:
He would have --