Future Imperfect
by Jennifer-Oksana

Summary: A year in the life of Lilah and Spike, in which there is meaningless sex, onion rings, more sex, falling in love, adultery, a catfight with Buffy, and an unexpected happy ending that may or may not be happy.
Rating: R
Story Notes: Spoilers: You're Welcome
Disclaimer: Joss, not me.

1. The New Old Boss and The Old New Hero

There were tears, and sobbing, and a great deal of narrow-eyed glaring at Angel, but Jackson Prewitt, the fifth liaison to the Senior Partners since Eve had thrown in the towel two months ago, released himself from Angel's service. Probably it would have even been willingly and eagerly except for the salary, benefits, and ever-so-useful immortality that went with the position.

"You're getting to be poison, man," Gunn said, checking over the eighty-six signatures and initials that Mr. JP had been forced to put down to make sure everything was in order. "Word on the street is that no one wants to take the job. Senior Partners are going to bring in a ringer, a genuine cowboy-busting son-of-a-bitch. He's called The Dealbreaker, and the rep is not pleasant, Angel."

Angel shrugged. "Bring him on," he said, leaning back in his chair. "They keep sending these people, we'll keep sending 'em home until the Senior Partners learn no cowboy's going to keep spying on us for them."

Spike snorted. "That almost sounded manly there, Angel," he said. "What happens when the Senior Partners give up? Do we win a shiny badge? The souls of the damned? Or, wait, do we get sucked into a hell dimension?"

Everyone at the conference table snickered before Angel started drumming his fingers on the table to get attention focused firmly back on him.

"Nothing changes; we remain accountable," Angel said heavily. "But we're not going to be threatened by..."

There was a loud clatter outside the door, followed by a pair of shrieks that sounded as though they'd come from Harmony. Wesley started, but Angel shook his head until Harmony walked through the door, looking a little mussed.

"Angel, the Dealbreaker's here to see you," she said with a nervous smile.

"Send him in," Angel said. "He's going to see how we do things at Wolfram and Hart, and that includes not threatening..."

Harmony had already skittered out of the room and the doors had both been thrown open.

"Wow, the ways in which you are an asshole, Angel," a very familiar voice said, complete with a familiar face and body that had everyone but Spike sitting up very, very straight. "You think that Wolfram and Hart is going to stand here while you send expert after expert crying into their cups? This is not a question of spying, Angel. This is a question of running an expensive corporation and you have a tendency to fuck it up, smart boy, and you know what? Not any more. The Senior Partners sent me, and more than that, you OWE me. I'm here, and I'm not going back to the Hell office anytime soon. Give me the contract."

Spike had rarely seen anything more enjoyable than the expression on Angel's face as the Dealbreaker (who was a bloody attractive bird with legs up to her neck, a high-necked black dress, and a take-no-prisoners glower on her face) marched up to him and delivered the ultimatum six inches from his face.

"I thought you were taking the hard line," he couldn't help but taunt Angel. This turned out to be a mistake; the Dealbreaker spun on her heels and smiled viciously at Spike.

"The grown-ups are TALKING, William," she said. "You stay right there while Angel and I finish our business and then I can tell you all about the hard line."

Spike gaped. "I'll...I'll show you grown-up!" he said, taken aback. The lady had a way of knocking the breath right out of a man's lungs, even when he didn't breathe. "Angel's right, you've got no right..."

"Lilah," Wesley suddenly said, and the vicious line of the Dealbreaker's posture softened. "Is this entirely necessary? Clearly we'll accept you as our liaison."

"But it's so fun," the woman protested, smiling. "And the Senior Partners are a little miffed, and you know how much fun it is to yell at Angel."

Spike was still stuck on being told the grown-ups were talking, and how everyone knew the bird except for him. "Pardon me for breaking up this touching reunion and all, but who the hell ARE you?" he asked.

"To quote your ex, I would be Lilah," the woman said, the name sounding vaguely familiar to Spike but without a positive ID to be actually made. "And if you've kind of missed it, that means I made this fucking deal in the first place, after having my head chopped off by ex-boyfriend over there, after years of exciting adventures being Angel's mortal enemy. Now I troubleshoot for eternity in dimensions and dimensions full of losers like you."

"You're that bint who gave us the amulet," Spike said, suddenly remembering the name. "I heard about you. You're a tough customer, right? The kind of girl Eve wished she was and Lindsey wished he was shagging, that kind of thing?"

Lilah shook her head, mouth open in slight shock. "And you're a potential champion of the universe," she said, turning back to Angel before Spike could get in another word. "Right. Angel, are we good with the contract?"

Angel nodded. "Better the devil you know," he said. "What new directive do our associates at Hell, Inc, have for us today?"

Lilah shrugged diffidently. "It's summertime. The Senior Partners tend to bide their time, count their resources, plot. Basically, they want you to keep to a liaison, and I think we solved that problem, so I can go. I have to pick out an apartment, a new wardrobe...the usual. Oh, and Angel, you have a nine-thirty gig to make with the beautiful people in West Hollywood. I suggest you dress; Horace Wu might be convinced by style and then you won't have to beat him to death to get him to stop using slave labor for that couture. Also, we own his soul. Tell him if he doesn't knock it off, he'll BE one of the slave laborers. He's a pushover; he'll fold."

The entire meeting stopped dead to stare at Lilah.

"You're well-informed," Angel finally said.

"You know me," Lilah replied with a challenging smirk. "I get the job done. But I think that rather than sit around remembering the bad old days, I'll make a graceful exit. We can talk about just how useful I can be Monday morning."

With that, the Dealbreaker, this tall and deadly Lilah-creature, sashayed out of the room, leaving Angel silent, Wesley gaping, and Spike not sure if he wanted to throttle the bird or get her number. Nothing like someone who could throw the entire world into chaos with a five minute appearance.

"So," Gunn said after a minute of awkward silence. "Looks like we've got a new member of the inner circle."

"Great," Fred said bitterly. "At least she's the original vicious bitch this time."

Spike listened to the rest of the meeting in relative silence. He was definitely going to have to find out all about this Lilah creature. Looked like there'd be something to do this summer after all.

2. This Is a Story About Love (Also Onion Rings)

Summer had never been Spike's favorite season; usually it was dead in terms of big evil or big good, the days were shorter, and it was too bloody hot in this part of the world. California was a damned desert, no matter how much water they sucked out of the ground, and an Englishman, even a long-since-removed Englishman such as Spike knew the difference.

This year, though, Spike had a companion in his misery, and for the first time since Dru'd gone walkies, he was enjoying a Bastille Day.

"I'm just saying the 'love' between Romeo and Juliet is manipulated to the point of being ludicrous," Lilah told Spike, taking a bite of her Island Burger before stealing an onion ring from his plate. "First of all, Romeo's a faithless lover. One day he's wailing over Rosaline, and the next day he's going to marry Juliet for NO REASON. Because she's there. Hormones. And Friar Laurence goes along with this hormone-fest for political gain. It's offensive. Juliet should have married Paris; he actually loved her."

Spike swatted Lilah's hand away just before she snatched another onion ring. She pouted and pulled away before winking.

"You'll get fat like Angel," he said, shaking his head. "And you're completely wrong about all of it, Lil, but that's because you're seeing this from the view of someone who's been Juliet and gotten burned terribly by it because your Romeo didn't have the good taste to die for you like he shoulda."

"Give me a break," Lilah said, rolling her eyes loudly. "Do I look like a naive teenaged girl living out the tragic star-crossed lovers bit? Maybe you're thinking Buffy and whichever handsome vampire swain she chooses...or maybe it's just that you're stuck being Mercutio wishing oh-so-desperately to be Romeo, or do Romeo, or whatever it is Mercutio wants."

With that, Lilah smirked at him and stole another onion ring. Spike let her get away with it because he was busily trying to come up with a defense for the metaphor he'd just bloody constructed.

Spike had to admit it; there was definitely charm to going out for dinner with an intelligent, well-read woman who could fill a sweater and discuss Shakespeare without missing a beat. Not that Buffy wasn't still the one and only, but Buffy had been too busy saving the world to get a proper education in these things. Besides which, thirty-four had certain advantages to twenty-three any day of the week even when the lady in question was not devastatingly clever, wicked as a nun in garters, and by far the most interesting woman he'd met since dying and coming back. Fred was a sweetheart and far more loveable and loved, but she was obsessed with the damned occult and scientific rot so complicated that Spike got a headache just trying to wrap his head around the terms. Give him a literary wit any day of the week to cross swords with, and Spike was a happy man.

"Ah, ah, ah, Lil," Spike said, pulling his plate away just to watch her glare and go back to her own food. They were at the local surf burger joint, the kind of place that neither of them would be caught dead at normally; it was a great place to have a bit of a chat and some grub away from Angel's big glowery stares. Besides, how better to celebrate Bastille Day than with French fries? Even though they were Belgian. "Let's leave the age issue out of this and consider the situation. A high-ranking daughter of a prominent family falls in love with a recently disappointed high-ranking son of the rival family out of the blue, given that no one's bloody thinking that this son should be playing at the grand ball the girl's family's thrown. Despite being told by any number of people it's a foolish dream, the girl and the boy go after their dream until girl loses boy, and then proves herself a damned fool for love by telling the world she'd do anything to get him. And then it all ends up that the boy is far too poncing stupid for the girl, and they both end up covered in blood."

Lilah gaped at him. Spike took it as a compliment; it worked well enough that she had to think of a defense with that fine-tuned, well-oiled legal mind of hers.

"You're taking outrageous liberties with the play," Lilah said disapprovingly. "I see where you're going. The inside parties let it happen because they hope and pray the breach between the two families can be mended by this star-crossed love once it's sprung on everyone, but it's only death that brings them together. The girl's body. That's very flattering of you, Spike...but it doesn't change the fact that Juliet was naive and Romeo was an asshole."

"True enough," Spike agreed, stealing a French fry or two from Lilah, who narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips at him. "Juliet's naive and passionate and makes mistakes, but does it change the fact that she loved her man enough to do anything including die if she had to? And tell me you don't see a little of yourself in that."

Lilah shrugged casually. A little too casually; it was a most palpable hit. "Sorry," she said airily. "I think you're dreaming. Deathless love, star-crossed lovers, all of it's for children and lunatics. I prefer the cold, hard truth. All lovers prove faithless, all love is only for a time, and it's mostly about sex and fear anyway."

"So when did you betray him?"

"The moment I laid eyes on him," she said without pausing.

Spike snorted. "Bah and humbug, I'm not talking about those bloody corporate warfare games you two played to pass the time. It's only expected when two reasonably intelligent enemies find themselves in bed, double-bloody-crossing goes down. I'm talking about him. When did you take his trust and crumple it into little bitty pieces knowing that you had it and you weren't just one-upping him?"

She stopped at that, the change in the conversation's tone now more than apparent. "You make it seem so hard to betray a person," Lilah said slowly, eyes flickering with troubled thoughts.

"You make it too easy, Lil," Spike replied. "The rules of the game were that you two were using each other. He decided that it was good for him and not for you; I'd call that unfair. Neither of you two knew it was love 'til that particular night and you know it. He betrayed you, right enough...but you didn't betray him."

"Do I get a medal?" she asked tiredly, setting down her half-eaten French fry and taking up her iced tea. "So I loved him. So I got hurt. That's the way it goes; I'm a bad, wicked woman and I like being bad. And he's always loved Fred better than me. She's got no flaws, didn't you know?"

The look of resignation in Lilah's greenish eyes was enough to make Spike's stomach turn for her. Hell, it was enough to make a gent grab the lady's hand and kiss it.

"I could fall in love with you," Spike murmured, which was good enough to make Lilah jump. "You're begging to be loved, woman, with all that self-critical dialogue going on in your head 'til it must sound like a bloody talk radio show. Begging for a man to worship the very ground you walk upon because no one's been able to break through that shell and find out who's really in your head. And I think I'm fascinated by you."

She stared at him, a little hypnotized, the iced tea forgotten and overturned in the sudden moment being built. "Yeah?" Lilah asked breathlessly, running her tongue over her lip unconsciously.

"Yeah," Spike said, leaning in closer, watching the way her cleavage rose and fell in that perfect low-cut black tank top. "Nobody's ever really paid enough attention to you, which is how you pull off most of the magic, because if they were watching, they'd see you. The way you're two steps ahead of this boring world of ruddy morons all out to live mundane lives. I want to see inside your head, woman. What made you what you are?"

"I gave everything to be the best at what I am," Lilah said, her voice rough. "I can't live that other kind of life where I'm the hardest ball-breaking lawyer from nine to five and then a perfectly mundane soccer mom afterwards. There's no point."

"It's the only way to live, innit?" Spike asked, eyes still fixed on her, the little tilt of her chin as she considered him. "They don't know what they're missing with all that sodding compartmentalization or whatever bollocks Wes calls it. Live fast, die young, be immortalized. That's the only way to live and die."

Lilah leaned closer, the right corner of her mouth turning up. "So that's why I'm Juliet to you," she purred more than said, eyes ablaze with desire. "Because I burned up tragically, but I did it passionately well."

"That's about the size of it, yeah," Spike said, realizing that he was now more than a little hard and it wouldn't be much longer before he and Miss Lilah were snogging something fierce at Surf Burger or at her posh flat up in the hills or his modest one downtown. And after all, two people like them, snogging wasn't going to be enough; there'd have to be some shagging. And if there was shagging...

The cell phone interrupted Spike's inevitable line of thought. Apologetically, Lilah pulled back, shook her head, and became Angel's inhumanly efficient PA.

"Lilah Morgan," she said, spine straight and sexless. "Hello, Angel. No, I'm not at the office. I was having dinner...yes, I know, Angel. I'm ON CALL; that does not mean I sit in the building twenty-four hours a day. I'll be there in fifteen minutes. Yes, fifteen minutes even WITH traffic. Don't be an asshole. See you then."

She ended the call and sighed, giving Spike a regretful grimace as she pulled out a twenty. "To be continued," Lilah said before rushing away.

Spike stared after Lilah, shaking his head. "Most definitely to be continued," he muttered, willing himself to think of the most repulsive thing he could, and that would be Angel shagging Buffy, to deal with the unfortunate public hard-on.

At least now he got to finish the onion rings.

3. We're Already Wet (And We're Gonna Go Swimming)

"I've been thinking about cutting my hair," Lilah said, stretched out on her couch lazily. She'd been working seventy-hour weeks ever since the call at Surf Burger; despite her assurances that nothing ever happened this time of year, Angel and his new Girl Friday had found themselves a hell of a proto-Apocalypse to avert, which they'd done with style and grace. Ever since, Angel had decided that Lilah was the most valuable player in his arsenal, and sent her out first.

This had sent Fred into a sulk and Wesley into his office; worse yet, it had given Spike an ache in the bollocks he couldn't shake. He'd been so close...and it wasn't as if Lilah objected to the idea, but now he was lucky to get twenty minutes alone with her before Angel had her out running for the border.

"What would you do with it? Cut it off?" Spike asked, trying not to think about how much he wanted to fuck Lilah. Buffy wouldn't approve; hell, nobody would approve. She was dead, she was in love with Wes, she was Angel's liaison to the partners, and she was everyone's worst enemy. "You'd look brilliant. Little butch, but brilliant."

"Don't really care how I cut it," Lilah replied with a shrug, stretching further. "But I'm not sure it would grow back, so it's not something I'm going to do anytime soon."

Spike looked up from the video they'd been watching. "Does it bother you?" he asked. "The being dead. I'd assumed things worked mostly as they should for you...you look as good as any living girl, if it means anything."

Lilah laughed, the sound distorted by her position on the posh leather couch. "Spike, how LONG have you been trying to get me into bed?" she asked pointedly.

Shit. Hopefully Lil wasn't too put off by the idea, or Spike was going to find himself going home with a bad case of blue balls and no chance of getting rid of it.

"Tonight or in general?" Spike asked.

"Either. Both," Lilah said, arms pulled over her head so that Spike could see her stomach. Another scar there, from the Beast, she'd said. Looked like a birthmark, giving texture to perfect skin.

"Since I got here, and ever since I called you Juliet at the Surf Burger," Spike said, figuring honesty was the only policy with Lilah. "You've been a little busy, Lil."

"No, really?" Lilah asked, rolling onto her side. "Angel apparently learned how to use a cell phone just to torture me."

Spike shook his head. "Sounds like the old bastard," he said. "Depriving you of a social life and me of good company."

Again with the laughing, and Spike started to wish Miss Lilah was not quite so good at ferreting out motive. After a week of Fred's sulking, Lilah had dragged her into a back room, there had been shouting, and when the two women had emerged, it had been with rueful grins on their faces.

"I'm sorry," Fred was heard to have said. "You understand, of course."

"Of course," Lilah had said. "Truce?"

And that had been that. And now Spike had to consider the possibility that he, too, was about to get the stern talk of friendship and that being that, and he wasn't quite sure he wanted it.

"What's so damn funny?" Spike asked. Lilah grinned. "Are you taking the piss, woman?"

"You're so polite," Lilah said, struggling into a sitting position. "No one's ever danced around sex this nicely with me. Usually it's a rough kiss, rougher sex, wham bam thank you ma'am."

Spike looked away. He couldn't help but think of the last time he'd thought that was the case, and Lilah's smile faltered. "Not so much my style, love," he said quietly. "Not since I...since...can't quite give you that, if that's what you're looking for."

"No, I would...suppose not," Lilah said, looking away. "I don't think you want to know how much Wolfram and Hart has on you, Spike, so I think...maybe we should...oh, hell. I forgot about Buffy, Spike, and I doubt you wanted to know I knew all about that set of unfortunate events."

"No, it's all right," Spike said, standing up. "I think I ought to be going, then. You have a good night, Lil..."

"Wait," Lilah said, standing up. "Spike, do you think I'm judging you for what happened with your ex? I'm sorry, did you hear the Wesley and Lilah story, in which there were adult situations, language, and sex, to say nothing of the beheading and failed contract burning and dressing up like Fred?"

Spike paused in his escape. Dressing up like Fred? "So does that mean you're simply all right with attempted rape? What are you, pathological? Misogynistic? Self-loathing?"

"No, I'm pragmatic. It was two lifetimes and a soul ago for you, AND if you ever touch me in a way I find truly inappropriate, I'll cut off your balls, dowse your dick in holy water, and give the remains to Angel for a Christmas present," Lilah said with a diffident shrug. "So ease up on the self-hate, soul-boy. If I wanted to hang out with a downer, I know where Angel lives."

This was an unexpected turn of events. Spike's cock was pleased by them, even though Spike's brain was trying to find the catch. Someone who knew about Buffy and was not shoving him out the door and who was still unbuttoning her blouse. Someone whose tongue kept moistening her pretty red lips in a way that promised a blow job at some point in the evening. Had to be a catch.

"So what's the catch?" Spike's mouth said. Spike's cock was not so much pleased with Spike's mouth at its complete bloody idiocy.

"Well," Lilah said, biting her lip adorably. "You don't love me, I don't love you. So it's sex. That's the catch."

Spike considered this. "Well, as long as we both know that, don't see how it's so much a catch," he admitted.

"You never know," Lilah pointed out with a smile. "So, how shall we begin?"

Despite not needing to, Spike swallowed hard. Been a long damn while since he'd seen a look quite like that on a woman's face, especially matched with a smile.

"Begin?" he asked. "Wherever you'd like, love."

Lilah laughed, a long low velvet purr of a sound that woke up Spike's nervous system just in time for her to draw her fingernails across his cheek. Surprised, Spike found himself grabbing Lilah by the wrists to pull her in for a long kiss, the kind that tasted of salt water, Chanel, and desire, one where Lilah's arms sank down around his neck without any urging.

"I liked that," Lilah murmured as she pulled away, her eyes heavy-lidded and half-opened as she favored Spike with another one of her smiles. "I'd like another."

Spike took a chance and swept Lilah up in his arms. She gasped, giggled, but didn't seem at all disturbed. In fact, she put her head on his shoulder, eyes still promising the bedroom.

"Whatever you say, Lil," he said, walking them toward the bedroom.

"Damn right," she replied. "And you know what they say. Ladies first."

"Good thing you're no lady," Spike replied.

"We'll see about that..."

4. Five Nights Out of Seven

Mostly, they didn't fight. Spike couldn't get used to it at first; he and Buffy, to say nothing of him and Dru, they'd fought and made up like cats and dogs. Not for nothing did conventional wisdom suggest that make-up sex was the best sex, and Spike had at first worried that they'd be a little adrift without the constant acrimony leading to constant passion.

Luckily for him, Lilah had all of Darla's sexual prowess without that sneering superiority that hid all the inferiority of a whore and had always driven Spike up a wall. Wes was the luckiest bastard in the whole world, really. Two mad girls in love with him, and both of them better than he could ever be, the ponce.

Then again, Lilah was shagging Spike's brains and balls out, not Wes's, and excepting Buffy, there was no one else Spike would rather have around for both shagging and companionship. Five nights out of seven, this was the state of affairs. Sex, Shakespeare, snark, and Spike was de-fucking-lighted that it was going so well.

But then there were Thursdays and the occasional Saturday. And when Lilah fought, she wasn't looking to make up. She was looking to find eternal peace, or a good spanking, Spike wasn't sure which.

In fact, he didn't care. Bitch was just that: a tedious and vicious harridan who grated on every last nerve.

"Don't you ever just get tired of the bloody act?" Spike shouted at Lilah in the middle of fight whose beginnings were unimportant and already forgotten. "You'd be a hell of a lot more tolerable if you didn't always act like Barbara bollocksing Stanwyck all the damn time! I get it -- you're evil. You know things. You've got an agenda. You're dead sexy and a right ball-busting bitch. Bloody fucking hell, get over it. It's not original, and it's not that entertaining for you, either."

"Fuck you and your two dollar psychoanalysis!" Lilah replied, knocking over her chair in her haste to stand up. "I'm not the pathetic loser who trails around anything that might have ever touched Buffy and moans about his one true love when he knows that the girl's not in love with him, will never be in love with him, and yet he still continues to stalk her."

Spike had a hand on her throat before he realized she'd played him into the obvious gesture. Hell, it was easy to be a prat and choke her! Furious with himself and Lilah's continuing manipulations, he dropped his hands to his sides, trying not to hiss or spit or punch her in the nose.

"At least I'm not such a ruddy coward that I won't even tell the boy I love him!" he shouted back, embarrassed and dying to repay the insult. "Do you know why Wesley avoids you, Lilah? It's not because of any of those reasons you've put up. I asked him, cuz the damned Thursday morning meetings are pretty fucking uncomfortable for us not so much involved with your little war. He told me that it was because you loathe him and you've made that clear by refusing to talk about what bloody happened the first time. He figures you can't forgive him for failing to save you and it makes him a little dead inside, but he gets it. Typical self-loathing nancy Wes, but you're not helping."

Bright red spots darkened Lilah's cheeks and her eyes were sparkling with sheer rage as she turned on Spike, violence in her very expression. Spike realized she wasn't nearly so pretty when she was homicidally angry, but it was still fascinating.

"Don't you DARE blame this on me!" she screamed. "I love him so much that I can't be in the same room without going to mush unless I hate him. And he's in love with that fucking manipulative twig who doesn't love him and it kills me. It burns me worse than being in Hell, and that's why the Senior Partners transferred me here in the first place. They know this is Hell for me, to be that close to Wesley and not be able to tell him how much I gave up for him. For us. For this entire stable existence I hate so much, that that fucking asshole Angel gave to us all because he's a selfish fucking bastard..."

She was crying then. This wasn't part of the normal fight cycle. Lilah eviscerated with a careless world; she didn't cry. Especially not huge gasping sobs that weren't anything he associated with Lilah, the girl he had dinners out with, the girl who the Senior Partners had transferred up when Eve proved to be a double-crossing tart, the girl Wesley used to be with, his friend Lilah. Smart, materialistic, a little dead, a lot empty for all the passionate bravado.

Spike realized with a sick wrench of his gut that Lilah had never been empty, not even for a second. Not with the tears torn out of her eyes and burning against her cheeks and the sickened, nauseous sobs that were shaking through her wobbling body.

"Oh...shite, babe," Spike said awkwardly, reaching out to steady Lilah and getting pushed away. "I'm a bad horrible man, love, don't push me away now. Lil, come on, sweetheart, you know we're friends, I don't blame you. Wesley's a fucking prat, he should know you love him, come on..."

Still with the heart-wrenching sobs. Didn't know Lilah had been holding back so much and Spike wished with all his useless heart he'd had any idea that Lilah was holding herself together with the femme fatale act that he clearly should have recognized it was bullshit to keep from going into hysterics. Bloody insufferable hell, what had Angel done to her and Wes, let alone the entirety of existence?

"The whole world's an illusion," Lilah said between strangled gasps, hands over her face. "We made a deal, me and Angel. I had to make it. His son...he wanted to save his son, make him the perfect world where he didn't remember this life. No one could remember Angel's son except him and me, and now it's driving me crazy. Do you know how hard it is, trying to figure out what Wesley remembers? If he thinks I ever really loved him? If I ever really did love him in this version of events? Angel made the whole world a lie because he's a selfish bastard and I hate him for it, I hate him but I can't kill him because he's the goddamn champion..."

She sank to the floor, head falling against her knees and hair covering her face, still shivering a treat. Spike knelt down next to her, putting an arm around the newly vulnerable lawyer-bitch-from-hell. "Angel's always been a selfish git, love," he said quietly. "Always will be. Part and parcel of thinking he's the champion of the universe."

"I look at him and I want to see him bleed," Lilah confessed to her knees. "He took everything from me for that fucking brat of his, and he's the one in pain? He's the one suffering? I can't stop thinking about it. How Angel deserves to be the one in Hell that everyone hates. Not me. But I can't do it to Wes...he loves Angel. They all love Angel, and I see him and I think murder."

"I don't love Angel," Spike said petulantly. "But I get your point."

"Are you going to give me life-altering advice now?" Lilah asked, looking up with bright red tear streaks on her face. "Because I might have to sink to a new and lower level of pathetic if you do."

"Just one piece," Spike said, fixing himself into a sitting position. "You can't be saved by a lie. And if this whole world's a lie, like you said, then it's true that you love that big ponce Wesley. God knows why, but you love him. So tell him the truth. Tell him you love him."

Lilah sniffled, a most unlovely and human sound. "Will he dump Fred and marry me, oh wise and wonderful William?" she asked, sounding congested and miserable. "And find a way out of my contract and dead-ness?"

"Probably not, least not right away," Spike admitted. "I think Wes is fond enough of Fred and vice versa, but truth be told, he's missing something that I can't quite put my finger on. You can tell that he's not sure what it is, either. Hell, sounds like Angel might have sucked it out of his head, the wanker. But I think it's whatever you two crazy kids had and he's maybe forgotten. He's happy with Fred, no bloody mistake, but it's not the same as having real and honest love, the kind that makes you go insane and not care."

Lilah smiled bitterly. "So when my Wesley decides he's tired of happy and ready for crazy, then I get my shot?" she asked hoarsely, strangely lovely again in that hurt, aching expression.

"Maybe," Spike said. "Maybe he'll tell you he never did love you. Maybe he'll take you in his arms and bend you right over a conference table. Not a bloody palm reader, love. But whatever happens, you'll know what your Wes is about and not just wonder."

She blinked rapidly, clearly abashed. "Did I call him my Wes?" Lilah asked, looking troubled.

"Slip of the tongue," Spike said, smiling reassuringly. Now was not the time to antagonize, especially not when vulnerable Lilah was telling all sorts of dirty little secrets about Peaches' sordid past. A son? A secret he was forcing Lilah to keep? All v.v. interesting. "You'll be all right, Lil. Got a bit of a down-and-dirty survivor in you. Besides which, you're a very bad woman, and smart enough to hide you're the smartest one in the room."

"That right?" Lilah asked, smiling.

"Damn straight it's right," Spike said. "Now you need to clean yourself up a bit, I think, and then we can watch these confounded DVDs you keep bringing instead of a sensible tape. I noticed you rented a damn hobbit movie for us, despite me telling you I cannot bloody stand Tolkien, so we may end up watching my tape of naked beauties."

Lilah wrinkled her nose. "My God, can't the fall season of television start already? I need my OC fix so very, very badly that even porn is starting to sound good," she mourned.

Five nights out of seven, it was good. And the other nights? It got there. Eventually. Spike could live with that, as long as it was Lilah. He didn't know what that meant, long-term, but for now, he was along for the ride.

5. Bond and Bacall

"Admit it," Spike said to Lilah, looking at the wreckage of the demon gambling den they'd just overturned. "You're getting to like the Bond girl lifestyle, aren't you?"

"Well, I've been the dead evil Bond girl AND the dead good Bond girl, and I have to admit...I still think I make the best Bond," Lilah replied cheerfully, feeling some sort of adrenaline rush that probably wasn't. "Did you see how fast Gerudis the High-Handed went down? And we never would have gotten in here if I wasn't the Dealbreaker."

Angel had been letting Lilah out of the office on missions after they realized that her head was more or less attached firmly, and when Lilah threatened him with a letter opener over the fact that he'd been imprisoning her in the Wolfram and Hart building at least sixty hours a week. Spike and Gunn had been on her side, and even more impressively, so had Wes and Fred.

"Give the lady some credit," Gunn had said. "She works her ass off for you, Angel."

"Among other things," Spike had replied dolefully. There hadn't been much time for Spike when Angel went to red alert, and Lilah knew just how quickly he could feel neglected already. He called. Incessantly. He looked pleadingly at her in meetings. And it wasn't as if she didn't realize; she was lonely and bored, too. Fucking Spike had put some sizzle back into a life lived by Angel's rules.

"In short, however," Spike said, drawing Lilah back into the moment, the demons crawling out, the clean-up teams going through the place for Gerudis' stash, "You've got some color back in your cheeks, and that's just how I like you."

Lilah laughed. "I thought you liked me every way you could get me," she teased, putting a hand on his chest and letting it trail down toward his cock. "That's what you told me Wednesday, isn't it?"

Spike gave a pair of suspicious looks to the number of security operatives hanging around, and then looked back toward Lilah, mouth slightly open as he tried to formulate words. Lilah smiled and licked her lips. She knew how good she looked in a tank top and jeans, despite the image everyone had of her as the naughty corporate exec, and with the scar displayed clearly and her hair pulled back in a braid?

Lilah looked dangerous. And hungry. And when she grabbed Spike by the back of his head and drew him in for a kiss, she was daring anyone to say a fucking word, including Spike himself.

When he pulled away, he'd gone vamp face, which left Lilah a little dry in the mouth, but he shook it off and smiled a deadly dark grin, the kind that said he was feeling playful. Wicked. Wanting. All of the things Lilah tended to feel most of the time that she had to brutally suppress to keep in Angel's good graces.

"The ways I want you, woman," Spike growled into Lilah's ear, biting down lightly. "You won't walk properly for a week once I'm done with you."

"Ooh," Lilah replied with faux-excitement, arching her back coquettishly. "A challenge. I like challenges."

Spike chuckled. "You and the clever talk," he said, stroking her back. "Maybe you're not Juliet after all. Too much knowing in you."

"I've been trying to tell you as much," Lilah said, leaning in for another kiss. "You're a romantic, Spike, turning every girl into someone you can save and worship."

"And you," Spike said, putting a hand under the skin-tight tank top and moving it upward when he didn't hear any resistance. "You think you're Lauren bloody Bacall and you can turn every chap into your Bogie."

"That right?" Lilah asked, eyes half-closed. Good for him for getting that one right. Everyone always guessed Barbara Stanwyck...not that she minded that, either, but given a choice between being Barbara and being Lauren Bacall, what sensible woman wouldn't choose to be Bacall?

"Well, I can't tell," Spike said with a smile, nuzzling at her shoulder. "You've got a touch of class, but I don't know how far you can go."

Lilah laughed and then gasped when Spike started cupping her breasts, ruthlessly squeezing and pinching. There was only one answer for that, and how hadn't she known Spike watched old movies before? Too much Shakespeare and Bond, she supposed.

"A lot depends on...ohh...who's in the saddle," Lilah said breathlessly, wrapping her arms around Spike's neck.

The rest of the night passed in frozen flashes of various orgasmic states and sense-memory states. Which was a nice way of saying that Spike liked a challenge as much as Lilah did, and he was dead serious about her not walking properly for a week.

In the alley, biting down on her hand so she didn't scream so loudly that the cops came running, other hand fruitlessly grabbing at the concrete as Spike ruthlessly kept his tongue flickering against her clit.

The car...oh, the car had been her first victory of the night, teasing Spike into a frenzy as one hand danced over the bulge in his jeans and the other teased her own breasts into points, all the while managing to keep a straight face and discuss how pleased Angel would be that they'd taken down Gerudis.

The blowjob in the elevator, Spike groaning to bloody rule britannia hell as Lilah proved there were some benefits in being the undead; namely, not having to come up for air.

That moment when he'd torn her tank top in half and Lilah, a little surprised, said, "That cost forty bucks!" and Spike, leering, said, "Take it out of me in trade." They'd both laughed then, a bit impressed at how much fun they were having shagging madly (as Spike would put it).

Screaming her head off with her ankles crossed against Spike's back, knowing it just meant that he would fuck her harder, see if he could bring the house down.

The particular rush that came from watching Spike strain against the handcuffs cuffed to the wrought iron bedpost and Lilah took her time riding him, sparing him a glance when he started to protest.

Hearing, rather than seeing, Spike climb into the shower behind her, and start kissing his way down her spine despite protests of, "I have to wash my hair sometime..."

Even the comfort of being passed out on the bed and waking up with Spike's hand resting on her hip as Lilah groaned and stretched out.

"Go far enough?" she asked, knowing he was awake.

"Bloody hell, yes," Spike said. "Can't move."

"I have work," Lilah murmured. "So do you."

Spike tightened his grip on Lilah. "Sod that," he muttered. "You, me, we're having a bit of a lie-in. We earned it. And you're the Dealbreaker. Angel can spend a day remembering how much better his life is because of you."

Lilah smiled, closing her eyes again. It was nice that he noticed. Definitely appreciated. Damn it, she was tired.

"Flattery will get you everywhere," she said. "But I think you're right, and I..."

And with that, Lilah immediately fell asleep again.

6. And I Can Never Be Ignored

The two bedrock truths of Lilah's social unlife were starting to pull her in different directions, and she wasn't sure if she could deal with that. They were A) that Lilah loved Wesley forever and always, amen, and B) Spike was a hell of a lot of fun. Spike was a hell of a lot of fun when he was feeding her bullshit about how Lilah was Juliet when they both knew she was a failed Lady Macbeth, a hell of a lot of fun when he was mocking Angel, and of course, the most fun when he was taking Lilah out on the town as a prelude to sex.

The less fun parts were hearing Spike bitch on and on about how Angel was no good for Buffy at all; Lilah hated to admit it, but she was a little jealous of Buffy. Of how worthy Buffy was. Lilah was personally of the opinion Buffy needed some serious therapy OR she was simply a complete bitch, but that wasn't an opinion she'd be sharing with Spike anytime soon.

"Lilah, are you paying attention?" Angel asked, reminding Lilah that she wasn't in any position to scheme about her love life. Angel was on another save-the-world bender, which meant Lilah worked twelve-hour days, didn't sleep, and never saw Spike while seeing far too much of Wesley and his cutie-patootie darling Fred.

"Not really," Lilah said sarcastically. "Perhaps you might try being interesting?"

"I'm sorry a demon cartel importing unwanted third world children as cheap food for their community Thanksgiving doesn't rate your attention, Miss Morgan," Gunn (of all people) said. "We'll try to have more jokes next time."

"Sorry," Lilah said, shaking her head quickly. Shit, she'd lost the conversation long, long ago. "I've got a lot on my plate...some days it's hard to..."

The words were failing her under the hard glares of Fred, Wesley, Angel, and Gunn. Lilah squirmed, shrank back. Spike had opted to ditch this meeting, the lucky punk. If only she had that option, but when one was a dead, unworthy liaison, you had to do all the meetings and then some to prove you were worth the least of these my brethren, and even then it was unlikely.

"Sorry. That's all. Sorry."

"Thank you," Gunn said. "Continuing on..."

It had been the worst meeting in a long while, made worse by the adorable peck on the cheek Fred had given Wesley before waltzing back to the lab and the concerned look Wesley then gave Lilah.

"Are you quite all right?" he asked. "You've been looking rather pale lately."

"Little bit DEAD, Wes," Lilah said acidly, her head starting to ache. "Sometimes, not always the easiest state to be walking and talking in."

"Is Angel overworking your capacities?" Wesley asked. "I could request your hours be..."

"No!" Lilah said, standing up suddenly and for the first time in months feeling herself wobble awkwardly, a harsh and suddenly reminder that whatever else she was, Lilah Morgan was a corpse. A walking, talking, and very pretty corpse, but a corpse. "I'm fine. I think I'm taking the rest of the day off."

Wesley looked concerned again, those big, pretty blue eyes of his filled with worry and pity. She could accept the worry, but the pity was making her want to throw things. "Lilah, if you need time, don't be afraid to tell someone," he said earnestly. "You do the work of two people, and Angel expects far too much of you...more than anyone."

"Well, idle hands are the devil's workshop," Lilah replied bitterly, waggling her fingers. "Angel keeps me busy so I don't get into mischief. Probably a good idea, me being evil and all."

With that parting shot, Lilah beat a path for the exit, running smack dab into Spike, who was grinning a treat and holding some form of dripping demon head.

"Guess who bagged him a child-eating son of a bitch?" Spike asked, dropping the slimy thing, grabbing Lilah by both hands, and leading them in an impromptu waltz down the hallway. "That's right. Me. Big hero Spike."

"Yay, you," Lilah said, trying to sound impressed. Spike paused in the dancing to give her a severe look.

"You got one of them headaches again, don't you?" he asked. "Fucking hell, Lilah, I told you that I know a guy in Koreatown who can stop the nerve damage, and if you don't go today, I'm gonna march you down there myself. See if I don't."

At this, Lilah whimpered in a way that sounded perilously close to a sob. What the hell was wrong with her? She was the fucking Dealbreaker! She knew how to take care of the headaches and the little inconveniences that came with being a galvanized corpse. Why was she letting Spike bully her and Wesley worry?

Maybe she was working too hard, but...it was the way it always was when you were a smart woman who happened to be pretty. Lilah had to work three times as hard as anyone to get half the recognition, and with Angel? That was never enough, and if it wasn't enough for Angel, it wasn't enough for Lilah.

"Can we go out tonight?" Lilah asked, smiling half-heartedly. "I promise I'm going to the guy right now, but I'm tired, Spike, and I want to go out and be beautiful and make Ashton Kutcher wish he wasn't Mr. Demi Moore. Take me out?"

Spike, being Spike and a seventeen year old hopeless romantic at heart, seized Lilah's hands again and kissed them. "I'll be there," he said. "At seven. In clean clothes. We'll make all them 70s kids wish they were us. Now, go. Get something to take care of them nasty headaches or I'll bite you."

"Promise," Lilah said with a real smile this time, blowing him a kiss. It was so easy to pretend there was really something between them. And the friendship was real; Lilah genuinely liked Spike despite his constant idiocy, the Angel-worship, and the Buffy complex he wore like that hideous leather duster that didn't really suit him at all. She knew he liked her, too, and unlike everyone else, when Lilah was with Spike, she felt worthy. Part of the team. Interested in the fight instead of herself.

But it wasn't real. Not like what she felt for Wes. They were friends, Lilah and Spike, and that was great. Just what she wanted. What he wanted.

Wincing as she walked down the hall in high heels that made each step send a new shot of pain into her retinal nerves, Lilah wished that she had one boyfriend, not two. Someone who put her first and could get the potions and powders for her. But that was the kind of thing Juliets and Buffys dreamed of, and she was Lilah. She could get the stuff herself and be ready to go out at seven.

And she would be, because she might not be worthy, but Lilah was good at what she did, and not even Angel, not even Wesley, could deny that, and that's how Lilah kept herself going from day to day.

Being good and having Spike. It wasn't perfect, but for now it was working. Most days, anyhow.

7. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

December had always been Spike's favorite time of year, even before that sodding stupid song about it being the most wonderful time of the year had written itself into everyone's brains. Nice long days, gaggles of drunken partygoers who never missed just one of their number or alternately had no problem with being led into dark alleys. Holiday depressives begging to be dinner, fig pudding, wassailing...it was definitely high times to be a vampire.

California had made the holiday traditions a lot less fun, mostly because they were all bloody savages one step away from being pagans. And not the fun, blood and Yule log and sex and pagans...the dull flaky sort who wished a bloke, "Happy Holidays" and worshipped Santa and tinsel.

This December had been better, though. Lilah was an ardent partygoer despite the fact she hated most of humanity with a touching passion. There wasn't a holiday-themed affair anywhere in the Southland she couldn't get theme into, her done up in some slinky frock, him looking like a declasse producer from the seventies, them drinking spiced wine and nibbling on treats for hours before Lilah got bored, dragged him into the poolhouse, and fucked him.

Reminded him of old times. Dru had loved parties, too. And Buffy had liked fucking him when she was bored...Buffy who Spike sometimes went two days between thinking about and only with intense guilt realized it had been that long.

Spike realized he was in love with Lilah on a Sunday morning when they were pouring themselves into bed just before sunrise after spending the entire night at hotspot after hotspot being bought drinks by young turks. It wasn't quite the daunting moment he'd had waking up from the accursed dream of kissing Buffy, nor the effulgent ache of becoming Drusilla's dark knight, but he knew.

"I think we had too much to drink," she said into the pillow, groaning. "I can't stand up anymore. Take off my heels, please?"

He took off both of them, tickling the sole of her foot lightly, which caused her to kick at him. "Ticklish?"

"Sleepy. Ticklish. Oh....Spike. Not now. I need...this much time. A little sleep before I die," she moaned. "Again."

"Give us a smile, then," he said, drumming on her back with his fingers. "If you're not happy, I'm not doin' my bloody job."

Lilah half-rolled over and smiled, and it wasn't one of Buffy's wan smiles or Drusilla's mad lecherous grins. She had a sweet smile, slightly naughty, a little sad, the smile of a woman who's suffered and survived and lived on to commit many, many unspeakable acts for her boyfriend's cock.

"I like being with you," she said tiredly. "You make it good to be me again."

With that, her eyelids fell closed, but Spike felt his own smile coming on, the kind of unexpected grin that said that being told she liked being with him was...

"You're bloody amazing," he said, falling on the mattress next to her. "Can make a bloke's heart go pitter-patter with a smile and a word."

"I'm talented like that," she murmured blurrily. "Sleep now, lover. I gotta work Monday and I'm so tired."

And like that, he was in love. Of course, Spike being Spike, he knew he'd have to tell her immediately, but Spike also knew Lilah and that if he woke her to say something like I love you, she'd pull his tongue out and use it as a pillow.

So Spike, the wheels in his brain turning something fierce, lay down next to his lover...his beloved...and slept, knowing that the time was coming.

Actually, to Spike's surprise, it took him an entire week to admit to Lilah that he was in love with her. Not that it was precisely his blooming fault; Angel had been a complete wanker for that week and had kept Lilah on her feet 20 hours out of 24 for the next five days. Apparently Spike hadn't been the only evil demon-type to get festive during the holidays and Lilah was putting out fire after fire and Spike couldn't get a word in edgewise. Besides which, there'd been the disastrous mission to try to stop a huge demon sacrifice that had nearly gotten Lilah blasted into little bits and driven into Spike's head that if he'd doubted it was love, he was very, very mistaken.

So it was another Sunday morning when Spike finally got to make his statement, which he did over eggnog and in front of the television where Lilah had been watching Miracle on 34th Street and eating almond roca absently, filling out a few forms for Angel for Monday.

"I've loved two girls my whole life," Spike said, looking across the room to Lilah, heart-in-throat. "Loved Drusilla as much as a soulless evil thing could. And then Buffy. I won't lie to you, Lil, I loved her in ways I can't love anyone else because she made me want to be things I never expected to want to be, but I hated her almost as much as I loved her. I thought I'd never stop loving her and hating her with all I had in me."

"So what happened?" Lilah asked, hair falling over her cheek.

"I met you," he said simply. "Don't even know when it happened, but one morning I woke up and I didn't wish I was in Rome, or London, or wherever the bloody hell Buffy was, because there wouldn't be you there. No you to tell jokes to. No you to mock Angel with. No you to shag bloody senseless. No you to steal my onion rings and discuss Shakespeare. And I realized I'd miss you more."

"And it mattered more than Buffy telling you she loved you?" Lilah asked, the pen finally stopped in its tracks.

"Buffy doesn't love me," Spike said sadly. "I know that."

"I see. So you got over Buffy and I'm convenient," Lilah said with a cynical smile. "That's sweet. Really. I'm glad I'm almost as good as Buffy and you can love me almost as much."

Spike shook his head. "Don't twist the meaning yet, Lil. I'm not done telling the tale," he said. "That's what I was thinking, too. That maybe I'd finally just accepted the Slayer was out of my league. But then you went and did that stupid thing and bloody almost got yourself killed deader trying to prove to Angel that you're a team player. And when I saw that crazy son of a bitch Wes carrying you into the building, I knew. I knew I didn't give a damn about Buffy if you were in the picture, Lilah. And I knew I'd rip Angel a new one if he ever gave you shit about being worthy again, because bloody hell. Never been a worthier girl."

Lilah blinked, and for a split-second, Spike saw absolute acceptance of everything he'd just said flood into her eyes and the way she held her mouth, softening her face into something luminous. Then the guards went back up. Bloody woman...did she always have to be so defensive just because Percy was a git who didn't realize she was worth it?

"Before you make any more impassioned speeches," Lilah said wearily. "I believe you. I think you genuinely do think you love me, Spike. And I think you care about me...and I care about you, despite the general consensus that Santa left me a heart three sizes too small for Christmas. But I don't think you can stop being you, Spike. You need a woman who you can make a goddess, and I'm a slightly reformed evil lawyer who wakes up every morning not sure if today's the day I take a semi-automatic to the entire lot of you. I don't qualify."

"I don't give a damn about worthiness," Spike said energetically. "In fact, I love you more because you're who you are and you're not hung up on this fucking line about WORTHY. Worthy bollocks; who's judging who? I love you, Lilah, and I think you could love me if you weren't so hung up about that poncy git Wes telling you every day that you weren't good enough to be in his bed."

The answer was an automatic low growl. "I am NOT hung up on Wesley."

"Tell me you don't do it all in the hopes that one day, he'll tell you he loves you again," Spike said.

"I..." and her face fell. "I'm sorry, Spike. I know you're right. I know he doesn't love me, but it's hard. It's hard when all I've ever really wanted is him."

Spike smiled and got on his knees in front of the sad woman before him on the couch. "It's all right, love," he said. "You don't stop loving someone overnight, especially not someone you went to Hell for. Been there, done that, as the Niblet would say. And I'm not asking you to stop loving Wes."

"That's...sweet. And kind of weird and scary," Lilah said, a soft laughing smile crossing her face. "So what are you asking me?"

"Let me convince you," Spike said. "I want to show you that you deserve it. Love, adoration, the scary obsessive attentions of a man who's been called stalker on more than one occasion. I just want a chance to convince you that this can be love, and that you can tell all that worthiness nonsense to bugger off."

Lilah's face flashed about six different emotions as she chewed on the end of her pen. Finally, it settled with touched.

"Okay," she said. "As long as you know I'm not promising anything."

It wasn't quite the declaration of mutual adoration Spike had been hoping for, but given it wasn't a complete rejection either, he ignored the bemused expression on Lilah's face and went for the acceptance.

"I'll show you," Spike said, moving in for a sweet, smooth kiss that tasted like nutmeg and lipstick. "Before long you'll be begging me to love you."

"We'll see," Lilah said with a laugh. "Move. I want to see how this ends."

8. The Significance of Blue Boxes

Occasionally Spike's methods of convincing made Lilah want to throw shoes at him. Not that the wooing and the adoration were necessarily unpleasant; in fact, Spike had a way of making it wonderful and Lilah had to force herself not to smile so much. Smiling made the minions think she wasn't scary and that couldn't happen.

But Lilah had never really liked public displays of affection, which is why Wesley's method of sex and love had worked so well for her. It was great to be appreciated, but Lilah didn't mind the appreciation being in places that were not the Wolfram and Hart building.

"Miss Morgan," Harmony said, peeking into her office. "Um, you have a delivery."

"Sign for it and bring it in," Lilah said with tart exasperation. "That's why you're my secretary, remember?"

"Miss Morgan, you have to see what the delivery is," Harmony said. "I don't know quite how to...well, please come see?"

"Unless this is a camel, I'm going to have you made into a rug," Lilah threatened before grimacing. That sounded incredibly weak. She'd gotten out of the habit of evil threats and now it was going to bite her on the....

"Oh my God," Lilah said. "Oh, my God."

"Yeah," Harmony said. "I didn't think you'd want this brought into your office, because you keep saying that romance isn't for working hours and also, those are a lot of flowers. And diamonds."

"Going to kill him," Lilah said. "With a big shiny club embedded with these...and that's from Tiffany's."

"Really?" Harmony said, perking up. "Spike never got ME anything from Tiffany's. You're so lucky. He's totally in love with you."

"Wish he could be in love with me NOT where everyone has to see all the time," Lilah said with a sigh, staring at the two cubic feet of roses and the hundreds of thousands of dollars of diamonds were sitting. "It gets embarrassing."

"You're embarrassed?" Harmony asked. "Are you joking? Every woman here...and probably all the guys in Entertainment Division...wants to BE you. Well, we already did because you're the head honcho, hot, and totally the most powerful woman in LA, but now you've got Spike crazy in love with you and Mr. Wyndam-Pryce totally jealous and that's so cool."

"Wes is jealous?" Lilah asked, raising an eyebrow. "How do you know that?"

Harmony smiled. "Well, I was totally bringing Angel those files you requested, keeping my ears open like you said, and Wes is in the office, and he's complaining to Angel about how if he had his way, he'd kick Spike's ass, and Angel's like, you can't do that to Fred blah blah blah, and it was so totally about you."

"I see," Lilah said contemplatively. "Okay. Send half the roses to somewhere deserving...have them put on graves or something. Send back most of the jewelry except for this one...this one...and most definitely this one. Bring the rest of the roses into my office and leave a vase of them on your desk. Tell anyone who asks who sent 'em. Oh, and get Spike on the line for me in just under twenty minutes for a conference call."

"You have a meeting with Wes in twenty minutes," Harmony pointed out.

"That's right. Which is why you will have ALL of this done in twenty minutes, or the bonus I was planning for you because of all the extra work you're doing for me will disappear."

Harmony's eyes brightened. "I'm on it, boss."

Lilah had discovered long, long ago that bribes worked better than threats. She talked a good game -- it was a hell of a lot better than Angel's, though she was impressed by the relatively ruthless "you kill, we kill" policy -- but it was also a well known fact that Miss Morgan didn't like replacing blood-stained carpet. So if you proved yourself worthy, you could find yourself in Harmony's position, and the entire office wanted to be there.

"This had better not be stolen," Lilah muttered, still enthralled by the beautiful diamond-and-platinum bracelet Spike had acquired for her. It was surprisingly tasteful, especially as compared to the gaudy bling-bling that had been all over the celebrities they'd seen at the various Globes post-parties. In particular, whoever had allowed Rosario Dawson OR Goldie Hawn out in that much ice needed to be fired yesterday and even Lorne had agreed with that.

But the necklace was gorgeous, and while the bracelet was a little 1999 and Sarah Jessica Parker for Lilah's taste, it would be the kind of thing Spike would assume was still in, especially if he'd asked Harmony for advice in jewelry. Or worse yet, Fred. And Lilah really liked the earrings. Blue boxes had been on the agenda ever since Lilah got the promotion to junior partner back when she and Lindsey were catfighting, but it hadn't been the same.

Someone else was supposed to buy you Tiffany's, damn it, and the diamond/platinum earrings combo were definitely proof that Spike was paying attention to her taste, not just buying what he thought a girl would like. All of it would look perfect with that sheer black dress that Spike thought was the most attractive thing in her wardrobe; she'd have to wear it to the Vanity Fair party when she consoled Harvey Weinstein for losing for the second year in a row.

No matter what else she knew, Lilah knew that Wesley would never buy jewelry for her; it was outside his realm of expertise, and well within hers. He'd go with her, admire her choice, and put it around her neck, but he'd never quite be able to buy a necklace the way Spike had.

Shaking her head at the thought, Lilah put on the jewelry and went back to her office, where Harmony was setting everything up. There was so much Spike in her head recently; the sweet, stupid romantic crap he was doing for her made it inevitable. And Lilah had to admit as she fingered her earrings with a private smile that Spike made her happy. Even for all the much-hoped-for Wesley thoughts in her head, she was thinking about how to show her appreciation to Spike for the fancy bourgeois jewelry he thought was ridiculous.

"You have to stop getting your inspiration from Tim Burton movies," Lilah told Spike after dialing him on the speakerphone, a quick glare at Harmony enough to insure her silence. "Though it was really cute. I couldn't ever use that much jewelry. Or roses."

"It's the thought that counts, love," Spike pointed out. "And that's how much I think of you."

Lilah put her hand over her face, smiling like a complete idiot. "Stop that," she said.

"Stop what?"

"Stop making me go girly and squishy at work. I'm scary, remember? The big scary liaison-slash-executive vice president, and instead I'm thinking that I mean roses and diamonds and big...hi, Wes. Could you wait a second? I'm on the phone," Lilah said, not changing her tone of voice or moving a muscle.

"Big meeting?" Spike asked, sounding deflated.

"I'll call you back," Lilah promised. "Thank you, by the way. I love the necklace."

"It cost enough," Spike replied. "I'll see you later."

He hung up before Lilah could get another word in edgewise, and she looked up to see a very annoyed Wesley glaring down at her.

"Sorry," she said with a toothy smile. "Do you like my earrings? They were a gift."

From the way Wes flinched before sitting down in the ergonomic leather chair across from her, Lilah decided she'd have to reconsider her position on smiling. Apparently, under the right circumstances, it was a deadly weapon waiting to happen.

9. Where Our Weakness Lies

It was precisely fifteen minutes after seven when Lilah heard the knock at her door, sipping a cocktail and looking remarkably relaxed in a pair of satin pajamas and a ponytail. She knew who it was, so she took her time before opening the door to reveal a slightly unshaven Wes, damp from a sudden February rainstorm. Damn Southern California rainy season. She'd almost been in three car accidents on the way home and Spike was going to be an hour late because of traffic, but Wes? Apparently had no problems finding his way.

"You're fucking Spike," he said flatly. "Even though you know he's in love with you."

"Come in, Wesley," Lilah replied with highly sarcastic cheer. "I was expecting you. Would you like a scotch and soda? I have one on the bar for you."

She closed the door and sat back down on the couch, waving him toward the aforementioned scotch and soda while not missing a beat on her own drinking.

"I didn't come for cocktails and leisurely chat."

"No, you came to make yourself feel better, so..." and Lilah gestured about with her glass, "Speak, Wesley. Tell me why I have made a terrible mistake with my choice in boyfriends."

Wesley was clearly quite discomfited by the resigned tone in Lilah's voice, and the atmosphere in the apartment. Ella Fitzgerald, cocktails, pajamas? Miss Morgan clearly seemed quite ready to take on whatever he had to say and match it with all her charms and tricks.

"So you two are...dating," he said.

"It's a mutual rebound thing," Lilah agreed diffidently. "Kind of a 'friends with benefits' arrangement, except I've agreed to let him pretend he's in love with me for now."

Wes shifted slightly. "Spike's quite unstable, you know. Prone to intense romantic fixation," he said, moving his weight to the other foot uncomfortably. "Are you certain you can handle him?"

Lilah, not all impressed, shrugged. "Spike's fun to handle," she replied. "And I like it when he handles me."

Wesley closed his eyes, clearly trying to exorcise all the naughty, naughty images in his head. Lilah chuckled. Poor Wes; all that redemption had redeemed the Puritan in him, too, and it wasn't wearing well.


"Look, I'm fine. I don't need you protecting me from anyone, let alone a sad bastard like Spike," she said angrily. "So cut the oh-so-concerned ex-boyfriend act and go home."

"What makes you think it's an act?" he asked in that dangerous voice. The sexy voice. The one that made Lilah melt a little inside.

Lilah sneered, pursed her lips, and shrugged lightly. "Hmm, maybe the part where I've been alive and well for five months and your first visit to my apartment is the day the cameras catch me and Spike playing naked Twister in the conference room?" she asked viciously. "You're ignoring me, Wes. And that's fine, but don't pretend you care. As long as the poor unfortunate's got her shot at the good fight, you got the good girl you always wanted, and we're done."

With that, she stood and made to show him to the door, only to find herself spun around and caught not a foot from Wesley's very tense, cold face.

"Is that what you think?" he asked softly, staring at her. "That I pity you? That you're a charity case I mark on my way to redemption? A good girl?"

"Hey, I am a good girl now. Even Angel says so," Lilah replied. "At least Spike remembers I'm a person and not a statistic..."

"You're utterly maddening," Wes snarled, pulling her closer. "Charity? You? My God, Lilah, you're impossible. I've been quite certain you want me nowhere near you and that you're rather content playing Angel's co-CEO and den mother, and that you neither need nor want anything of me."

"I don't," Lilah said coldly. "You don't want me. I'm not good enough. Fine. Over it. If you need, I can be nicer at meetings."

His eyes narrowed. "Over it? Is that a fact?"

"It is a fact," she snapped. "New boyfriend, remember? And he might not be the one...but at least he doesn't make me cry."

He kissed her hard. She kissed him back before pulling away and slapping him as hard as she could manage, the snap-CRACK! resonating in the air to testify how hard that could be.

"Over it?" Wesley repeated wryly, rubbing his cheek.

"A world of screw you," Lilah growled, clenching her fists at her sides. "Do NOT play games with me, asshole. I'm not Fred, and I'm not naive enough to believe you want anything real from me."

He kissed her again, holding on so she couldn't pull away as he whispered into her ear. "I watch you in meetings, you know. Your legs, your posture, the way you sneer at Angel when you think he's not looking. The look on your face when you disappear into your own world. The way your shoulders move under those thin silk blouses."

"Yay you, creep."

"I'm obsessed with you," he murmured, caressing her face and neck slowly. "More now than I ever was. I love Fred. She's good, and she's honest, and I love her. But I think of you and everything's in three dimensions instead of two, I want you so badly."

Lilah trembled. "Do you now."

"You've never stopped wanting me, Lilah," Wes growled. "And I was not amused with your little stunt with Spike to demonstrate to me that I don't control you. You're taunting a dangerous man for petty revenge. Don't jeopardize his redemption and yours over this."

The air was definitely crackling from the tension and naked desire as Lilah met Wesley's eyes without flinching. "So I give up the big bad vampire and you'll bend me over the couch until I can't walk straight? Or is it that I'll abide in faith, love, and charity until someone like Fred comes for me?" she asked. "I'm not your failed redemption, Wes, and I'm not your whore."

"No," Wesley said, pulling her in for another kiss that Lilah didn't resist as he eased down the strap on her pajamas. "You're in love with me. And I'm in love with you...and neither Spike nor Fred changes how much we need each other. Or how much I want you right now. Seeing you with Spike made me realize that I can't stop thinking about you, that I want to kill him every time I imagine him touching you, because you're mine."

Lilah moaned. "Wes..." she whispered.

"Make love to me," he murmured into her ear, and Lilah was lost right then and there. Not fuck me. Not turn around, not take off your clothes. "Right now."

"Yes," Lilah agreed, her stomach turning as her heart wished it could race, because she loved him, she loved him so much, kissing her way down his throat, and they'd both missed it so much. The adrenaline rush, the needy kisses and scrabbling hands. "God, yes."

Wesley was on his knees before her, her heels digging into his shoulder blades as he licked and sucked at her clit when Lilah realized he wasn't going to break up with Fred, a moment of clarity that sent her into a screaming orgasm as sharply as a breath of cold air. Wes wasn't going to give up Fred easily; he loved her despite what he was doing. And he'd expect this meant she'd give up Spike, because Lilah didn't love Spike. Spike, after all, had a destiny. And a Slayer complex.

But Lilah wasn't going to give up Spike. Not even for Wesley. It was what Spike had said to her in January when he'd insisted that he be allowed to convince her that she could love him. There would be something important in her life gone without Spike in it. The thought of it was making Lilah feel empty, even with her body wrapped around Wesley the way she'd wanted so badly.

Thought she'd wanted so badly.

"I've missed you," Wes was murmuring as he wrapped his arms around her waist, and Lilah's heart broke for the third time, because Wesley was hers again, could be all hers with hardly any effort, and all it was? Was bittersweet. "There's never been anyone like you for me, love."

"I know," Lilah said, the bitter smile locked on her face along with the knowledge Spike was only half an hour away. "Didn't I tell you that I knew you best, lover?"

She'd tell him tomorrow that it was over, because along with knowing what Wes liked best for breakfast, what he needed in a woman (which was still not Fred), his weaknesses in swordfighting, his favorite color, and how to get him off in twenty-five minutes while still coming four times herself? Lilah knew how to break Wesley's heart for good.

And she was going to have to, because Lilah?

Had been convinced.

By Spike.

It was simply a matter of where her weakness lay, and it was having this. One last time with Wesley where she knew he loved her as much as she loved him, and Lilah kissed him again, ardently, sweetly, regretfully.

"I love you," she whispered. "Make love to me."

It wasn't fair. It wasn't going to be long enough to imagine an entire life of what it could have been, Wesley and Lilah and the truest, best, and worst thing that Lilah had ever or would ever feel. But it was going to have to be.

"Always," Wesley said, not realizing he was lying. Yet. "We've got all the time in the world."

10. L-O-V-E

Spike hadn't thought a bird could break his heart worse than Buffy had, but that was before he caught Lilah in flagrante delicto with Wes, moaning herself a treat against the wall as Wes slammed into her again and again, his hands all over Spike's girl.

He'd been sure he'd done a good job convincing her, but as per usual, Spike could never satisfy a girl when there was a dark and broody poof in the picture. Sure, Lilah had been contrite and apologetic, but Spike knew what he'd seen, and that was his Lilah getting the fucking of her life from the man she really wanted, and that was Wes. Never mind that Wes hadn't actually broken up with Fred in advance; never mind he had gone from that night to endless apologetics with Fred and not a spared glance toward Lilah. The bastard. Breaking two women's hearts in one day just because he had to get his end in. Spike would have beaten shit out of him, but both Angel, and more importantly, Lilah, had told him no.

Lilah. His Lilah, for all that what he'd seen and the following week of complete radio silence had told him louder than words. She wasn't his anything, unless a bloke considered his ex as something belonging to him, and Spike sure as hell wasn't counting memory as worth a damn.

Spike was done with love, and he was even more done with bloody fucking Lilah, if only she'd get out of his head. No more of those smiles, those legs, that cool dry wit. He wasn't going to let himself be ruled by another bird whose heart he could never earn.

"Spike," Harmony said, trotting up next to him. Hell, maybe he could go back to shagging Harm. Wasn't like he was in much danger of falling for her. "Miss Morgan wants to see you immediately."

"Tell her she can fuck off," Spike replied. "Miss Morgan and I aren't currently on speaking terms and she bloody well knows it, Harm."

Harmony's lips pursed. "Come on, Spike. I have to take you to the lobby or I'm in trouble. You don't want her to punish me, do you?" she asked. "Because that would suck."

Spike considered Harmony's dilemma, to say nothing of how persistent Lilah could be when she wanted to have a meeting with someone. And hell, maybe hearing her formally tell him to fuck off would cure him of this ridiculous obsession with love, and her, and so on and so forth.

"Fine," he said. "I'm doing it under protest, and only because I don't want to see you get hurt by the old bitch."

Harmony rolled her eyes. "Whatever," she said. "Dude, I know you, remember? And you're worse than you were about Buffy. You're so totally in love with Miss Morgan. It's really sweet. Kind of blows that she got on Mr. Pryce, because he's all over Fred now."

"Yes, Harm, it does," Spike said. "And thank you so much for pouring bloody salt in the wound."

"Well, next time don't fall for someone out of your..." and they stopped. Both of them. There was Lilah, looking as perfect as ever. Did she ever have a hair out of place? Spike looked at her, and immediately looked away.

"Well, I'm here," he called from the catwalk. "And before you say a word, we're done. I'm not blind, Lilah, and I'm not in the mood to be your bloody joke or whatever the hell I am. So you can save the speech. I got the message already."

With that, heart in throat, Spike turned away and attempted to make his escape, but as usual, Lilah wasn't taking no for an answer.

"Spike," Lilah called from her spot on the floor of the lobby. "SPIKE!"

He stopped, tried not to look eager, because damn it, he was done. Over it. No more sodding slags for him, and definitely not ones who turned tricks like Lilah Morgan. No more. He glowered from the balcony, aware that the entire law firm was staring at them. Good. Always embarrassed the hell out of Lilah to be looked at, silly bint.

"Make it quick," he said coldly. "I've got work to do."

"I screwed up," she said. "And I can say that I'm sorry a thousand times, but that doesn't change the fact I screwed up, Spike. So I'm done with sorry."

"Right, then," Spike said, sneering as hard as he could under the circumstances. She was apologizing to him. In front of the entire law firm. And given that it was Lilah, who hated publicity and a scene more than anyone? It was hard not to listen. "You screwed up and you're not sorry. I'll just go slink off then."

"I want to convince you," she said earnestly. "Because I think I'm in love with you, Spike. And I want to show you how much."

Bloody hell. "You're going to do a striptease in the lobby?"

"Get bent, perv," Lilah replied with a grin. "More like this."

She snapped her fingers, and all of the sudden, there was a jazz combo bringing in their instruments, looking very nervous and awkward. Spike gaped. Lilah was taking this damn seriously if there was a public display of affection about to happen. Especially one with singing.

"Now, I want you to know I don't sing," she said, taking a microphone from the saxophonist and resolutely ignoring the crowd. "And that this kind of humiliation is usually a hell no in my book of love. So...I hope you take this in the spirit it's offered."

She gave a look to the band, which immediately started playing. Spike blinked. He knew this song. Bloody HELL, he knew this song. Strictly the kind of thing people who were too much in love for common sense sang and one Lilah said she'd rather be tortured than ever sing.

"L is for the way you look at me," Lilah sang loudly and not nearly as badly as Angel, laughing a little bit with nerves. "O is for the only one I see, V is very very extraordinary, E is even more than anyone that you adore...and love is all that I can give to you...love...is more than just a game for two....two in love can make it...take my heart and please don't break it....love was made for me and you..."

Second nod to the band, which immediately turned to something more...familiar. And less cheesy, thank God.

"Oh no love! you're not alone...You're watching yourself but you're too unfair...You got your head all tangled up but if I could only make you care..." she sang, a hell of a lot more off-key, but it was Bowie, after all, and that made up for it. "Oh no love! you're not alone...No matter what or who you've been...No matter when or where you've seen...All the knives seem to lacerate your brain...I've had my share, I'll help you with the pain..."

A flunky popped out a lighter. Lilah flipped him off, eyes still on Spike, and went back to singing. Of course, the entire law firm was watching by now, but it apparently was not as important as it usually was. Damn it all, even if Spike hadn't been in love with her before, he'd be absolutely bloody sunk now, and given that he'd been in love with her anyway? It was the end. There were going to be no other women for him, not even if Buffy, Dru, and Britney Spears showed up and offered Spike an orgy. Well, maybe if they brought Louise Brooks instead of the blonde bimbo, but that wasn't likely, was it?

"Oh gimme your hands...." Lilah sang, voice wobbling. Madwoman. His madwoman.

The song finished with a flourish. Spike stared at Lilah, speechless. In the background somewhere, there was applause. Lots of applause. And he knew that his job was to leap over the railing and kiss the girl, but he wasn't sure if that was what he wanted to do. Because bloody hell, two cheesy love songs were supposed to repay what he'd gone through and what he'd said to Buffy for a two-timing user? Spike didn't want to look that easy, even if he'd forgiven Lilah already.

She looked away, abashed smile on her face, understanding gleam in her eyes and the lean of her head.

To hell with logic. Spike jumped the railing and kissed the girl.

"You're insane!" Spike said, shaking his head. "Absolutely mad, woman. A serenade? You're apologizing with a serenade?"

"You need the big gestures, Spike," Lilah replied with another nervous laugh. "And this was as big as I could think without skywriting, and that doesn't work when your boyfriend's a vampire. Plus, I figured if it didn't work, the public humiliation was a pretty good apology."

Spike nodded, kissed her again. "Long lunch?" he asked.

"I think very much yes," Lilah said, the wicked gleam in her eyes matching her lover's. "We have a lot to talk about. After I make you scream for an hour."

"That's my girl," Spike said, wrapping his arm around her as they headed for the garage. Lilah laughed, and if she weren't so damned tall, he could tell she would have put her head on his shoulder.

"You got it. Signed, sealed, delivered," Lilah replied, and Spike knew it was true. For the first time...ever? He had himself a girl who was his and his alone, and the victory of that knowledge was sweeter than even the possibility of shanshu.

11. Buffy vs. Lilah

Lilah knew that it wasn't supposed to matter anymore, but the very idea of the little blonde slayer child coming to visit, to beg Wolfram and Hart's assistance in the latest Apocalypse, filled her with anxiety. Snappish annoyance. A very short temper. Lilah felt it was justified. Certainly, if their positions had been reversed, Buffy Summers would NOT be lending her tribe of spoiled, self-righteous teenaged girls to them. In fact, Buffy would tell them to go to Hell.

But of course, because it was Buffy and Spike was now out of the picture, Angel was falling over himself to help, and Lilah had been assigned to meet and greet, much to Spike's obvious chagrin and everyone else's schadenfreude.

"Angel, doesn't this strike you as a bloody catastrophic idea?" Spike had protested at the meeting. "Titanic meeting the iceberg stupid?"

"Lilah allocates resources; she does meet and greet," Angel said stoically. Bastard. He wanted the upcoming catfight, and he wanted it so much Lilah could almost see the erection in his nice new Armani pants.

"You're a bloody git, you know that?" Spike asked, storming out of the meeting. Hadn't changed anything; it was still Tuesday morning and Lilah was still fifteen minutes away from meeting her greatest challenge since switching sides.

"Hey," Harmony said, coming up behind her. Lilah jumped. "Sorry! Sorry, I forgot!"

"Harmony, get out of the office," Lilah growled. "I don't need to know anything, I don't want to know anything..."

"Buffy's here early," Harmony said apologetically, wincing back.

"Shit," Lilah muttered. "All right, I'm on it. Shit."

She was in her most expensive suit, which she'd had dry-cleaned and tailored yesterday. She hadn't slept, either, paying her very expensive hairdresser overtime to make sure that not a hair on her undead head was out of place, that her skin was glowing like it was actually alive, and that in general, Buffy got the idea that Lilah Morgan was Not To Be Fucked With.

Given the general scattering of minions, it was working. Until Tom from fucking Ritual Sacrifice almost spilled coffee on her suit and stained her Bruno Maglis, which sent Lilah into a five minute screaming fit where Tom from Ritual Sacrifice found himself prostrate, begging forgiveness.

"I'm sorry...I'm sorry...and I have fifty bucks on you kicking the Slayer's ass, I'll give you all the proceeds if..."

Lilah's mood suddenly paused in its rage. "There are bets?" she asked, a smile finding itself on her face despite herself. "Who's odds-on favorite to win?"

"Well, Lorne says that Buffy's going to kick your ass, but you'll come off best in the insults, and then Spike will hit Buffy for hitting you, and Angel's going to have to break it all up," Tom said, not daring to look up. "I figure you'll kick Slayer ass without breaking a nail."

"Interesting," Lilah said, the wheels in her head turning. "Go. Out of my sight. I have to go greet our guest."

Lilah knew Wolfram and Hart betting pools; she'd paid for her expensive MAC habit with them for years. And nothing made her happier than the thought of ruining everyone's day by frustrating everyone and not getting into a fight with Buffy. Of course, she had to keep from grinning and tipping a smart minion off to her plan.

Buffy Summers was starting to look a little bit restless when Lilah reached the lobby, a pleasant fake smile on her face.

"Who the hell are you? Why am I being foisted off on a minion?" Buffy asked, and Lilah bit down on her tongue to avoid the insult, which would have been so, so very easy. Instead she held out her hand with the robot smile, and Buffy very nervously shook.

"My name's Lilah Morgan; I'm the executive vice president at Wolfram and Hart," she said sweetly, before leaning in close. "Would you like to make a bunch of evil lawyers and asshole vampires very unhappy very easily?"

Buffy arched an eyebrow. "Huh?" she asked.

"Apparently, we're supposed to be this morning's entertainment," Lilah said out of the corner of her mouth, still shaking Buffy's hand. "I don't so much feeling like having a catfight where some minion in accounting wins a thousand dollars, so let's go chat in my office, okay?"

"Okay," Buffy said. "Why are we supposed to catfight?"

"Because I'm the Big Bad Wolf and you're Little Red Riding Hood," Lilah said with a shrug. "Also because you know men. Bitchfights give them happies."

Buffy sneered, and then her eyes went wide. "Oh my God!" she said as they were walking toward Lilah's office. "You're totally the evil lawyer bitch, aren't you? Didn't your head get chopped off or something?"

Lilah couldn't help it. She'd been so good, and she was so very going to confiscate the betting pool if she could just make it to the office. "Why, Lord, why? Why does evil never triumph when good is this dumb?" she asked quietly, casting her eyes upward.

"Maybe because...sorry," Buffy said. "Anyway, I like your shoes."

"Thanks," Lilah said with a forced grin. "So, how's Rome?"

"Italian," Buffy said with a little nod. "Have you ever been?"

"Few times," Lilah said, gazing up at the security guy trailing them and suppressing, suppressing, suppressing the urge to throw her shoe at him. "I have a serious fashion addiction."

"It shows," Buffy said, smiling. "In the, uh, good way. So, are you still with Wesley? Willow was telling me he had a girlfriend, but that it was complicated."

Lilah promised herself that later, Spike would pay for not telling Buffy about them. Right now it was time to be friendly and win. "No, Wesley and I decided a few months ago that it was over for good," she said. "He's with Fred, and I have a new boyfriend."

Office door. Lilah let out a sigh of relief as Buffy's brow furrowed. "New boyfriend? Cool," she said. "I guess he's someone here, right?"

"Yes, you could say that," Lilah said, ushering Buffy in before smirking at the truly disappointed security guy. "I'm dating Spike, Buffy. Have been since August. It's been serious for a while now and I thought he told you."

Buffy blinked. "You're dating Spike?" she asked. "Wait, what?"

"You heard me," Lilah said. "I'm dating Spike. Wesley and I broke up, Wes is with Fred, Spike and I are a thing, and you're down to one souled vampire stalker. Sorry."

The slayer child took a moment to fully register what Lilah was saying, and her expression was not best pleased. Oh, well. At least she had all her weapons in the office and didn't need Spike to protect her. There might be some messiness and Angel was going to be pissed, but she was betting Angel had bet on Buffy to win the whole fight anyway and thus Angel was going to be pissed anyway.

"He said he was going to love me forever," Buffy said, sounding a little miffed. "Fucker. I had a whole speech. It took me three hours on the plane to get right and memorize, too."

This was enough to send Lilah into peals of semi-hysterical laughter. Oh, beautiful. Absolutely perfect. Best. Day. Ever.

"What?" Buffy asked.

"You had a speech!" Lilah said, eyes wet from laughing. "Everyone else has a bet, you had a speech...this is beautiful! Sit down. No, really. Harmony has a whole breakfast set out in the next room. You've got to be hungry, and Angel will give you whatever he can from firm resources to defeat your apocalypse. We have one coming up, too. Should be a kick, fighting on this side this time."

Buffy sat down in the expensive chair, looking a little alarmed. "You're a little bit strange, Spike's new girlfriend," she said. "Also, Harmony? Harmony, unicorns and the brain capacity of a hamster, Harmony?"

"Best secretary I ever had," Lilah replied, still choking on the laughter. A speech! Multiple stupid bets! And she wasn't going to have to have her favorite Versace suit shredded by this unimportant blonde girl. "Probably listening to everything we're saying. What did you bet in the contest, Harmony?"

The intercom buzzed. "Um. I said you were going to throw coffee in Buffy's face when she called you a whore for sleeping with Spike," Harmony said. "Who told you?"

"Nobody," Lilah lied. "I'm just that good...and you should know better. After all, what happens to people who don't inform their bosses about large office pools?"

"Uhhh," Harmony said nervously. "I...don't....know?"

"They don't get to place bets for their bosses that would have earned them half the take," Lilah said, grinning at Buffy, who still looked freaked. "Aww. Now go get Angel. Let's get this charade done and the apocalypse won."

Tom in Ritual Sacrifice? So getting a raise.

12. Sweetness Follows

She came back from the challenge the Senior Partners had set; this was a good sign given that failure meant Lilah would have simply been gone. Eternally.

However, Lilah came back from the challenge so ice-cold with wordless rage that every minion in the place, including Harmony, had scattered at the very sight of her until Fred finally found her in the conference room, cursing up a storm. Several knick-knacks had already been broken, and there was a large crack in the television screen that boded ill.

"Lilah!" Fred called, trying to get her attention. "Lilah, what happened?"

"Fucking no good worthless motherfucking Powers That Be! How hard do I have to fight? How much do I have to give for it to be good enough? Why can't I...fucking...never..." Lilah said, throwing everything she could at various parts of the conference room and smashing a vase of bright yellow daffodils.

There was only one reason Lilah could be in this bad of a mood. Fred didn't want to say it.

"Spike...didn't...shanshu?" Fred asked, looking down at the floor. "But what about to hell with destiny? To hell with the rules?"

Lilah threw her briefcase on the ground and sank into the nearest chair. "Apparently with this rule, there can be only one," she spat bitterly, pushing her hair out of her face angrily. "The vampire's life cannot be redeemed. I earned a life; I earned his life, but Spike has earned all that he can in this plane of existence and I can't ask anything more."

"I'm sorry," Fred said. Lilah looked up at her, surprised. "No, really. I know you and I don't always get along, but I care about Spike, Lilah, and I wanted him to get the shanshu almost as much as you did."

To Fred's surprise, Lilah smiled wanly at Fred. "I know," she said. "And it's not your fault. It's just NOT FAIR. No matter how many apocalypses he fights in, no matter what, Spike gets to be here alone, and once Angel wakes up human on June first, he's not CEO of Wolfram and Hart anymore and I can't..."

She slumped in the chair, eyes suddenly tear-bright. "I'm going to be gone, Fred," she muttered. "No Angel means no liaison and I..."

"Wes is going to find a way; someone will find a way. Spike won't...you know Spike," Fred said. "He'll take the job if he has to, if he can keep you."

Lilah laughed the way women do to keep from crying. "Great. So now I'm the girl to be rescued," she said, coughing hard. "The dead woman who broke a hundred hearts with her godforsaken..."

The coughs turned into gagging; Fred, alarmed, hurried over to the other woman's side, because Lilah was now bent double and it didn't seem to be from the anguish over losing Spike. "Lilah, are you...?"

There was vomiting, crying, and Fred went from alarmed to terrified, whipping out her cell phone to call mystical health and Spike. Only Lilah's lifted hand paused the dialing.

"Shit," the lawyer said, a tinge of hysteria in her voice. "Fred, could you feel something for me?"

Fred blinked. "What?" she asked gingerly.

"Come over here. Feel my wrist," Lilah ordered, coughing more. "Ignore the imitation of a first year...oh God...sorority pledge."

Slightly nauseated herself, Fred edged over to where Lilah was sitting and took her wrist, not quite sure what she was supposed to be feeling until she noticed that Lilah's skin was warm. And...sort of throbbing.

"Is that a pulse?" Fred asked. Lilah nodded, threw up again, and nodded harder. "Oh my GOD! I guess that's why you're sick...all the nasty dead stuff in your stomach coming up, and oh my God, your scar looks less irritated..."

The doors burst open as if timed. Spike, Angel, Wesley, and about five or ten security guys rushed into the room, looking freaked out.

"Fred, what the hell is going on?" Angel asked, taking in the view. "Why is Lilah ruining her favorite pair of shoes? Why are you holding her hand and looking so hyper? And why did all our sensors go off the mystical charts two minutes ago?"

Fred's eyes sparkled, but it was Spike, not Wes, not Angel, not anyone she looked at to give the news. "She's got a pulse, she's got a pulse, Spike come over here and feel, I think the tribunal gave her your life, she's got a pulse!"

"Fred, for the love of...God, drama!" Lilah said, looking up slightly. "It's a pulse. You'd think I'd given birth to a llama or something...ow! One miracle seeker at a...oh, God..."

"Bloody hell," Spike said, trembling as he ignored the wrist and went straight for Lilah's neck. "That's a pulse, Lil. Wes, tell me that's not a real live living girl sitting before us needing a good solid stomach pumping."

Wes was very pale and very straight, whether from nausea or regret Fred wasn't sure, as he pressed two fingers against Lilah's much-abused wrist. Fred thought, more than likely, it was both, and she wasn't sure if she was angry at him for still being in love with Lilah after everything that had happened, or if she wanted to put her arms around him, take him home to their apartment, and be happy because they had defeated the big bads, Angel would be human, and Lilah was alive and free of that contract. Because they still had each other.

"She's alive," he said softly. "And we need to get her to a hospital before she completely dehydrates and make sure everything's functioning properly."

Then he drew himself up perfectly still, and shook Spike's hand with a bitter smile. "I'm glad for you, old man," he said.

"Likewise, Wes," Spike replied, looking at Fred pointedly. "Come on, Lilah; let's get you to the doctor. Can't have my girl ruining her day with a weak stomach, can I?"

"I didn't save you," Lilah said, looking up with an old, obscure pain in her eyes. "I tried, Spike. I tried so hard..."

"Save me?" Spike asked, laughing. Fred wasn't quite sure, but she thought it was a little fake for all of that. "Love, I don't need saving. I have a soul, a calling...I'm going to be the hero come June first, remember? And I couldn't have done it without you, and you...you saved yourself. The way you said you always could."

"I wanted you to have the shanshu," Lilah said weakly, wiping her mouth as Wes and Fred helped her to her feet and trying not to retch. "I didn't care so much about me, Spike. I always had time. I don't know if you do. Not after the deal that's been made."

"I know, Lilah," Spike said, reaching over and squeezing her hand. "But this is better. I have you. I'm proud of you; you fought and you won for both of us."

With that, he swept the door open gallantly and Fred, Wesley, and Lilah (alive! how strange that no one had considered the possibility, Fred thought as they lurched across the lobby ridiculously), trailed by Angel and Spike, headed for the parking garage and the hospital in the May sunshine and the comfortable warmth of a Los Angeles spring. Just before they left, Spike, who'd fallen behind, ran up, duster flapping, and knocked Fred and Wes aside to kiss Lilah, who kissed back, tears streaming down her face, a hungry, desperate scrabble of a kiss that said ten thousand things more important than words.

"No matter what happens," Spike said, holding her head in both of his hands. "I love you."

"I love you, too," Lilah said, wobbling. "We'll find an answer, Spike. I didn't walk into Hell just to be turned away."

"Either way," Spike said, kissing her again and ignoring the possibility that he would start dying with the rest of the vampires on the first. "I love you. I want you. Come home to me."

She smiled, and turned back toward Wesley and Fred. "I will," she said. "Now, get out of the way. I have to go."

They walked into the common-as-dirt sunshine of an everyday LA afternoon then, leaving Spike behind for a while. Fred smiled, amazed at how normal everything seemed. Because really, it was. For them, anyway.

"It'll be okay," she said, more to herself than anyone. Lilah and Wesley both looked at her, surprised. "I really think it will be."

"I believe you," Lilah said, blinking at the brightness as she leaned against Wesley heavily, swaying dangerously. "Thank you, Fred."

"You're welcome," Fred said. "Now let's get you to a hospital before you get sick again. Spike expects you home tonight, and I intend to see that you get there."

They'd be okay. Fred had to believe it as much as Lilah had to as they put themselves in Wesley's SUV, because that was how they survived. They believed, they fought, they had hope until they died...and even then. It was a small and broken hope, but it got them through.

Either way, there was love. Either way, there was still hope. And it was enough.

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