Three By Midnight
by Jennifer-Oksana

1. The Boy Who Lived and The Girl Who Died

Connor has found a whole new city within Los Angeles since the war ended, a place to find monsters and vampires and battles even in this exhausted, tired environment where no one's feeling like fighting too hard.

Nightclubs and raves. Glowsticks and dancers and drugs. Connor's getting used to the music, starting to learn the dialect, the genres and subgenres, the unspoken language of everything. He's starting to get comfortable in the night-city, settle into his skin in this new world.

mxlbeatsbreakbeattechno, glowsticksclubkidsbigpantsbigloveheyyouwanna
roll, girlsandboysandiloveyousomuchgivemeahug,djsonthedecksthedecksthe
decks and it's all the same to Connor MacAngel. The music's too base and too harsh for his tastes, everything else stripped until it's raw and reflected and jangling on the nerves, but he's learned to handle it.

Nightclubs and raves are his world, because that's where the predators go to party, and Connor has a job to do.

Angel still won't hunt with Connor through the night-city, too afraid that someone will see him and remember Angelus--or worse, that he'll run head on into Connor's sister, and if there's something that his father fears and despises, it's his latest and least wanted child, the Wicked Witch of WeHo.

Connor, on the other hand, is fascinated. Rather unsurprisingly for someone raised in a hell dimension by a solitary man, the idea of family has always obsessed him. He has a sister. Of sorts.

More than one, actually--Lilah has told him their whole history as far as she knows it, and their older sister Drusilla is also Connor's grandmother because she sired Connor's mother, who in turn was originally Drusilla's grandmother. Their nephew, who is also Connor's uncle, but not Lilah's, is still on the Hellmouth in Sunnydale, keeping promises. Connor has imagined visiting him, but cannot imagine how he would get to Sunnydale and back.

Connor has also discovered the easiest way to get what he wants is to call Lilah his sister. "My sister says--" and everyone in the room tenses, wills him not to say it, begs him not to remind them she even exists. Wesley has informed him superciliously that Lilah is not really his sister, not in a genetic sense, but that's only barely not true. They're family and they're blood, and they both feel it in the bone.

Angel feels it, too, which is why he's terrified of the idea of both Lilah and Connor in the same room with him. Neither one of them is all that fond of Angel, and Angel imagines (or so Connor suspects) that they plot to destroy him when they're together.

He overestimates their hatred. Lilah is aware that Angel could still take her in a fair fight, and Connor's rage has cooled into mere disdain. They find each other for other reasons, reasons more about blood and instinct and less about Angel. When Lilah bores of her girls and her privileged upper-class existence, she finds Connor and they go questing into the shimmering electronic son et lumiere of the night city for adventure, blood, and a little salvation.

Tonight, Connor spots her wandering on the streets with a girl on one arm and a boy on the other. They both look lightheaded as they lay their heads on her capable shoulders, though Connor can't tell if it's from blood loss or drugs. He decides to give Lilah the benefit of the doubt--she's too smart to make an indiscriminate kill on the streets, though he knows and disapproves of what she does to her girls. But then even the smartest and best vampires are still vampires.

"I met Spike today," Lilah informs him twenty-five minutes later when she catches him in North Hollywood. "Just prowling around on Melrose. Have you met him yet?"

"I haven't," Connor confesses jealously, still impressed by the way she can always find him. Not even Angel can find him as fast as she can. "I thought he stayed in Sunnydale, out of respect for the Slayer, the one he loved. The one Angel loved, too."

"Buffy," Lilah says, twisting her mouth. "I never actually met her. Saw a few pictures. Scrawny blonde girl, pretty in a real obvious way. She was a pain in the ass, too. Anyway. What's the agenda for tonight, little brother?"

"I want to fight," he says, casually throwing a parcel of weapons onto the dirt. They clatter noisily, revealing themselves as two swords, a crossbow, and several bolts. "You game?"

He's always admired the way she can laugh as she tosses her head, changing into a demon with a careless shake of her neck. Without missing a beat, she picks up her sword, the one that she likes, her eyes glowing yellow and wicked.

"We'll see, won't we?" she asks, inclining her head and waiting for Connor to catch up.

When they play, they're never really playing. It's a war between them, demon and demon-hunter, champion and mistake, sister and brother, whose distrust runs as deep as the connection between them. Once, Angel had forced them to stop fighting, at the beginning of the summer when things were not quite settled and he still followed them. Now it's almost a routine. They fight, they yield, they attack others, they live to meet another day. It's all very civilized, except that it's not.

"One of these days, you're going to slip up, Lilah," Connor says conversationally, circling. He isn't terribly fond of swords, as far as weapons go, but they both need the training. Lilah knows guns and projectiles, Connor knows darts and crossbows and staffs. So they train with swords to test themselves and each other. "You're good. I'm better."

"I'm well aware of that," she replies calmly, feinting forward slightly but withdrawing before Connor can meet her blade. "But you're too confident. I know I'll make mistakes. You think you won't."

"Why tell me that?" Connor asks, suspicious of the sound tactical advice when it comes from the enemy in mid-battle. "You lose your advantage."

"Really?" she asks with an impish grin as their swords clash for the first time and both siblings leap back a good six feet. Connor loves sparring with Lilah; she won't break if he attacks full strength, the way Wesley would, and she'll never draw back in fear or solicitous concern, the way Angel would. He's so busy thinking that he misses the break in the terrain, trips, and stumbles.

Lilah does not delay. Her blade is at his throat in less than ten seconds, and she gives him a good solid scratch for his sloppiness. Somewhere during her assault, she's blurred back to her human features, looking for all the world too lovely and sensible to be a warrior or a demon.

"Damn it," Connor curses, managing to struggle to his feet and parry her sword. "How'd you do that?"

"Just lucky, I guess. Haven't you noticed that, Connor?" she asks, overexposing herself on her right. Connor presses the advantage, intending to give her a matching scratch, but she catches herself just in time and deflects the blow with some difficulty--but still deflects it. "I'm--talking too much tonight."

"Don't you always?" Connor asks, realizing one of her strategies. Distraction. Lilah is extraordinarily good at it, putting up a front. She's easy to underestimate. Angel and his people still underestimate her, and it's the ability that has kept her alive. He wonders if she'll teach him if he flatters her enough. "You must bore those poor girls to death."

"They're well-paid for their boredom," Lilah says, and they move so fast that a normal human would swear that they were doing the impossible. Connor's on the defensive again, though more because he's trying to figure out how she distracts her opponent and try the tactic himself than because she's fighting well. "Sweet, too. Better than chocolate. And all so willing to do whatever--I--say."

Damn her. She knows that he's been celibate since the disaster with Cordelia, and that most of her girls make Connor's heart beat faster. She's not playing fair--but then again, who says they're supposed to play fair?

Connor smiles, unaware of how very much like his mother he looks when he does.

"Sweeter than Wesley? Oh. I guess you wouldn't know anymore, would you, big sister?"

Perhaps he won't need lessons. She forgets herself, attacking him with a feral yell. Only her fury makes evading the attack difficult, and it's not long before she's stumbled and exposed herself fatally. Connor is pleased beyond belief, catching her on the arm with a savage cry.

"Kiss my ass, Connor," she growls, throwing her sword down and jumping out of range, their agreed-upon signal to stop playing. "You--goddamn--fuck you."

"That would be a sin, wouldn't it?" he asks cheerfully, aping her manner ludicrously. Lilah pulls back angrily in game face, but then thinks better of it and laughs, half-skipping up to him with swaying hips and liquid eyes.

Before Connor can process what she's planning, she's given him a very unsisterly kiss on the mouth, a slow, tangled meeting of lips and teeth and tongue that reminds him of what he's not getting, and lets him know just how very much he wants it. His hips press into hers, carnal instincts not minding that she's cold nor that she's blood nor that she's fifteen years older than him.

"Doesn't seem to bother you," she replies, pulling away the minute she knows he's aroused and touching his cheek condescendingly. "Come on, Connor. I'm sure something's stalking our fair city, and you're a champion of good. Channel that sexual frustration into battling it. Because you're not ever going to get to touch me."

He's not entirely sure of that. If he smells enough like Wesley, if he learns her tricks, if he ever weakens again, Connor thinks that he could quite probably induce her to touch him. If he really wants to, that is.

Still watching her face for clues, Connor suddenly remembers something Lilah said earlier. "You met Spike," he says. "Take me to him. I want to meet him."

"Don't give me orders, Connor," Lilah says fondly. "It's not polite. But I figured you'd want to, so we're supposed to meet him in twenty minutes on Sunset."

He nods. "I'm almost done with those books you gave me. The blasphemous ones about Lyra and Will and daemons," Connor says as politely as he can. "Where do you find these things?"

"Wesley sends them anonymously. Or one of the girls recommends them," Lilah says as they pack up the weapons and walk back into the city, the glittering mass of human children so grateful to have normalcy restored to them that they've promptly forgotten all the dangerous things they knew. "Those I found myself. I wanted a counterpoint to Paradise Lost, which Wesley did send me. The bastard."

Wesley is the only one who has never said her name in the eight months since Angelus tortured and turned Lilah. As the story went, Wesley'd broken her heart, Angelus had broken her body, and Connor's sister, the wicked witch, hadn't had the grace to stay down for either of them.

"You would, being the devil's child and all." Between Lilah and Angel, Connor is starting to pick up a speech pattern that fits more naturally with this city, though sometimes he slips and sounds too formal, too strange to be from this world or time.

"Shut up, kid," she says as carelessly and calmly as if they were normal, average humans out to cruise the strip. "At least he's only my sire and not my actual daddy, unlike some people."

"Is Spike as strange as you are?" Connor asks, wondering why he doesn't just kill her. Slide a stake into her chest and be done with it. He has four in his deceptively fashionable cargo pants, which she bought for him ("just because you live in the Hotel of Fashion Victims doesn't mean you have to join their cult"), or he could toss the vial of holy water he has on a chain around his neck at her before beheading her with her sword while she's stunned.

He doesn't. He doesn't even consider it that seriously. Because she's his sister. And somehow, that matters more than the vampire part.

"Stranger," Lilah says. "He's kind of loopy. And when I say loopy, I mean in-fucking-sane. Souled, too. Makes dear old Dad look like Ward Cleaver."

"God visits the sins of the fathers on the children unto the fourth generation," Connor says flippantly. "He's getting what he deserves."

"Bite your tongue," Lilah chides him as they get closer and closer to Spike. Connor can feel his nearness like a heartbeat. He can always feel family. It's a gift. Maybe. "After all, little brother, we have enough to atone for without having to atone for Angel, too. Let that old bastard take care of his own sins."

She offers him her hand diffidently, and without thinking about it, Connor takes it, as they disappear into the crowds and noise, not-quite-children hunting for a vague goal they're not sure how to define and even less sure of how to find.

2. The Irreverence of Youth

Spike can smell 'em both before they even enter the bar. They reek of Angel, both the kid and the bird, and it's funnier than fuck how much they hate the old sod. Hell, it's his influence that probably kept them both alive when they were a little shaky on their young feet.

The bird's not a bad sort; bit strange, resentful as hell at Peaches for summat or other. She wasn't willing to talk about it when he ran smack-dab into her on Melrose, but she said maybe once she brought the kid. Spike's thinking he might ask Angel what he did to her that makes her so crazy, but later. He's got to be nice to the younger generation, the crazy soulless punks.

Spike blinks. 'Cept, the kid is human. Regular, everyday--well, maybe not everyday, but human. Souled. Angel's son in the literal, Angel had sex with some bint and nine months later there was a baby, son.

"Spike," the bird calls, sounding crystalline on the vine, the boy's hand in hers. "Jesus, you're not already too drunk to talk, are you? How many did you give him?"

This last is aimed at the bartender, who's a two-headed Algoroth demon with no particular love or hate of vamps. He just takes the money and puts down the drinks, and Spike's grateful for that. Can't get arrested in Sunnydale anymore, not with the soul and the latest apocalypse and all.

"Just finishing a pint, pet," Spike says. "And what is this you've brought into the bar? I don't think our friends like his sort so much."

"S'not his sort," the bartender says tensely. "It's him. He's the Destroyer. And he's underage. I'm not going to get raided by the cops on his account."

Yep, this is fucking LA, and no doubt of it.

"He's my brother," Lilah answers icily. "I'll vouch for him, so fuck off. Family reunion and all."

"All right, then," the Algoroth says. "Your name's good 'round here, Miss Morgan. Make sure it stays that way."

Spike appreciates the way she flicks him off, casual as you please, and turns back to Connor and Spike. "I hate all people, demons or not," she says with a lopsided grin. "Get us a booth. I don't feel like having my ass ogled by demon scum."

The glowers and glares of the various patrons of the bar suggest that this would not be a particularly good idea.

"Sweetheart," Spike says tactfully. "We can all pass elsewhere. Maybe we should leave the nice demons alone before we get into a bar brawl. I think we could take 'em, but you'd break a nail, and unless I miss my guess, you'd be pissed about that."

Lilah considers it. "Eh, fuck it, let's go get a coffee," she says. "You're too fucking drunk already, and I'm sick of putting the evil eye on bouncers. Come on, Connor."

"He doesn't SEEM insane," Connor says loudly as they trundle out of the bar, much to Spike's relief. Fledglings. Granted, Lilah herself should know better, being Miss Wolfram and Hart, but she's got issues and no mistake. More than just Brood-boy, and that would be plenty for any vamp. And Angel really can't like that his soulless little girl's hanging out with his souled little boy, not with the two of them thick as thieves and twice as cozy. "Are you sure he's--?"

"The girl's got it right, he's bugshit nuts," Spike replies. "Loony as a tune, don't know north from north-north-east. And you, Connor, goin' around with soulless things. Don't you know any better? If big sis gets hungry, you're supper and no mistake."

Instead of scaring the boy, it makes him howl with laughter. He turns to his sister (bet the kid don't realize he does it, either), who's as dead and soulless as they come, and he just bursts into gales of laughter, trying to get hold of himself.

"He's like Gollum in that movie!" Connor says, eyes shining. "Isn't he? And do we have to go for coffee? I don't like coffee. It tastes bitter."

"You took him to see Lord of the Rings, didn't you?" Spike accuses Lilah, who shrugs.

"What? He asked if I wanted to go. I did. We went. You act like it's a bad thing that I see movies and talk to the kid," she says. "Trust me, Connor can take care of himself."

Spike isn't quite sure if he's the crazy one or not in this conversation. Eh. Maybe it's just this whole new world thing, which is apparently for real and not a turn of phrase popular with the Powers. Maybe he's too old to be in a world this young and renewed. Not like there's much left for him.

"I don't want a coffee," Connor repeats.

"Then you can have a goddamn hot chocolate," Lilah snaps. "Or I could just leave you alone with him and you can ask him a whole bunch of questions he won't answer."

Or maybe they're just related, damn the logic of the situation and the New World Order.

"I just want to know what he did, how he made the evil stop when he was a vampire," Connor says. "The final battle, the great battle. He's not a warrior and he saved us all. He made the choice that led to this--"

And Connor waves his hand about, gesturing that the whole world is somehow Spike's fault. Spike, after a pause, figures the kid ain't entirely wrong about that.

"It's not about bein' a warrior," Spike says solemnly. "Ask Lily-of-the-Valley here. She's no warrior and she did her share in the last war, mostly with that wicked tongue of hers. Didn't you, sweetheart?"

In reply, Lilah grins a vicious, toothy grin and licks Spike on the cheek with aplomb. He jumps two feet in the air and she howls with laughter, smirking as Spike recovers.

"I did indeed," she says. "But that's no answer. Tell the truth or we'll tear your tongue out and feed it to the ocean."

There. There it is, the hidden madness. Angelus made this girl, and Spike's been waiting to see her show the edge, to watch her bleed a little sanity into the ether. No true child of Angelus's would be completely sane and oh, how Angel hated this poor creature. Spike had heard the whole thing told in whispers between Buffy and Faith.

"Slept with Wes! Not that I--" "Did he?" "We think. She won't tell. He hurt her bad." "She helped steal his baby!" "She--oh, God, that one? Angelus let her off easy--" "Evil. But no one deserves that."

Not hard to get the story not being told. Poor unlucky little lawyer bitch, initiated into the family the hard way. Not unlike Spike himself in that way, he supposes.

Out of respect, Spike doesn't grab her. Everyone grabs Lilah by the throat and tries to choke her off in mid-taunt. Instead he walks up and gets very, very close to his latest blood relative. Close enough to see the flickers of green and black in her dark eyes and hear her breathing even though she doesn't need to breathe.

"He hurt you, didn't he?" Spike asks, smoothing her flyaway hairs. "Held you down 'til you bled and then kept going even after you were dead. He always liked to hurt the pretty ones, and you would have reminded him of Darla at her height, the Queen Mum in curls and sneers. Though you look like Dru more, like Faith, like the cheerleader. And you weren't never 'fraid of him, now, were you?"

The madness is boiling up to the surface now, all of those precious controls being dashed away by memories so raw and painful Spike can half hear 'em echo in his own mind. Connor is tensed to spring, unaware that he cares for the damn mad bird like she was his own and not a memory of a far different woman. Her teeth are chattering with cold and fear and oh, yes, this is the thing Spike needs to see.

"He didn't love me," she says, the ghost-thing lost inside the demon. "He never loved me."

Spike's desire to see the madness dissolves. Not another broken-hearted lover. He can't bear another one. It's all too much, another boy and girl destined to live a doomed life and a disastrous love in storybook hell. The girl always dies and the boy always lives and the ghost always haunts the tattered corpse.

"What the hell are you doing?" Connor hisses, breaking the spell. Both vampires blink, spring away from each other with unnatural speed and grace. Lilah is shivering and Spike feels the soul do a cartwheel in his gut.

"I'm okay," Lilah lies. "It's a vamp thing. Isn't it, Spike?"

"Yeah, of course," Spike replies. "You'll be fine, sweetheart. Little brother and me'll buy you a coffee and we'll talk all about defeating that nasty ol' First, won't we?"

Her posture's still stiff and her hands are still balled into fists. She's not pleased with him, not this lost little girl fighting hysterical terror under her smooth skin and dark hair and eyes. He's fucked her precious control and she don't forgive that easily. Doesn't mean that later, she won't fuck him if he asks nice. Maybe it does. Depends on which Spike he is when he does the asking.

Buffy's Spike wouldn't even ask, cuz this is an evil thing, a vampire, soulless. But he's only that Spike once in a while, and that's the one Connor wants to talk to. Connor, who looks just like his--oh, bloody hell--oh, bloody hell, his mother.

"Are we going to go then?" the git asks, and Spike's heart could just leap from his chest. Bloody hell, when Angel makes a mess of things, he does it right and proper, don't he? Both of 'em hate him for the best of reasons. "Lilah? Aren't we going to?"

"Of course," she replies mechanically, the old shields all sliding back into place and the new girl, the girl that belongs in the new world, the girl who's not the ghost, she glowers at Spike. "Shall we, then? People are starting to stare."

"Never love a human," Spike says, not-quite-Buffy's Spike, but near enough. Connor and Lilah both look at him like he's mad, and maybe he is, the man who sold the world and found himself a hero with a dead girl at his feet. Only one with the wrinklies for it. Didn't make it any easier. "It only ends in tears, mark my words."

If he liked her just a little better, Drusilla's Spike, the Spike who misses family ties, would go to the hotel and rip out Wesley's tongue for her. But he doesn't and she would be angry. The boy would disapprove, too, and the boy's not fond enough of Spike to keep him alive if he disapproved too much.

So instead, Spike puts one arm around the bird, who almost throws it off before thinking better of it. She, in turn, takes the boy's hand, and Connor pushes it away, only to put his arm around her, protecting the weakest of the trio as if he were a man already.

"I want a milkshake," Connor says resolutely. "There's a diner two blocks up. We can get coffee and milkshakes and onion rings. And then you'll tell us the story or I'll hurt you for hurting her."

Spike wants to warn the boy, wants to tell him not to get too close to any demon, not even one who cares for him the way she does. But he can smell the strength on Connor. He's a child of the new world, and he'll outlive them both, though in Lilah's case, not for lack of trying. Connor. Damn. Just the sort of mick name Angel would give a kid, too.

"Don't threaten me, boy. I'm your uncle."

"And I'm yours," Connor replies humorously. "And your great-uncle, come to that."

"What's that they say about incest?" Lilah asks, and Spike realizes with a jolt that she's the tallest of the three by at least two inches.

"It's a sin?" the kid asks obliviously, and Spike snickers--definitely a snarkier Spike than usual--and fumbles for a cig and his lighter.

"Something like that," Lilah agrees placidly. "Left front pocket of your jeans."

Sure enough, his lighter's right there and before you can say Jack Robinson, Spike's got a smoke and part of the family and it really doesn't get much better than that in this upside-down world go round. Maybe not for Buffy's Spike, but he did his good work, and he's not that Spike so much anymore.

"Keep your eyes where it's proper," Spike replies. "Crazy kids. Every damn generation thinks they know so much."

"No respect," Lilah says solemnly as they lope up the street toward Connor's diner and anything that has any sense is way the fuck out of their way, cuz the three of them could probably take half the city by their lonely little selves. "None at all. I never did walk to school both ways uphill in the snow, though, so you know why I'm flip."

Spike laughs now. Listen to her try to be smart-mouthed. "Flip's hardly the word, girl."

He can see the diner now. Well, well, well, it seems the time has come. Time to be Buffy's Spike again and tell the tale, shed the tears, and discover the pain again. Maybe this time it'll be easier.

It's never easy. Hell, these two know as well as anyone. The children. The ones who survive, and as more than just fragments, different Spikes for different moods. They know how easy it's not just to go from day to day.

He can see the diner now. He's not ready to tell. But that's not a choice he gets to make.

3. To Love and Survive in LA

So the big revelation is that he killed Buffy. And he didn't even really kill her; he did some ritual sacrifice that let Buffy become the essence of Slayerness or whatever and save the world to be reborn as something else, something good and pure and wholesome.

Lilah's kind of pissed about this. After all that build-up, a simple little murder. It had taken like six times that to stop the LA thing. Hell, even Connor's disappointed, and Connor usually loves that kind of gooey bullshit. Ah, well. It's not as if Lilah has high expectation when it comes to vampires. Fucking addled demons and all that.

Most of the time, Lilah forgets she's a vampire now. It's not really worth remembering. Not really. She doesn't feel like a vampire. Well, she does. But.

"Sweetheart?" and fuck Spike for calling her that. She's no one's sweetheart, never was, never will be. Because Lilah isn't sweet and if she has a heart, it's as much a surprise to her as it is to anyone else.

"I'm awake."

"You're not," he says. "Didn't even notice the kid ran off about an hour ago. He saw a pretty girl and ran like hell."

She blinks. He's right; Connor's gone, and she's been dunking her fingers into cold coffee. Her donut had apparently turned to mush at least twenty-five minutes ago and is clinging to her bloodless fingers.

"Fuck," she mutters. "Sorry."

"S'all right. I'm not all there, either," he says companionably. "Want me to rip that British ponce's head off for you, sweetheart?"

"If I really wanted that, I'd have it done myself," she points out. "Forget about Wesley. I have."

"Right," Spike says. "Look, sweetheart, you've got to figure out which one you are. Are you the broken little doll or are you the shiny new toy?"

"I can be both," Lilah replies guardedly. She knows what he's talking about. At first she wouldn't have--a bad sign and no mistake. But now she knows. She has episodes. Connor doesn't like them and she tries to hide them from him now. Then again, after what Angelus did, she has plenty of reason for her episodes. "I have every right to be both."

"Then whyinhell haven't you ripped his head off?" Spike asks, taking her coffee cup away. "The shiny new toy would."

"Connor's? Or Wesley's?" she asks, stretching muscles that needed stretching and pushing the coffee cup away.

"Either. Both. Wesley in particular."

She remembers now. Spike gets it, gets the part about being in love with a human while being a soulless killer. And now the soul-y, insightful part of him wants her to tell him what she feels, find some sort of shared place. Vampires who love humans who hate them for daring to care or some goddamn therapy jargon. They're too similar, really, and Lilah's alarmed, very alarmed. All the dead nerves are sending flight signals to her cortex, and she wants to run.

Instead she lies. She's good at that. Lilah Jean Morgan did not get to be thirty-four and head of Wolfram and Hart's Los Angeles office by following her nervous system's primal commands.

"I don't particular feel like having Daddy dearest hunt me down, and that would provoke the old bastard," she says, glad that her hands are under the table, because they're trembling.

"Then turn him," Spike says with simple logic.

"He doesn't love me," she says between clenched teeth, feeling the muscles in her neck tense. It's going to be a trip to Koreatown tomorrow, to find that guy who can take the knots out of the toughest demon flesh. "Do you think I haven't thought of it?"

"Make him," Spike offers, grinning wickedly. "That's what happened with Dru and me. We had our fallings-out, and it was always a case of making her love me again, or vice versa, as the case would be. What's he love that's so much better than you?"

"Her name's Winifred Burkle," Lilah says, hissing the name as if it were a curse. "And if you ask me, Fred's kind of passive-aggressive and ruthless, but I'm in the minority. Practically perfect in every way, or so the grapevine says. Meanwhile, I--and you know, I'm the whore of Babylon to begin with, and hardly all that, or so says Cordelia--I have the poor taste of remaining undead after everyone eulogized the corpse."

Sometimes the bitterness burns her throat, it's so palpable. This is one of those times.

He reaches out, the evil, cunning, dangerous son of a bitch, and he rests his thumb on the middle of her lower lip, pulling on it just the slightest bit. For a tenth of a second, Lilah feels her knees give out, but oh, no. She's not interested.

If he thinks she'll fuck him because he's got sympathy for her plight, he's got another thing coming, the wannabe badass. Just because Spike is lovely and lonely and she's tired of escorts of whatever variety doesn't mean that. Oh no.

"Let's get the hell out of here, sweetheart," Spike says. "It's getting on toward dawn and I don't have anywhere to sleep."

"You're not subtle," Lilah says, standing up and straightening her skirt, but not before leaning forward as carefully as she can without touching him at all. "You realize this."

"Says the queen of subtlety," Spike replies, managing to look blase. "Come on, it's either your place or that hotel, and you wouldn't make a bloke stay there, would you?"

"Hell, I don't even like Connor staying there," she says companionably as they leave the waitress a five for a tip and slip out of the diner. "And there's a very nice couch in the living room for you. You can rifle through my DVDs or whatever."

He pouts, a rock-star look if ever she saw one, and leans his head on her shoulder as though he were the brand-new baby vamp with daddy issues instead of being the Big Mammer-Jammer of Souled Vampires at this particular date and time. She can smell the bleach on his hair and it annoys her nose slightly.

"Couches give me a backache," he wheedles, sliding his arm around her as if he had an ounce of suave. Lilah rolls her eyes and they keep staggering toward her car, which she always has available just in case. "You wouldn't do that to an ol' man, would you?"

"You tried that line already," she replies tiredly. At least fucking Spike will be free, and it'll piss Angel off just a tiny bit. There's still some joy to be had in pissing Angel off, after all. "And I'm going to fuck you, so you can stop acting like a hard-up date about to slip me a roofie."

Spike laughs. She pushes him away from her, reaching into her one pocket for the one key to her car.

"You're acting like you still don't plan on it," he points out.

"I don't really feel like it," she answers him, unlocking her door and pressing the button on her automatic door locks so that he can get in the car, too.

"Then why bother?"

"Beats the hell out of going to bed alone, don't you think?" she asks. "When I go to bed alone, I have too much time to think about things."

He gets into the car just as she's fastening her seatbelt. Which is a stupid habit to maintain, but she figures she could maybe be decapitated in an automobile accident, so better safe than sorry. Which is Lilah's motto when it comes to preventable, non-prophecy death.

"You should kill him. Get him out of your head," Spike advises. "You don't have a soul--if you ever did, sweetheart--and it won't hurt so much if you do it. Hell, kill 'em all. Firebomb that hotel, rip out Angel's heart. Beat the other woman into a bloody pulp and keep her alive for a while. You know you want to."

"Is that right?" Lilah asks vaguely as she puts the car into reverse, aware that he's testing her. Spike wants her to admit something, either that she's a soulless, heartless killer who wants a bloodbath--or that she's not. Embrace the demon? Admit it's not everything?

Besides, for the first time in a long time, Lilah doesn't have long-term plans. She does the Wolfram and Hart gig from time to time--it pays the bills, and the people who are left respect her now--but she doesn't have plans to be there much longer. And honestly, killing everyone? Not nearly as appealing as it had been before the Beast.

"Don't you?" Spike asks.

"Some days," she agrees. "Mostly I'm good with it. I have little brother, a good job, and I'm staying pretty."

Spike chuckles and then, casual as you please, puts his hand on her chest. Right where her heart doesn't beat. "But does it make you happy, love?" he asks. "Does it make your knickers wet, playing big sister? Giving those girls love bites? What's your soul sound like?"

"There's a big sucking chest wound where it used to be," Lilah says, shaking her head. "And just because you've got no sense of the long-term doesn't mean I have to be rash."

"So when you're ready, this town will burn?" Spike inquires casually.

"When I'm ready, the world will change," Lilah corrects him, still not interested in sharing. "I'm not telling you a damn thing, Spike."

"You will, though," Spike says as they turn into her parking garage. "Someday you'll have to tell and when you do -- the second you do--"

Lilah shakes her head. "I'll use a stake to cover up the damage," she whispers, wrenching open the door to her car. "You coming?"

And he looks at her, and she knows he's thinking of brave new worlds that have such bitches in it. Lilah doesn't care. Because she's a new child of a new world.

Spike is not. And as long as she remember that, she'll win.

"Suppose I don't have much choice, do I?" Spike says. "Shall we?"

Lilah laughs, making sure her back isn't in range of any projectiles as they head for her apartment and the end of another night in her city. Her beautiful, dangerous, glittering city she wasn't ever giving to Spike. "Why not?"

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