Appropriate Time, The
Subject: [glass_onion] Fic: The Appropriate Time (AtS, 1/1) Date: Monday, June 17, 2002 4:55 AM
The Appropriate Time
Author: Jennifer-Oksana (email@example.com) Website: http://www.imjustsayin.net/jennyo Rating: PG-13
Archive: Mine, lists, usual suspects. Others by permission.
Summary: Wesley and Steven have a short chat in a food court. Wes/Lilah, post-Tomorrow.
Disclaimer: The characters and their fictional universe belong to Joss Whedon, David Greenwalt, Fox, Mutant Enemy, and all the lawyers.
What does one get the beautiful, intelligent woman whom you despise and yet strangely find yourself bound to for a gift?
She finds such strangely appropriate gifts for me. Dante, sadistic tableaux, Bunuel films--she found a copy of Tristana somewhere, and of course Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and Belle de Jour, but Tristana! That was truly the moment when I realized that it was possible to absolutely despise her and yet find myself amazed, impressed, and slightly admiring at the same time.
I would never tell Lilah, of course. She feeds on any moment of weakness like it was a gourmet meal, and although I'm quite sure that she's almost as fond of me as she claims, she'd turn on me at any moment.
Yet I find myself drawn into her games, fascinated by the idea that one can play at finding the edge as endlessly and cleverly as we have. There is of course the commonplace that it is difficult to resist a woman who willingly submits to your every desire, but it's not so simple as that. Our fantasies are mutual horror stories, caresses that turn into bruises, kisses that turn into bites--you get the picture.
I would write her poetry, but then I'd have to destroy it before she read a word. In fact, I may try that sometime. She'd be delighted and furious.
I find myself dreaming of what dreamy torture I could inflict on her next. I swore to her I'd never think of her, but there's no one else to think of. I've sworn to myself never to waste another thought on those who don't deserve the waste.
The question remains: what should I get Lilah? What suits her? What--
I see the boy out of the corner of my eye and I immediately walk faster. He shouldn't be here. He shouldn't even know I exist. Besides, he's been missing. Lilah told me that he was gone, along with Angel and Cordelia and Justine.
Perhaps he's a ghost. I walk into a department store, a very bourgeois department store where the ladies in nice suits are holding perfume bottles. They'll certainly scare him off, while I decide what sort of cruel masterpiece to surprise my Lady Macbeth with.
I know she enjoys green, Italy, diamonds, and the dark side. I--
Isabella d'Este. I'd find something about Lucrezia Borgia, but that's far too obvious and rather not right. A biography and something fitting for my patroness would be much more appreciated and subtle.
Perfect. Perhaps a little kind, but the "something fitting" could be any sort of--
The damn boy is trying to hide in menswear. He's doing a terrible job at it. You'd think with his father, he'd at least be looking at the attractive menswear and not plaid, but some things are apparently not genetic.
"For the love of God," I say, walking over to him. "Don't run."
"I was looking for you," he replies, holding to a metal rack of polo shirts. "You're--you worked with Angelus."
"Worked being the operative term," I say wryly. "If you hadn't noticed, I was sacked, and Angelus--Angel--doesn't seem to be around any more."
He squirms and I know that the little bastard knows exactly where Angel is. I think about asking, but then he'd run and we don't want that, now, do we?
"Your neck has a scar," he says. I roll my eyes. The keen eye for the obvious would have to be genetic, wouldn't it? "Who did that? My father?"
"Hardly," I tell him. "Come on, boy, if you want to ask me questions, I'd like to sit down. We'll go get something to drink and you can tell me where you've been hiding."
The boy blinks. "All right," he says. "But you'd better not ambush me."
"Yes, me and my invisible friends have been plotting to draw you out for a month now," I reply, wincing. I've already picked up some of Lilah's mannerisms. "That was sarcasm. Forget it."
"You're very strange," the boy says, following me out of the store and toward the food court. "I don't understand most of what you say."
"No, I can't imagine you would," I say, feeling older and bitterer with every step. "Would you like something to drink?"
He looks at me, almost coy. "Could I have one of those sodas? I really like them," he admits.
"Of course," I say. "One soda for you, and I do believe a water for me. Stay there. I'll be right back."
I think about calling Lilah, but then I come to my senses. I will simply talk to the boy and move along. He probably wants to know--well, God only knows, but it's nothing that can't be handled.
When I return with our drinks, the boy is staring at my scar. "Will you tell me how it happened now?" he asks, grabbing his soda hungrily. "My friend told me I could recognize you by your scar."
His friend is obviously Justine, but I won't make an issue of it. Not overtly, anyway.
"My throat was cut," I say, stunned at how innocent this boy actually is. He has no idea about anything, really. Lady Macbeth would have him for lunch and lick her fingers. "It's quite a long story, and rather unpleasant."
"Oh," he says. "You don't work for anyone right now, do you?"
I smile. "I'm a free agent, as the saying goes," I reply. "I've been propositioned often, of course, but I'm rather enjoying a stint as a worthless unemployed hustler."
He's so confused that he's absolutely speechless. I realize that I'm being rather cruel to the boy, and it's not his fault, after all. Except that it is directly and completely his fault that the only person I speak to regularly these days is Lilah.
"Do you mean to be so confusing?" he asks, the youth in his eyes suddenly searing and sweet. "I mean, you haven't even admitted that you're Wesley."
"You haven't admitted that you're Connor, either," I reply. "Or do you go by another name?"
"Steven," he says. "I'm Steven Holtz. And you're--"
"Wesley Wyndham-Pryce," I say, choking off the smart comments. "You were inquiring about whether or not I had a job?"
"My friend," he says. "Um, my friend, you know her. She says that I need a smart guy. Like, a book and prophecy guy. She asked around and you're considered to be very highly--you're good. And you're not working."
I nod. Interesting. I wonder who's started the rumors--Lilah? Or were they just as a result of working--no, definitely Lilah. This stank of Lilah Morgan, from its neatness to its timbre of being yet another gift to me.
"That's very interesting," I say. "I'll take it under advisement."
"Okay," Steven says. "So--"
"No," I say. "Not yet. But do you want to know a secret before you go, Steven? Well, not precisely a secret. More like the truth. A truth."
"You are the reason I have this scar," I say, baring my neck for him. "The night I took you--and it was not to go to Holtz, no matter what anyone says--I ran into your friend Justine. We were in a park, the three of us, and I went to her, thinking she'd been hurt. She cut my throat and left me to die."
"That's--" and Steven pauses. "Is that true?"
"They left me to die, all of them," I say, realizing the dramatics are ridiculous, but I want to put a dent in this beautiful boy's skull, to make him wake up just the smallest bit. "And your father found me, nearly dead. He asked me if I knew if he was Angel and not Angelus. I knew that he was."
Steven's breath is caught in his throat. I realize that he will be a constant visitor to my flat now, that I shall have to take pains to entertain my Isabella d'Este, my Lady Macbeth, my Madame de Meurteuil, at her own place until the both of them are able to handle the shared attention-getting.
"What'd he do then?" Steven whispers.
"I'll tell you another time," I say, standing up. "Ask your friend Justine if she still has the knife. I'd like to see it some time."
I walk away, heading for the bookstore, my head churning with thoughts. Steven watches me but doesn't stand up. Perhaps, like everyone else, he understands the rules of the game without ever knowing why they exist.
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