Five Ways to Have a Happy Ending, and Not One of Them True
by Minim Calibre
- Party Line
Lilah couldn't pinpoint the exact moment her priorities changed and she suddenly found herself willing to throw away a perfectly good career with a firm she loved and the best benefits package in this or any other dimension. She could, however, pinpoint at least a part of the reason; it was sleeping the sleep of the semi-just while she remained awake and considering her options.
Newly-found romantic contentment notwithstanding, it wasn't like she had newly-found pesky scruples like Lindsey, or had some of Wesley's good-guy streak rub off on her. Lilah was still happily conscience-free, and unlike Lindsey (or Wesley, for that matter), too smart to burn her bridges. Rather than stealing files or babies, she just put together her case for leaving. Wolfram and Hart could always use extra help in high places, even the mundane ones. She hoped they'd help her effect political change, she explained with a polished smile.
They bought it, hook, line, sinker, and future votes. Even gave her a nice bottle of champagne with which to christen the deal. She took it home, made a few phone calls, and started putting together her opening arguments for the other half of the equation.
"You're... running for office?" Wesley asked, for about the tenth time.
She smiled and refilled his glass. "Lesser evil, greater good."
A befuddled, yet oddly hopeful expression crossed his face as he toasted her, and she knew she'd won this round as well.
The good ones were always a little naive, but at least he'd like Washington.
All hell has broken loose, and he's not at all certain he means that in the figurative sense. The view from his window is of Gehenna, and coupled with all that he's seen tonight, he realizes it's past time to make his choices, and hopefully make his peace with himself in the process. He's just not sure how to go about it, when it means he'll be without comfort on a night when comfort is all he wants.
When the steady ringing of the phone stops and the frantic knocks commence, he's still torn. The sight on his doorstep is more frightening than everything else combined. Lilah, terrified and relieved and all too human. And there's a sinking feeling in his stomach, telling him that if he doesn't send her away now, he never will.
As fire continues to tumble from the sky, he goes to the kitchen and puts the kettle on for tea.
3. Auld Lang Syne
Five years, three names, and a dozen countries later, she goes back to look him up. She figures she owes him, and she doesn't like being beholden to anyone. Sure, she told him the kid was up there, but it was a lost cause and hardly made them even.
He's still the only Wyndam-Pryce in the phone book--that hasn't changed. Neither has the address. Or, as luck would have it, the locks. He's changed, some. There's more grey in his hair, he's wearing glasses again, and he actually looks pleased to see her. The apartment is tidy, almost spartan, and thankfully lacking in feminine touches.
Now that she's here, she can't think of a single thing to say, so she settles on saying his name in a questioning fashion and hoping he'll figure out whatever it is she's trying to ask him.
"You're the last person I was expecting to have show up here unasked and uninvited," he says. "I'm glad you survived."
She shrugs and smiles at him. "Did you think I wouldn't?"
"I didn't think anyone would, no matter how resourceful or clever."
He pours them each a glass of scotch and invites her to stay for dinner and talk about old times. Turns out stopping armageddon cost the good guys an arm and a leg and a couple of heads. The ones who survived hardly speak to each other, and the rest of the world has conveniently forgotten what happened.
He's been lonely.
So has she, and dinner turns into the night turns into several nights turns into a couple of weeks, and then it's time for her to go back to her new life and her new name, but this time when she leaves, she's got company.
Noon had been marked by its lack of shadows until the sun was lost and it became indistinguishable from any other time of the day. It was just past noon when she showed up, bleeding and defiant, book in hand.
"I thought I told you to go underground, to change your name." He let her in, noticing the fresh blood on the side of her shirt. "You're bleeding."
"Hasn't stopped." She sounded tired, which was slightly better than she looked.
"What are you doing here, Lilah?"
"Bringing you something you need." She handed him the book and stumbled to the couch. "I wasn't going to come, had it all planned out, how I'd fight on my own terms, but I decided to flip a coin, and it came up heads, so here I am."
He set the book down for future study, and went to fetch his emergency kit from the closet.
"Lift up your shirt."
She raised an eyebrow, but complied. The injury was worse than he'd thought it would be, a jagged hole comparable to the one he'd received when shot. He washed the wound and bound it as best he could. She was fortunate it didn't appear to be infected.
"You should have listened to me," he said. "You should be in hospital."
She laughed, wincing a little as she did so. "And be a sitting duck for the son-of-a-bitch who did this to me? That's not going to happen."
"He's gone after the rest of Wolfram and Hart, then."
"Every office, every person, every position. They're all dead."
He handed her some leftover Percocets and a glass of water. "You're not."
"No," she said with a faint smile as she let him fuss over her. "I'm not."
The dead will be with him, always.
She, in particular, will prevent him from being lonely, even while she keeps him alone.
He will drift through life, after there's no mission left, no battles to fight, no wrongs to right. He will watch as he slides into middle age, and welcome the day when he realizes he has passed the halfway marker.
His bones will grow fragile like teacups, and his vision, never keen, will dim until he no longer sees that which is, only seeing that which was once and will once again be.
As he drifted through life, so will he drift into death late in his ninety-first year. When it happens, she will be there to welcome him home.
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