Standard Perpetuity
by Mosca

"Now it's over, I'm dead and I haven't done anything that I want
Or I'm still alive, and there's nothing I want to do."
-- They Might Be Giants, "Dead"

She would have thought that death would be an escape clause from loving him. All that forever and ever, see you in Heaven shit-- she knew she wasn't going there, and what were the odds of her and Wesley winding up in the same hell dimension? The great love of a person's life wasn't such a big deal for a girl who expected to die young, and Wolfram & Hart doesn't pay out a whole lot of pensions.

She's staying in his apartment-- living with him, she would say under other circumstances-- just for the time being. When she died, her landlord found someone to take over her lease; most of her stuff is gone, too. She can't be angry about that. It was safe for everyone to assume that she wouldn't be coming back for her shoes.

She has to admit that if she really wanted her own apartment, she would have moved out by now. Between the several weeks of night and the dozens devoured by The Power That Ain't No More, real estate is a renter's market in L.A. Wesley's place is a gray shithole, but it's a comfort, somehow. Lilah has read that the dead are drawn to places that held meaning for them when they were alive. All she's doing is sticking to her old haunt.

And she does haunt it, especially in the still hours when Wes is asleep. Lilah can't sleep anymore. She tried a few times, but she couldn't fall unconscious. Dead girls don't dream, she guesses. She misses the refreshment of waking and the satisfaction of six stolen snooze-button minutes, but she never feels tired. It's not like her benzedrine law school days, with those long nights of ceiling-staring and the scattered fuzz that would overpower her brain. She's always pleasantly alert and focused.

The Senior Partners probably assumed she'd use the twenty-four hours of energetic wakefulness to maximize her work output, but she's not that kind of girl. Besides, the new staff is cutthroat in its efficiency, and there just isn't that much work to be done. She puts in twelve or fourteen hours a day, but that still leaves a lot of free time.

She spends it cleaning sometimes. She can't run the vacuum because it would bother Wes, but she does his dishes and dusts his furniture. She'll sort his laundry, take it to the basement, and listen to the spin cycle while she pays his bills.

But mostly, she does a lot of nothing. She watches a lot of TV. Wesley didn't own one, but after a few nights so quiet that houseflies made her twitch, Lilah bought herself a modest home-entertainment system. Wes complained that it cluttered up his apartment, but she's found him in front of it a few times, engrossed in the Independent Film Channel. He's got a thing for Iranian movies about street urchins.

She's reading all the books that she planned to read before she died. Technically, she's a day late and a Barnes and Noble gift certificate short, but death is a good time to read. She doesn't have her stomach or her bladder to distract her, and the swim of words doesn't lull her. A few days ago, Wes got up to pee in the middle of the night and caught her reading Nabokov; he beamed like it was his own doing. He would act abashed if she told him that she adores him when he is eager and geeky. Those crackles of earnest light through his armor.

She adores him most of the time. She didn't realize how much so until after she died: when she was alive, she could say it was only the sex that kept them together. Now, those drives are gone. It's not that she can't have sex anymore-- she masturbated in the shower the day after she got her body back, and she came just fine-- but that she doesn't feel any pressing need to. There's no more humid ache in her groin when she looks at him, no tingle in her nipples or heaviness in her lips. It's only what she feels for him.

They haven't had sex since she died. He's delicate around her, like he thinks she's held together more tenuously than the living. When she kisses him, he winces. If she were alive, it would hurt her in the pit of her stomach every time she saw him and wasn't allowed to touch him, but the pit of her stomach doesn't react much anymore.

He used to stoke that kind of ache in her, back when she didn't feel anything for him but an abiding contempt and a dim hope of conquest. She learned who he was by learning what he liked in bed, and she kept going back to him because she liked that he liked those things. He told her what he wanted her to do to him because he didn't trust her with any other information. She doesn't know anything about his childhood or his family. Nothing about his dreams. She's not sure about his favorite color. But she also knows that she's the only one he's told about the kinks that embarrass him: how it turns him on when she holds him down, how the smell of leather makes him hard.

When he admitted that he fantasized about men (which, truthfully, she could tell by looking at him) she brought home something pretty and ambitious from Wolfram & Hart's mailroom, and the two of them shared him all night. Once Wesley knew that she accepted him in his perversity, he seemed to realize that she'd accept him in everything else. All his dorky hangups and hobbies give way to the fact that he has the least stodgy sexual proclivities of anyone she's slept with. There's also the fact that, after the first few times, he became the only lover she's ever had who didn't expect anything from her in return.

These days, she gives him looks that should reduce him to a puddle of molten Englishman, and he smiles halfheartedly and tells her he's tired.

This has got to stop.

She creeps into his bedroom. When she takes off her high heels, her footsteps are silent-- one of the powers of the dead. He sleeps on his side, drooling into the pillow, the scar down his neck a cheap souvenir. The air conditioner's blast makes the curtains slap against the window frame. He's kicked the covers into a tangle at the foot of the bed. She straddles him carefully, to keep the bedsprings from squealing. He stirs slightly as she rolls him onto his back and pulls down his boxers.

He's hard already. She wonders what he's dreaming about. She licks the underside of his cock, and he doesn't even yawn. She takes him deep into her mouth and sucks him hard. The division between her head and body doesn't present a problem as long as she keeps a hand on her neck to hold herself steady. The tip of his cock hits her reactionless throat at the end of each stroke. "Jesus Christ, Lilah," he mutters.

But instead of pushing her off of him and scowling, he raises his hips up into her mouth, groaning. She wraps one hand around her throat and sinks the nails of the other into the skin just below his navel. Now that she has him, she can slow down. She teases under his foreskin with her tongue. He's pressing his lips together, trying not to make noise: a habit that she can't break him of. Holding him down against the bed so he can't thrust into her, she takes his cock all the way into her mouth. His body spasms, fighting her, until he comes.

She wipes her mouth, adjusts her head, and gets up to leave.

"That was abrupt," he says, "even for you, Lilah."

"You don't want me here," she says.

"I do," he says. "I-- I-- I do-- I... didn't think you could."

"Well, I can," she says. "Everything's in perfect working order. The senior partners made sure of that."

"Not everything," he says.

"Oh, the connection's a little loose up here," she says, fingering her scarf, "but that seems to be getting better."

"You don't sleep," he says.

"I can't anymore."

"I take it you've tried?" he says. She gives him credit for doing his best not to sound condescending. Wesley sounds condescending when he's three sheets to the wind and ordering a pizza at five minutes to midnight, so it's an impressive accomplishment.

"Sleeping pills go right through me," she smiles. "Or-- not even through. Honestly, I don't know where that stuff goes."

He looks up at her like he's wracking his brain for something to say that won't make him sound like a callous idiot who isn't good enough for her. She sits down next to him on the bed, and, gently enough that it stays comfortably attached to her neck, rests her head on his shoulder. Once in a while, she wants to remind him that he's good enough. Evil enough, too. Somewhere in the balance.

"Where were you," he says, "when you were dead?"

"I'm still dead."

"No. Dead dead."

"In the basement of the Hyperion," she says.

"Not your body. You."

"I don't know," she says. "It was kind of peaceful. Wolfram & Hart guarantee their employees a cushy afterlife, but I always thought that would involve an army of minions. This was just-- a lot of quiet."

Wesley chuckles. "Oh, no," he says. "No wonder they called you back."

"Considering most of the L.A. branch turned into zombies, I was a logical choice."

"No," he says. "Lilah. You were-- from the few extant descriptions-- I doubt the Partners were pleased to find that one of their top attorneys had been sent to Heaven."

"Nobody comes back from Heaven."

"That rule's been broken so many times, I'm starting to think it's a superstition," he says. "Besides, you did die fighting for the good."

"I wasn't fighting for anything," she says. It's a half-truth: she's never fought consistently for any of the major interests in the great war. But there are things she fights for. It's not her fault that, in the battle that killed her, her own needs happened to coincide with those of the white hats.

And then she thinks, Paradise. Eternal bliss. Sometimes the Postmortem Assignments Committee has a wicked sense of humor. She saw it firsthand the time she had to negotiate with them to get a certain despised former colleague out of Pethylon and into Kortoth. Maybe she'd charmed them, and they decided to pay her a favor. Maybe they knew it wouldn't be permanent and decided to give her a taste of what she would be missing.

"Was it beautiful?" Wesley says.

"It was--" She pauses. There aren't really words for a place like that. "It was everything."

"You should write it down," he says, yawning. "It would make a useful reference."

"Write it for me," she says, and she sits up. "Write it tomorrow. Go back to sleep."

"What, are you worried about missing the start of the 3 AM movie special?" he snaps. She does her best not to react at all when he is cruel like this. When he hurts her, it reminds her that he's not so sweet, not so heroic.

"Maybe you're right," Wes says. "I still need it, after all." He lies down and adjusts his pillow.

She lies next to him and pulls the bedsheet over both of them. "What are you doing?" Wesley says.

"Lying next to you," she says.

He fluffs his pillow and thrashes like a caught trout, trying to find a comfortable position. "You're making me nervous," he says.

"I do now, and I didn't before?"

He sighs and stretches his arms over his head, banging his knuckles on the wall behind him. "You're dead."

"I know," she chirps. "You killed me."

I didn't-- I had to-- I-- Cordelia killed you. Or the thing that was-- I was only making sure."

"You're very gallant," she says.

"I guess that means a lot, coming from you." He fingers a lock of her hair. "You can lie here," he says. "Just-- don't-- look at me."

She scoots closer to him and kisses his neck. It occurs to her that whatever else comes back into their relationship, and she hopes for everything from the cuddling to the whipping, there are things that won't. He won't be leaving the marks on her throat that necessitated her scarf collection in the first place, and he won't be yanking her hair as she sucks his cock. He won't fall asleep with his head in her breasts, soothed by her heartbeat.

But he might fall asleep in her arms like this, believing in the possibility that there is something more to the two of them than convenience and lust. She might convince him that they are stronger than death.

She closes her eyes and listens to him breathe and grind his teeth. It's not the same as dreaming, but it's as close as she's likely to get.


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