by Selena Ulrich

When Lilah was a little girl she used to collect treasure. Not because her family was poor (solid, middle-class, and drier than dust maybe, but poor? Heaven forbid!). Not because they never bought her anything pretty or shiny (by the time she was 12 she had so many porcelain dolls she could have declared war on her cousin's G.I Joe collection, and often did). It was because she enjoyed the sensation of ownership. She liked holding and object in her hand and think 'This is mine! They can't have it!' And even when They came along, eventually; breaking into her treasure trove, stealing all her trinkets and holding them up for her peers to laugh at, she never felt angry. Not really. She was still the one who had found the objects, not them, and if she had to add each and every one of them to her Hate List (purple cover, spiral black binding, handwriting that just screamed 'lawyer' if you ignored the hearts dotting the 'i's), well; that was simply to keep up the appearance of fighting the battle. After all, it was so much easier to acquire victory through other means when they still thought you were fighting - something her cousin had found out all too quickly, although he regained the sight in his left eye eventually.

Lilah always learnt fast, even as a little girl.

When she was accepted and inducted into Wolfram and Hart she tried to maintain the tradition. But by then it was too much; the 80s had been dead for years and as her colleagues had sneeringly (or even gently) tried to explain to her: after an age when Greed was Good, Less was oh so clearly More and the less baggage you carried (in every sense) the better. So Lilah had smiled, and laughed, and endured the taunts of her soon-to-be-late companions whilst putting her trove away, and if one or two of them had looked sceptically at the gesture she had just smiled and told them that they would never have to worry about it again. Which was technically true, but the distinction was as fine as the line that divided life and death, scandal and fame, glory and destruction. And sadly they never understood any of this.

These days she doesn't add to the collection. Taking trophies is just too L.A. for words, and her lawyer's training reminds Lilah that she is at her safest when words cannot touch her; especially out here, where no one would expect to find her. But every so often when there's a window in her schedule she slips away, kicks off her shoes, and sits down to her memento mori, remembering. Remembering Madonna when she was the cool gang leader who you never thought would look your way, but always secretly hoped and dreamed would, until one day she did and you realised with a shudder that you were looking at a Joan Crawford clone with pretentious beyond her means. Remembering Rob Lowe before he hit the drugs, and Molly Ringwald when she was realising her star was fading so it was time to go 'fuck it' and just take that last glorious dance into obscurity with passion and as much decadence as she could get away with. She remembers the time she turned down Emilio Estevez because he was crude, and Demi because she was too damn wet (and when they next met, Demi was stronger; leaner, fitter and just oh so much more desirable, but also unobtainable because Wolfram and Hart had issued orders about Bruce Willis; and besides, Lilah had always had a soft spot for 'Moonlighting'. Although that was mostly due to Cybil Sheppard).

There is one item though that she never looks at. A recent addition, taken as a gesture of triumph that quickly, yet grudgingly, turned into something real. She ignores it simply because there's too much attached to it, and to acknowledge all of it (or him) would only lead to Complications - could she have saved him, would he have saved her; could she (would she) have given it all up for them to ride off into the sunset together? How long would it have lasted? Really?

Who would have given up first?

She knows she'll never be able to answer any of that so she locks such questions away, along with the two round circles of glass held in frames so spectacularly unattractive they had to be specially made. Sometimes she pretends that she misses him, and sometimes she really does, but either way she always shrugs it off with a snort and a cutting look at the pale reflection that shows her how things are these days. He won, she lost, and that's all there is to it. Sure, she survived, so he didn't win completely, but when you considered where she ended up, it almost seemed as bad. But then, Lilah would take sore feet and smelling of grease over death any day, and where there was life...well, there were people buying fries, and that's what keeps her going as she clacks passed the diners, taking their orders, ignoring the urge in her reptile brain to look twice at every guy who's tall, dark and wears glasses. And each time she fails, she tries not to think of what John Travolta suggested to her shortly before returning to the set, and the poodle, and the mutt.

That maybe of all the ailments released into the world, hope was the cruellest one of all.


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