MYSELF AM HELL
By D.M. Evans
Disclaimer – Don't own any of them. Mr. Whedon does.
Timeline – Post Not Fade Away
Rating – PG-13
Pairing - Lilah/Wes
Feedback - yes please,
Summary – Lilah meets hell's latest arrivals
Author's Note – This was written for Miss MorganPryce's Hell ficathon and was written for Veggieburger. Requirements at the end.
Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming.
The Bible: Book of Isaiah xiv. 9
OAKLAWN GARDENS, HADES: SECOND LEFT AFTER THE LIGHT
The Greeks had it right, Lilah mused as she looked at the fenced in garden. There was an unhealthy feel to it. The flowers washed out, the oak and maple leaves spotty with yellow and brown, the trees bearing a little too much shelf mushroom. The squirrels were scabrous with Bot fly tumors. A rancid scent of dirty diapers floated on the barely existent breeze.
The people around her were oblivious to their surroundings, several comatose in their Geri chairs, if Lilah was lucky that was. Otherwise they'd be keeping up low, haunting moans. Some residents parked on the cracked cement patio kept up a constant nonsensical chattering while others screamed and cursed.
The Greeks were a lot more right than the Christians. A burning lake of fire would be a nice reprieve from this. At least it would be relatively quiet. Her Greek hell was tailor-made just for her. Every day it was the same old thing, made all the worse by the knowledge she had willingly signed up for this. How could she have been so foolish?
Lilah didn't have work to look forward to, though occasionally Wolfram and Hart would pluck her out of her hell to do business, just never sending her back to Los Angeles, not after that one time to lure in Angel and his little troop of idiots. Her only wish would have been that Wesley had been left out of it. She had shown Wes the standard contract. She would have thought that would have told them all to turn tail and run. They took the job and she never found out if they had managed to side step the contracts or not. She might have found hell less ugly if she knew Wes was safe from it.
Lilah wasn't sure how that pearl of knowledge might have helped breakup the doldrums of her day-to-day existence but she clung to it. Wes had been the best thing that had happened to her in a long time. She knew deep down he loved her, in spite of the cruel things he would occasionally say, in spite of himself. He hadn't wanted to feel for her any more than she wanted to feel something for him. They had gone into the relationship looking to use each other like damaged people were wont to do, then things got complicated.
"Lili, I want to go in. It's too hot." Her mother's voice rattled and grated like someone balling up tin foil, high-pitched with all the effect of licking a car battery.
"Mom, I've been asking you since I was thirteen to stop calling me Lili," Lilah said, knowing it wouldn't get past the armor of Alzheimer's tangles in her mother's brain. With effort, Lilah could get over the idea that this really wasn't her mother. It might be a demon or golem. It didn't matter. The creature looked, acted and even smelled like her demented mother had. Lilah felt the filial demons deep in her heart. She had joined up with Wolfram and Hart as much to provide the best of care for her unfortunate mother as she had for her own betterment.
Here in hell, 'best of care' wasn't understood. This was a step up, perhaps, from a state-run welfare nursing home but only just. It was the type of place that would have broken her living heart to see her mother in. Now, she just followed the routine. Lilah really couldn't do otherwise. Even knowing it was fruitless, she tried to erase the pattern soon after Cordelia had murdered her; what a bitch. Lilah kept hoping to see her here someday. Every time Lilah tried to avoid going to the Oaklawn Gardens Rest Home, she'd black out and wake up within its walls. Day after day she played the dutiful daughter, wondering how people willing stepped into places like this and worked for years in all this very real, if mundane horror, back on earth.
That was the true horror of hell. It wasn't shrieking demons and physical torments. It was the worst of life magnified and stripped of hope. Dante had it right, 'abandon hope.' Time had become meaningless. She could have been here a year or a century. What did it matter? The only way she knew time was passing the same in her hell as on earth were the times she was torn free and spat back out there. That might even be the worst part of her punishment, seeing real life, seeing faces full of hope and love. There was none of that here.
"Lili, I said I want to go in." Her mother rocked violently in her wheelchair.
"Okay Mom." Lilah unlocked the wheels before her mom tipped the chair, then wheeled her inside. The smells nearly overwhelmed Lilah. It was why she liked to sit with her mother outside in the garden. Lilah tried not to breathe in but it wasn't like she could hold her breath forever. Hell wasn't that kind. The acrid smell of cleaning solution couldn't mask the scents of dirty adult diapers and putrefying wounds. Hell was in the details. The aroma of dinner did nothing to make the place more pleasant.
Lilah pushed her mother down the hall, trying to ignore the guttural moans and cries of the elderly in pain. She tried not to look at the residents sleeping in their Geri chairs in the hall, which passed as a view for them, slack jawed, drooling on themselves. Others rocked fiercely, dragging their locked wheelchairs down the corridors in spite of the nurses' attempts to keep them in place. Other, more lucid residents, wheeled freely through hallways, which reverberated with battling TV's at top volume. Jerry Springer armwrestled with General Hospital. As far as Lilah was concerned both shows belonged in hell.
She wheeled her mother into her room. "It's getting late, Mom. I'm going home."
"Who are you?" Her mother shot her a hard-eyed look. Lilah cast a glance at the clock. It really was getting late and as the day wore on her mother would get worse. The doctors called it Sun-downer's Syndrome. Afflicted Alzheimer's patients became more aggressive, more agitated and their memories worsened. Hell was the evening shift at a nursing home. Lilah tried to get out of Oaklawn Gardens before dinnertime.
"It's Lilah, Mom."
"You're too old to be Lili." Her mother clawed Lilah's arm with sharp nails. "I want to go home."
Lilah examined the bleeding ruts her mother had dug in her forearm. "You are home, Mom."
"This isn't my home. Where are my things?" Her mother rocked hard in the chair, nearly tipping it.
"Your things are here, Mom." Lilah headed out the door before it got worse. She walked to the nurses' station, drumming her fingers on the desk for a little while until the nurses looked up. Hell as a state-run, understaffed nursing home, what had she honestly done to deserve this?
"My mother is getting agitated," she said to Jade, a tall beauty with café au lait skin whom Lilah was sure was another damned soul. She had the look.
"We'll go lie her down, Ms. Morgan." Jade sounded exhausted.
Lilah walked off. She didn't want to see her mother fighting the nurses. She didn't want to know if her mother had already fallen out of her chair. Even knowing it really wasn't her mom, she'd feel the same pain as if the old woman lying on the cold floor truly were her mother. Lilah had wasted her day in this place, just as she wasted every day. She was allowed short reprises where she'd go home to her modest apartment, watch a little TV – maybe piped from Earth, who knew – and go to sleep.
As she made her way through the labyrinth halls that connected the lock-down Alzheimer's ward to other parts of the nursing home, Lilah saw the light pouring through a door she had never seen before. She pushed on it, surprised it wasn't locked. There had to be something the Powers That Be wanted her to see.
The door opened to a hospital ward, a hospital she had never seen but had heard talk of when an Oaklawn Gardens resident had been hurt from time to time. Peering in the open room doors, Lilah guessed it was a pediatric ward, how unusual. More demon window dressing or kids so wicked they ended up here? She didn't want to know. She saw a patient that wasn't a child and it was someone she hadn't been expecting.
His hair had gotten long and he had picked up weight. She wasn't sure it looked good on him. A strong sense of sadness welled up from deep insider her, taking her by surprise with the sharpness of the emotion. She had cared for him more than she imagined. Lilah walked into the room, assuming there was something she was meant to see since there was no one to stop her.
"Lindsey," she said softly.
"Mommy?" He was looking right at her but obviously he was seeing something else or perhaps no one at all. "Mommy, is that you?"
"Yes, dear," she answered, trying to see where this would go.
"Mommy, am I going to go to heaven like Bobbi Jo and Kyle?" He shuddered from head to toe. "I feel so sick, Mommy."
Lilah realized in a heartbeat what Lindsey's hell was. She had done her research, knew his history, even if she hadn't used it against him. It felt too dirty, even back then when they were in competition. She knew about the flu that killed two of his siblings. She knew the poverty he grew up in. Now Lindsey was that sick child again, terrified of dying, calling for his mother. Suddenly her hell didn't seem so bad. Did he know who he was, trapped inside the little boy? Lilah hoped not. "It'll be all right, Lindsey, she said and hurried away. It hurt somehow, knowing Lindsey was dead.
Like her, Lindsey was too young to die. As she got in her car and drove for home, Lilah thought about her former partner in crime lying in that bed waiting for eternity to die a horrible death. She remembered their fights, their insane competitions to curry favor, the strong scent of underlying sexual tension that could never be acted on. She hadn't ever loved him but she had once lusted for him just a little, hiding it behind a shield of arrogance and the sharp sword of her tongue.
Lilah remembered the fear and sadness she felt in that boardroom meeting when Lindsey told them all to go to hell and left the firm. Fear, knowing she would shoulder their burden alone. Sadness, realizing she would miss him. They inspired each other to do better, even when they were cutting each other's throats. Those emotions gave way to anger and then to ambition and she missed him less. Still, she had always been amazed that he had escaped Wolfram and Hart until now. Maybe she'd try to visit him. Hell was obviously allowing that. Would he ever know her? Could he, like her, fight off the influences enough, to see hell for what it was? In some ways it made today a little less scary to her.
Lilah curled up on her sofa with a frozen dinner – surely a demonic invention – watching the TV disinterestedly. Her cat, Chumley, kept trying to snag food off her plate. Lilah had always been convinced cats originated in hell and Chumley was the proof in the pudding. As she ate, she heard noise in the apartment next door. That was new. Occasionally she'd see other damned souls wandering the apartment halls but she rarely heard them. Today seemed to be an unusual one.
As she finished her meal and stroked the gray cat, Lilah heard the sounds of someone being beaten and a plead for daddy to stop. There was something naggingly familiar about the voice. The screams and the sounds of flesh hitting flesh didn't stop. Lilah couldn't call the cops. There was no 911 in Hell. There were police, after a fashion, but they existed mostly to play to the worst of their kind, worse than the criminals. Finally, she got up and went to investigate. It was too unusual to ignore.
She knocked on the door, not surprised when no one answered. She turned the knob, only vaguely shocked when it wasn't locked. Some higher being had to be trying to tell her something with this day. The apartment felt like a British gentleman's club to her, all dark burnished woods and leather furniture. She saw no one. Going further inside, Lilah found a little boy's room, or so she guessed from the furnishing. She knelt and looked under the bed to see if she could find the frightened child.
As she was straightening up, someone ran in. For a moment it was as painful as dying all over again. She looked into Wesley's blue eyes, one of them blackened and swollen, and saw no recognition in them. What was happening on earth? It had to be bad to send her Lindsey and Wes in the same day. Lilah was suddenly glad she was already dead and didn't have to face it.
"Wesley?" Her voice crackled.
"Who are you? You can't be here," he said, his voice, a little like Lindsey's, the same pitch and cadence of a frightened child. "Daddy will be mad…he's so mad already."
"Did your father do this?" Lilah went to lightly stroke Wes' battered eye but he ducked away.
"He was hitting Mum again and I tried to stop him. He's so mad. We have to hide." Wesley caught her hand, dragging her into the walk-in closet.
"Wesley, do you remember me?" she asked as they huddled in the dark.
"I don't know you," he hissed, pressing his hands over her mouth hard. "Shhh, Daddy will find us."
Lilah stroked his hair. He and Lindsey must have been processed by the same higher being, handed the same torment, their ugly childhoods. Wesley had told her just a hint of the verbal, emotional and physical abuse he had endured at the hands of man he would never be good enough for. Lilah thought about her mother and the good times they had before her illness. She had been the lucky one. "You remember me, Wesley. It's just locked up in here. Think hard." She tapped his temple. Could she make him remember? She didn't know. What would happen if she did? Why did she want him to? That was easy to answer. If he remembered, maybe they could be together again, even briefly, taking momentary respites from their hell.
The closet door flew open and a distinguished, gray-bearded man stood there, impossibly huge. This was how Wes saw his father, too big, too strong, someone he could never prevail against.
"How dare you hide from me, boy!" Roger Wyndam-Pryce said. "It only makes your punishment worse."
Wesley shivered against Lilah. "No, Daddy, please."
"Who is this? Who told you, you could have friends over?" Roger stabbed a finger at Lilah. What did this demon see her as? She didn't want to know. "Now I'm very vexed."
"Shut up and leave him alone," Lilah said, getting to her feet. What was she doing? Could she actually get involved in someone else's hell?
Wesley's father's eyes widened. "How dare you speak to me like this?"
"Get out of our way. Wesley and I are leaving!" Lilah turned and held out her hand to her quivering former lover.
Wesley looked at her hand, then up into her face. Something sparked in his eyes. "Lilah?"
Her heart swelled with excitement then everything went black. When she woke up she was in her bed, Chumley sitting on her chest. When she went to her front door, it was locked from the other side. Hell had stepped in.