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up against a wall
e_delmar wrote in milliways_bar
Ennis isn't drunk anymore. Or maybe he's just not drunk right now. He does have the bottle of whiskey - well, a new bottle of whiskey, anyhow - on the table, but it's there, on the table. Harmonica's tucked safely in his pocket, and his hat is pulled down over his eyes as smoke floats up over it from his cigarette.

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Lilly's flipping through her notepad, not really paying attention to the bar around her as she heads for a table. The quick side-glance toward the couches is an unconscious and unbreakable habit, though, and tonight is no different.

Except it is. The ghost is back.

It takes a second for the figure to register in her mind and when it does she freezes. She's seen him there before, after all. A flash of movement in the corner of her eye becomes a hand raised in greeting and a warm smile and when she turns her head there's nothing but firelight flickering on an empty couch.

She still looks. Every time.

Tonight is... tonight is different.

Tonight, he doesn't vanish.

"...'lain?"

He doesn't vanish, he doesn't notice, either. He simply puts out his cigarette and lights another, a quick easy move with a flick of his wrist and a deep inhalation as he slides backwards a bit, crossing one leg over the other.

His name's barely out of her mouth before Lilly's moving toward him, her heart suddenly beating too quickly and her steps a little shaky. He's back.

He's back, and she's smiling, her eyes bright with joy and tears and just a hint of a smirk because of course he's back, no one really leaves Lilly Kane, just like she doesn't leave them and he's back and Bert and Susan probably are too but most importantly Alain, Alain-

Alain doesn't light his cigarettes like that.

Ennis moves easy, sure, but he doesn't have the grace or the hands of a gunslinger. She slows, stumbles, momentum carrying her just a little closer still. The firelight is flickering on a blonde cowboy that she's trying desperately not to notice has the wrong build, the wrong shoulders, wrong posture...

Lilly stops a few feet away, far enough that she can still cling to- to something. Hope or fear or doubt or maybe all three.

"'lain?"

This time he hears it, just quietly, on the edge of something, enough to make him turn his head and see the girl standing there. He tips his hat at her, nodding as he does to most, wanting to question what it was she said, but figuring that if it's important, she'll ask again.

She doesn't ask again. No point.

"You're not 'lain."

It's not accusatory. Just soft, and flat, and all Lilly can manage before her throat is too thick for words.

"Nawp. Can't say I am."

He looks her over, sees her white face, sees the way she ain't so steady on her feet, and moves to stand.

"You all right there, miss?"

He's not Alain. She's not all right and for once, she can't think of anything to say.

She can't seem to move, either, as much as she'd like to run the hell away from this... this stupid blonde cowboy, sitting in Alain's spot, smoking cigarettes and fooling her and why won't her legs work, damnit?

That about answers that and he heads over, taking her by the arm and putting her where he'd been sitting. A bit rougher than he'd intended, but that's often the way things are with Ennis, and he doesn't mean no harm by it. He stands, then, arms crossed, watching her, looking as if he's afraid she'll keel right over, there on that sofa.

Lilly hasn't sat on this couch for... for exactly four months. For a moment, it seems as if Ennis is right to be afraid, before she takes a breath and looks up at him.

"I... I thought you were someone else."

She don't seem to be dying, at least no time soon, and so he sits down, content to continue his vigil from next to her, 'stead of from looming above.

"Ain't nobody but who I am, sorry to say. Your friend usually sit here?"

"No. I mean. He did-"

Before he moved on. Before the call of the fucking door took him out of Milliways and away from her and to the peace of the goddamned clearing that she'd traded away for another man's life. Before he left her.

She stands abruptly, grabbing the arm of the couch to steady herself.

"I- I have to go."

He reaches up, taking her wrist in his hand, not tightly, but not softly, either.

Lilly jerks away, more sharply than she meant, but... she doesn't want him to touch her. Not him, not here, not now.

She's biting her lip, hard, but the tears are falling anyway and in her blurred vision he looks like Alain again and that sends her another step away, and another, and she's running blindly away from him and the front door, out through the back door and into the snow.

- Lilly -

*Meg's sitting across the room, reading; she'd seen her friend come down out of the corner of her eye, seen her sit down on the couch.

And now she sees her running out the door, and she's cursing herself for not thinking - she of all people should have known, Lilly doesn't go near that part of the room, that seat - and then she's running herself, leaving the book where it lies open and face-down on the floor.*

Because Xander's timing is always impeccable, he chooses approximately this moment to stumble into Milliways.

The first thing he sees is a streak of Meg.

"Whoa, whoa!" he calls after her. "Where's the fire?"

Frowning, he follows.

There's no fire and no goddamned firelight playing tricks on her eyes here. The wind is stinging, driving snow into her face and Lilly's shivering already but she doesn't even notice as she crumples against the wall of the bar.

I can't believe I thought that was him, it barely even looked like him, I can't believe I just freaked out at a complete stranger...

I can't believe he's not coming back.

*Meg doesn't bother to answer Xander; she just ploughs outside into the snow, slowing as she looks around in vain for Lilly across the grounds before catching sight of her against the wall.

She turns to give Xander a glance that speaks volumes, and then drops to her knees, in the snow.*

Lilly?

Xander comes around her other side, sinks down-- not too close, even though it is freaking cold out.

"Hey, Lil."

Lilly takes a deep, sobbing breath and swallows hard, trying to stop crying. She's cold and shaken and upset and barely coherent.

"I thought it was him. He was sitting in that stupid corner smoking a fucking cigarette with his hat down and and- I thought it was him."

Oh, merde, Lilly, *Meg says, helplessly, and then unfastens her rose cloak.

She knows, to a certain extent; she saw Jack, and his hat, and had almost thought -

but it's not the same, of course it's not the same. And so she puts her cloak over Lilly's shoulders, and her hand over that, and looks at Xander, helpless.*

Xander never knew Alain. Saw him a couple of times, but never talked to him.

He didn't even see him leave.

But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what's going on here-- and anyway, who needs facts when there's a friend in distress right in front of you?

He looks back at Meg, a look that somehow manages to say rather clearly, Oh come ON. You can't tell me you don't know what to do! You've been AROUND for all of this!

The snow's soaking through her jeans and Lilly shivers, suddenly noticing where she is. Not, of course, that her location ever changes all that much.

"Tāmāde. S'fucking cold."

Ouais, - that'd be the blizzard, *Meg agrees, wryly, and frowns, biting her lip.

They can't go back inside - especially not to the fire, which is where Lilly ought to be, really, for warmth. Not now. Nor the stables -

There is, of course, always the greenhouse, but that has its own problems. Nonetheless, there seems to be nowhere else - and even if it goes wrong, at least it's a distraction.

A horrible sort of distraction, maybe. But it has to be better than this.

And so, tentatively:* D'you want to move to the greenhouse? It's warmer there -

Xander straightens abruptly.

"Hey, I, uh, heard this crazy rumor that when you're cold? Hot beverages can serve as magical elixirs of warm, toasty goodness."

He glances at Meg.

"Anybody interested?"

Oui, *Meg says, firmly, and takes an unresisting Lilly's arm, pulling her to her feet.*

We'll be in the greenhouse where it's warm. And - warm.

Meg leads Lilly to the greenhouse, closing the door firmly behind them. It's much warmer there, and oddly quiet after the noise of the wind is cut off.

Lilly sinks onto a patch of earth, staring at it rather than her friend.

"God, Meg. I thought- I thought I was okay with it."

*Meg lets herself drop to a sitting position next to the other girl.*

Ouais, *she says; she's watching her friend closely, her eyes more than concerned.*

It would be - a lot nicer if it was that easy.

"It was that easy for him. He-"

Lilly breaks off, hearing what she's just said, and laces her cold fingers together tightly.

*Meg's shaking her head vehemently as soon as she hears this, hair flying in her eyes.*

It's not that -

If he was in your shoes, it'd be just as bad for him.


*She doesn't know if that's the literal truth; she'd never known Alain well enough -

but her voice is confident, believable, nonetheless.*

"No it wouldn't. I wouldn't have left."

Her voice is very, very flat, and her fingers are no longer just white from the cold.

*Meg's breath comes in sharply; slowly, she lets it out again, and shen she speaks her voice is quiet, and calm.*

You think there's nothing that could have made you leave?

I died in Neptune, and I didn't leave because Veronica needed me. You-"

Lilly looks up, at Meg and their surroundings. She hasn't been here since that night, and her voice finally breaks as she continues.

"-died right here, and you still came back. And he..."

She trails off.

I did, *Meg agrees; she scoops up a handful of dirt, absently, and lets it run through her fingers.*

And you did, but -






Well. I mean.

If you could've gone to the clearing with Alain - you would've left all of us. Wouldn't you?


*The question is gentle; it's not a judgment.*

"I don't know. I never got the choice, but..."

There's an edge of bitterness creeping into her voice now, not quite masking the hurt.

"Alain... he might've had a choice. He just- he never even tried to stay."

She swallows, and when she speaks again it's not hurt or bitter. Just bleakly accepting.

"I guess there was no real reason for him to."

- he was what he was, *Meg says, after a pause; not denying, not exactly.

Then:* But you've got to remember, Lilly - he knows you'll get there someday.

And waiting in the clearing, from what I've heard, that'd be easy. So he didn't lose you, not really -

He took the easy choice. Maybe it was the right choice for him - I mean, I guess it was - but he didn't really have to choose, because he'll get it all, you know? Cuthbert and Susan and Roland and then you too - he didn't lose anything, like he might have if he'd stayed and changed by fighting the call and gone all bitter -





*She swallows.*

And so will you. Get everything, I mean.

Just - later.

Lilly drops her head, blonde hair swinging down to hide her face.

"I don't know that. I... I know I decided to stay, in Neptune, and then... with Wash... Well."

There is a small choked sound that might have been trying to be a laugh.

"I don't know how many chances to die a girl gets."

*Meg's eyes open wider, at that.*

But I thought -

*Her voice is halting.* Didn't you - didn't Raven say it was only delayed? Not -

"Not forever," Lilly whispers, head still down.

"But... he's a god. I don't know what 'not forever' means to him, and I don't know if when I do go... somewhere other than here, whether it's the clearing or heaven or maybe I'll end up in the Dreaming because a few hundred years have gone by and everyone I know is dead and gone."

And none of them will have waited for her. Just like Alain.

*A long, long pause.*

If you wanted, *Meg says, finally,* you could go to the Dreaming now - so it can't be that -

*Her voice is very small, now; hardly a whisper.*

And I think - I think the clearing and heaven - I don't think there's a difference.

I think they're the same.


*A deep breath; then, a little louder, more clearly:*

And I think - no, I know you're going to get there.

I don't think anybody else can take that away from you forever.

Lilly sighs, breathes in, looks up at Meg.

"Maybe not. I just... I wish he'd wanted to wait for me, like I wanted to wait for Veronica and Duncan. I still do. Them, and you, and Xander, and... I know it won't work that way, but-"

Another ragged breath, and a twisted try at a smile.

"I'm kinda awesome, and... I saw people miss me before. I don't want to do that to anyone again."

Her eyes drop.

"I'll try to stay as long as I can, because... I love you guys."

Lilly, I love you, but you're a menace.

"More... more than he loved me."

*For a brief instant Meg stares at Lilly, stricken.

Her first horrified impulse - the word that nearly flies out of her mouth - is, 'Don't.'

But she stops herself, chokes the word off in her throat; and instead takes Lilly's hand in her dirt-covered one, and tries her hardest to smile at her friend, and comes very close to succeeding.

And says,* Well - we love you too.

You know that - you know that at least.

Lilly looks up in time to catch the flash of expression, and her own face pales further.

She knows that look.

(When you die, go with her. Go with her, Veronica. Don't stop for anything or anyone or do anything but follow the sound of her wings. Just... god, please. Go with her.)

She squeezes Meg's hand, trying to smile back. It doesn't quite work.

"I know, and... I know we won't always all be here together. But... I'll never leave without making sure that- that you know I love you. And that..."

This time, it's not even close to a smile.

"...that I didn't want to leave you."

I know, *Meg says; it takes one or two tries to get the words out, around the lump in her throat.*

I know - and I will know. And -

You'll know I'll - well. I mean, you know you'll always have someone still here who loves you, too.

And that's not nothing.

"No," Lilly manages, her voice choked but a real, small smile on her face.

She keeps her hand in Meg's.

"'s a lot more than nothing."

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