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31 August 2010 @ 05:54 pm
Shipper Manifesto: Wesley/Lilah, Angel  
Fandom: Angel
Pairing: Wesley Wyndam-Pryce/Lilah Morgan



Let’s begin honestly:

This is not a blurb. This is an essay, and probably will get itself cross-posted to ship_manifesto should they have one of those “Write a new manifesto even though the old one is perfect!” things they sometimes have. But actually, that one is perfect, you could probably just skip all of this and just read Jenny’s version. She’s the go-to girl for Wes/Lilah for a reason. But this is really so very much more than a blurb and more like some serious meta of this business so feel free to just go to the fics if you don’t want to deal with my many, many, many thoughts on this subject.

But back to right now - Wesley/Lilah is generally my favorite Jossverse OTP (unless I’m in an Angel/Cordelia mood that day, which these days is every day). And it’s probably my third favorite OTP of all the OTPs in all the lands. That means I, a professional flailer, have serious trouble containing myself when I talk about them. This is my best-attempt version, but if the internet were playing a game of charades, Me Talking About Wes/Lilah could probably be best performed as



To briefly speak on a macro level of my shipping tendencies because it’s relevant, I’ve been working on this doomed ship project because all of my ships are doomed and I wanted to figure out why. Obviously, Wes/Lilah is on this list. When I was trying to discern what it was that I loved about x, y, z ship, what it ultimately came down to was that I love ships where people come out of it changed. That means I thoroughly dislike two-peas-in-a-pod ships, but I also sometimes dislike opposites-attract ships, because that tends to lead to a lot of fighting and raging and no one comes out changed, just USTy. That’s no good for me. I like my ships epic, I like ships that people stumble into when they least expect it. Since they’re always doomed, they end up worse for the wear or really, really dead, they always come out fundamentally changed.

And that’s what Wes/Lilah is at baseline. They are two people who were never, ever, by any virtue of the universe, supposed to be together. Yet, they were and they were irrevocably changed by it. What I want to put out there as we start this is that this ship tends to get labeled as angsty hate sex and really sexy and left at that. And there’s certainly helpings of that too – Wes and Lilah are the only people in the Jossverse to ever be shown having cunilingus on the floor, after all, and are the only people on Angel who break furniture when they have sex (and unlike Spike and Buffy, they don’t even have superpowers). At the same time, however, I do think I take a different approach to this than a lot of fandom does. The people who already ship them will probably agree with me, but those who don’t tend to look at Wes/Lilah as a fling and nothing more, focusing on the hate sex. I don’t see it that way. Sure, the hate sex was what got things going, but at its core, this was a relationship between two very messy people who loved each other in a world where they weren’t expecting to love anything. And that love saved them and broke them a thousand times over, but it was real, it was painful, it was wonderful, it was life-changing, it was compelling, and it was pretty damn perfect. It is the only one of my doomed ships that I am perfectly fine with being doomed, because it necessarily and narratively had to be doomed. Still, in its brief time, it was so perfectly constructed from start to finish that the narrative leaves no gaps or missteps.

So, let’s get this show on the road.

Sign it. As proof. – Or, Lilah’s side of the story


Lilah Morgan is my favorite. In the Buffyverse, in the Jossverse, sometimes in all the ‘verses, depending on my feelings on Kara Thrace and Lee Adama on a particular day. A lot of it is tied up in Wes/Lilah, because it gave her more screen time and because it added all the depth in the world to an already wonderfully complex character. I think it’s interesting to address where this all started, because, after all, this was her idea. Lilah shows up at Wesley’s apartment after he gets released from the hospital because she wants to use his knowledge of Angel Investigations to gain an upper hand. She shows up with a copy of Dante’s Inferno and reminds Wesley that the worst circle in hell is reserved for those who betray. “So don’t pretend you’re too good to work for us,” she says.

This is how Wes/Lilah begins, with her tugging at him and trying to pull him deeper into the dark in his darkest hour. The beginning of this relationship is probably its darkest point, with Lilah manipulating a whole number of things that surround Wesley in order to get him to come over to her side. I think this raises a number of questions, the primary of which is: Why does Lilah try so very hard and why does it work? It’s certainly possible she knows she can nestle her way into Wesley’s life eventually, but it’s also that she knows exactly what buttons to push. I find this the most interesting, because Wesley and Lilah had no interaction up until that point. They know who the other is, but they have never spoken to each other before. Yet, she knows exactly how to test him, how to tempt him, how to assess his wavering moral code. She knows that if she puts him in a bar with Justine and calls a bunch of vampires and tells him about it, what he will do. I don’t think Lilah had to test him in that bar at all. I think she knew exactly what his response would be.

Throughout the series and especially throughout the third season, Lilah has been working on learning which buttons to push with AI (with Cordelia’s visions in “That Vision Thing,” for example, she knows she will be able to get Angel to save Billy), but she also figured out how to deal with Angel after a lot of fumbling arond and some really awkward attempts at seduction. With Wesley, she gets it right the first time, and throughout their relationship she does always manage to know exactly what to say to get the results she wants. She understands him on an almost instinctive level, much to his dismay.

However, despite the initial upper hand she has in the control over this relationship – finding him, getting him to meet with her, setting up situations to judge his reactions – the power dynamics within Wesley/Lilah are almost immediately set into balance. The first time they sleep together, Lilah prods, “Don't go making more of this than it is. I'm not one of the doe-y eyed girls of Angel Investigations. Don't be thinking about me when I'm gone.” Wesley’s immediate response, without even looking at her, is, “I wasn't thinking about you when you were here.” Lilah freezes. She has been momentarily bested. That doesn’t happen often, and she doesn’t like it, but what it does show is that the two maneuver themselves toward equilibrium. That’s the only way to get respect from Lilah Morgan. Not by trying to beat her – that never ends well, someone could lose a head – but by small nudges, by keeping her on her toes (she follows this with another jab at his wavering morality), but not making her feel threatened (she gets in the last punch). This is how Lindsey and Lilah maintained what in the world of Wolfram and Hart functions as a close working relationship. This is how Wesley and Lilah begin.

Next we see their relationship, it is in the season four premier, and we find two very changed people from the season three finale. Lilah kisses Wesley on her way out the door. Wesley is disappointed to see Lilah go. Lilah and Wesley are calmer, loving – and clearly surprised at this loving aspect. Wesley tends to meet moments of tenderness from Lilah with a look of astonishment. This quiet, calm relationship is very new to him. I would argue the relationship bet probably took place not too long before this day. I also think that bet changed all the rules, because someone (my guess is Lilah) suggested it after Wesley made some comment that was vaguely relationship-like – maybe something about a future date under the assumption they’d still be doing this then – and then Lilah pretended it would be a fun game rather than actually talk about her feelings. Lilah Morgan isn’t supposed to have feelings. She’s not supposed to sleep with the good guys. She’s not supposed to speak to the good guys unless she’s trying to get something. She’s not supposed to love the good guys. The fact that the relationship bet exists portrays the way these two constantly tiptoe around the issue of their actual emotions. It has to always be a game. It has to be a bet.

In the same episode, she actually protects Wesley from Linwood, and when Linwood threatens her, she kills him. This is majority Lilah protecting herself, but she’s also protecting Wesley, something Lilah never does. More importantly, I like to compare the fact that she killed Linwood without a thought or blush to when, in season two, she thought she was going to be sacked from special projects and so brought a gun to work, only to proceed to flail it around the room when Lindsey was selected over her. That panicked woman is gone by now. While this has been a process in motion since she was assigned to head of special projects, I also believe, given the rest of the season, her relationship with Wesley helped her settle into the woman she becomes. He doesn’t particularly change what she is or does, but he helps her form a distinct sense of self, one that no longer cowers while threatened. It’s just about taking the groundwork she already established and making sure it is solidly in place. It makes Lilah a fuller character. It gives her something to lose, something to fight for outside of herself. That’s very new.

The perpetual question with these two is always who – if anyone – really loved who. We’ll get to Wesley in a minute, but I think it’s quite clear that Lilah loved Wesley. I won’t even linger on this point for very long, because I think it’s fairly indisputable and no one in fandom seems to disagree on this point from my understanding. I think that the conversation where Wesley finally does call their relationship a relationship proves this, because Lilah’s face lights up, and it’s not just because she won the bet (though she does love to win). It’s suddenly youthful, delighted, a look we have never seen on her face before. Then, when she asks him to sign the dollar bill, such a trivial amount, so inconsequential, so purposeful in its unimportance, we have one of the few moments in all of AtS where Lilah Morgan is actually a vulnerable person. The culmination of the relationship bet broke all of their rules.

After that, her emotional attachment to their relationship, which was already apparent, only grows. I think Lilah’s love for Wesley comes as a surprise to her, and it is something she is so unused to dealing with that she doesn’t know how to repress it. This is a very long process, and by the season four premier she appears to have dealt with most of her qualms regarding her feelings, but I find it inconceivable that Lilah had no issue accepting her feelings for Wesley. Further, I would argue that around “Slouching Toward Bethlehem,” with the relationship bet, she begins open herself up to him even more, and to dare to hope for something here. It’s a mistake she can never take back, though she may want to when she finds Wesley at Fred’s physics conference in “Supersymmetry,” which is the next episode. However, by the time Lilah finds Wesley at Fred’s physics talk in “Supersymmetry,” it’s far too late for her to stop herself.

The fact is that the Lilah that exists after beginning her relationship with Wesley is simultaneously close to and a far cry from the Lilah we knew before. As she herself says to Angel, “I’m still evil.” This is the same conversation where Angel tells her he can smell Wesley all over her. This is reminder for the audience as much as Angel that she might be sleeping with a grey version of the good guys, but that doesn’t make her a white hat. What it has done, however, is made her a vaguely lighter shade of grey, made her stronger, and made her better than she was before. I don’t mean better just in that she cares about something other than herself. I mean better like more solid. She’s a better character. It adds layers to her. She has become our very own seven-layer cake over the span of one summer. She cares about something else. She has something to lose, and Lilah hates to lose.

Both of these facets are particularly apparent in “Apocalypse Nowish”/”Habeas Corpses.” In “Apocalypse Nowish,” following the events of “Supersymmetry,” Lilah dresses up as Fred in one of her more recognizable scenes. Yet, though fandom likes to discuss the dress-up scene as sexy or funny, but I can’t even watch it because it is just too painful, and is only made worse when Lilah offers to “wear the glasses again” when Wesley breaks up with her in “Habeas Corpses.” She feels herself losing Wesley to Fred – a woman far beneath her stature in so many ways, particularly from Lilah’s perspective – and so dresses up as Fred in some attempt to keep him from swaying. Now, given Wesley and Lilah’s relationship, I am sure that role playing was something that happened before. However, to claim this is simply a role play is to miss Lilah’s motivations entirely, motivations completely tied up in fear that she is losing Wesley to Fred. She loves a man who at least purports to not love her back and, worse, loves someone else, and Lilah knows it. Wesley never says it, but Lilah always knows. Of course she does. She knows him better than anyone. When Lilah moves to take her fake glasses off, Wesley insists she keep them on, and in that moment she gives him a look of the deepest contempt, because Fred is the only thing in any universe that has ever made Lilah Morgan feel inferior. She is able to do that precisely because Lilah loves a man who loves Fred. Or at least claims to. Different story.

Yet, five or six hours later, when fire is raining from the sky, Lilah is looking out the window in fear, not for her safety – Wolfram and Hart is under lockdown; no one gets in or out – but for Wesley’s. She leaves him a whole string of messages and goes to his apartment to make sure he’s all right. When he opens the door, she look at him like this,



and when she registers he’s all right, she closes her eyes, smiles, and says, with the deepest relief, “Okay.” However, and we’ll get to this in the Wesley section, Wesley has made the decision to break up with Lilah in response to the events of “Apocalypse Nowish,” which have tentatively brought him back into the Angel Investigations team. Thus, Lilah is displaying clear, unequivocal signs of her feelings for him at the same time as Wesley is trying to further remove himself from the feelings he has for her to break up with her and go back to Angel Investigations, a move Lilah sees as being entirely tied up in Fred (WESLEY: I'm choosing a side. / LILAH: And the girl of your dreams just happens to be on it. Hmm. What are the odds?). For Wesley, it’s not so simple. But that in a minute.

Though Lilah’s and Wesley/Lilah’s stories continue beyond this scene, I think this is an appropriate time to switch to Wesley’s side of all of this. What I want the ultimate understanding of Lilah’s perspective to be is, quite simply, that she loved him. And it actually was very simple – she doesn’t seem to think about it or challenge it much at all. It goes against her general mode of operations, and in that respect I am positive that at the beginning of this relationship she has some serious struggles with how to name it, just as I am sure that the culmination of the relationship bet opens her up even further to what it is that she’s feeling. At the same time, she struggles with her perception that Wesley does not love her because he loves Fred. Yet, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Wesley re-enforces her; they are on different sides of the same war, and they do not interfere on each other’s sides, but they bring solidity and safety to each other in a world that had previously shown them lacking both of those things. All the same, and let me be clear, loving Wesley isn’t some magical gift that makes her sunshine and sparkles. He wants to save her, but Lilah doesn’t need to be saved. She is perfectly happy with who she is and what she does – something Wesley, who is always yearning to be the hero, does not understand. This relationship isn’t some ointment to save Lilah from herself. This relationship simply is. It is a flame that lights something inside of them, but does not burn anything to the ground.

It’s never simple, is it? – Or, Wesley’s side of the story


I can talk about Lilah's side forever because she wasn't supposed to fall in love with anything, let alone a white hat, let alone Wesley, and then she did and it was horrible and wonderful and in some ways saved her life and lead to her death at the same time, but Wesley’s side is, admittedly, more complicated. I don’t understand him as well as I understand the other characters, so while a lot of this is my observations and feelings, a lot of it is also from other corners of the internet, largely provided by likeserendipity and eleusis_walks, to help me out. That’s my disclaimer. Wesley’s side of this also requires a lot more analysis, I think, because Lilah’s side is surprisingly simpler. It’s against the rules for her to love him, but she does it anyway because I don’t think she ever actually expects him to walk away. That’s the problem with loving someone. You never expect them to walk away.

He does. But that’s later.

Now, when Wesley factors into all of this, he’s in his sexy brooding dark place. Lilah finds him because she wants to use him to get information on Angel and/or because she thinks he can be turned to the dark. As discussed above, I find her success in this matter somewhat surprising given her previous failures at seduction, but it is interesting to discuss why Wesley allows himself to be seduced, though he would never phrase it that way. Why does Wesley allow for this? On a basic level, Wesley, in the aftermath of the Connor kidnapping, is left with no one. Lilah understands his world of things that go bump in the night. They might be on different sides, but he can be honest with her about the basic day-to-day (or, as he says to Fred in “Players,” “We were fighting on opposite sides, but it was the same war.”) He doesn’t have to explain the collection of medieval weaponry in the closet. Lilah doesn’t pressure him to be one form of Wesley or another – and it does seem, given Wesley’s character arc, that he is often playing one form of himself and unable to play them all at once. As we will see, this changes mid-season four, and Lilah is the direct cause.

The problem, from Wesley’s side, is that it is even more against the rules for Wesley to fall for Lilah than it is for Lilah to fall for Wesley. Further, while Lilah is quite clear with her emotions, Wesley is an exercise in constantly shutting down. That’s how he was raised. Wesley is, at his core, a Watcher’s Boy. That is how he was brought up, and his life post-Sunnydale has been an odd attempt to move past that state while maintaining the enormous amount of knowledge he gained while he was at the Academy, because that knowledge gives him power and place. Falling in love with the enemy is against the rules of that order, and, more importantly, as he regards Lilah, a waste of time. Because Lilah is evil, she cannot love. Because Lilah cannot love, Wesley needs to shut himself off from the love he feels for her. He can do that because he has been trained to turn off emotions for the mission, something Rupert Giles never really learned how to do. But that doesn’t change the fact that he does love her, and he cannot switch it off. His best option is to repress it as best he can and never say it out loud, because, as can never be forgotten with these two, Lilah Morgan isn’t supposed to love anything. From Lilah’s perspective, it’s a rule she can break. From Wesley’s perspective, it’s her default function. He doesn’t think it can be changed. So he works very hard to try and not love her back. He fails, but we’ll get to that later.

This all brings me back to this point: this relationship was not just angry hate sex. In fact, it was rarely angry hate sex. Mostly it was just sex, and while in the Whedonverse that tends to lead to your death, what we actually have here is the portrayal of what was possibly the only healthy sexual relationship in either show. Fred/Gunn, Willow/Oz, and Willow/Tara all also had healthy sexual relationships generally free of problematic ickiness, but those sexual relations took place off screen. Wesley/Lilah puts it front and center as something they both enjoy and are good at, and attaching shame or anger to that intimacy does a serious disservice to the relationship. They teased each other, they snarked at each other, but it stopped being angry hate sex a long time ago.

Now, Wes/Lilah are never fluffy bunnies. He betrays her, but she doesn’t care; she betrays him, and he does care. Wes/Lilah is rarely the forefront of an episode (and when it is I’m the gif listed above), but they always have these powerful scenes that are just so crucial, such as this one, which really illuminates a lot of the problems these crazy kids have:

WESLEY: What was the real plan?

LILAH: Let's just say, I could've had Lorne's brain in a jar, but I left it in his head 'cause he's a friend of yours.

WESLEY: What's that supposed to do? Lull me into trusting you again?

LILAH: If I'd thought you'd ever trust me, I would've never played you like that.

WESLEY: It's never simple, is it?

- “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” (4x04)


This conversation is key in our understanding of Wesley’s part in this relationship. Just as Wesley is the one to call their relationship a relationship in this same episode, he is also the first one to note there is actual trust built here. Lilah laughs it off, but she shouldn’t have. Something irreparable happens here, compounded by the fact that about ten minutes prior to this conversation, Wesley finds the signed dollar bill on his bedroom floor. Lilah knocked it to the ground on her way out earlier in the episode in what was clearly an accident, but Wesley reads this discovery as further proof that Lilah doesn’t care about them at all. But that dollar bill doesn’t just vanish. We’ll get to that later, though.

The next episode is “Supersymmetry.” The episode itself is full of so much damage to Wes/Lilah I can’t even stand it, because Winifred Burkle is not just the elephant in the room when it comes to Wesley and Lilah’s relationship. Fred is the entire herd, and the birds that rest there, each animal squawking away and making it impossible to think or hear anyone else over the noise. I won’t get into Wes/Fred too much here, even though it is quite important to the dissolution of Wes/Lilah, actually, but I will say a little, and much of this comes from eleusis_walkslovely mini-essay on Wesley that everyone should read because he is so smart.

The fandom has known for quite some time now that Fred is the Virgin to Lilah’s whore. That’s easy. What’s not easy is what that does to Wesley. In Fred, Wesley sees the ideal of the hero’s wife, waiting with clasped hands by the doorway until he returns home from battle. When Wesley is removed from Angel Investigations, Fred remains his ideological paradigm, the person he once was and strives to be again. Wesley is on a constant mission to achieve hero-status. He knows he can never reach Angel’s level, but he tries to come close. Fred is part of that vision, and she is as constructed a figure as that hoped-for heroism. I also think, for the record, that the reason why he lashes out in “Soulless” and kisses Fred and gets into that fight with Gunn is not in small part because he misses Lilah and is trying desperately to remind himself that Fred is supposed to be what he wants, just as he is supposed to want this hoped-for heroism.

Lilah, on the other hand, represents his separation from that heroic mission. As eleusis_walks puts it,

All Lilah wants to do is make Wesley understand that he isn't the hero, and doesn't need to put that kind of burden on himself. She can see that his constant striving to be a heroic paragon is what constantly ruins his life. […] Wesley begins to see Fred as his True Love, the maiden in the tower whom he will earn through his heroism. Lilah becomes the despicable temptress existing to make him stray from his path.

Source


Therefore, what separates Lilah and Wesley is, in a stranger turn of events, not her evilness, but his desperation for goodness. His dark period – really more of a beige – is constituted of her, and thus he views the two as inseparable. He doesn’t even tell anyone at AI about her; he lets Angelus share that news. Lilah is the physical representation of all of his shame at his darkness. Therefore, he walks away. He doesn’t want to, I’m sure, but he does. As noted in Lilah’s section, in “Habeas Corpses” Lilah rushes into his apartment because she’s afraid he has died in fighting the beast, and any doubt regarding her feelings on this matter should go out the window. However, by this point, Wesley has been tentatively accepted back into the light, and he cannot turn back. This is when Lilah notes that it doesn’t matter how much white he tries to put back into himself, he will never get anything but grey. Thus inspiring my username. Personal attachment. I made this journal in 2003. I have loved this ‘ship for a very long time.

Anyway. What is most interesting and most tragic is what comes after this. Lilah leaves, goes back to Wolfram and Hart, and is attacked by the beast. Wesley rushes in when she is wounded and near-death and – quite desperately, I might add – gets her out of the building. He tells her to go underground and in that second, it actually looks like she might say she loves him. She doesn’t. He walks away.

However, it turns out, Wesley is worse at walking away than he expected. Not only does he save her in “Habeas Corpses,” in “Calvary,” when he finds out Lilah has been in the hotel, he displays a split-second look of absolute shock – quite uncharacteristic for who Wesley has become. It is a moment of mixed surprise and hope, and looks like this:



Look at that face. He doesn’t even stop to speak. He just turns around and runs after her. And, really, that’s all I need to know about Wesley’s side of all of this. Fortunately for those less obsessive than I, we get a lot more. The entire episode is riddled with the two of them standing together, him defending her, her covering for him. I don’t understand how the rest of the team didn’t realize something was up right away, but they are magnificent liars.

This entire two-episode arc is basically a gift to Wes/Lilah shippers everywhere. Sure, she dies at the end of “Calvary,” leaving me to a lifetime of mourning Lilah Morgan, Fierce Bitch, Esq., but these two were never headed toward a happy end. I won’t linger on the plot of “Calvary,” but I will linger on what comes after, because after “Calvary” comes “Salvage,” and “Salvage” is laying all of the cards out on the table. This is when Wesley’s end of this relationship becomes even more abundantly clear. This is when Wesley finds Lilah’s body in Angelus’ arms and just stops. He doesn’t breathe, he doesn’t run after Angelus as Gunn does – he just freezes. It is the single stillest moment of Wesley’s life. Wesley is then horrified to realize that they have to destroy the body, because they don’t know if she drank from Angelus or not. After a moment, he declares he will decapitate her himself. He does this for a number of reasons. First, Wesley being Wesley, he blames himself for her death and this is his punishment. Second, he’s not ready for her to be dead and he needs that time in the basement to attempt to start thinking in full sentences again. Third, and this is most important, Wesley could not bear for anyone else to do it. He is the one who cares about her; he will be the one to carry out the deed. Anyone else would do it with too much haste, an afterthought without care. So, he locks himself in the basement with Lilah’s body and he seems to be down there for hours. It is certainly long enough for Gunn and Connor to become perplexed and agitated at his absence.

This scene in the basement is absolutely pivotal for our understanding of Wesley’s side of this relationship. In fact, in about ten minutes it removes pretty much any doubt anyone should have about his affections for Lilah. It is one of the few times when Wesley lets us see inside because he is by himself, and when we look into him we see a man so tormented by this jarring loss that a vision of his dead lover starts walking around. I think everyone could watch this scene and get something different every time for every person, but what I want to focus on is this:

WESLEY: It wasn't a relationship.

LILAH: There's a signed dollar bill in your wallet I think proves different. You knew how I felt.

WESLEY: You don't feel.

LILAH: The only true thing I ever—

WESLEY: You didn't love me. You couldn't.


I want to note at this juncture that Wesley has that aforementioned dollar bill in his wallet. He’s been carrying it around since episode four of this season. This will be important later as it has been important before.

What I want to focus on now is the last three lines. Wesley doesn’t just say that last line like You were not capable of love. That’s one meaning, but there’s also the fact that his voice breaks as he says it, and in that motion the line becomes far more than You were not capable of love. It also comes to mean, You couldn’t have loved me, because that means I screwed up. Wesley knows this. This is why ghost!Lilah is walking around in the first place, and this is why ghost!Lilah insists that she loved him only to have Wesley cut her off mid-sentence, the same way he has been cutting off any notion that Lilah could love him mid-thought for months. Hiding reality, refusing to even let his projection of Lilah speak honestly, is the only way to deal with the truth of Lilah’s emotions, a truth he clearly already knows. His return to that comfortable denial is the only way to cope with the body on the table.

This denial has been a constant from the start. He drenches himself in this fact of her status as evil as proof she cannot love, forgetting that love, as far as emotions go, doesn’t take sides. The Buffyverse taught us this back in season two of BtVS, when the Judge almost burned Spike because of the love for Drusilla he had in him. Wesley doesn’t understand that, but part of him does, and that is why ghost!Lilah is still knocking away with reminders that her love for him was the only true thing she ever felt. That’s the truth Wesley yearns for. It is also the truth Wesley fears. Ghost!Lilah sighs, “I guess now we’ll never know,” and that is the quiet sigh of Wesley nestling back into a safer place, even though he already knows how she felt. The only true thing.

The second thing I want to talk about is Lilah’s outfit. When ghost!Lilah first starts walking around, she’s wearing the brown outfit she has been wearing at her death. Then, when Wesley shouts, “You didn’t love me. You couldn’t,” she reverts back into a dark blue suit. I never really processed it when I first watched it – hell, I didn’t process it the first twenty times I watched it, but I was watching it last week and I thought to myself, “Why does she change into a suit? And why is it that suit?”

That suit is an almost exact copy of the suit Lilah was wearing when she first walked into Wesley’s apartment in season three with a copy of Dante’s Inferno. This has multiple levels. First, it shows that the moment of Lilah walking into his apartment, nearly a year before at this point, is permanently branded in his memory. He remembers her outfit. Second, it reminds Wesley of that day and who that Lilah Morgan was – or, how that Lilah Morgan could never love him. The Lilah that walks around in that suit is a far cry from the Lilah who was walking around in the brown outfit. The brown-outfitted Lilah was casual, real. That is the Lilah Wesley knew. The Lilah in a suit, much like Lilah from the time the suit came from, is a foreign being. It’s the demonized Lilah that Wesley carries around with him to try and keep his head on straight. It’s the Lilah that isn’t able to feel that wears this suit. It is this Lilah that reminds him that he couldn’t save her. This outfit is as much a part of Wesley’s coping system as any of the words he says. The fact that the suit is an almost exact match doesn't really matter. eleusis_walks hypothesizes that this just slightly altered memory comes from “trying to recreate it from memory and memory is always just a little bit wrong,” and I completely agree.

When he emerges from that basement he has switched from where he was in “Calvary,” wanting to kill Angelus on sight, to wanting to find Faith to make sure Angel can be saved. I want to know why. Someone more entrenched in Wesley probably could tell me. What I do know is that woman’s death changes his mind entirely and shapes the narrative arc of both AtS and BtVS as well when Faith goes to Sunnydale. In that moment, something changed. He decides to save Angel and knows that only Faith can do so. He directs a group of vampires in Faith’s direction in order to test her - showing quite clearly the steps this man will take for the mission, the hardness in him, the sense of purpose despite potential costs. The darkness in him and that sense of purpose that so defines him have both finally reached a point of clarity. It is no longer a darkness that flounders around unable to pick a direction. He uses it for the mission. He channels himself. He finds his grounding, and he keeps that grounding. His relationship with Lilah, and the loss of her, allows him to do that. And the sheer tragedy in him throughout the rest of the season is harrowing. His burgeoning reunion with Fred stops short almost entirely, and the grief itself is so palpable, particularly in “Inside Out” and, of course, “Home.”

Flames wouldn’t be eternal if they actually consumed anything. But it means something that you tried. – Or, “Home” and season five, when there are no sides anymore

“Home” is an episode I will love forever because it is my ship in its purest form because she’s dead and there’s no time for fooling around with this.

Let’s start at the beginning. Now, before I really delve into this with things you already know because I know bitch I was watching, I want you to recall that gif I posted at the beginning of this. With the flailing and the hands? Now, when I talk about “Home,” I need you to take that gif, multiply it by three, and add this one on top of it:



Okay? Full disclosure.

When Lilah shows up at the hotel, she is, in true Lilah fashion, acting as though she owns this city. At the end of “Peace Out,” the AI gang minus Angel are on their way out of the hotel and, when they open the door, they all freeze. Wesley is standing in the front of the group, says a quiet “Oh my god” in response to the unseen figure in the doorway. He and the rest of Team Angel wait for Angel to return, and when Angel realizes Lilah’s there, Wesley’s response is to say, “She's not here. It's not her. It can't be.” Lilah has been in the hotel for quite a few minutes. Wesley still can’t admit it’s really her. To his comment, Lilah responds, “There's a signed dollar in your wallet that says different.” Wesley does not challenge this because it is true. Wesley still has that dollar bill, tucked away where no one can see it but where he can feel it burning through his clothes and scalding his skin. He’s still carrying it around. She, somehow, knows it. The bet conversation happened, at this point, six months ago. Lilah has been dead for three months. He still has that dollar bill. The one she made him sign as proof.

This episode has Wes/Lilah at their absolute quietest. I love that. I love silent ships. They’re the calmest ones, the most comfortable ones, the ones that don’t need to throw pots and pans around, the ones that simply are. I find it somewhat ironic that Wes/Lilah end up being one of the quietest ships in the Buffyverse in their final, ticking hours. We don’t even need to see that much of them to have a full grasp of exactly how they functioned (see above re: perfect). Wes/Lilah was inherently quiet because it basically was confined to tiny little bedroom spaces where it could just grow, trapped in its own little world completely separate from their other lives. Wesley eventually goes back to hunting demons and Lilah still has Wolfram and Hart and their worlds are separate but they always meet in this tiny, middle place.

“Home” is the first time that silence is dragged into the light. Everyone knows what Wesley and Lilah are to each other, though Fred doesn’t seem the happiest about it (whatever). Everyone else seems to actually be quite respectful about it. But they are a once-quiet relationship pulled into the open and have absolutely no idea how to navigate around each other when A: everyone knows about them, B: she’s dead, C: he’s not over it, D: they don’t know how to say the things out loud that they need to say because they never could quite say it, and E: she isn’t staying. D is the biggest problem. They don’t know how to navigate that. That means that most of this episode is a whole scary amount of passing glances without a word. Lilah is constantly looking at Wesley when she’s talking to everyone, and she stares after him when he walks away from her when he goes on his Wolfram and Hart tour. She stares after him wistfully, and the pain he causes her by telling her she felt nothing plays openly upon her face to his face for the first time. She doesn’t turn her back so he can’t see. She just puts it out there. Death brings perspective. This episode is one of the few times Lilah Morgan looks open, because she’s dead and that does bring perspective.

For Wesley’s part, there’s a good deal of staring going on too, but it is of a different sort. “Home” brings the re-opening of wounds he was still in the process of closing up. Wesley tells Gunn, “You decapitate a loved one, you don't expect them to come visiting,” (emphasis mine; there can be no debate over this man’s feelings) only to try and cover it up by calling his falter “a figure of speech.” Gunn knows better than that, of course, and during this conversation he speaks to Wesley with the calm kindness of an old friend who understands the pain Wesley is going through. Wesley is back in that guarded place, trying to shut down as soon as she steps on screen because she isn’t staying. As soon as she’s done here, she’s going back to hell. She said that as soon as she explained her presence. And Wesley still has that dollar bill burning away. Therefore, everything he does in this entire episode is to lead him down to the records room, aka the site of my favorite scene for all of time ever. Let’s review:

LILAH: I was wondering how long it'd take you to get here.

WESLEY: How'd I do?

LILAH: A little slower than I would have thought... but then you always did like to take your time. So you finally made it. Got behind the facade, and here it is, every dirty, little scheme. Every secret, all that evil, great and small. Just imagine what you could accomplish with that kind of information.

WESLEY: You wanted me to see this. You knew I'd—

LILAH: Die Hard your way up here? Come on, Wes. Who knows you better than me?

WESLEY: Perhaps you don't know me as well as you think.

LILAH: What are you doing, Wesley?

WESLEY: Standard perpetuity clause.

LILAH: You broke in here for my contract?

WESLEY: I'm here to release you from it.

LILAH: Wesley.

WESLEY: You've suffered enough. I want you to find some peace.

LILAH: Gallant to the end...but I knew what I signed up for.

WESLEY: It's done.

LILAH: Look in the drawer.

(Wesley opens the drawer, takes out a paper from the same file)

LILAH: Flames wouldn't be eternal if they actually consumed anything. But it means something that you tried.


The transcripts don’t do it particular justice. You should go back and watch it, because their faces. Lilah is stunned anyone would do that for her, let alone Wesley, who she never thought particularly cared (and why should she, the way he kept circling back to Fred over and over again?). Just as he thought she never particularly cared. And isn’t that the greatest tragedy of all. They just couldn’t say it out loud. Their relationship broke the rules of their previous engagements, but loving each other would break all the rules of the entire game. I could talk about this scene forever, but I actually think it mostly speaks for itself. And, let’s be honest, when I try to talk about it I tend to be reduced to piles of flail, but I will say this: that last line is Wes/Lilah’s epitaph. That is their relationship. Their flame, eternal, did not consume them. It created them as they currently are. It took them from iron to steel. And it means so very much that they tried.

That is the last we see them speak to each other. That is the last we see them look at each other. Angel goes and creates a new reality without Connor, but, despite this fact, Wesley remembers Lilah. We have confirmation of this when, in “You’re Welcome,” Cordelia apologizes for Jasmine killing Lilah in “Calvary.” This is absolutely essential information, because without Connor, Wesley and Lilah’s relationship should not have existed. There are two options for why this is, and they coincide and I think both are true. Option one is that when the Senior Partners re-wrote history, they could not remove the essences of the previous year. miss_mishi, when I was talking to her about this once, said that she thinks the mind makes up ways to remember certain things. There are certain facts, the truths of people, which you cannot take away. Lilah is part of Wesley. It’s not so easy to just cut that out.

Option two is that the Senior Partners left Lilah to re-build those memories, to draw the schematics of the re-structuring as part of her mission above ground because she knows AI best, and would know how to build those memories better than anyone else at Wolfram and Hart. That means Lilah left those memories of her and Wesley on purpose, even though they don’t work out in the timeline if Connor never existed, just because she wanted to. I think she had to. She couldn’t bear to erase that, her only true thing. In season five, Wesley is the only one who feels like something is wrong with his memories. I think this is because of Lilah. It has to be. She doesn’t fit into the timeline. She doesn’t make sense. And, further, if Connor’s not there his memories of Lilah have to be at least slightly tampered with, and that means his personal history and growth have been substantially altered in a way that Fred, Gunn, and Lorne’s have not. Maybe Lilah’s preservation of his memories is a parting gift or a parting curse, but she continues to shape who Wesley is and what he does long after she’s gone.

The only true thing – Or, conclusions.

It seems to me, from my understanding of this fandom, that the general consensus is that Lilah’s side of this relationship is quite clear – which is true, and why I'm obsessed because this changed her on a fundamental level while leaving her essence intact and I love it I love it - but Wesley’s side always seems perfectly clear to me as well. I will obsess forever with ghost!Lilah for this reason, because he is so openly destroyed when there’s no one around to see him, and because it shows that he honestly could never believe she could love him. That goes entirely against her modus operandi, and if we quote Wesley himself in season two, “We're supposed to think a creature like that could change his modus operandi overnight?” But I think it is quite clear that he loved her, just as it is clear that he didn’t want to. He wanted to save her and he couldn't and they were never going to go off into that sunset, but he wanted to leave her a lighter shade of grey than he found her. Perhaps one of their great tragedies, among all their other great tragedies, is that he never even realizes that he did just that, because he couldn't get past the fact that she wasn't supposed to love anything. The fact that she did didn't make sense to him, which is why he denies it up until the bitter end and that's why I love them. When people talk about angsty ships, I often see them say they like angsty ships where the pain is internal, like there is something keeping them apart because of who they are, not because of some odd contrived plotlines. Wes/Lilah is the definition of that.

What we have seen is that Wesley/Lilah is far more than what they (or the fandom) anticipated. It was a true, solid relationship between people who never expected each other, and who were fundamentally shaped and strengthened by the love they felt but could never say aloud. This great tragedy of the piece, this inability to speak honestly, haunts both of them, but it also is intrinsic to who they are. They would not be Wesley and Lilah if they could be honest with each other. Their fear and deception of each other builds them and shakes them. It does not detract from the fact that they both loved each other entirely, horribly, in exactly the sort of way they shouldn’t have. That sort of love gets inside of you and causes earthquakes. Lilah and Wesley ran from it because they’re very human and prone to more faults than they’d like, but at the end of the day what matters is that Lilah knew how she felt and Wesley knew how he felt, and although those words were never spoken, it doesn’t really matter. Because it was their only true thing.



And to the recs. I'm changing the template from them to reflect the format at crack_van a little, because, honestly, it's a lot easier for me to tell you what is good or not good about the fics by quoting them than telling you about them. This is why I am not an English major. I am, however, minoring in copy/paste. I will say that a lot of Wes/Lilah fics are devastatingly short. I also, being me, am not particularly interested in PWP because these kids are more than that, which limits our options in this fandom. You should fix these things by writing fic. Cool.


Fic Rec #1: Five Ways to Have a Happy Ending (And Not One of Them True)
Author: Minim Calibre
Link: http://archive.shriftweb.org/archive/14/fiveways.html
Rating/Warning(s): None

Quotables:

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.





Fic Rec #2 This Is The End Of A Story Which No One Remembers Because It Never Happened
Author: backfromspace
Link: http://web.archive.org/web/20040927030856/www.imjustsayin.net/indemnity/archive/endofastory.html
Rating/Warning(s): None

Quotables:

This is the end of a story which no one remembers, because it never happened.

Unless it did, which is an entirely different ball of wax, but it probably didn't.

After all, only one person on the face of the planet actually remembers any of it happening. And he only exists through some freaky and impossibly simple sequence of events which are, scientifically speaking, completely impossible.





Fic Rec #3: Something Tangible
Author: eleusis_walks
Link: http://eleusis-walks.livejournal.com/24645.html
Rating/Warning(s): NC-17 to be safe

Quotables:

He likes the way she says the name of her firm; Woofram & Hart, the L always dropped somewhere into her soft palate. She never says Wolf, won't articulate it properly. It's a moment at which the mask cracks, when her corporate façade shifts to reveal the working-class girl beneath. Woofram. It's almost a barking sound, and he thinks of her in a dog collar and laughs. As if she'd ever let him hold the leash.

Sometimes Wesley wants to know. Where she got that hard edge to her consonants, where she learned to say wanna instead of want to, why she grew up hard. He can never ask her; that's not what this relationship -- that word, that word, and a dollar bill in his pocket that feels like a tattoo etched into his flesh -- is about. He can never ask her.





Fic Rec #4: Chess
Author: wisdomeagle
Link: http://wisdomeagle.livejournal.com/505854.html
Rating/Warning(s): R

Quotables: (For the record, this is the most bookmarked Wes/Lilah fic on delicious)


Although always difficult, when she is fully clothed and perfectly coiffed, drinking spring water solely to mock his third glass of wine, Lilah is impossible.

"Well? Are you in? Or do you enjoy sitting in an empty apartment all day? Nice view, by the way." She gestures towards the window behind him, and he spins around. Nothing there but an empty, dark sky. He faces Lilah again.

"Are you going to drink it?" She touches the rim of his glass.

"Should I?"

"You trust me, don't you?" She laughs.

"Never," he replies, taking a long swallow of bright red wine.





Fic Rec #5: Lost in Translation
Author: Jaclyn
Link: http://web.archive.org/web/20041009230712/www.imjustsayin.net/indemnity/archive/lostintranslation.html
Rating/Warning(s): None

Quotables:

They will have to release Angelus.

You are sure of this. It is the only way. You will search through every text; you will translate and transcribe until your fingers are smudging blood onto the pages of your notepad; you will prove to them, somehow, that you are right.

You know you are right.





Fic Rec #6: From Beneath You
Author: AmatrixClavus
Link: http://archive.shriftweb.org/archive/24/frombeneath.html
Rating/Warning(s): NC-21

Quotables: (I will say that I think that some of the Lilah in this fic is a little off. But the plot is too awesome to ignore.)

Fuck Angel and his fucking memory wipe anyway. She knew Wes remembered her - she wasn't a lawyer for nothing, and him keeping those particular recollections had been a nonnegotiable part of the deal - but without the memories surrounding it, he couldn't think of her as anything more than a really good fuck, a stupid mistake his compassion had led him to accidentally care about. He doesn't remember the desperation that drove them together, the need to make out of each other one still place outside the rest of the world. He can't remember why he needed her, and she's afraid that makes him despise her need for him. She hates Angel now more than she ever did alive.




Fic Rec #7: Winter Night Phantom
Author: Jenny O. AKA Goddess of everything Lilah Morgan related.
Link: http://jenniferoksana.wordpress.com/2008/08/12/winter-night-phantom-angel/
Rating/Warning(s): R

Quotables::

What was awkward was the fact that Lilah had followed Wesley around the whole time, since the moment he took up the axe to rend head from body and hopefully render her to nothing more than a pile of dust (and had Wesley not taken the slightest bit of grim pride in knowing that he could do what Angel could not, and Darla had not been so dear to Angel as Lilah to Wesley?) to the moment she stood there, lilting and mocking, in the gardens of the Hyperion, all in white. Seeing Lilah was not a shock, because Wesley hasn’t ever stopped seeing her.




Fic Rec #8: Revenant
Author: Jenny O.
Link: http://jenniferoksana.wordpress.com/2008/09/28/revenant-angel/
Rating/Warning(s): PG-13

Quotables:

And was there ever a moment when she did not regret staying behind like a child, like an invalid, like a hated thing to be kept under wraps? She and Cordelia, the wounded birds, the womenfolk needing to be kept safe from the wolf ravening outside the door.

Well, fuck that thesis. The wolf was always, is always, in grandmother’s bed. Lilah should have known.





Fic Rec #9: Seven People in Search of Dreamland
Author: Jenny O.
Link: http://jenniferoksana.wordpress.com/2008/09/20/seven-people-in-search-of-dreamland-angel/
Rating/Warning(s):

Quotables: (For the record, this is also full of many other ships. But the Wes/Lilah in it is perfect, so I'm putting it here.)

Wesley idly notices that her nails are starting to fray around the edges. Without even bothering to speak to her, he takes her left hand and scrutinizes the manicure’s decay.

Interesting. Very unlike Lilah. Two hangnails on this hand alone. The thumbnail is ragged, as if it’s been bitten or broken off, and remains defiantly unfiled, as if she doesn’t care or hasn’t had time to notice. It’s a message, it’s a warning, and it’s driving Wesley mad.





Fic Rec #10: Untitled (I will title this "Five things that never happened in the basement after Lilah’s death" which is actually the author summary)
Author: palmaceae
Link: http://palmaceae.livejournal.com/216454.html?style=mine
Rating/Warning(s): NECROPHILIA but actually. Warning warning.

Quotables:

He lugs Lilah down the stairs, half-carrying – half dragging her corpse. She seems heavier dead than she was alive, or maybe it’s just that he’s exhausted after chasing Angelus around the city.

So Lilah had finally managed to get herself killed. It was bound to happen sometime. Wesley had only risked his life to get her out of Wolfram and Hart and told her to run for it, but no, she was too arrogant to listen, too confident in herself to obey common sense.

But the truth is that Wesley doesn’t really care. He’s past his quota of caring and even if there was a little left, he wouldn’t waste it on her.





Fic Rec #11: If I Make My Bed in Hell
Author: lilith_morgana
Link: http://lilith-morgana.livejournal.com/225272.html
Rating/Warning(s):

Why This Must Be Read: (FAVORITE. FAVORITE. IT IS LAST FOR IT IS THE BEST. THE ENCORE. THE SONG YOU HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR ALL NIGHT.)

And the facts of Lilah – that the absence of her draws blood from his lips when he’s drunk on Wolfram & Hart’s carefully bottled wines and his head aches with stress and Fred and that moment before his father’s corpse dissolved into metal and wires. Her lips kissing a long-forgotten spot along the inner of his thighs, knocking him out. The little quake in her voice – that she hadn’t know he cared, that it meant something that he tried, that he in all his inane gallantry couldn’t ride out the storm on his white horse.




And that's that, folks. Thanks for coming. I will also say because I'm self-centered and such that I wrote AtS fic yesterday that has a pretty decent helping of Wes/Lilah in it, so I'm just going to leave that here.

Thanks for stopping by. :) Go write more fic. I will comment and tell you how much I love you.
 
 
( 76 comments — Leave a comment )
RPowellrpowell on August 31st, 2010 11:01 pm (UTC)
I haven't read an article on Wesley and Lilah in years. In fact the last one I had read was written by Jennyo. This is excellent.
your heart is a strange little orange to peelanythingbutgrey on August 31st, 2010 11:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :)
Rafiki, the crazy baboon: Buffy - Slayerirony_rocks on August 31st, 2010 11:02 pm (UTC)
OMG! YAY!

I look forward to reading some of these.
how long do you have to live, karen?: [angel] lilah cheerseleusis_walks on August 31st, 2010 11:05 pm (UTC)
Beautiful, darling; this was good in the first draft and is awesome awesome awesome now. And thank you for the quotes, and the reccs, and so on and so forth. Love these kids. Love.

Wesley/Lilah is far more than what they (or the fandom) anticipated. It was a true, solid relationship between people who never expected each other, and who were fundamentally shaped and strengthened by the love they felt but could never say aloud. This great tragedy of the piece, this inability to speak honestly, haunts both of them, but it also is intrinsic to who they are. They would not be Wesley and Lilah if they could be honest with each other. Their fear and deception of each other builds them and shakes them. It does not detract from the fact that they both loved each other entirely, horribly, in exactly the sort of way they shouldn’t have. That sort of love gets inside of you and causes earthquakes.

Or rains of fire, perhaps. You have articulated this beautifully; brava.
your heart is a strange little orange to peelanythingbutgrey on August 31st, 2010 11:06 pm (UTC)
WHY THANK YOUUUUU. :D ♥
The Mezzanine: Wes/Lilah relationshipdeird1 on August 31st, 2010 11:53 pm (UTC)
Awesome! And lots of exciting fic I've never read!

*loves*
seaweed and indiana sawgrass: ats; hatesex?sevendayloan on September 1st, 2010 12:18 am (UTC)
This is seriously one of the best things I've read, like, ever. Lilah/Wes is my Angel OTP, and I ship it like the tide's coming in, so I'm thrilled to see any mention of them. Seriously, I didn't know anyone still cared about this ship, and seeing that at least one or two other people do makes me so frakking happy. But aside from all the squee, this was just amazing to read. I love seeing all the detail, the evidence, and honestly, I don't think anyone could walk away from this post not shipping it! The pictures, especially, nailed it for me. Oh, my heart! &hearts

Also, I think you may have spotted some Wes/Lilah fics I haven't read yet, wow. :D
your heart is a strange little orange to peel: ats; to die by your side is such aanythingbutgrey on September 1st, 2010 01:41 am (UTC)
oh, girl, i will fangirl this shit for LIFE. you are in good, good company.

ALSO THE PICTURES DID YOU LIKE THE AUDIO VISUALS? I THOUGHT THEY WERE A NICE TOUCH.
(no subject) - sevendayloan on September 1st, 2010 02:55 am (UTC) (Expand)
crayonbreakygal: Wes Reading is sexycrayonbreakygal on September 1st, 2010 12:24 am (UTC)
This just works on so many levels, you wouldn't believe. OK, you do believe.

I'm glad you brought out the fact that Wesley loved the idea of Fred, not that it was necessarily Fred. It's always bugged me that some people saw Wesley and Fred as destined to be together. He put her on that pedestal. It was never about love for him. With Lilah though, it was in the end. You did clarify a lot of points I've had in my mind too. Thanks for that.

Oooh, fic list. I think I've read most of these. Doesn't mean I can't go back and re-read them. Thanks for that too.
Aimee: ats; you knew how I feltqueensmoot on September 1st, 2010 12:28 am (UTC)
Oh, my God. You know your flailing GIFs? They've got nothing on how I feel right now after reading this. Just perfect. The next time I hear someone hate on these two together I'm gonna have to link them because obviously they just weren't paying enough attention!

I never thought about why Wesley's hallucination of Lilah changed outfits before, but now that you've pointed it out I'm facepalming because OF COURSE, HOW COULD I EVEN MISS THAT. The Lilah in the blue suit was so much harder, for lack of a better term, than the Lilah in the brown outfit. She was Wesley's denial of the Lilah he didn't want to admit to loving, the Lilah he didn't want to admit loved him. I mean his hallucination switches from reaching out to him and telling him how Lilah felt, to telling him that he'll never know how she felt and almost mocking him for being so distraught. She loved him and her love for him changed her, but that knowledge is too much for him to handle so he pushes it down and conjures up a more callous, uncomplicated version of Lilah who's easier for him to digest. And now I'm babbling and rehashing everything you've already said so I'll shut up about it, but I love you for pointing it out!

As for Wesley's energies being more focused after the scene in the basement, I think I might have a theory. Going back to BtVS and the earlier seasons of Angel, Wesley has a very, very strict and uncompromising view of the world; in the BtVS days this was basically 'what the Council says goes', but this changes after his days in Sunnydale, because he's seen Buffy Summers and Rupert Giles fight evil independent of the Council, which ultimately works out better for them than following the Council's orders did for Wesley.

He's fired, he ends up in LA, and here he adopts another uncompromising view of the world; Angel. He idolises Angel, that much is obvious, because Angel's this amazing, self-sacrificing champion, and thanks to him Wesley's important and actually fighting, actually useful. And he loves that and his devotion to Angel replaces his devotion to the Council, and this is indicated very early on in Sanctuary. Those men from the Council approach him and he doesn't even seem to entertain siding with them at all, he's instantly in Angel's corner even though he doesn't agree with Angel's point of view on Faith. And this is what, seven or eight episodes after he first arrived on the show?

But then this prophecy, this thing that's going to tear Angel apart, destroy him completely, arrives in his lap and everything changes. Wes has this horrible decision to make, and of course the better thing to do might've been to share his knowledge with someone else within the group - he doesn't. He decides that he's going to sacrifice his place in this amazing family he's become a part of to save Angel from killing his son. He sees this as a heroic thing to do - he'll be miserable, yes, but according to his worldview the self-sacrifice makes it even more of a heroic act. But then everything falls to pieces even more than it already had, and he finds himself alone - as planned, but without the self-sacrificing hero part.
[continued in next comment]
Aimeequeensmoot on September 1st, 2010 12:30 am (UTC)
[continued]
His worldview's not only shifted this time, it's completely ripped apart and only pieces of it remain. He's confused and angry at himself and angry at Angel and angry at the world in general really - and then this amazing thing happens, and Lilah comes into his life. She's his solace but he fights against that fact at every opportunity (and he's trying to bring his old faith and naivety about the world back; "There is a line Lilah, black and white, good and evil") - and then she's dead, and he clearly recognises what she meant to him. That's something he just cannot reconcile with the worldview he's slowly trying to reclaim. She's gone, though, and when he removes the head of her corpse in his mind he's removing the impact she (and to a lesser extent everything else that had happened recently) had on the way he sees things. Of course it doesn't work because as you said he still has so much darkness and so much pain in him - but he's channelling that into getting Angel back, into getting the man he used to put on a pedestal back. Wesley's always convinced that other people will turn him into a better person (see Fred Burkle, Idolisation of, for another example) and that's his focus on returning Angel - because if he can just get Angel back then everything that's messed-up in his life will start to come back together. IMO, that's his focus; his attempt to reclaim his old self but not quite succeeding, as evident from that dark, ruthless streak he can't quite shake.

I have no idea if any of that makes any sense whatsoever because I've never tried to articulate it before :/.

(Also, are you hopesichord on tumblr, by any chance?)
your heart is a strange little orange to peelanythingbutgrey on September 1st, 2010 01:31 am (UTC)
I AM HOPESICHORD ON TUMBLR! WHO ARE YOUUUU!

i will respond to the rest of this comment in a bit, i just saw that and was like TUMBLR OMG I LOVE TUMBLR because i am an absurd fangirl of ridiculous.
Aimeequeensmoot on September 1st, 2010 01:37 am (UTC)
OMG I KNEW IIIIIT. I'm whinylittlecrybuffy :)
(no subject) - anythingbutgrey on September 1st, 2010 01:40 am (UTC) (Expand)
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chorelle: Angel - Cordeliachorelle on September 1st, 2010 03:22 am (UTC)
Stunning, as per usual.
So very clearly not all about sex. They have so many, so many great scenes that HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH SEX GOD WHEDONVERSE PERVS. Ahem.
Anyway, love this, and def going to read some of those fics too, I haven't read much Wes/Lilah at all, def need to fix that.
also:
WES/FRED KILL IT WITH FIRE
Lol approve =D

Hmm, needs a Lilah or Wes/Lilah icon too...
ever_neutralever_neutral on September 1st, 2010 09:30 am (UTC)
Anyone who doesn't love W/L after reading this is a heathen. Or has no comprehension skills.

And for someone who purports not to 'get' Wesley, you pretty much nailed it. (I say this as a Wesleyphile.)

I also think, for the record, that the reason why he lashes out in “Soulless” and kisses Fred and gets into that fight with Gunn is not in small part because he misses Lilah and is trying desperately to remind himself that Fred is supposed to be what he wants, just as he is supposed to want this hoped-for heroism.

YES. YES. Great insight.

Gah. This meta is 100% worthy of the OTP. *saves to heart drive*
Katiepants: Oh no not me I never lost controlsuperkappa on September 1st, 2010 10:19 am (UTC)
The more meta I read for this series, the more I adore it. I've just finally begun rewatching season 4 (I watched it for the first time a few months ago, and there was so much RAGE I could not see past a lot of it) and though I admit to being more of a Faith/Wesley girl, the more I read about other people writing about Wesley/Lilah, the more I find myself falling in love with it. It's definitely the more interesting of Wesley's canon romances. Wesley/Fred is boring, and frankly the most I can be thankful that came out of that mess was the wonderful interactions between Wesley and Illyria.

I've really been enjoying your fic, and I really enjoy what I've seen of your meta, especially this, and the essay you wrote about why you love Angel as a character.
sockmonkeyheresockmonkeyhere on September 6th, 2010 04:09 am (UTC)
Hi! I, too, think that Wes and Lilah were a great couple, and I loved your essay! I know what you mean about W/L fanfics being devastatingly short; fics about my own OTP, Spike/Fred, are mostly short, too, and few and far between. Wanted to offer you this W/L drabble anyway, though, because even though it's short, I think it's very good...as are all the Buffyverse fics by this author. Hope you enjoy it! :D

http://spuffyduds.livejournal.com/3336.html#cutid1
your heart is a strange little orange to peelanythingbutgrey on September 6th, 2010 01:23 pm (UTC)
SPIKE/FRED! things i ship. fred/gunn is my otp but fred/spike would have been a MORE than suitable substitute. love those kids. back in the day~~ i used to run a fansite for them. i was hardcore. brb nostalgia.

anyway. THANKS SO MUCH! I'll check this out. ♥
sockmonkeyheresockmonkeyhere on September 6th, 2010 07:39 pm (UTC)
i used to run a fansite for them.

OMG, really?!! :D

*flails* WHICH ONE, WHICH ONE? YOU MEAN A SPIKE/FRED SITE? :D

Shit, I remember when about half a dozen of those sprang up after "Hellbound"! I loved them all so much, but then Whedon went with Sparmony and Fresley and killed Fred off and all the sites just kind of folded after that. And then most of the online Spred shippers moved on to other fandoms, and now I sometimes think that I'm about the only one left.

If you ever get a yen to read Spike/Fred fics again, here's a list I keep of all the well-written ones I've found:

http://www.fuzzyshark.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=53

Oh, here's a manifesto for them:

http://community.livejournal.com/ship_manifesto/234351.html

I always liked Fred/Gunn, too, and I was also okay with Wes/Faith. Illyria, on the other hand...I've never liked her, no matter how much I try. Too many people have told me that she's the same as, or as good as, having Fred back, and I have to bite my tongue to keep from screaming "NO, IT'S NOT THE SAME! ILLYRIA IS THE BITCH THAT MADE FRED DIE!"

It just occurred to me, the fic I'm writing now, In Dreams, is about to have Wes/Lilah as a minor pairing in chapter 17. I hope I get their voices right!

http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memories.bml?user=sockmonkeyhere&keyword=In%20Dreams%20(Spike%2FFred%20fic)&filter=all

And kats_meow, aka Kat Leon, has a good Lilah/DarkWes scene in chapter 4 of her Spredfic Good Friday.

http://www.fanfiction.net/s/2242247/1/Good_Friday
(no subject) - anythingbutgrey on September 6th, 2010 08:06 pm (UTC) (Expand)
the business of benefiting hussies: something effulgentmarketchippie on September 23rd, 2010 03:51 am (UTC)
Oh. Elyssa. I. This. These kids. THESE KIDS: I love them, I love that you love them, and how much you love this, and this is complete and completely stunning. I don't actually need to say anything here, because you've got it all in place, but I am going to Quote All The Things, because whatever, necessary, let's talk.

The beginning of this relationship is probably its darkest point

Isn't that fascinating? I love that, and even though I love angry hate sex, I love that that's the only time we see it like that. When s4 starts up, it's this warm spot in the middle of Wesley's self-induced coldness, and he can't help it; neither of them can. We don't see the shift, but we know it, we see the history, it's never not believable (because Denisof and Romanov are genius and godly and my obligatory HOLY FUCK is totally merited: these people, their acting, their nuance, HOLY FUCK). It's pleasure and there are headfucks and they are far more internal than external in ways neither of them, especially Wes, will admit, but the sex is always awesome and they make faces like this:



SO YEAH.

Why isn't there more fic? There's a whole summer's worth of shifting balance that no one's ever seen. Fandom. Check your priorities, because they should be here. Clearly.

That last line is Wes/Lilah’s epitaph. That is their relationship. Their flame, eternal, did not consume them. It created them as they currently are. It took them from iron to steel. And it means so very much that they tried.

YES.

This is so gorgeous and ALSO

THAT LAST FIC

THAT LAST FIC

THAT LAST FIC IS MY FAAAAAVORITE

stars in my eyes. reading it with this face:



I LOVE THEM. I LOVE YOU. COMMENT NOVEL OUT.
your heart is a strange little orange to peel: ats; you and i had everythinganythingbutgrey on September 24th, 2010 02:30 am (UTC)
THE LAST FIC. THE LAST ONE. IT WAS THE FIRST ONE I READ FOR THIS AND I WAS JUST LIKE OMGWHYSOPERFECT WHY IS IT THE ONLY W/L FIC SHE'S WRITTEN OMG.

also yes this entire comment i love it forever and ever on repeat. wesley's such a wreck. he's such a wreck. thank god this meta and eleusis_walks and likeserendipity exist, because now i actually, um, understand what he's doing, and it has always been so GLARINGLY obvious that he loved her and the fact that this fandom, who love wesley above all others, managed to MISS THAT ENTIRELY is not only astounding to me but vaguely offensive. like, EVEN I UNDERSTOOD THIS SHIT AND I DIDN'T LIKE WESLEY AT ALL UNTIL LIKE TWO MONTHS AGO.

i hate this fandom. but i love these kids.
Lilith Morgana: simone!lilith_morgana on November 12th, 2010 10:53 pm (UTC)
(Late comment is late.)

Oh god I love this essay so much. It so perfectly sums up my love for Wes/Lilah.

Just... YES. The way it changes her. The way she's the one who is altered by him, in a world where the love from good women redeems dark men all the freaking time. And the way it doesn't make their story end any better. Oh, Lilah. Oh Wes, you hopeless white knight.

And I am so humbled by the rec of my own fic here, too.
your heart is a strange little orange to peel: ats; you and i had everythinganythingbutgrey on November 12th, 2010 10:55 pm (UTC)
YOUR FIC WAS MY FAVORITE FIC. IT IS STILL MY FAVORITE FIC. I AM GLAD YOU ARE HERE. YES. ALL OF THESE THINGS.

i'm so pleased this comment exists. that fic kind of made you my hero, i'm not even going to lie.
Lilith Morgana: shepardlilith_morgana on November 13th, 2010 10:16 am (UTC)
It made my day reading about my fic in this - and the fact that you like it so much - so thank you. :)
tardis_in_221btardis_in_221b on April 2nd, 2012 04:59 pm (UTC)
Having just rewatched all of Angel, which has reawakened my love of all things Wes/Lilah, it struck me after the last heart-rending moments of their time together that I could now feed my ship obsession with livejournal/fanfiction/tumblr etc. This article is amazing, and brings so much more depth and power to the relationship. The way you put it into words is incredible. I also really enjoyed the flailing arms, I feel like I'm in good company.
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