prufrock, before he got famous (likeadeuce) wrote in worldstage_fic,
prufrock, before he got famous
likeadeuce
worldstage_fic

Title: Am I Out of It?
Rating: PG-13
Description: Lilah and Harmony meet, at a very special training seminar.
Disclaimer: Joss only WISHES he thought of this.
Written for: worldstage_fic challenge, with the quote from Dr. Faustus as the prompt. Also for nevermet ficathon, per bohemiancachet's request: Lilah/Harmony, The Simpsons, a broken cell phone, and a pink unicorn. I did a pretty weak job of including the prompts, but I hope I'll be forgiven, since I included lawyer jokes. Not very shippy.
Thanks to: married_n_mich for beta work; inlovewithnight as usual, for important observations, and bitterbyrden for the location of W&H's OTHER training facility.

This story is, of course, ridiculous.

The masterlist for the ficathon, with links to many less ridiculous stories, is here.


In hell, there's a big hotel, where the bar just closed and the windows never open/
No phone, so you can't call home, and the TV works, but the clicker is broken.

-"Blonde over Blue," by Billy Joel

Faust: How comes it then that thou art out of hell?
Mephistopheles: Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.
-Doctor Faustus
, by Christopher Marlowe

"Now, I just have one last question before we take a little break." Chip, the young motivational leadership trainer, pushed his gold-rimmed glasses back on his nose, set down the clicker that controlled the PowerPoint slide projector, and ran a hand through his full head of blonde hair. Harmony Kendall's chair squeaked as she leaned forward, looking intently from Chip to her notepad, and back to Chip. Maybe this time, for once, she would be the one who could answer his question.

For the past four hours, she had carefully recorded every bullet point of every list and, in color-coded pink, purple, and silver ink, reproduced every flowchart. She now had a record of the Fourteen Habits of Proactive Assessmentition, the Five Steps to Synergistic Marginal Impactizing, and the Eight Keys of Motivational Reparadigmization. She was even pretty sure that she had spelled most of the words correctly.

"A man is driving home from work," Chip began. OK, Harmony thought. Another role-playing scenario. They'd been doing these all morning. "He sees an IRS agent, an Adavantian slime-spewing demon, and a trial lawyer, all involved in a serious accident. He knows that he will only have time to save one of them. He can't decide what to do. Why not?"

Harmony's hand shot up.

Chip sighed. "Yes, Ms. Kendall?"

"Because they're all very valuable members of society, and he can't decide who to save. Probably because. . ." She squinted down at her notepad, where she had conveniently organized the columns into pink unicorn, rainbow, and kitten categories. ". . .because he hadn't been adequately re-prioritizing the relevantness of his Self-actua. . .arialness?"

Chip sighed, once again, his benevolent and long-suffering sigh. "Very close. Very. . .ahh, Ms. Morgan. I see that you have something else to contribute."

Looking down the long row of faces on the other side of the conference table, she saw, once again, the perfectly manicured hand, that came out of the elegantly tailored suit that absolutely had to be a genuine Dolce & Gabbana, and not just this year's. Next year's. Well, it figured. Ms. Morgan had answered every single question, so far. Don't be jealous, Harm, she scolded herself. Jealousy is definitely not behavior conducive to strategerizing a win-win paradigm.

"Why can't the man make up his mind, Ms. Morgan?"

"He can't make up his mind," she said, behind white teeth in an absolutely perfect smile, "Because he can't decide whether to drive straight home and watch The Simpsons, or Seinfeld." Then, smiling even more aggressively, she added, "I'm not a trial lawyer, by the way."

"Of course you're not," Chip soothed. "And we'll all be able to take our break, Lilah, as soon as you tell me: What do we call a hundred lawyers locked in a wine cellar, turned into zombies, and then decapitated by the lovers who abandoned them?"

"We call that, Chip" she answered -- and Harmony wondered if it might actually be possible to break a bone by smiling too hard, "We call it a good start."

And then the lights went up and there was no one in the room except for Harmony and the woman called Lilah Morgan.

*

In fact, there was nothing in the room at all. There was not even a room, just the two of them, standing, in a blazing white emptiness. Harmony raised her hands to cover her face, expecting to burst into flames. But it wasn't sunlight. It wasn't even light so much as . . . not dark. Not anything.

Not anything but Lilah, glaring at her. "Why are you still here?"

Harmony blinked. "Oh, I'm here for the training. It's actually pretty useful. I mean, I'm learning a lot. And you? I mean, wow. I know that jealous behavior doesn't help us to compragmatize our personalityhood, so maybe I could just ask you how you got so good at this?"

Lilah stared for a moment, raised a hand to her forehead. "OK, you can't possibly be real. I'm going to look up and you'll be . . ." She looked up. "Still here." Harmony noticed that she wasn't smiling anymore. "Well, if you actually exist, there's only one explanation." She stepped close and looked straight in Harmony's eyes. "Are you retarded? This is hell."

"Oh." Harmony laughed. "Well. I admit, the location didn't seem ideal at first. But really? It's cheaper than Fresno and much more convenient to L.A." She leaned close and said, confidentially, "Personally, I was hoping they'd send me to the dedicated training facility at the Mall of America, but that's just for . . ." she made air quotes " 'important' people. I mean. . .no offense."

"Believe me," Lilah snapped. "I know exactly how important I'm considered around here. But usually, I'm in this by myself. And by the way? The reason I'm so good at answering the questions, with a smile on my face, is that if I don't, I have to do it again. And again. And. . .you get the idea. But I don't know how I got so lucky as to be baby-sitting you."

"Well, I think it's a totally fabulous coincidence," Harmony gushed. "Do you know a place to get a drink around here?"

"A drink?" Lilah repeated. "With you?"

It was kind of cute. It reminded Harmony of the way Cordelia used to pretend she didn't really want to be friends with anybody, but it was a sign that she totally did. Harmony was really good at reading people.

Then Chip's disembodied voice floated into the room. "Ms. Morgan? There's been some discussion among the Management and, while everyone agrees that your enthusiasm and engagement in training procedures has increased exponentially, there are still some questions about your aptitude for social synergiations."

Lilah's lip curled. "I don't play well enough with others? Fine." She turned to Harmony, and the aggressive smile was back. "I happen to know a wonderful bar."

*

No question about it. This bar was the biz. Harmony's eyes whizzed from the tiki torches to the hula skirted waitresses to the pink flamingo lights hung over the collection of exotic tequilas.

"Oh my God," Harmony squealed. "I can't believe there's a place like this in hell. Oh my God." She clapped a hand over her mouth, and turned to Lilah, mumbling from behind her fingers. "It is okay to say 'oh my God,' here, right?"

Lilah rolled her eyes. "Why not? See if anybody answers to it." She leaned up against the cane and bamboo bar and slapped the counter. "So, Tripp, if I ask you for a well-aged Scotch, you'll just tell me you're out, like the last two hundred and thirty-seven times?"

The impossibly blonde, white-toothed young bartender jerked his thumb over his shoulder. "Didn't you read the sign?" In gold lettering, next to the tequila, it read: ABANDON HOPE, ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE. "Whatever you want? We just ran out."

"All right," Lilah slid onto the barstool. "Just bring me something with an umbrella in it and. . ." She jerked her thumb at Harmony, "Whatever she doesn’t want."

"Tequila sunrise," Harmony chirped, "Only, instead of grenadine?" She raised her thumb and finger to indicate 'a little bit'. "Just a pinch of B-plus."

"Coming right up."

Lilah turned to Harmony, her jaw hanging open. "How. . .you. . .what the. . .?"

Harmony shrugged an apology. She was starting to understand how this worked. "Sorry," she said. "But this isn't my hell."

As Tripp moved on, Lilah rolled her head back and groaned. "So a few years back, Holland Manners got this bright idea to send the whole contracts department on one of those corporate bonding retreats. It didn't last, of course. There were too many dead bodies by the time it was over. But before Holland figured out it was a bad idea, we had to sit through hours of this crap. And at the end of one long day, I happened to mention that my idea of hell was an endless leadership training seminar, run by a guy named Chip who just learned Power Point. And the only place to go was a bar that never had what you wanted. And you couldn't call home because your cell phone didn't work, and everybody told lawyer jokes. Unfortunately, the guy I said it to was Craig in Diabolical Dimension Design." She leaned her head back and seemed to talk to the ceiling. "WHO NEVER HAD AN ORIGINAL IDEA IN HIS LIFE." She rolled her eyes and turned back to Harmony. "So I die, yadda yadda, and I end up in Craig's division and. . .well, apparently I slept with him at one point, and I never called."

Harmony frowned. "Apparently?"

"It's a BIG office, okay? I'm supposed to remember every. . . ."

"Here's your drink," Tripp interjected cheerfully. "Only just remind me. Why don't hellhounds attack lawyers?"

"Professional courtesy," Lilah grunted. She picked up the glass. "What is this? American beer?"

Tripp nodded. "With an umbrella."

Lilah slammed her head against her hand, and then her gaze landed on Harmony's drink, red floating on the surface above the clear ice. "Even with the vitamin splash, that doesn't look half bad. Can I. . .?"

"Sure, just . . ." As Lilah picked it up, Harmony blurted, "I thought you were straight."

Lilah stared at her. "Calm down, little girl. It's just a drink."

"Well, okay, but. . ."

Lilah gulped it down. Then her face reddened and she gagged, choked, and spit back into Harmony's glass. "When you said B-plus, you meant. . ."

"Sorry." Harmony smiled sheepishly, then waved to the bartender. "Can I get another bloody-T, and. . ." she glanced at Lilah. "A shot of Cuervo?"

Tripp looked doubtfully at Lilah, who assured him, "I hate tequila."

"All right," he said, "but we don't have any limes."

"Not even for me?" Harmony simpered, and, leaning over the bar, making sure he could see her cleavage, she added, "None of the bars in L.A. are anywhere near this fabulous."

As Harmony settled back onto her stool, Lilah looked at her curiously, as if she didn't quite know how to respond to a friendly gesture. "You're a vampire and. . .you work in the L.A. office." Her eyes narrowed, comfortable now that she had a new source of suspicion. "You're not the new liaison, are you?"

"What? Me? No, that's Eve." Harmony leaned close to confide. "Eve kind of sucks. Everybody thinks so. Me, I'm Angel's personal assistant. It sounds glamorous and stuff, but mostly I just do his scutwork and kiss his ass."

"Oh, don't tell me Wesley's delegating his important duties." Lilah slammed back the new tequila.

"Well, Wesley did hire me," Harmony said. "He's really not that bad to work with."

"Whatever. I don't want to talk about him." She turned her glass upside down. "There's nothing in here."

"Tripp!" Harmony called. "Be a doll-baby and bring us the whole bottle?" She shook into vampface and added, "Lots of limes!" As she turned back to Lilah, her face melted back into its human form.

Lilah, for a second, was speechless. "That's some trick." When Tripp brought the bottle, Lilah raised it to her mouth. "Fasten your seatbelts," she said. "It's gonna be a bumpy night.

*

Half an hour later, Lilah slumped over the bar. Apparently, Harmony noted, being perpetually undead, or whatever, had not given her a vampire constitution. Also, Lilah's newfound love of tequila was eating into her resolve not to talk about her old love.

"The thing is," she said, bumping her glass on the counter. "That was supposed to be my job. Not. . ." She raised and hand for silence, draining the shot with the other. "Not the Angel-ass-kissing. The liaison thing. It was supposed to be me instead of Little Eva. I gave Angel the keys to the kingdom. I talked him into the deal, set everything up. Next thing I know, I'm jerked back here by the senior partners because, get this, it turns out I have a personal conflict."

"That's too bad." Harmony shook her head, trying to look neutral.

" 'Possible emotional entanglement.' " Lilah jabbed a thumb at her chest. "Me! You know what my conflict was supposed to be?" Twirling her cup on the table, she looked down and mumbled, "Wesley Wyndam-Pryce."

Harmony's eyes widened. "You're Wesley's Lilah?"

"What?" Lilah almost fell off the barstool. Harmony hastily gave her the bottle of Cuervo, to brace herself. "People have been calling me that?"

"No," Harmony said hastily. "No, of course not, I just – I just put it together and. . ."

"But that's the point, see?" Lilah licked salt off her wrist. "Everybody put it together. Including the senior partners. Because Wesley Fuckwit gets the bright idea to. . ." She took a swig straight from the bottle. "Like, I don't know, rope-climb into the records office. With a fucking grappling hook. And burn my goddamn contract." She bit down into the lime and gasped. "Of course, it didn’t work. We both knew it wouldn't fucking work. It was supposed to be a grand fucking gesture or something. And he was standing there, with the burning, and those sort of – psychotic puppy dog eyes, and – well the leather, and the five-o'clock shadow, and my GOD, this red shirt and . .you wouldn't know it to look at him. . .or maybe you would. All that tortured self-control, and the washboard abs, and those hands? It was like riding an Orgasmatron, every fucking time, and I haven't even started on what he could do with his mouth. . ." She took another shot, then looked at Harmony. "You ever knew anybody like that?"

"Sort of. In fact, there's this one. . ."

Lilah soldiered on, ignoring Harmony's contribution. "Just looking at him, and being all new at the walking dead thing, it must have done something to my brain, because I guess I said it was . . .that it meant something. Or something. And next thing I know? I'm back in Corporate Hades, because I'm an unacceptable risk of emotional entanglement. For this whole insane plan to work, apparently, Wesley's head needs to be surgically shoved up Angel's ass. Not like that's such a stretch in the first place. And if I'm there, I'll distract him, and the two of us will get together and take over the world or something."

"Oh," said Harmony, making sympathetic noises. "And you'd totally never do anything like that."

Lilah slammed a fist on the bar. "Damn right I would. And I would have brought him along with me, too. Mr. 'Excuse Me, I Just Remembered I'm a Good Guy.' How long do you think that's gonna last? Especially after the Texas Twig throws him out on his ear, once and for good. Like the woman would know an orgasm from a hole in the ground. If he could even stay awake long enough to give her one. But the point is. . ." Lilah grabbed Harmony's shoulder for emphasis, swaying a little. "The point is, he could have been subtle about it. If he wanted to team up with me, he could have acted like it was no big thing, until everybody's guard was down, and we could have put our heads together. But not Wesley. Did I mention? Grappling hook!"

"Look at it this way," Harmony soothed, signaling Tripp that he might want to bring Lilah some water. "Working with somebody you used to be involved with? It's not as great as you might think. Like there's this guy, okay? I gave him the best. . .bunch of months of my life. As soon as he got recorporealized, he was all, 'oh Harmony, let's go have sex on Wesley's desk.'"

Lilah raised her eyes, as if only slowly understanding that Harmony was talking.

"And then," Harmony went on, "It was just, well, one time. I went a little veiny. My eyes and stuff. What's such a big deal about that? From what I hear, Willow Rosenberg goes veiny every few months, and she tries to destroy the world. Everybody still likes her. But really I think that was just an excuse. What it was really all about?" She leaned close and murmured, "He's a little too interested in Angel. If you know what I mean."

"No," Lilah snorted. "I have no idea what that would be like."

"I mean, sure they have a history and stuff."

"I mean, fine," Lilah nodded. "They saved the world together a few times."

Harmony frowned. "No, more like – cut a swathe of destruction across half of Europe."

"Well --" Lilah paused. "I don't think Wesley ever destroyed anything on purpose. Sort of a shame. If I'd had a few more months, I'm sure I could have gotten him to see the fun of it."

"Actually," Harmony mused, "a lot of the swathing was Darla."

"For the most part," said Lilah, "I think he just bumped into things."

"What's a swathe, anyway?" Harmony wondered.

"Not to brag, but he really blossomed while we were together. Clearly."

"His last girlfriend before me? She was NUTS. I was the only reason he was half WAY stable when he went all gaga for slayer girl. But he would have forgotten her if not for Angel."

"And then he went crying back to Angel, first chance he got."

Looking at each other, they said together: "What's so great about Angel, anyway?"

"We should start a club." Said Harmony. "A club of – people whose ex-boyfriends are Angel groupies."

"I don't know if I've ever been in a club." Lilah put her tequila down, her head swaying, and then she stopped and looked at Harmony, as though seeing her for the first time. "Are you a natural blonde?"

"Why yes," Harmony lied. She leaned closer to Lilah. "I don't know if anyone's ever told you? But you have a very nice neck."


END
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