Early Release

“I don’t understand.” Lilah’s voice is quivering with irritation, held back by – well why is she holding back? Two strides and she has her fingers locked in hair sticky from cheap shampoo and cold water showers. “Listen. You can be back where you came from before the sun sets, and don’t think I won’t do it.”

That gets her a flicker of the restless eyes that have been moving around her office, pausing at each patch of colour, lingering on a painting she hates but keeps because it once got an approving nod from someone so high up he had clouds floating by his office windows.

“And I’m not going back there anyway? Or heading for a nicely painful death?”

“No.” Lilah’s headshake is emphatic and, she hopes, convincing. “We don’t waste people like that.”

He picks up on the unintentional pun and chuckles, rich and dry as red wine. “How economical of you. Very well, dear lady, let me make it clear. I won’t do it. Find someone else – or better yet, don’t.”

“You’ve tried to kill him before,” she points out, slapping a folder onto the bony knees, lost in the shapeless, too-large overalls they’ve dressed him in. “Read them and weep at your failures.”

He pushes the folder off his knee so that the papers and photographs spill like milk and she sees him tense as he glances at them. Doesn’t take much insight to work out what’s caught his attention.

“Good looking, if you go for the buttoned up librarian type, and I guess we both know you do.”

His foot shifts and he covers up the photograph of Rupert Giles with a cheap, slip on shoe.

“Wrong tense, my dear. But I still won’t kill him.” The cuffs he’s wearing, that bind him doubly, clink and clatter as he raises his hands to scratch at his jaw with an awkward grace. “And I’m still consumed with curiosity as to why you want to,” he adds softly.

Her eyes track to the corner and Linwood smiles at her, long dead, still annoying, melting into God, what was his name anyway? The guy from Accounting who walked by when they needed a sacrificial victim and she remembered how he’d nixed her claim for a manicure when she broke a nail typing a report and called him over... Once the cycle starts, it’s going to be a while before they’re back to Linwood, she knows that much for sure. She just prays this is over before her mother dies.

“People – things – want him dead,” she says flatly, staring into Rayne’s dark eyes. “He’s going to be a part of something coming up soon and they really don’t want him to be. They did some digging and it looks like you’re the ideal person for the job. Seems he’s just full of guilt and lust and good stuff like that when it comes to you. Do it right and he’ll be begging you to forgive him as you fuck him. Can’t tell me you wouldn’t get off on that.”

“Rupert begging me? Oh, yes, that’s always amusing,” he says. “Or it was.”

“He still loves you, you know.”

Rayne stands and the crooked, contemptuous smile she gets is like a slap in the face. “If I could believe that, I’d die a happy man,” he tells her. “Sadly, I don’t.”

When she sees him next, he’s between Linwood and what’shisname and he’s still smiling.

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