One Last Time
by Jennifer-Oksana

"and I think I could leave your world
if she was the better girl
so when we died I tried to bribe the undertaker
cuz I'm not sure what you're doing or the reasons--"
Tori Amos, Honey

So you finally bothered to bury me properly. I didn't really think you were going to, Wes. After all, you were Mr. Lizzie Borden for me, making sure that I didn't "rise" and ruin your best day ever. How could it not be a good day? After all, you knew Fred was so jealous or freaked about you and me that you had her, and then I was eternally out of the picture? Not only that, you got to use a big phallic tool to sever that damn neck of mine, which must have made all your dark impulses tingly. Couldn't have sucked too badly, Angelus or not. I know you, and I know what you want, and it was to have Fred without me anywhere nearby. Well, you got what you wanted, and the blood came right out, I hear.

Yeah, Wes, I'm still a little fucking bitter that you packed me into a shallow grave and used it to get the Twig into bed. (Impressive work, by the way. I couldn't believe what a nasty mouth that one had on her when you finally got those spindly knees apart, either...of course I watched. That's what the dead do. We watch, and I keep both eyes on you when I can stand it.) Not that you'd know about anything, because you're so damn dense you can't hear me even when I'm screaming as loud as ghosts can scream. I heard the little dialogue you had with "me" before you hacked my head off. You're delusional. Just fyi.

Thanks, by the way, for finding consecrated ground to lay me in, six months after the fact. And yes, that's sarcasm, babe.

No one up here knows what to do with me. I was a very bad little girl. I do believe the official word on the subject was, "wickedness beyond wickedness, and without even a belief in the importance of your work!" or some gibberish like that. They really hate the faithless. It doesn't matter if a woman's good or evil, as long as she believed. I didn't believe in anything. I upset them.

But here we are, you and me and me and you, and thank God (who doesn't exist) that the Texan stick insect managed to stay away even though it would have been very relationship-building for you two to share closure over my moldy corpse and the modest yet attractive headstone you bought.

I don't know, Wes. Maybe you're finally waking up to the part where it's not classy to use my corpse to further your relationship with a woman I despised--or any woman, for that matter. Though I could maybe forgive you--you stupid, stupid man, do you even realize how much I was in love with you?--if it were anyone other than Fred.

She's not special. She's really not. She's not better than me. I never killed someone for revenge. Remember that. And she's bad for you. I say this both as your bitter ex-girlfriend and as someone who knows what bad relationships look like. For someone as supposedly smart and sassy as Fred, she sure as hell loses all her spine when she's got a man. Did you know that she really hates the way you go down on her? I bet you don't, because she pretends to be into it. But she thinks you're too into it and it's a little nasty. Which is strange, because otherwise, you're not nasty enough.

But you don't know, do you, Wes? Because you're so obsessed with pleasing her, and she's so obsessed with making you feel like you are, that you don't see that it's all a sham. That's the kind of girl she is. And that's just not good for you. If there's one thing you don't need, it's coddling, and Twiggy coddles you like a spoiled six-year-old. Makes me laugh just to think about how you're already secretly finding ways out of this one, because she meant SO much to you.

To think, she's the one you loved best, right? The one who ruined your relationship with Gunn (poor bastard), the one you knew was so much better than me, and it isn't going to last six months. I'd lay money down in Vegas on that. She's going to break up with you, and maybe end up with the Wiccan. To which I say, ha. You made her gay, you son of a bitch. And I feel you deserve that.

We lasted six months. Start to finish, it was six months and three days. I guess it depends on when you considered it to be over. I think you could argue that it was the day you told me it was never simple, the day I failed the test I never knew I was taking.

I meant what I said. If I thought--if I'd known--fuck, Wesley. Did you not get the part where I was happy? Where I thought--you fucked me over pretty hard with the Angel and Justine thing, babe. I thought it meant we were open season, that it was part of the game. And I didn't kill him. I would have, in days gone by. But I wanted us to stay happy. I thought it was just part of the game.

I was so happy. Pathetic, isn't it? I spent pretty much my whole life trying to get all the things to be happy and I was doing a good job being content and then YOU. You and your damn slit throat, which led to me getting played by Holtz, which led to my disgrace at Wolfram and Hart which led to me trying to seduce you which led to you seducing me which led to us, all of which went to shit in the end.

Which just goes to show that fucking the good guys is always a bad idea. I knew that--I was a regular visitor to, and I actually would run ideas by my five-year-old niece until my sister told me to stop--and yet I did it anyway. I must have been really desperate.

Let's be honest: I was really desperate.

And you smelled good. Like alcohol and sweat and man and old books and I hadn't gotten any for six months before that first night. I almost came when you choked me (damn breathplay fetish), which should give you an idea of my levels of desperate.

So now here we are. You staring at my headstone like it matters, and me trying to get your attention any way I can. It's just like it always was. And you're just staring at things. The sky. My name. Yes, Wesley, my name was really Lilah Jean Morgan, I was really born on April 14, 1969, and I really died on January 28, 2003.

That's young. When I think about it, it makes me sick. Thirty-three is young. We were about the same age, weren't we? And I just think, my God. If it weren't for the knife I took to the throat (fucking Cordelia), I could have lived sixty more years. Maybe seventy. It's like two-thirds of my life just disappeared. Melted away.

I want it back so badly I could scream. If I had vocal cords.

And you, who have vocal cords, finally decide to use them.

"Why didn't you go when I told you to go?" you say, and there's that roughness that I remember you having in your voice when you were really upset. "Why didn't you go to your mother's? Hide somewhere? We destroyed the Beast the day after you died, Lilah. If you'd just stayed away another day--"

Wes, if I'd stayed away another day, the whole world might never have recovered. (Silly bastard. Why do you think I'm not in Hell right now? My last day on this godforsaken planet saved humanity. You got the book, Angelus got out so he could kill the Beast, and it's because Cordelia finally knifed someone with that damn Beast-bone monstrosity that you realized she was...not quite right.) I did what ended up being the best thing.

Even if it hadn't worked out the way it did, do you really think I'd run? Damn you for underestimating me. I'm not a runner. I'm not a coward. I prefer my pretty things and money and luxury, but I didn't grow up goddamn white trash from Modesto and not learn something about surviving at any cost.

"I suppose you couldn't," you say, like you can almost hear me. "I would have found you, you know. If you'd gone. Maybe I would have waited a year or two--and come with Fred--but after the battle. But I would have found you and we would have talked. Figured things out."

Oh, God. I can't hear this. Damn you, damn you, damn you, Wesley. I am slowly getting over you (things take longer when you're dead), I was going to move on, get my time in the summerland before getting my next (and probably rather brutal and tragic) life to make up for this one, this waste of a life, this life that you and yours stole from me, this life that me and mine stole from the woman I might have been. Don't remind me why I was so happy. Why I fell in love with you anyway. Don't do this to me.

"I miss you," is what you say next and if I had knees, I'd probably fall to them, begging you to stop. "Even after all this time. I love Fred, Lilah, I love her more than I could ever explain to you, but you were right. She doesn't--you knew me best. And I don't know what that says about me."

It doesn't say a damn thing about you, Wesley. It says everything about me and Fred. Maybe she is the smarter girl. I was supposed the big scary femme fatale, and I was the one who couldn't figure out that sex doesn't equal love. Not even good sex. Maybe it just says that I wanted you to save me and I was too stupid and proud and hating of what that meant to tell you.

I don't know. I don't know anything anymore. I don't regret who I was, Wesley. But I would have changed (slowly but surely), if I thought it would have changed anything.

Without a skin to hold them in, emotions tend to boil over without much provocation. The dead are all in need of serious counseling and maybe Prozac-flavored water of Lethe. It's not good to linger too long, you know. I should be long gone, watching the whole world and what it means, and I'm still here, hopelessly in love with you.

It's a small thing. But I didn't have many big things. This is not--when your time comes, Wesley, you will understand. This is not a world full of large and awesome things. We tend to miss the part where they're staring us in the face, because there are so many small and shiny and pleasant things. People tend to cling to what's comfortable. I know I did. I even knew the large and awesome things were there and I preferred the banality. I measured out my life with coffee spoons, knowing that it was a sham.

Probably why the guys upstairs can't figure me out. I have seen the face of the eternal Footman snickering, and in short, I yawned. To quote someone other than Yeats for once. I used to like Yeats. Stupid apocalypse. Can it only have one poet at a time?

"What would have happened if I'd dragged you back to the hotel and dared Angel to do something about it? Someone would have strangled you, I suspect, but I--if I truly believe in redemption, then you were the test of that."

Tests. Always tests with you, Wesley. This is why you're fucked when it comes to women. What about the tests you failed? Why are you the one making the tests? What the hell? Maybe when Fred leaves you, you'll get it. Probably not. You'll just find another one, long legs and dark hair and fascination with that billowy coat king of pain shtick you stole from Angel.

"Hello, Lilah," you say, jarring me. What has he heard? When did he see me? Does he have any idea that I--oh, God. I am very much in danger of being as much in love with him as I ever was. "Have you been standing there long?"

"Longer than you could ever guess," I answer, sitting down atop the dirt. "Did you get permission to visit from Freddy Thin Boyle?"

"I see you're still quite yourself," you tell me, looking slightly regretful. "Did Wolfram and Hart give you the day off to visit?"

"Wolfram and Hart don't own me anymore," I explain. "I'm sort of the pain in the ass to both sides of the fight. Clearly hell-bound, but I did provide the means to save the world. It's a weird situation."

I've been following you around for six months. Doesn't get much weirder than that, babe. And yet you stand there, take off those damn glasses which you don't need, and put them away. This is sort of heartening. It's like you're my Wesley and not hers.

"You look well," you say. "I rather don't know what to say."

"Tell me something I don't know," I answer, looking up at you and wondering what's going to happen to you when I move on. When I nudge you away from stepping in front of cars. When I flip a page or two in your research, or just keep an eye on you in general. Not that I'm a benign guardian angel. It certainly wasn't your fault you poured salt into your coffee for a week straight after you fucked Fred the first time. Or the time Fred slipped in the shower when she was about to go down on you.

Hey. I know who I am, and that doesn't change with death. And I know who made me happy. And that was you, and you know it.

"I wanted you to be okay. I wanted to find you because I thought maybe without Wolfram and Hart--I wanted you to live. Because I cared," you say, and if I could, I'd do something to you. You loved me? (and fuck cared, cared is repressed British for love.) Well, that's something that not only did I kind of know, it's nothing I needed confirmed. Because what the hell good is your love six months after I'm dead and the last thing I need is to know you did? It gives me hope, and the dead don't need hope. It just makes things harder, you selfish, hateful son of a bitch.

"I--" and it's so hard. I can't do this anymore. Following him around, hoping. Knowing that he cared. What does that matter? I'm dead. I'm something less than what I was. I have this chance to do it better the next time around, and I need not to waste another fucking second on you. "I don't think you did. I think you used me to feel better about you, Wesley. Alive or dead. You knew how I felt."

"I know."

"Then you know that I shouldn't forgive you," I say, standing up. "You and women, Wes. We're not your goddamn mother. You can't take and take and take and expect it to work out."

"So death has made you an expert on relationships?" you ask nastily, and I can't do this. I should just fade out, follow you around until I can't take it anymore, or the Powers decide I'm the pathetic stalker ghost of the century and have a little mercy on me.

"Just you," I can't help but say. Which is again, the truth. For a professional liar, murderer, and wrongdoer, I've done more than my share. "And you're a piece of work, Wes."

And what do you do? You do it again.

"I'm sorry," you say. I think you'd touch me if you could, try to comfort me. Maybe to make up for the time you didn't when the sky literally fell. Maybe because you still care. Maybe because you did learn something from what happened between us. "If I could make it right between us, Lilah, I would. As it is, all I can say--"

"You don't need to. I said I shouldn't forgive you, not that I didn't," I say. "It's you. I'm kind of a sucker when it comes to you. Even dead."

You nod. "And so what is this? Closure? Acceptance?"

"Why are you asking me? I'm dead, not wise," I say irritably. "If I were a smart dead American, I'd have moved on. But here I am, a ragged ghost hanging to the tatters of an almost-relationship because I didn't have anything else. It's stupid and funny and wrong and strangely important. This is us in a nutshell. You know how it goes."

"You--me--broken furniture." And I jump at the memory. Are you trying to seduce me? Because Wes, that's the one thing that doesn't get to happen. We can talk, we can make up, we can find peace, but the story doesn't get to end that way. Death is very long and more importantly, death is very final. I'm not Jesus and I'm not Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Chances are, I'm dead to stay. "Can you come home with me?"

I've been home with you for six months. Idiot. God, I love you, you damn idiot. "Won't Fred be angry?"

"She's gone for the weekend. And I think there are things that need to be said." And you just don't even get it? You never would. I don't even have the words. "Please come with me."

I can't tell him the truth. Whatever he's expecting, he won't find. But he's Wesley. And even dead and free of all the things I knew were going to happen to me after death, he's got a hold on me.

And so I tell him the truth, neglecting nine-tenths of it.

"I will. Because I think that would be...nice."


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