Miss Ghost
by Minim Calibre


The voice in his ear didn't startle him anymore; it didn't even cause him to look up from his book, no matter that the book was a less-than-accurate demonology text he'd looked at often enough he could practically read the words with his eyes closed. Perhaps it was more about not allowing her the satisfaction of an immediate response. He flipped the page and counted to ten in a half-dozen languages before acknowledging the greeting.

"Lilah," he chided. "Really, is that the best you can do? Just a cliched 'boo'? You're slipping."

He focused on the entry in front of him and tried his best to ignore her, even though it never worked. Still, if he didn't look in her direction, he wouldn't have to watch her shrug her shoulders and toss him one of her cool, smug smiles. He wouldn't have to see the crimson swath that colored her neck and blouse like a tattooed scarf. He'd once asked her why she didn't bother to clean herself up, even though she changed outfits with every apparition. She told him blood was the new black, and he let the matter drop.

"Come on, Wes. It's not like I'm haunting you to scare you. If I was, I think I could come up with something a little more clever than a friendly 'boo'."

"If it's not to frighten me, then why do you persist in bothering me?"

She laughed, the sound coming from somewhere entirely different this time. It was disconcerting, talking to her and not being able to tell just where in the room she was. It always left him feeling disoriented as her voice slipped around corners and through cracks, so reluctantly, he lifted his head and met her eyes. He could see her mentally tick another mark in the Lilah column; even with one of them dead, they couldn't seem to end their games of one-upmanship.

"You got me killed. Maybe I just want to exercise that big guilt muscle of yours. Besides," she smirked and leaned in so close that, had she been real, or at least alive, he'd have felt the warm heat of her body and smelled the sweet musk of her perfume, "you like it when I bother you. It means someone's paying attention to you."

He glared at her, or rather, through her--she was slightly transparent at close range. "I don't need you for that, Lilah."

It seemed she wasn't the only one easily seen through. She laughed at him again, the sound echoing rich and hollow in the room. "I'm in your head. Aren't you forgetting that I always see you, Wes? When you're sleeping, when you're awake, when you're alone--oh wait, I covered that one with 'always'."

"You're a veritable St. Nicholas, as you've gone to great pains to establish. What will it be, a switch or a lump of coal?"

"You'd just love the former, wouldn't you? And after all the trouble you went to trying to be good."

He set the book down with care, then stood and walked to the kitchen, knowing full well she'd follow him, wishing she wouldn't. The bottle he sought was already on the counter, three-fourths gone. He'd only had it a week; if her death hadn't driven him to drink, her continued presence in his life most certainly had.

"I'd offer you one, but given your nonmaterial state, there wouldn't be much point to it." Still, he poured himself enough for two. "If you must insist on haunting the person who killed you, why don't you go bother Angel, as he is the one who did the actual deed?"

"Still looking to shift the blame? Who was it who came up with the bright idea of bringing Angelus back? Gee, that would be--you. Oh, but as usual, you thought you were doing the right thing. Hope you plan to have those words inscribed on your tombstone."

A palpable hit. He felt a muscle in the side of his jaw start to twitch and took a long swallow of whisky. "I'm not," he said slowly, "the one who didn't take my advice and leave town when she had a chance."

"Did you ever ask yourself why that was?" Her voice was sharp and mocking.

"Hmm. Could it be you thought that you could somehow work an apocalypse to your advantage?"

It was, he thought, at least partially true. Though perhaps not in the way he wished it were. Lilah staying for her own advantage made him more comfortable with the outcome than the alternative, even if it was only a slight alleviation of his guilt.

"You mean like you thought you could do with the Twig? You know why I stayed." The fondness in her gaze cut him more deeply than mockery or truth. "What's the matter, Wesley? Don't you want to hear just how lovable you are?"

He wished the sneer would come back to her voice, anything but this hint of caring and concern, carefully staged for his detriment. "From someone unabashedly evil? Not especially, no."

"Worried what it says about you? Other than that you chose the wrong side, of course. Or is it more that you worry that only evil things can love you? Could that be why you wanted Angelus back? You have to admit, it wasn't exactly a shining moment for you" Perhaps he shouldn't have wished for the sneer, after all. "They all still wonder what your motives were, don't they? Even Fred. Must hurt, after everything you've done for them."

"What's it going to take to get you to shut up, Lilah?"

"Well, chopping off my head didn't work, so let me think. How about an apology? Tell me you're sorry again, and I'll go away." She paused, arms crossed and brows raised, staring at him as he walked back to the couch. He fancied he could feel her gaze even with his back to her. "No? Well aren't you just the long-suffering misunderstood martyr tonight."

He remained mute, settling back in his chair and re-opening the discarded tome. Absently, he noticed that it was upside down. He didn't bother to right it; they both knew it was nothing more than a prop in their show. Wesley stared at the page, the misaligned words turned to cryptic symbols. Perhaps this time, he should call her bluff, but then perhaps this time, she'd call his and make good on her word.

"I'm not going to apologize for a mistake you made of your own free will," he answered at last.

He didn't want to lose her. Not again.


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