Walking With A Ghost
[i]The snow that had fallen a week ago hadn't lasted. A brief white Christmas and now the sun appeared to be back with a vengeance. Despite the warmth I seemed to be the only one walking the streets. I glanced down at my watch, it was almost midnight. A whole new year. Maybe it would go better than the last one.
I chuckled and shook my head. I had plans, couldn't spend the entire night wandering about doing nothing. Stretching my arms I picked up the pace, hoping that I would make it before it turned twelve. Luckily I wasn't too far away and with a couple of minutes to spare, I walked into the Bronze.
As anybody would have expected the Bronze was completely packed. Looking round I saw Willow at a table and quickly made my way over.
“Oz! You made it! I thought you were going to be late,” Willow squealed, jumping up and hugging me. I stole a quick kiss before replying.
“Never in doubt.”
Buffy and Angel were also there and we exchanged our own greetings. Xander on the other hand barely nodded and in return I just put my arm round Willow and pulled her closer. A small voice in my head said I was being a bit possessive but I quickly drowned it out thinking of what he had barely a month ago.
Taking a sip of the drink Willow had had ready for me I looked round the club and somehow managed to spot Faith on the dance floor, lining up a guy for a kiss at midnight. I noticed that she had Xander's attention to and it gave me a small satisfaction that he would be alone when the ball dropped.
“How about it?” I asked Willow, gently pulling her towards the dance floor. She blushed slightly but did follow my lead, as did Buffy and Angel as well, though Buffy was having to put a bit more effort in to get Angel to dance. The DJ started a slow song so I pulled Willow close.
“Ten!” The DJ yelled out starting the count down. Willow and I stopped dancing and just stared into each others eyes.
“Nine!” Almost everyone else on the dance floor joined in with the DJ. Willow and I both remained silent.
“Eight!” I reached out a brushed some stray hair back behind Willow's ear.
“Seven!” Willow and I moved even closer together, our bodies practically touching.
“Six!” Out of nowhere a cold breeze blew through the club.
“Five.” Willow spoke softly, all background noise had gone and she was the only sound left.
“Four.” She leans in, pressing her forehead against mine.
“Three.” I look into her eyes and see fear.
“Two.” She's almost crying, something's wrong.
“One.” Willow breaks contact and moves back ever so slightly.
“I forgive you.” She mouths.[/i]
I sit up so quickly that I'm surprised I didn't give myself whiplash. It was just a dream. Nothing more.
“Fuck.” I whisper quietly. “Fuck.”
Despite it being the middle of winter I suddenly find myself feeling incredibly warm. Looking at my alarm clock I see it's nearly eight a.m. and I decide that it's late enough to actually get up and have a shower.
Without trying too much to be quiet, I make my way to the bathroom and set the water running. It takes less then ten seconds for me to realise that a cold shower is a really bad idea and I quickly turn the temperature up. Letting the water flow over me I just empty my head and think of nothing.
“You okay in there?” Nix yelled, banging on the door and jolting me out of my blissfully unaware state.
“I'm good.” I yelled back, hoping that she'll leave me to it and go back to bed.
“You sure? she asked, “I could hear you yelling in your sleep.”
“Probably just hungover. I'll be fine.” I replied, almost praying for her to let it drop.
“K. No worries.”
I breathed a sigh of relief until I realised that my hangover excuse was no less of an excuse and more of a reality. I leaned back and immediately hit my head against a wall making my headache even worse.
Concentrating I tried to remember what had happened last night. It had been New Year's Eve and in an attempt to perk me up Nix had insisted that we go out and celebrate. She had dragged me along to this bar where we had spent the night drinking far too much. I hadn't much been in the mood for socialising so Nix and I had spent pretty much the entire night in a corner on our own apart from the countdown where I was virtually dragged out for a New Year's dance. For good luck I think Nix had said.
“You kissed her too.”
I spun round at the sound of the voice and saw Willow standing there, as though nothing could be more normal. Unfortunately while spinning round, I slipped and ended up hitting my head for the second time in as many minutes. Willow grimaced.
“Ow. That had to hurt”
“You're not real.” I stated, trying to focus on eating my cereal. Luckily Nix had gone back to bed so I was left alone in the kitchen with whatever the hell happened to be haunting me.
“So, are you going to say something? Or are just going to keep on being really boring?” Willow asked, sitting on the kitchen table and pouting at me.
“You're not real.” I repeated.
“Is anything?” She shrugged.
“You're not.” I insisted, as though she'd disappear if I said it enough times.
“Are you sure?” She smiled and picked up an empty mug from the table. Then she dropped it. With a quiet crash it hit the floor and broke into several pieces, one of which hit my foot.
“What are you? I asked, “If you're not just a figment of my imagination.”
“I'm a ghost.”
“Willow's not dead.”
“Who said I was Willow's ghost?” She asked, seeming genuinely surprised that I had thought that. In response I just gave her a pointed look.
“Oh! Right. Maybe I am your subconscious then.” she smiled, making it very obvious that she didn't think that was the case.
I studied her for a minute, she did look like Willow but there were differences. This Willow's hair was shoulder-length while the real Willow had never had hair that short. The clothes were wrong too. She was just wearing jeans and a plain purple hoodie. It suited her but once again it wasn't something that the real Willow would wear.
“You didn't get looking like her quite right. Close but not there.”
“A girl has to have some individuality, doesn't she?” She grinned at me, again in a way that the real Willow just wouldn't do.
“So who are you then?”
“Maybe I'm her evil twin. Skippy, she laughed out loud at that one, “You're not asking the right questions.”
I paused for a moment. She had let slip that there was a reason why she was here.
“Why are you here?” I asked.
“Why do you think Oz? She spoke softly, with tones of pity in her voice. “You killed someone. Do you really think that's not a big deal? That you don't need help?”
“Really? Emotionally bullet-proof or some such rubbish?” She raised her voice, letting me hear the scorn in it.
However before she could continue, Nix announced that she was properly up by shutting her door without much care. As was her normal routine she headed straight for the kettle and started to make herself a cup of tea.
“Do you want one?” Nix offered, making no mention of Willow.
“I'm good, thanks.” I replied, holding up my mug of coffee. Nix turned to face me and leaned against the counter.
“Couldn't sleep much last night?” she asked.
“You should talk to her, said Willow, “She'll help.”
“I don't-” I started to raise my voice at Willow before I remembered Nix couldn't see her. I took a deep breath and started again.
“I don't sleep much normally, no big deal.”
“Liar.” Willow said.
“I've been there, you know? Nix said, “Pretending nothing happened doesn't help.”
“I'm fine Nix. Really.”
“I just want to help Oz. That's it.” said Nix.
“By holding a gun to your head?” Willow asked.
“This doesn't make you a bad person.” Nix said.
“What would? I asked, “What would tip me over the line? Killing someone? No, done that.”
“It's not black and white Oz, Nix replied, “You did the right thing. Fromm was scum.”
“Why was Fromm scum? Did he hold guns to people's heads? Make them kill people?” I yelled at Nix and threw my mug at the wall beyond her. She flinched as it broke behind her.
“You signed up for this!” Nix yelled back.
“I didn't sign up to be a murderer!”
“What the fuck do you think Wisdom meant then?”
“Not this.” I stopped yelling, trying to get a hold of myself. Nix I noticed was doing the same.
“Fromm doesn't have a family, Nix said, “Not even a wife.” That caught me by surprise.
“Why didn't you say something then?”
“Because he'd still be scum if he did. You need to trust that we're going after the bad guys.”
“You still don't need me to kill them.”
“We needed to know if you could. It sucks but you are doing the right thing. By killing Fromm you saved hundreds of children from hell. You stopped guns being supplied to child soldiers in Africa. You are still a good person.”
“Maybe. But now the floodgates are open.”
“Doesn't work like that.” Nix shook her head.
“I know, Nix smiled at me, “I've been there, remember?”
It was only an hour later, while I was cleaning up the mess I had made arguing with Nix that I realised Willow had disappeared during the argument. Maybe she was just a figment of my subconscious after all. She had helped me clear the air with Nix, get everything out in the open.
Having been cooped up in the apartment since we had returned from Russia, I was now in the mood to get out a bit and enjoy what passed for warm weather in England. Grabbing my jacket I left the house and headed for the river.
I walked alongside the river for a while before stopping on a bridge and just watching the few boats that were about today. After about five minutes I felt rather than saw someone join me.
“Haven't seen you out and about for a while Danny boy.”
“Not really been inclined to Pete.” I replied turning to face him. Expecting Wisdom to crack a smile like he normally did, he instead offered me a cigarette.
“It's always hard, kid, he said “but you are doing good, even if it doesn't seem like it.”
“You gave the order.” I stated rather than asked. Pieces were falling into place.
“Aye, I did. We needed to know if we can trust you to do what's needed. For the greater good and all that.” He nodded.
“I didn't want to be a killer.”
“Nobody does. But sometimes you need to be.”
“For the greater good.” I responded, half-sarcastically.
“Aye, that's right.” He chuckled. Having decided that our talk was done, Wisdom turned to leave.
“Does it get any easier?” I asked.
“Not if you're lucky.” He replied before walking away.
I turned back to face the river, trying to once again lose myself in the movement of the boats when I felt someone lean next to me again.
“You're still not asking the right questions Oz.” Willow said.