TITLE: The Game Of Life

AUTHOR: Erin Giles

RATING: R for violence

SUMMARY: Sometimes there are no second chances in the game of life, and sometimes they're like a bad dream you missed somewhere along the line.

DISCLAIMER: Not mine... not even Wesley... or Wesley's wellbeing... and lets face it if Wesley was mine is it likely that he would be dead now?! I think empatically not!!

Everything was a game with Lilah, even life and death was a game with her. And this, their "relationship", even that was a game to her; a dirty little twisted fantasy of a game that Wesley should have put a stop to long ago. He played the game for all it was worth and now he was nothing but part of her game, a player, being played. He laughed out loud, possibly nothing more than piece on the broad game of life, most likely a piece that the dog had chewed, spat back out and had been left where he had landed under the sofa.

"Something funny?" Wesley blinks, he had forgotten she was still here, how he could do that when she was still lying in his arms he didn't know, but suddenly he didn't want her here anymore, because this was wrong. He didn't like being played; he wasn't that kind of man. Nor was he the kind of man who slept with the enemy. Yet, was she still the enemy? Had he chosen a different side? Or did he now drift somewhere between the two, not sure where he stood anymore. All morals and values out the window, up the creek with out a paddle and every other analogy he could think of to describe his current predicament.

"Get out." He said eventually, his voice void of all emotion. Lilah Morgan just blinks at him, insulted she may be, but she is not about to show her true colours. She slides from the bed like it is her decision to go and not his bidding.

"Finally found that conscience of yours Wes? Or is it just a fleeting glimpse of false hope?" The last word is intended with malice, and the 's' rolls off her tongue like she's a serpent ready to go in for the kill. Something in her holds back though as she slips into her wrinkled skirt and silk blouse. Her parting shot holds no punches though.

"Wouldn't leave the phone off the hook too long Wes, Angel might call."

Something in Wesley just snaps and he's out of his bed in one bound, across his apartment and has slammed the door just in time to block Lilah's exit. She jumps, startled by his sudden appearance but soon composes herself.

"What's the matter Wes? Did I rattle your cage?" Her words that might have followed are cut into an abrupt halt as he pins her against the wall by the throat. The wall shuddering beneath the force as he faintly hears a gasp from Lilah's constricted lungs, Wesley no longer in control of himself.

"I don't want you coming back here again." He rasps out through gritted teeth, "You and your little law firm will get nothing out of me anymore, and I will swear no allegiance to your insignificant corner of the world that you think you own." He slams her into the wall again, just to make his point clear, "Your not welcome in my bed anymore Lilah. I suggest you try your luck on the street corner somewhere." With that he pulls his door open sharply, flinging her out into the corridor before slamming the door behind her. She sits on the carpeted floor for a moment before she notices Wesley's startled neighbour standing across the hallway that has just seen Wesley Wydham-Pryce an upstanding gentlemen throw a partially dressed lawyer out into the hall while in the nude. Lilah ignores the woman and pulls herself to her feet, glaring at Wesley's door as she does so.

Lilah Morgan is deeply hurt, but will never show it. She has been humiliated and shaken and no one gets away with that, because Wesley is right about one thing; Her little law firm, no matter how insignificant to Wesley, do own this corner of the world.

It's 3am on a Thursday night in downtown L.A. when Wesley next lays eyes on Lilah Morgan, only it isn't exactly Lilah he meets but a package that has her name written all over it,

"We've got a message from a friend."

"I don't have any friends." Wesley says as he keeps walking, his drunk sway almost unnoticeable.

"A lady wanted us to deliver this personally." Wesley realises too late he's allowed the five men to corner him down a dead end alley, the only thing he has on him is his gun, but he's not quick enough and before he knows it his gun is lying inches from his grasp on the alley floor as several boot clad feet make lasting imprints in his face and ribs.

It's near dawn before Wesley wakes up and realises he's not where he last remembers being, yet he's in familiar territory, still not a place he wants to be though. He struggles to his feet as he hears voices coming his way, not voices he wishes to see or hear, not now. The humiliation and the mental beating he will get might just be enough to throw him over the edge, but he can't control his feet as he staggers away from the shrubbery into direct sight of the voices.

"...day would be a better bet, less chance of him moving about and less leg work for..." Gunn stops short as he lays eyes on the beaten man before him who immediately tries to turn away from the small group, heading towards the other gates in the garden.

"Hey wait up man," Gunn calls, following him and catching his arm, "Dude it's ok, what happen..." he cuts himself off as he meets eyes with the man, seeing only one eye as the other is closed shut after the heavy beating it has taken, seeing the cool crispness of it that is so chillingly familiar as Gunn is torn between his alliances and his sense of compassion.

"Wesley?" Fred questions as she moves to the other side of Wesley, Conner hanging to the rear as he weighs up Wesley who just stares straight back at him, "Charles lets get him inside, we'll..."

"I'm fine." Wesley cuts her off, pulling his arm out of Gunn's grip as he straightens his back slightly with great pained effort. He turns to walk away, trying desperately to remember where he lives while searching for his keys.

"Yo English, least let me give you a ride home." Wesley freezes. He hasn't been called English in a long while, not since him and Gunn were still friends and it sends pangs of remorse to every nerve ending, making his broken ribs press in on his heart as his shoulders slump in a sense of defeat. Gunn's compassion obviously winning out in his situation does not wait for a reply or go to help Wesley. He plucks his keys from his pocket and walks past the Englishman to his truck, getting in and waiting, his compassion worn out for the day. Wesley catches a glimpse of Fred watching him before he follows; he is not in the mood for stirring up any more feelings for revenge.

The ride back to Wesley's apartment is silent because Wesley is concentrating more on his wounds and Gunn just doesn't know what to say. He stops his truck as close to Wesley's apartment building door as he can,

"You got your keys?" he asks as Wesley opens the door, sliding out of the truck with the agility of hippo with gout before nodding absentmindedly as he pulls out a collection of keys from his pocket before shutting the door behind him. Gunn doesn't immediately drive off, instead he waits until he sees Wesley disappearing inside the building, waiting a few minutes more before he sees the light go on in Wesley's living room. He may not have forgiven the man, but he isn't about to let him die which is why he turns off the engine and goes inside the building, knocking on the apartment door next to Wesley's where he knows Sarah Stockard and her father live. Both will be up already because they own the corner shop, but there is no need to ask because they are already worried about him, and Gunn's glad someone still cares.

Wesley doesn't care about himself though, the first thing he does is open the closet to put away his coat only to find Justine staring back up at him with wide eyes. He stares back at her like he's never seen her before, after a moment turning away from her to go into the kitchen, making a sandwich before he opens her cage, removes her gag and removes the cuffs. She stares back at him for a moment, quietly taking in his battered features before she gets to her feet, too quickly for his liking, causing him to grab the gun from his coffee table. She gets the message as she takes the plate from him and watches as he turns his back to her.

She knows she could easily take him on the way he is at the moment but she doesn't. Instead she hungrily tears her sandwich apart, noticing the fact he's take time to put pickle in with the cheese, watching him intently as he drops his coat on the couch, pulling his t-shirt and jumper off in one clumsy sweep as he goes into the kitchen, pulling the first aid box from the cupboard there. She notices the deep purple bruises on his visible ribs and the dried blood on his neck where it's run down the back of his head. She can see the thick mattes of blood in his scruffy hair as he slams the first aid box shut and disappears down the hall, leaving his gun on the kitchen work surface.

Justine stops chewing round her sandwich for a moment, confused as she edges forward to peer round the corner of the corridor but she can hear water running now. She thinks this has to be a wind up, Wesley's not clumsy enough to leave her unchained with the front door unlocked and her with a gun in front of her. She'll run and he'll shoot her dead, or he'll torture her, he'll catch her somehow though. Maybe there's even someone waiting outside his apartment. She panics as she swallows her sandwich, great difficulty in getting it past the lump in her throat as the water stops again. He's always been quick in the shower, which she is grateful for because the pipes in the cupboard get uncomfortably hot on the rare occasions he has a bath or a long shower. By the time she's put her plate down and started edging towards the door her chance is gone because she can hear him padding back down the corridor, but maybe she still has enough time to get the gun. She starts half running towards the kitchen but he's already there. He looks up at her, almost startled by her presence, but he still doesn't say anything and she thinks he truly had forgotten that he had let her out of the cage.

She shuffles past him, helping herself to a drink out the fridge, watching the gun on the work surface intently. He doesn't seem too bothered with her or the gun though but instead chucks half a bottle of painkillers down his throat followed by a swig of whiskey which makes even Justine cringe as she drinks the milk out of the cartoon.

"Payback's a bitch, huh?" she says as she wipes her mouth free of milk, finally breaking the silence in the dim apartment. Wesley stops what he's doing at this comment and leans heavily on the worktop, his beaten and aching arms shaking under the weight of him, making his collar bone more prominent, his head hanging between his shoulder blades, water from his damp black curls dripping silently onto the Formica surface.

He'd not forgotten that Justine hears everything that goes on within his walls, every breath, every erotic noise, and every heated argument. He straightens himself back up again and goes over to Justine's cage, closing the door and switching the light out before turning down the corridor towards his room.

"Close the door behind you." He says so softly Justine thinks she's misheard him. Yet, within seconds she's grabbed the gun and is stood at Wesley's front door, ready to go back out into the world but something makes her stop, something makes her reconsider. Whether it's the thought of Wesley lying unconscious and half naked on his made bed sheets, or the thought that he might not make it through the night, or the thought of having to live without the comfort of knowing that she will be fed and watered everyday she does not know.

When Wesley awakes in the evening though Justine is back in her cage and Lilah Morgan is stood at his front door as if it were all a bad dream, the bruises that scar his underweight frame like a reminder of a bad wake-up call he did not head.