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Title: Inside 1/1
Author: Scynneh
Disclaimer: If he were mine, he wouldn't wear pants, unless they were leather.
Feedback: Yes please.
Rating: R
Improv 22: sugar, frame, sheer, time
Spoilers: The season finales.
Dedication: Kita, darling, you have mentioned the trickles of fic- here's an 'Angel is incredibly 'unwell' bit for your pleasure.
Notes: Buffy is dead, very much so. *eg*

He has razor- burn on his soul, though he thinks the word 'burn' is misunderstood by most. It is as shiny as the sun on water at sunrise or the sugary glaze of a doughnut that he cannot devour.

And he misses the shared pain. Not the actual hurts, but the afterwards, when they sat together and exchanged comfort with bandages and gauze. Later, there would be gentle touches, if one was more injured, concessions had to be made in their games, but there was always something nice after the tearing of skin.

Now when he is wounded, he gets the prodding of sweaty English fingers and admonitions from a bobbing streaked head as she arranges her pain medication for another message. And sometimes, he is angry with her, for not giving him some of her suffering; she huddles in her apartment, or in a chair, delivering orders and never allowing someone to do anything but catch her or hand over the new prescription.

There used to be a respect for the elders because they were so scarce, now they are a burden. In so many respects, he is a senile old man, and they treat him as if his hair were white, hands creased and eyes unseeing. So he lets them go on and does not let on that he is still watching them.

Cordelia tries to be nearby, but he doesn't indulge himself with speaking, he likes to stare at her, and in his 'state of mind', as they have titled it, such is allowed. Her hair has the consistency and color of semi-sweet chocolate, curling under her chin, pale skin, like many who do not see the sunlight often. Not thin, in between, a gentle-looking girl. But with a temper that she unleashes on Gunn and Wes as they trod around his room and were less diplomatic in their assessment of his instability.

But though they rail about 'trauma', he is Calm. Not for coolness factor, but because he is mute, handicapped, disabled. At least to their way of communicating.

When he is alone, his mind drifts; Queen Elizabeth refused to pry into her subjects' religious lives. She was easy to upset, hard to frighten. Buffy was like that, excitable, yet it took a great deal to make her back down. And then she normally came back with a retort guaranteed to offend.

Through a woman we were sent to destruction. Through a woman, salvation was sent to us.

He sees the ghosts; blond on blond, on blue. They come to sit at his knee and smile; one with blood dancing under her skin in mortal trails, the other with her stolen fluids animating the flesh that should not be moving on its sway of sexual expectation. One knowing, and the other so clean despite her life, and they come to talk as well as watch the plaster crumble.

"Why don't you renovate this building?" Darla asks, running a finger over the dust collecting on the windowsill. That her touch leaves no mark does not disturb him, this is a conversation we have held many times before.

"Why should I? I like it this way. All of the history, undisturbed-" he cannot finish his thought, and she laughs, trill of harp strings in the air.

"Or you can't afford it, isn't that what you're saying my sweet?"

He gives her a sharp look. "Why do people always assume that I'm broke?"

"I guess it has something to do with the fact that you spent a few decades wandering around in a haze of self-loathing and regret. And I seem to remember Whistler telling me about where exactly he found you. Is there something wrong with bathing? Granted, you've got centuries of murder to pay for, but that's no reason to live in a sewer and become an advertisement for a decently aggressive detergent."

He blinks. "When have you ever talked to Whistler?"

She smiles, 'secrets only for you,' and moves nearer. "He's around here too, this isn't my place alone, it never was."

Bewilderment takes hold of him, and now she is truly amused, not concealing it. "Silly boy, she's here still, your little Slayer. You haven't let her go yet."

The other woman, though she can never be reduced by such a moniker, enters by way of the ceiling and snorts. "And he may never release me."

Darla bares her teeth in threat, "He may be reeling from your demise, but I know that he won't ever let me vanish, I'm in his blood."

Apparently unconcerned, Buffy answers, " Yeah, you're lucky that he pines over you, my man is too busy being a martyr, oops, I mean soldier, to work on our relationship." Pause. "Of course me being dead might not be a good thing either."

The world tilted and he is outside, stars speckling the sky and a cafe suddenly tangible about him. Sitting at a scarred wooden table, the finish sheer and glossy over the grain of the wood. A piano rippled into being and his hands settled on the ivories, fingers tripping out a melody. The women dance, and as Buffy spins by, in Dressed in an unbuttoned black shirt and loose drawstring pants of the same color, gifts him with her joy; when it came to the managing the more mundane parts of life, she always ended up a mess. He misses that, her scrapes and the grounding that led to meetings in a tree, girlish excitement and a predator's finesse in her stealth.

Darla sits after a ladylike twirl. She slumps in the wicker chair a if it were a throne made for someone else, commandeered through nefarious means. Black chiffon is chopped over her curves, a sweater and polished toenails matching in midnight's cloak of darkness. But playful too, not entirely gone to the other side of life- death, the best illusion invented. She whispers a song under her breath, about Barbara Allen; she was of a higher class than the man who wanted her- she turned him down, and he killed himself in grief, she did the same and they all died happily ever after. Song sung by both sides, British and Colonials during the war, years ago it was called 'Teen Angel.'

The presence of the females is not offensive; they don't ask for the pretty pictures, mirages. If anything, they can invent their own without words. Outside his picture of 'good times', others wait to be noticed.

His eyes are closed, a small concession to weakness Cordelia thinks. He might startle at her language, but he isn't able to. He cannot wake up from his imagining of a dream; what's more, he does not want to. The best traps are the ones that are set perfectly inside their frames.

If they really want to help him, they could bleed a little, let him lick it up, he allows a grin spread from the center of his lips, plush blankness slipping into a thinness that chills the air around him.


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