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Title: Traded 1/1
Author: Scy
Disclaimer: If they were mine, the chip would just. Go kaput one day.
Author's Notes: This is a 'before Spuffy breakup; ramble.
Fandom: BTVS
Pov: Buffy
Rating: High pg for dark thoughts and situations
Distribution: Ask, I'm easy.

Dead men don't tell tales, however they will sing in rough voices and harass pallbearers.

She always goes to dead men with her secrets, they're the best for hiding words that can wound the living and the dead she chooses always heal between visits so she never sees them bleed. Because they have the time to let themselves be hurt, they have learned how to keep most pain to themselves, with the occasional exception.

He is braver than she; at least he is able to say things aloud that she is still unable to express in any way other than to kiss an enemy who serenades her.

Broken bottles and crypts those are her evenings, but such is by choice. The conversation is free but love and touches cost life. Not in blood, but such gentle things as stories of death and plans for the next night of killing. It isn't about the more soft things, he touch is so tentative but romance is what they need.

He likes to brush her hair; a leftover of Drusilla she thinks, but likes their ritual. It began the time she went end over head into a large bush. Afterwards he gently tugged leaves from her hair and carefully offered a brush that she was sure was older than her. And the mirror, no question, though it had been restored to a beauty she was afraid to lay fingers on.

She could say that it was about love, her love for him, his for her, or their mutual fear of loving the one who stood never gone in the background. But that would have been a lie, and she tried to never lie to him, even when they both knew that would be much less painful. He loved her, she did not feel the same, and he knew that. But a demon was eager for warmth, and she had that to spare, had that forced upon her, and she loved his cold, remembered the grave being like that, slimy dirt slipping into her clothes, the wood splinters diving eagerly under her nails. Trying to pierce her soft skin and tell her that she wasn't dead any more, and things were about to get very, very bad. That was wrong, they had gotten much worse.

Just couldn't stand humans much anymore, it was all a front, kind of how some demons pretended that they didn't want to eat a mortal's face off when they spoke, all a game, and one that she was excelling at. She would have gone up levels rapidly, if she only had the time to care about this talent she shouldn't have needed at all. She didn't tell them that she could smell the stink of evil on Willow, now her senses wailed whenever the witch came near and it was all she could do not to shake her vigorously and ask what had happened to her innocent little friend who hacked into city computers for good. Now she killed animals, which she was sure was not in accordance with the laws of nature.

No, Tara didn't seem to think so, but she was the demure, retiring mother who only took care of the family, she didn't set the rules, and Willow had elected herself as the control element. It didn't make her mad, only distantly, did she fear for her family. She knows he likes her for many reasons, and she wonders if one of those is that now she is a broken thing, not precisely like Dru, but she requires some sort of protection that only he is able to give her. And that makes him proud, gives him a sense of self worth, so she doesn't let on that she knows what he's doing when he talks very softly of long ago nights. The candles, when they burn low are his focus, he stares into the flames and she does not think that he sees her until she speaks.

It's all a game, how far, how often can she push him away, all of them, before she loses everything. The humans, she doesn't need. After all, she isn't one of them anymore. And that means that she doesn't have to play by the rules that say decency and mercy are part of her trademark, much as the puns and flying blond hair.

Old lovers are the wisest. Sure, they may want to tear you into pieces with their knowledge, but they know you best, and that's why seeing them with their new playmates is always so hard. Because the thought that another knew those places, the way that they moaned when their lower back was nipped, the bites reddened kisses of bruising all over the next day. And seeing the one that had been the replacement, and knowing that they were going to learn all about that special person in ways that might even last longer than the first. No more ownership, and not even the claim of friendship was enough to justify the way that fingers wanted to touch and grope and just *feel*. But none of that was appropriate, and sometimes, even the looking could be too much. Still, eyes and glances were all one had at the end. And the pictures of the memory.

Sure, there should be rules about your ex, that the sorcerers shouldn't be pretty, the vampires shouldn't be reasonable and so right, and that the humans should have all of that 'well, I thought it was a good idea-ness' that makes them so fragile. But in the end, both parties are breakable, it's just a question of whether both of them are able find all of their parts and put them back where they belong before heading out into public again.

It's like being around the humans is torture and an orgasm that just won't happen. That loose tooth, bleeding and tearing at the gums, but not coming out until it's good and ready. And how does that work, exactly? Remembers knowing that she should love and cherish his family, but that none of that was really as important as everyone made it out to be.

Harder to pretend that she isn't killing family. The demons and vampires are all non-humans, and she hasn't been one since, before she died for the world, so in essence, she is killing relations. Related to her by death, or lack of it. Funny. But she's still got the looks. All of them, vampires, demons, humans, think that what she has can be given out if they just make her bleed enough, heart or body. But she knows that she doesn't have it anymore, she did once, was able to beat Angelus, countless other things that didn't wear her lover's face, and now she thinks that he would have no trouble ending what she is forced to call life.

Only the Unseen lands are still pure. She loves the fairy tales, of the places that humans have been driven from, that have recovered from their influence. Camelot, Atlantis, Pompeii, safe from the stupid ignorance of gifts doled out to them by Mother Nature generous.

It is important to watch him feed, so that she does not lose sight of what it is she is looking to get killed by. A death that she has chosen, liberated, and now keeps as close as is smart, or stupid, a leash that both of them hate and love at the same moment.

Finally identity had been found, and it confused her to all ends. Fragrant Night

Oz might have understood her difficulty, not being human, but looking that way to all eyes, yet, some knew otherwise and they imagined her in poses and ways that were uncomfortably honest. The longing for her to be human, or not, to hunt, with her.

But, despite how she does not want Spike, she knows that, or tells herself so many times many.

Stretched out, balancing on the tip of a meaning that she couldn't see, touch, but knew was bouncing just beyond her perception, teasing her. It knew that she was Aware of what she had become, and though it didn't much care, if she figured a way to talk to it, wrest the definition that she had become out of its grasp, there would be answers. She thinks that the 'it' sitting out of reach may be Mother Nature. Or the first Slayer. That would account for its base, guttural laugh as she fumbles to make the others see what is happening, without actually telling them that she is not what they think, so wrong and programmed to Slay, not having the desire for anything. Except for obliteration of herself. she and Spike, she takes parts of him and replaces what everyone used to call hers. Now she is part vampire, dead but not, and then a new portion of her has risen, the disregard for morals that used to make her feel so good and smart. She understood where she was supposed to be, her intended purpose. Problem is that she has fulfilled that need, filled the chasm, and they didn't let her rest.

He lets her fill him; resents it, but he must have experience with being a part of something that hurts, he and Dru, she has seen the equipment in the warehouse, never mentioned it to anyone but Giles, and he gave her a bare explanation that made her stare at Angel for days. Did he let them tie him up when he didn't have his soul? Had he tied Dru up and beat her? She thought that he might have, it seemed like something that he would have enjoyed.

Now he has her family, in its broken chopped parts. Looks over at Spike, who is slouching behind the sofa, one hand on Dawn's shoulder, she is leaning back towards him, trust and knowledge that he will kill for her safety, and there must be a wonderful void where they discussed how badly he was going to maim her if she ran off again and then she cried and he stroked her hair and all was nice again.

Wonders if Dawn knows how much he loves her in a possessive way, and then thinks, glancing at the teenager, who grins sharply, that Spike is teaching her things that maybe he shouldn't, and that she adores him for treating her like an adult. The credit that none of the others gave her, always calling her 'Dawnie,' and 'Dawn-monster,' and assuming that she wouldn't mind, even though she is fifteen, and when she was that age, she wouldn't have wanted to be called that either.

She knows that he cares for her, in ways that cripple and tear at his flesh. Somehow, that appeals to her, that she isn't the only one in pain, and that she is connected to him by a swirl of torment. He is strong though, and she knows that one day, he will do something to upset the balance they have maintained, he will attack or he will walk away, and that must be a family trait, to leave before they crush her entirely.

If he Turned her, there would be nights with fucking and fighting, no different than now, except maybe she would be fucking the word instead of it doing that to her and then not even letting her have the blankets of pride and duty to hold close. She thinks that she has been alone, but that isn't' t true, even when she ran away from home, she had that knowledge that her family and friends were there for her, somewhere.

It is always the dead men that teach her how to live, and make her ashamed when they are able to do it better than she, who is the pinnacle of rash action and what should be boiling zest for what she has.

And they always steer her to the path which is hardest, the right lessons, and the ones what she wound not want to learn without their prodding and those eyes that are so anciently 'been there'.

The worst kind of thing that a woman can give is a love that cuts and gives back nothing but acid masquerading as bloody acceptance and support.

Such agility and a rough voice that captured his sharpness and the quiet that was his devotion to her. And the weariness, she got that as well, he had been the one to stand beside her and look after both family had friend and she only came to him when she needed. Take. and then take some more, and that got tiresome.

If it was her soul that was so tormented, then he could kill her, raise her as one of his own, and the problem would be solved, wouldn't it?

The view was nice from the valleys of her morality. She used to be able to be so superior, a Slayer that had survived to have a life, and kept Hopes of Future alive. Now she just wanted to make sure that Dawn got enough money in her bank account to survive. After.

Had there been a Slayer in Europe during the Holocaust? Had she seen undead amongst the mortals that had done such horrible things and thrown herself forward, ignoring all warnings, all to protect a few people, knowing that she would not make it out alive.

A war would justify a sacrifice. Heroes couldn't die without fanfare, in a battle, not because of disease. Nobly wasting away was only for heartbreak, the loss of a piece of one's soul- and that was marked down as 'the final blow.' They had been able to stand up under so much, but not the withering of their heart's desire.

So stupid to need another; when there always was that chance that more hurt would be visited upon them.

Hard to believe. That things had come so far and that she had done so little. Had planned on living to a respectably old age, having a family along the way, somehow with Angel, and winning the battle against evil.

All while passing her classes and going on to a good school. Now, most of that seemed stupid, if not selfish and naive. Though, she had earned it. Given up enough of her life, hours fighting the undead, to end like this, sodden with guilt for not being good enough, and still angry.

Impossible for her to actually be honest with herself about wanting Death. Angel had been a safe killer, giving her murder for supper and then kissing away the child. Angelus, she could hate because he never really made an effort to woo her. Too enraged that she had loved without embracing both demon and man. Just his beauty, the pained smiles, and kisses.

She might have fallen to him, if there had been more time. Not that she'd wanted to admit what she truly was: a killer, a cleanser, the most powerful solution to the festering demonic problem. But, she knew that now, un-verbalized truth.

Did she feel different now? Less capable, clumsy, or even abnormal? And how come he hadn't sensed it earlier? Angel had, with the quiver of a hand above her arm, he had demonstrated that their bond was still somehow, deep. A skinning back of his lips from teeth, and then he stared at her without speaking.

'Just a little time to re-adjust,' she'd said, and he nodded, though the distance in his eyes had not gone away. She was not human, but he had said nothing. Wisely, she'd been comforted and informed sufficiently, and did not need him to make her feel as if he was going to baby her. She' died, that gave her a leverage over the others.

'I gave, you refused, and always need me. Can't handle things? Call Buffy, she can take care of it. Like she always does. And that was just what they thought; not wrong to them. She had to Help, and they happened to need her. It would have been better if they'd gotten Faith out of prison after they realized that they couldn't handle things. Had to be a Slayer there, no substitute existed. The dark slayer would have etched out a place for herself, made it her town, if they'd given her the opportunity. But no, it had to be the most successful Slayer of all time. The legend, their friend. Couldn't abide someone who didn't share all of their values. Faith had Los Angeles values, those of Angel. Much more pragmatic, they would say 'ruthless, unfeeling, or psychotic.' Forever an excuse as to why they couldn't use such individuals. Faith fit in with Angel's city, would help him, knew how things worked, and was crazy enough to survive Angel. All of them had to be; she must not have had enough madness. But he found ones that did, and they loved him for understanding and not rejecting or abusing their mental illness.

None of the others had gotten it. That the only one able to understand or challenge her was the dead man who loved her.

He had claimed nothing, only stated facts and introduced what he thought were her opinions-feelings. What made it so horrible was that he had *gotten* things, all or nearly all, right.

The years that he had, she never wanted to acknowledge. Angel learned, grew, and Spike seemed to be in a holding pattern of eternal youthful thoughtlessness and hyperactivity. He moved, bounced, tumbled, and teased her into menacing hapless condemned buildings. Luckily, there were always businesses having sales and departing town, or failing because the owners were dead.

Yes, she was a threat to plasterboard. Just call 'Buffy and Spike's Demolition Service', and they would take down that pesky building in no time, with gasping and sweat thrown in at no extra charge. Wants a bit of something to drink, the decadence of being drunk in the company of a male that makes no pretense about wanting to pound her into a mattress or a wall, or both is somehow comfort.

It's so hard to pretend that nothing matters, and once you've mastered that, no one can tell what you want. And neither can you. Because there is nothing that will get your goat, or goose, or whatever other kinds of small farm animals are wandering around your subconscious like metaphors pertaining to your mental imbalance.

He strips her with his eyes. His words, his stare, even his freaking sneers of contempt liquefy her clothes and she finds herself naked, or just open to him, and she never means to. Doesn't want it. Tells herself that it won't happen again.

And then realizes that she is whispering it to him as he fucks her.

Yet, at night, it is Angel still in her bed. She still talks to him in her dreams; and lately he has not been as forthcoming as she would like. He never did talk the way boys of her generation do; with meaningless strings of saliva hanging at the end of sentences and the arrogance that they have learned from watching film and men older than themselves.

His way of presenting himself had been earned; even if he was not acceptable company among his people, he had gained the years to make his name known to the young.

She will always dream about him, because that is where she had happiness first, he was the one who taught her about that, and about heartbreak. Doesn't mention that they were pretty nearly married, with those rings, she looked it up, and won't think about the fact that she cheated on him with Riley, maybe for how Angelus did with Dru? Bit of vengeance, see how happy she was, when he felt too bad about everything to even touch another human being, afraid that he might contaminate them. But, it was alright to hold Faith, because she felt like Buffy in his arms. Both Slayers, and there has to be something that makes them alike to predators, she is sure of that.

There's a chocolate sundae morning waiting for those who still believe. And it's free if you want to admit to love.


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