Disclaimer: I didn't create this mess, and I'm not getting any profit for
delving into it. The characters belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy,
and the responsibility the current egregious state of affairs is also
theirs (his) to claim.
Rating: R (language)
Pairing: It's very B/A at heart, but B/S in body. If you like B/S...hit
the "BACK" button now g
Author's note: Angst warning. This is a dark POV fic, set during Buffy's
downward spiral. She knows where she's headed...and can't wait.
Many thanks to Siobhan, both for beta-ing on barely a minute's notice, and
for being honest (yet tactful) g
1 One Step Forward, Twelve Steps Back
1.1 By Gem
Everyone has one: some little weak spot that no one else can see. You
joke about it, and pretend it's no big deal, and maybe you're even right to
think that...as long as you can maintain control. As long as you're the
boss. It's not an addiction as long as you can stop whenever you want,
But what about when you don't want to stop? What about when you know what
you're hiding from, and what you're using to do it...and you like it?
* * * * *
I had a wonderful day today, even though I don't think that's what Dorks
Cubed had planned when they shot their little ray gun. I suppose after a
while the invisibility thing might have gotten boring...I mean it certainly
would make going to the mall to try on clothes a lot less fun. But for
today, after all the horrible days of visibility and responsibility and the
thousand other kinds of soul-sapping 'bilities' I'm usually stuck with, it
The only problem is that now it's over and I have to find another way to
get through the days here on Planet Hell.
Sitting on the curb next to Willow, half my mind absorbed in the study of
my weirdly visible fingers, I feel a familiar pull. The flesh and blood
personification of my drug is calling to me; whispering promises of sweet
oblivion as the fault line in my soul begins to widen and crack. As I make
myself forget, again, that the flesh of my drug is dead, the blood stolen,
and the 'person' is an illusion created by a demon.
What do you do when the one thing you fear most is caring for people, one
person at a time, and your destiny...your sacred destiny, for god's
sake...says "you go, girl!"
And what do you do when that edict of destiny is echoed by a naked vampire
who wouldn't take no for an answer if I had the strength to give it to him?
* * * * *
It started with my cousin Celia, the sister I never had...used to
never...oh, it doesn't matter. I adored her; that's what counts. I would
have done anything for her. But when Der Kinderstaad came for her I was
helpless, and he took her from me. I was only eight, but that was the day
I realized that letting people in meant someday letting them go.
And can I just say a big fat "no thank you" to that idea?
When you first start to build a wall around your heart, one that's going to
keep you safe from the pain everyone else takes for granted, you feel like
you can't breathe. You panic because you're all alone and there's no one
to share things with and no one to talk to and...and there's just no air.
But after a while, and actually not a long while, you realize everyone is
still there. They're just on the other side, where they can't hurt you and
you can't hurt them.
The best part about the wall is that it doesn't even require a cabin in
Montana and explosives to support it. The most effective way to be alone,
especially for a kid, is in a crowd. So let's all say hello to Buffy
Summers: little Miss Popularity and the safest girl in town.
Until Merrick came, that is, with his monsters and his blah-blah sacred
destiny spiel. If you're supposed to spend your life fighting to save
humankind, you have to care those humans, right?
Right...and wrong. The beauty of the system is that you can't care too
much, not for each person as a person. Merrick, and later on Giles, made
that pretty clear. Care about people and they end up dead...or worse.
They actually thought they were telling me something I didn't know.
The first time I fought a vampire, I cried all night long. I knew; in the
instant I sank the stake into that demon's chest and he exploded I knew I'd
found my way out. And a minute later I knew it was a trap.
* * * * *
I can hear Willow's voice next to me; I even make noises that sound like
I'm paying attention to what she's saying. But it's all a game; none of it
can really touch me. I mean great, she helped me without using magic. And
she's stoked about that; good for her. Some people take pride in
conquering their addictions.
Others of us are just looking for that next hit to make the world go away.
After Merrick came into my life I tried to reform, I really did, especially
when we moved to Sunnydale. I figured it was my chance for a clean slate.
Cut back on the slaying, amp up the social life again, maybe even make a
few friends. Not that I had any plans to let them get too close, of
course; people are impermanent enough without my help. But the isolation
was starting to scare me; it was too easy.
And then I met Angel, and things got a whole world away from easy.
* * * * *
He still cared, you know. After all the decades of feeling guilty, after
all the time he spent cut off from people, by his own choice, he still
cared about them. Each one of them; as a person. When Angel fought a
vamp, it wasn't to rid the world of a plague on humanity; it was for me.
Or Willow. Or Giles. Well, usually for me, but that only made it more
Even before we started dating, I could feel that about him, and when I knew
his whole story I felt even weirder about it. I mean the only good thing I
saw in the slayerly life, besides the fact that it brought me him, was the
way it let me save the world without having to pick any particular person
in it I wanted to save first. But Angel...he never thought he could save
enough people to make up for the ones he'd killed. But he kept on trying
anyway, one person at a time.
He said it was me; that I made him care again. But I knew that wasn't
true. How could I teach him something I wasn't sure I remembered how to do
until I met him?
I wanted to scream. I wanted to shake him and yell at him for setting
himself up like that. I wanted to learn how to feel again, from the man
who couldn't make himself stop. And he taught me, with words and gestures,
and with everything that he had.
And when I had finally let him in, finally given him everything I had in
return, he left me.
I know he didn't want to go; I know it was my fault. I drove away his soul
just as carelessly as I had let Celia's slip away. But the fact remains he
left, and I was alone with the feelings he gave back to me. The feelings I
never wanted but couldn't resist, any more than I could resist him.
* * * * *
The first time Angel left, I tried to keep fighting; I knew he would want
me to. But when he left the second time, after I sent him to hell, I gave
it up. I gave it all up. Family, friends, home...most of all caring. As
the Slayer I wasn't supposed to care, and as Buffy I didn't want to. Even
when I came home and picked up my old life, family and friends included, I
kept them all at arm's length.
Until Angel came back, of course, and messed up my grand plan for personal
salvation. As hard as I fought against it he got under my skin, as only he
can. I let myself want...and hope...and dream...again. And again it all
blew up in my face.
Angel and I have this dance we do; we've done it from the moment we met.
We draw closer and closer, until our souls touch...and then one of us backs
away so fast it leaves skid marks. Usually that one would be me. But I
never meant to let Angel in so deep in the first place; I swear it. I
wanted it to be sexy and dangerous and romantic; I wasn't looking for
intertwining souls and shattering hearts. That, however, is what love will
do to you; hence my 'fight then flight' policy.
In the end, Angel was the one who got to get away, but to this day I'm not
sure if he really thought I'd let him leave. He'd never let me get away,
at least not for long. I honestly think he expected me to come running
after him into that smoke and flame and mist, just like some heroine from
one of my mom's cheesy romance novels.
God, I wanted to. He'll never know how hard I had to fight to keep my feet
rooted to the ground, to Sunnydale, that night. And the next night. And
the 725 nights after that, until the night I died.
Not that I was counting.
When Angel left, he took the only parts of me that mattered with him to LA,
leaving a Buffy-shaped shell that laughed and smiled and had sex with boys
who thought they had a clue what intimacy was all about.
For two years, actually longer than that, I was the perfect imitation of
Buffy Summers. I fooled them all, so well in fact that when Spike brought
that stupid 'bot home, my friends couldn't tell us apart. I can't really
blame them; there really wasn't much difference by then. She and I were
both programmed to offer answers people wanted to hear; we both treated
fighting and fucking as basically interchangeable activities; we both even
gave our lives to save others.
Of course by the time the 'bot reached that point, she had more to lose.
* * * * *
I'm not sorry I died for Dawn, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat; I'm just
not sure she'd appreciate who I was really dying for that night. It would
have been so much harder...is so much harder...to live for her.
I was so tired of trying to outrun all the emotions that chased me down,
and I thought I'd finally found a way out. One long step off the top of
Glory's stairway to hell and I could be free. No one to worry about; no
one to disappoint. No hands to hold and no hearts to break. By the time I
took that step, it felt like I'd been waiting all my life to die.
And then they brought me back.
* * * * *
I came back to life, such as mine is, kicking and screaming. At least I
was doing that on the inside, but habit was too strong to let it show.
After all these years, I knew what my friends wanted...needed...to hear.
So I pretended, for their sakes, that they had 'rescued' me. They saved
the day by saving the girl who saves the day.
And my reward for my restraint? For my consideration of their feelings?
For my damn caring about them? I get to live. Here, in Sunnydale. Here
without Angel, without Mom, without even Giles.
I'm surrounded by people who see me as Wonder Woman minus the Wonder Bra.
They...my best friends and my only family now...love the Buffy they think I
am. But she's nothing like the girl I see in the mirror every morning. I
don't know if they ever even met the girl they think I am.
I don't even know if she ever existed.
* * * * *
Once upon a time, I had a small haven of security and warmth in the middle
of a very big, very bad, world. Angel gave me that. He loved me, and he
understood me, in a way that no one else ever could. He made me feel
respected and cherished, and he made me respect myself at the times when I
needed it most.
But I'm not that Buffy, the Buffy he loved, anymore, and I don't want to
be. She was strong and she helped people because, against all of her best
judgment, she cared about them. That's too much responsibility; I don't
want it. I tried to tell him that when I saw him a couple of months ago,
but he wasn't buying.
I'd say he didn't understand, but this is Angel we're talking about. I
think the real problem was that he understood too well; he just didn't want
to let me get away with it. But I can't live his way...I just can't do it.
I won't open myself up like that again.
* * * * *
I can feel the itch beginning under my skin again, the need to lose myself
in my drug of choice. The excuses hover on my tongue, paving the way for
me to dump Willow and her recovery, so that I can go feed my own addiction.
I lied to her tonight, and more than my usual evasive, "everything is fine
and yes of course I would tell you if it wasn't" sort of lie. I told her I
wanted to live, because a part of me is still trying to play the game. As
long as my little family hears what they want to hear, they won't probe too
deeply and I won't have to let them in.
And then let them down.
The truth is I want out; I'm just not allowed to go. It's been drilled
into me for too long that I have a duty to the world, a duty I blew off
with my swan song...swan dive...whatever. When Willow was able to bring me
back after three long months of death sweet death, the message came down
from on high pretty clearly: I'm not allowed to bail. So I hide instead,
in the one place no one will think to look for me: the bed of my enemy.
And I like it.
Spike makes me feel again, and for the first time since Celia died I'm not
afraid of that. Why should I be, when it's all just part of this stupid
body that won't stay dead? I can handle physical sensation, pain or
pleasure, without batting an eye; I wouldn't be much of a Slayer if I
It's just sex anyway; there's nothing special about that. Two bodies
working as one machine to produce friction, and ultimately heat. It passes
the time, and for at least a little while it keeps me too busy to remember
who this Buffy person is supposed to be in relation to me. And the big in
that deal would be?
Time to go. I have a craving to feed, and Willow's hidden stash of New
York Super Fudge Chunk just isn't going to cut it.
* * * * *
Later, much later, I can take a moment to relax before the fight to keep
the world at bay begins again. The body is numb and so is the mind; life
could be a lot worse. But then Spike gets a funny look on his face, the
one that always leaves me somewhere being giggling and gagging. I know
this look. In a minute his voice will suddenly get deeper, he'll tuck his
chin down as though he's afraid to look me in the eye, and then he'll say
Love. It's hard to believe, but my demon bedmate (sarcophagus-mate?) keeps
trying to sell me on the idea that he loves me, obviously looking for me to
echo the same words back to him. Manipulative much? I think it's sort of
a control issue, or maybe just a way to score one against Angel. Probably
a little of both. But the idea is laughable anyway, in a stomach-churning
sort of way. Spike...love...the two words don't even belong in the same
language, let alone the same sentence.
I never wanted to fall in love with Angel, or anyone else for that matter,
but I did. Hard. Angel gave me the best and the worst love has to offer,
and those are lessons I will never forget. One burned into both our souls
is that empathy is a major part of the deal. When you truly love someone,
you feel their emotions as deeply as you feel your own. You begin to see
the world through their eyes, and their pain or joy becomes your own.
Spike can never understand shame or guilt; his chip was made by scientists,
not gypsies, and a soul was never part of the design specs. If I wanted, I
could tell him about all the ugly, painful thoughts that swirl around in my
head, thoughts that grow louder when the world around me grows quieter. He
might even listen...until he got bored. But he'll never be able to really
share how they make me feel; there's no way he can put himself in my place.
He'll never know the shame I feel to have survived when so many others have
died for my failures. He'll never understand how deeply I despise myself
for the anger burning inside of me whenever I look at my friends; people
who tore me from heaven to rescue me from hell. He can't feel my fear when
he tries to put a wedge between them and I...and I let him do it because
it's safer than letting them into my heart again.
Angel could always make the bad things in my life go away because he faced
them with me; I knew I wasn't alone and together we could do anything.
Spike's method is a lot simpler: just let the bad stuff bounce off of you,
unless you feel like hitting something.
Evil...pain...disappointment...guilt; they've always been there, and always
will be, whether I do anything about them or not. Why should we stress?
Spike doesn't have a soul; he's the antidote to one. And now more than
ever, this girl's in need of a cure.
* * * * *
I suppose I should feel guilty for never mouthing the words back to Spike,
when he offers them with such a straight face. It seems like the least I
could do; sort of a payment for services rendered. But I'm taking a page
from his book and just not caring.
Love, lust, lack of anything better to do; it doesn't really matter what he
calls this bizarro thing between us, as long as it will keep him opening
the door of his crypt to me. I know the truth, even if he doesn't want to
admit it. Despite his embarrassing attempts at 'romance,' I know I'm
really just a prize to Spike. The Slayer he bagged. A trophy of a
different kind to add to the two he killed.
And me? I've found my perfect fix. There's no love here; even hate is too
much effort these days. Oh I tell him I hate him; it seems to help him
focus on the sex better that way. But hate is an emotion too, and I'm not
going down that road just to make Spike feel special. He gets what he
wants from me, and I get what I want from him. I get what every junkie is
secretly searching for when she plunges the needle into a vein, or slides
pills down a dry throat.
Buffy doesn't live here anymore.