AN: This is meant to be a companion piece to Unavoidable Lies. The other side of the glass, as it is. And Illyria, you called it. Guilty as charged.

AN2: Thanks to GirlWithSword for her review of Unavoidable Lies that got me back to this story!

Disclaimer: Batty, the Bumble-Rat-Bee Fox thing, doth proclaim that Joss owns BtVS. Forever after this land shall be own as 'Whedonverse' and all lowly peasants shall pay homage in the form of ridiculous disclaimers.

They're already dead.

She already knows this before she looks at them. She knows their bodies are cold and their eyes are glassy, no matter what they want you to believe. They should smell of dirt and rot, and it doesn't seem to bother anyone. No one cares about the dead just a few feet away from them, motionless and meaning less. Even though there is no blood and no wounds, she knows that cold kiss can't be faked. She's seen it time and again, caused it time and again, and knows it like she knows little else. So, she knows they are dead, even if no one else sees. Even if they still walk and talk like the humans they aren't.

Far in the past, in a vacant home filled with three vacant and tangential lives, a girl knew nothing of death. Sure, she might have been a little spoiled and prone to vindictiveness, but that didn't mean she was a bad girl. Her father worked long hours to be away from her and mother and to spend more time with his administrative assistant of choice. Her mother was the same social butterfly she'd always been: country clubs and dinner parties and drinks, lots of drinks to wash off the reality that her daughter was growing into her title of prettiest woman in the room. It might seem empty, and in a way, it was. But it was hers, and she loved it with the obliviousness of the ignorant.

The girl isn't little any more; she isn't ignorant. But she still loves that life, because it's the only other one she's known. Everything was easy and trivial, and, if she could go back, she would hold tight to that like the treasure it is. It's unfair, really. Other people wished for childhood because they had finally grown up and wanted the simplicity of youth. She wasn't grown up, probably never will. Wisdom didn't bring her the desire for the past; it was the merciless arm of death that stripped her childhood and drew the youth from her mind.

But that was then, and this is so suffocatingly now she can hardly stand it. She's an ancient in a child's body or a child in a warrior's form, and it doesn't matter which. Because they tell her she has a cause and destiny. She's a hope and hero, and it's her damned duty. A duty from the dawn, of man and day, that was another's, is hers, and must, one night, yet again become someone else's. She isn't just a girl anymore, and she doesn't have the option of failing or falling or forgetting. All are violations and useless against the world. Her words and her cries and her pleas and her prayers are nothing to the world. It's her job to suffer so it can live on. The world takes and takes and one day it's going to swallow her whole. She hopes it chokes on her.

Contemplation's over, and the same no-name diner she's worked at for the last two months is back. She's wearing her same uniform, thin from over-washing and reeking of desolation and sweat anyway. The floors are still the same crappy and scraped linoleum from too many treads and not enough care. And there are still two dead men sitting in the corner that only she sees. Maybe that's why she chose this place, it's just like her: worn out and anonymous and haunted by the dead. It's karmatic, that the crew resembles their ship, and none dare dream better for themselves. Doesn't matter. The late shift is her shift and she's only here because she has to be, if she wants to eat and have a derelict roof to sleep under. She isn't what she was.

Her nights are filled with empty promises and pretty facades. Things she knows aren't real, never were and never can be. It is in the bright light of day that she is haunted by the blood and the screams and the ash. The specters come here, among the smells of fried and refried grease and stringent bleach and microwaved pie. The worn vinyl seats and plastic tabletops aren't protection against the deeds of the past.

There's a distorted and stained border of reflective surface that surrounds the diner. Not much, a cheap way out of fixing the holes and chips in sagging walls, but it is what it is, mirror. It's a mirror that she sees two people out of a group of four in. She sees the hungry looks on the men's faces, and the way they encourage their dates to eat very bite of their meals, including dessert. The men aren't there, of course; they're dead. And soon their dates, the young and attractive and utterly forgettable girls will be too.

The mirror is there, and it shows her a wretch of a girl, shadowed and fallen and nothing like the hero she pretended to be. It showed her two dead men and two almost dead girls and one person who could change it all. For a moment, it lies, and she sees herself in glory, ashes and two lives saved. Then, it revels nothing but the truth.

Her mother is a drunk and flake and best example of parenthood any of them have to offer. Truth.

Her friends are bigoted and jealous and all she has. Truth.

Her mentor is high-handed and superior and her only support. Truth.

Her lover was a cradle-robber and a coward and the only one who cared about her. Truth.

She hates that life and the people in it for not letting her be. Truth.

They betray each other and call it friendship. Truth.

They cage and hurt and call it love. Truth.

They stare at forever and promise eternity and burn. Truth.

For a moment, it lies, the most beautiful of lies, and she sees herself in glory, ashes and two lives saved. The world full of tomorrows and sweet dreams and happily ever after bought for everyone. Then, it revels nothing but the truth.

She isn't what she was. And she can never be anything else.

The men lead their meals out the door and to their fate.

And the hero turns to another table full of customers. "How can I help you today?"

Some truths are too uncomfortable to bare.