(Disclaimers, etc., are listed at the beginning of Part I)


Part II

Buffy and Angel walked along the tunnel, with the flickering torchlight causing their shadows to jump about fitfully. Fortunately, the roof was not that high and more or less solid, making attack from that angle unlikely. As in the dream, there were occasional alcoves in the walls of the tunnel, but they proved to be empty. They had been walking for about ten minutes (by Buffy's watch--which was functioning, much to her surprise) when the humming began. This time, Buffy had no problem recognizing "Rock- A-Bye Baby." She shivered and muttered, "I don't know what started this particular kick, but she's *really* starting to creep me out."

"Block it out, Buffy. The babbling throws her opponent off and helps her get into their heads." Angel frowned and re-gripped his stake before continuing, "I've seen her facing off against a demon three times her size and twenty times as strong--Angelus was hiding in a tree nearby: there was no way in hell that *he* was going to take that kind of risk without a good enough reason. She circled it, talked to it for five minutes, and the damned thing fell into a quivering heap--completely comatose. She walked up with a stiletto, stabbed it through the eye to kill it, and brought its ears back to Angelus as presents. He sent her off with Spike for a month before he could stand to be in the same room with her again."

"You're terrified of her." Buffy's tone wasn't accusatory, just matter of fact.

"I'm terrified of what she might do to you," replied Angel, pulling out a knife and sharpening the stake. Buffy blinked, and Angel whispered, "Anything she does to me, I have coming, many times over--but I won't let her take you."

Buffy gave him a compassionate look and nodded. "Good--hold that thought, but don't do anything suicidal. I'm not going to let her get you, either." A soft giggle interrupted the humming for a moment, and Buffy turned back ahead with a snarl as she said simply, "Let's move."

The tunnel bent right, and up into a large room. Buffy immediately recognized the domed ceiling from her dream, and turned to where Dru had been standing with the eight turned Slayers. The symbol was there, but no one was standing on it. The humming continued, and Buffy saw movement in the shadows on the far side of the room in several places. Buffy saw red and shouted, "Show yourself, Drusilla! If you want Slayers, you're going to have to go through me to get them!"

The torches flickered violently, and Dru slipped out of the shadows like a phantom, giggling and watching them with a smile on her face--madness danced in her dark eyes. She looked over at Buffy and called out in a sing- song voice: "Daddy and Mummy have come for a visit--and Miss Edith is being bad and keeping me from getting the tea ready! We are being bad hosts!" She clapped her hands, and six vampires came out of the shadows. Dru pointed to Angel and called out, "Entertain Daddy--but don't be too rough. I'll be very cross if you get his nice clothes dusty before I can spend a quiet evening with him." The vampires advanced toward Angel, and Buffy was about to move to defend him when she saw Dru turn to her, her smile widening as the insane vampire whispered, "You should visit more often--it has been too long."

Buffy clenched her fist: the stake remained ready in her other hand. "Way too long."

"Then let us remedy that--let me embrace you." Drusilla smiled coldly and made a "come hither" gesture.

"When hell freezes over, you crazy bitch." Buffy snapped, striding forward with her stake raised.

Dru was wearing a red dress with short, ruffled sleeves. She reached behind her back and pulled a throwing dagger, tossing it with the same motion. It hissed through the air and struck Buffy in the upper right side of the chest. In the normal course of things, it would have penetrated her lung and slowed her down considerably. However, things were most assuredly not normal: the point of the dagger struck a blue mass of energy that abruptly appeared in front of Buffy, causing the blade to snap and the weapon to rebound to one side. Buffy stopped ten feet in front of Dru and smiled ferally. "That's no way to treat a guest."

"Mummy's been playing with the naughty witches again," Dru giggled, circling slowly around Buffy. Buffy dared to sneak a peek at Angel, and saw that he was holding his own for the moment--the minions apparently had taken Dru's warning to heart and were using their bare hands to try to subdue him.

Buffy looked back at Dru and focused on a point on her face between her lips and chin--she knew that the eyes were dangerous. She stepped forward and attacked, punching with her left and guarding with her right, looking for openings for a staking. Dru calmly blocked the attacks without otherwise reacting, continuing to circle and to whisper nonsense. Buffy thought of the monthly budget for groceries at the Hyperion--the number of hours that the computers were being used for online games--how many times she had almost punted Andrew off the roof of the Wolfram & Hart building-- anything to keep from having to listen to that mesmerizing voice as she fought for her life. She heard Angel grunt just after the sound of a fist striking bone echoed through the room, and took comfort in the fact that he was still fighting--

Dru's hand moved in a blur, and Buffy's head snapped back from the punch. She staggered back a few steps, and looked back ahead. . .straight into the midnight black eyes of her opponent. Dru laughed joyously. "Mummy's paying attention to me--we can sit down for tea!" Buffy tried to look away, but the dark orbs drew her in like quicksand. "Buffy. . .come to me."

Buffy found herself shuffling forward, though her hands remained raised to attack. She struggled to stop, remembering how she had thrown off the Master's hypnosis--but this seemed to be another level of power altogether. She managed to slow her progress to a crawl, but she still moved forward.

Dru smiled and waited for Buffy to come within reach before calling out, "You won't need that," and nodding at the stake. The stake fell to the ground and Dru smiled. "That's better. We wouldn't want to ruin my pretty dress."

"Buffy!" Angel shouted. He had managed to stake one of the minion vamps, but the other five were blocking the path to Buffy and Dru as efficiently as a stone wall would have. He looked on helplessly as Dru stroked Buffy's chin with a finger, and leaned in to bite--

Buffy dove to the right, grasping the right sleeve of Drusilla's dress and using it to throw her staggering away into a nearby wall. The sleeve remained in her hand, and she tossed it away with a negligent gesture that was meant to display a calm she was most definitely *not* feeling right now. Dru had let her attention waver for just a moment when she moved to bite--and Buffy had been ready. That was the only thing that had saved her. Buffy looked over at the visibly relieved Angel, and her eyes flashed an unmistakable message--* Get free and help me, or I'm dead * Angel nodded and redoubled his efforts, risking painful attacks to force openings. She turned back to Dru, avoiding the deadly gaze again as she called out, "It takes more than that to put a Slayer down, Dru."

Dru glared at the damage to her dress, then smiled and whispered, "Mummy's being all brave--"

"Stop calling me that! I'm not your mother--and I'd never want to be!" Buffy was furious, and she didn't bother to force down the anger--it was the only thing that might hold off the vampire's awesome mental powers. Dru stepped forward, and Buffy snarled, "Shut up and fi--"

Buffy stopped in mid-sentence. The missing sleeve had revealed Dru's upper right arm and right shoulder. The flesh was for the most part pale and unmarked, but Buffy had seen a single dark spot on the top of the shoulder-- and she felt a chill of familiarity as she stared at it, heedless of the danger of Dru's eyes.


Dru saw the horrified, wide-eyed stare that Buffy was directing at her, and followed her eyes. "Mummy's seen my beauty mark. I remember the nice man with the spectacles and the books coming to visit--he asked me questions and complimented me on my mark and had tea with me and told me that I was a good girl. . .that I would be special."

"That you would be Chosen." Buffy's voice felt gravelly, as if she hadn't spoken in months. She began shaking her head and whispering, "It can't be." Her thoughts fled to an afternoon years before, when the Sunnydale High Library still stood more or less intact, and Buffy was reading a battered book on Slayer Lore. The passage remained in her memory as clearly as when she had read it for the first time: "There are many ways to identify those who may be Chosen, but the one certain indication is a small beauty mark of a particular shape, which will appear on the upper torso of the girl, and which will glow bright red with the utterance of the command phrase--" Buffy shook her head to clear it and called out, "Corona Volaris!"

She felt a tingle from her own body from where her own mole had once been, and gasped as the mark on Drusilla's shoulder glowed crimson. Dru giggled and commented, "Mummy knows fun games--Miss Edith and I can teach her more fun games."

Buffy stared at Dru in silence--the only sound in the room was Angel's continued struggles against the minions. * Hurry, Angel * Buffy's emotions were in turmoil: curiosity warred with rage and won. "Dru--why are you calling me Mummy?"

"You're the eldest--you called to us and we came by the legions." Dru spoke matter-of-factly, and Buffy listened in fascination as the insane vampire smiled at her and continued, "The nice man said I would be called, but I never was--maybe they couldn't find me while I was playing with Daddy and Grandmum and Spike. Then I was minding my own business and I heard the Call--I was so happy. I heard it, and I waited--" Buffy blinked, and tears fell free as Dru shook her head sadly, "But the Call didn't get to me- -it was too late. My sisters heard and followed and left me behind, and I was all alone."

Buffy took a moment to compose herself before whispering, "Yes, Dru--it's too late for you to be Called. I'm sorry--I'm sure that you would have been a good Slayer."

Dru brightened. "But that's just it! It's not too late--not really. I can have my sisters back, and we can all be together. Miss Edith reminded me of that dusty old book I keep in a trunk--it showed me how. I made this place where I can bring my sisters to visit, and we can have tea, and laugh, and plan. . .and when there are enough of us, we can go into the world and rejoin the rest of them. We'll never be alone again." Buffy choked, and Dru looked at her pityingly. "Don't be sad, Mummy. I wanted to have more of your babies waiting for you before you came, but it's better this way. Every one of our sisters can join us, and the first thing they'll see is your smiling face welcoming them to their new life--" She smiled at Buffy's silence, and chuckled, "You'll see--it's time." She glanced over to see that Angel had dusted another minion--no time to waste. She carefully locked eyes with the Slayer--only to feel a shock that penetrated to her dark core.

Buffy's eyes blazed in rage and horror: she threw off Drusilla's mental probe as if it was a gossamer curtain, and knocked the insane vampire twenty feet across the room with a backhanded slap. Dru smacked against a wall, cracking it, and Buffy paused momentarily to pick up her stake before charging at her reeling foe.

"Mummy, stop struggling--it's for the best!" Dru protested, trying to fend off the enraged Slayer and stupefy her with the awesome mental powers at her command before Angel finished his opponents off and complicated things. She saw Buffy's eyes widen--and she would have sworn that the Slayer's eyes had literally turned into pools of green flame.

Buffy stepped forward and threw a straight left, ignoring Dru's attempt to block it and striking her in the stomach. "I'm not your mother!" Dru grunted, and Buffy immediately followed up with a left uppercut that broke Dru's jaw. "And you--" Sweep kick, dropping Dru to the ground. "--aren't- -" Kick to the chest as Dru tried to stand, knocking her supine. "--taking- -" Dru's eyes widen as Buffy brought her right hand around for the first time, the deadly stake striking home with a meaty thump. "--them!"

Dru's eyes widened, and she turned to dust as Buffy withdrew the stake and dropped it to the floor. She sat there, staring at the dust and oblivious to the abrupt change in their surroundings. There were four quick sounds of vampiric death behind her, and then Angel was next to her, holding her. She blinked and looked up. They were sitting in a small crypt--the domed ceiling the only point of significant resemblance between the crypt and the room they had just been in. Angel crouched next to her, and his voice quivered as he said, "Buffy--I heard enough to know what happened. I had no idea--she never mentioned being a Potential, and her other powers were more obvious. . ." He stood up again and said quietly, "The vampires are dead--you should be safe here. I should go away for a while--you won't want to see me."

"An-Angel?" Angel looked down at Buffy and saw that she was crying openly. Angel waited and Buffy whispered, "Angel--please don't leave me here alone. . .I need someone who understands--"

Angel did understand, and he pulled her to her feet and held her as she sobbed and whispered, "She was so alone, Angel. I wanted to just hate her, and then I couldn't, but I knew I had to stop her--"

"You did stop her, for which I thank you."

Buffy and Angel both flinched at the familiar voice, and they turned to see a shimmering figure floating above the pile of dust where Drusilla had been. Her hair was dark and long, and she wore a simple white tunic with loose pants and comfortable shoes. Her eyes were dark and beautiful and completely sane. She smiled and said simply, "You have ended a long legacy of misery on this day, Buffy."

Angel turned away and walked to a corner, shivering. Buffy looked back at him in concern, but the newcomer was an irresistible attraction, and she turned back to her and whispered, "Drusilla."

The ghost nodded. "As I would have been in life, if events had proceeded differently." She chuckled and commented, "Reality turned out to be a bit more complicated."

"You haven't been in Dru--the vampire Dru--all along, have you?" Buffy was appalled at the idea that this innocent could have been exposed to the horrors that Spike's sire had experienced and inflicted over a century and a half.

"Not exactly," sighed Drusilla, shaking her head and looking over at Angel-- who was still refusing to look at her. "Once Angelus selected me as a target, my destiny to be a Slayer and a seer was forfeit. He tormented me for ever so long--hoping to sway me to his will and accept my fate willingly. I never did--he broke my mind, but my spirit never yielded. When he took my life and my soul was released, the Powers offered me a choice as a reward for my zeal in defending my soul: embrace the afterlife and remain forever ignorant of whatever atrocities were to be accomplished with my stolen body--or remain as an observer and be able to take advantage of whatever opportunities I encountered to amend the wrongs she committed in my name."

Buffy closed her eyes and shuddered. "You took the second choice."

Drusilla nodded. "Don't think of it as some great and noble choice, Buffy. Yes, it has been horrible at times--I'm terribly sorry that I couldn't help Kendra--but I had the reassurance that an afterlife of peace was waiting for me when my tasks were completed. It makes things a lot easier. I had my sanity back, and the memories of the pain faded somewhat. I healed, and I waited."

"What were you able to do?" Buffy was curious.

"Not much at first. Her powers were great, and mine as an observing spirit were rather limited." Dru said ruefully. "However, her madness created opportunities, and I was able to take advantage of one of them in particular." Drusilla smiled and said simply, "My full name in life was Drusilla Edith Morrow."

Buffy laughed involuntarily. "*You're* Miss Edith?"

"In a sense. She always heard the voices, and gave them names. I just started talking myself one day, and told her I was Miss Edith." Drusilla looked rueful, and Buffy blinked in confusion until the ghost elaborated, "Of course, being as crazy as she was, she started hearing Miss Edith even when I wasn't saying anything, and interfering might have given the game away. I'm afraid a lot of really awful things were done in Miss Edith's name."

Buffy shrugged. "Not a lot you could do about it--what did you use the influence for?"

"The main thing was that mob in Prague--I coaxed her into running for a part of the crowd where she'd be beaten to a pulp rather than burned. I was trying to be ambitious--I hoped that Spike would get himself killed in a futile attempt to save her. That plan didn't work so well." Drusilla frowned and asked, "What happened to him, anyway? Dru lost track of him after the incident with the cattle prod."

"He died helping us save the world," Buffy spent a fair amount of time trying not to think of Spike, but it was unavoidable here. "He quested to regain his soul, and fought at the end with honor."

Drusilla nodded and sighed. "Poor William. It's somewhat my fault that Dru chose him--I always had a romantic streak, and she was able to see the essence of an adventurer in that sad little man." She shook her head sadly and added, "At least some good came of it all in the end."

Buffy nodded--not trusting herself to speak. After a moment, she asked, "So it was *you* who told Dru to use that ritual?" Drusilla nodded, and Buffy's eyes narrowed. "You could have gotten a lot of us killed if I hadn't had that dream! What were you thinking--?"

"Buffy--she knew about the Slayers: your ritual would have alerted her even if I *hadn't* been a Potential." Drusilla frowned, and Buffy waited as the ghost added, " She was very powerful and very determined to get her way. I chose a method that would limit her ability to act at first, and which you could take advantage of if you had sufficient warning--"

"But how could you know that I would have that dream in time?" asked Buffy, audibly confused.

Drusilla smiled warmly and replied, "You should know better than anyone that Slayers can share dreams, Buffy."

Buffy's jaw dropped. "You mean--?"

"Your ritual empowered every Potential on Earth. Dru had the body of a Potential, but the human soul was gone--replaced by the vampiric demon. I am the soul of Drusilla Edith Morrow--Potential Chosen One." Buffy stared, and Drusilla nodded and continued, "The ritual activated my powers as best it could under the circumstances. I have no true body, so I did not gain the powers relating to strength, speed, resilience, and healing. I gained the knowledge of how to use all weapons, but more importantly--"

"You have Slayer's dreams." Buffy interjected, shaking her head in disbelief.

"Yes, and thanks to my other psychic abilities, I could simply send a dream your way--and Helen's. She's going to be quite powerful, by the way--but those powers can be unsettling." Drusilla frowned before adding, "Make sure someone talks to her a lot about issues that may disturb her--the consequences would be grave if she were to lose her sanity."

Buffy nodded, and Drusilla smiled and said, "In any event, my message got to you in time, and you exceeded my expectations in defeating Dru, Buffy. Which is good--since I overestimated my ability to assist you in the fight. By the time you discovered her secret, I was reduced to praying that Angel would overcome his foes and assist you before it was too late."

Buffy paled, but managed to whisper, "Closer than I like it, that's for sure." She looked at the ghost, and a pang of impending loss struck her as she asked, "You're not going to stay, are you?"

Drusilla shook her head, her expression turning sympathetic as she replied, "My task is done here. I would gladly fight at your side, Buffy--but my powers are limited in this form, and you have a legion of our sisters to stand by you in battle. I leave knowing that you are in good hands." She turned to the silent figure in the corner, and sighed before adding, "Which reminds me of one last task I must perform." She floated over to the corner and whispered, "Angel. Look at me." The vampire flinched, and Drusilla added in a slightly sterner tone, "If you believe you owe me any debt for your past actions, look at me now."

Angel went rigid for a moment, then turned to face the ghost. His eyes were red and his cheeks wet. Drusilla looked at him for a moment and whispered, "Your path is long and difficult, Angel. I cannot see an end for it--or you--in the near future. You have striven for decades to atone for the atrocities of Angelus, and you have come to understand that it is a process that will never really be over. You have caused great pain to those you have come to love, and that is ultimately something that you will have to live with. I have no power to grant you absolution for the others you have harmed, Angel--but I say to you now that I forgive you for what Angelus did to me. Know that I chose to continue the fight as best I could in spite of my death, and that I go on to a better place having completed my mission. May that happy fate be yours one day."

Buffy watched as Angel blinked and whispered, "Thank you," and felt her own cheeks grow wet again.

Drusilla smiled and turned back to Buffy. "Then it is good-bye until we meet again--Sister." Drusilla closed her eyes, and her shimmering form flared brightly and vanished.

Buffy felt a pang of loss, and Angel staggered as if he was about to fall. Buffy moved over to steady him, and saw that his eyes still looked haunted, though he seemed to be recovering. Buffy smiled wistfully and said, "Let's go home."

They left the crypt--which opened out into the cemetery they had entered from--and drove back to the Hyperion, leaving a silent cemetery in their wake.

* * * * *

A week later, the banquet hall of the Hyperion was full, and Buffy sat quietly as over a hundred Slayers and their friends and co-workers ate and talked among themselves. Angel sat at her right hand, silent and ready to assist as needed. After the plates had been cleared away and the talking had died down, Buffy stood up and said, "I didn't announce why I'd called you all together tonight, and I'm glad to see you all here. There is a piece of news that I need to pass on. For the first time since the destruction of the Hellmouth and our founding in this place, there has been a confirmed incident where one of us has passed on to another existence."

Buffy's words provoked a substantial amount of murmuring from the table-- not the least of which was provoked by Buffy's odd wording. Buffy raised her hand for silence, and began to speak. The occupants of the room listened, spellbound, as Buffy described the dream, and the threat posed by Dru's ritual, and the fight in all of its brutal details--followed by the appearance of Drusilla's ghost and what that spirit had said. When she had finished, Buffy was silent for a moment, then said quietly, "Drusilla wasn't a Slayer for very long, but she was our ally in her heart long before she was able to help us, and when she got her chance she performed in a way that anyone in this room should be proud to match. I ask that everyone in this room take a moment to remember Drusilla Edith Morrow, Slayer." Buffy lifted her glass and called out, "To Drusilla! One of us-- now and forever!"

Everyone drank the toast, and Buffy nodded to Lorne, who walked to the front of the room and began to sing:

Softly, I will leave you softly For my heart would break if you should wake and see me go So I leave you softly, long before you miss me Long before your arms can beg me stay For one more hour or one more day After all the years, I can't bear the tears to fall So, softly as I leave you there

Angel squeezed Buffy's hand and whispered, "She was very proud of you, Buffy."

Buffy blinked and answered softly, "I know. It sucks to find someone you care about and lose them in fifteen minutes. . .I wish I knew for sure that she'd be happy now."

"She is." Angel answered with a firmness that surprised her, and saw that for once Angel's expression indicated a measure of contentment. She smiled and listened to Lorne finish the song:

. . . or one more day After all the years, I can't bear the tears to fall So, softly as I leave you there As I leave I you there As I leave I you there

Author's Closing Notes: "Softly, As I Leave You" was one of Frank Sinatra's old reliables, and it was written by Hal Shaper, Antonio Devita, and Giorgio Calabrese.

As always, comments are welcomed and desired.