Run and Catch
by Branwyn

Drusilla feels odd.

The air is strange, thick and fragrant with the sickly-sweet aroma of pear tree blossoms. If she stands still long enough, swaying convincingly, she too will begin to smell of rotting meat, and the flies will come.

Spike is gone. Tonight he plays, intoxicated by the changes. Someone is trading one world for another, and Drusilla stands in the eddies of reality, ears attuned to one voice, then the next, none of them being especially permanent.

The playground is empty, the merry-go-round spinning slowly in the wind. Drusilla met a little boy there once, and Angel took him away from her. But sometimes Angel isn't there, and the boy tastes of strawberries and ginger beer.

There's a little girl who comes now, but Drusilla doesn't see her yet.

She sways a little on her feet. Her arms and legs are so light these days that soon she expects to catch a sudden wind and be blown away, back to Prague. She tried to tell Spike once how every day she feels a little less solid, a little less cold, but he just gets worried and starts promising to make her well again.

She's not ill.

He doesn't understand this. She tries to explain, but her words are long and full of light, and he gets confused easily.

Drusilla remembers suddenly that she meets the Slayer soon, and she clasps her hands. The Slayer's arms are warm and tight, and the point of her stake makes a tiny red spot on Drusilla's breast that itches for days. Spike will coddle her afterwards as a little child clings to his mother, frightened by the girl and her threats.

Drusilla touches the warm spots on her wrists, where the Slayer's hand prints will linger for days like a fever.

She opens her eyes suddenly. The girl who comes is here now, in her fancy-dress costume. Pretty little girl, jointed satin limbs, the most perfect doll in the world. Even her name is full of sunshine. Drusilla will touch her, and she will glow for days.

She smiles.

The child walks toward her slowly, and stops a few feet away, though Drusilla is careful, when she smiles, to hide her teeth. Her mother raised her to mind her manners.

"Your dress is pretty," says the sunshine girl, shyly. "My sister's dressed up old-fashioned like that, too. But her hair's all big."

"Sweet child," Drusilla says, and the girl disappears again, a puff of sweet autumn wind changing the place where, for a moment, she was standing.

One day the child will linger a moment too long, and Drusilla will snatch her up, sink red claws into the white flesh and drag her all the way, all the way home. She will dress her in white lace and warm herself by the roiling light under that thin, pearly layer of skin.

"My mom made my dress," the child says. The image of her wavers, as though she is a silk painting that could flutter in the wind.

"Dawn! Where have you been?" The Slayer comes running, one eye fixed on the child, another on Drusilla.

She smiles, and feints toward the girl as though to seize her by the neck, and the Slayer's eyes grow wide and panicked. The next instant, the child vanishes, and the Slayer comes to a stop on the place where she stood.

She stares up at Drusilla, unaware that seconds ago she was chasing the vapor of a younger sister who may or may not have ever existed. "Do your hunting somewhere besides the playground, Dru, or I'll send Spike a pretty box to hold your ashes."

Drusilla smiles, and spreads her skirt for a little curtsy as she walks away. The wide sweep of white fabric catches the wind like a sail, and she floats away into someone else's thoughts.