Moonlight, shadows, and a figure crumpled in a dirty alley, her small, bright form ridiculously out of context amid the trash and cardboard

Title: Long Shall I Rue Thee

AUTHOR: Starbaby/

Disclaimer: Joss is the man.

Summary: This was an experiment. Sort of defies explanation. There's character death and angst and friendship. And sewing.

Long Shall I Rue Thee

By Starbaby

For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return--

Genesis, 111, 19

Moonlight, shadows, and a figure crumpled in a dirty alley, her small, bright form ridiculously out of context amid the trash and cardboard.

This was all that remained.

The vampire sank to his knees, the weapon of destruction dropping to his side. He hadn't drawn the breath of life in a hundred years, but on this night he took in great swallows of night air, perhaps trying to draw someone back from the ether and unto himself.

His blue eyes were riveted on the familiar body lying sprawled in the shadow of a great green dumpster, her left leg bent backward where he'd grabbed and twisted. Oh, how hard he'd grabbed and twisted, mangled and squeezed, then cast what was left aside into the refuse behind the Bronze. His gaze traced the fine shape of the head--he'd held it's silky roundness in his hands a hundred times--now obscenely dented where a sharp edge made contact on the bitter journey to the pavement. Her bright dress, chosen with such care, was ripped and dotted with blood. More than a little of it was his. In the end, only the fittest survived, but his opponent was strong, so much stronger than she'd been upon her choosing. He noted with sorrow that the delicate back was broken in more than one place, crushed by the very hands that had picked her up and straightened on so many occasions.

She was no longer pretty.

The journey from princess to urchin was swift and terrible and so utterly final. Both combatants had crossed a border this night, and neither would ever return to wholeness. Deep in his undead heart, he'd always known it would come to this; the fighting, the loving, the struggling, the dancing. And what a dance it had been! Not a delicate waltz or a tedious minuet, but a mad polka to the edge of forever, a crazy, joyous spinning that could only end in death. Yes, this end was foretold by many, like Angel and the Watcher and the girl herself. In spite of his devotion, his faith, and his declarations, it had come to this.

Moonlight and shadow. A man and woman who sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind, two killers swirling around each other in a vortex of needs and compulsions.

He'd failed as poet and he'd failed as a protector. When attacked, the demon rose, unbidden.

He was the death of her.

I met a lady in the meads,

Full beautiful--a faery's child;

Her hair was long, her foot was light,

And her eyes were wild-----

John Keats, La Belle Dame Sans Merci

He crawled across the alley to the resting place.

He ran his hands over the fair hair, setting it to rights, and pulled the broken body into his lap. Absently, he crooned a song from William's boyhood, those long-forgotten days when he'd sat in church and listened to the priest speak about a better life that awaited the faithful, and about the preservation of the soul. What did they know, those robed freaks? Maybe there was salvation for all who repented, and absolution for ones like her, who only wanted to do good, to be good, yet met a sad and terrible fate.

He had his back to the alley battle ground, and twitched in surprise when a feather-light touch fell upon his shoulder.

'Spike?" a soft voice called him back. He resisted, hunching his shoulders and tucking his burden farther into his lap.

"Spike, we have to go." He knew that voice. He loved that voice. Slayer.

He raised his head for a moment, and looked up into her face. He didn't expect to find compassion etched on her features, but there it was. He noted vaguely that the rest of the Scoobies were standing at a respectful distance, waiting. Each, in their turn, had known this kind of grief and loss, be it for a love, a friend, a dream, or a homeland. If Spike hadn't considered himself one of the group before, he did in that moment.

And he began to come back to himself.

Buffy sat down beside him and reached for what remained of Spike's century long love affair. Slowly, and with care, she pried his fingers from Miss Edith's dirty frock, now coated with a thin layer of Drusilla's ashes. She and her minions had been waiting behind the Bronze, in moonlight and shadow, when the gang trooped out after a suspiciously uneventful evening of beer and pool. Not surprisingly, Dru had made a beeline for Buffy.

Naughty, naughty Slayer!

For a moment, Buffy had wondered what Spike would do. If it were Angelus lunging for him, or Willow, or Xander, could she forget all they had been to one another, forsake one love for another? Since her death on Glory's tower, and her resurrection, Buffy knew her own strength, and the answer was yes, she could. But she and Angel hadn't been together for a hundred years, in sickness and in health, through wars and global upheaval.

But even Spike could see that Drusilla, in all her love and madness, was out of control. Maybe she was lonely. Maybe she was tired and wanted death. She fought like a tigress. The world stood still for a moment and the night held its breath when Spike retrieved Mr. Pointy and plunged it into the heart of his lost, dark love. Then all that remained was silt on the wind, the whisper of jasmine and the smashed doll, Miss Edith, mangled and torn by grappling hands.

Buffy took the toy and straightened the clothes, returned its leg to position, and retied her pink bonnet. That was all she could do for Miss Edith. Spike would take a little more work. She tucked the little body under her arm and nodded to Xander. By silent agreement, he and Buffy hauled Spike to his feet, one on each side.

They left the alley just before dawn.

And throughout all Eternity

I forgive you, you forgive me--

Blake, Broken Love

Willow was a gifted girl, but she was no seamstress.

Spike regarded the repaired Miss Edith with amusement, the first time he'd smiled in days. Lil' Edie had been washed and sewn and stuffed into new clothes, but a line of broad stitches ran across her head, where several bald spots would forever remain. She looked more like Frankenstein than a duchess, but Miss Edith was whole again. It was the kindest thing anyone had ever done for him. She sat in his crypt now, where he could see her in the mornings and remember his Dark Queen. Willow had worried that the gift was morbid, but Buffy had dismissed that idea.

'The guy lives in a crypt with skeletons. That's morbid!"

Spike was glad to have Miss Edith back. She was all that remained of Drusilla. When a vampire's body crumbles to dust, what's left but the tangible objects they leave behind? Someday, if Buffy cared to remember him, all she would have was a tiny metal chip and a kick-ass leather coat.

He'd burned the last bridge between he and the rest of his kind and committed the great sin of killing his sire. There was no going back, only forward and through. But more than that, Drusilla had been his companion, his love, his partner in crime, a fascinating, childlike, creature who was just shattered by life. She could be a goddess of mystery, a ruthless spree killer, or a fragile woman of flowers, depending on her mood or the way the stars aligned.

He remembered how she giggled at traffic accidents, and how dearly she loved to snack on candy vendors. She said they tasted like marzipan. He might rage at the Slayer, declaring how she'd turned him into a soddin' pansy, but he'd given in to Drusilla's every heart's desire for a hundred years. He'd done everything from gathering pieces of the judge to sitting down with Dru and her dolls for a tea party. He and his lady love had sipped B-positive, Miss Edith had Earl Grey, and Sunshine nibbled on a slice of human liver.

Those were good days.

He could count on one hand the number of times she'd been lucid during their years together, and the moments when she emerged from her world of dolls and stars were, somehow, the saddest of all. Once, she'd been sitting before her ornate mirror, dipping her head from side-to-side in that peculiar, Stevie Wonder-like way of hers. The only difference was, Stevie merely appeared a little high, while Dru looked to be in ecstasy, as if she were scenting something glorious, or tasting a divine morsel. But, this time, she stopped swaying and looked hard into the glass. She turned to Spike with a frown spread across her gamine features.

"That's not right. Not right at all."

And just like that, she returned to her twilight world. He wondered what she'd expected to see. An old crone? A skull with the skin peeling away? A witch scarred by the hands of so-called God-fearing people who didn't understand her gift? He vowed to always take care of her, but, just as in human families, life took them in different directions. After decades of searching, he found the people he was meant to be with, Buffy Summers and her traveling circus. But Dru…she was more tragic with each passing year.

He would never forget her; his black princess who could be cunning as a kitten or cruel as a cat. He would think of her whenever he saw constellations, night-blooming orchids or dancing girls.

There were moments, in the dead of night, when he thought she was there with him. It was her eyes he saw first, burning in the moonlight with an unlife of their own. Then the starlight created the rest of her, building the seeress from the ground up, a vision in dreamlight. She would run her ruby nails along his face and whisper that the road to hell is paved not with good intentions, but with loss. Then she turned and drifted away, as elusive in death as she'd been in life.

And he just watched her go.