"Love

Author: Meltha

Rating: PG-13

Feedback: Yes, thank you.

Spoilers: Through Buffy season 5, very vaguely

Distribution: The Blackberry Patch and . If you're interested, please let me know.

Summary: In the aftermath of Angelus's departure, Drusilla fall to pieces.

Author's Note: Written for druturns10 on the tenth anniversary of the first time "School Hard" aired.

Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.

Darkness of Departure

"Love? Please, love? Come back to me?"

Words reached her through the swirling abyss that was her world. There was too much pain, too much grief, and she couldn't bear it anymore. Drusilla refused to remember anything, not the voice of her lover or the faces that had disappeared, not her name, not words, not food or blood or music or stars or dolls or jam tarts or satin slippers or dancing or heaven or hell or whatever was in between.

It had begun when Daddy had left, though she hadn't really known what that meant yet. Romania had smelled of death and promised dark deeds and misfortune, but those things followed wherever the four of them went, so she saw it only as an invitation to a party they would host, not their own doom. She had been hunting with her William, their quarry a pretty boy in his late teens who promised to taste of cherries and wine, when suddenly she had dropped to her knees, screaming so terrifyingly that for a moment it looked as though Spike might follow the boy in running down the cobbled street and into the safety of home, but it was only a moment.

He'd gathered her in his arms, asking over and over what was wrong, if she was in pain, but all she could do was sob as he carried her back to their flat. She had been vaguely aware of his scent, usually so comforting, but tonight there was nothing that would soothe her. When they came home, Grandmummy told them Angelus was gone. William frowned, though it wasn't unusual for Angelus to go off for a year at a time with no word at all, but this had felt different even to him.

Drusilla would not be consoled. After days of nearly catatonic grief, she suddenly rose up at Darla, shrieking and tearing with her nails, bloodying her lovely satin dress, accusing her of having killed her daddy.

"Angelus was the one who killed your father, Dru," she had said in annoyance, "not me."

"That was the first time," Drusilla spat at her. "This time, you killed him, brought him a gift with a viper under the bow, and now the poison is in him, and it's your fault!"

William had stood to the side, not understanding what had happened but not making any movement to restrain Dru from battering the other vampire like a ragdoll.

"Bring him back!" she screamed again and again, and she noticed that Grandmummy, though she told her to stop, did not fight back.

What Darla spent the next day doing none of them ever knew, but shortly after nightfall she returned, gathered the other two vampires into a waiting coach, and gave orders to the driver to take them towards the Romany camp. Drusilla's eyes glittered in the darkness, a smile bending her lips into a bow. She reached from one bench seat to the other, gripping Darla's hand and petting the skin of her forearm as if she were a favorite kitten. Darla did not react. Instead, she stared out the window, watching the city buildings change to trees and brush, the sound of the horses' hooves switching to dull thuds as the road became dirt.

Darla told them to kill when they arrived, and they did. Drusilla was no fool, though she knew herself to be mad. She noticed that while she and William slew dozens of the people in brightly colored clothes, Darla touched no one. Drusilla even knew why; she knew killing one of these people had made Daddy go away, that Darla had chosen to risk losing William and her to the same fate if there was a chance she could bring Angelus home, but Grandmummy would not risk herself. Drusilla knew. Drusilla killed anyway. If Daddy might come home for good and all, she didn't care if the bad thing happened to her too. Bad things had always happened to her. She was used to it. Daddy wasn't, so she could stand it better. The good sisters had taught her that the path to true happiness was bordered in flowers of pain, and she was prepared to take the lashes.

When they left the camp that night, there was no one left alive. Darla's face was like a sculpture made of snow. If she spoke, it seemed she might shatter into icy shards. Everyone was silent until the carriage bumped up the driveway, and before they could go into the flat, Darla killed their driver, almost as an afterthought.

"We're leaving," she had said. "Now. Don't bother to pack."

They had taken the train. Darla spoke little. Drusilla's mind went backwards and forwards, her Sight like a searchlight or the beacon of a lighthouse. The stars and the fae said nothing, though, and she could not pull Daddy home to safe harbor, not at all. She wandered from room to room in their new homes, fingers trailing through dust, her eyes downcast, half-remembered Latin falling from her mouth in supplication like crushed pearls. William dressed her each day and undressed her each night, willing her to come alive again under his fingers and lips. She knew. She felt his love.

She didn't care.

It wasn't until China that she started to show stirrings of life. Something was coming; the itching in her thumbs told her so. And then one day, Daddy was there, and she was so happy to see him, so happy to throw her arms around her sweet Angelus and drink in his scent, that she told her voices to shush, that there was no difference in what she smelled and saw and heard despite what they said. She knew she was lying to herself, but she liked the lie and swallowed it like a chocolate-covered strawberry. She comforted herself with the thing that looked like her lost one, and when he was in sight, she couldn't be stopped from touching him, playing with the buttons of his coat or the ties that held back his hair, running a finger down his cheek until he bled under her nails.

He was gone again faster than the stars she had blotted out had whispered he would leave. He simply wasn't there anymore. The last traces of the bond they shared were utterly severed, not merely by the festering soul that had been thrust upon him but by the choice he had made to leave and not return. Of his own free will, he had abandoned them and meant never to return. As far as she could see into the future, he spoke the truth. She started to laugh at that. Daddy had been such a good liar, after all, and now everything about him was tainted with truth.

When her laughter had gone on for three days without interruption, not even when Spike, for he was always Spike to her now and William had gone away, brought her the choicest morsels to eat, even a beautiful young duchess in her jewels and silks and laces, though how he had found her was anyone's guess. Finally, Darla had cracked Drusilla hard across the face, her rings splitting her lip.

"Stop it!" she had screamed, her face a mask of horror as she backed out of the room, and those were the last words Drusilla heard Grandmummy say for nearly a hundred years. She went away, too. They were leaves falling from a tree in the blight of autumn.

After Darla left, Spike had asked Drusilla is she wanted him to find Grandmummy and bring her home again. He offered to do wicked things to Darla if it would make his princess happy, but Drusilla said nothing. For weeks she was silent, and though Spike caressed and tortured with newfound skill, no sound came from her. Her eyes were always half-closed, afraid to see the world around her, afraid to see the world in her mind. She didn't sleep. She dreamed enough without sleeping.

One night when Spike had left to get her something to eat, she left the rooms they shared in old London, where he had brought her in hopes that she might remember something of their life. It worked only too well. Her feet burned beneath her, and everywhere she saw the ghosts of those long past: two daddies and a mummy, and grandmummies, sweet Anne, the sisters, the shopkeeper on the corner, and a girl who stood before an altar and begged to be taken as a bride of the Church but who had been murdered before she could make her vows. They called to her to come and dance with them, called and called and pleaded in voices shrieking for mercy, until finally she went outdoors and into the night.

The Londoners who saw her were moved to pity by the madwoman who spoke in riddles and nursery nonsense. It was winter, and she had neglected to put shoes on her feet, which were soon bleeding across the snow. She stood before a house where more than forty years ago something unspeakable had happened, pressing her face to the glass and whispering lullabies to slumbering sisters who would never wake. Long before morning, a constable had found her, ushering her into a police station without resistance, and after a day waiting in a cell with women who were drunks or thieves, prostitutes or pickpockets, or the few who were as insane as herself, she was called before a judge who took but one look at her and pronounced her mad, sending her off to the asylum.

The wailing never stopped there, not just the wailing in her own mind but the wailing of the other women, shut away and never to see daylight again for the crime of their illness. She refused to eat, and when the nurses attempted to feed her, she struggled, unable to stomach the gruel forced down her throat. She was labeled a difficult inmate and sent to the ward where the most unstable were housed.

For three weeks she squatted in a corner, never moving, and no one bothered enough to notice. She watched other women in other corners raving and fighting over the bread that was given them once a day, the bigger ones taking everything from the smaller ones until they faded away. Her dress was filthy. Bugs crawled along the walls, and rats came out at night, chewing on bits of bedding and occasionally the weaker ones. Her legs were bitten, and some small corner of her brain wondered if the rats would live on and on now, until all the other rats had died away and left them alone. She was thinner than a breeze and pale as smoke.

But one night, there was a noise. The door to her cell was torn from its hinges and flung away like a dead thing, and the inmates of the room stared up in dumbfounded wonder, save one who wouldn't turn to look.

"Pet?"

He wasn't sure it was even her at first beneath the layers of filth, but as the other women realized they could make their escape and ran but this one did not, he came closer.

"Dru?"

She was rocking in her corner, forward and back, the way Mummy had once rocked her before her throat was torn out, and cracked lips mouthed words of childish comfort that she didn't believe.

A hand turned her face upwards, but her eyes remained focused on something in another world as Spike looked down at her.

"What have they done to you?" he said, kneeling beside her. "I've looked for over a month and couldn't find any sign of you. I've been out of my mind with worry, sired more than ten dozen to search for you."

He might as well have been speaking to stone for all the effect it had on her.

"Love? Please, love? Come back to me?"

His words were still lost in the maelstrom of a thousand other voices, most of them mocking her and telling her she was alone forever. She was in the cold, alone, forever alone, and the bridges were burned around her, the flames licking her flesh and making her tremble with their frozen heat.

Then a drop fell on her face, a single drop like the start of a spring rain, and her cheek flinched at the feel of it, for it was real. Nothing real had touched her in a very long time without causing her pain. Her eyes slowly took in the room around her from the never-ending waterfall of places that were always in her Sight, and the figure that crouched before her, hands clenched on her shoulders and directing her gaze towards him. He was haggard, panic written on his features, and her thin frame shook under the strength of his grip. Her Spike was crying.

"You can't leave me like this, damn it!" he yelled, infuriated. "I've got no one else, and I can't bear forever without you!"

The words rang through where her soul had once been, and they were an echo of everything she felt. A dim realization came to her that as Grandmummy and Daddy had done to her, so she had done to her William by going all away and leaving him alone, standing on the precipice of eternity with only the wind and ashes for company. That wouldn't do.

"Shh," she said, the sound crackling in her throat as her hands reached out to touch him, comforting. "I'm here."

His face changed in a moment to hopeful joy, and suddenly she remembered what kisses were as he put his lips on hers. He brought her slowly to her feet, gripping her tiny frame as though he would never let go, leading her out of the horrifying stench of the room and outside, into the night air, where he had kept one of the guards bound. She was too weak to feed, so he bit him, then transferred the blood sip by sip to her through kisses. At the first taste, bits of her had begun to come alive again, the wheels of her mind struggling back from their long torpor into a rhythm. She was remembering, becoming Drusilla again, with all that meant.

When at length she had drunk enough, Spike carried her through the gates of the asylum, which was strangely still this night, and through the turning roads to a tiny room with newspapers pressed against the windows. He put her on a cot just as she could start to feel the sun beginning to rise in the east, as it had always done and would continue to do for the rest of her life.

"I love you," he breathed against her skin as he lay beside her, his arms wrapped around her tightly as though aching to be sure of her fleshly reality. "Even if those bloody fools have left you, I never will. This is forever."

She let the familiar scent of him wash over her as sleep finally claimed her, and she was home. But even though he thought he was speaking the truth, she knew he was lying.

She didn't care.