Originally written December of 2000. (My second one ever.)

Rating:  PG, there is a slight suggestion that Drusilla may have killed someone and her relationship with William may not be entirely plutonic

Feedback:  If you please, thank you.

Distribution:  At the moment, here.  If someone wants it, I'd really appreciate it if you would ask me, please.

Spoilers:  Nothing, really.

Disclaimer:  All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose charcters 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.

Dedication:  This one goes out to RyAn.  You're one special person.

Author's Note:  This is set during the time period before Angelus got his soul back.  I know Dru and William didn't apparently technically become a couple until 1900, but I'm bending that rule a teensy bit here.

Absolution

            Stars shone brightly in the night sky above, singing their never ceasing rhapsody of diamond-cold light, not that anyone else heard it other than the startlingly beautiful girl with skin as pale as the moon.  Her sapphire eyes sparkled in the semi-blackness as her feet tripped lightly over the lamp-lit cobblestone street in a dance of mixed innocence and power.  From the shadowy depths nearby, a pair of eyes the color of winter watched her graceful movements, never completely comprehending the dance but admiring her fluid gestures, the fragility of her motions that he knew concealed her tremendous strength.  He smiled at her in a surprisingly tender fashion.

            "Hearing the stars again, princess?"  he asked in dulcet tones as he stepped forward into the light and drew her towards him, taking her tiny, icy hand in his own.

            "Can't you hear them whispering in your ear?" she asked, putting her mouth close against his cheek.  "They sing so prettily here.  Not like in smoggy London.  It's clearer, now."

            He adored ever particle of her being, but that didn't stop him from realizing she was utterly insane.  Often he wondered what she had been like before Angelus had tortured her into losing her mind.  It was one of the things that made him hate his grandsire most.  She had been damaged beyond repair, and now he would never be able to know her in totality.  How could he when she barely knew herself?

            "Yes, I like this little town better myself," especially since Angelus and Darla didn't want to come, he added mentally.  She looked at him pointedly for a moment, and he wasn't entirely sure she hadn't read his mind. 

            "So," he said in an attempt to move the topic far away from his dark rival, "are you going to tell me where you've been spending so many hours away from me this past week?"

            "Shhhh," she replied, acting more like a child afraid of being caught doing something naughty than the vampire she was.  "Don't want him to hear you."

            Him?  If this "him" turned out to be something other than a waiting meal, Spike was going to be extremely disappointed.  Time had taught him to expect Drusilla's little infidelities.  Although he claimed that they didn't hurt him, he never extended her the same discourtesy.  He had eyes for no one but his pallid princess.

            "I see.  Tell me, pet, is the gentleman going to be furnishing this evening's dinner, or are we talking about one of your playmates?"  He tried to say it without bitterness, but his eyes didn't meet hers fully.

            Giggling merrily in response, she intoned in a teasing voice,  "Is my Spike jealous?"  She drew her hand down his cheek and under his chin. "He needn't be.  The human is almost eighty.  You're much prettier."

            Before he could stop it, a relieved smile spread across his face.  She gave his short ponytail a mischievous tug and continued to dance down the deserted street.  He started to follow her, but she suddenly turned around with a remarkably different air about her.  She put up a hand to stop him.

            "No.  The stars say go by myself," she said as her blue eyes riveted him to the spot.  There was no arguing with her when she was like this.

            "But love, will I see you before dawn?"  Secretly, he always worried that she would forget about dawn altogether.  Daymares of his lover turning from her beautiful self into a pile of gardenia-scented dust haunted him regularly.

            "I'll be home soon.  Go play.  Like me."

            Personally, he had some other plans for playing after she returned.  "Don't be gone long, Dru.  I'll be waiting for you."  He seemed to dissolve into the shadows as he went to find his own meal.

            Drusilla continued along the path she had taken for the last week.  A notable change came over the strangely childlike woman as she neared her destination.  She seemed less demonic and more human.  Finally, she reached her goal.

            She stood in front of a small, two-storied building.  It was, in fact, the village toy maker's shop.  Great glass windows on the lower floor looked in upon a sea of faces, many of which bore a strong resemblance to Drusilla.   The dolls returned her gaze steadily.

            With one swift movement, she opened the door of the shop and entered.  She knew the place well by now.  Every day for the last week she had come here and studied the faces of the dolls that lined the walls.  It was almost like looking in a mirror, which was naturally an impossibility for the vampire.  There was a tremendous feeling of peace here, a peace that she could almost remember feeling once before a long time ago.

She had been uncertain what she was doing here for several nights.  The old man who ran the store lived on the floor above the shop, but as she had no invitation, she was unable to enter his rooms or even set foot upon the staircase.  One night she had been in rapt conversation with a remarkably pretty little dark-haired, light-eyed doll who wore a frothy dress of cream lace when she had heard a voice.

"My dear, would you like a cup of tea?  You don't want to catch cold," the old man's voice said kindly.

It was a strange greeting even to Drusilla, which was saying something.  The man showed absolutely no sign of surprise, let alone fear.  She looked at him for a moment, trying to decide what the proper thing to do would be:  kill him, or drink the tea and then kill him.  After all, she didn't want to be rude. 

"What am I saying?  You never stay for more than a moment anyway," he said to himself sadly as he stood looking at her.  She was startled to see tears in his eyes.

 Drusilla was used to tears of fright, but these stemmed from sorrow.  Deeply confused, she turned to him and said quietly "I'll stay for a bit."

Now it was the old man's turn to feel startled.  "You spoke!  But, I've never heard you speak before…"

"You've never spoken to me before," said the increasingly befuddled girl.

"Yes, yes I have, daughter.  So many times.  Are you, can you really be here," he said with tremendous tenderness.

Drusilla's mind twisted his words around, trying to make some sense of things.  He thought she was his daughter.  Her great eyes shifted in wide arcs around the room as she tried to remember something.  Her father… Angelus had killed her father.  Painful memories invaded her thoughts.  Her first instinct was to end the conversation with a quick snap of his neck, but once more something unexpected happened.  The old man threw his arms around her and buried his face in the folds of lace on her shoulder, crying in great, soul-heaving sobs.  Something in the back of her mind clicked, and, rather than letting her demon-face come forth, she tenderly put her arms around the old man.

"There, there," she crooned sweetly as she gently stroked his back.  "It's alright."

"You're so cold.  Here, sit down by the grate and I'll make a fire.  I don't understand any of this," Drusilla was in silent agreement with him on this, "but I'm grateful.  So very, very grateful."

Drusilla watched as the old man heaped wood into the fireplace in an attempt to warm her perpetually cold flesh.  Not too long after, a fire blazed cheerfully in the hearth.

"Come child.  Come sit by me.  Bring your doll.  You always did love dolls."

Obediently, Drusilla moved towards the fireplace, bringing the doll with her.  She found herself sitting quite naturally next to him on the floor as he gently smoothed her dark curls away from her face.

"You're still the most beautiful girl in the town," he said, which in spite of everything made Drusilla smile.  Demon or not, she was still every inch a female and liked compliments, which was why she so often trifled with other admirers.  "When we lost you…"

Understanding dawned across Dru's face.  The old man's daughter had died, probably long ago.  He thought she had returned to him.  The poor man's a bit unhinged, she thought without irony.  I suppose I should humor him a bit.  That is what people do when one is mad, isn't it? 

"Do you remember what happened?" he asked her quietly.

"Some of it," she replied in an equally quiet voice.  Her thoughts were resting on events that had happened long ago as well.  She recalled opening the front door of her family's home and the daylight exposing Angelus's handiwork to her terrified eyes.  She remembered screaming for a very long time.   Her highly sensitive mind also read that the old man was remembering pain, too.  He had lost his daughter to…"A fever was what did it, wasn't it?"

The old man nodded silently.  "We did everything we could to save you.  It was all so horrible." His hand played with one of her long, dark curls.

"I'm sorry you hurt," Drusilla said, and strangely enough, she meant it.  "I'm sorry I was taken away from you.  I never wanted to cause you pain."  She had started to cry.

"Poor little love, you weren't the cause of the trouble.  It does hurt, I won't deny it, but it wasn't your fault.  You didn't do anything to make it happen."

Pulling her close, he rocked her soothingly.  Drusilla was glad that the light from the fire was too dim for him to see that her tears were tinged with red.  She sobbed almost hysterically.

"Please forgive me, Father!  I didn't mean for it to happen!  I swear I didn't!  I tried so hard to be a good girl!  Forgive me, please!"

"Hush, love, hush!  Don't hurt yourself!  There's nothing to forgive.  You did all that you could, child.  Forgive you?  There's nothing to be forgiven.  You couldn't help it," he said as he gently kissed her cheek.

Looking out the window, Drusilla recognized the signs of approaching dawn.  She couldn't stay.

"I have to go now.  I'm sorry."

"Child, I don't know what kindness I've done in all my life that let you come back to me, but I am grateful.  I don't think it will be too long now until we don't have to part again, will it?"

"No, Father.  Not long."  Drusilla had seen enough of death to know when it was coming, and she knew he was not long for this earth.  His labored heart was steadily beating slower.  It wouldn't be long at all.

She had returned every night since then, but she hadn't gone inside again.  Instead, she had kept a silent vigil under his window for hours, listening to the sound of his breathing and the slowing heartbeat.  Sometimes she had sung quietly to him in the street, humming the melody of the stars.  It seemed to comfort him, and she was glad.

Tonight was different.  When she entered the shop, she listened with all her might.  Nothing stirred.  Gently, she put her slippered foot on the staircase and passed up to the old man's room without encountering any barrier.  From this, she knew what she would find.

He was gone.  She could tell from the scent that death had been there, but the corpse had been taken away already.  She stood in the center of the room for a long time, not moving.  Then her eyes fell on a faded daguerreotype next to his bed.  The subject was a girl, perhaps fourteen years old, who Drusilla realized looked remarkably like her.  She carefully took the picture out of its frame to study it more closely.  The eyes, the hair, the skin, the face, all of them resembled her as she remembered herself before…  Of course, it was merely a resemblance.  It had been fortunate that the old man had seen her in poor light with bad eyes.  She placed the picture face down on the table and saw writing on the back of it.

"Our dearest Edith, 1854-1869," she read aloud.

She lingered for a few more moments in the room, looking at the starlight that fell across the floor.

"Goodbye, Father.  Be happy now."

She turned and walked down the steps to the shop.  She stopped for a brief moment to pick something up and tuck it lovingly into the crook of her arm before she sped off into the lightening darkness.

"Glad you're home pet.  I was worried," Spike purred gently at her as she entered. 

He really had been concerned.  The sun was already starting to crest over the horizon.  Embracing her affectionately, he was startled when a hard bundle jabbed him in the ribs.

"What's this?" he asked, looking into her face for the first time since their parting. He realized she had been crying.  "Did someone hurt you, love?  Was it that old man?  If it was…" His face was already starting to change.

"He's dead."  Her voice betrayed no emotion at all.  She moved away from him, rocking the bundle gently and cooing a soft, wordless tune.

"Oh, well, I can't offer to kill him for you then," he said in some embarrassment.   "What have you got there, Dru?"

Drusilla gently laid a doll in a frothy, cream-colored lace dress on the bed, carefully cushioning the porcelain head on a pillow.  Spike stared at it uncertainly.

"Spike, meet Miss Edith.  Miss Edith, this is Spike," she said seriously.

He continued to look at the doll speechlessly until Dru stamped her foot at him and give him an indignant look.  Picking up his cue, he bowed to the doll politely.  Ridiculous as it might have looked, he realized Drusilla was in a mood that needed to be humored.

"You know, she looks quite a bit like you," he remarked, noticing the dark hair and blue eyes of the doll.

Drusilla gave him a little smile then hurried off to fetch Miss Edith a cup of tea, the first of many in the years to come.