James A. F. Christie
"Thou mayest rule over sin."
(East of Eden)
For Juliet Landau, with love
So what do you do once you've saved the world? Xander Harris thought to himself. What follows the end of days, except more and more empty days, all winding along
a slow sad road towards oblivion. All observed in flat monochrome by the
An eye, a girl he should have married, a hometown and a happy old Hellmouth.
All gone in the final fight with the First, leaving naught but a yellow school bus loaded with the Scooby gang and a ragged assortment of slayers.
There had been a bit of dust in the wake of Sunnydale's collapse into a crater, a calm beneath the high, clear sky, a collective shrug of the shoulders as they all looked at the plain of stones which had once been home. Then Buffy turned back to the bus,
the question of what they would do now fading behind her.
They had taken the bus down to Los Angeles, met with Angel at Wolfram & Hart and rented a two-storey house in the San Fernando Valley. Giles had contacted the remnants of the Council for funding and all the newly-activated slayers were slowly being located as they began to rebuild the organisation, making sure they didn't accidentally create another tight-arsed bureaucracy full of poncy watchers,
as Spike might have said.
Xander even found himself missing Spike a bit, imagining the sarcastic Sid Vicious look-alike winding Giles up with comments like that. How strange to have to admit to himself that William the Bloody had ended up dying (choke on the thought, Xan!) a hero.
There were still vampires and demons to be staked on Cleveland's Hellmouth so Faith and Kennedy had gone there with Robin Wood and Andrew. That left Buffy, Giles, Dawn, Willow and himself supposedly enjoying a bit of rest and relaxation in
Giles had insisted they all take some time off. They had just been through a war, and they were as susceptible to post traumatic stress disorder as the next man, so it was no surprise to find that instead of winding down gently they were all walking aimlessly around a house not unlike 1630 Revello Drive. Each of them trying to come to terms with memories of horror and loss, each of them in a vale of silence no other
Even him. Even big funny Xander. He was finding the empty silence particularly hard, because his friends were his only family. His actual parents were drunk in San Francisco right now, which was par for the course. His father had been drunk and abusive for Xander's entire life, his mother had just been drunk, and Xander didn't really want to see either of them again. Nor did he ever want to think about how abusive his father had been. Not ever.
His friends knew he used humour as a defence mechanism. He had never told them how often he had had to defend himself at home.
The collapse of Sunnydale, the collapse of the Hellmouth and the collapse of his eye (ably assisted by Caleb's thumb) had, in truth, destroyed his identity. With no family life of his own, the town of Sunnydale had itself become his home. The high school library (and later the Magic Box) had been his living room, and the Scoobies his substitute family. Killing the demons and vampires clustering on the Hellmouth had provided him with purpose and challenges. Fighting alongside his schoolfriends against them had forged the kind of bond between them all usually only seen
amongst war veterans, and he had nearly married Anya, an ex-vengeance demon,
into the bargain.
But he had left her at the altar, and she had died in the fall of Sunnydale.
He would regret what he had done for the rest of his life. But, he had to admit to himself, had Anya actually been his soulmate? There had been tensions between them. She'd been a little needy, a little clingy. So if she wasn't the one,
He didn't know. Better to just go on brooding for the moment.
Anya, Cordelia, Tara, the Espresso Pump and Revello Drive. He ran the names through his head, savouring the memories, reminding himself again that most of the people and places he knew were either dead or gone, leaving only a sombre man,
too sad-faced for sure, sitting late at night in the window seat of a Starbucks on the fringes of LA.
So many friends and enemies he would never see again. In a strange, really perverse way, he missed them all. Good and bad alike. A face swam before his eyes for a moment. He wished-.
Hold that thought, Harris, he said to himself. Anya told you how easily demons could take advantage of a wish. And she knew what she was talking about. After I jilted her, she nearly got Buffy to wish my penis would explode.
He looked around, but saw no sign of demon, ghost or vampire. No, the night was quiet, the traffic light. The coffee shop's interior was a quiet blend of purple and mocha furnished with tall pine chairs and dark stone counters, all gently illuminated in faded yellow by hanging teardrop lights. The sandwich selection sat on display behind clear Perspex, the bored barista stood on tired, heavy feet by the espresso machine and the only question waiting to be asked was whether his next mocha would be grande or venti.
Xander scanned the street again. Nothing, just shuttered storefronts, drifts of litter and the occasional 7-11 sign. Just that good-looking brunette in the long white dress floating languidly past.
She who walks in beauty by the night, he found himself thinking. She who looks…
Xander froze, snapped out of his reverie by the clear and present realisation that Spike's ex-girlfriend, one of the former scourges of Europe and an insane killer who would have made Jack the Ripper wet his pants in sheer terror, had come to an abrupt halt and was – right now – standing less than ten feet away from him.
Smiling at him.
Like Jack the Ripper before him, Xander nearly wet his pants. He sat there,
all thoughts of his next caffe mocha grande banished, wondering what was
going to happen next.
Her eyes widened in recognition, and for a moment her game face appeared as her emotions burst to the surface. Then her human face returned, wiping all trace of the demon away except for a lingering golden sparkle in her eyes.
Xander had to admit to himself she looked damned pretty, and if these were to be his last moments alive he might as well acknowledge the fact she was one hot vampire. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
She could read minds, too, he remembered. See the future. Hypnotise victims with the cold eyes of a cobra.
He was looking into those eyes now, which was probably an exceptionally bad idea. She didn't seem to be trying to hypnotise him, though, but he found he didn't really want to look away anyway.
Had she "heard" him call her hot? Probably. Now she knew he would hesitate to stake her. Great. How to throw away all your (few) tactical advantages in one easy lesson. He could just imagine a class of rookie slayers laughing their heads off at him if he ever mentioned this incident in Vampire Combat 101.
He wasn't dead yet, though, and the Scoobies did always keep their cellphones switched on and near at hand. However, Drusilla could reach him, kill him and probably drain a litre of blood from him before he could move a muscle.
Even for a vampire, she was fast.
So the next move was hers.
He saw a smile tease her lips as she came to a decision.
Okay, Xander, he said to himself. To paraphrase the old Klingon saying, today may not be a good day to die, but it looks like you're going to.
He closed his eye, opened it to see her standing next to him, making no move to attack. Xander's mouth dropped open. He willed himself to say the right thing and, as usual, failed.
"Hey, Dru. Out on the town for a bite to eat?"
Still she looked at him, like a large uncertain child frightened by the outside world, then she said the last words he ever expected to hear.
"May I have a cup of coffee, please?"
"All these years you've lived, Dru, and you still forget your purse."
Her lower lip quivered and Xander realised he had upset her. Crazily, he felt bad about it.
Oh, well. Might as well go with the madness… "Mocha, latte, cappuccino or espresso, then?" he said flatly. Her hands fluttered nervously. "The stars don't sing to me any more. Miss Edith is silent." That was vintage Drusilla-speak, for sure, but overlaid with a weariness and uncertainty he had never heard before.
She really didn't know how to answer him. That was vintage Drusilla too. Stone-cold killer, malevolent seer; but waif, vagabond and lost child as well.
More lost than he. 150 years past her time with all her ties, both vampire and human, severed. The vampire Angelus had murdered her entire human family, made her insane and sired her, becoming a demonic father to her. But now Angelus had a soul, called himself Angel, and had rejected her. Spike and Darla, the other members of her vampire family, were dead.
She was just as estranged from her people and her past as he was. He had researched Drusilla's history years before, and knew family meant everything to her.
It looked like she had also lost her precious Miss Edith, an old porcelain doll which she thought spoke to her. It had probably just stood for a scrap of her long-lost innocence and helped whatever was left of the saintly young girl she had been distance herself from the devil-child she had become. Now even that last crumb of comfort was lost to her. She really was all alone.
And to top it all, she didn't even know how to order a cup of coffee.
He almost felt sorry for her.
"Okay, Dru. Promise not to kill me and I'll buy you a coffee. Deal?"
She nodded, tucking herself tidily onto the chair next to his.
Taking care not to turn his back on her, he ordered caffe mocha grandes for them both. This Starbucks still served them in the big old white mugs and Drusilla warmed her hands on it when Xander passed her the drink.
She doesn't look well, he thought. There are dark circles under her eyes. She hasn't been feeding. What's happened to her?
She timidly sipped some coffee. He noticed her fingernails were no longer painted purple and looked quite badly chipped.
Edward Hopper would love this, he thought. A one-eyed man and a vampire, sharing coffee late at night in a diner. The only thing necessary to complete the picture would be Elvis sweeping up behind the counter.
Drusilla looked at him briefly while Xander wondered what the hell to do next.
"So what brings you to this neck of the woods, Dru?" he said.
"Not necks. Not prey. Not time. Not place. Silver rain and golden light brought me here. I am standing on the chessboard with my white knight and I don't know my next move."
Oh, great. A depressed, rootless vampire has singled me out because I'm the only person she knows. Why does it always have to be me? Why do demon women always zero in on me?
An embarrassing memory surfaced. The spell he'd made Amy the witch cast to win Cordelia back. It had made everyone except Cordelia fall in love with him.
Everyone including Drusilla, who had even saved him from Angelus before trying to turn him.
Her intent had been pure, though. By her dark standards, the greatest gift she could grant a human was eternal life.
And as Spike had once said about magic, while battering him up against a tree one time, "there's always consequences. Always!"
Xander quickly weighed up all the pros and cons of his situation. Then he took his cellphone from his pocket and showed it to the vampire.
She went on sipping her coffee, still holding the mug in both hands like a child seeking warmth, and looked up at him.
"I've got my finger on the trigger, Dru," he said. "One press and an army of slayers will come after you. You understand?"
She nodded, quite meekly.
"Now maybe I'm being an idiot, and it wouldn't be the first time, but I've come to understand a bit about vampires over the years. It used to be pretty simple. Humans good. Vampires bad. Black and white. I saw my best friend Jesse turned, so I really didn't like you very much. But then Angel showed up with his soul and Buffy fell for him. Next came Spike, who loved Buffy despite lacking a soul, became my flatmate for a while and shagged Anya before saving the world. Sure, sometimes I could have happily staked him. Other times I worked with him, even played pool with him at the Bronze now and then. Occasionally, I even kind of liked him, although not for long. He was Spike, after all."
Drusilla's eyes brightened and Xander belatedly remembered that she did have feelings for Spike. She had been in a relationship with him for 120 years or so.
His death had virtually widowed her, and he knew how that felt. He had lost Anya
at exactly the same time as she had lost Spike.
It was getting harder and harder not to feel sorry for her.
He passed her his handkerchief, and wondered at the sight of Drusilla Aurelius, scourge of Europe and master vampire, dabbing delicately at her eyes in a Starbucks on the edge of LA while being comforted by a mortal enemy.
Even enemies can have common ground, though, Xander thought. He had heard of something called "Stockholm syndrome" once. A situation where bank robbers and their hostages, trapped together in a Swedish bank vault, had forged relationships and stayed in touch.
So, spark an ember from that love spell, add a dash of Stockholm syndrome,
Weave a lonely, widowed vampire into the mix with a bereaved Scooby,
and what do you have?
Common ground and a truce, if nothing else, he guessed.
Drusilla was looking at him keenly and Xander reminded himself that it would not do to forget that, for most vampires, humans were just meals on legs.
"What happened to your eye?"
She reached towards the empty socket beneath the patch and he jerked back.
"An evil thing called Caleb took it out with his thumb," he said. The memory was still too close and he lashed out at her. "An evil thing like you."
That's it, he thought. She'll definitely kill me now.
Instead Drusilla shrank away from him, clasped her hands in her lap and whimpered like an old dog who had taken one too many beatings from a sadistic master.
"I'm sorry, Dru," Xander found himself saying. "I don't know why you've come to me – actually I'm not even sure why I'm still alive – but I can't help you. We're on opposite sides of the coin. By rights I should kill you, and I definitely will tell Buffy you're in the neighbourhood when I get back."
He stood up, taking care to have his cross handy. Drusilla flinched, making him feel oddly guilty.
At the door, he turned.
"Good night, Dru," he said.
She was still sitting there. Not quite like a Madonna in stone, but pretty as a picture nonetheless.
"Good night, Xander," she replied, sounding sad.
Damn it, he thought on the way out. Why do I always have this effect on
But God, was she ever beautiful.
Xander walked back to the house, not expecting any more problems. He had surely had enough trouble for one night anyway. He had sat next to a girl whose middle name was trouble, bought trouble a cup of coffee and even given trouble a bit of a lecture about the facts of life, or in her case unlife.
Funny thing, though, he actually felt a bit better for seeing her. Like it or lump it, she was a link with his past. A link to Sunnydale High School, Spike and the pre-First Scoobies with their shreds of innocence precariously in place.
Okay, the Drusilla of those days would happily have tortured them to death and feasted on their corpses, but that was life on the Hellmouth and like other war veterans he, Xander Harris, could not help but relate better to other survivors of the same battles, could only open up to people who had been through the same horrors.
If I'd talked to her, he thought, she would have understood.
Yeah, then she'd have eaten me.
The feeling that he had somehow just missed out on something important back at the coffee shop preoccupied him, and he made a mistake. Xander was a good, experienced demon fighter. His muscles were well-honed from construction work and he knew his way round Sunnydale's cemeteries.
He was not used to dealing with humans in Los Angeles, which was why three muggers managed to jump him three blocks from the house.
One moment he was loping along normally, the next he was being bundled into a back alley by the youths, the smell of cheap liquor surrounding him, knives at his throat, neon light from the street reflecting on spaced-out eyeballs.
There'd be no mercy with these kids, he realised. They were Mexican or Chicano, high on drink and drugs. All passion, impetuousness and stupidity. At least vampires were calm and calculating. Evil, yes, but mature.
His arms were pinioned. He couldn't get any leverage to fight. For a split-second
he thought the situation ridiculous. To survive an apocalypse only to let himself get killed in a back-alley mugging. Only Xander could have picked such a stupid way
to die, his friends would say. Even Willow.
He was wondering why his life wasn't flashing before his single eye when a rush of wind seemed to surge through the alley. The arms holding him disappeared and he reeled back into the side of a dumpster.
Half-kneeling, he propped himself up against it and saw…
The wind seemed to have form, and it moved a hundred times faster than he thought possible.
The youths were slashed, pummelled, decked and thrown clear into the street before Xander could say Jack Robinson. Later he would remember the wet, smacking sound of fists hitting flesh with the speed of machine-gun bullets, but right there and then he recognised the roar of an enraged vampire setting about its prey.
The creature's speed was incredible. Xander had fought vampires and lived, but he found himself wondering if Sunnydale's vamps had gone easy on them for some reason, because there was no way the Scoobies could have defended themselves against demons literally faster than lightning.
He blinked and the wind died down. He could vaguely hear the muggers running for their lives and was not at all surprised to see Drusilla standing there, her demure white dress ripped and flecked with blood.
She staggered for a moment and steadied herself against the wall, then wiped her mouth, retracted her fangs and started to say, "don't fret, k-…"
Xander cut her off.
"Don't call me kitten and don't call yourself mummy! You damn near killed those kids."
Drusilla just stood there, looking confused and hurt. Only a vampire, a slayer
or a Scooby could see humour in such a situation and Xander suddenly found
He got to his feet, adjusted his eye-patch and felt the pain of a pulled muscle in
his leg. Other than that, all systems go.
Knowing he was potential food for an angry, hungry vampire, he started to reach for his cross. Then he stopped.
The hell with it. This is the second time tonight she could have killed me, and she still hasn't done it. Time to take a risk and find out what's going on before the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard.
He raised his hands in surrender and said, "Dru, time out. Now will you please tell me why you keep saving my life?"
The alley was a fetid dump. Neon light from the main street cast ribbons of shadow over the vampire and the Scooby. Garbage stank.
And still it was the perfect backdrop to the most moving tale Xander had ever heard, told by the beautiful, depraved creature before him.
Drusilla stood in darkness, hands clasped like the novice nun she had once been. Xander leaned on the dumpster, feeling like a priest listening to her confession.
Many years later, he would tell people of the first time he really saw the girl
he never after could leave.
"I was never alone, you see," said Drusilla, voice calm and clear. "Angelus killed my family but then Angelus and Darla became my family. Then there was William. I know how you hated him. But William stood by me every day, helped me when
any other of our kind would have just thrown me into the sunlight. We do not help our weak.
Yet when I was weak after Prague he went out every night, hunting and fighting twice as much as he should have, risking his life to feed me. He was so far from the bad boy he pretended to be. I should never have made him a vampire and Angelus should never have made me. I was to be a nun – a child of the church, not of the devil.
Angelus and Darla deserted me, but William never left my side, not until he fell in love with the slayer.
So my family was lost to me. I tried to make them return but they would not come, and no-one else wanted me.
Then I felt the Hellmouth close, and it was like silver rain running through my head.
I felt… sane."
"You had a moment of clarity?"
"I… I think so. Vampires, once we're made, we have a choice. We can decide between good and evil. But Angelus, he drove me insane before he sired me.
I never made my choice."
"And now you want to?"
She hesitated, seeming to shake with cold for a moment, and he realised she was at a turning point. He kept absolutely still, let her move delicately towards her decision.
"Yes," she said finally. "I do."
Xander let his breath out "I take it we're not talking evil here. You actually want to regain your soul, become a good vampire?"
"That's why I need you," she said, lowering her eyes like a penitent. "Of us all,
only William chose good over evil, and he needed your help to cross over."
She raised her eyes and looked at him.
"So do I."
Xander stretched, stood up and met her gaze.
"So, none of your kind wants anything to do with a nutty vamp who acts childishly and sees things; and the closing of the Hellmouth has rung a gong in your head loud enough to disrupt your link to the Big Bad and let you think straight again. Okay, I get that. But I want to be absolutely clear about why you've come to us. And does it have anything to do with that time you got a magical crush on me?"
Her eyes darted around like lost sparrows. She seemed to look into herself.
"You're the only ones left who know me at all," she whispered. "My own kind would eat me because I'm, well, nutty. And then there's that spell. I remember loving you, but I always liked you. Even when I wanted to torture and kill you."
Xander nodded in understanding, watched her eyes grow wider and wider as she waited for his decision. He was the one who had to make a choice now, and it would be so easy to destroy her. Just one less vamp cluttering up the world.
So very easy.
He thought of the way she had smiled at him outside the coffee shop. Of the way she had saved him from Angelus years before, facing down a vampire older and stronger than herself to protect him.
"Dru," he said, "when this is all over I'll stand you another cup of coffee at Starbucks."
It was only a short walk to the house, but Xander noticed Drusilla was wearing battered flat shoes and sometimes seemed to shuffle like an old woman, as if terribly tired.
She even hugged him, just once, as they left the alleyway before falling into stride beside him, her eyes downcast.
What else happened to you since you left Sunnydale? he thought. What hurt you so badly?
It wasn't far to the house, a humble white timber frame residence with two dormer windows and a neglected garden out back. The house on Candlewood Drive. Home to the last survivors of the war in the north. He knew the door was deliberately left unlocked because a strong defensive spell cast by Willow surrounded the house. A human fleeing demons could instantly gain entry without wasting precious moments fumbling for keys while the pursuers would crash straight into an invisible wall.
Unfortunately, Drusilla would be classed as one of the pursuers. She was trapped outside, only Willow could negate the spell and – oh, Christ - the sun was coming up.
"Well, Dru," he said. "Guess you're not so much stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. More between the slayer and the big blue sky."
The fear in her face was awful to see and her hand found his. She keened low in her throat, like a wolf in a trap.
"It's okay, Dru – er, Dru, don't break my hand – I'll go inside then I'll invite you. That should work."
The sun was rising. Xander could see the dark turning to cobalt blue.
He opened the door and walked over the threshold, Dru's hand still clamping his.
He could feel the pressure building up as the spell locked her outside.
"Okay. Drusilla, I invite you in!"
He tugged on her hand. Nothing happened. She was trapped in the open, moments from death.
Christ, Will, why couldn't you have made a more easily breakable spell?
"Will!" he yelled. "Will! Wake up! Turn your spell off! Lower the drawbridge! I've got a friend who needs help! Will!"
No answer. He glanced back at Drusilla. Saw her thrashing in pain as the sunlight crept towards her.
They burn from the inside out, he thought. She's burning to death in front of me.
"Dru. Do you trust me?"
Their eyes locked. She nodded.
"You've got to let go my hand. I've got to wake Willow up or you're dead!"
He had never seen such fear on a face, human or demon, but he also saw trust.
Her hand opened and Xander shot up the stairs to Willow's room like a rocket, battered on her door like a maniac and ran inside.
One redheaded girl, fast asleep beneath the sheets. No time for decorum.
He grabbed her, shook her, woke her.
"Will, for God's sake wake up! Trust me! Turn off the spell!"
"Will, I'm begging you! Turn it off!"
Her eyes focused and darkened.
"Okay! Whatever! Scut."
Later, he thought he actually did do a forward roll down the stairs. He saw Drusilla on the doorstep, framed in fire.
Christ, she's screaming. She's burning. And she trusted me.
"Drusilla, I invite you in!"
This time it worked. He grabbed her hand and yanked her into the house. She clutched him, he held her, the flames subsided. He thought he heard her sob. He could definitely feel her shaking.
Xander picked her up in his arms, absurdly relieved she was still alive, and carried her through to the living room where he laid her out on the sofa. The burns on her back made contact with the beige cushions and she moaned.
"Xander," said Willow from behind him. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that Drusilla?"
Willow shook her head, straightened her grey U. C. SUNNYDALE T-shirt and looked sceptically at Xander.
"Xander, just what is it with you and demon women?"
"Will, we only had a coffee. She needs help. Where's Buffy?"
The slayer made her appearance just then, looking more like a Paris Hilton wannabee than the war-torn veteran of a thousand battles. Her blue T-shirt reminded everyone of her identity, though, as it was emblazoned with the message:
HI, I'M BUFFY!
And her stake was in her hand.
Far away, the morning traffic was just getting going on the LA freeways, the film studios were opening for business and the smog was building up.
Near at hand, Xander was standing in the threadbare living room of a rented house with his closest friends and a wounded enemy. To a casual onlooker, it might have looked like the start of a normal day, and in most middle-class American households maple syrup and low-fat pancakes would shortly be served to overweight families while Good Morning America played on TV in the background.
This household, however, was just a little bit different, and Xander knew it.
"Hi, Xan," said Buffy. "What's up?"
Willow looked at him expectantly as Xander carefully positioned himself between Buffy and Drusilla.
"Well, Buff, here's the thing. It's a fine morning. I know we'd all like pancakes and Giles wants to check out the local library this afternoon, so I don't want you to go psycho and kill anyone, okay?"
Buffy gave him her best what-are-you-wittering-on-about stare, then blinked at him once, slowly and deliberately.
Xander knew the Buffy-blink. He also knew that the best and only viable response to it was honesty, so he obliged.
"Well, Buff, I met a girl last night. We shared coffee, she saved my life, she needs help and she's stretched out on the sofa behind me now."
"Xander," said Buffy. "Why do I get the feeling you're leaving out some crucial factor?"
"Well, Buff, the girl in question is Drusilla."
Buffy's face froze and the temperature in the room seemed to drop 30 degrees. Xander stood aside reluctantly and Drusilla slowly levered herself into a sitting position on the sofa.
There was a brief silence. Drusilla looked terrified. Buffy looked furious. Willow looked on and waited to see what would happen. The slayer had been pretty moody and short-tempered of late. There might well be a short, sharp and dusty end to the scene.
Not knowing what else to do, Xander tried to make introductions.
"Buffy, Willow. This is Dru. Drusilla, you know Buffy, she's the slayer. And this is Willow, a very powerful witch…"
"We've met, Xander," said Buffy acidly. "Last time we bumped into each other,
your new friend tried to brain me with a plank of wood."
"I know, Buff, but…"
Drusilla somehow got to her feet, wobbled over to Xander and clung on to him.
Willow saw this, saw the expression of quiet horror on Xander's face as he realised Buffy was probably just going to kill Dru and go back to bed. She also noticed that Xander didn't pull away, not the slightest bit, when Dru put her arm in his, so she decided to say something.
"W-wait, Buffy. Just wait a moment. I trust Xander and so should you. Let's at least hear him out first. Dru, would you like a pot of tea?"
An old memory of eating buns in a tearoom just off the Strand came to life in the wounded vampire's mind. She remembered the clip-clop of horse's hooves in the street; and the talk all of Balaklava, Inkerman and Sebastopol. So, like the 19th century girl she had once been, she smiled and curtsied.
"Earl Gray would be lovely, if you please."
Drusilla even helped a wary Willow make tea in the kitchen while Xander leaned against the breakfast bar and watched them.
She makes tea like a dream, he thought, as he watched Drusilla's long, slim fingers deftly boil, brew, place and set. It was like watching a living history lesson. The way a well-brought-up girl made tea in 1860. He found himself smiling at her and felt unduly pleased to see her smile back for a moment.
Like most teenagers, Dawn would be unconscious until midday and, in the circumstances, Buffy just decided to leave her that way. She woke Giles immediately, though, and followed him as he came downstairs, stake in hand.
"Good lord," he said, predictably enough, as he saw Drusilla preparing the tea in the kitchen with Willow and Xander.
"Think you've seen everything now, Giles?"
"Just about. All I've got left to look forward to is the four o'clock flight of elephants to Orlando."
It wasn't yet 7.00 a.m., and as Giles settled himself into his armchair, Xander realised how old he looked. Giles was pushing fifty and he had suffered through the First's apocalypse like the rest of them.
We're all feeling old right now, thought Xander, but Giles really is getting old.
Nevertheless, the watcher cut a dignified figure. Still the same wise counsellor he always had been and (Xander smiled at the thought), a sucker for a well-brewed pot of tea.
Drusilla's tea-making skills might help save her life. She had hypnotised Giles once, impersonating Jenny Calendar in order to learn how to raise the demon Acathla. Being reminded by Drusilla of the woman he had loved and whom Angelus had killed was bad, but Angelus had tortured Giles for hours that day and Drusilla's mind games had actually saved his life. Angelus had been about to use a chainsaw on the watcher before Spike had suggested Drusilla use her wiles on him instead.
And Giles was a fair and reasonable man. After Angelus regained his soul and once again abbreviated his name to Angel, Giles had even worked with him once or twice.
Drusilla, the oldest person in the room by far but raven-haired and immortal, poured the tea for the grey-haired watcher a century her junior and promptly retreated to the far corner of the sofa. After a moment's thought, Xander sat down next to her.
Giles sipped his tea, a smile warmed his lips and he looked sternly at Drusilla.
"So, Drusilla," he said thoughtfully, "a cup of tea – however finely-brewed – does not a truce make. Can we trust you, and do you truly want to change?"
Xander could feel her trembling. A whine was gathering in the back of her throat. Buffy's face was like stone and Willow didn't seem inclined to make any further comment.
Say something, for God's sake, Dru. Say something or they'll kill you.
She looked at him and Xander realised she wasn't going to manage it. She had reached the house, but that was as far as her poor fractured mind could take her.
He remembered the way her feet had shuffled beside his on the way back to the house. He had never seen a vampire tired before. Kick 'em. Knock 'em down. Shoot 'em. They just bounced right back up again, like living Duracell batteries powered by demonic energy delivered direct from the Big Bad.
But Drusilla hadn't looked like that. She had looked weary and done in before she had even fought the muggers, and clear self-expression hadn't been one of her strong points even when she was at her best.
She was coming apart, and his friends were going to kill her.
Xander thought of the way she'd tried to touch his eye. How vulnerable she'd looked steadying herself against the wall in the alley.
He stood up.
"I rather think it's up to Drusilla to talk to us, Xander," said Giles evenly.
Xander wasn't sure where the lump in his throat had come from, but he remembered how he had felt holding her when he saved her from the sunlight.
"She can't, Giles. She can't do it. So I'll speak for her."
Buffy looked pained but stayed silent.
"She's an abused child, guys, and so was I. She was pure, sweet and chaste, and Angelus took everything from her. Took her family, her sanity and her innocence. Made her the most evil of the evil and sentenced her to hell for all eternity as a vampire and a demon.
But she never lost sight of the fact that she had a choice, and the moment the Hellmouth loosened its grip on her she tried to make that choice.
Angel admitted vampires could change. We all saw Spike change for love of Buffy. We saw him die a hero. And Drusilla – the real Drusilla – she's nicer than Spike.
We're not killers. We're the Scoobies. We're here to preserve and defend those shreds of goodness and decency which brought Dru here.
We're no better than the First if we don't at least try to help her."
"Xander," said Giles quietly. "Sometimes you really quite surprise me."
Buffy began to speak and Xander braced himself for a glib witticism.
Instead, Buffy spoke to Drusilla.
"I've had to be a general," she said tiredly. "I've watched girls die and dug their graves. I've slept with vampires and found out things about myself I'd rather not have known. I've killed a lot of demons. I don't glory in it. I'll save one if I can."
She turned to Xander.
"You were expecting a glib witticism from me and a short sharp stake for Dru, weren't you?"
"You're not entirely wrong, Buffy."
"I've grown up a bit, Xan."
She turned back to Drusilla.
"I loved Spike in the end, Dru, and I know he loved you for a hundred years.
I'll mourn him for a long time, and the truth is I can't bring myself to harm someone he held so dear. Spike always saw things clearly. He wouldn't have loved a monster, so if he could learn to be a good man, maybe you can be a good woman."
"I'm very proud of you, Buffy," said Giles.
"Okay, Giles. Well, we've got a spare room and…"
Drusilla raised her hand.
Thank you," she said, and collapsed.
When Drusilla woke up, Xander was there. She didn't know two days had passed since she collapsed, nearly falling into a ray of sunlight. She didn't know that Xander had rushed over to her, or that he had insisted on carrying her upstairs to the small spare room on the sunless side of the house.
The high peaks of the San Gabriel mountains could just be seen from the window, the walls were a clean monastic white and the bedstead Victorian brass, which well-suited its Victorian occupant. Overall, the little room had a cloistered calm not unlike that of the convent Drusilla had tried to enter just before Angelus turned her into a demon.
Perhaps this time she would find some peace.
Xander had gently cut the bloody dress from the sleeping vampire and blanket-bathed her, wincing when he saw the burns from the sun on her back. He even bought a nail clipper and smoothed the jagged edges of her battered hands and feet with the care of a craftsman. Then he went down to the kitchen and retrieved a bottle of AB negative blood from the fridge. Wolfram & Hart had couriered over a supply at Buffy's request and he remembered Spike had always liked that particular blood type.
He had locked Buffy and Willow out of Drusilla's room with a complete absence of his usual humour (he could hear them outside, talking low) and now he turned to Drusilla, cradling her head in his left arm, raising her lips to the crimson bottle in his right hand and silently begging her to drink.
Even when deeply unconscious, vampires were hardwired to feed and Drusilla easily drained the bottle dry, straining for the last drops of blood when he withdrew the container. He knew she had been Catholic. It made feeding her feel like a sort of sacrament, and he found he liked caring reverently for her now she was helpless as
Reverently, Xan-man? he thought. She's about as far from God and grace as she
can be, and I still know she won't harm me.
He shook his head. The world did indeed make no sense. He'd fought and killed vampires for seven years, but the thought of seeing this vampire die…
He didn't pursue the thought. Just drew the covers up to her face and watched her sleep. Those big blue eyes closed, her mouth half-open. But no snores because vampires had no breath, and no pulse he could check, either.
He touched her cheek for a moment, then went out.
Buffy and Willow were waiting for him on the landing. Xander received another Buffy-blink, followed by her orders.
"Crosses at the door and window. One of us with her at all times, stake in hand. Binding spell in place. Blood ready when she wakes. She's still a vamp, Xander."
"Like Spike, you mean?" he needled her, enjoying her blushes then regretting it when he saw the pain in her eyes.
"Maybe a little," she admitted, dredging up a bright California cheerleader smile from somewhere. "I'll be downstairs if you need anything."
"She's not all right," said Willow once the slayer was out of earshot. "I think Spike's death has hit her very hard and she won't admit it."
"That's our Buffy," he agreed. "Always bottling things up. Keep an eye on her, Will."
"We all will. That's what we do, isn't it? Changing the subject, what's the story with you and Drusilla then, if you don't mind me asking?"
That's you, Will, he thought. Always straight to the point but apologetic with it.
"I don't know, Will. Perhaps we were all just parts of a tale in a small town. We fought, we killed, we hated and we loved, all close together. We couldn't help getting to know each other. Funny that, Dru said she always liked me but I never saw her much."
"Maybe she was your vampire stalker."
"She could have been, Will. Quiet as a ghost and fast as lightning. Don't know what she saw in me, though. Apart from blood and entrails."
"Well, perhaps you're her white knight and she's your princess. Sometimes it only takes one look, Xander. That's how it was with me and Tara."
"You know, despite everything we saw happen between Spike and Buffy, I still wonder, can vampires really love?"
The thought of Anya lay between them so Willow headed for the stairs. She paused on the top step and looked back at him.
Now, two days later, Drusilla was awake. Her eyes snapped open and she shot bolt upright in bed, her head whipping from side to side as she tried to work out where
It was dark, thank goodness, except for the electric light coming from an art deco lamp on her bedside cabinet.
She was hungry, desperate for blood, and there was Xander not four feet away,
dozing in an easy chair.
Feed, I need to feed! And my white knight is here!
She looked at him, knowing that not long ago, with any other human, she would have fallen on them and drained them dry without a moment's hesitation.
But not this one. Her head was clear as a bell for the first time in decades. She could not hear the stars and Miss Edith was long gone, lost in one of the slimy nests she had drifted through over the past two years. Heartbroken about losing her William to the slayer and lost without her vampire family's protection, she had gone from prized jewel to pariah. She had been used, abused and shunned by her vampire kin because she was "a f*****g pain-in-the-ass loony," or so a young fledgling had yelled at her.
His pack, whom she had been shadowing in a foolish desire for company, had fallen on her, and although Drusilla was a master vampire, endowed with remarkable speed and reflexes, she had barely been able to fight them off.
She had just about freed herself when the pack leader stepped in and hit her.
She had failed to duck in time and the impact had flung her head back with
a sickening crunch.
Drusilla had gone down in a tangle of limbs, her tattered skirts billowing about her, too shocked and dazed to even sob. No-one had ever hurt her like this. Not even Angelus. Belatedly, she realised how lucky she had been. How much her vampire family had actually cared for her in their way, reminding her about things she forgot, defending her from demons who disliked her strangeness, always protecting her from the darker reaches of their world.
The pack leader was still standing in front of her. She could see his brown
In other days she would have giggled or made up a rhyme to deflect his attention, but she felt too weary and battered to move, and she had an awful feeling her little tricks wouldn't work on him anyway.
When she looked into his eyes, she knew why.
There was not the faintest trace of humanity to be seen. Beast that he was, Angelus had at least had a sense of humour; and her William had been an absolute teddy bear.
This man was evil through and through. Bald, heavyset and brutish, with the mottled cheeks of the heavy drinker, he was the product of old mining camps in the Sierra Nevadas or rough bars on the San Francisco docks. He had been mean and vicious
in life. In death, he was totally in thrall to his demon.
He smelt of week-old sweat and piss, and his fangs were very long. She couldn't stop looking at them.
Then she saw what he was going to do to her.
Even she shrank away in horror.
When it was over, he threw her out into the open. By pure blind chance, it was
still night. She lay by a forest path for a while, whimpering softly, terribly hurt.
After a while, she sensed dawn coming and blearily thought about just letting the sun claim her, but some flickering sense of self-preservation dragged her slowly to
She smelt sea air. The ocean was nearby. She had always liked sticks of rock at the seaside. There would be no sticks of rock for her today, not after what had happened to her, but she would go there anyway.
Bent over, lurching, gathering what rags of clothing and shreds of dignity she could, she made her way down to the beach.
Her body slashed with bite wounds, she had wandered along the coast near Monterey Bay at dawn, still wondering whether she should wait for sunrise and end it all.
So many times over the years, she had acted insanely, and so many times her family had saved her from herself, but given in to her whines and her wants.
So many times William had cared for her, protected her and unwittingly helped her stay sunken in her psychosis, letting her remain a silly little girl who talked to her dolls to avoid facing the fact she was a vampire and a monster.
But now there was nothing except the wind, the sea and the waves. William was lost to her, and no-one else cared whether she lived or died.
The sky was brightening and, perhaps born out of shock or the desperate need for survival, a little sanity slowly began to trickle into Drusilla's damaged mind.
This time, she painstakingly realised, there was nobody there to hold her hand and bring her out of the light. If she didn't take responsibility for herself, she would soon be a pile of dust on a deserted California beach with no-one to mourn her.
Mourn her? Every human and vampire she had met over the past hundred years heartily wanted her dead. They'd all have a party if they knew she'd gone and done the big firework!
As the sun edged over the horizon, a chuckle had escaped Drusilla's lips, rapidly followed by a full-throated belly laugh. A sense of humour was a sign of sanity, and with some sanity restored, Drusilla had run for a cave near the shore, giggling and throwing her gently smoking body onto shadowed sand, rolling onto her side and laughing as she listened to the breakers crashing on the shore.
And very far away, in time with the rhythm of the waves, she thought she heard
a young girl's voice, singing sweetly.
Miss Edith, she thought. Is that you?
But the voice just went on, reciting an old Victorian rhyme.
That's not Miss Edith singing, Drusilla realised slowly. That's me.
Why had it had taken her so long to work that out?
Because the sweet child she once was could not cope with her transformation into
a demon. The only way for some of her original personality to survive was for it
to hide behind the persona of a doll; and there Drusilla the novice nun had stayed
for over a century while Drusilla the vampire killed and tortured innocents.
Now, for the first time in many a long year, the vampire regarded the novice and found the strength to compare the gentle girl she had been with the monster she
It was almost impossible to reconcile the two, but she found that sweet voice
very soothing. It was like clear river water running through her head,
and she did not want to lose it.
She had watched the ocean from the dark all that day, trying to heal her mind,
striving to make the tumbling images which had jumbled her brain for so long
sharpen and coalesce.
But the madness was still with her and the devil remained resolutely on her back.
She sobbed and raved and searched for a way to hold on to that sweet voice of hers, but it was an uneven battle, fought out between a demon and a woman already dead. Late in the afternoon, she even tried mouthing some words from her old Latin rosary.
Halfway through the prayer, it did occur to her that as a creature of evil, she was taking a hell of a risk. She had heard of other vamps who had tried it combusting on the spot.
That struck her as funny all over again and she had giggled over her Latin verbs.
Dru, old girl, how else are you going to try and get yourself killed today? Find a nutty Christian cult, tell them you're the essence of evil, hand them all stakes and suggest they have a poke?
She had laughed until she hiccupped, but that sweet little voice had strengthened.
The young girl's high voice merged with the older, deeper cadence of the demon,
and in a husky contralto, they had whispered to her that they were one.
I am Drusilla, she thought, human and vampire, little girl and wizened whore, young novice and old killer. I am myself again.
The sun had set and she had dived into the sea, letting the salt water help her vampire physiology heal her wounds. Then, after an hour or two underwater, she emerged from the shallows like a dark Aphrodite, naked and shockingly beautiful.
There was a beach house not too far away. She could hear the heartbeats of the family within.
Easy prey with a wardrobe of fine designer clothes to boot, no doubt.
Oddly, she found herself hesitating. She shook her head in consternation.
She was still a vampire. She killed people. That was what she did.
Well maybe she would do it tomorrow. It had been a very strange day and she definitely wasn't feeling quite herself.
Go feed off some animal in the woods tonight, then, and see how you are in
But she had not drunk from humans again, although she had felt like it when she tore the muggers off Xander and her bloodlust roared in the heat of battle.
And a few days after her sojourn by the sea, she had been dozing in a roadside shack on the way to LA when it seemed (as Xander later put it) as if a gong really had rung in her head and silver rain surged in sparkling electric showers all through her body.
To the north, the First had just been vanquished, the Hellmouth sealed and the town of Sunnydale demolished.
And at the centre of it all, her William had died a hero.
She felt him die. He had been part of her for a hundred years and more, and the pain of losing him threw her to the hard earth, back arching, mouth open in an
William, my William. Oh, what a fool I was. Good, evil, what did it matter which side I took? Why didn't I realise how much I loved you? I should never have left you, should have stayed with you 'til the end. Fought alongside you and the slayers…
What? Slayers? More than one?
Surprise slightly superseded shock. She saw a vision of slayers fighting the Atula Khan in the Hellmouth. All of them, every potential slayer turned into an actual slayer by the Scooby witch
She had felt the balance of power shift from evil towards good as Willow activated every potential; and even as the demon possessing her recoiled in horror from this,
the voice of sweet Drusilla the novice strengthened still more, and she found
Is this what it was like for you, my William? she thought. Making the choice, loving the good?
Could it be this way for me?
What a strange, delicious thought! But she wasn't up to contemplating it calmly. Losing William still felt like taking seven stakes straight through the heart. She crouched like an animal, crying and howling for him, the strength
in her arms and legs running away like water.
It was an hour before she could sit up, and she had sobbed until she was dry. She tried to say a prayer for William, but choked up when she got to his name.
The pain eased a tiny bit, though, and she remembered the time that demon, the Judge, had told her she stank of humanity. She hadn't been very pleased
about it then, but she was positively reeking of humanity now, and this time
she didn't mind at all.
She chuckled a little bit. Despite everything, it was nice to have her sense of humour back now she was sane. She realised her stomach was getting growly, too. She would have to feed soon. She didn't want to go chasing coyote again. Too much exertion for too little reward. She would have to start making plans and she wasn't used to doing that.
What now? she thought rather desperately. What am I going to do now?
A face swam before her eyes. A vision, not supplied by pixies, elves or the moon,
you silly girl, but a vision nonetheless.
Her white knight. His features etched in light of palest gold. And there was something else in a dank, dark corner behind him. A church? Yes, an old church.
So that night she had drifted onwards to Los Angeles, somehow failing to notice an old yellow school bus loaded with the Scooby gang and a ragged assortment of slayers pass her by on the Interstate.
Now she was here, and there was Xander, looking too tasty by half, damn it.
He stirred, but didn't open his eyes.
"Xander! For God's sake, wake up!"
Oh, at last.
She saw joy flood over his face, wanted to hug him but stopped herself. Hug him, touch him, and she wouldn't be able to stop herself biting him.
"Xander. Please. My tummy's really, really growly."
"I guess that bottle I gave you wasn't enough."
"I fed you while you were asleep. AB negative. The hard stuff."
He had taken care of her while she was unconscious. Oh, he was lovely! She almost forgot she was hungry and a slow, warm smile spread across her face as Xander passed her a packet of blood.
One packet followed another until finally the hunger subsided.
"Oh, dear," she fussed. "I've spilt blood on the counterpane. It'll never come out." She found herself laughing and crying at the same time, tears mixing with the blood as Xander stayed by her side, all the wound-up tension leaving him now he knew his beloved enemy was well.
"She killed Kendra, Giles."
Buffy and her watcher were sitting on the porch at the back of the house, looking without enthusiasm at their overgrown back yard and herb garden. Beyond were
the mountains, their outlines fading to black as the sun set, and all around were the sounds of life. A hundred thousand TV sets tuned to sports, the occasional thunk of
a baseball bat hitting a ball, overweight teenagers making out in the back seats of cars.
All those people remained quite unaware of the apocalyptic battles between good and evil regularly taking place in their midst, which was just as it should be, thought Giles, at peace with himself for a moment.
Then he looked at Buffy and all the usual worries flooded back. She had not said much about Spike since the fall of Sunnydale and Giles knew there was a lot of grief and anger roiling about under the surface.
The slayer had patrolled a few times since they moved into the house on Candlewood Drive and Giles had no doubt that her victims had been beaten to exceptionally bloody pulps before being staked.
He almost felt sorry for them, but he felt more sorry for Buffy. She had fought so long, lost so much and driven herself so hard that there was a real danger she might crack explosively if the strain was not relieved. Everyone had their breaking point, and no-one in the house had the physical strength to cope with an out-of-control slayer.
Except Drusilla, funnily enough.
"Spike killed two slayers, Buffy," he said aloud. "Angelus murdered Jenny, Faith stabbed an innocent man and Willow skinned Warren alive. None of us are entirely innocent and it's a matter of record – backed up by Angel's confession – that Drusilla suffered terrible mental torture and the loss of her entire family before being turned into a vampire. It's not for us to forget our own humanity and refuse help to a creature in need. The cycle of violence has to end sometime, although I don't
think we're quite ready to open a halfway house for reformed vampires."
Buffy sat forward wearily and ran a hand through her hair, momentarily looking more like a tired woman of 40 than a girl still only in her early twenties.
"I just… I almost wish we were all back in the library at Sunnydale High. Slaying vamps, partying at the Bronze, trading insults with Cordelia, dancing on the beach now and then."
"We can't go home again, Buffy."
"Yeah, I know. Apart from the fact it's buried under a million tons of rubble. I feel
a million years away from that fresh-faced cheerleader you first met, too, and I've got so much stuff about Spike and Angel to sort out in my head. Just by being here Dru makes me remember them. And it hurts."
"Perhaps it's the wrong thing to say, Buffy, but would talking to Dru about
Buffy shook her head. "I don't think I'm ready to do that, Giles. It's all too close to home at the moment."
"I understand, Buffy."
Buffy smiled a bit and Giles looked at the unkempt yard. It wasn't like an English garden, but herbs and roses had flourished there. Maybe they would do so again,
with the help of a loving hand.
Dawn crashed onto the porch, ruining the moment as only a bird-brained teenager could.
"Dru's awake. She hasn't eaten Xander. Supper's on the table and Willow's
"Thanks, Dawn," said Buffy.
"Shall we lay another place at table?"
Giles looked at Buffy.
"I guess it's time we broke bread, Giles. Dawn, warm up some more of that AB negative. Spike always used to like it."
Dawn nodded and ran back into the kitchen.
"Perhaps it's a bit like old times after all," said Giles. "Remember when we had Spike over for Thanksgiving?"
"Maybe I'm just getting old, Giles. Maybe I should retire. Think the new Council will start a slayer pension plan?"
"You're still young, Buffy."
"No," she said. "No, I'm not."
"Xander! Xander!" Dawn bounced into Drusilla's room just as carelessly as she had crashed onto the porch
"It's okay. Dru can join us for dinner as long as she doesn't eat anyone!"
Xander and Drusilla looked at each other wordlessly. Xander put a hand over his eyes.
"Drusilla," he said. "This is Dawn, Buffy's sister, or as Spike used to call her, the bit. Heart of gold but often puts her foot in her mouth. Spike used to babysit her."
"I'm not a…" Dawn started to complain.
"My William certainly changed, then," mused Drusilla. "He used to have quite a taste for little girls."
Dawn's curiosity began to assert itself. She had heard a lot about Drusilla from Spike and seeing her in the flesh felt a bit like meeting a minor celebrity. She perched herself on the end of Drusilla's bed.
"So, did you love Spike as much as Buffy does?"
"And there you see the aforementioned foot in the mouth," said Xander in resignation.
Drusilla considered what to say carefully, pleased to find she was now sane enough to do so.
"He was my best friend in all the world," she said finally, keeping her voice steady. "And I'll never forgive myself for mistreating him so."
Dawn nodded, suddenly serious and grown-up.
"Will you tell me more about him when you're better? Buffy never talks about him."
"When I'm better," replied Drusilla. "Talking about him keeps him alive."
"That's smart, and you don't talk down to me. You're quite a lot like Spike. And you've got the same vampire strength and stuff. Cool."
"Call us when supper's ready, Dawn," said Xander.
Dawn clattered off down the stairs and Drusilla wondered what to do next.
"May I escort you to dinner?" Xander asked her, feeling formal and foolish.
"Xander, I'm naked."
"Yes, I see that. Metaphorically speaking. Sorry. I had to take your clothes off."
Drusilla's eyebrows nearly shot through her hairline. No-one except Spike had seen her body since 1901.
"Kitten!" she snarled, embarrassed and angry.
For the first time in a while, Xander blushed like a little boy. Vampires could not blush, but at heart Drusilla was a chaste Victorian girl and she felt affronted, suddenly furious.
Xander backed up half-a-step as he felt her mood change. She smelt his fear and it tasted good, too good.
He was so fragile. Wounded, battered and bereaved. It would be so easy to shatter him completely.
The demon inside her licked its lips at the prospect. Betrayal would be so sweet. But then she wondered, would the taste of trust be sweeter?
Those fleeting moments when trust could be earned did not oft come by, and in the end she could not hurt her kitten.
"Xander," she said, taking care to speak gently. "Could you find me a dressing gown? Preferably white. And I'd be grateful if you'd help me dress for dinner."
She had to admit that the look of relief on his face had been a joy to see, although when she floated down the stairs on his arm the belt on her gown had loosened and she nearly gave the assembled Scoobies a full-frontal.
Dinner went well although Buffy seemed a little withdrawn, and despite the lingering pain from her burns, Drusilla insisted on making them another pot of tea at the end of the evening while Giles decided what to do next.
"Cycles of violence must end," he said briskly. "Willow can restore your soul quite easily but the shock to your system, I think, would be enormous. You're still in a delicate state of mind and having to deal with the guilt and remorse for your actions of the last 140 years would probably plunge you straight back into the pit of madness, and I don't think anyone wants that. Not even your fellow vampires."
"I'm not a psychologist," Giles continued, "but I think that for now positive reinforcement is the best idea. Angelus, Spike and Darla did care for you in their own grotesque way, but they also made you part of a marauding pack of vampires who laid waste to most of Europe."
"And parts of Asia," Drusilla added helpfully.
"Quite," said Giles. "So for now I think a structured domestic routine without any killing would be best."
Drusilla raised her eyebrows at the word domestic and Xander jumped in.
"G-man, if you'd just said you wanted a housekeeper, we could have advertised."
Drusilla pondered for a moment.
"My William cared for you in Sunnydale," she said. "So I will care for
Drusilla went to bed happy. She awoke screaming.
There was a cry of raw terror, followed by a crash and the sound of desperate scrabbling. The whole house woke up immediately, but Xander reached her room first to find Drusilla crushing herself into a corner, howling and crying.
He stopped dead in the doorway, trying to look into her eyes as her head lashed from side to side. Her arms flailed and her nightgown was rucked up around her thighs.
What else happened to you since you left Sunnydale?, Xander had wondered when he first walked her to Candlewood Drive. What hurt you so badly?
It looked like he was about to find out.
He moved an inch towards her. Just one inch.
She screamed and curled into a ball, keening and moaning. Like an abused child or
a battered wife.
Oh my God.
He remembered the way Drusilla had shrunk away from him at Starbucks, whimpering like an old dog who had taken one too many beatings from a
Someone hurt you. Someone who liked hurting women.
He felt sick. Taking care to move very, very slowly, he crossed the room and knelt down beside her. He noticed Willow standing in the doorway, the others gathering behind her.
"Don't come any closer, Will."
She looked at them both. Drusilla, out-of-control and terribly dangerous.
Xander, unarmed, sitting near to her, no sign of fear in him.
"Stay outside, Will. Close the door."
"Xander, do you know what you're doing?"
"No, but I'll think of something. Just close the door."
She nodded and backed out, wondering if she would see him alive again.
He sat there, Xander Harris, merciless vampire hunter, feeling nothing but compassion for the tragic creature a few feet away from him.
I do know how you feel, he thought. More than I wanted to admit. I have been abused and so have you.
She keened and whimpered softly. The sun went down and that seemed to calm her
a little. She drew a deep breath. Her first for a while.
Let's try a little something.
He knew an old song called "The Born Loser." Quite fitting, really.
"There's a beer joint
By the pool hall
For to pass some pleasant hours.
"There's a hook shop
Above the pool hall
Where my sister makes her living…"
He whispered the verses like a lullaby, well aware she would be able to hear him.
He knew about thirty or so. His father always sang them when he had a few drinks in him, and he had sometimes sung them while he was whaling on his son.
Some of the tension slowly began to leave Drusilla. Her hands began to slip away from her face.
Time to risk a word.
"Dru? It's okay. It's Xander. I'm here."
She blinked, lowering her hands a little more.
"Do you want something to drink?"
She glanced at him very quickly. The defensive movement of an animal already hurt, fearing more pain, but she nodded.
Xander stood up too quickly and she curled up again. He tiptoed to the doorway, called for Willow to bring some blood which he then handed to her.
Thank God for the crimson nectar, he thought. No vampire could ignore it, and her attention was focussing on it. She began to drink, and her eyes met his over the rim
of the jug.
They seemed sane.
He picked up a blanket from the bed and put it over her shoulders.
"Dru, I know someone hurt you. Just tell me what happened. Please. Leave out the gory details, but tell me."
There was a long pause.
"A pack of vampires," she said tonelessly. "By Monterey Bay. It was their leader."
"I get it."
"I forget things. Make mistakes when I'm on my own. I made a mistake."
"You're safe now."
"It hurt." She put a wealth of emphasis on that one word.
"It was j-just a nightmare."
"Yeah, I get it. I had a few nightmares like it."
She looked at him and he saw her eyes widen in perfect understanding. Everything around them seemed to fade away.
"My poor kitten," she said huskily. "I should have known."
She reached out to touch his cheek, and this time he let her. They stayed like that for quite a time, he never knew how long.
He put her back to bed in the end. Thankfully she hadn't smashed through the walls when she had panicked. He left her reluctantly and headed down to the living room where the rest of the gang were waiting for him.
"How is she?" asked Buffy.
"All right. Considering."
He took a deep breath, tried not to cry.
"She's a vamp, Xander," said Buffy tactlessly. "They're very tough."
"Don't say that!" he snapped, shocking her into silence. "And don't ever ask me why she screamed, either!" he went on, suddenly furiously angry.
He took a deep breath.
"She's not just a vamp, Buffy" he said, thinking about what Spike had done to the slayer once. "She's more like you than you think."
He went off to bed himself after that, but he didn't sleep well. Part of his mind couldn't stop grappling with the horror of Drusilla's ordeal, but another part kept reminding him of something.
You never had a moment of understanding like that with Anya, did you? it said.
Perhaps Giles' plan to help Drusilla would have worked anyway, but now they had some idea of what she had endured, they had more compassion for her. Drusilla had not been the first resident of Candlewood Drive to wake screaming in the night.
So they tried to forget the death and horror, the bloodbaths and the Hellmouth.
The fangs and the fights. The hurt, the pain and the loss.
They sought instead to concentrate on the rhythm of peaceful days, from sunrise to sunset, in a timber-frame house in the San Fernando Valley.
The house became home to five damaged souls and one without a soul at all.
And strangely, that soulless creature seemed somehow able to heal the others.
The need to monitor a dangerous creature in their midst took their minds off their own memories of horror, and Drusilla unwittingly helped them come to terms with their experiences by sharing stories about the battles they had all fought.
There had been a vampire called Joshua, a very experienced and surprisingly fair opponent whom Buffy had had to fight several times before despatching. It virtually became a regular appointment. Go to the Alpert memorial at 6.45 every evening and let battle commence. She and Joshua had ended up wishing each other a good evening before beating the hell out of each other for the seventh or eighth time. Once Buffy had stumbled and fallen, and she could have sworn Joshua had
actually waited until she regained her footing.
Drusilla provided the answer from the vampire's point of view.
"I knew Joshua quite well," she said. "He was an 18th century prizefighter before he was turned, and the Marquis of Queensberry rules were sacred to him."
"That does explain the upright stance," Buffy replied thoughtfully.
"Oh, yes! And when he came back to the factory after an evening battering you, he would keep us up all night talking about some amazing move of yours. After a week or so of this, some of the sports fans among us started sitting on the cemetery walls with popcorn to see the show!"
The mood in the house lightened as stories like these circulated, and the house itself changed as Dru set to work with a will. Xander had joked with Giles about advertising for a housekeeper but Drusilla had been secretly thrilled to sense the anger under the surface. He didn't like the slightest suggestion that Dru be a skivvy.
However, Xander had been reacting from a 21st century viewpoint. Drusilla had
been brought up in a Victorian household where everyone devoutly believed that "cleanliness was next to godliness" and had then spent many months labouring as a novice nun in a convent. She fell into the therapeutic routines Giles wanted her to adopt as easily as she had once observed the Offices of the Church, and Candlewood Drive went from mildly unkempt to spick-and-span in a matter of days.
It wasn't all plain sailing, of course. The toaster terrified her for some reason and Willow walked into the kitchen one afternoon to find Drusilla weeping in the corner, completely unable to understand the washing machine.
But she could cook superbly, quickly learnt always to have a pot of coffee ready in the morning, and took it upon herself to tend the herb garden although she could only come out at twilight.
Giles tried to remain dispassionate and remember she was a dangerous killer, but found himself being won over by her artless innocence and quiet manner. Dawn had taken her to the local mall one evening and kitted her out in a reasonably up-to-date long black skirt and modest white blouse, but Drusilla still had the upright carriage of the rigidly-corseted Victorian lady and as she glided around the house, Giles was sometimes strongly reminded of his own grandmother, Edna, born in 1877.
Once, Giles came upon her by the kitchen window, silent and motionless as she stared at a robin hopping around the garden in the afternoon sun. He saw the innocent fascination on her face as she gazed at the bird, and felt like weeping as he realised she truly should have lived the contemplative life of a nun.
Xander had found some casual construction work nearby, and Dawn and Willow both noticed how Drusilla fussed over him before he went to work and perked up when she heard him coming home. A smile would always cross Xander's face as soon as he saw her, and he took to bringing something back for her most days. A new white cotton nightgown, a thin black dress. Even a pearl necklace on one occasion.
Only Buffy still kept her distance. She was always civil to Drusilla, but Willow saw them pass each other in the upstairs hallway once. The former enemies skirted each other courteously but carefully, like leopards defending their territory.
"I don't know, Giles," she said to the watcher later that day. "Drusilla should be our problem but I'm getting more worried about Buffy. I never thought I'd say this but I'm wondering which one of them is crazier."
"Probably Drusilla," replied Giles humourlessly, "but at least she knows it and she's trying to cope. Buffy isn't, which is always more dangerous."
Buffy withdrew, talking less and brooding more, while Drusilla did try hard to fit in. Every day she heard the voice of sweet Drusilla the novice more clearly, but she was still a vampire living amongst humans. She slept most of the day, Dawn saw her accidentally burn her hand in the sun once and sometimes at night Xander
would find her standing alone in the garden, looking at the stars.
He sloped out to join her once, not bothering to bring his cross.
"Xander," she said, sensing him while he was still three meters away from her.
It was a cool evening and she was only wearing that thin black dress he had bought her, but he knew she could not feel the cold. She simply stood there like a statue, ethereal and apart.
Her feet were bare and her hands played with a red rose.
"Are you listening to the stars?" he asked softly.
"I call to them but they will not sing to me," she said sadly. "On occasion I have
a vision, but mostly I only hear jumbles of whispers."
"Maybe it's for the best, Dru."
Her head snapped round with the speed of a serpent and, for the first time in a while, Xander feared her. Then she chuckled.
"Time was, I knew what the future would bring. Now I am lost, like a little cog no longer part of the grandmother clock."
Xander considered this, his fear fading away. There was an underlying logic to her weird pronouncements if he searched hard enough.
"You mean you feel out of the loop? No longer in control?"
She nodded jerkily. "I don't know what's going to happen any more. I suppose that's good. Means my mind's clear as the dome of St. Paul's, but I liked the songs of the stars. They sounded like monks at prayer in a faraway abbey."
He could see she was getting overwrought. Her emotions were so near the surface. She would be in tears in a minute.
He patted her shoulder, her face changed and he saw the golden-eyed demon emerge.
"And I hear the call from the forest as well as the song from the stars," she said,
her voice low and dark. "It is so strong and so deep. The call to hunt and to kill.
To travel over the land and fall upon the children."
She expected his hand to fall from her shoulder, but it stayed where it was. He had not backed away, she realised. He had seen her as she truly was and he was staying with her. She felt like crying as she turned and looked at his face, thinking of the way he had looked before Caleb took his eye.
"I'm wide awake, Dru," he said. "Share a cup of coffee with me in the kitchen?"
She felt her human face returning as she nodded. She took his hand and sat down at the breakfast bar with him. He watched her brewing the coffee and felt at peace.
She, on the other hand, looked glum.
"Don't like you seeing the demon," she said in her smallest voice.
"What? Which one?"
"My face. It changed in the garden."
He stared at her. All he'd seen was his blue-eyed girl.
"I didn't even notice," he said.
Dawn came down a little later, rubbing her eyes and looking very young. They talked through the night over mugs of coffee and blood, and Drusilla told the slayer's sister many tales of Spike.
Late the next night, Xander woke up to find Drusilla sitting by his bed in her
white cotton nightgown.
"Dru…" he said warily.
"I can't sleep," she said vaguely. "I never used to dream. I think Miss Edith hid my dreams from me, but now I see all these faces and I can't sleep. So keep your cross by your side if you will. Just let me sit with you a while."
"Dru," he said, rolling over to face her. "It's been a long day and I'm a bit weary."
She got up to go, crushed.
"No, no, Dru!" Lord, she was so sensitive! "I only feel too tired to talk myself, but it's okay if you want to talk to me. I like listening to you. Just don't dwell too much on torture and killing."
Drusilla looked confused for a moment and Xander realised he had just deprived her of 90% of her repertoire.
A thought occurred to him.
"Tell me about the white knight."
Her face brightened and she cheered up immediately, looking more like 15 than 150.
"Well," she said, eyes and hands dancing, "it was around the time my William was in a wheelchair, Angelus was devising mental tortures for Buffy much as he had for me, and your slayer was in hospital with the 'flu. I tended to William but I danced with the stars and I was eager for the end."
"Why so eager? Was it like Angel's passion for destruction?"
"No, no," she looked down, eyes uncertain. "That love spell of yours, it was still lingering in my body and… and it was as if I could see myself properly for the first time in years. Observe myself clearly from far away. Who I was. What I was.
A raddled old whore lying with men and spreading disease, a strumpet and a jezebel.
A filthy old skeleton under a smooth girl's skin, smiling on the outside but sick on
I wanted to die.
Then I heard you. I was walking near Buffy's hospital and I heard you talking to Angelus, stopping him hurting her. He called you 'Buffy's white knight', and it reminded me what you were like. What I had once been like.
Angelus got possessed by a poltergeist about then, too. He felt love again and hated it. Scrubbed himself raw trying to get rid of the feeling, but it made me think.
A little spark of sanity amidst all the crazy stars."
Xander was wide awake now.
"So you woke up to yourself a bit?"
"Yes, it was my first glimmer of clarity, and I didn't want to scrub it out of me.
Your spell faded away but I found myself thinking about you now and then."
"Willow called you my vampire stalker. Was she on the right lines?"
Drusilla dropped her eyes, relieved she could not blush.
"A lot of vampires hang around people's windows looking for an invite and a kill.
I just watched you sleep once or twice."
She was looking a bit evasive. Xander couldn't resist going in for the kill himself.
"How often, Dru?"
There was a short pause.
"I think it was, well roughly, round about…"
"Thirty-two times," she admitted sulkily. "Sometimes twice a night."
Xander couldn't help himself. He lay back in bed and laughed until he cried.
It was a catharsis, healing seven years' worth of wounds.
Honestly. Night after night, he had fought vampires and demons to the death,
never guessing that when he came home afterwards, one of his mortal enemies
had been watching over him, even hanging out with him in a funny sort of way.
And he had never known.
No wonder he felt comfortable with her around. She had been with him before.
She was looking hurt and embarrassed again.
No need for that, he thought.
He clasped her shoulder gently, caressed her cheek and lifted her chin to look into
"It's okay, Dru. I liked having you around."
She felt herself melt inside, took his hand and climbed onto the bed beside him.
"It's all right, kitten," she said. "Mummy doesn't want to play."
She held on to his hand, lay down by his side and watched over him until dawn.
And that was how Buffy found them.
It had been a hard night for the slayer. A long fight with some particularly well-built vamps in an abandoned office block just off the Foothills Freeway. She hadn't got them all. Her repartee had been noticeably absent and she had taken several hard punches.
"Remember to duck, Buffy," she kept saying to herself. "Remember to duck."
She had limped back to the house before dawn, achingly well-aware that the wounds she had sustained in the Hellmouth were barely healed, knowing she should stop,
not feeling she could. Every time she took a night off, another human might die.
Why the hell couldn't Spike still be alive? A helping hand, a sarcastic quip, an eye on her back at all times.
Okay, a lot of the time it drifted down to my ass, but he was always there. Why didn't I tell him more often how much I valued him?
Because I was too busy keeping him at arms length, calling him an evil, soulless thing, majoring in my personal development as Buffy the bitch…
She found she was beginning to sob. A deep, wracking convulsion which threatened to tear her chest apart. She grimly choked it down. No-one, not even Angel, had ever seen her break down completely, and she was damned if she would for anyone.
Just get your cup of coffee and your muffin from Dru and get to bed. You'll be right as rain tonight after a good day's sleep.
Crazy. A master vampire was now her barista-cum-housekeeper and she, Buffy,
was getting on the same circadian rhythm as the undead.
Damn you, Spike, she thought furiously. Why aren't you here to help me?
She felt the fury burn. That was bad enough, but the feeling of loss beneath was
like a hole in her soul. What she would give for another glimpse of the trademark
bleached-blond hair, leather duster and knife-edge cheekbones. She'd sell her soul
to have him insult her again…
No, don't say that, Buffy. Some demon might hear her wish, take her up on it and
(if it was a demon with a particularly wicked sense of irony), give her soul to Drusilla.
Buffy stumbled through the door, lurched towards the breakfast bar for her shot of caffeine and was profoundly irritated to find neither Dru nor coffee in evidence,
Great. Well, check with Xander that she hasn't killed anyone and then hit the sack.
She carelessly opened Xander's door and stopped dead. One hand went automatically to her stake, but then she paused.
Well, now I know why I didn't get my cup of coffee…
Buffy was no poet, but as she looked at the peaceful tableau she quietly said
"We were warriors once and young…"
Dru and Xander lay together, the outline of their bodies etched in palest golden light. Like the statues of a knight with his lady one might see in an old English abbey.
He, the hunter home from the hill. She, the lady who had waited so long for the return of her liege.
Drusilla's hand clasped his, a sacrament. Her body curled close by him, a protector; and Buffy realised, quite clearly, what would happen to anyone who dared harm one hair on Xander Harris's head.
I used to hate you, the slayer thought to herself. Then I resented you. A long time after that I began to feel a little sorry for you. But now maybe I envy you a little, because you've found safe harbour and maybe even love, while all I know is loss.
Buffy closed the door gently and went up to bed.
That evening, Drusilla (by now back in her own bed) woke to hear a row. She almost stuck her head back under the covers as the last thing she wanted to do was ruin her good mood. She and Xander had woken up together that morning, looked at their clasped hands and found themselves smiling like children. Without words, she had helped him dress, broken his fast and sent him off to work with a chaste kiss on
She had even risked sunburn watching from the doorway as he waved and walked
off down the street, leaving her to go into the kind of everyday life she would
She hadn't felt completely happy in a hundred-odd years, even with her William. There had always been the knowledge, whispered to her by Miss Edith in her most private moments, that he and she were damned; but today, although she knew her heart could only be still, her chest felt like it might burst with joy.
And Xander would be back soon. She would have to ask Dawn how she looked before she greeted him…
But now a row. She had never liked rows, but she would have to learn to cope.
Listen then, Drusilla, she said to herself. You've certainly got the ears for it.
Being a vampire does have some advantages.
"Buffy, you cannot go out again."
That was Mr Giles. He was wise. She had come to like him.
"Buffy, you need to rest. You're going to kill yourself if you keep this up!"
Dawn, concerned for her sister. William had cared for Dawn for many months so Drusilla was following in the tradition and becoming protective of her, too.
"You're exhausted, Buffy. You look worse than I did when I tried to destroy
Willow the witch. Nervous, shy, unsure of her sexuality, but very, very powerful.
"Gee, feel the love. I'm the slayer…"
Buffy herself. Drusilla didn't quite know how to deal with her. How do you relate to a mortal enemy who's shared two of your exes? Warily, she supposed.
Perhaps she could do something to prove herself. The thought sounded logical and an idea occurred to her.
"I'm the slayer, Giles," Buffy repeated as she paced round the living room, trying to escape the protective circle of her friends.
"And I'm the vampire," added Drusilla, sweeping downstairs with a majestic turn
"I smell evil," she announced gaily as she came to a stop before them. "Shall I kill it for you?"
Everyone looked at everyone else, then at her, and Drusilla saw them all come separately to the same conclusion:
Buffy was in no condition to patrol on her own and there was only one other person in the house strong enough to back her up.
Dawn summed it all up neatly.
"Angel used to help Buffy, then Spike took over and you're just as strong as Spike. It's getting like a tradition."
"Dawn…" Buffy started to say wearily.
Xander – her Xander, Drusilla thought excitedly - picked that exact moment to get back from work.
"Hey, everybody!" His gaze centred on Drusilla and everyone saw the two of them brighten up simultaneously.
"Hey, Dru. Got you some blood! Do you want to go to the movies tonight?"
"Yes, pl-," Drusilla started to say, then realised she now had a prior appointment. "Oh, no. I can't make it this evening."
"What?" He was looking endearingly confused, she thought. "What else do you have to do?"
Giles intervened. "I'm afraid there are seven particularly nasty vampires nesting nearby, Xander. It looks like Buffy and Drusilla will have to take care of them."
For a few short moments, Willow had seen her childhood friend acting like his old self again, but at the mention of Buffy and Drusilla – especially Drusilla - facing danger his face had gone white in a flash.
He loved them both, she realised, but in different ways.
"I'll go instead of Dru," he said.
Drusilla felt herself melting all over again, but she shook her head.
"I'm the killer and I need the fight, but I'll fight alongside the slayer. It's what my William would have wanted."
There was a bit more debate but the Scoobies quickly realised that, short of tying Buffy up and dumping her in the basement, pairing her with Drusilla was the only workable solution.
So the unlikely allies ended up standing together at the door. Both now clad in black, both now displaying the cold eyes of hardened warriors who had seen much death and were willing to dispense more.
Vampire and slayer. Mortal enemies and opposites. Mirror images of each other.
Giles and the Scoobies all felt chills course down their spines. They all knew Drusilla was host to a demon, but Giles found himself wondering about that old unspoken question:
Just how much demon had gone into the creation of the first slayer, thousands of years ago in Africa?
It was not a question he would ever ask Buffy.
It looked like it was going to be a low-key departure, until Drusilla suddenly said:
"There's something missing."
"What?" said Buffy. "I've been doing this for years. Actually years and years. We've got the whole enchillada. Stakes. Knives. Crosses. Even the Scythe."
"What's missing, Dru?" asked Xander.
She waved her hands helplessly.
Great, thought Giles. One physically crocked slayer and a mentally unstable vampire, trying to take on a nest of vampires the size of American quarterbacks.
"I need to pray," Drusilla finally said.
"Are you kidding?" said Buffy. "Won't you explode or something?"
"No. Well, I don't think so. I was all right on the beach. I just suddenly felt the need of it."
Willow and Dawn swopped amazed glances. Xander told himself, very strictly, not to say a word; and Giles decided that, in all his years as Buffy's watcher, this was the weirdest thing he had ever seen.
Drusilla, master vampire of the order of Aurelius and most impious servant of Satan, clasped her hands, head bowed, and began to recite the Catholic Rosary.
"Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur Nomen Tuum…"
Xander saw a flash of fear in Drusilla's eyes. She had told him about her recital on the beach, but being half-insane and 143 years out of practise, she could easily have got some of the words wrong. She might well make a better job of it this time and incinerate herself.
"Adveniat regnum Tuum, fiat voluntas Tua, sicut in caelo et in terra…"
I'm still here, Drusilla thought. So far.
"Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie, et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris, et ne nos induces in tentationem, sed libera nos
Buffy was praying too, head down. Giles, Willow and Dawn were staring, and Xander looked plain horrified.
"And I would also like the Lord to perhaps find a place in his heart for tolerance,
if not forgiveness of, his most impious servant on the eve of battle. Amen."
Then Drusilla broke into a wide smile.
"I feel better now," she said. "Let's go kill something."
There was a murmur of laughter. Dru hugged Xander and, together with Buffy, headed out into the night.
They stole along forgotten pathways, forsaking the sidewalks of a city to which they did not belong, searching out the scent of the carrion which walked, seeking their prey. For the call of the hunt still sounded, and both vampire and slayer lusted
for the kill as the moon looked down.
They were shadows among shadows, their tread cat-light. One tall and lean,
a creature white of fang and golden-eyed; the other lithe and lissom,
bearing the promise of death.
Neither Xander nor Giles would have recognised them now, and people whom they silently passed by felt a coldness, and took care to look the other way.
Elsewhere it was a warm night, and Xander and Giles were out on the back porch, waiting for their warriors to return. Giles looked at Drusilla's roses in the moonlight, and watched Xander pace up and down.
"Xander," he said after a while. "Drusilla swept this porch just the other day."
"And now she's out fighting for her life while we sit here safe!"
"You're not talking about Buffy this time, are you?" said Giles gently.
Xander stopped dead, then slumped down on the bench next to the older man.
Giles patiently waited for him to speak.
"I don't want to talk about how I feel, Rupert," he said finally. "I heard about Cordy's death. Anya's buried with Sunnydale. I don't want any wise words. I just don't want Dru hurt any more. She can be hurt so easily. She's just a little forgetful, you see. I mean, look at her roses. She's always saying everything she puts in the ground dies, but her roses are growing strong. She just needs someone to remind her to water them. That's all. Then she's all right."
He tried to look at the roses, could hardly see them. His words broke up.
"You know, first time I saw her she was all game face and fangs. She was terrifying. Picked up Angel like he was a rag doll and threw him straight into a tree. I couldn't take my eyes off her. Even like that, she was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen."
"I know how you feel," said Giles. "I feel sick every single time I send Buffy out to fight. There are a lot of nights I don't sleep."
Presently Dawn and Willow joined them, and so they waited.
Drusilla and Buffy had reached the abandoned office block by the freeway, scaled the outside walls like cats and gained the advantage of height, looking down on a circle of brooding vampires from a thicket of steel beams.
Fledglings, thought Drusilla contemptuously. Pariahs of the vampire clans.
Squatting unwashed in filthy nests, totally in thrall to their demons. Not one
good potential minion among them. Only worth dusting.
And after what one of them did to me, I'll enjoy doing it.
But they were big and strong. Proportionately stronger than she and maybe a match for a battered little slayer.
"Best to wait," she whispered to Buffy. "Their bloodlust is strong, their discipline weak. They'll wander. Best to pick them off one at a time. Fun, too."
A feral grin crossed Drusilla's face and she stroked her fangs in sweet anticipation. Her own demon was eager for some carnage and she felt the happiness of the hunter ready for the kill.
No answer from Buffy.
Drusilla glanced at the slayer again. Saw a face set like a death mask with eyes of
Something is wrong, she realised with chill clarity.
Buffy slowly shook her head.
"We don't wait," she said, and dived straight towards the seven vampires below.
Sheer surprise slowed Drusilla down. Her William had told her slayers had a death wish, but she had never imagined she would see one embracing it so eagerly.
The demon inside her screamed with desire, aching to see the slayer die, and Drusilla hesitated, watching as Buffy plunged towards her death. But then she thought of how she had felt when she woke to see Xander waiting by her bed, and of the many acts of kindness she had received from the humans in that humble house.
They were her family now, she realised.
She jumped, falling after Buffy, diving towards her own death.
The slayer had already dispatched two vampires with the Scythe by the time Drusilla landed next to her.
"Took your time," she muttered as Drusilla covered her back.
"Didn't want to die," Drusilla snarled, game face in place, baring her teeth at
"You're already dead!"
"But I can still feel."
Drusilla blocked a heavy blow, moved into the arc of the swing and put a stake through the other vampire's heart before he could blink.
Three down. Four to go.
"You can't feel without a soul!" Buffy screamed as she punched straight into another vampire's chest, finding the heart with her bare hands and squeezing it until it exploded, quickly enough for blood to spray over them before the demon turned
"I can," Drusilla shouted back, suddenly furious. How dare the bloody slayer presume to know her mind? "It hurts!"
The survivors circled them like dancers, high above the city's lights. Charged with anger, Drusilla picked up a loose girder and brought it down on the next fledgling's head. She felt the crunch of breaking skull and squashing brains but still the vampire stood, the demon refusing to leave its body while some motor function remained in the brain stem.
Drusilla seized its jawbone and pulled.
Dust. Two to go. Better odds.
Buffy was fighting with a fury that seemed completely to have taken possession of her. She discarded the Scythe and went toe-to-toe with her next opponent, punching and taking punches without even trying to avoid them. Drusilla could see the way her frame shook right down to her toes as sledgehammer blows landed on her.
I don't understand, Drusilla thought, glancing at her unlikely ally. Why is she fighting like this?
The hesitation cost her dearly. A combination of punches delivered at supersonic speed smashed into her torso, knocking her clear across the dusty concrete floor and breaking two ribs. The fledgling who had hit her must have been a sharp, dirty streetfighter in life, but he wasn't experienced. Seeing she was vulnerable,
he ran straight at her with his guard down.
A fatal mistake to make against a master vampire with Drusilla's reflexes.
To her, he looked like a wide-open target moving in slow motion. Drusilla made sure she had leverage, came out of a half-crouch and, ignoring the pain of her ribs, hit him with a straight right-hand punch that had the strength of ten behind it.
The fledgling ran on to the punch which connected with his face and kept right on going, shattering the bones of the skull and destroying the forebrain. His feet came off the ground and the sheer power of the blow threw his body clear off the building.
Only one left, she thought. We've been very, very lucky.
She watched as Buffy stalked the sole survivor, a small bull going after a large matador, and thought of a summer's day in 1925 when William and she had seen Cayetano Ordón ez fight in Madrid. They had taken sombra seats in the shade,
a terrible risk, but worth it to see the legendary bullfighter make the kill. And the wine and the blood had flowed so sweet that night as they ran through the streets of the old town with the other aficionados, high on the scent of musk and the smell of milky green absinthe.
The slayer should be the matador, she thought, but the positions seemed reversed. The slayer seemed more like an animal than the vampire did. The feared nemesis of vampire lore incarnate, crouching down on all fours, snarling at its prey.
Drusilla looked more closely at Buffy, looked into her eyes and saw nothing human there. They were emptier even than those of an old, old vampire who had long forgotten its human origins.
Thank God she never got like this in Sunnydale, Drusilla thought. We wouldn't have had a chance.
The last survivor had guts, she admitted to herself. He had probably worked on a road crew as a human, massed about 250 pounds and had wide, sloping shoulders; but the slayer still moved in on him, ignoring the punches raining on her, battering the creature to the ground, hauling it up and bashing it again.
Drusilla winced. She could hear bones break every time Buffy hit the vampire.
He staggered, beginning to fall, and a brutal right hand sent him on his way.
Drusilla thought she heard his jawbone crack just before he went down with a crash.
"Slayer! Stop! Stake him and be done with it!"
No response. Slayer fists went on chopping the beaten hulk to pieces.
And I thought I was mad, Drusilla said to herself. I never did anything this crazy.
She laid a hand on Buffy's shoulder and found herself flying across the floor,
head ringing and ribs grating against each other.
Drusilla hit concrete, rolling in agony, and came to her knees to see the slayer stake the broken fledgling, turn and start coming after her.
"Buffy! Stop!" she yelled, realising she was facing an out-of-control animal.
The old hysteria welled up inside, but she grimly fought it down.
What had William always said to her, trying to teach her how to protect herself while she danced around like a spoilt little idiot?
"Fighting's not about the moves, love. Know your enemy. Know how she thinks and you can defeat her."
What's wrong with you then, slayer? she thought. Why are you doing this?
She had a flash of insight. A vision of Buffy's mental state.
The slayer loved her William, and couldn't cope with his death. So much guilt, for leaving him to die in the ruins of Sunnydale. So much pain, never to be able to tell him how sorry she was for treating him so brutally. So much anger, because he just wasn't there by her side any more, and never would be again.
All that primordial guilt, pain and anger was now exploding, directed at the
As she coolly assessed the situation, calculated defence options and odds of survival
a nanosecond before the runaway slayer barrelled into her, Drusilla realised one
I'm sane! I've kept my head and reacted like an adult. The old me would have had hysterics and hidden behind William.
Problem is, Buffy's just gone insane and I'm wounded. How do I get out of this alive?
Use your speed. Keep your nerve.
Xander had admired her exceptional speed, she remembered. And she could use it defensively as well as offensively.
Drusilla flipped Buffy over her shoulder and circled the raging beast, thinking of Ordón ez in Madrid, acting as another matador to the bull. The joy of combat sang in her blood and she knew she was baring her fangs, but she moved light on her feet and stayed cool in her head. And she made the slayer miss.
The vampire ducked and dodged and weaved, letting the slayer swing and miss, swing and miss. All the time she watched Buffy's punches slow, listened to her breathing labour more and more, noticed her feet beginning to stumble and drag.
Just don't punch with her and you've got it won, Drusilla thought to herself, remembering some quote from a boxing movie William had dragged her out to see in 1979. Buffy was tiring but the slayer was still hellishly dangerous. One swat from either hand would put her lights out for good.
Sobbing with effort, Buffy threw more and more punches, but the power was finally beginning to wane and Drusilla was able to move inside the wild swings.
Finally, Buffy staggered. Drusilla caught her and held her like a doll. Buffy resisted for a moment, then collapsed into her arms. Drusilla held her, not sure what else to do, and Buffy began to wail.
The slayer had never broken down before. She had killed Angel, pushed Riley away, lost her mother and punished Spike; but she had never completely given in to her grief, never felt she could allow herself to just lose it. So it had built up and up.
Now all the grief poured out, and Buffy lay helpless in the arms of her enemy, sobbing her heart out.
The storm took a long time to blow over. The sobs became tears, the tears turned to sniffles and the sniffles faded to gasps. Finally, Buffy raised her blotchy, tearstained face and looked at Drusilla.
"I loved him too, slayer," Drusilla said simply.
Buffy went on staring at her. Drusilla could feel her shaking.
"I… I never told him. Never helped him. I should have died instead of him. I hurt him so often and he always came back to me, always helped me. Now he's gone, and I miss him, and I'll never see him again, never be able to tell him how sorry I am. How much I loved him."
Drusilla considered for a moment.
"Nor I," she said. "He was just my bestest friend."
Leaning on each other, united in grief, the two women lurched to their feet.
Buffy shook her head, regaining her composure, and stood apart from Drusilla.
She straightened her hair, tidied her clothes and rubbed her eyes.
Drusilla just tried to stay upright. She didn't want to think about the state of her ribs.
"How are you?" Buffy finally asked.
Drusilla looked up at the night sky. "I see stars," she said, "but not up there.
I'm dizzy, my head hurts and there are broken ribs."
"I'm sorry," said Buffy.
"It wasn't you, but we need to get back. Xander will worry."
Buffy smiled, and together they helped each other limp back to the house on Candlewood Drive.
"I need to go on a road trip," said Buffy.
Everyone looked up from the kitchen table and waited to hear what the slayer would say next.
It was a few days after the fight on the office block. Buffy and Drusilla had struggled back to the house just before dawn to find a sleepless Giles and Xander waiting
Giles took one look at them and muttered something unintelligible. Xander always thought it had sounded something like, "oh, my poor children," but he never asked Giles about it.
Buffy's clothes were torn and ripped. She leaned heavily on the Scythe and moved as if pieces had been chipped off her hips, her eyes were blackened and her jaw was swollen. Worst of all, both her hands looked smashed.
Drusilla looked a little better. Dusty and battered, but at first glance relatively unscathed. Xander could see her more clearly, however. He could see the white lines of pain around her eyes and the way she set her mouth to avoid screaming in agony as her broken ribs tore against her flesh.
Drusilla had carried Buffy for two blocks until the slayer began to heal. She would never tell Xander what the effort cost her.
Both vampire and slayer had slept like the dead that day. After Dawn had helped Buffy to bed, Giles sat with her a while.
"I'm a mess, Giles," she said eventually. "I'm a bigger mess than our insane vampire housekeeper. I always push people away. I wouldn't tell you how much I missed Spike, and I wouldn't admit to myself how jealous I always was of Dru."
"Yes, jealous. Right from the first time I saw her with Angel. I felt like killing her when I thought about the three of them together – Dru, Spike and Angel. I hated her guts, not because she was a vamp but because she was my rival and I felt threatened. She was the legendary ex-girlfriend. Older than me, taller than me, more experienced than me and, well, not bad looking. I didn't like it when Xander brought her into our home. I tried to do the right thing but I resented the hell out of her just for being here and getting on with my friends. Especially Xander. I couldn't even find anything to hate about her, and I tried. She is sweet, the cow, and she is the only other person alive I can talk to about Spike and Angel. The only other person who knew them
like I did. Maybe better than I did, damn her."
Giles rubbed his forehead, feeling quite emotionally out of his depth.
"I suppose then that, like it or not, you have a strong bond with Drusilla because you both loved the same men."
"Yeah, and if I'd handled it better, she wouldn't be lying upstairs with two broken ribs and concussion. I tried to get myself killed, she rescued me and I nearly got
her killed. I'm self-destructo girl, I am; and the funny thing is, the people who keep saving me from myself are the ones who should be my mortal enemies."
"Well, I wish you'd worked this out a bit less violently, but I think you're coming to terms with it now. Always remember, Buffy, love is the flipside of hate and a friend the flipside of an enemy."
"Giles, I have no idea what you're talking about."
The watcher got up to go, knots in his stomach at long last loosening as he realised Buffy was finally recovering.
"No change there, then," he said aloud.
"Get some rest, Buffy. You're not a teenager any more."
"Okay, Giles. As long as you promise to check on Dru for me."
"I will, Buffy, but I'm quite sure that if anyone else tried to hurt Drusilla,
Xander would bury them alive in her flowerbed."
Buffy smiled in perfect understanding and for the first time in a long while,
she looked young again.
Drusilla's ribs mended, she tended her roses and looked at the mountains.
She watched Xander go to work and listened for him coming home.
She felt more at peace and her mind was healing, but the dreams still came.
Every night she saw the faces more sharply and clearly, and she began to realise
her time on Candlewood Drive was only an interlude. There was a reckoning
still to come.
So when Buffy made her announcement, Dru wasn't surprised at all.
"I need to go back to the Hellmouth," said Buffy. "I need to make my peace with the place where he died."
Drusilla sat next to Xander, waiting for the words she knew would come.
"Dru, I'd like you to come with me. We both loved the same man and it would be fitting if we both said goodbye to him."
"Uh, Buffy?" said Willow. "There's only one problem."
"Neither of you can drive."
Xander couldn't help himself.
"Strike out for the Buffster! I'll take you if you want."
"Xander…" said Dru.
"I can drive," she said firmly. "William taught me how to drive his DeWhatsit on Route 66 in 1959. Lovely car. Tinted windows. Big fins."
"Oh, yes. That was it. I was quite keen on an Edsel but William talked me out of it." She paused for a moment. "Well, actually, he locked me in the trunk of our old car for four days until I came round. He was quite masterful sometimes."
"I don't know if Council funds will stretch to renting something like that,"
Giles commented mildly. "It'll more likely be a Volkswagen this time."
"Just don't go all Thelma and Louise on us," said Xander to Buffy and Drusilla, drawing looks of affectionate exasperation from the assembled ladies.
"Wasn't that the one where Geena Davis shagged Brad Pitt?" said Buffy thoughtfully.
Drusilla found herself making eye contact with Buffy. They both arched their eyebrows and Dru couldn't resist leaning towards Xander and giving him an eyeful
"I'd take a bite out of Brad any day, love," she said, smiling gleefully.
For the first time in a long time, there was laughter in the house, and it seemed as if the hard times were coming to an end.
In later days, when nostalgia and sentiment claimed him, Rupert Giles always remembered the way they were that morning. Fresh from the First's fire, incorrupt and joyous. Possibly the world's weirdest family, but a family nonetheless.
Sometimes he even found himself thinking how happy Drusilla had looked that day. She had always loved family and now she had one around her again. It was strange the way bonds forged in fighting and combat could become so strong, and how good could come from the greatest evil.
A nearby car-rental firm did indeed have a Volkswagen Golf. Xander let Drusilla and Buffy use his driving licence to satisfy the paperwork and the oddest couple of fellow travellers ever known left at twilight a couple of nights later.
City sidewalk and four-lane blacktop soon gave way to vistas of desert highway, cactus, sagebrush and scrub only Drusilla could see. She smiled. She could just make out the mountains in the far distance and pick up the faintest tang of ozone from the Pacific coast. She was free.
She drove easily, with a strange metronomic precision and a light touch on the wheel. She didn't need the headlights but she used them to blend in with other vehicles and made sure to stay under the speed limit.
No whines or silly whims clouded her judgement any more. Her head had been clearing for weeks and, strangely enough, coping with Buffy's attack at the office block seemed to have set the gold seal on her returning sanity. The damaged little girl who talked to her dolls was finally growing up.
Drusilla glanced at the sleeping slayer in the passenger seat, her hands still battered and swollen, and felt a little more at peace as she guided the small car through the night. She was protecting the slayer as her William would have wanted, and she found herself looking forward to getting back to the house on Candlewood Drive.
It was beginning to feel like home.
The slayer stirred and Drusilla felt herself being examined by a pair of large
"I shouldn't have been jealous," Buffy said quietly.
The vampire's face was unreadable. William's black beauty sat carved in stone,
but Buffy felt the car drift off track for a heartbeat.
"All women know jealousy, slayer," said Drusilla thoughtfully, "and hell had less fury than the two of us. But we were flipsides of the same coin, spinning like moths around angels and poets."
"Flipsides?" said Buffy, thinking of Giles' comment. "You mean opposites,
but more alike than we knew. Both loving Spike and Angel. Both needing the hunt. Both a bit crazy."
"So who is the vampire and who the slayer?"
Buffy suddenly smiled.
"You're the one with the fangs, Dru," she said.
Drusilla smiled and the two women felt the bond between them strengthen.
"He was my William for a hundred years and I loved him every day," the vampire said, unburdening herself. "But I was such a blind fool. All hung up on good and evil when they were just opposite sides of the coin. I should have stood by him to the end, and I'll never forgive myself that I didn't."
"I just miss him all the time. I talk to him all the time."
"It hurts more when you have a soul."
"But it hurts without one?"
An hour later, they reached the Hellmouth. They skirted a couple of roadblocks, parked the car off the road and climbed a small mesa.
There it was. The plain of stones, outlined in starlight. The last resting place of
Dru's William, Buffy's Spike.
Buffy felt herself welling up again. Drusilla stood nearby, wrapped in a black shawl, dignified but bereft, like an old widow woman finally able to see the foreign field where her husband fell.
The two paramours of William the Bloody stood vigil, remembering the man they
Buffy let her tears fall, thinking of Spike and seeing him as clearly as if he were by her side. She could see Drusilla's shoulders shaking as the vampire cried in silence, but was surprised when she started to speak.
"Oh William, my William," she said, "They'll never know. No bell will toll.
No poppies grow, no king nor emperor bow so low."
No, they won't ever know, thought Buffy. There'll be no honours for the warriors who walked with me into hell. No memorials for the unknown soldiers. We are already the forgotten, known only to God and the Devil.
But at least we have each other, and Drusilla can help me keep the memories alive.
How strangely it ends. Once we were mortal enemies, now we are closer than sisters.
She stood, remembering the fallen, beginning to feel able to move on.
Late on, just past midnight, some of the rocks in the middle of the crater seemed
to glow. Buffy felt a warmth pass through her body and heard Drusilla gasp.
"Dru, was that..?"
"I don't know, slayer, but I think our William is at peace."
"Time to go, Dru."
"As you wish."
Buffy stood and stretched, then stopped in mid-stretch, puzzled.
"That's funny. My hands don't hurt so much any more."
She flexed and curled her fingers, touched her jaw, took a few hesitant steps. She was still sore and tired, but it no longer hurt to move.
"Dru, how do your ribs feel?"
The vampire took a deep breath, expecting to feel the usual protests of her slowly knitting ribs. Nothing. Just the healthy response of strong bone and sinew.
"A last gift from our William, slayer."
Buffy nodded, rather touched by the way Drusilla was now referring to Spike
"Best get going, Dru. We do kind of need to be back by daybreak."
They just managed it. Buffy bundling Drusilla into Xander's arms just before sunrise before hitting the sack herself for a long day's sleep.
Before he went to work, Xander knocked on Drusilla's door. His throat tightened when he saw her dressed in her long white nightgown. Every day she looked more like she must have been all those years ago. A child of the church, sweet and chaste.
"I'm glad you're back, Dru."
"I'm glad to be back, Alexander. Did you take care of my roses?"
"Yes," he said, feeling that lump in his throat again. "They're growing strong."
"Oh, you want some of that AB negative? We've got a couple more bottles in."
"No. Well, yes. But…" Drusilla looked faintly exasperated. Xander smiled.
He loved it when she fussed around trying to work out what to say.
She walked up to him, gently touched him over the heart and said:
"I want to regain my soul."
Xander nodded, feeling quite absurdly happy.
"Yes. I want to be who I was once more. I want to be good. Even if it hurts."
"You're already my good girl, Dru, and it will hurt. It'll hurt a lot, but I'll be there with you."
He held her close and hugged her. Everything else seemed to disappear and nothing else mattered. It seemed like several minutes until they broke apart.
"Okay," he said, as she looked at him tenderly. "Okay."
"Are you okay, Alexander?" she asked uncertainly.
He grinned, and finally managed to say the right thing.
"Only when I'm with you, Dru."
She almost managed to blush, and she positively radiated happiness.
"Right, I think Willow's got an Orb of Thesulah somewhere, and I'll tell
the gang and…"
She touched a finger to his lips.
"I need to rest now. I'll see you this evening."
Xander bounded down the stairs to tell the Scoobies the good news and Drusilla went to bed.
You've helped me so selflessly, she thought before she fell asleep. And I've fooled you so completely.
Drusilla slept, Xander worked at the construction site, Dawn shopped and Willow assembled the ingredients for the ritual of the undead.
Giles sat with Buffy at the breakfast bar, waiting for his pensive charge to
Buffy fiddled with a fork for a while.
"Dru said it hurts more when you have a soul," she finally said.
"It? You mean emotions?"
"Yeah. I've always been told that vampires had no souls. That they were just vicious, violent animals. I told Spike he was an evil, soulless thing lots of times. Usually while I was beating him up. But I saw him show emotions before he even
got his soul back. So what's the truth?"
"I don't know, Buffy."
"You're supposed to know everything, Giles. You're my font of all wisdom.
It's in your job description."
"The Council was never particularly interested in demon psychology, Buffy. More in hunting them down and killing them, but I've seen a lot of things over the last seven years my training never prepared me for. Spike breaking down when you died. Clem babysitting Dawn. There was even a vampire girl called Sandy I met before and after she was sired. She was certainly different and much more dangerous after she was turned, but she was still surprisingly pleasant and, I think, really rather sad about her situation. She disappeared a couple of years ago. I sometimes wonder what happened to her."
"I don't think I staked her. Maybe she quit town to avoid the Initiative."
"Possibly. But I do have a theory about vampires and souls," Giles continued.
"If traces of the original personality and emotions remain in some vampires,
perhaps so too do fragments of their soul."
"You mean when a vamp is sired a sort of great big ice-cream scoop comes down and lifts out most of the person's essence but leaves a few scraps behind? Like bits of chocolate chip in the bottom of the bucket?"
Giles smiled on the inside but made a show of looking testy for Buffy's benefit.
"Once again, Buffy, you boil a complex and subtle subject down to the
"So Drusilla doesn't feel things as strongly as we do because she's only got a few bits of chocolate chip left, but she does feel them?"
"Yes, I think so. The trouble is the Orb of Thesulah doesn't do things by halves.
It returns the person's true essence – heart, soul and feelings – in one fell swoop and that person then has to deal with all the guilt and remorse for their sins all at once. There is no softening of the blow. Restoring Drusilla's humanity may well drive
"No other choice is there, though, Giles?"
"Unless you would prefer to put a stake through Drusilla's heart and then face Xander, no."
Buffy looked at Giles uncertainly. She opened and closed her mouth several times.
Giles waited patiently.
"Do they love each other, Giles?"
The watcher looked into the distance for a moment.
"Yes," he said. "They just don't know it."
Willow set out the herbs, folded the purple silk cloth upon which the Orb of Thesulah would stand, and tried to fight down her worries.
She had seen so clearly the way Xander and Drusilla looked at each other. It had reminded her of how she had loved Tara. It had also reminded her what it felt like to lose that love.
What would happen to Xander if the shock of regaining her soul destroyed Drusilla? He had already lost Anya, and he had always carried a lot of pain under that jokey exterior.
How much more pain could he take?
She looked at the window. The sun was setting.
Time to get on with it. Giles and Xander were waiting for Drusilla to wake. Buffy was dozing on the back porch and Dawn was wrecking the microwave in the kitchen.
Upstairs, Giles was talking to Xander while he watched Dru sleep. He loved the way her eyelids flickered open at sunset. The way that wide, innocent smile crossed her face when she saw him.
"You do realise she'll never completely recover?"
Thanks, Rupert, he thought. Just what I need to hear.
"Yeah, I know," he said aloud. "Mental torture. Death. Survivor guilt. 150 years of insane homicidal vampirism. Not the kind of thing a girl moves forward from with a couple of cosy fireside chats."
"I'm afraid so. Despite everything I would class Drusilla as functioning, but permanently damaged. She'll always need routines to follow. Always be a bit forgetful. If she was human, I'd gladly refer her to a psychiatrist. But she isn't,
and if a human practitioner put her in a trance and made her regress or something, there's every chance she would wake up, completely forget herself, and eat him."
"She'll have help," said Xander quietly. "For the rest of my life, anyway."
"You're a better man than I, Xander Harris," said Giles.
"You're embarrassing me so badly I want to barf, Giles," Xander grinned. "Why are you okay with helping Dru, by the way?"
"Because I've come to care for her too, I suppose. What she's doing also reminded me of the story of Cain and Abel. God counselled Cain that sin lay at his door, and either promised or ordered that Cain would conquer sin. Different translations of the original Hebrew gave the quote different meanings, but I believe what God actually said to Cain was 'thou mayest.' 'Thou mayest rule over sin,' which gave Cain and all Mankind free will. The freedom to choose between good and evil."
"You're losing me a bit, Giles, but Dru said vampires had a choice, didn't she?"
"Yes. When you defended her to us, you reminded me of that. And you were right. Even in her depravity and degradation she, like Cain, has free will and she is trying to choose. Drusilla is evil, Xander, but I've gained great respect for her because she's clawing her way out of hell to rule over her sins."
As if on cue, Drusilla's eyes opened.
"Willow's ready," said Xander. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
She seemed to look deep inside herself.
"I don't want to die a monster," she said simply.
It was all very straightforward. She took his hand, and the knight and his lady walked down to the living room for their audience with the witch.
Giles, Buffy and Dawn waited at a respectful distance as Xander and Drusilla knelt before Willow and the witch began to intone the Latin words. It sounded a bit like a sacrament, Giles thought, but at first nothing much seemed to happen. Willow droned on and Buffy began to look bored.
Never did have a good attention span did you, Buffy? Giles thought, but still you took the weight of the world on your shoulders.
He blinked, becoming aware of a strange luminescence gathering in the room
as Willow's chanting grew more forceful. Romany rituals were not subtle.
The scattered shards of Drusilla's soul were being retrieved from unimaginable dimensions of heaven and hell and, once gathered, would be forcibly reunited
with her mind and body.
Drusilla's spine suddenly arched, twisting so far back Giles thought he could hear vertebrae creak. Xander's jaw clenched as her hand clamped down hard on his and Willow's chanting reached a peak.
It seemed as if a bolt of lightning formed from nowhere, struck and was contained by the Orb, which began to glow more and more brightly. Then the light burst forth from it, illuminating Drusilla in palest gold. There was a rumble from deep within the earth which made the whole house lurch on its foundations, a cry from Drusilla and a flash of light deep in her eyes. Then it was over, leaving only a whiff of stale incense and decaying herbs.
Willow took a deep breath and looked at Drusilla. The vampire seemed to be in shock. Her mouth opened and closed soundlessly. Her eyes were unfocused.
Everyone held their breath, waiting to see if anything had gone wrong.
"Dru?" said Xander.
A small, dry sound came from her mouth. Nothing more.
"Drusilla?" Xander tried again. Still she couldn't speak. Her hand spasmed in his.
She blinked. That was her name. Her clan name, anyway. She looked at him.
"I'm sorry, Xander," she said.
"You've nothing to be sorry for, Dru."
She put her hand on her breast, as if she could feel the human soul within.
"You're wrong," she said tonelessly. "I have everything to be sorry for."
The soul was alive within her. She knew the guilt and remorse were coming, the horrors which were to be faced, and still everything was going to plan.
Slowly, Drusilla Aurelius got to her feet, looked gently upon the stunned Scoobies and said, "thank you, beloved enemies. I know who I am now."
Then she excused herself, her manner strangely composed, and went up to her room. She did not meet Xander's eyes and he was left staring after her, feeling like a lost little kid all over again.
"Did you see that?" said Xander.
"It was a bit, uh, anti-climactic," agreed Willow. "We restore her soul and, instead of going goopy in a basement like Spike or brooding for a century like Angel, she just thanks us kindly and goes back to bed."
"Maybe Spike and Angel were sort of allergic to souls and Dru isn't?"
Buffy shook her head. "Replacing someone's soul should be a really big thing.
It's not like an inoculation."
"Whatever the case," said Giles wearily, "it's been a long night. I suggest we turn in. I'll keep an eye on Drusilla although, considering what we've seen of her over
the past few weeks, I do feel there's no danger of her biting anyone."
"You sure about that?" said Xander, the worm of worry alive in his gut and refusing to be quieted.
Giles looked at the young man, saw the worry written all over his face, but had to be honest with him.
"No, but I hope so."
The Scoobies dispersed slowly. Giles glanced at the smouldering herbs, finding himself suddenly sick of magic, and walked up to Drusilla's room.
He knocked on the door, hoping everything would be all right.
He tried again.
Fear flared in him. He opened the door.
The room was empty. The window was open. Drusilla was on the loose.
She's gone insane, Giles realised with stark and terrible clarity, and we've given her shelter in a heavily-populated suburb. She'll run riot.
"Buffy! Xander!" he yelled. "Get up. Get up now! Willow, do a locator spell. Drusilla's on the rampage!"
I did not mean to fool you, thought Drusilla, as she moved among her prey. I wanted to be good, but that was not all I wanted.
You see, I cannot forget their faces. The faces of all the little children I killed.
I cannot forgive myself for what I've done. Without Miss Edith, the stars
or William to talk to, without the sweet scent of evil to insulate me,
I cannot stop myself from remembering.
All their faces come back to me. Night after night I see them more clearly.
Green-eyed, blue-eyed, brown-eyed toddlers. All so innocent and sweet.
You thought a creature without a soul could not feel. Maybe you were right,
but I could think and remember, and as my mind cleared their faces surrounded me. Staring silently at me wherever I was. In the long afternoons, at twilight with my roses, in my little room, I saw them.
I thought of my solemn vows, my faith and my beliefs. I prayed, alone in my bed,
but it all came down to the commandments in the end. It is all very simple.
I was a sinner and I was blind, but now I can see and I know what I did.
I regained my soul so I could be who I was and make what penance I am able. To walk within the cloisters of a church once more and remember their names. Confess my sins in a quiet corner, even if I am damned beyond all redemption. Then find a coward's way to free myself from sins so great I cannot bear them.
I hope my new family will not find me. Oh, my dearest enemies, I came to love you so! And my lovely boy, I wish I could have been your lady. I am sorry I must leave you, and I pray you will not have to see my face when it is over.
There was havoc in the house. The Scoobies broke out every weapon they could find. Buffy even phoned Angel at Wolfram & Hart to warn him a psychotic vampire was on the loose, and in the eye of the storm, Willow calmly conjured a locator spell.
She realised Xander was sitting next to her. Not moving, just staring vacantly into space. She finished the spell, left it to brew and took a good look at her old friend.
"You're really not all right, are you, Xander?"
"I just can't believe what's happening, Will. I feel like I've lost my own soul.
Like there's a great hole where my heart should be. Can't believe Dru would…"
He trailed off.
"You mean you can't believe a vampire's out on the town looking for an all-night blood buffet?"
His face was nearly as white as Drusilla's. He looked broken, she thought.
"I just… I really believed in her. Really thought…"
This is tearing him apart, Willow thought. Drusilla's tearing him apart.
"Do you love her?" she asked.
A cone of silence seemed to surround them, separating them from the chaos
Xander blinked, the question hitting him like a punch.
This is a turning point. I must not push him.
Xander's eyes focused.
"Just tell me where she is, Will."
Willow turned her attention to the locator spell, now sparkling a reassuring green in her palm. She concentrated and got the answer.
"What? Funny ha-ha?"
"No. Funny peculiar. She's in a church. That old one a couple of streets away."
"Lunching off the parishioners?" he asked, sounding hopeless.
"No. There's no-one else there."
Willow let him consider, watched him come to a decision.
"Will, I need a bit of time. Keep them away from the church for a while."
"Xander, are you sure you know what you're doing?"
"No," he grinned, "but I'm going to do it anyway."
The arched entrance was neo-Gothic, she thought. Probably inspired by Pugin.
She had seen him once when she was a little girl, attending the opening of
St George's in Southwark. She had been there with her mummy, wearing
her favourite white dress with its "leg of mutton" sleeves. All the gentlemen
had worn smart top hats, and the world had been so bright and gay.
But then the dark had encroached and stolen her body, taken her soul, leaving only
an ugly, unclean creature far past her time, sitting alone in the dusty old pew of
an abandoned church on the wrong side of the world.
She rocked back and forth in misery, eyes down in penance, remembering the children she had killed, reciting every name, feeling her soul burn within her,
letting the tears flow.
It wouldn't be that long until dawn. Then she could go for a little walk.
"Hey, golden eyes!"
What? She thought, her head snapping round to look at the doorway, game-face and fangs to the fore.
It was he. Her white knight, his features etched in palest gold while she sat in the darkest corner of an old church.
Her vision had come true, as she had known it would.
Don't look at me like this, my beautiful boy! she silently begged. I must look revolting. A filthy demon, ridged and scarred, squatting in a dank old church late at night. She wished she could shatter into a thousand pieces. She wished she could disappear into the floor. She couldn't face him. He was her knight but she wasn't his princess. She wasn't good enough. She was dirt.
She tried to snarl and spit at him, but her soul wouldn't let her. A sob rose up in her throat and she gripped the pew so hard the wood splintered.
Good. She could use it to stake herself.
He walked up to her, as casually as he might stroll along a sidewalk in daylight.
She hid her head in her hands in despair.
She tried to make herself disappear, but she couldn't manage it. Tried to push him away. Couldn't make herself do that, either.
Couldn't believe it when he sat down next to her and put his hand on her shoulder.
She risked a quick look at him from between her fingers. He was just sitting there,
his face open and gentle. So very gentle.
His hand was still on her shoulder. His other hand reached over to her other shoulder and he turned her until she faced him.
"Dru? Are you lost?"
"I'm sorry, Xander."
"I lied to you. I fooled you. I said I wanted to be good when all I really wanted was to die. I see their faces all the time. All the little children I killed. I want to die. Please let me die."
"So all the I-want-to-be-good talk, all the care we took of you, the way we watched over you, it all meant nothing?"
She was silent.
"Are you really just an evil, soulless thing?"
Every word cut her like a knife. She hugged her shawl round her more and more tightly. This was what it was like to have a soul. It hurt worse than seven stakes through the heart.
"Yes," she said. "Yes, I am. I am a monster. I cannot love or be loved. I cannot be
a wife or a mother. I cannot have children and I cannot grow old with you."
She felt like howling. How could he make her suffer like this?
Still he sat beside her. She turned her head away. Why couldn't he just leave her alone with her guilt?
She heard someone sobbing, and realised it was her.
"I was raised in the church. I just wanted to be a nun and know some peace. But I am become death. I have killed children. So many children, and I can see each one of their faces. I can never atone, never forgive myself. Please, please, just leave me alone to die."
She tried to turn away from him. Knowing with finality that she was indeed the vampire, the monster, the evil thing.
And she felt his hand on her shoulder.
"No," he said.
"What do you mean, no?" She didn't understand. Why was he doing this? Why was he here? Her eyes searched his.
"I'm not going to let you," he said slowly and clearly. "Because I don't know what I'd do without you around. I know what you've done, but I also know I can't bear to lose you."
She felt a hand caress the hard ridges of her forehead and wipe the tears from her golden eyes.
She choked up completely.
"Why are you even here?"
He looked at her monstrous face. Demon. Vampire. Killer. Thought how close he had been to staking her himself when she first showed up.
He stroked her cheek, tilted her chin up. Gazed into her golden eyes.
"Because I do remember you outside my window," he said. "I think I always knew you were there. You're damning yourself because you were a soulless fiend. I was damned with a couple of soulless parents who made my life a living hell.
And you know what? Maybe I did see you some of those nights. Maybe I just imagined your face, or maybe I wanted to see you because I'd rather have looked at a demon than at my own parents. You'd have been kinder to me than they ever were."
She glanced at him uncertainly.
"I'm a monster, Xander. I could kill you."
Even as she said it, she knew it was a lie. She couldn't hurt him. She couldn't hurt anyone any more.
"Well, you know what, I don't care! I'm not going to leave you, and I'm not going to live without you. If you destroy yourself, you'll be killing me, too."
"You can't," she whispered. "You're human. You have your life to live…"
"Know something, Dru? You're right. You are a monster."
She sat up straight, ridiculously affronted.
He went on regardless.
"I'm a monster. We're all monsters. People with souls have killed and raped and tortured since the beginning of time. It has to stop sometime. We all have to make the choice and live with the consequences."
"I can't, Xander," she said. "What I did…"
"Yes, what you did was terrible, and you'll suffer for it. I could argue with you all night, but I'll tell you this. I'm going to stay with you the whole time. And if you try and walk out into the light, I won't let you go."
"Why?" She asked very softly, completely confused.
"Because I love the way you walk down a street with no idea what's in front of you.
I love the way your eyes get big as saucers when you look at your roses. I love the way you fight. I even love the way you clean your fangs in the morning. So don't doubt for a second that if you leave me, I won't want to go on living."
Then her hands were on his shoulders, and he felt her begin to shake. She held on to him while her heart broke. He didn't see the return of her human face, but he felt the wash of blood and tears as she cried for all she had done, and he knew he would never
The new day was drawing near when he took her hand and led her from the church.
He walked with his lady to their home on Candlewood Drive. He greeted
his friends, who were waiting at the door, and they invited her in.
She stumbled on the stairs as she walked up to her room. He helped her get into bed and watched her fall asleep. And for the first time in many years, she slept easily, knowing he would be there when she woke.
31st January 2009-8th April 2009
With acknowledgement to the works of Robert A. Heinlein, Harper Lee, Jack London, and John Steinbeck.