A/N: I realised I made a big mistake, time-wise, in the last story with Willow. Given the timeline I made for the story, she would have been about fourteen or fifteen when she was turned into a vampire. Given she was presented as Buffy's age throughout the whole story and she will continue to be about that age through this one…Continuity error? Hey, when you write a story with more holes in it than swish cheese you can't fix everything right?
Again I apologise.
P.S. After looking at some pictures of the mansion to remind myself what it looked like…wow, I can't believe how bizarre it actually is. How did I go through two seasons of that place (many multiple times) and never notice how weird it was in there? Did any of you guys notice?
Smoke still coated the inside of the mansion on Crawford Street, the rubble of the second floor balcony carelessly kicked into a corner, and the blood of the slain dried and cracked along the floors and walls. Scorch marks filled the hall, along with bones picked clean by piercing fangs. It was a place of horror and death, but there were many who called it home. From the outside, the mansion looked like it was built up of blocks, no arching roofs or curved walls; all perfect squares and rectangles. On the inside, it was much weirder. The interior design was made up of off-centre placements, asymmetrical halls and cube-shaped blocks of varying size, then flooded with the oddest of choices in fittings that made even vampires cringe.
Random pieces of furniture, of erratic styles and shades, were scattered throughout the rooms with very little care. Statues of angels and devils alike, dogs and pigs and strange ghost-like dreams. Banners and stitches of folk stories in the same room as a record player stocked with jazz. Wood carvings next to stainless steel, carpets of vibrancy lost under cheap mats. The whole place was a conundrum, but no one seemed to care. There were things enough to give the impression of luxury, yet anyone with taste would have burned the place to the ground. The condition of the mansion didn't help it one bit. Debris from outside being washed in by rain or by wind, the damage of the battle coupled with splatters of fresh kills and the general slobbery of layabout vamps. But there was no one willing to clean the place, so it simply didn't get done.
What did vampires care if there were leaves in the living room, or muddy footprints in the parlour? So long as they had blood to drink and a place to hide from the sun, the only other thing they had need of was the protection and support of a pack. Nearly a hundred vampires lived in this house; quite a large pack indeed. And like wolves, wild dogs, and other such group-type animals, vampires lived by the rules of a hierarchy.
Above the tactless and insipid lackeys stood the three former queens of Angelus. Though their king was dead, they still held their titles, and so were treated with respect and veneration. But even amongst those three there was a ladder of importance. At the bottom was Anya, the youngest of the former queens. A little on the short side, with almost shoulder-length blonde ringlets for hair; this one looked to be the most charming and innocent of the lot. But if you got the chance to know her, you soon found out she had a taste for torture. Not to mention how blunt she could be, the girl had no social skills at all in terms of manners, and she was often the first to blurt out the one thing no one wanted to hear.
At first, the supreme honesty had been a little nice, a bit refreshing after constant lies and tricks from all the other vampires in the manor, but once Buffy learned that speaking casually of tearing bones from breathing bodies and setting live people on fire were some of her favourite topics, she decided it would be best to keep her soul-having self away from Anya within the best of her abilities. Not much luck in that respect though.
It was difficult to listen to Anya because, despite not having a soul, she seemed to have no idea at all that the things she did were wrong. There were vampires who knew what they were doing was wrong, but that was part of why they did it. If you told Anya that hurting people was a bad thing, she would get the strangest look on her face, as though she had suddenly decided you were the one who was insane and perhaps she ought to rethink hanging out with you.
Next came Cordelia: a tall, slender woman with tanned skin and short brown hair, who had a desperate need to look like a model every minute of every day. Usually dressed up in something overly bright and cheery, she was a right bitch when it came to conversation, and always had to have the last word in an argument. Anyone who challenged her got their heart punched right through their back. She didn't take disrespect well at all and had the most snarky and bitter insults for all the right occasions. She had a distant interest in the others, only happy when someone was fawning over her and doing every little thing for her. She didn't even like to hunt. Every night, she'd pick one of the lackeys to go hunt for her, to bring her something warm and fresh. She'd shower them with false praise until they smiled like a schoolboy, before dismissing them almost instantly to enjoy her meal in peace.
And before those two, there was Glory, a conceited and cruel person since her mortal birth. The daughter of some rich and snobby title, Glory had been treated like a queen from the day she was born. Now, as a vampire, she was nowhere near ready to give that up. Always hard-lined red dresses, predator shoes, a mane of wild blonde locks that gave her the appearance of a lion ready to tear off your head, and the attitude of a raging bull. While Cordelia manipulated those around her and Anya tortured them through detailed imagery, Glory was the type who just liked to punch you in the face. Torture was a hobby, but she preferred a good beating to using tools or techniques. She was also the sort who would sooner dig a hole in your chest with a single finger than bother listening to your excuses.
These three were the ones who had ordered the capture of Buffy after she rose from her grave, they were the ones who controlled the masses of vampires under their rule, and they were the ones who had declared that Buffy was not to leave the house under any circumstances. But they weren't the ones who were truly in charge.
After the word of Angelus' death had spread, a strange woman had emerged from the beyond, moving to Sunnydale with haste to take over and fill in the void of authority. The Sisters could handle themselves well enough, but they didn't exactly have goals and make plans. They had simplistic needs: a new dress here, a foot massage there, a virgin to drink from or a few hours of praise. All of it was instant gratification, nothing long term or of truly significant gain. They were not the runners of this game, and that's where Darla came in.
Darla was a short, small woman with shoulder-length hair in a pale blonde shade. She had warm eyes that concealed a devious nature, and she felt nothing in the destruction of her subjects, treating the lackeys as little more than paper dolls. She reeked of power, of competency and skill, but she was not usually one for getting her hands dirty. She rarely engaged in brutality for brutality's sake, but that didn't mean she wouldn't participate if the situation called for it. She could doll it out better than anyone else, she just preferred to put others in the line of fire.
From what Buffy had been able to gather from passing comments and overheard conversations, Darla was Angelus' sire, the one who turned him into a vampire some two hundred years ago, and the last truly respected member of the Aurelius clan. She didn't really know anything more than that, she didn't even know what the Aurelius clan was, but all the other vampires seemed almost afraid to discuss it. She had thought about asking Darla what it all meant, but a part of her was pretty sure she didn't really want to know.
This was pretty much all she had learned about the other vampires in the mansion, she wasn't really allowed to socialise. In fact, she hadn't been allowed to leave her room since Darla had arrived in town, all the way from some European place that Buffy just couldn't pronounce. Only her 'sisters' and Darla were allowed to visit her room, so she spent most of her time alone, looking out the window of her second-floor bedroom.
As far as prisons went, it wasn't too bad. A decently sized box of a room, more of the Tetris architecture and dull grey tones. There was one window of significant size, covered up by a thin black sheet nailed into the wall. The sheet was there to protect her from the sunlight, but with the day as a back light, it allowed a degree of visibility outside. Not that there was much to see anyway, not from this side of the house. Inside the room, there was a queen sized bed wrapped in black and red bedsheets. How original. It was covered in pillows and blankets, the vampires seemingly unsure what she would need given her unique condition. There was a shelf off to one side, some kind of smooth wood, stained black; again, very creative; that gave the room an empty and neglected feeling, holding about four books where it could easily store fifty.
The room was lacking in decoration of much kind, a little statue hanging on the wall there, some grisly gargoyle with pointy teeth and big eyes over there, some rendition of a dragon, she supposed, sitting on a hideous little grey table just a little bit over there. It screamed for colour, for life and light. For this reason, Buffy liked to leave the door to the black wood closest wide open, allowing the colour of the clothes to improve the dour mood of the room. A bold collection of vibrant colours, satin and silk, fancy dress, and risqué outfits that she would never wear. There were some pieces even Faith would say were too slutty. All of it was donated by her 'generous' sisters, which only made the pieces that much more obscene.
Luckily, she wouldn't be expected to wear those clothes for much longer, not with her pregnancy finally beginning to show. Today she was wearing an old dress of Drusilla's. It had a black satin skirt that began under the bust with a bodice of black lace; an under layer of black fabric keeping her breasts and mid back properly covered. It sat halfway off the shoulders and reached down to meet the dip of her elbows; the skirt almost brushing the floor. It was a bit tight with her barely-there baby bump, but it wasn't like she had need to breathe. Oddly enough, though five months along in her pregnancy, nothing else about her body had changed. Not the size of her breasts or the curve of her hips, not the thickness of her arms and legs. There was no throwing up, no nausea, no overactive hormones driving her insane, there was no back pain or cravings; no sign other than the soul her unborn child was sharing with her and the tiny sound of a beating heart that told her there was any child at all.
While some pregnant women might be jealous of her supremely easy pregnancy, Buffy couldn't help but feel like she was missing out on something special. The pain and sickness, the mood swings and excessive sleepiness…though not particularly charming, there was just something about the whole clandestine gestation that made her feel deceitful. As though, somehow, she was cheating. Like the whole thing didn't really mean much because she hadn't put any of the effort into it. It was completely illogical, of course, but then again since when were feelings and insecurities born from logic?
Buffy had never thought of herself as a mother, having kids had never even crossed her mind. She wasn't the type to sit around dreaming of a house full of children, but now that the prospect of being a mother was upon her, she could think of nothing else. It felt almost fake, like some kind of cruel trick, led to believe she was having a baby without any of the effort, or even being alive for that matter. No one seemed able to explain why her baby was still alive, it wasn't like any of them had ever sired a pregnant woman before. It seemed no one had the answers, but they were all very interested.
She wondered if her uncle and aunt would have been so invested in her child as the vampires seemed to be. If they knew she was pregnant, would they support her? Her mother would have thrown a fit, but she would have accepted the baby soon enough. Her aunt and uncle though, she didn't really know. They might welcome the baby into the family, or stand around and watch with worried faces. They had no reason to believe Buffy would make a good mother, hell, Buffy herself wasn't even sure she could do this. She just wished all this could be happening at home with her family; with Spike.
But she could never go home.
Scribbles on paper, that's all they were. No matter how many times he drew her face, no matter what angle or expression, whether she was smiling over her shoulder or her hair was blowing in her face, he could never make her look right. Was it because he hadn't known her long enough to truly memorise her face? Was it his own poor skills failing to capture the beauty and life he had seen? Or was it simply not possible to put that kind of light and energy into a drawing?
With a bitter growl, he threw the pencil against the wall, watching it snap in half before falling to the floor; rolling along to meet with a pile of discarded works. He'd run out of paper three times in the time she'd been gone, some of it torn and thrown in the trash, some of it merely dumped on the floor and the rest were stuck to the walls. Those were the ones he actually liked, the ones he could look at and almost bring to life in his mind. There was one on the right he would stare at sometimes, imagining he could hear her laughing. Another one towards the middle depicted her in the park with a picnic basket, the sunlight making her skin glow.
Perhaps he was going insane, being so obsessed with a dead woman. It wasn't the first time he had gone through this though. After Drusilla had died, he had locked himself away for months, doing nothing but drawing, trying to copy down every memory he could find of her before they began to fade, and he had done something similar after losing his parents all those years ago. It was just what he did to deal with grief. It might not be particularly healthy, but it was how he coped. Maybe he should get out of this basement and actually go outside, take a walk or something, get out of the darkness. But it was a place he was so accustomed to, a place he felt like he belonged, and the idea of walking up those steps to find that dismal world up there was truly bereft of Buffy held no appeal. He had been half insane when he met her, for the first time in years he felt like happiness might not be such a hoax after all, that maybe it was possible, maybe it could last.
That was why he obsessed over her, he was desperate to capture that light in her eyes, to recreate the things about her that made him want to smile. Maybe if he could just get it right, he might be able to get over her death, might be able to believe that something other than bitter loneliness was still an option for him. But somewhere deep inside, he knew these drawings would never be enough. He had gone so long, trapped in the darkness, the anger and pain. To finally find a balm for his sorrows, to gain hope and confidence that maybe he wasn't doomed to be alone, only then to have it snatched away from him just when that perfect little happy ending was in reach…
He could really use a drink.
Turning his head slightly towards the staircase, he wondered if Giles still had that bottle of Scotch squirrelled away under the sink. He wouldn't take all of it, but a few glasses of the good stuff would be mighty welcome on this night.
Pulling himself out of his chair, Spike quietly made his way up the stairs, unsure of the actual hour, but pretty certain it was late enough for the others to have gone to bed. The basement door opened without a sound and he only had to move about five steps around the kitchen island to get to the cupboard under the sink. Sadly, those doors were not so quiet, and his body tensed when an unnervingly loud squeak sounded throughout the room. He waited for the thump of footsteps from upstairs, but when he couldn't detect any unusual noises, he reached in for the sizeable bottle.
"Is this what you do every night? Steal kitchen supplies?"
The voice was quiet, not intending to frighten him, but it still made him jump quiet embarrassingly. Spike held the bottle behind his back as he stood up and looked across the island counter. Tara's sister was standing in the doorway, a light blue robe around her slim figure and her short red hair in a fuzzy mess. Her arms were crossed, but there was no anger or defensiveness in the pose, just a desire to fight off the cold.
"What you doin' up, Red?" He asked in a hushed tone, slowly closing the cupboard doors while keeping the drink in his hand. He wasn't sure how she might react to him drinking his sorrows away, he didn't know that much about her at all, really.
Willow looked down at the floor, a slippered toe tapping against the tile. "I have trouble sleeping sometimes. What about you?" Her face remained bowed, but she looked up at him once more. "You woke up and had the sudden urge to clean the kitchen or something?"
Spike forcefully chuckled at that. "Would be a waste o' time in this house, place is bloody spotless"
"So then what were you doing in the cupboard?" She moved closer, taking a seat on one of the stools and setting her crossed arms down on the bench for support.
Deciding that she didn't seem aggressive or suspicious at all, and had never given him any trouble since being brought back to life, Spike chose to reveal his little secret. With pride, he proffered the bottle of golden liquid before setting it down gently on the bar. Willow took a moment to read the label in the dark before a small smile of understanding tugged at her lips. Then she frowned.
"Why not keep your stash in the basement?"
Spike grinned. "Not mine, one o' Giles' little secrets, but 'm sure he'd understand"
Willow looked a little unsure, but made no move to stop him as he gathered up a rock glass from the top shelf and set it down beside the bottle. "I hope so, probably best not to drink too much of it though; looks expensive"
"Promise I won't drink the lot, just a glass or two. A little somethin' to take the edge off, ya know?"
Willow looked down into the circle of her arms. "Thinking about Buffy again?"
With the look of a deer caught in headlights, Spike only just managed not to drop the bottle on its side as he began to pour. A little over two shots worth tipped into his glass and he quickly put the lid back on before he spilled any on the counter. He held off answering until he had taken a good long gulp of the burning liquid, enjoying the feeling of it running down the back of his throat and warming his stomach. A moment of vertigo reminded him not to drink this stuff too fast and he tipped the bottle slightly to check the percent on how strong this drink really was.
"Hmm?" He looked away from the bottle and back to the redhead.
"Were you thinking about Buffy?"
Again he paused, but didn't avoid the question this time. "'m always thinkin' about her, never bloody stops." He moved around the counter to take the end stool, lowering himself down and swishing his drink around in the crystal tumbler. "She's not the kind o' girl you can just forget about"
Willow smiled. "No, she's really not"
Spike stared at the redhead out of the corner of his eye, looking almost suspicious of her. They had barely interacted at all since she had moved in, and his only experiences with her before that had been when she'd been trying to kill them. Willow had been one of the vampires involved in the kidnapping of Drusilla, and though he knew he couldn't really blame her for her crimes as a vampire, he wasn't anywhere near ready to start trusting this gal.
Willow noticed she was being watched and she shuffled nervously on her seat. Desperate for a way to direct the attention away from herself, she sought any form of topic with which to distract him. "So, uh, hey, looks like you finally left the basement"
Spike narrowed his eyes, but didn't comment on her obvious discomfort. "I leave the basement sometimes, gotta use the bathroom and kitchen and what all. Just don't normally take trips upstairs when you lot are home"
A sad expression coated Willow's face and she turned a set of worried green eyes upon him. "Why do you cut yourself off from everyone? Have you always been this way or is it because…" She swallowed. "…Is it because of Buffy?"
The blonde scowled and turned away, looking towards the back door. "Not really one for crowds unless there's booze involved. But it wasn't this bad before she died"
Willow sighed, her eyes remaining on his back. "You really miss her, don't you?"
Suddenly, he threw the rest of the Scotch down his throat and very nearly slammed the glass down before remembering there were people sleeping. With a brittle huff, he stood up and turned to face Willow, who suddenly looked like a trapped mouse with a big cat.
"Why does everyone question that?" He snapped mutedly. "Perhaps bein' together for only two days doesn't make it love, but there damn well was a connection, and a strong one at that. Yes, I bloody well miss her. I miss her so much and sometimes I don't even know why. No, we didn't know each other that long or that well, but she meant a great deal to me and she will always mean somethin' to me"
He waited for her to argue with him, to tell him it wasn't love and that he was making mountains out of mole hills, but she did none of that. Instead she smiled. His brows furrowed in confusion for a moment, before she responded, and the words she said left him temporarily speechless.
"You fell in love in only two days? That's pretty special"
Spike frowned, waiting for a minute or two for the other shoe to drop, and when it never did, he wondered why. "You don't think it sounds insane?"
Willow laughed. "Maybe a little, but I'm finding it kind of hard to care. You loved her, and I'm just happy that she got to experience that…short lived…as she was." The tiniest of pouts began to develop, before growing into a full on sob.
Spike found himself void of his anger and suddenly feeling completely confused about what to do. Sitting back down on his stool, he gently patted the redhead's back a few times, trying to shush her with some generic, comforting words.
"Easy there, pet, it's all okay"
"I'm sorry," she mumbled, "I'm sorry, I didn't want her to die. It's my fault she's gone, I should have done something. I could have run in there and let her out or distracted Angelus or something, instead I just stood there with Tara and watched everything. I could have done something to save her and I didn't and now she's gone and it's all my fault…"
The familiarity of her words struck him like a hammer to the gut and for the first time it occurred to him that the reason everyone seemed so distant and quiet about Buffy was because they were all blaming themselves too. No one wanted to talk about her because they were all carrying the guilt of her death. It seemed pretty obvious all of a sudden and he cursed himself for not realising it sooner. Part of the reason he had hidden away in his room was because he didn't want to face the others, he didn't want to talk to people who acted like Buffy's death hadn't affected them. He wanted her to be remembered, to be talked about, and everyone in this house very nearly right down refused to do so.
"We're all responsible, Red, nothin' you didn't do that day is on your head any more than the rest of us. It wasn't your fault, you were dazed and confused, beatin' heart again and all that"
Willow sniffed loudly as she wiped away her tears. "I guess…" She wanted to say that though he might be right on this count, he couldn't deny she was responsible for the state of the town, but decided that was a whole other can of worms she didn't feel up to discussing right now. Instead, she broke the building silence with an almighty yawn.
"Come on then, Red, back to bed." Spike said with a sincere smile, grateful to her for opening up his eyes a little, and giving him someone to talk to, though it was brief.
Ignoring the glass and bottle on the counter, he gently nudged the girl into getting to her feet. She stood up and stretched her arms above her head, yawning once again once the motion was done. Moving towards the doorway, she threw back a mumbled good night before stopping suddenly. Spike watched as she fiddled with her fingers nervously before looking back over her shoulder.
"Somethin' you want ta say, Red?"
She stared at him for over a minute, trying to make up her mind. Finally, she turned towards him and let her eyes meet the floor. "I just wanted to say…I'm…I'm really sorry about the baby"
The shock of her words almost made him have a stroke. It took him longer than he would like to admit to remember how to speak again. "You…you knew?"
Willow nodded, still looking at the ground. "We all knew. As soon as…he knew about it, he pretty much told everyone. I've noticed no one else seems to know, and I promise to keep it a secret if that's what you want. Just thought I should let you know that there is someone who knows, someone you can talk to about it if you feel like it"
He was struck by her kindness and compassion and wondered how it was possible that such a sweet and charming girl had become that monster he used to know. "I 'preciate that, pet, would rather keep it between us to be honest, and thank you"
She looked up and smiled, glad he hadn't gotten angry with her for some reason. "I mean it, anytime you want to talk"
"I'll think about it"
"Okay, good night Spike"
She gave a little wave before disappearing into the darkened house, leaving Spike to wonder why Buffy had left town in the first place with a best friend like that. Hell, if he'd had friends like her back in college, things would have been far more bearable. What the hell had happened all those years ago?
Brushing the thoughts away for the another time, Spike forgot about the glass and bottle on the counter and headed back downstairs, firm in the decision to leave his drawings and try to get some sleep.