Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project
Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project

Drahý Sestra (Beloved Sister)
By Rune
For Calle Dybedahl

There had recently been a time when Willow Rosenberg could no more have stayed alone and unsupervised for a few hours, than ran willingly naked through the streets of Sunnydale - but alone she was. Unsupervised, unwatched, slightly apprehensive, but harboring a tingle of pleasure at once again being independent.

As times went, this particular and most recent period of her life had been most definitely of the bad. The Dark Magics had gotten out of hand, people had been hurt and she'd damn nearly destroyed the world, not to mention the small matter of flaying someone alive. Even if that someone had been the monster who had murdered her Tara, the young witch fully realized that it didn't give her the right to take his life - but take it she had and worse than that, she'd enjoyed it. No... Not enjoyed... Salivated over, reveled in, got turned on by the power, the sheer vileness and wickedness of the act, it's base brutality and the bittersweet tang of revenge. Most of all, the control - except in retrospect she now realized that control was the least of what she'd had that day.

She'd traveled a long and hard road since. The intervention of her best friend in all the world had been the only thing that had been capable of stopping her, persuading her to reel in the dark powers that she'd unleashed in her grief and rage, and all with the most unlikely of weapons. Love.

Love was something that Willow had once thought she understood - something that she'd believed she carried in abundance in her heart. But since that darkest and most desperate of hours she'd come to realize that there was a huge emptiness inside her, an emptiness that only Tara had ever been able to fill. Now that her lover was gone that emptiness seemed to expand, to encompass her whole self, her very soul and she'd never felt so bereft and alone.

It wasn't that her friends had abandoned or forsaken her - quite the reverse, although she richly deserved their disgust and disappointment. But they hadn't deserted her, rather grouped together as they always had when one or all of them was in trouble and surrounded her with forgiveness and love.

But that love wasn't enough. Wasn't enough to ease her pain and lift the desolation and loneliness that had become her constant companion. Wasn't enough to make her feel as if her heart was still beating rather than smashed and broken. Wasn't enough to make her want to carry on living. Again, only for the intervention of her best friend Xander, she'd now be in the cold ground, victim to the razorblade that she'd befriended in an attempt to escape her pain. She still wore the mark of its kiss on her wrists.

It was at this point that the Watcher's Council had stepped in - not out of concern for her well being, rather a desire to ensure that she didn't once again turn to the Dark Magics. Willow as an adversary was something that the Council had no wish to contend with. They were well aware of her latent power, and so called upon Rupert Giles to accompany her to England and into their control where hopefully a regime of quiet living and reflection coupled with strenuous training in meditation and self-control would prevent her taking the dark path ever again.

It had been five months and the Council had been pleased with her progress. Her tutors reported that she was an able, if unenthusiastic student who if carefully nurtured would become a great and powerful force for good. But to Willow, it all meant nothing. She no longer cared about magic, about good and evil, about the forces of darkness that threatened mankind's existence on a regular basis. Inside, she was dead, her grief an unassailable mountain and the emptiness inside of her a bottomless chasm. It seemed that there was no enchantment left in her world, nothing to wonder at or intrigue.

Until the dreams began.

They were infrequent at first; barely remembered feelings and images that flitted around inside her head upon waking. But they were comforting in a strange way - probably because the night terrors that they replaced had been so emotionally painful, so vivid and real, that even specters of dreams were better than the nocturnal tortures that she'd endured since Tara had died. Willow had been frightened to sleep in the weeks following Warren's death... Warren's murder. Her dreams were filled with images of his brutalized body and her ears rang with the echoes of his agonized death-throes. Night after night she awoke sweating, sometimes screaming - her heart pounding so hard that it seemed it would burst. Relief came only in dreams of Tara, if relief it could be called. Tara smiling, Tara taking her in her arms and comforting her, Tara alive. On those occasions Willow awoke with her face drenched with tears and her throat tight and sore from sobbing. It amazed her that her heart hadn't just given up and stopped beating, because the grief was so raw, so relentless.

Sleep became the enemy. The once vivacious and pretty red head was now listless and wan, dark circles like bruises adorned exhausted eyes and highlighted skin now pale from heartache and pain. But the dreams were relentless.

And so Giles had suggested a small holiday; some time alone where she could think about her future and ponder on the offer of a permanent apprenticeship that the Council had offered her. He didn't want to add that not only was it a one-time offer, but that her refusal would mean, at the very least, constant surveillance by the Council for the rest of her life. They believed that Willow was a time bomb, a target for the forces of evil that would attempt to seduce her back to the dark side and harness her power. The Council was prepared to go to any lengths to ensure that this didn't happen. Rupert Giles found that he didn't want to dwell on just how stringent their preventative measures would be, although the phrase 'collateral damage' had crossed his mind more than once.

He was in a position to offer her the use of a small cottage in the countryside a few hours drive from London. The small village in Fareham had an idyllic setting - it had an olde worlde charm all of it's own, what with it's beautiful mediaeval houses and cottages all wonderfully preserved, and it's air of serenity and calm. Green fields surrounded it, jockeying for position with large areas of forest and woods that were steeped in history and typified everything ever written in prose or poetry on the beauty of the English countryside. The cottage was owned by the Council and was mostly unused, existing as a small getaway for guests requiring seclusion or occasionally a safe house. Willow had acquiesced with a wan smile which never quite reached her eyes and Giles was at great pains to assure her that he was only a phone call away should she find the seclusion and solitude too much to bear.

The very next day he'd driven her there and for a second before she'd climbed out of the car she'd gripped his arm, frightened eyes searching for his and silently pleading with him not to leave her alone. It had taken all of his will not to turn the car around and take her back to London, or at the very least stay with her. But he took her pale, cold hands in his and assured her that she would be fine, that she needed this time to grieve properly and alone - something that as yet she'd been unable to do.

"Take this time..." he'd told her. "Cry if you want to, scream if you have to, there's no one around to call the police or bother you.. Unless you want someone here, that is. I can be back in a matter of hours if you need me. But please... allow yourself the luxury of grieving, Willow. You need this time to reflect and mourn. You need this time to begin the healing process."

Willow's eyes filled with tears then. "I don't think I can. I don't think that I'll ever heal. I don't think that I'll ever feel or... or desire, or come even close to loving again. How can I? Tara... She's everything... Was everything. She was my girl."

He thought that perhaps she would break down, that she would allow herself to weep. But she steeled herself, her eyes again lifeless and hard as flint, and the tears remained unshed. Her lip trembled and she pushed a stray lock of red hair from her face. Then she smiled and squeezed his hands before pulling hers gently away.

"You go now. I'll be fine. I just need..." She sighed deeply and looked around, her eyes coming to rest on the small cottage that was to be her home for the next few weeks. Then she faced him again. "Time. You're right. I... I just need some time."

"You take all the time you need, Willow. And please, don't hesitate to call if you need me. Remember, I can be here in..."

"A matter of hours, yes I know." She smiled.

They got out of the car and he carried her bags to the entrance of the cottage, then shepherded them both indoors. The interior was pleasantly if plainly furnished, the low ceiling giving the illusion of being cocooned within. A large comfortable sofa rested in the center of the room and was flanked by two easy chairs. A small side table dressed with a handmade lace doily sat nearby. In the corner a television, video and a collection of video cassettes awaited perusal, and a warm glow emanated from the fireplace where a fire already burned merrily, the smell of peat wafting to meet them where they stood at the door.

"Wow, how... quaint! It's like something from a picture postcard."

Rupert smiled. "Yes, it's very old you know. I believe it was built over one hundred years ago. Mr. Rogers from the Council owns it; it's been in his family for years. At one time the roof was actually thatched, but it's been renovated recently. New kitchen, bathroom, completely refurnished and so on. I think you'll be very comfortable here, Willow. His wife Miriam popped by yesterday, put fresh sheets on the bed, stocked up the larder and the fridge, aired the rooms. I... I think you'll find everything you need."

Not everything I need, the young woman thought, she wasn't here, not her love, her girl, not...

But Rupert was talking again, enthusing over the surrounding countryside, the beautiful woods nearby and the old Abbey ruins, all places where she could explore, take in the fresh, clean air, and think.

Think. Willow fought the urge to snort indignantly. Like I need to think. Thinking is all I do. Thinking, hurting, screaming inside... But no one can hear. No one can hear my screams or feel my pain...

"... All right? Willow, are you all right?"

She flinched then, forcing a smile and inwardly grimacing at the brittle, false brightness in her voice.

"Fine and dandy, like sour candy."

Giles looked embarrassed. "I'm so sorry, I... I just meant... I don't expect you to be..."

"Sorry, my bad. Gonna have to learn not to be so testy. Have to learn how to channel the inner-Willow again, you know? Spank my inner-moppet, as Cordelia would say. Though I'm not sure if I have a moppet. Hey... maybe if I mail her, she could send me one."

She laughed then, and wryly noted the relief in Giles' eyes - she could nearly hear the click as his mind automatically switched to 'it's safe to say goodbye' mode.

After he'd ambled back to the car, stuttered some last minute instructions and made his goodbyes, she closed the door and walked calmly to the bathroom. Then she fell to her knees in mock worship in front of the toilet and vomited up the contents of her stomach.

She was alone.


The first couple of days should have been the worst. The invasive silence, the long hours of nothingness on her hands, the dubious luxury of uninterrupted thought and introspection. And the loneliness - always the loneliness. However, the first days turned out to be the best.

As always, it was the dreams.

Initially they'd been welcome in the face of her night terrors, but they'd gradually become more vivid, more corporal if that was even possible. They always began in the same way. A voice, close but unseen, singing tunelessly in a childlike, nearly monotone hush. A voice that she felt she knew - its cadence somehow familiar to her ears and her mind.

At first the voice whispered softly to her, the words nonsensical and jumbled, but night after night they became clearer and she came to realize that what she was hearing in her head, in her dreams, was a woman's voice. A strange ethereal murmuring of children's nursery rhymes.

" Ding, dong, bell,
Pussy's in the well..."

Willow could remember only fragments of the dreams in the morning, but the feelings that they induced changed slowly and subtly over the following nights. She'd thought at first that it had been Tara struggling to reach her from the other side, from beyond the realm of the living. She found a kind of comfort in that, in feeling that she wasn't alone, that her love was watching her, looking after her, attempting to console her.

"Who put her in?
Johnny Green...

However, Willow could never remember Tara singing anything resembling nursery rhymes, and the sound itself was unlike the sweet, melodious voice of her lost love. There was something familiar about it, though. And the young witch felt that there was more to these dreams than just dreams.

"Who pulled her out?
Little Tommy Stout..."

As time went by she realized that the dreams weren't a visitation from Tara, and her curiosity grew over what or who it was. With each night that passed the dreams became more real, and alarmingly Willow began to feel that there was someone with her in the cottage. She found herself searching through every room, for what she wasn't sure. Evidence maybe? Proof that she wasn't losing her mind, proof that maybe the Council had someone watching her. But there was nothing, just her growing sense of unease and the feeling that someone or something was drawing nearer.

The days began to feel as if each one melted seamlessly into the next. Initially she spent some of her time walking in the countryside or exploring the ruins of the nearby Abbey, even taking a walk into the little village and spending a pleasant hour perusing the few shops that were scattered around the tiny square. But the walks became less frequent and she found herself spending more and more time just curled up on the sofa with a book that she never seemed to finish, or watching a film that she never quite remembered the middle or ending of. It was like being caught in a whirlpool, only this particular eddy flowed increasingly slowly as the center grew nearer, sucking her relentlessly towards what she didn't know. Time ceased to have much meaning in this vacuum, and the days seemed to shorten even as the nights dragged on and on.

The dreams continued. Gradually Willow began to sense malevolence in the voice, a childlike malice that chilled her to the bone. Something about the voice and the rhymes made her skin crawl and gooseflesh pepper her arms and neck - even in sleep she could feel her body fidget and flinch in dread.

"What a naughty boy was that?
To try to drown poor pussycat."

Even worse, in the dreams she now felt, physically. Feather-light icy caresses that were like sighs trailed lazily over her body, touching even the most intimate parts of her. Sometimes it felt like a hundred tiny spiders scampering and skittering over her flesh and in her sleep state her face contorted in disgust and she whimpered pitifully like a frightened animal.

Perhaps the most fear-provoking fact of all was her growing difficulty in wakening from her dreams. Her mind fought against sleep, but her body demanded it and every morning she overslept longer and longer, even though she went to bed earlier each night. In her waking hours she felt drained and exhausted, barely bothering to wash herself or tidy up the cottage and only eating when the hunger pangs broke through and awakened her from the surreal and dreamlike state that she found herself in during the daytime.

On one occasion Willow found herself suddenly wide awake and talking to Giles on the telephone. She had no memory of having telephoned him or he her, and no recollection of their conversation up to that point. She sat rigidly in her seat as he said his goodbyes, enthusing over how well she sounded and how pleased he was that she was feeling so rested and content. Barely able to murmur her own goodbyes, she set the phone back in it's cradle, her body suddenly shaking and shivering, fright-chills rippling over her body and tears of fear and confusion trickling down her cheeks.

How long she sat cradling her knees and rocking she had no idea. She knew only that when she stopped it was night time again. With a weary sigh she hauled herself from her chair, stretched her stiff and aching body and walked slowly to her bedroom, where she collapsed on top of the pretty embroidered eiderdown and instantly fell asleep.

Her epiphany, her moment of clarity came the very next morning. In fact it was afternoon, having just gone 3.00 pm. She'd slept late as usual and upon waking had been shocked and offended to find that the stale, slightly sour smell assaulting her nostrils was in fact coming from her self. She couldn't remember the last time that she'd had a bath or a shower, or even washed herself.

She stared in the small mirror in the bathroom for a long time, surprise, horror and dismay jostling for first place in her emotions as she studied the face, the unfamiliar face that had replaced her own.

Gone was the youthful glow that had once flushed her cheeks. Now her skin was gray, nearly translucent in its paleness, and the veins underneath her skin had acquired a cerulean glow and sat out starkly against the pallid skin. Her eyes sparkled, but with a hard edge brought on by lack of nourishment and exhaustion and circled with dark purple rings that made her look like some cheap hooker with smudged mascara. Her rich auburn hair hugged the curve of her skull, no longer shinning and healthy but now hanging in limp, lifeless strands.

A dry croak escaped from Willow's throat and she reached out a thin, trembling hand to fleetingly touch the mirror and the stranger reflected within it. She watched as the tip of her tongue snuck out to dampen her cracked, dried lips and she wondered how long they had been so pale, so dehydrated, and how exactly they'd gotten that way. Her mouth had always been one of her best features, she had thought. Tara had once declared that her lips were lush and made for kissage. Now they were rough - little triangles of dried skin poking out here and there like tiny prickles.

And blood. There was dried blood on her lips. After a sudden flash of deja vu and a momentary frisson of fear, she supposed that she'd bitten herself in the throes of a dream, and sighing heavily she turned from the stranger in the mirror and readied herself an overdue bath.

Cocooned in the warm and soothing water, Willow almost felt her old self again. She smiled and stretched languidly, her hands sliding along her body as they deposited globs of shower gel that quickly turned to small bubbles as she rubbed it into her skin. She lay back in the bathtub, eyes closed in bliss as soapy hands caressed behind her knees and then higher along her thighs and up towards the crease where thighs met torso.

It felt good, surprisingly good, and her hands slipped between her legs automatically although it had been weeks... months since she'd last touched herself or been touched by anyone else in her most personal of places. The last person who had touched her there had been Tara, and Willow had been too full of grief since her lover's death to even think about pleasuring herself. Even now she felt a jolt of guilt as though she were somehow dishonoring Tara by doing this. The realization that Tara's hand had been the last ever to have been there, the last ever to have given her pleasure, made her frown and quickly she moved her hands away from that place, not ready to feel pleasure again from anyone else, even herself.

It was as her hands slid away that she felt the crust of a rather large scab on the inside of her thigh. Her eyes flickered open and slowly she moved her hand back and forth over it, only to discover that there was not one, but two. Her fingers worried them as her mind frantically raced, searching for possible solutions. They felt like... bites. Large bites.

"I love little pussy,
Her coat is so warm..."

Flashes of her dream, (her recurring dream, her never-ending dream) played out in her mind and she could almost hear that voice - the simple children's rhyme half sung, half whispered in a dull monotone making it a dirge rather than a harmless, childish ditty. Her body was rigid now, the bath water suddenly seeming cold and uninviting and somehow sullied. Nevertheless her hands roamed over her body in search of more, upward over her belly, her ribs and underneath her breasts...


More scabs. More bites. Did bites come in pairs? Did two scabs equal one bite? Or did two scabs equal two bites? She absentmindedly picked at one of them and it began to bleed. Willow looked down and watched a small trickle of blood flow from one of the scabs beneath her right breast. Working on autopilot now, she slid her hand underneath her left breast, already knowing what she would find. What frightened her the most was the fact that the right-hand scabs were old - perhaps a couple of days old, whereas the bites on her other breast were relatively fresh, which meant that this had to have been going on for the best part of a week.

"And if I don't hurt her,
do me no harm..."

Willow's rationality told her that she'd fallen victim to a hungry mosquito, but oh god... She sure didn't want to meet that mosquito again 'cause it must be huge. It occurred to her around about the same time that they didn't actually have that type of mosquito in England. Judging by the size of the bites, they didn't have them back home either. Maybe it was a mutant? Hey, weren't there nuclear power plants in England? Maybe some of that good old radiation had leaked out and done something weird and... and freaky and maybe the mosquito had grown and grown and turned into the Incredible Hulk of the mosquito world and jeeze, she'd always been so scared of the Hulk with his green skin and his oversized, bizarre muscles and his rage... Oh god, his rage....

"So I'll not pull her tail,
Nor drive her away..."

Her breath was coming in short, sharp little gasps and although she didn't realize it, her hands clenched and unclenched in time with the grinding of her teeth as she fought to contain the terror that suddenly gripped her, because she sensed it... She knew then... She finally reached the conclusion that the dreams, the voice, the bites, they weren't delusions, they weren't just the imaginings of poor simple Willow who's gone quite mad because her girlfriend and love of her life was murdered in cold blood. Psychotic Willow who had gone over to the Dark Side, Obi Wan. Bad, evil Willow who had tracked down and hunted Tara's killer, chased him into the deep dark woods and flayed him alive, ripped the skin from his body as he screamed and screamed and screamed.

They, the dreams, all of it. It was real.

But (and oh fuck, the poetic justice of it all) now she was screaming too, and huh? Did she really even think the word 'fuck'? Yes, and wow, if she's even thinking that word, stuff must be bad, stuff must be really, really bad 'cause in all her years on the Hellmouth she never used that word and rarely if ever even thought it. But here she is, thinking it, probably screaming it... Screaming and scrabbling and trying to get out of the bathtub, water sloshing over the side of the tub and onto the floor where she steps in it - then slips and slides and lands with a bone crunching thud on her butt and now she cries like a child. She weeps. And she screams. She's not exactly sure why she's screaming, only that it's something bad. Something BAD has happened to her. Something BAD is still happening to her, and she wants it to just stop.

"But pussy and I,
Very gently will play."


Rationality decided to give her another chance at remaining mostly sane. And so Willow finally managed to stop herself weeping. She picked her aching butt up from the bathroom floor and wrapped herself in her burgundy bathrobe. But oh, golly gosh and gee whiz, but she hadn't a clue whether she was coming or going - living or stuffed, as they said in good old England. Her mind seemed to have fractured off into two, maybe three different directions and trying to concentrate on one particular thing took all of her focus and strength. Willow had never taken drugs and wasn't a drinking gal, but she imagined if she had been, that it might feel something like what she was feeling now.

She was inclined to think that fear and desperation were the only things motivating her, making her GET UP and smell the fucking coffee, dammit! And there she was again, a good little Jewish girl who'd never even thought the word 'fuck' and now she's cursing like a natural.

But she also wonders how the hell this could have happened, 'cause she's been in the very midst of the Dark Magics, dammit she's been it's whore and she knows all about glamours and illusions and dream-magic and it's pretty clear, people, that that's what we're dealing with right here, right now. But hey, it's gotta be someone or something really strong, really goddam scary to be able to wreak this kinda havoc in her head - to make her forget, sleep and dream her way through over a week! To have bitten her and oh god... what else? What else?

"But pussy and I,
Very gently will play."

And unbidden, that image of her face (a strangers face) in the mirror with dried blood on her lips just pops right into her head. And now she can almost feel those spider-like caresses that fill her dreams and she cringes, sobs and barely makes it to the toilet before the sob becomes a retch, which in turn gives way to dry heaving.

Finally getting her aching stomach under control, she trudges wearily into the small kitchen were she makes herself some tea. Giles always said that tea was good for such occasions - hot, sweet tea for when you're ill or in shock or just as a general pick-me-up and all round warmer when you've maybe got caught in a rain shower and you're cold and wet and...

Willow thumps the workbench then, startled at just how rebellious this mind of hers has become, how swiftly and deviously her senses will just up and leave her alone and clueless in some kind of fugue-state. She makes herself a mug of tea and retires to the main room, plopping onto the sofa, her nerves just screaming and a whole bunch of butterflies having the party of all parties in her stomach. Taking a few shallow breaths she lifts the telephone and then punches the numbers on the keypad with one shaking digit. When Giles answers, it's all she can do to remain calm and not babble hysterically at him. As calmly as possible she tells him about her dreams, about the sleeping and the bites... but she can't quite bring herself to mention the dried blood on her lips or the nocturnal caresses. It's too close, too intimate. Too scary.

"Why didn't you mention any of this when I spoke to you a few days ago? You sounded perfectly rational to me, very calm, almost happy. I must confess, I find this all very odd. You do have your laptop with you, don't you? Have you managed to do any research at all?"

"Ummmm... Hello? Fugue-state Gal here? Giles, I've been living in the Twilight Zone! I've hardly been able to drag myself out of bed, let alone..."

"Of course, I do apologize. It's just that this has all came right out of the blue, and we've been having a few... problems of our own here which have tied me up somewhat. In any case, I'm coming down there. Try not to worry too much, the cottage has some modicum of protection, there are certain spells which should keep anything untoward from crossing the threshold. I think for now you should just stay inside, keep the doors and windows locked and don't let anyone in, except Miriam as usual. Do you understand? I'll be there first thing in the morning at the very latest. I'll contact Miriam now, explain the situation and ask her to call in and keep you company until ..."

"Miriam? Who's Miriam?"

There was a confused silence.

"Miriam. The lady who has been visiting you every day, bringing you fresh supplies and such..."

"Ummm... That would be 'no'. No Miriam. No supplies... although I haven't exactly been having a calorie-fest here. Giles, I haven't seen anyone else since you left me here."

The silence on the other end of the telephone was deafening. Terrifying. Ominous.

"Willow... Listen to me very carefully now..."

"There was supposed to be someone here? Well where is she, Giles? Why hasn't she called or... Oh god, you don't suppose something's happened? Something's here, isn't it. Something's here... Something's here. For me. Oh god Giles, I don't know what to do... I don't know what to do..."

The end of her sentence disappeared in a frightened squeak.

"WILLOW! LISTEN TO ME! Listen to me, please. Now.. Now I know that you're frightened, but it's going to be all right. I promise you, everything is going to be all right. When I hang up, I'm getting into the car and I'm driving straight down there - I'll be with you in a couple of hours or so. Just... Try not to panic. Keep calm and ..."

"Calm? Calm? How can I keep calm when there's some nasty something that's been biting me and... And touching me and it's been inside my head and..."

She paused then, blinded by another flash of clarity.

"Giles? Where's Spike?"

On the other end of the phone, the Watcher stopped in mid-sentence.

"What? Spike? Why he's back in Sunnydale of course. Why would you ask about Spi... Ah."

"Yeah, Ah. There's something stalking me, Giles. Something evil. With big, pointy teeth."

"A vampire, of course! Some of them are more than capable of the type of dream-magic that you've described. But didn't you mention that it was a woman's voice? Singing nursery rhymes? It's not Spike, I wouldn't have thought... although he could have enlisted the help of others, but why? What possible reason would he have to stalk you of all people? I've always thought he was really rather fond of you in his own way. Which isn't to say that he's not evil, you understand. No, this bears none of Spike's customary trademarks. It's much too clever and subtle for one thing."

"I agree. But who? And why?"

"I'm afraid I don't have the answer to that, Willow. Not yet at any rate. All we ... all you can do is sit tight, be vigilant. I promise you that I'll be with you as soon as I possibly can. Try to remain calm and stay alert. And Willow... I think it's best not to sleep if you can help it. It would appear that whatever, whoever is doing this, is reaching you somehow using dream-magic."

"Ok, I'll try. But please Giles... Get here. Soon."

As Giles replaced the receiver he had a moment's clarity of his own. With a shudder, he chided himself that he hadn't guessed straight away. He of all people should have realized exactly what was happening to Willow, because in the past it had happened to him. The circumstances hadn't been the same, but the spell had. And the woman's voice.

When he closed his eyes the memory of her was still there, huddled in a dark corner of his mind like a skulking dog. He tried very hard not to think of her, generally. He'd always had this horrifying notion that somehow she'd left a tiny part of herself inside him - a small scrap of her insanity that implanted itself into his cerebral cortex and rotted there, ready to regenerate and bloom forth if he gave her enough of his thought-energy. A fanciful notion, but sickening and horrifying nonetheless.

The more he thought about it, the more certain Rupert was that it was Drusilla, the beautiful but wickedly insane Childe of Angelus who had bewitched his young charge Willow and was even now working her will upon the girl, to what ends he had no idea. He shuddered again, fear squirming in his belly - fear for himself, because as a Master vampire in her own right Drusilla commanded respect and terrified awe and with good reason. But mostly his fear was for Willow who was alone and defenseless against this she-devil.

He sighed heavily as the memory of another woman from his past swamped him. A woman he'd loved dearly and passionately and who had her own small corner carved out in his memory - Jenny. Oh god, his beautiful Jenny, taken from him by Angelus who had stalked and hunted her, cold-bloodedly murdered her, and then arranged her like some diabolical, surreal tableau of death on Rupert's very own bed for him to find. When he shut his eyes, when he dreamed, he could still smell the rose petals that had adorned Jenny's body when he found her that awful night. He could also still hear Drusilla's whispering voice as she had penetrated... no, violated his mind, pretending to be his Jenny in an attempt to snatch the information from his head that Angelus' brutal torture could not.

There had been another occasion where Drusilla had bewitched a young Slayer named Kendra, lulling her into some kind of hypnotic state and then slitting her throat whilst the girl was held helpless and in thrall. The vampiress might have been insane, but she had a talent for the black arts that although Rupert feared, he secretly envied. His own dabbling with the dark magics back in his college days had brought him only chaos and death and he considered himself fortunate to have escaped relatively unscathed - most his friends however, had died for their sins. Nevertheless, the black arts still held a fascination for him and he did his best to keep himself well informed, whilst not becoming ensnared in it's voracious grasp ever again.

For whatever reason, Drusilla had enthralled Willow with some kind of dream-magic, but Rupert was willing to bet his last shilling that it had something to do with the young witch's latent power in the black arts. He imagined that Drusilla wanted to tap into this power, use Willow as a force for evil, exactly as the Council had feared.

Perhaps Drusilla had taken a bit of a fancy to her also - it was a well-known fact that she had had many 'pets' over the years. They were all young, vulnerable girls mostly - and at the moment Willow was most certainly vulnerable. The vampiress would ensnare her victims, fussing over them and coddling them like babies or toy dolls. She didn't Turn them, rather fed from them and used them for her own pleasure. Inevitably she would tire of them, sometimes forgetting their very existence and leaving them imprisoned and alone to starve to death. Others would displease her in some way - those she tortured to death.

Gritting his teeth determinedly Rupert grabbed his car keys and made his way swiftly to his car, hoping that he'd make it to Fareham before nightfall and before Willow fell foul of that accursed vampire bitch. Much as he feared Drusilla, they had some unfinished business he and she. Their last confrontation had left him a broken shell of a man - a vanquished foe. This time, he didn't intend to lose - he intended to kill her.


Frightened now.

Willow burrowed deeper into the confines of the soft sofa, wishing that she could stay there unseen, hiding in its depths until Giles came to rescue her. A small lamp burned in the corner banishing the evening shadows to the farthest corners of the room, but her eyes darted to and fro, constantly watching for any small sign that she wasn't alone.

The telephone sat mutely beside her, an ineffective guardian but it made her feel a little better knowing that Giles was only a few hours away and getting closer by the minute. She had his mobile phone number on Speed Dial, but fervently hoped that she wouldn't need it.

She could see very little of the outside world through the window from her position on the sofa, just enough to know that daylight was quickly darkening into dusk. The cottage seemed impossibly quiet, but she didn't dare switch on the television. That would have meant moving from her refuge and also it would have blocked any noises that might alert her to someone approaching.

Noises like the barely audible crunch of gravel that she imagined she could hear - noises that sounded as if someone was walking slowly and purposefully up the path towards the cottage door. Willow gasped and her body stiffened with fear, her eyes wide as the faint sound grew louder and nearer and dashed any hopes still harbored that she was hearing things. She was trembling now, quivering all over like a rabbit caught in a trap and oh boy was that ever the understatement of the year for how she felt right now. Run, rabbit, run, her mind chanted like a mantra. She shut her eyes tightly nearly retching with fear, mouth dry as a desert and her throat hitching as she tried desperately to swallow. She had this sudden flashback of Warren, bound spread-eagled to a tree, skin flayed from his body like a skinned rabbit... A rabbit... A skinned rabbit. That's what she was going to be, a skinned rabbit... A skinned...

A small grinding noise made her eyes snap open and dragged her attention kicking and screaming to the front door of the cottage. She focused on the handle of the door, watching with sick fascination as it turned ever so slowly and oh god...

Her entire body was peppered in gooseflesh and rivulets of cold sweat soaked her skin and chilled her to the very marrow of her bones. She giggled, just once, a tiny desperate sound born of panic and dread, petrified anticipation making her pant in sharp gasps and she wondered how many times had she watched this scene played out in countless horror movies that the Scoobies had watched over the years? Movies where the girl always walked home alone, always went into the old, dark house alone, always went outside to investigate a strange noise and always, always they were strangled, stabbed, (maybe skinned like rabbits, her mind chuckled darkly) or chased by the villain, but it was always their fault! Their fault for not staying indoors, they're own stupid curiosity (which killed the cat and skinned the rabbit, don't 'cha know) that got them hunted and killed...

But not her. Not her, 'cause it wasn't her fault, dammit! She hadn't looked for this, she hadn't asked for this, she always looked before she leaped, always had Xander or Spike or Tara walk her home, she was a good girl. A good girl, dammit and she didn't deserve this. Didn't deserve to be hunted and killed (or skinned like a rabbit). Icy tears rolled down her cheeks and she wept hard... not just because of the fear, but the inevitability of it all, the uselessness of it all, the unfairness of it all, and she just wanted Tara... Wanted Tara... Wanted her girl and just wanted to go HOME. Home. With Tara.

The door creaked softly as it gradually swung open wider, wider, until Willow could see the slim figure of a woman stepping over the threshold and into the cottage.

She felt her fingernails bite into the soft flesh of her palms as she clenched her fists, terrified beyond endurance as the figure stepped into the room and into the light and then...

Oh then her breath caught in her throat and she retched. Or maybe sobbed. Staring in rapture like a person spellbound (because hey, that's what she was after all) at the woman before her and it was the dress that she recognized first. The flowing white linen dress that she knew so well, because she had lovingly put that dress onto that slim body. Had chosen it because it was one of her favorites and she'd looked so pretty, so ethereal in it (not to mention how well it had showed off her ample breasts - breasts that Willow had tasted and worshiped and adored). Willow's eyes started at the hem of that dress and followed it's smooth lines upwards over wide hips and slim waist, ample bosom and swanlike neck to that face, Tara's face, the face that was burned forever behind her eyes and branded into her heart.

Except this couldn't be Tara. Tara was dead. And anyway... Surely her skin had never been so starkly pale, or the veins in her face and neck so vivid and disquieting. As Willow stared aghast and confused the woman before her smiled, stained red lips curling in a malevolent smirk and her dark eyes crackling with insanity and evil. Willow could see her teeth then, sharp ravenous looking teeth which were also smeared cherry-red. The tip of the woman's tongue curled out to lick the corner of her mouth.

"Mmmmm... Never a kerchief around when you need one."

Willow stuttered. "Wh... What did you say?"

"A handkerchief, dearie. A napkin. Something to wipe poor dead Miriam from my lips."

Tara laughed, a short harsh bark that grated on Willow's nerves like fingernails down a blackboard and speaking of which...

The woman took a step closer and waved a graceful hand in front of Willow's face, a hand adorned with blood red fingernails that were like talons. They looked wickedly sharp and Willow flinched, huddling even further back into her chair. Lethargy suddenly flooded her body making her eyelids droop and sting with exhaustion and she knew that the Tara-creature (because this wasn't her girl) was using magic on her.

"I wanted to keep her, you know... But she was a naughty, greedy girl and wanted the kitten all for herself and that would never do - no, no, no..."

The Tara-creature's face became slack, her dark eyes glazed and faraway and she swayed to and fro like a hooded cobra hypnotizing her prey. She sang then, her voice hushed and tuneless and Willow recognized it straight away as the voice that had been haunting her dreams.

"I love little pussy,
Her coat is so warm..."

She stopped then and looked at Willow quizzically. "Do you like kittens, dearie?"

Willow's lip curled in disgust and when she spoke her voice was broken and hoarse. "You're not Tara. You're not my girl..."

The Tara-creature ignored her, singing tunelessly again.

"And if I don't hurt her,
She'll do me no harm..."

"Stop it... Stop it and tell me who you are. Tell me what you want."

"So I'll not pull her tail,

Nor drive her away..."

"Who are you? WHO ARE YOU?"

"But pussy and I,
Very gently will play."

The Tara-creature stopped swaying and regarded her slyly.

"Who do you want me to be, kitten? Shall I stay like this for a bit longer? Would you like that?" She chuckled darkly then. "Would you like to touch me? To taste me again?"

"No... No... You're not her... You're not..."

"I can hear her, you know. Calling... Calling... Crying out for her kitten, her sweet pussy-willow. Shall I tell you, dearie? Shall I tell you what she sings to me at night in the dark? How her tears sound like a choir of angels?"

Pain ripped through Willow's heart, all her secret fears suddenly coming true, spouted from the mouth of this... this thing. Tara, calling for her, needing her, all alone in the cold, cold darkness of the beyond. It was almost more than she could bear.

"Don't... Please, don't... Just tell me who you are. Tell me who you are and why you're doing this to me."

Willow covered her face and wept. The Tara-creature regarded her, head tilted to one side in curiosity as the young woman in front of her sobbed. She walked forward then, lightly on her tip toes then reached out and took Willow's chin in her small hand, raising her face so that they she could look into her eyes. She giggled, and the sound made Willow think of an evil imp or a malicious fairy.

"Why, I'm your sister and you..."

Willow opened her eyes. Tara, the Tara-creature, was gone. In it's place stood a small, beautiful woman with dark hair and crazy eyes, but Willow recognized her straight away and she wondered why she hadn't guessed, why she hadn't realized...

Well, obviously it had been part of the thrall effect, her rational mind told her. Not your fault. Not your fault you didn't recognize her, didn't guess.

"Drusilla. You... You're Drusilla."

The lady in question laughed delightedly, jumping up and down excitedly like a small child, clapping her hands in glee.

"I knew it. I was right, you knew it was me. I told them you know. Told the dark ones that that you'd heard me. You did hear me, didn't you pussy-willow? Because I heard you. Heard you screaming in the dark, calling for me, heard you begging the stars for your sister, your beloved sister to come and take you, heal you, make you all better again, bring you back to the darkness where you belong. Back to the darkness with me."

Drusilla crouched down then, like a black panther ready to strike. She crept even closer to Willow, grinning maniacally, her fangs glinting dangerously in the lamplight. Prowling like a large, sleek cat. She raised one hand, red talons striking out at the air in a clawing motion and then she hissed.

"Bad kitten. Bad kitten was having fun, but they clipped her claws. Clipped her claws and cut off her tail." She mewled like a cat and rubbed herself against Willow. "But I know, pussy-willow. I know how to make it grow again. Shall I do that? Shall I give you back your tail? Then what fun we'll have. What sport it'll be, watching my kitten chase her new tail."

"Please... Please, don't hurt me. I don't want a tail - I just want to be left alone. Please, just leave me alone. I won't tell anyone! I won't tell any of them that you were here."

In one fluid movement Drusilla slipped onto the sofa beside Willow and took one of the young witch's clammy hands in hers.

"Oh, but they already know, dearie. They know that the BAD thing is coming. They know that I won't leave pussy-willow here to face it alone."

Willow turned to look at her, face contorted in confusion. "BAD thing?"

Drusilla raised a single finger to her lips. "Ssssshhh... You mustn't let it hear you." Then she leaned forward, whispering quietly. "It's all around us, you know. It watches and listens and plots. And it covets. Do you know what it covets? It covets you, poppet. It saw you in all your dark glory, saw you draw lightening from the skies to smite down that bad boy, the boy who took away the beautiful lady in white. She danced so prettily, you see. And he wanted to dance too."

The vampiress took hold of Willow's other hand now and stared deeply into her eyes. "It's coming, see. But it shan't have you. "

Drusilla sang, tilting her head and smiling into Willow's face as though she were her most favorite and best-behaved child.

" I'll take you and hide you,
I'll spirit you away,
Then pussy-willow and I,
Very gently will play."

Suddenly, her mood changed. She gripped Willow's hands tightly and the young woman watched in amazement as the vampiress began to rock backwards and forwards, keening loudly.

"Oooooh... There was a BAD thing hunted me once. It watched and listened and plotted and it coveted. It coveted me, pussy-willow. It wanted Chicken Little, you see. Sweet, innocent Chicken Little who saw stories in her 'ead, and one day... You know what the BAD thing did? It made the sky fall down, and Chicken Little got eaten. Eaten by the BAD thing. Oh she called wolf! Wolf! But no one listened. They all got eaten too."

A large, lone tear dropped from Drusilla's eye onto her pale cheek and trickled unhurriedly to her chin where it dangled momentarily like a dewdrop before letting go and disappearing into the rich, red fabric of her skirt. Willow couldn't help but watch it. And she couldn't help but notice that Drusilla wasn't wearing Tara's dress - obviously that had merely been a part of the illusion. She wondered though how Drusilla had known. Had she plucked the image of Tara from her dreams?

Drusilla was watching her now.

"I won't let the BAD thing take you. You are my sister and I must look after you. The dark ones, they laugh and gloat - they think that you'll leave me all alone, that you'll turn your back on me. You wouldn't do that, would you poppet? I know! We'll go to Prague. Ooooh, I've always loved Prague. It was a lovely playground for me and my little Spike. I looked for him in the moon, you know - but the owls have told me that my wicked boy has lost his claws too, and now he's just William, the sad puppy that no one wants to play with anymore. But we can go together, my kitten - you'll love it there, the people are so tasty and they speak such pretty words."

The vampiress jumped to her feet and paraded proudly, holding out her red skirt.

"Do you know what they called me there? They called me Královna of Peklo, the Queen of Hell. Fancy that, me a queen! I always knew I was a princess because daddy told me so, but in Prague, I'm a queen. Shall we go, then? I can teach you all their pretty words."

She approached Willow again, and pulled her to her feet.

"Come on then - time to go little sister."

Willow felt so exhausted that she could barely stand on her own feet, but all of the anger and grief inside her to seem to gather itself together and she flung Drusilla from her roughly.

"I'm NOT YOUR SISTER! Don't you understand? I'm nothing to you, you... you crazy bitch! You're an evil, twisted murdering psychopath and you'll have to kill me before I go anywhere with you!"

Of course, a millisecond later she realized how futile her own words were and how likely it was that Drusilla intended to kill her anyway. So surprised didn't quite cover it when Drusilla covered her face with her hand and started to giggle. Then she began to bounce up and down on her feet, laughing with glee and clapped her hands again.

"Yes, there's my girl! There's my dark, naughty kitten."

Drusilla studied her quietly for a moment, then took her in her arms and led her back to the sofa where she sat down alongside her, cradling the girl, rocking her.

"Oh it's all been too much for you, my lamb. There, there... Big sister will look after you now."

The young woman struggled weakly and tried to pull away, but the embrace was too tight, the vampire too strong.

"Now, now... Be still, pussy-willow and listen. Ssssshhh... Listen, now..." She stroked Willow's hair and rested her face against the young woman's head. "You called out to the dark ones, dearie, and they have answered you, just as they have answered me. I'm here to set you free, my lovely. I'm here to help you fly again, scream again, love again. The others, they've all left me. Daddy, Spike, Grandmum. I don't want to be alone no more, so I asked the old ones for a child, but they said no... You've had William and Grandmum and you shan't have any more. I'm a bad mummy, they said. But they promised me a sister - a sister in pain, in grief... A sister in rage. And look what a pretty package they sent me. Now you're mine. Má drahý sestra - my beloved sister, and I'm never going to let anyone take you away from me. Not even the BAD thing. (Whispers) It devours from beneath, you know. But I shall teach you, little sister. I shall teach you to devour too."


When the Watcher arrived thirty minutes later, the cottage was deserted. He searched frantically from room to room and when he reached the bedroom that had been Willow's a familiar scent assaulted his nostrils and blinded his senses. On the young witch's bed, lay the scattered petals of a dozen red roses.

Rupert Giles never saw Willow Rosenberg again.