Exaggeration and Blank Verse
In King Leopold's Land
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel the Series

I leaned my forehead against the door and listened. She was still crying- petulant little sobs and sniffles. She had been merrily finger-painting the walls with blood when Darla swept downstairs in the lady of the house's best gown and demanded that Angelus take her out for a night on the town- "without the infants, for once." I always thought of the hapless woodcutter and wicked stepmother of the fairy tales when I watched Darla and Angelus.

He'd swept her off to a fancy ballet, the toast of the hoi polloi, and left a shrieking, sobbing Drusilla here with me.

I opened the door. "Poppet?"

She was huddled in an armchair, glaring sullenly at the floor. Her dolls, the ones I made sure to gather no matter how quickly we fled, were lined up on the bed facing the wall, along with the ones belonging to the little girl who used to live here.

There had been a basket of puppies over by the fireplace. Judging by the bloody debris strewn about the floor, Dru had torn them all to shreds before her fit of pique exhausted itself.

She looked up at me with puffy eyes and glistening wet cheeks, pale lower lip pouted out. "Spike."

"I brought you a present, darling," I said coaxingly, holding out my hand. She stared at the mother-of-pearl bracelet and gold necklace there.

"Pretty," she said in a flat voice. "You're good to me, my little Spike." Her lip quivered. "Better than Daddy and Grandmummy, certainly."

I took her by the shoulders and eased her out of the chair and over to the stool by the elaborately carved child's vanity. I tugged the pins from her hair and let the braids tumble down, loosening the plaits with my fingers before picking up one of the ivory-handled hairbrushes from the counter. I'd found years before that it soothed Drusilla to have her hair brushed and braided by someone else. I'd helped my mother put her hair up for years when I was young, and still had "the skill of a middling ladies' maid," as Darla put it with a smirk. I drew the soft bristles through her dark locks, smoothing the places she'd torn at with agitated fingers and turning them back to soft rippling silk.

She stared into the mirror that reflected neither of us, just the room, as if we weren't even there. "Am I beautiful, Spike?"

I teased a tangle free with my fingers. "Just as every day must yield to darkness...just as there will always be an England...so it is an eternal truth that you are the most beautiful creature I have ever seen."

She smiled at that, still gazing into the mirror as if, if she looked hard enough, her face would appear. "Pretty words...my Spike has a golden tongue..." The smile faded and she gripped the edge of the counter. "But I should be old and ugly, by this year of our Lord."

"Never, darling...you're the eternal dark lady of every poet's dreams, princess of the night, the stars and the moon..." I caught her hand and tugged it loose, bringing it up to my lips. I kissed the back of it solemnly and let it go. It fell to her lap unheeded.

"How do I know you don't lie to me, Spike?" she asked dreamily. I ran the brush through her hair from root to end, smoothly, without a tangle.

"I swear on the blood we shared, dearest...I'll swear on a cross if you wish it...I will never lie to you."

"Darla lies to me," she said darkly. "Even Daddy, sometimes." She suddenly sat up straighter and smiled again. "Wouldn't it serve them right if I were to run away, Spike? Wouldn't they be so terribly worried?"

I divided the shiny dark mass into even sections and began to plait one with careful hands as I promptly broke the promise I'd just made. "Beside themselves, love."

She ran her hands over the smooth wood of the vanity. "Wouldn't you like to run away with me, Spike? It would be terribly lonely if I had to go all by myself."

I finished the first braid and pinned it carefully out of the way, then separated out another section. "I would follow you to the ends of the earth, princess."

She dug her nails into the wood. "Perhaps we could go to darkest Africa. I would wear white linen, and you'd have a broad-brimmed hat and a fine mustache."

I felt a smile tugging at my lips as my hands darted on, making the braid even and tight. "We could go to King Leopold's land, pet, see the cannibals. Wouldn't that be a funny thing to see, cannibals?"

She stared down at the gouges she'd left in the surface. "I wanted to be a missionary to the cannibals, when I was young. It seemed terribly exciting, but I was frightened, too." I reached around and gently tipped her chin up. She remembered herself and gazed straight ahead so the braids would stay even. "Can't recall why, though."

"It was a mortal fear, precious one, nothing to trouble you now." I finished the last braid and carefully released the others, coiling them together against the back of her skull.

"Yes," she said, a sleepy note in her voice. "I feared that I should be killed and eaten up. But Daddy killed me and ate me up already and if the cannibals try, all they'll taste is dust and ashes..."

"Clever girl, princess," I murmured, setting the last pin in place and stepping back to admire the shining ebony creation.

She turned sharply and glared at me, eyes cold and glinting with something that made me think of her sire. Fool that I am, I forgot again. Mad she may be, and fond of masquerading as a girl-child, but one must never forget where Drusilla comes from.

"You have so many names for me, Spike," she said, staring at me like I was prey instead of offspring and lover. "I sometimes wonder if you have any idea of who I am at all, or if I'm just words to you, loads and loads of words."

I folded my hands in front of me and tried to look contrite without being weak. She loathed weakness, my dark mad girl. "I'm sorry, sire. Beloved. Lady Drusilla."

She stared at me hard-eyed for another moment. "I am a very good girl." The predatory glare faded and she blinked. Uncertainty flickered across her features. "That's what my mummy always told me. And she'd sing...run and catch, run and catch..." She rose and fluffed out her skirts. "The lamb is caught in the blackb'ry patch..." Her hands fluttered up to dance over the coils of hair I'd pinned in place. "I'm so glad that I'm a real lady now, grown enough to wear my hair up." She began a graceful minuet about the room, smiling at her invisible partner. "So we shall teach the cannibals to dance in King Leopold's land, Spike, when we take our mission to them and leave Daddy and Darla behind..."

I sat on the bed with the dolls and watched her stately, outmoded turnings. This dance was never done anymore.

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