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Bitter

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She finds him in a dumpster in the back alley of a strip-club in one of the seedier parts of town, not far from the airport. When she lifts the lid, she’s greeted by the stench of moldy orange peels, cigarette ash and used condoms. Spike sits huddled in a corner, flinching and jerking, like a tangled up puppet, mumbling to himself:

“…crawling… under my skin, inside, creepy crawlies… I feel you… here and here…”

He swats viciously at his arms, chest and face, trying to squash the squirming inside of him.

She tries to lure him out like a lost kitten, even using her powers to draw him to her, but he just blocks his ears and hides his face. In the end she sets down her burden, leaps into the smelly box, and crouches before him, even though it means ruining her pretty second-hand brocade frock.

“Look at you, so thin, so lost,” she coos. “My poor little lamb.”

She caresses his head, brushing something sticky out of his unkempt hair, before trailing a fingertip softly across his gaunt face. “Daddy told me I’d find you here.” She slices through the skin of his cheek with a razor-sharp nail that’s painted black and red for the occasion and languidly laps up the crimson beads that well through the cut.

He whimpers pathetically.

His blood that used to be so sweet and fierce tastes foul now, bitter like licorice. Drusilla recoils. As he raises his head, she can see the revolting thing that’s tainting his blood gaze out through his eyes.

“Dru?” he asks uncertainly. “That you?”

“Princess is here.” She opens her arms and a moment later he clings to her, sobbing, wetting the topaz-colored fabric of her dress with his delicious tears.

“Help me,” he pleads. “Make it stop. Please make it stop.”

She cups his chin to make him look at her. “Don’t worry, my lovely, Mummy will make it all better. Daddy told me what to do.” She leans closer to whisper in his ear. “He’s not real, but he knows all kinds of wicked things.”

She kisses Spike’s throat and shoulder, even though his skin is filthy and mottled with desert sand and grime. She can smell the scab of half-healed burns on his skin. Then she takes his hand and coaxes him out of the dumpster to show him her present.

“Look what I got you, isn’t she just the sweetest?”

It’s a black girl, about ten years old, wearing a sun-bleached cotton dress. She’s propped up against the wall, bound and gagged but awake, tears of naked fear in her eyes.

“No!” Spike shakes his head. He tries to push Drusilla away but lacks the strength. “No, please.”

Her eyes narrow. It’s that disgusting thing inside him that’s fighting her. But there are ways of sending it to sleep. She pulls back. “Hush now, look at me. Look into Mummy’s eyes,” she tells him sternly, moving one hand in front of his eyes.

Spike tries to avoid her eyes but fails. Slowly, his expression goes slack and the pain in his eyes recedes.

She runs a hand through his curls and listens. Poor Spike. Not just infected with that abominable conscience, but also with that accursed tinker’s toy buzzing and ticking inside him like a wound-up clockwork. It’s still there, she can sense it through hair, skin, bone and brain matter. How she’d love to rip it out. Well, electricity can be tricked.

She listens harder, past the humming, and there it is, twinkling and dancing in the air like a glowing firefly. She catches it in her palm and holds it to her ear, then nods in satisfaction. Every dolly needs a tune.

“I have a place for you to go, a dark place,” she tells him, although he gives no sign of hearing her. “The cards say something’s coming, my love. Even the stars fear to speak. You’ll see, soon everything will be as it was, but first, Mummy has a pretty little song for you…” She wraps her arms around him to hold him tight and plays with his hair as she sings to him. “Early one morning, just as the sun was rising…”

When his fangs emerge and his eyes turn a savage yellow she claps her hands with joy and calls him her bad dog. He tears out the little girl’s throat and drinks her blood, but the chip remains silent.

Just like Daddy said it would.