Spike woke with a start. He had slept at the house on Revello Drive the past few nights, but the Scoobies were all gathered there at the moment, so Spike had taken the opportunity to make sure all the demons of Sunnydale knew that his crypt was not up for grabs. He hadn't had a decent day's sleep since his Slayer had taken that leap from the tower and he'd fallen into a deep slumber as soon as his head hit the familiar pillow. Now, even with only a brief time spent in unconscious bliss, he was once more awake and alert.
He shifted into game face and looked around the shadowed chamber, trying to see the interloper. "Come on out," Spike demanded forcefully. "Know you're there."
The wraith-like form seemed to glide into the small circle of light cast by the lone candle Spike had lit before sleeping. Spike sat up, his head against the headboard of the bed. No telling what this visit might be about and he was too muddled from lack of sleep to let his guard down.
"My poor Spike has lost 'is Aurora. The sun is gone but left behind the Dawn." The dark-eyed vampiress moved forward, never faltering in her gaze. "Don't despair, my poor boy, after the Summers came the fall and now winter has its icy fingers on you. Only spring left 'till Summers is back though."
"What do you want, Dru?" Spike sighed. "Thought you'd washed your hands of me the last time you paid a surprise visit. Not plannin' to chase after you this time, if that's what you're thinkin'. There's nothing left of me to take either."
"Not 'ere to take, William; 'ere to give back." Dru was close enough to touch as she whispered the words. "Didn't 'elp after all. Took 'em because you already 'ad a princess, didn't need the other. Make my William all torn, and not the pretty, red, sticky kind. Come to give 'em back now, like a good mum. My William needs 'em to get through the rest of the winter and the spring to come."
Spike was starting to get unnerved. He used to take Dru's odd fits and starts in stride, but he was long out of practice and quickly losing patience as well. "Just leave whatever it is on that table and head on out of town again, Dru. Plenty of do-gooders 'round here'd love to put a piece of wood in that pretty chest of yours."
"Look at me, my pretty boy. Look at your princess." Dru began to sway slightly. Spike felt a ribbon of fear wrap around him, but he wasn't able to look away as his former love locked her eyes with his. "Remember," she spoke and then turned and left as swiftly and silently as the ghost she had appeared to be.
"No!" Spike nearly wept. "How could you have taken that from me?!"
The moon cast eerie shadows amongst the headstones and mausoleums of the quiet cemetery where lay the remains of one Buffy Anne Summers. The setting was peaceful, almost inviting. A bunch of stargazer lilies lay near the simple stone next to a bouquet of daisies left earlier. The giver of the lilies sat in silence as pale, still and perfect as the marble statues scattered here and there around him.
"Hello, Buffy love." His voice was a deep rumble of sorrow. "Did I ever tell you about where I first saw you? When I first fell into your beautiful expressive eyes and pledged my life to you?" Spike paused, as if waiting for a response to his questions. "Didn't think so. Didn't rightly remember myself 'til just yesterday."
Spike plucked a blade of grass from beside Buffy's grave and twirled it between his fingers as he drew in his breath. "Dru paid me a little visit. No, didn't dust her. She didn't snack on any locals either … made sure of that. Said she heard my heart break all the way down in Argentina. Came to give me a gift, something she stole from me that I might be wantin' back."
The night wind increased as if in a silken touch of encouragement that he should go on. "Dru has more than a bit of magic in her, pet. Can make a man see what she wants him to see, forget what she wants him to forget too, for that matter. She said she left my feelin's and memories alone after we came here. After she got her daddy back and didn't care any more. Before that, though, she didn't like the competition for my attention. Jealous of a young boy's dreams and a young man's desire back then. Like a surgeon she was, takin' out parts and leavin' the rest."
He looked off into the distant darkness as if seeking something. "Wonder how our first meetin' woulda gone if I'd had 'em then." Spike sighed in regret. "Bit too late for THAT, water over the dam or under the bridge or whatnot. Mighta made a difference though, least for me."
"Where was I?" Spike asked, expecting no answer. "Oh, yeah, the first time I ever saw you. 'Twas a night much like this one, filled with warm breezes, bloomin' flowers and grief enough to still a beatin' heart."
~ Swan Haven, a country house near Lorton in the Lake District ~
He would always remember that day clearly. It was a day of many firsts. The first time he heard his father curse. The first time he didn't cause an uproar by being late and untidy for supper. Even the usually fierce countenance of Mrs. Beecham, his grandfather's housekeeper and a stickler for decorum, was softened by the events of the day. It was the first time he felt the sting of knowing what it was to forever lose one held dear. It was also the first time he saw them, the dark fairie and the bright princess. The first time he had the dreams.
Earlier that day William had been running the hills and sailing his cherished toy boat in the stream behind his grandfather's home in the Fells. He loved visits to the country, even if beneath his grandfather's stern look beat an even sterner heart. 'Twas the year of our Lord 1861 and William Pratt was free from his tutors and the confines of London. Free to frisk with his younger cousin Maggie, as what remained of his mother's clan gathered in annual reunion.
They were Scots originally and held strong to family bonds. His Uncle Christie, Maggie's da, was the only remaining son of a family that had produced many a proud MacRorie in years gone by. The family was dwindling with each passing year and now they'd been informed that yet another member would forever be missing from these reunions.
William adored his eldest brother Graham. The young man was ever quick to take up for his baby brother. He took the time to actually talk to the boy, to listen to Will's dreams and fears. Graham fueled the boy's fires of imagination and fantasy. Graham was everything that William ever hoped to be and longed to live up to. If ever an older brother was hero-worshipped, it was Graham. And now he was forever gone.
His gentle mother was sedated in her room as the rest of the family gathered in the dining parlor. Rather than the quiet meal one might expect from a grieving family, it was the setting for yet another round of accusations and placing of blame.
"If the demmed fool hadn't gone off on one of his Quixotic ventures to save the world, this would never have happened. Henry, it was your place to stop the boy's tilting at windmills and risking the family line." Grandfather MacRorie glared at his son-in-law. "All that energy and education should have been pointed in the right direction."
Henry Pratt sat with a stricken face for a moment before answering, his English temperament not matching the fire of his wife's more emotional tribe. "Graham was deeply troubled by the source of our family fortune. It mattered not to the boy that it was in the last century. He despised the notion that any of his ease was earned by transportation of slaves to the colonies. University only increased his sense of responsibility."
William and his sister Sophia dared not speak a word, as the dinner table was not the place for youngsters to express anything, much less opinions on such a volatile topic as their eldest sibling's various causes and cares.
Aunt Rosamund, however, was under no such restriction and she shared her father-in-law's disposition towards passion in her speaking. "You know well that Graham had but a tender heart. He sought redemption from our less than stellar history, that is all. Though from what personal failing, I am at a loss. To cast blame on him for this tragedy is really out of line, Father."
"Then the lad should have taken Holy Orders and rescued the lot of us AND half the countryside too. Your family made money in shipping. So what? The cargo was perfectly legal then, an honest day's work. They merely transported them; had no part in the purchase or sale. Besides, the whole industry was ended before even you were born, Henry." Grandfather MacRorie stabbed at the loin of mutton on his plate in emphasis.
"Blame the rabble rousers then, or Mayhew and those do-gooders that write for 'The Morning Chronicle', if you are looking for somewhere to point a finger. I tried my best with the lad. Stubborn, just like his mother," Henry replied. It was time to lay some of the blame at the old man's feet, if only by calling into it the difference in personality between himself and his Anne.
"Glad I take after you then, Father," chimed in the only of Henry's offspring old enough to be allowed table talk. "Won't find me taking up causes for the disadvantaged. I say let them find work like the rest of us. I'm not aiming for some seat at a non-existent round table surrounded by courtly knights." Cameron Pratt leaned back in his chair and smirked a bit.
William chanced a whisper to his sister, "Good thing too. Cam's aim isn't that good. Wonder when it was he did that day's work himself?" Sophia muffled a snicker at her little brother's insight. Their remaining brother was as different from his elder as night and day. Sophia had no doubt that Cameron might well bring the family to ruin before he reached his majority. Already father had to pay exorbitant gambling debts Cameron had incurred.
"Yes, we do still have you, and your brother William, to carry on the family name and business," Henry agreed genially. "Still and all, I'm proud of Graham. His moral code and sense of honor were of the highest caliber." Henry wished some of those morals had rubbed off on the lazy wastrel that was his new heir apparent.
Grandfather MacRorie snorted, half in disgust. "Did him a fat lot of good though, dinnit? Boy with his looks and potential getting involved in a labor strike--it was bound to lead to tragedy. Business owner has a right to protect what's his. My mills are filled with grumbling weavers, but they know what's good for the company is good for them and their bellies."
Henry was beginning to become angry at his father-in-law's suggestion that Graham had received his just desserts in some way when Anne entered the room. "I could hear all of you from my room. I shall not have my son blamed for his own murder. Father, I respect and love you, but I'll not hear another word. Graham followed his heart and did as he felt was right, just as he was raised to do. No business owner has the right to take a life because his workers dare to ask for a better wage. Three young men lost their lives; there are two other grieving families as well this day."
The meal continued without further argument as none dared heap more misery upon Anne. As for that good lady, she sat in stony silence, not eating a thing, as if knowing only her presence had brought this moment of peace.
"Do you think it hurt much?" William asked Sophia as she tucked the boy into his bed later that night. "I am certain that Graham died bravely, but do you think he was in much pain?"
"Well, a bullet would have to hurt, silly! I don't think he would have been alive too long after it hit though. I'm sure Graham was quickly at peace." Sophia was a somber eleven-year-old given to reflection. "I am certain that God sent his Angels to whisk Graham to heaven in good hurry though. Our brother was the best of men, after all."
"I shall be just like him when I am grown, Sophie. I'll make you and mother proud," William vowed.
Sophia kissed her little brother on the brow and smiled down at him gently. "I am sure you will. You always help others, and didn't you keep Maggie from falling off Lorton Bridge just yesterday?" At William's pleased smile, she stood. "Say your prayers now, Will, and get your rest. We'll all have to learn how to get on without Graham here to show us the way."
William slipped into a fitful sleep filled with imagined scenes of his beloved brother's death. His dreams changed then as a dark-eyed woman stared at him from across the bloodied courtyard of the factory where Graham Pratt fell while protesting child labor. She was exotic, with a nearly feral look to her from some angles. Her smile made William shiver in his dreams. The lady approached as if gliding, her eyes never leaving the small boy.
"Wot 'ave we 'ere then?" the dark beauty asked. "I spy a young Knight lookin' to take up 'is brother's armour. You be too small for that, my pretty boy, but you'll grow to a fine size in time," she said to the awestruck child.
"Who are you? Are you a gypsy?" William was both drawn to and repelled by the woman before him.
"Not a gypsy, though Mama did say it could be where I got the sight," the lady added, more to herself than the boy. "You may call me your princess." She nodded like a royal conferring a special honor on him.
"What sort of princess? You don't look like any of Queen Victoria's daughters. I've seen sketches of them in the papers," William challenged her claim.
The lady laughed, a small tinkling sound filled with hidden mirth. "More like Titania's than stuffy Victoria. Yes, that's it! A fairie princess is wot I am, if you like. Come to take a 'uman child under my fairie wings."
"You're naught but a dream," William corrected. "Not real at all."
"But I'm very real, my William. One day we'll meet in the outer world and I'll make you mine, but for now we'll meet 'ere in the dark where I live and you will as well one day." The woman smiled on the boy in satisfaction.
"I already have a mum. How can you make me yours?" William didn't understand this part of the dream at all.
"Different kind of mummy and you shall be my dark Knight forever, when you are ready. Pixies 'ave promised you to me, they 'ave. Only thing keeps me out of the sun. Daddy will never want just me, but I 'ave you to look forward to and that will be enough for now. We'll 'ave cakes and rooms full of girlies to play with when you become my champion."
William blinked in confusion, not sure how to respond to the strange woman and her rantings. From the corner of his eye, he saw her then….the light was blinding around her as she strode towards them. William remembered a picture book Graham had once given to him filled with mythical gods and this woman reminded him of a Valkyrie, blonde and powerful for all her smallness.
The vision said not a word but the dark fairie princess let out a cry of frustration at her arrival. "'E's mine, not yours. You wouldn't know wot to do with the likes of 'im."
The blonde goddess rolled her eyes at the woman and pointed toward the dark princess's chest causing the dark princess to turn to powder. "She isn't your destiny, William Pratt; I am." And with that, the goddess disappeared as well.
William woke with a start, rapidly looking around the room as if expecting one or both the strange women to be there. He got up and crossed to the pitcher on the dressing table to get a drink and recover from his powerful dreams before trying to sleep again. From that point in his room he could hear the conversation between his parents as it drifted up the chimney from the library below. 'That must have wakened me.' He sighed as he realized he was the topic of conversation.
"Still, Henry, you know how close William was to Graham. Do you really think this is the time to change his tutor as well? He quite adores Mr. Crichlow and this Mr. Oxley seems more rigid and taciturn. Perhaps you should think again on this."
"My darling wife, you know so very much of comforting and caring for your family, but nothing whatsoever about the needs of a young lad in preparing for a proper education. Mr. Crichlow has filled the boy's head with stuff and nonsense. Between Graham and that tutor, our youngest will be spending the bulk of his school years fending off every bully to be drawn to his already smaller stature. Just let the lad show his love for myth and poetry and he'll be beaten to a pulp on a regular basis!"
Anne looked at her husband in sympathy. "I know you mean well, my dear. I am aware that William has inherited my slighter build and is much like Graham with his tender heart. But that heart is strong and his mind is quick. This Mr. Oxley will take the joy of learning away from him and that would be a tragedy."
"William has his head in the clouds. The boy is full of fairie tales and grand gestures. Why, just this past fortnight the scamp was pummeled by those loutish farm lads while trying to defend the dubious honor of a local milkmaid! He fairly worships Graham but hasn't the health or stature to follow in his footsteps with any success." Henry was determined, "Mr. Crichlow is gone, Oxley is in and that is the end of that. All too soon we shall be sending William to St. Paul's and he'll be eaten alive the way he is developing."
Anne looked ready to cry. "William could do far worse than to pattern himself after Graham."
"Of course, my love," Henry crushed his wife to his bosom. "As usual, you do have the right of it. Still, I maintain my correctness in the change of teachers.
William slipped back between the covers and closed his eyes tightly. First Graham gone forever and now Mr. Crichlow as well. The nine-year-old had never felt so alone.
Sleep reclaimed the teary boy and with it came dreams that were as dragons slain by the morning's sharp shaft of light. Neither of his ladies, light or dark, returned that night, even though they would ever return from that night forward.