She still comes to his tent every night; the blood scent coming from her mouth is wild and Xander knows it isn't human. She's promised to be good and as far as he knows she has been. She tells him she only feeds her fill from the animals; that she allows the villagers to keep going on, their days and years ticking down to nothing in natural time. He thanks whomever he should for this because no matter what she kills, there is no Willow in Nkhata Bay and Drusilla's invite is permanent.
She's told him about the way the leopard's blood feels when it rides through her and when she speaks he can see the change in her eyes. She says the antelopes are like chasing trains, but they taste of old sunshine and she merely hunts them for fun. The songs she sings for him haunt his predawn dreams and she claims that the melodies are written for him by broken bones and cracked antlers.
She assures him she leaves the hyenas in peace.
The days are getting wetter. She tells him that the rain has murmured secrets into her ear and it is time to leave this place. He's been from here to there and to where he stands at the moment; now he has to take the same route backward. All because she says so and he believes her. He's managed book flights that take off after sunset and land before dawn. They've spent time together, they have their understandings and he cares about her. He thinks it's mutual.
Xander's lost count of how many times he's hauled himself up rollaway staircases and done the side-shuffle seat number search. He's gotten used to the altitude changes, chewing gum at a furious pace to keep his ears from stinging and chiming. Time zones are getting easier and he even has his very own travel pillow.
He'd gotten used to falling asleep within an hour of his flights, but that was before she became his travel buddy. The lilt of the verses humming out from her lips keep him balanced somewhere between being awake and not. He really doesn't mind it at all. She's stolen his pillow and placed it behind the curve of her neck and has some how convinced him to lay his head in her lap; his breath rustling across her skirts, her hands gently pulling loops of curls apart, twining them around her fingers, the tips of her nails scratching lightly at his scalp.
She weaves her stories into the songs, breaking up her soft arias with tuneless words. Having honed his French accent in Africa, he calls his favorite story 'La Fée Verte' and though he knows it by heart, he begs her to tell it on every flight. She spins the tale of her first visit to America; tells him about Spike's strong hand pulling her through the streets of New Orleans, of her heels clacking hard on the stones, of how much she misses the earliest bits of the last century. Over and over she interrupts herself, rambling about how the noise and sky smoke of these new years hurt her head, he soothes her and tells her to go on.
He's lost in the tickle of her hands in his hair and it's as if her words put him where she was. He can feel the constricting short coat pulling across the broad stretch of his shoulders and chest and he can smell the anisette in the air; it reminds him of the cookies that used to come with the faux-Mexican takeout his mom was so well know for.
He vaguely remembers Giles telling them that Drusilla could make one see what was not there.
So it doesn't surprise him that each time she recounts her time at the Old Absinthe House bar he tastes the drink in the back of his throat and is positive he can navigate his way up and down Bourbon Street. And when she tells of tying Spike's wrists to an iron headboard he can hear the rasp of the fabric as the knots are tightened and can see expanses of falsely flushed skin over powerful muscles. He feels the satin strips of cloth run through his fingers, the cool of the metal against the back of his hands, the narrow hips under the straddle of his thighs.
It's her hand that tips the glass bottle and pours the emerald liquor, her fingers that crush sugar cubes and sprinkle the crystal powder, but it's his eyes that see the rivulets run over Spike's torso to settle in trenches of definition, his eyes that watch the glitter of the sugar dust in the air. And yes, it may be her memory; her tongue lapping at Spike's neck and chest, but the taste of fennel and skin and lemon balm and sugar flavor his mouth.
"Drusilla, tell me the story again."
"Of course, dear one."
And she does, because it is his favorite and they are hers.