Disclaimer: None of the characters in this story are mine. Just playing in someone else’s back yard.
A/N: This story is for Zili who had requested Drusilla/Walter. This Drusilla is evidently fond of fairy tales, chess and bits of poetry. Who knew! Thank you for an interesting prompt. It surprised me to discover that Gene has made so much of an impression as to have a Facebook group.
A/N 2: The quote “Bad bishops protect good pawns” is by Mihai Suba who is a Romanian chess grandmaster. All other literary references included in this story are property of their respective owners.
Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!
The snow fell in fat, childishly joyous snowflakes. Walter Bishop hummed in whispering rhythm as his polished leather shoes scraped across the grey stones dusted with snow. Yellow light from the towering lampposts cast puddles, like areoles, at even intervals and he paused for a minute to watch the snowflakes falling in the light. Pleased with the peace of it, he smirked at nothing in particular and continued on his way. He wasn’t going anywhere, per se. It was an old habit, from the days when first his laboratory was here. He would stalk the grounds at night, not headed anywhere in particular, but striding as his mind worried through a problem or an experiment that he hadn’t quite yet resolved to his satisfaction. He had always said his mind worked best on the move. And so today, making his way across the green, his mind raced to understand what he had missed in his earlier calculations. So deep in thought was he that he did not notice that there was someone else out on the grounds at night. Until that person spoke.
“Lovely night for a stroll.”
Startled he lifted his gaze and automatically smiled. It was a woman, dark haired and pale, she stood beneath one of the lampposts and snowflakes fell about her and dusted her dark velvet coat, the hem of which draped on the ground. Her small hands, covered in rather antique lace gloves were folded in front of her and her dainty booted feet peeked from under the hem of her long coat. It occurred to Walter that the light seemed to fall around her, as if she neither absorbed nor reflected it and made her pale skin appear paler still.
“Yes. Although chilly.”
He frowned as he said that, uncertain as to what moved him to engage instead of moving on. She smiled and came closer and he stood waiting for her, transfixed by her luminous, bottomless eyes and the curve of her coy and impertinent smile. She stood in front of him, head tilted to the side as if contemplating some great question.
“So many things in there…” The look she bestowed upon him was baffled and astute at once. “Thoughts with thorny wings fluttering about inside your head. Clever birds.”
Walter looked askance at this strange creature, as if seeing her for the first time. He wasn’t at all disconcerted by her disquieting way of talking, after all, compared to most of his companions of the last two decades, she’s making perfect sense. It’s almost comforting to be reminded that there are others whose thought patterns do not run an orderly course.
“Yes.” He smiled apologetically. “Sometimes things get muddled.”
She smiled prettily and nodded as if agreeing. And suddenly her eyes became filled with unshed tears and her lower lip trembled.
“I seem to be lost.”
As she stepped closer to him Walter smelled her scent of lavender and inexplicably, dust. He smiled, hoping it would appear kindly.
“Can I help you find where you’re going?”
She seemed greatly cheered by his offer and nodded, sending her long dark curls bouncing across the collar of her jacket.
“Oh! Yes, please.” Her long lashes lowered, and Walter found himself touched by so antiquated a gesture.
She raised her great dark eyes and smiled tearfully. Walter, moved by some archaic chivalry, turned to stand beside her and offered her his arm and was startled by the decisive grasp of her small gloved hand. They walked companionably in silence made ever more exalted by the dense indigo of the night and snow coming down.
“One shouldn’t wander around alone in the dark.” He wasn’t sure what else to say. “It isn’t safe.”
She shrugged and smiled amiably up at him.
“I know.” She leaned closer to Walter, her hold tightening on his arm. “Lots of bad things happen in the dark.”
Inexplicably Walter’s mind flashed to his nightmares and with a shaking swallow he pushed the images back. He cleared his throat.
“It occurs to me that I have not introduced myself. I’m Walter Bishop.”
She giggled, rather like a naughty school girl and he felt himself grinning recklessly at her sudden delight.
“Can’t calculate all the moves.” She sounded stern, like a schoolmistress chastising a contrary student. Levelling a penetrating stare at him, she seemed to cheer up and almost flirtatiously asked: “Did you know only bad bishops protect good pawns?” She smiled brilliantly, didn’t wait for his reply, and seemed to be practically dragging him down the path. “No matter, it’s always about the queen.”
It occurred to Walter that perhaps she wasn’t as harmless as he initially thought and he felt his heart beat faster. She paused, concern marring her features. Before he could stop her, she extended a hand and laid it over his heart.
“Ooh! It races so…” There was playfulness in her voice. “Drusilla, that’s my name.”
She seemed to think that her name was an explanation for everything and jauntily hurried down the path. It occurred to Walter that she seemed to be hurrying in the direction of his lab.
“May I walk you somewhere?”
She giggled again and patted his arm.
“I’m going where you are going.”
He stopped then, startled by the certainty of her answer. He smiled thinly.
“I’m going back to work. I do research. Rather boring for a nice young lady like you.”
“I know.” The corners of her mouth turned down with a petulant twist. “Bits and bobs, digging into memories, unmaking a man can make him testy. Poking curious fingers into scrambled brains. Make life.” She seemed to grow pensive and she smiled sadly at him. “They didn’t like that. They wanted to be the only ones playing God. Took away the bits and bobs, sleep in vein, throw away the key. Out of sight out of mind.” She laughed shrilly and the mad sound of it chilled him more than the cold night air. “Out of mind. Lost in the fog. Time rolling by like clouds.” She patted his arm again. “But now you can breathe the cold air and give birth to dancing stars.”
He was looking at her with new eyes.
“Fascinating! Have you always been psychic Drusilla?” He was no longer Walter Bishop of stolen time, uncertain were to place each step, he was Walter Bishop of the precise, analytical mind, of perfect math. This Walter Bishop could make sense of the chaos of the world.
She didn’t seem to take kindly to that question and, he wasn’t certain how he would describe the sound, but it sounded most like a hiss. She stared at him with accusing eyes and then as if a veil lifted, tilted her head up to the sky and pointed with one finger.
“The stars talk to me. And the moon. They like to chatter on an on.” She turned her gaze back to him. “I heard you screaming, poor dear.”
They had come to the doors of his lab and he paused, uncertain what to do next, put out by her pronouncement and the mercurial nature of her clever, dark eyes. But again, for the second time that night, his thoughts were interrupted by a stranger.
“Pet? What in the world are you up to?”
The man who has spoken came striding towards them, his long, black leather coat flapping in the wind and the dim lights lighting his odd white hair the colour of moonlight. His new friend, Drusilla, seemed most pleased to see this man and letting go of Walter’s arm extended both her hands for the man to take. He reached for her languidly, Walter remembered that urgency from his own youth, and spun her about until she giggled, then kissed her soundly.
“Spike! I was so lost…The night wouldn’t tell me where you went.” She lifted tearful eyes at the man. “And then he came. Such terrible dreams!” The smile that followed this pronouncement was ardent. “I got hungry.”
She seemed to lean into the man’s side and he wrapped a protective arm about her waist at the same time casting a disparaging eye over Walter.
“What? You mean him?” He placed a gentle kiss at her temple and she smiled gleefully. “There’s plenty of game to be had, pet. Younger, more tender game.”
She giggled at that statement and Walter felt, not for the first time that night, out of his depth. Drusilla giggled and looked at Walter from beneath her eyelashes.
“We’re going to a party!” She kissed Spike’s cheek and smiled coyly at Walter. “Spike’s promised to show me around.”
Walter looked curiously at the blithe and heedless smile on the blond mans face.
“You know the campus well?” Walter tried to remain polite.
“In a manner of speaking.” He seemed to find that extremely amusing. “I ate here once.”
Walter nodded as if this was not an odd conversation.
“I like Charlie’s Kitchen. Sometimes I get Peter to pick up dinner from there. They have the best chili…”
“cheese potato skins!” Spike finished Walter’s sentence and looked at him with merry eyes.
Drusilla let out a sound somewhere between a moan and a whine and both Spike and Walter looked at her with concern.
“Dru? You all right Princess?”
She danced out of his arms and to Walter. She reached one dainty, gloved hand towards his cheek.
“A universe unmade. A child to call your own. But they knew your name and the queen got to keep the mewling bundle. Torn in two.” She smiled into his eyes. “I want to see the bits and bobs.”
Walter shook himself out of his daze and blinked uncertainly at Drusilla.
“I suppose that’s all right.” At the moment he wasn’t entirely certain of himself.
She giggled and clapped her hands, like a child and the white haired man rolled his eyes, smiled indulgently and followed them.
Walter wasn’t entirely certain why he was so obliging just then. They made a silent and somewhat odd procession until Drusilla let out a startling laugh and tugged at Walter’s sleeve.
“They haven’t managed to stick you back together again.” She giggled again. “You aren’t Humpty-Dumpty but they can’t put you back together again.”
Walter heard Spike chuckle behind then and threw a curious look over his shoulder only to find the man smiling and smoking. Noticing Walter’s perusal of him, Spike smirked.
“Dru’s not always entirely lucid.”
Walter shrugged as if to say neither am I, but another of Drusilla’s mad little giggles startled him out of his reverie as her dainty hand grasped his forearm.
“Great fall. All in pieces. Spike can be the White Rabbit and I’ll be Alice.”
Walter felt a ridiculous, careless joy rise in him and with a bark of impertinent he followed her logic.
“Shall we discuss a nice knock-down argument then?”
She joined him and Walter heard Spike mutter something disparaging behind their backs. He couldn’t bring himself to care. The door leading to his laboratory seemed to appear out of nowhere and he stumbled in his impulsive glee and coughed politely in a manner he once believe appropriate to a learned man of his stature. It occurred to him then that it was a ridiculous notion but before he could think further on it. Drusilla was already opening the heavy metal door and dancing into the dimly lit interior of his sanctum.
“Oh!” She sighed with such approbation that Walter could not help the pleased little smile tugging at the corners of his mouth and Spike, apparently, could not help himself from snorting in derision.
She couldn’t seem to keep still and moved in a little dance down the stairs, her hands touching here and there and Walter for a reason, he could not at the moment fathom, said nothing to stop her. Spike stayed on the landing above the level of the lab, watching Drusilla with hooded eyes, his long pale fingers playing with a golden lighter.
Walter followed Drusilla down into the lab. As if noticing his presence for the first time, she grasped his arm once more and looking into his eyes with an ardent expression pouted.
“Did you cry when they buried your secrets?”
She held on tight and he was unable to look away, to disregard a question that was still, after all that had occurred, extremely painful to even think about.
The air was rent with a plaintive boom of a cow mooing. Drusilla seemed to freeze on his arm. Walter sighed.
“I have to feed Gene.” He fumbled with a button of his coat. “Astrid’s out and she left me instructions.”
He disengaged himself from Drusilla and shuffled towards the pen, but Drusilla seemed to beat him there.
“A cow!” She seemed as excited as a child at a zoo. “Moo! Clever beast.”
Walter deposited a bucket of feed over the door of the pen.
“He’s called Gene.”
She laughed and he chuckled too. Gene didn’t seem quite as pleased to meet her and shuffled his feet, moving away from the pen.
“Spike! Look, a cow. Eyes large enough to take in the world. Strong heart.” She touched the Gene’s side and he panicked, let out a huff and tried to fit himself into the corner of his pen.
“I don’t think he likes you.”
Walter patted Jean’s flank and that seemed to calm him somewhat. Drusilla, rocking from side to side spoke in a very soft, sing-song voice.
“Poor dumb beast. Smells the wrong ones. Doesn’t want to play.”
Spike had come down the steps and was leaning on one of the tables, observing their little interaction.
“It’s a cow, Dru.”
She narrowed her eyes at him.
“Can we have a cow? Please Spike? Lovely brown eyes, seeing the world.”
He laughed indulgently.
“You could have this cow.” He flicked his golden lighter several time. “Have you not had enough yet pet?”
Drusilla pouted and danced her way to Walter’s side and leaning against him wagged a reproachful finger at Spike.
“This cow isn’t for food, silly.” She rocked back and forth on her heels. “He’s for not hurting the little girl lost in the woods.”
Spike furrowed an eyebrow as if he was going to ask but then he shook his head in what Walter termed, affectionate resignation.
“Sweet, the night won’t last forever. We need to get you fed.”
Walter noticed that he kept petting Gene’s hind and felt like the couple he had found himself entertaining this most strange night, had forgotten that he was even there.
Drusilla pouted again and wrung her hands, a gesture that would be contrived on most every woman, but on her looked entirely natural. She took a step back and stumbled. Her hands splayed open and she caught herself falling back, palms pressed flat against the metal door of the sensory deprivation tank. She let out a blood curdling wail. Bonelessly she sank to the ground in a heap of velvet and lace skirts, Spike was there, face set to stone, arms wrapped about her. Her wild eyes landed on Walter and her mouth was shaping words she could not speak, until a startled cry ripped from somewhere deep inside of her. Walter knelt in front of her, ignoring the creaking discomfort in his knees.
“Monarch of pain... Fisher King!” She scratched at her throat, hands frantic and fluttering. “Bleed for your sins. Lock the girl in your metal ocean. There are too many doors and she doesn’t know which keys fit the locks. Dumb leading the blind. Everyone’s thinking too hard.” She whimpered and wrapped herself further into Spike’s embrace.
Walter tried to move closer, but she wailed and covered her eyes. Spike levelled a decidedly unfriendly glare at Walter.
“Little Red Riding Hood. Flaxen locks and a gaze full of burdens. Little Red and all around are wolves.” She seemed to suddenly calm down and sighed as if releasing all her anxiety. “So much, there is so much that is about to happen here.”
They stayed frozen, staring at each other for an instant that seemed to stretch into eternity. There was the creak of the door first and then the sound of footsteps followed by an echo of shoes hitting metal steps and then a voice, Peter’s, reached into the startled silence.
“Walter?” It was followed by the smell of food, delicious and warm and Walter could not help but lick his lips as he suddenly realized that he was famished.
Peter stopped in his tracks as he eyes stumbled on the little tableau.
“Peter, we have guests.”
It was an inane thing to say, but Walter wasn’t really feeling himself at the moment.
Peter’s eyes danced with amusement.
“So I see. Picking up strays now, are you Walter?”
He put down the brown bag on one of the lab tables and reached inside it and took out a fry and when he bit into it, Walter’s stomach growled and in the eerie silence currently reigning in the lab it sounded like a roar. Peter grinned.
Spike was drawing Drusilla to her feet and Walter too lumbered to stand.
“Pet? We ought to be going. You need to eat.”
She seemed to take a moment to focus her eyes and then nodded. Peter, not entirely certain what was going on, extended a box of fries towards the strange couple.
“Fries? They’re still hot.”
He heard a rumbling sound and for a moment he thought it came from the bleached man and then the pale woman was standing between them, her wild eyes roaming Peter’s face.
“Not this once, Spike. He’s the bundle of joy the queen got to keep.” He voice sounded strained. “Don’t you see?” She looked at them all as if they were supposed to know exactly what she meant and upon seeing their collective blank faces, she frowned. “He’s the secret.”
She didn’t wait for anyone to say anything further. Her heeled boots beat out a staccato on the stairs, her companion following silently behind her. She paused at the top of the stairs, gaze focusing on Walter; eyes full of carefree madness a mad little smile dancing across her lips.
“Good bishop. Bad bishop. Queen is gone into the ground and there are no squares on the board for the prince.”
The doorway gaped menacing and black as they vanished from the landing. Peter furrowed his brows in a gesture that he had just recently noticed was identical to his father’s. He made a point of relaxing the appropriate muscles. Reaching for another fry he bit into it with gusto and extended the box to Walter, who took a fry and thoughtfully chewed.
“Did the Billy Idol impersonator really growl at me?”
Walter blinked and took a moment to focus his cloudy gaze in Peter. Coming back to himself his eyes filled with intelligent light and he smiled.
“Vampire. I’d heard stories. Never met any before today.”
Peter choked on his fries.
“Excuse me?” He put down the box of fried and looked speculatively at Walter. “Have you lost your mind all over again Walter? Vampires!”
Walter snorted, shrugged and levelled a belligerent stare at Peter.
“Must you always be so narrow minded?”