Characters: Elle Greenaway, Spike, Drusilla, Spencer Reid
Disclaimer: I do not own Angel or Criminal Minds or the quote from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, obviously. Written for fun, not profit.
Series: "Catch a Falling Star" universe (on TTH or on LJ)—when she was a child, Elle Greenaway met her aunt in a graveyard. The woman's name was Drusilla. And she wasn't quite a woman at all.
Warning: Some torture, madness, and Drusilla-speak (nothing you wouldn't see on the show). Also, possible character death.
Author's notes: Written for twistedshorts August Fic-a-Day. I suggest you read the other four one-shots in the series, "Make a Wish," "Put It in Your Pocket," "He Sings," and "Never Let It Fade Away," before reading this story. I think this is the final story in this series—but who knows if my brain will really let it end here.o)0(oThis is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
~T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Meno)0(o
"Soon is dead, I killed it before it could get away…"
Drusilla's voice drifted off, her eyes staring up at the high aluminum ceiling above.
"Do you hear that, duckling? Today's the day our family comes out to play."
Sharp fingernails clicking against the walls of his cage, she paused her rhythmic tap and sunk down to her knees, her skirt billowing around her. The vampire's eyes widened in realization. "You know, pretty birdie, I think you might be a swan instead…" Red-stained lips curled into a predatory grin. "Will you sing your song for me?"o)0(o
"Go home, little star, and when you're ready to burn out, I'll come back and we'll play so many games together."
Elle had been a child, suffering the loss of her father, when Drusilla had spoken those words to her. It was the first night they'd met, the first time Elle had ever encountered real monsters before, and it was the first time Drusilla had let her niece walk away alive. It was not the last. That promise, to come back, had haunted the woman her whole life.
When Drusilla had come back, though, Elle…Elle would never admit it, especially to the man standing at her side, but when Drusilla had reappeared in her life, she'd felt a kind of longing for the vampire's company. There was something right about the words "Aunt Drusilla
" rolling off of her tongue.
Elle physically ached at the memory. If it had ended there, with too-cold arms holding her in a mother's cradle, whispering of a family, it would have been the makings of a surreal dream instead of a vivid nightmare.
"You with me, love?"
Spike's voice grounded her. Elle shot him a glance, moving a bit faster to keep up with him. "I'm here," she assured, her voice so low that only he and their third companion, the vampire leading them, Angel, could hear. "Are you sure this is the place?"
Angel's head turned, not enough to seen her, but enough to acknowledge her existence. "I'm going around back. You two, stay here until I give the signal."
"Of course you're using the backdoor, poofer…"
Spike reached out, snagging her elbow to pull her into the shadow of the factory building. This wasn't the first one they'd searched over the past two days, so she had reason to doubt. But Elle could feel it, in her gut—this was the right place. Drusilla was here. Which meant Reid was here.
God…if she'd known that running away from her problems would put one of her old teammates in danger, Elle wondered if she would have made the same decision. She knew for a fact that, with or without Drusilla whispering in her ear, she would have probably left the Bureau far before retirement. If not that serial rapist, then another human monster would have met the end of her gun eventually… She'd spent her entire adult life fighting off those who'd take power from others through sex, violence, but when she'd finally been attacked herself, had her own power taken away, she'd craved its return with such ferocity that she could almost understand a vampire's bloodlust, just from that need alone.
So, she couldn't say that Drusilla had steered her life off its course. No, Aunt Dru had just been a messenger, delighted to be telling Elle that, eventually she would be joining her vampire family, but, as hollow as Elle felt when she quit her job, she'd not wanted to be a soulless beast. She wanted her humanity, even if it only a remnant of it remained.
Running hadn't been a permanent solution, but tonight Elle Greenaway planned to end this. One way or the other, she would satisfy her cravings; she would take her power back.
Spike, over the few months they'd known one another, had developed an uncanny ability to read her mind. He shoved her against the metal siding of the building. "You're coming away breathing, understood?"
Elle stared at him, eyes deadened. Spike shook his head. "Christ—fine. Let's just do this. Then I can say I told you so when you're buying us a round of beer afterward."
When he pushed away, headed back to the front door, Elle bit down a grin. Somehow, he'd wiped her determination right off the slate. "Didn't Angel say to wait?"
"Bollocks. He knows I do the opposite he says, so, he was actually telling us to walk in like we own the bleedin' place."
Elle lined herself up beside Spike, gave him a silent count, and nodded. He kicked the side entry door open, fragments of metal from the lock scattering across a cement floor. So much for subtlety.
Elle entered right behind him, a gun aimed over his shoulder as he swaggered onward, his beaten black duster whisking behind him. The soles of her boots crunched glass, and she shot a glance upward. The metal ceiling was high above, a catwalk to the far side of the building leading to a stack of closed off rooms—probably offices for whoever used to manage the storage center—but what caught her attention were the hanging lights attached to long, descending poles. The glass lay beneath each one, as if they'd been purposely shattered.
Only, the building still had light coming from somewhere at its heart, so at least one bulb remained. Elle followed the faint glow past a stack of shipping containers, Spike seemingly doing the same as he navigated down another tall row of crates like a mouse in a maze. Elle wondered what was stored here, but she didn't want to pause her search to find out. Especially when she could hear a sound up ahead.
It took her a moment to register that it was a voice, but she was sure Spike had already known as much. He couldn't have recognized it, though. Elle did."'Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: 'We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'—'How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice."
Elle held her breath, listening to the words. She remembered how many times she'd ignored that voice, hoping that her teammate would quit spewing information like a geyser, but it sounded different now. Sweet. Like he was speaking to a child, not giving his peers factoids.
"Reid," she whispered.
Spike shot her a look, confusion in his eyes. She frowned, acknowledging that she didn't understand either. They moved on until Spike held up a hand to stop her from walking past him. She cocked her head, glancing over his shoulder, and saw what he saw."—'You must be,' said the Cat, 'otherwise you wouldn't have come here.' –Alice didn't think that proved it at all: however she went on. 'And how do you know that you're mad?'"
The light cast a white glow, washing out the floral pattern of a battered sofa—at its center sat the body of an overweight, elderly man in a black security officer uniform. His eyes were open, head lolled to the side to show a bloodless rip in his throat. At his sides were dolls, standing, sitting, all attentive, their ceramic faces turned in the same direction as the corpse's. They were an audience, she realized, for the performer…Reid.
She almost jumped forward but stopped herself, a grimace on her face. He was in a cage. Her friend was in a cage. It looked like a dog's kennel, barely tall enough to reach her waist, and long body was shoved inside. His back was to her, but, even from her position, staring through the mesh of metal, she could see blood staining two long lines down the light brown suit jacket he was wearing.
The agent was holding his knees against his chest, rocking slightly as he spoke. There wasn't a book in his hand, but he rattled on…Elle knew he didn't need to be looking at a page to read a story. It turned her stomach, but she could almost picture how delighted Drusilla must have been to find out he had such talent."'To begin with,' said the Cat, 'a dog's not mad. You grant that?'—'I suppose so,' said Alice.—'Well, then, ' the Cat went on, 'you see a dog growls when it's angry, and wags its tail when it's pleased…'"
Elle gave the area another once-over and decided she was done waiting. Spike must have been in agreement, because he followed beside her, pulling his stake free from his jacket.
"Reid?" she called. He didn't turn, didn't seem to hear her at all. "Spencer—it's me, Elle Greenaway."
He stiffened at the sound of her name, his head dipping low between his knees, but she could hear him continuing. "…'Now I growl when I'm pleased, and wag my tail when I'm angry. Therefore I'm mad.'"
She stopped at the cage and dropped down to one knee, studying his profile. Blood crusted his ear, scratch marks trailing down the side of his face and to his neck, where bruises took their place. His tie was gone, his vest and shirt twisted, as if they'd been put back on in a rush and no one had taken time to properly rebutton them. Elle didn't want to think about that, about why he looked the way he looked.
, stop and look at me!"
He sucked in a shallow breath but didn't lift his eyes to meet hers. "Are you real?" he asked. He shivered, as if he'd heard an answer. "I don't like this game, Drusilla. You said we wouldn't play it again. You said it was story time."
Elle felt a tug at the center of her chest, and she rubbed the spot. She thought, being as hollow as she was, she wouldn't be able to feel this again. "Spike?"
"Bloody hypnotism…" the muttered.
The vampire moved around her, finding the front latch. He gave the chains a look-over before moving to the hinges of the door and jerking. The tiny metal hoops snapped.
Reid jumped at the sound, looking between Spike and his ex-co-worker. "Elle?"
She tried to give him a hard grin, but couldn't manage it. "Just hold on a minute longer. We're getting you out of here." She looked up to Spike, hoping she wasn't lying.
"I think he's…" Spike reached in with the hand not holding the stake and grabbed the nape of Reid's neck hard enough to make him flinch. The vampire blinked, lowering his weapon. "He's alive, Elle. Hell if I know why, but Dru kept him alive."
Elle hadn't realized she was holding her breath until she let it out again. "Get him out."
"She always stays close enough to listen," Reid whispered, in warning.
Elle stood, taking a step back from the cage, back from the coldness that had been growing in her. For a moment… But, he wasn't one of them. Wasn't a monster. But he also wasn't safe yet.
Elle felt it before she heard it, her eyes shooting back up the catwalk in anticipation. A clatter sounded and a moment later the door to the top office broke loose, Angel flying through the air. He hit the cargo boxes back first, collapsing the top one, and then rolled off, his stomach slamming against the hard cement. Before he could lift his head to grunt, another body jumped down from the walkway, hitting the boxes.
Drusilla straightened, brushing the dust off her long violet skirt, and standing a good ten feet above them. "Daddy, did you hurt yourself?" she asked, staring down her nose at the crumbled vampire on the floor. Then, as if she'd only then noticed, she clapped her hands together in glee, a smile widening across her face. "My little star and my knight! You've come to dinner!"
Angel groaned, pulling himself up onto his hands and knees. Dru cocked her head, taking the movement as an invitation. She jumped off the edge of the boxes, her boots hitting his back and slamming him back down again. He hissed in pain, but she ignored him, stepping off and giving a twirl.
"Mean old cock came crowing—" She shot Angel a narrow glance. "—but he's right, I know, time to stop following the cow and spoon and swallow the night whole…" Drusilla strode forward, her yellow, demon's eyes set on Elle. "See, my darling niece? You've brought our family together, naught Daddy and my wandering Spike, our sweet little pet, and you… My falling star, you crashed right where you should…"
"Ah, Dru, I see you're still queen of the nutters." Spike moved forward slowly, a sneer at his lips. "I'll admit it—I miss the crazy talk." He leaned around her, watching Angel pull himself back up, and raised a brow. "And you always did know how to make an entrance—"
His words were cut off by Drusilla backhanding him. Spike flew a few feet, landing on his side. "Mummy's talking," Drusilla chided, and walked past him. She held her arms out to Elle. "Come now, give your Auntie a hug, and I'll forget how very much you should be punished for making off with my favorite candlesticks."
She was almost sure the call came from Reid, but she didn't heed it. Those open arms were tempting. They were an invitation to forget, to widen the hole and let what remained fall inside. Elle reached out with one hand, entangling her fingers into Dru's.
She raised her other hand as well, leveling the gun at the vampire's chest and squeezing the trigger. The first round threw the vampire back, ending their embrace before it could begin. The second round would have killed her if she'd been human. The third… A small, cruel smirk worked its way onto Elle's face. The third shot was just for fun.
It happened so quickly, she didn't realize she was trapped until the weapon fell from her hand. Elle bucked against the steely arms holding her tight, but Spike held her against his chest. "You're not a monster, Elle," he hissed.
Elle cried out in anger, watching Angel grab Drusilla by her dark hair before she could stand back up and brush off the sting of the bullets. Angel's body thrust forward, his arm crooked as he shoved a stake in through her back.
Elle quieted, her scream lost as she watched the wood reappear out the front, right over the heart. Drusilla caught her eye, "Our family," she mumbled, smiling, and burst into ashes.
Angel stared down at the mess, breathing as if he needed the air. Then he looked up, past Elle, locking eyes with Spike.
"I promised you," Spike whispered, in her ear, "promised I wouldn't let her make you a monster. Like she did me."
She stilled, her blood rushing from the rage, and then nodded. "Thanks." Elle forced her wet gaze up to meet Angel's. "Thank you both."
Spike released her, taking a step back, and then moved to the cage, where Reid was crouched, watching with rapt attention. Elle almost laughed, almost, because she knew him, and, even if Drusilla had managed to rattle a few of his screws loose, he was already processing all that he'd just seen. He could have given them a word-for-word playback, if he'd wanted.
A little hesitantly, he took Spike's arm, slowly crawling free from the gap in the cage door. "Elle, I'm sorry..." His voice was hoarse, as if his body had finally caught up with the week he'd spent as the vampire's song bird. "I'm sorry, she—"
Elle cut him off. "It's not your fault you were taken, Reid. Do you understand me? None of what happened with me had anything to do with you."
He stared at the corpse on the sofa, his eyes wide and a little lost, before he nodded to himself. "What do I say, when they ask…?"
Spike gave him a pat on the arm and walked past him. "Better the two of you figure that out soon, mate, because I hear sirens headed this way."
Elle shoved her gun back into her jacket. She'd expected this when she'd called Morgan and asked about Reid's disappearance. The FBI hadn't had any leads on their missing agent, and she knew they'd be on her trail quickly. Apparently, she was easy to find, when they were actually looking. "We need to go then."
Reid's brow wrinkled. "Go?"
Spike paused. "Doesn't have to be a 'we' to it, if you don't want, love."
Elle rolled her eyes at his sincerity and then smiled sadly at Reid. She could almost feel his tremble—his world was upside down. She'd done that. She and her bloodline.
"I'm sorry this happened to you, Spencer. I really am, and I know you'll use that genius brain of yours to come up with a story the team'll believe. But you need to go back to your family." She stepped away, letting her gaze shift to Spike and Angel. "And, I need to go with mine."