Duty of Dust ~ The Crow part 3

Willow came through the library door and approached the table where Xander sat, a newspaper propped up between his hands. "Okay. Is it the end of the world or what?"

"I dunno. Did I miss a memo?" He responded, lowering the Sunnydale Post to glance welcomingly to his friend.

"You do realize you're reading a newspaper, right?" She placed her homework down and tried to sneak a peek at what he was reading. "Or did Playboy go legit?"

"Daily dose of comics." He grinned. "Ziggy was a real belly buster today."

"Good. For a second there I thought apocalypse."

"You'll be the first to know." He folded the newspaper a few times and slapped it flat to the table top. "You seen today's headline?"

It read, 'Mysterious Blaze Claims Long-standing Landmark'.

"Oh yeah. I wasn't sure if I should be all peppy cheerleader or moral objector."

"Well if you ask me, it's quite the stroke of good luck." Xander crossed his arms and leaned back in the old wooden chair. "That was a hot spot of demony evil doin's. About time someone gave them what for."

"The last thing Sunnydale needs is a vigilante, Xander. Besides, how do we know this wasn't an accident?"

"Just a guess but the little section talking about an incendiary device kinda kicks on my suspicious meter."

"Oh. Guess I read a different report." She took a seat opposite him. "Have you told Buffy yet?"

"Something tells me she wouldn't care." He sighed. "It's not about her dearestly departed Angel."

"She's doing the best she can, Xander."

"Is she?"

Willow shot him a look of offense. "Quit it, okay. She's lost someone she cared deeply about to the man she loved. You have no idea what she's going through right now."

"Yeah, well…" he pushed himself to his feet, "There's a lot of that going around."

"What about final period? Where are you going?"

"To pay my respects to an old friend."

Though the wounds were healing phenomenally fast, Giles was barely mobile. It was miracle he'd made it to his former flat. More so, it was a miracle the place was still sealed up as a crime scene when, in fact, no actual crime had been committed there since…

"In this day and age, I can't believe you don't have a computer." Jenny giggled playfully as she handed off a glass of sherry. "You know the term browsing has evolved, Rupert. You just might have to wake up and smell the twenty-first century."

"Not if I have anything to say about it."

It was sobering. The bed still reeked of roses. The scent of expensive merlot cruelly complimented the aching echoes of "La Boheme" that forever haunted the empty space. But before Giles could sink headlong into yesterday's memories, the door creaked open below. He peered over the banister of the loft as it shut. It was familiar presence coming back to his home away from home.

The young man stepped within, taking in the atmosphere as if to reflect fondly or perhaps sadly the days gone by not so long ago.

"Hey, how you doing?" Xander asked and Giles wondered for a moment if he knew he was there. "Yeah, same here. Though I'm alive so I guess I'm one up on you, eh G-man?" It was the ghosts his friend was speaking to. An even without expectation of an answer, Giles wanted to respond.

Xander moved to the couch and sank down, his head falling back to rest on the cushions.

"Long day at the office. Funny thing about the office, it's really creepy the way it resembles the cemetery. Dinner ready yet?" He waited a moment, as if listening to some phantom response. "You bum, you. Here I slave all day, the least you could do is get off your lazy…" He went quiet as humor washed into grief. "Jesus, I don't know why I keep coming here. It's like a pathetic… psychotic security blanket or something, you know? Like there's something here I just can't get other places like home or school or work or reality."

He let out a desperate sigh. "I think I'm going nuts, Giles. Half past gonzo and bordering on certifiably wacko. Only managed a couple hours sleep a night and have nightmares of when we found you." He rubbed his eyes, swollen and dark with lack of sleep. "Funny, it used to burn me when you'd boss me around like I was your personal lackey. Now all I keep thinking is why aren't you here to tell me what to do, give me the patented Gilesy glare and pompous insult I'm too stupid to understand. It's a mess here, big guy, and I don't know how to fix it. I got nothin' anymore."

Without a noise, Giles moved to the stairs and took a seat. He leaned against the handrail, resting his head to glance through the posts to his young friend below. It was cruel remaining silent, and it hurt, a hollow hurt that chilled Giles through to the bone. But before he managed a word, the crow made its presence known with an ungentle peck to the back of his hand.

"I get that Buff's broken hearted, I really do. But I don't get this Gandhi crap. I don't get sitting on your hands when they're still out there undead living it large. They need to pay, damn it." The crow peered over the edge and nodded as if understanding the boy's sentiments. "They deserve to pay."

"They will," Giles whispered to himself, wishing his friend could somehow hear it without hearing it.

"Man, I'm beat. Think I'll just… just rest my eyes a little," Xander mumbled. "Just for a sec. You don't mind, right G-man?"

Giles smiled. "No, I don't mind, Xander."

Xander drifted off into a deep slumber, unaware of the Watcher above watching over him and the crow demanding his silence.

"Explosion d-downtown," The vampire stammered nervously. "Willies P-place."

"So what," Angelus shrugged, more interested in polishing the blade of a sword lying flat across his lap.

"We lost twenty three men."

"Still not seeing the problem here? We'll just get more." Angel responded, aggravated for being bothered.

"I don't think so boss."


"Rumor has it you're responsible."

"What?" Angel growled, gripping the sword's hilt.

"The dude that did the hit said it was a message from you. The news is all over town. No one will come within a mile of you, Boss. Towns pissed, man. A matter of fact, there are rumors of a bounty on your head."

"Hear that?" Spike chuckled as he wandered in from the back room. "Another price on your scalp, Mate. That's how many now?"

"Fifteen." Angelus said unconcerned. "So who's this mastermind?"

The vampire messenger shrugged. "Don't know. Some say it's somebody new."

"Or someone old," Dru suggested, dizzily swaying in behind her childe. "Withered to dust, born on the breath of a birds wings."

"Dust doesn't blow up buildings, Pet. Could have been a pro," Spike noted. "Specialist hired by one of the Kerplah Clan, maybe. I'll look into it."

"Can I come with, love?" Dru asked in a childlike plea. "It's been so very long since we grazed the night."

"Sorry, pet, got business. The fun will have to wait." He separated from her to gather up a knife and a couple of stakes from the wooden chest situated beside Angelus.

Dissatisfied with Spike's refusal, Dru countered with tantrum, tossing the doll from her arms. "But I grow bored with these plastic children, their faces pink and false. I crave the sing songs of play and bubblegum lips. Can't I come, sweetness?"

"Tell you what…" Spike swaggered up to his sire, "Why don't you drop in for a visit at the local Tiny Tot's, gather up a few plump-n-juicies for a feast tonight."

"Really?" She asked, dark eyes sparkling with the nearby candlelight. "You know how I love children, oh so sweet and ripe with such innocent nectar. Should I, Daddy? Shall we feast tonight?" She gazed longingly at Angelus.

"Whatever. Knock yourself out, Dru." He dismissed her with a condescending wave.

She clapped giddily. "Oh goody."

It would be dawn soon. Dru could smell the crisp sun on the horizon, penetrating the night. She would have to hurry were she to feed her hungry boys like the proper mum she was. Still, there was such delight to be had watching the lean girls giggle and play.

"How darling." Dru spied from her perch above the park, shifting eagerly along the broad branch of a mighty oak. "How they frolic free. Dollies three, come to me."

Suddenly, the young ladies hopped from their swings, stomped out their cigarettes and hurried off with the approach of a tall stranger. He stopped before the swings, watching as the youths departed, listening to them curse unbecomingly.

"No fun t'all. Intrusion brings ruins." She pushed off from the sturdy branch and descended to a graceful landing behind the dark stranger. "How very rude, to steal a ladies purse like so. You owe me compensation if you believe yourself a gentleman."

"They weren't suited to your tastes anyway, Drusilla." The stranger turned to face her. "Perhaps I might be more to your liking."

Upon looking at Giles, Drusilla let out an unbalanced giggled. "Ooohhhh, the twisted prince returns, all cross and cunning. Daddy will be so very pleased."

"He doesn't concern me now, Drusilla." He stood stiff, gazing down with an unreadable expression. "You are foremost in my thoughts."

"Tisk, tisk. How you tease with foul charms spoken by a bitter tongue. I was miserable bleeding you without tasting. Such a waste letting you wilt into a handsome corpse." Her deadly nails clawed along his thigh and slipped inward, groping his groin. She whispered kisses along his lips. "I won't err so grievously again."

He grinned darkly. "Would you like to play a game?"

The scream was drowned out by the crow squawking brazenly into the night.

Spike marched into the room just as Angelus tucked himself into his leather. "Dru hasn't come back yet."

"Probably trapped herself on the seesaw again." Angelus mused, stroking himself a few times before zipping up.

Spike cocked a brow, confused. "How could someone trap themselves on a..."

"I'll tell you later. You better go find her."

"Yeah, you're right." Spike turned to leave.

"Wait, what'd you find out?"

"'bout what?"

"Our unfriendly neighborhood Unabomber."

"Rot, mostly. Conflicting recounts. Goes from being an old drunken transient to a bloody superhero. Who knows what's truth or tale, considering the source."

"So what do you think?"

"I'm no seer, Mate. But I ain't got warm and fuzzy feelings for this one. Troubles a brewin'."

Angelus nodded contemplatively. "Daylights fading fast. You better find Dru. Try the park on the east side. Runaways hang out there and you know her taste for saints and sluts."

Spike arrived just before dawn. The first rays of light were cresting the horizon, making him all the more nervous when he came upon the scene.

"Dru?" She sat on a swing, arms raised above her head, strapped generously with ribbons and lace to the rubber coated chain on either side of her.

"We knew you'd come, he and I. Dangerous minds thinking alike."

"What's happened pet? Who you talking about?" That's when he saw the blood. It coated her delicate hands, staining her forearms as it leaked from raw sores at the tips of every finger. Her well manicured and deadly nails had been torn out. And Spike knew in his dead heart who it must have been, the Hellmouth guarantying all things impossible are probable. As the sunlight set the tree's canopies aglow, he began to panic.

"Such lovely games he taught me. And I heard screams, love. His lessons returned my lost screams to me. I'd nearly forgotten the sound. You remember, don't you?"

"We'll get you home, Pet. Fix you up, good as new. You'll see." Spike worked the knots but they were tight and small, not a hint of giving. It took a moment for him to feel the burning of his fingertips and he recoiled to examine his hands. "What the fuck?"

"Blessings burn, dampened with the holiest of water." Dru smiled sadly.

Spike searched his jacket for a knife. "Bloody hell. Bastard thought of everything, didn't he? Not to worry, love. I'll bury him as many times as it takes."

Her eyes grew wide, sparkling with terror of the dawn. "Hurry, beloved. The morning comes for us."

The sun swelled, casting longer shadows from the trees, inching down the rubber wrapped chains.

"Almost there, Dru. Just hang on." Spike worked furiously, managing to free her wrists and continued down the chain.

"I knew you'd come for me, my darling boy… dashing devil."

He was close to freeing her, only a few more bands to go. As the final one drifted to the bark below, he looked up to see Dru silhouetted by a brilliant sun, casting a protective shadow over him. When he reached for her, his fingers passed through, sinking into ash. And with his touch, her graying silhouette crumbled to dust and dissipated on the morning wind.

Spike howled.