Author's Notes: As always, I first have to thank you for bothering to read my story at all. I really appreciate your taking the time to do so-- I do hope you enjoy. ^_^ This is only my second 'Buffy' fic; it's the sequel to "Lines in the Sand". My thanks go to all those who encouraged me to write more. You sort of need to read the first one to know what's going on here. This is an AU variation from the late 4th season onward, with lots of Spander. (They're my OTP-- I'm hopeless, I know. ^_^;;;)

I will love and adore you forever if you would take a moment to comment and let me know what you think.

Canon Notes: I was notified, after writing the first story, of some slight discrepancies. I have been told that Xander's mother's name is 'Jessica', mentioned at least once in the series. I, however, had missed this reference when I wrote the piece, and had used the name 'Ellen'. It's difficult for me to change it now, so I apologize to purists in advance. I have also been told that most canon points to William being an only child-- I think, however, it is possible for him to have a sibling who is simply a lot younger than he is. I appreciate your patience.

I hope you enjoy,



DATE BEGUN: January 30th, 2005

DATE FINISHED: February 9th, 2005



Sunlight in My Cradle 1/1

by Meredith Bronwen Mallory




When Ellen Harris discovered she was pregnant, her first instinct was to go for a drink. She walked home from the doctor's office with her hands fisted helplessly in the pockets of her worn pink coat, head down against the merciless bite of New York's winter wind. The apartment she shared with her husband was small and cramped, but the embrace of its threshold was never so much a relief as it was then. Amidst the clutter of boxes and already worn furniture, the harsh winter sunlight lay in a square of illumination, like some fairy's trap door. Still in her coat and lopsided scarf, Ellen sat within its boarders, legs folded as she watched the dust motes move in their peculiar, lazy patterns. Like crop circles or the lay lines of Nazca, their trajectory was alien; their paths formed words she could not-- dare not-- speak. An echo came to her mind-- herself, but much younger.

("No vampire can stand in the sun.")

A short, hysterical laugh bounced off the faded floral falls, slid down the ancient windows with their slowly melting glass. Clamping her hands to her mouth, Ellen put a stop to it. Her breath hitched, the movement whipping along her small body; she sniffled, looking down at her hands, which were cupped to hold all the sounds she could not make.

Upstairs, she could hear Mrs. Finnigan washing dishes, humming off-tune. There were loud footsteps in the hall, children running, the rubber vibration of a bouncing ball.

("Don't even think about screaming, Ellie." It was her husband's voice, Tony's, harsh and scrambling against her inner ear like an insect. "They'll hear you, so don't you scream.")

Slowly, Ellen climbed to her feet, shedding her coat in a movement full of both innate shyness and coltish youth. She folded it almost tenderly over the back of the sofa, removed her scarf and the drooping, woolen cap that covered her short bob of hair. Mechanically, she turned, and went into the kitchen to have that drink.


She poured the vodka from its tumbler with a practiced hand. The clear liquid lapped in it shot glass, highlighting the golden rose set into the thick bottom. Ellen smiled slightly, then took a regular glass from the cupboard and filled that, too. Sitting at the chipped hospital-green table, she downed the shot. The first dose burned slightly, as it always did; she felt that, if she parted her lips at just that moment, a lick of dragon's fire might curl out. Vodka was her pick of poisons.

("An expensive drink," Tony's voiced laughed-- that laugh, the cruel one, from his belly, "for a cheap whore.")

The moments prior-- the sunlight and her own tremulous laughter-- lingered in her mind like a vague image conjured by incense, or a coma patient's dream. Then it was gone, tucked firmly between the brittle pages of a place in her mind reserved for such things; for the beach, the vampire, and the yawning sensation of facing the unknown.

Slowly, Ellen brought her small hands down to rest over her gently, vaguely rounded belly. It was not so curved that she could not still feel the ribs there, the muscles-- walls protecting a treasure. A little, warm ball of matter, floating in the void, expanding, refining to bones and eyes and flesh. Her arms ached with a sudden, terrible emptiness; her body cradled this baby, this baby was her own.

(Even if--

Then _do_ something.)

Yes, she thought wildly, unwrite a play, dismantle a symphony-- it's done, and it can not be undone. The kitchen, with its green formica countertops and yellowing tiles, seemed suddenly oppressive.

("Your promise or your life," the vampire had said, hissed, freezing her soul on that cool starlit beach. A blind promise, her signature, words yet unwritten-- whatever the demon wanted, in exchange for Robby's life, then her life, then...

"Tell you what, love-- since you like fairytales so much, we'll make a deal like this." His smile had been terrible, not because it was that of a monster, but because she could see in the sardonic tilt of his lips that he remembered. What it was like, to be human. "Your first born.")

You did it, she thought, steel claws ravaging her insides. You gave your word, and you can't take it back. Burying her face in her hands, Ellen looked at the world through the prison of her fingers and the veil of her ebony hair. There had been fangs, and blue eyes shifting to a gold so intense that she still sometimes woke and felt as though she was squirming under their gaze. Voice like desert smoke; having no echo, and also no end. She remembered, also the curve of his pale hand, his elegant fingers cupped to protect the lighter's steady flame. There had been the barest hint of a half-kind smile on his face-- distant, removed-- as he'd watched her smoke her first cigarette. They'd stood there on the cool night sands, and he'd told her that it was his birthday.

"Vampire," she said; her voice was soft and yet painfully, unbearably loud and _real_, so that it filled the tiny kitchen and made her wince.

("Hurts, doesn't it?" His voice, low, strange, and she'd watched Robby's form disappear over the dune. On all fours, scrambling, her boyfriend of three summers had fled, and the moon had thrown him a grotesque, animal shadow. "Like your world's come apart at the seams." She half remembered nodding to the vampire at her side, numb and hurting, and somehow unsurprised. There had been something there, fleeting, shaded, in those unreal cobalt eyes. Compassion? Sympathy?)

No, Ellen thought presently, it was _understanding_. Whether the vampire had been capable of those other emotions, she did not know; they were not for someone like her. Stupid, fragile little girl on a beach, agreeing to terms not yet set.

'What is something-- _someone_-- like that _for_?' she wondered wildly. It was a strange, one that drew lines of Bible verse to the forefront of her mind, rising like terrible inkblots. Childhood spills. The hushed, reedy voice of her Sunday School teacher-- "and on the sixth day, God made..." Ellen reached quickly for the tall glass of vodka and took a deep swallow. Even the memory of the church sanctuary-- with its high, vaulted ceilings, it's carnival colored windows, and thick pillars-- was suffocating. She could no more survive there than the vampire could.

(You have no defense.)

Drawing her knees up to her chest, the young mother-to-be looped her arms around them and began to rock, just a little, in her chair.

"I'm so sorry," she murmured, head down. "Oh, little one, I really _am_. I just didn't know..."

(he was a _vampire_)

"what to do. I was afraid to die"

(what could he possibly want of you, with you?)

"even though, and I'll say it right off, this life is the hardest thing"

(will he even remember?)

"that was ever asked of anyone. I'm a fool..."

(I told him my _name_)

"Poor baby, I'll do--" she laughed suddenly, and it hurt, "I'll do with what I have now. Do what I can, for you."

(_Think_, Ellen Mae.)

A cross. Even boys wore crosses, didn't they? Thick, spartan silver ones with clean angles, all straight lines. On a leather band, round her baby's neck. Any touch will burn, burn. Sunlight through his nursery window-- on the corner of the house, yes, sun from both sides. Garlic hidden in his cradle mobile, and he'll never talk to strangers, oh no.

(what's done can not be undone)

Hey, sweetie-- as long as you're going for self delusion, try this one. Maybe you dreamed it! A vampire? No dice, honey. No soap. A dream, that's all, and this is anxiety, this is a symptom, just when you'll be able to tell its morning by the fact you're leaning over the john.

"That's enough. That's just fuh-fucking," she forced the obscenity out of her mouth, "enough!" She came to herself, seemed to snap back into her body like something jerked by a cord. There she was, early in her pregnancy, arms and legs akimbo as she sprawled on the kitchen chair. A sad little doll in a shapeless brown jumper and blue turtleneck, weeping, drinking.

"I know what I saw."

For the next few minutes, Ellen Mae LaVelle-- lately Mrs. Tony Harris-- sat, quietly finishing her drink. Then she crossed calmly to the counter, took the heavy bottle of Vodka by the neck, and began to pour it down the drain. She moved as if she could see herself from the outside, with the eerie serenity of someone who knows the battle is lost, but also that sure defeat is not reason to stop fighting. She took two more bottles from the cupboard and poured them into the sink, as well, then went into the bedroom and removed one more from it's hiding place behind her rack of shoes. When that, too, had spiraled down the perfect, circle-mouth of the unforgiving drain, she took off her shoes, laid herself down on the spotty, blue china-pattern of the bedspread, and slept.

For the next nine months, not one drop of alcohol touched her lips.



That evening, after Tony's drunken, half-broken mutters had at last eased into complacent snores, Ellen gingerly arose from bed and returned to the living room. The square of sunlight-- her circle of protection-- was gone now, having weakened and lengthened into a pool of silver beams. Instead, Ellen sat down on the narrow window seat, her body soaking up the warmth from the radiator. She hugged her pink, baby-doll nightgown close, and breathed. Her bruises ached with the ghosts of Tony's fists, his voice amplified in the theater of her mind. Yelling, screaming-- what had she been _thinking_, going and getting herself pregnant

(as if it was some sole project of hers, some petty revenge)

when he was struggling to put food on the table

(he wouldn't let her work)

and they were moving to California, soon. Didn't she know he had enough on his shoulder's already?

(and baby, sweetheart, you've got no idea what's weigh'n down on mine.)

"I'm sorry," she'd said, dizzy from the way he took hold of her shoulders and shook her small frame. Voice low, calm

(oh, and that only angers him all the more)

speaking not so much to him as to her life as a whole. "What's done is done."

He'd hit her, again and then some, until she cried fat, defenseless tears, and he'd embraced her. Thick arms around her, petting her hair with a big, meaty hand. She was such a little girl when she cried, he'd said, he didn't like to cause her pretty tears, but she was asking for it. His arms had tightened until she squeaked-- he'd pushed her to the bed, then, taken her roughly with her panties still dangling from one ankle. They were making up, he whispered, making it better. She'd lain there, uninvolved in the whole matter, pushed by gravity and carried by inertia. She'd thought about the baby, about the demon on the beach, seeing once more the panicked, lanky boy fleeing over the sand. So afraid, that boy, ready to just drop from it-- only this time the terrified face belonged not to Robby, but to Tony.

Presently, Ellen ran her fingers along the thick paint of the window sill, laying her cheek against the cool glass. Her free hand came to rest over her abdomen. Within her slowly rounding flesh, she carried something that she had promised away, something that was no longer hers. She could fight, maybe-- life was a crap shoot, after all, there was always that slim chance. But she somehow felt

(_knew_. bone deep.)

that she was entering a struggle already decided. She stared out the window, gaze on the pregnant, imperial moon. Bruises ached, stretched skin protested. Half-circles of pain clutched her back.

A still voice came to her:

'Could you really protect him, if he did belong to you?'





Though covered in blood and remains from the assault on the Initiative, it is a full night before Spike bothers to clean himself off. Part of it is merely symbolic-- unlike Angel, he understands the importance of waiting until after the victory for dramatic gestures-- but mostly, it just seems right. It's been so long since he's fought on such a scale, since he's felt almost free from the terrible, electrode net in his brain. The Initiative's lack of scruples served Spike well-- the chip recognized the patchwork of human and demon parts for what they were. Warped, disgusting, wrong. The demon within Spike's heart was only too pleased to rend and tear and kill. With a vague, drug-blurred image of a face in his mind, Spike had hunted down the doctor responsible for his chip. The man-- if it could be called that, after Adam's hand was through-- suffered until Spike heard the first of the military helicopters hovering in the distance. Silently, he'd slipped into the woods, pausing only to watch Red-witch and Xander, with the Watcher supported carefully between them, stumble off towards the relative safety of the road.

Now, Spike 'borrows' the use of a Sunnydale resident's garden hose, letting the cool water wash over his skin. In the heat of a California summer's evening, the sensation is a pleasant one, and Spike tilts his head back, closing his eyes. He's sheltered by a group of bushes and the tall, wooden backyard fence, but not even that small cover matters-- he lost his Victorian sensibilities a long time ago. Holding the slow stream of water up, he washes his face and then his hair, feeling the wet grass between his toes. Behind his closed eyes, an image shades in without his will-- the Whelp, sitting cross-legged on the cold Initiative lab floor, hands joined with his friends, Oracle cards leaping with garish color in the candlelight. The vampire spares a snort for the sheer audacity of the Watcher, but his mind's eye is fixed on Xander, skin flushed gold with residual power, dark eyes filled-- just for a moment-- with that other-self he had touched, beyond.

"Stupid sod," Spike mutters, throwing the hose down and reaching to wrench the nob closed. He's nicked a new t-shirt-- the old one was a lost cause-- from one of the local stores. Drying with a linen he pulled off the clothesline, he tears into the packaging, pulling the black cotton over his head. He's managed to clean his duster up fairly well, though he thinks he might see if he can track down Glinda-witch and ask her to do a cleaning spell. He'll lift something-- a shiny bauble, or a book, maybe-- to trade for her in return. There's something half-familiar about Red's girlfriend; it's the buried strength, the careful hesitancy-- Spike knows-- that reminds him of his mother, and of himself. William. Each time the blond girl labors to speak, Spike finds himself almost holding up a hand, as if to silence the ever-chatty Slayer and Red. With such effort put into each word, the vampire knows that Glinda doesn't talk for nothing. She'll clean his duster, accept his trade, all the while looking just a tad nervous with her inherited fear. Spike himself will be charming as anything, and he'll steer the conversation towards the boy and--

"Full stop there, wanker," the vampire hisses at himself. Shrugging on his coat despite the heat, Spike effortlessly flicks a cigarette out of the carton and lights it. The taste is rich in his throat even though, these days, there's more stuffing than actual tobacco in these things. His cares lie with far more important things that the Whelp-- now that the military gits have been scrubbed out, he'll need to look further afield to get the chip removed. No reason to worry about the boy, how his eyes seem to reveal something flayed open by hurt, how the demon-girl's words have cut in more thickly, as of late, until tonight, when Spike observed the boy once more paired with the Watcher, on patrol.

'Little trollop probably left town,' he thinks, crossing to the fence and hopping it with ease.


Spike lands in the midst of a gardening bed in the next yard, catching himself despite the close quarters of bushes and the knee-high statue of the Virgin Mary he's crouched next to. Unconsciously, he hisses, bumping the serene, ivory maiden with one leather-clad hip. The statue lands on its side, face still the picture of ease and peace-- he frowns at it, thinking of Drusilla.

(She never stopped touching crosses, that one-- even Angelus couldn't seem to get it through her head. Though she whimpered and cried as they burned her creamy flesh, there was always that moment-- before the pain-- when she seemed relieved. As if this time would be different, as if this time her Sire would be wrong. She would hold on, too, as Spike tried to pry her fingers away, saying how it didn't hurt, it didn't, really, and she was still a good girl. Other times, she was vicious; he could easily recall her holding the broken, twisted body of a nun, brown hair spilling from its coverings, habit covered in blood.

"And God is a widower, again," Drusilla had sing-songed, tracing a fingernail along the corpse's cheek. "When you become a nun, you marry God-- did you know?" She turned before Spike-- William, then-- could answer, turned to stare at the visage of the Blessed Virgin, raised on a pedestal in the church square. Like the terrible flash of lightning, Spike saw temper race through his Sire's body as she threw the nun's body down at the feet of the statue. Just as quickly, it was gone; leaves moved softly in the night air, and Drusilla hummed, circling the statue with a distant look on her face.

"Lying god, trickster god-- cruel, uncaring, false!" she whirled on Spike, eyes flashing gold. Though her eyes where on him, her voice addressed Mary and, despite the discomfort, her hand moved along the stone folds of the figure's robe. "Gave you a baby, didn't He? Made you look like a naughty girl-- oh yes. And then, He took the boy away. All gone..." Her eyes had been large, gray-green and sad. "All gone.")


Shaking himself slightly, Spike steps through the flower bed. The image of Drusilla's face lingers in his mind, like the memory of beautiful music, but he finds that the notes and candaces no longer cut as they once did. The marrow in his bones seems to shrivel slightly, draw back, for the pain of her departure was something he nurtured, guarded so closely that he can not believe now that it is even partially gone.

('Burned away,' a verse comes to him, 'by a stranger, brighter love.')


That quiet flow of words has never stopped-- Spike heard it as a child, as William, and he hears it still, now, over a century later. William is dead,

(oh, he must be-- he must be)

but what could Spike be composed of, save pieces of the poet Drusilla tore apart in a dark London alley? Bones and sinew and innards rearranged, refashioned by her graceful, insane hands. He is off-color and off-balance; the way he sees the world is as jumbled as a strange, half-blind artist's landscape. Under all that oil-color

(he knows the sound of that scrape, the smell of turpentine, consuming layers. Angelus was a painter-- he brought strange, staggering figures to life under his brush, splashing them with chemical, laughing as they melted away)

the core is unmarked and essential, and that is the worst part.


His first love was not Cecily, or even Drusilla; it is the curve of fine ink on paper, sounds the build words and words that build stories, and he can't even remember a time when he wasn't a devoted lover of language. High-class accent or gunge-laden guttersnipe, words are always there, endless combinations, like a strain of music just above human range. As a boy, he had favorite words,

(clarity. impression. ethereal. picturesque.)

as a young man, he tired to pick them apart, looking for the marrow behind them, the feeling they trapped so neatly in their curves;

(affection. despair. intuition. premonition.)

and now, the demon has words of it's own, thick, hungry, jagged with want.

(demolish. acidic. consume. rend.)


"You're crazy," Spike says to himself as he strolls around the side yard and out into the twilight street. Sunnydale is calm, breathing easily under the half-moon and few bright stars, clean houses and trimmed yards sleeping. Peacefully unaware. "Barmy," the vampire continues, mocking Angelus' drawl. How could something made by a madwoman be anything else? But he knows that's not true. Dru still wanted to be a good girl-- Daddy's good girl. Angelus drew, and loved the sound of a violin over those unique Irish chords. Pen needed money in his pocket every night, needed the weight there, and Darla's ivory claws clutched deep to make sure no one went away.

(There's a moment of possibility-- an image. Standing in the Watcher's living room, watching the righteous children study their books and sharpen their knives.

"Do you know what the horror is, _Rupes_?" he wants to say, in the natural lilt of a highborn Londoner. "Do you know what it is that makes your Council's hearts pale and stop? It's not the destruction of the soul in the demon's wake, it's not the familiar face suddenly turned strange. It's the fact-- the terrible, cold fact-- that, even after the vampire's kiss, you _remain_.")


The houses along the street are smaller now, their yards less kept. The roadway itself narrows as Spike follows it blindly, one foot in front of the other. Fresh, two-story homes give way to old paint and dated looks. Thirties economy, Forties cautious excess. Spike makes a face even as he comes to stand before the small, split level frame on the corner, where the windows are dark and the forest-green shutters sag. He's here, and he meant to come just as much as he meant to keep away. Stepping over the pile of soggy newspapers on the porch, he gives the front door a little turn of the knob and a push.

Open, and he's not surprised, though anyone who's seen Sunnydale raw and exposed ought to be. There's a half-moment of sick expectancy as he crosses the threshold, waiting for the barrier to come up. Nothing, though, and he finds his way unerringly through the family room, across the hall and down the stairs.

(Dru's voice, a whisper, a giggle; "Your own calls to you."

He is yours-- he belongs to you. Whether you like it or not, whether you want it or not. And you do, you do want him.)


"So I do," Spike murmurs with half-resentment, coming to the bottom of the stairs. He pauses briefly, as one would in the warm foyer, having stepped in from the cold. The smell of the boy surrounds him, lays against his skin, makes him shiver with want. Dim gray light comes in through the patchy windows, gives the room a look of desperation, of attempts to better something that simply can not be. And, in the corner, under a garish quilt-cover of orange, brown and green, sleeps Xander.

(stalwart. precious. chivalrous. devoted.)

Almost without thinking, Spike perches on the arm of the orange chair-- his chair-- resting his elbows on his knees. Face relaxed in sleep, Xander looks twice as young, in the way that stills breath and brings just a twinge of pain. Spike reaches out one cool hand to brush away the curls of dark hair resting against the boy's forehead. To his demon eyes, the scrapes and bruises from the Initiative fight are still quite clear. They shimmer under the tanned skin, wrong, uncertain colors that make Spike clench his fists and take another, unnecessary breath.

"You," he says, so low and quiet that he's not sure he's actually making sound, "were supposed to stay away. Fight with your precious Buffy," he sneers, "and stay _safe_." Not for the first time, frustration swamps and swirls under the vampire. 'Biteless,' he thinks, torn between rage and despair, 'fangless, as the boy says.'

(Unable to take what belongs to you.)

"Foolish boy," he whispers, gently touching each mark, practically able to feel the blood pumping, rushing to repair. "Stupid, beautiful brat." He is careful, though he knows the boy sleeps to put the dead to shame. His mouth quirks, just slightly, thinking of the small radio that must, even now, rest under Xander's pillow, volume turned up on high. Now Spike turns his attention to the hand lying, oblivious and quiescent, on the quilt. There's a slight shiver within Spike's still chest, because he knows there is reverence in his touch, and he can not help that. Xander's hands are strong, wide-palmed and long-fingered-- artisan's hands. Spike strokes gently, then turns the palm over, inspecting the wide bandage laid over the skin. For a moment, Xander's hand clenches in the throws of some dream, but it soon subsides, as does the brief frown of pain on the boy's face. Spike sniffs, delicately, cat-like, over come with the scent of clover, cedar and _Xander_. Peeling away the gauze, he bends over the wound, savoring the richness coming straight from the source. It is as sweet and addicting as it was that very first time in the school hallway-- perhaps moreso, now that he can separate the threads of loyalty and determination, boyish fear and visceral hope.


Underneath the bandage, the skin has broken again-- just a little, thin red line of precious blood. With the utmost care, Spike licks the single drop away, eyes always watching Xander's face. Gently, he re-wraps the wound, overcome by the taste and feel on his tongue.

(It's there, in just that tiny, crimson drop-- Xander, dreaming. He is younger, Spike's boy is, pulling his ratty coat close with the autumn chill. The sky is just beginning to pink, and Xander stands leaning on the metal rail of a bridge that crosses over the path of a roaring train. Somewhere, down bellow him, Spike looks up-- they eyes meet.

They _see_.)

Just as quickly, it is gone-- a sense of deja vu when it has never happened before.

Standing swiftly, Spike forces down a growl. He's given in, and he knows it-- but now it feels as if it has been his plan all along. The slow kind he's never had the patience for before, inching slowly towards fruitition. He stands over Xander, feeling every molecule claim and be owned. 'You couldn't get away now,' Spike thinks, flavor still lingering on his tongue. 'You know what they say about beasts, don't you? Once they have a taste... oh, you could run the length of the world, twice over, and I'd still be able to track you down. There's a smile on Spike's face-- a real one-- so strong that it almost doesn't fade when he hears the faint creak of the basement steps. He turns, expression a still ivory mask, to see once girl-child Ellen standing on the landing, dull green eyes wide. She's afraid, she shakes with it, clutching her ratty blue robe close, and he can smell it, too. Raising a finger to his lips, Spike silently motions for her to climb the stairs again-- he follows her, looking once, back over his shoulder, at his boy.


Ellen closes the basement door behind them and, though Spike can't read the language behind her jaded gaze, he can divine the meaning. He follows her into the kitchen, watching as she turns on the small, painfully bright light over the oven and opens the cupboard, already reaching for a glass.

"Do you want something?" she asks, voice like the halfhearted rustle of leaves. "I really only have Vodka. We have beer, but there's only three left in the refrigerator, and..." She trails off, as if painfully aware of the truce she is trying to construct of hospitality.

"Vodka's fine, love," Spike says, sprawling in one of the rickety kitchen chairs. "That piss you Americans pass off as beer doesn't suit my tastes none." She jerks her head in the quick sketch of a nod, pouring two tall glasses and coming to sit across from him. Her eyes never leave his face as she pushes his serving across the tabletop.

"Why..." she takes a breath, then stops. Spike leans forward, resting his chin in his hand in a way that is both regal and businesslike. Finally, she whispers words bloated by tears, "Why don't you just get it over with?" Spike can only raise an eyebrow, unwilling to give away his position, hanging onto control with a vicious glee. "If you're going to take him away... do it," Ellen pleads. "I can't stand it if you draw it out. Please-- I gave my word and I know I have to keep it, but don't make me..."


"It's not that simple, sweetheart," Spike says truthfully. "If I could take the boy and go... I think I would." That is a small concession, and he watches, surprised that the pain is still so candid in her eyes after all these years. "But things have gotten quite mucked up, as of late."

"Things are always 'mucked up'," Ellen says, and the swallow of Vodka she takes does little to dull the edge of bitterness in her voice. "Why... why now?"

Instead of answering, Spike flicks his gaze back towards the basement door. At last, he says, "Do you know, what your son gets up to at night? Tell me you don't notice how banged up he gets-- more than can be accounted for even with," he reaches out, touching the browning imprint of a strong hand around Ellen's wrist, "this."

She flinches, "I don't know. I don't ask." Her gaze is surprisingly steady, "Sometimes, I think he's better off, out there, doing whatever. At least there, he can fight back."

"Such a happy little home you have here, Miss LaVelle," Spike snorts, a ghost of compassion flickering through his blue gaze.

"I married to get out of my father's house," Ellen admits, and he can see once more the little girl hidden so shallowly in older woman's cynicism. "I am still _in_ my father's house." Reaching over to the counter, she grabs the bottle and pours herself another drink. "He was such a happy baby, you know," she says, black hair swishing slightly as she nods towards the basement door. "Smart, too-- and I'm not just saying that. He spoke early, yes, but there was something else." Her eyes are hooded, far away, "He didn't cry, not when Tony was around. He knew better, you understand. He laughed and squealed and babbled when we were alone, but if Tony was around... not a peep. Didn't say a word to his father until he was five, and then do know what he said?" Spike can read the lines of her body so easily-- the resentment of a warrior defeated, bound in chains. "His first words to his father were 'Daddy, please stop.'" She won't look at him now, gaze on the pale yellow kitchen tile. "I keep thinking how Fate must hate him, letting him be born to me."


Standing, Spike comes around to put his hands on the back of Ellen's chair while she cries in a studious sort of silence.

(Mother, sobbing in the kitchen, wringing her hands, blue eyes so vivid against the red. How that terrified himself-- William-- and Katherine, how they wrapped their tiny arms around her and tried so hard to soothe. Mother whimpered, she muttered about vows made before God, ones that couldn't be broken.

In late 19th Century England, she knew there was really no way out.)

Finally, Spike puts one almost-indifferent hand on Ellen's shoulder, and squeezes.

"Are you going to hurt him?" she asks, voice young and stretching into the past. All the way back to the beach.

(Some one-- Dru, Katie?-- reading faithfully; "Fate is a pattern that only the weaver can see.")

"No." Spike knows the answer, knows it as well as the body and bones beneath the layers of demon paint. "I'm a bad, rude man, Miss LaVelle. I won't lie to you about that. I have plans for this town, revenge to be sated. But I will promise you this," he tilts her chin up, stares into her murky green orbs, willing her to see the depths in his own gaze. "I'll not harm your son. You have my word on that."