DISTRIBUTION: Good idea. Put this on your web page. But please e-mail me with the URL so I can look...and boost my own ego.
DISCLAIMER: They belong to Mutant Enemy, Sandollar, Kuzui, and some other lucky blokes.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This one's for Tiff and Saffron, both of whom were kind enough to beta for me and offer the great feedback that makes me a writing addict.
The night was cold, but for once, no clouds obscured the midnight sky. The balcony stood washed in white under a tapestry of stars, casting even his already-pale skin with a silver gloss. The crickets continued to chirp. Somewhere, a dog bayed. A single car, lanterns blazing in the darkness, roared by on the country road, a mile and a half from the house.
The moon hung full and ripe, its glow nearly blinding even through the thin tendrils of fog blown in from nearby London. The stars shone in a fashion subdued, as if deferential to their mistress moon and not wishing to incur her wrath by overpowering her with their own light. He thought it wise of them to submit.
He sat and stared for at least an hour, perched on the carved marble balcony rail, its smooth surface cold against his own cool palms. An aching stiffness developed in his neck, but he took no notice of it, his gaze fixed on the orb in the sky, unusually large and round and predominant in his vision. The moon.
Even when whispy clouds rolled in to blot out the stars, they avoided the path of lunar light and slunk away to more hospitable environs. Shining brightly in the sky, the moon touched his skin with white light, casting him in stark contrast, painting him to passersby on the far-away road like an unmoving gargoyle seated on the balcony. Her light was cold, cold enough to make even the undead shiver; and he did, slightly, and wrapped his arms around himself for a moment before shaking the sensation off.
Someone had said that the moon was a cruel mistress. This was true, to him, one of the absolutes of the universe. She threw off a light that was harsh, but at the same time, brilliant. Enough distance placed to make on-lookers yearn for a breath of her mystery, and close enough to make them fall in love. A touch of silver, soft and caressing on bared skin, yet cold enough to freeze the unwary. Cruel? Yes. But loved enough that even cruelty could not make him let go.
"Being your slave," he said to the moon, "what should I do but send Upon the hours and times of your desire?" He halted, then opened his mouth as if to continue, then snapped it shut again, the memory gone, and the words eluding him.
Another hour passed with the rhythmic music of insects, before the clouds rolled in. They made their entrance quietly and without fanfare, and surprised him when they suddenly stole like thieves over the moon. The silver light fled from his flesh, and darkness snapped at his eyes, held at bay only by weak artificial lights: the far-off city, the candles from inside. When his eyelids flickered shut, the afterimage of the bright moon burned there briefly, and when they opened again, the moon was gone. Stars stood watch about the moon's shrouded place in the sky, burning brightly. They seemed warmer, somehow, as if one could almost reach out and touch them. As if they weren't quite so far...
He turned with a sigh and stepped back into the room, feeling a brush of wind at his back and closing the balcony door behind him, to keep the cold outside.
Before he even reached the bed, her voice invaded the quiet. "Spike?"
"Right here, pet," he murmured, his voice infinitely gentle as it always was with her. Patient. Respectful. Loving. A million other subtle tones that lacked adjectives to describe them.
She rolled over to face him as he shed his trousers again and slipped into bed beside her. "Spike," she whispered, pale hands fluttering up to rest on his chest. "Will you love me when the stars burn out?"
He smiled, softly, and slipped his arms around her bare back, pulling her closer. There was no warmth in her embrace, but a thrill of smooth skin. "Long after the stars burn out, Dru."
"Even after the moon dies?"
She was caught in a tender kiss, his teeth tugging gently at her lower lip, before Spike yielded a response.
"Even after the moon dies, love. Forever."
She smiled dreamily, and tucked her head under his chin, left hand sliding away from his chest and around to his back, wrapping him in half an embrace. "The moon must taste delightful," she commented, pausing to press her lips to his collarbone. "It must have the sweetest blood. But you mustn't ever bite it. It mustn't be harmed."
"Of course not," Spike agreed, settling comfortably against her. "The moon belongs to my princess, and no one else can touch it."
Her withdrawal was sudden; one moment she was with him in bed, and the next she'd slipped from under the sheets and was standing, nude, at the balcony doors. The moon, having shaken itself free from black, fleecy clouds, bathed her in white, a carved statue, crafted by a master's hands. Her dark hair fell like a raven's wing over a porcelain cheek, and her eyes gleamed with tiny reflections of the moon.
"No one can touch the moon," she repeated, sharply. Then her voice softened to the purr of a kitten. "Only princess can touch it." Her hands flew to her hair, drawing it back and out of the way, before dropping again to her sides. The hair slid immediately back to where it had started out, and she didn't seem to notice. "Spike can't touch it."
He sat up in the bed, staring at her, the sheets pooled in his lap and his arms flung out behind and to the sides, propping him up. The lunar light didn't reach him in the bed; its edge splashed across the floor a few feet away. Spike was cast only in the faded yellow light of fire, from candles burning on the armoire. "Ducks?" His tone was whispered, and if she heard she did not respond.
"Spike can't touch the moon," Dru repeated, voice distressed. "He loves the moon, but it can't love him back. Everyone is very sad. There are clouds over the moon, but the stars shine ever so brightly. They hurt my eyes."
He frowned, watching her, not replying but waiting for her to speak again. She did not, just stood in the doorway, shivering. When he rose to go to her, to wrap her in his arms, she threw open the balcony doors and stepped outside. He hesitated only for a split second, hovering between the darker, candlelit half of the room and the whitewashed, moonlit half. Then he stepped into the silvery glow and followed her onto the balcony.
She sat where he had, her smooth round buttocks at rest on the broad rail, her thin-fingered hands curved around the chiseled edges. And her gaze was turned on the same bright moon, though its position in the sky had changed. Her face was tilted upward, shining eyes opened to watch the heavens, and the column of her neck shined like alabaster.
"The moon is trapped, you know," Drusilla informed him, in a very serious, very authoritative voice. "There's a great black blanket thrown about the earth at night, and the poor moon is trapped beneath, suffocating. It wants ever so much to spin away into the dark, but the earth needs it terribly."
Discomfort increasing with every word drawn from her lips, he stepped forward to stand at her side, leaning back against the railing and facing the house, so that he could watch her as she spoke. The moonlight trailed down the curve of his back and hugged his flanks, forcing another minute shiver from a body that didn't really feel the cold at all.
"There's great sadness in the sky," she continued. "The moon cries and cries." She sat for a moment, completely silent, then seemed to come to herself and realized that Spike was there beside her. A smile lit her face, and she leaned in to quickly press their lips together.
"Are you cold, my Spike?" she asked, hands pressed to his shoulders. "Fetch me a blanket."
He nodded wordlessly, kissing her lightly on the cheek before moving indoors again, retrieving a thick, warm blanket from the unused closet and bringing it back to her on the balcony. He moved to wrap it around her body, but she shook her head, plucked it from his grasp, and wrapped him in it instead. Her arms twined firmly about his blanket-covered chest, and her cold body pressed against his from behind, trapping the fabric between them.
"The sun is beyond it," she whispered in his ear, holding his motionless body tight in her embrace. "The sun is beyond the sable blanket in the sky, and it can only shine through in the worn spots. See?" She relinquished half of her grip to point one hand at the sky, her finger arching at the largest and brightest of the stars, then her arm clutched at him again. "In the morning," she continued, "the sky will wake up, and yawn, and stretch its legs and throw the covers off, and the sun will come in."
He turned in the loop of her hold, wondering if the vivid imagery she'd produced was the product of her maddened mind, or a brief moment of lucidity. Her dark, hooded eyes lent no evidence to either conclusion, and the slight smile on her lips only deepened the mystery.
"Dru?" he whispered, not quite sure what his question was, but knowing he had to ask it.
She shushed him with a hissing of breath and a slender finger to his lips. "Even after the moon has died?" she asked again, black eyes meeting his blue ones.
"Even after," he answered, but the words caught in his throat and came out somewhat strangled. "Always."
Dru nodded decisively, letting go of him and turning her contemplation to the sky again. "The stars are warmer," she said, fingers clutching the rail with white-knuckled intensity. "Do you like the stars, Spike?"
He looked, too, his gaze drawn to that smallest, brightest point. Evening star. Some far-off sun...or just a hole in the sky's blanket. "They're lovely, Dru," he told her, standing behind her and wrapping them both in the blanket. "But they're nothing to the moon."
She sighed, nodded. "The moon is untouchable," she declared. "And the stars are warm." She turned abruptly and pushed at him with gentle hands until he stood once again inside the room. Her lips met his from across the threshold, joining them together in a fierce kiss, then she abruptly drew back and closed the doors delicately in his face. He didn't attempt to open them again, but watched as she climbed back onto the rail, balancing herself carefully as she drew her legs up, crossed at the ankle, her arms wrapped about her knees and chin resting on her interlaced fingers.
After a few long moments of stillness from the world, Drusilla's head turned and looked back at him. Some emotion that looked almost like gratitude flashed in her eyes when she saw him still standing where she'd placed him, not attempting to open the door and rejoin her. A delighted smile spread across her face, and she said, just loud enough to carry through the night air and the glass of the doors, "For this relief much thanks. 'Tis bitter cold, and I am sick at heart."
The fact that she could quote Shakespeare spoke that she knew exactly what she was doing. The searing pain that had blossomed in his chest didn't lessen, but rather gained strength, as he turned from the door and retreated to the bed. He didn't bother with the covers; instead he curled up on top of them, the blanket wrapped tightly around his naked body, and cried.
When the morning came, and the sky threw back its blanket of night and yawned and stretched its legs and let the sun in, there was a quiet sound, somewhere between a demon's scream and a child's relieved sob. Black ashes dashed themselves against the weatherworn marble of the balcony, then took flight on a strong morning breeze. Inside, a figure whose true nature met somewhere between man and beast huddled on the bed; he sighed, expelling air through a throat raw from tears, shivered violently, and squeezed his eyes tightly shut. Behind them flashed the images of moon and stars, burned into his vision.
'T was noontide of summer,
And mid-time of night;
And stars, in their orbits,
Shone pale, thro' the light
Of the brighter, cold moon,
'Mid planets her slaves,
Herself in the Heavens,
Her beam on the waves.
I gaz'd a while
On her cold smile;
Too cold--too cold for me.
There pass'd as a shroud,
A fleecy cloud,
And I turn'd away to thee,
Proud Evening Star,
In thy glory afar,
And dearer thy beam shall be;
For joy to my heart
Is the proud part
Thou bearest in Heav'n at night,
And more I admire
Thy distant fire
Than that colder, lowly light.
- "Evening Star"
Edgar Allan Poe