A Letter To Willow on the Occasion of Her Seventeenth Birthday

The box was at the bottom of a carton of things salvaged from Crawford Street and the boot of the DeSoto, even now tucked away in a shed at the rear of the Crawford Street property. Harmony's work. She had taken a baseball bat to the windows from the looks of it. When he asked her about it, she had tried to look like she couldn't possibly know what he was talking about and started talking about how Angel made her drink pig's blood when she was in LA and did he know that Willow was gay.

Cordelia had just found out, and it didn't seem to occur to Harmony that Spike might have noticed on his own.

There was a story in that, and it was amusing. When Harmony came back spouting a lot of secondhand and half-understood empowerment rubbish, he remembered that there was a time when he thought that she was funny. She didn't mean to be, and she was too anxious to please him, so when she wasn't saying something remarkably silly or harebrained, he would find himself irritated by her efforts to hold his attention and make him smile or laugh or horny or angry. It got to feeling like a bit of a chore.

He was being not-so-subtly maneuvered into a role. The Bad Boyfriend. Someone Harmony could bitch about and obsess over. She would have been far better off to have found some sod who would have worshipped the ground her dainty feet trod on, but stuck inside her head was some notion that strength and casual cruelty were more or less the same thing. It reminded him a bit of Drusilla, but never in a good way. Drusilla was never casual about cruelty. She had commitment and passion.

When Harmony finally settled into her newly-independent self and came back to dump him, she was the last thing on his mind. Drusilla. Buffy. Harmony. Just thinking about them made him wince. The woman he once had, the woman he could never have, and the woman he never wanted. He just couldn't win.

He turned the box over in his hands. The velvet was a bit crushed in spots and dirty. He had found it a few weeks before Buffy sent Angelus on his merry way to hell, just after he was able to walk again.

He opened the hinged top and ran his finger over the choker that lay, slightly tangled and twisted, on a bed of satin. Human hair, braided into seemingly-delicate strands that were knotted and twisted into an elaborate design. It was an inch wide between the upper and lower strands of braid work, connected in a figure eight that was completed by tiny lover's knots and a clasp at the back that was from another necklace. It was a simple hook threaded through a chain of open silver links, black with tarnish. A small, cloudy ruby dangled from it, heart-shaped, bezel-set in a collar of tarnished silver.

This was Drusilla's work. Drusilla's art. One of those odd domestic industries that had been preserved and enhanced in her over the years. The hair was auburn, probably combed out of a hairbrush. It would have taken some time to collect enough to make a necklace, but Angelus had appeared to have nothing but time while he was tormenting Buffy.

Tucked into a tear in the lining of the box was a letter. He had read it before and considered tossing it in a fire each time. For some reason he had kept it.


Dear Willow,

Did you know that you sleep with your mouth open and you have a tendency to drool? It's not attractive, but that isn't why I'm writing to you. You are turning seventeen tomorrow and there should be birthday cake and well wishes but given your status as obliging non-entity in the lives of your best friends and parents, I couldn't trust that they would do any of those things for you, and you deserve them.

I say that without malice. Really, you do deserve to be feted and celebrated and admired for all that you try so hard to be on the off chance that there is a God who will someday notice.

God, or the Devil, or Darla sends an angel instead, with a birthday cake and wishes for you. I couldn't resist the pun. After eighty years of brooding even a bad pun fills me with glee.

I tried to think of a good present for you, but the one I had in mind is a bit broken and it suits me to leave him that way for the time being. Can you guess who I'd give you?

We would have to pretend that it is a present for him. He's a bit selfish, and pigheaded, and proud. He'd think it was beneath him to be a present for a seventeen-year-old girl who comforts herself in the dark by cramming her comforter between her legs and rocking herself to a soundless orgasm. You do what you have to do to get past all those pesky thoughts that make you lie awake at night. It is one of the things I like most about you.

I see Drusilla having a role in that. She's an amazing creature, Drusilla. But don't worry. It is your present. You and I know that. So, we'll make it easy for you. We won't tie you up, but Drusilla will help you in the way only she can.

Does that idea intrigue you? You must be wondering if it is magic or drugs or something wicked and terrible and delicious that will ensure that you are willing to shed your reservations and accept your present with good grace. I'll give you a tiny hint:Iit's something about the eyes.

You are probably thinking that Spike isn't much of a present, and that's because you are smart. He's a bit second-rate, but then, so are you. Sidekick. Second banana Willow. There is symmetry to it. Willow and Spike 4 ever!!! penciled in next to Buffy's notebook with etchings of hearts and triple underscored emphasis. Except that you always were too tidy and neat and self-conscious to doodle on notebooks. Just inside them, where you could keep it all hidden.

I like that about you.

You might think that I'd have a wardrobe change for you, but we can save that for your eighteenth birthday. I like to work from the inside out.

You are at that age when your whole life is before you and you are starting to make choices that will shape the woman that you will become. You are a smart girl, so you will make choices that appear to be smart. You'll do your best to please everyone and when you are in your thirties and forties looking back on your life you might amuse yourself by wondering what might have happened if you had been a little reckless.

Wonder no more. That's the real meaning in the gift. It is something reckless and wrong. Deep down, reckless and wrong draws you in. Investing in the mere idea of Xander was reckless and wrong. You wouldn't have made it out of your twenties shackled to him without finding that there are tests to patience and kindness that you will fail.

It is better to regret what you did than to regret what you failed to do. It is better to live every moment knowing that you will die than to be surprised by it. I should know. Spike should too, but he doesn't. He's not a deep thinker.

Wanker. It went on for several pages in this vein. Advice from Angelus written to a girl who would have been sixteen at the time. He had the age wrong. Willow's birthday came after Buffy's. When Spike found the box and read the letter inside it the first time, he wished that he couldn't place the girl it was written to. He knew that Willow was one of Buffy's friends. Figuring out the basic information about the Slayer was his first order of business in Sunnydale, but Angelus took it to absurd extremes. He knew everything about every one of them and shared his observations as if they were the most fascinating group of American teenagers that ever were. For all of his disparaging 'nonentity' comments to the object of the letter, Spike had heard in nauseating detail about how smart Willow was or how steady Giles was in a crisis or how Xander was really a lot more clearheaded than the girls.

Interestingly, he never said anything positive about Buffy. To hear Angelus tell it, Buffy wouldn't have lasted five minutes without the supporting cast, when Spike's experience was something quite different.

The letter made him wonder if Angelus hadn't harbored some distinctly high school Buffy + Angelus 4ever!!! sentiments. Maybe his inner teenager, who probably had spots and picked up his seduction technique startling the maid with the sight of his dangly bits and hoping she'd take that as a hint, was trying to find a way to remake those years into a drama in which he and Buffy were tormented and star-crossed while Spike and Willow necked in the back seat of the car. Fulfilling all of Angel's unfulfilled fantasies about Buffy without knocking her off the pedestal his finer feelings constructed for her.

He was mixing his metaphorical eras, but when you live for a long time and prefer veal, there are just so many layers to choose from.

For a moment he smiled to himself, imagining Angelus presenting him with Willow and admonishing him not to kill or harm her. Because, honestly, at the time, he would have been genuinely puzzled about what he was supposed to do with her if killing or torturing the hell out of her weren't options. Despoiling smart, innocent, well-meaning girls had never been his particular thing.

Add Willow to the mix, and it was obvious what would have happened. They would have watched television in uneasy companionship, chatting about inoffensive topics. She was such a baby back then, not just in the childish sense, but in the wide-eyed wonder sense, though she could be childish even now.

Change the names and put Buffy in the rest of the letter, and he could see himself warming up to the project. That wasn't true the first time he read the letter, when it just puzzled him that Angelus had been moved to assign him a relatively passive role in tormenting Willow. He had wondered why the present hadn't been delivered when so much effort had gone into making it. He wondered what Drusilla had been thinking when she was making the choker out of the harvested strands of Willow's hair.

He wanted to think that she had been jealous enough to imagine strangling her would-be rival with the choker, but he knew it was unlikely.

He had been curious enough to think about sneaking out at the risk of having Angelus or Dru discover that he wasn't as helpless as he appeared to be, stuck in the wheelchair. But then he would remember that he had plenty of opportunities to notice the girl in the past and that nothing had made him give her a second look.

The surviving Scoobies were having a birthday party for Dawn. Willow had told him, and then reminded him, and then asked him to be there in a tone of voice that hinted that she meant business. Dawn was having a birthday party and if anyone ruined it there was going to be hell to pay because Willow was organizing it. She had gotten bossy over the last few months. It was the strain of trying to hold things together, but that didn't really mitigate his irritation when she got demanding, particularly when it was over something like this.

He had been on the verge of losing his temper with her last night when she made him stay after the others went on their way, so she could give him the gift that she had picked out for him to give to Dawn.

Tara had lingered in the kitchen and was listening to them with a slightly-horrified expression on her face, as if she understood that Willow had gone too far, and didn't understand how she couldn't know that she had.

His Willow-approved gift was a diary, notwithstanding the fact that Dawn had torched a wastepaper basket full of her diaries barely six months ago. It was a nice diary, slipcovered in hand-tooled leather. She had a reason for it, of course. She wasn't completely stupid.

"She needs an outlet," Willow explained, "and I thought if it came from you, if you could maybe get her started, then it would be something that she would feel like doing again."

Dawn didn't need an outlet. She needed her sister, and she was stuck with Willow as a shitty substitute, a reality that Spike was ready to share with her when he saw Tara looking like she might understand why he was mad, but if he said what he was thinking, he was going to find out that Willow wasn't the only witch in the house.

You might wonder what on earth you could do with one slightly-broken vampire. We both know that this is not a failure of imagination but one of nerve. It is a pity that Darla is no longer with us to provide her expertise in this area, but we will have to make do with Drusilla, who was deflowered with Darla's assistance.

Darla started with a demonstration of how it was done in the chapel of the convent, under the shadow of the altar, amid the bloodied tatters of the paraments the nuns labored to make. Drusilla tore at her hair and muttered her mad invocations, but not once did her eyes leave us. She stared, great dark eyes glittering in the candlelight as Darla unfastened just enough to fit me inside her. She left her corset tightly-laced. Every time she arched her back, catlike, the mounds of her breasts quivered above her neckline in a hypnotic way. I watched Drusilla watch us, and I watched those breasts, waiting for a nipple to come into view, waiting for Drusilla to blink.

You might think that you don't want to be naked in a room full of strangers, and you don't have to be, but the company isn't an unwelcome thing when you are impaled on a man's cock for the first time. There is something almost comforting about having someone there who knows what it feels like, who will kiss your tearstained cheeks and whisper a hint of what to do to you before you start to realize how foolish it is.

All that heaving and straining towards something that you know very well that you can get for yourself without so great an effort? It is absurd. When you fuck yourself with your fingers, it is an act of utility. It's just a part of getting to that quiet, sated, pleasantly-tired place where you can let go and slip off to sleep. But there is a reason to have sex with another person, and it is a reason that will burrow deep inside of you, Willow. It's the sound of someone moaning the pleasure they take in your body. It's a voice whispering in your ear, praising the clench of your pussy around their fingers or cock.

I've watched you flush at a careless word of praise. It's a gift to be so easily pleased.

Drusilla has a few ideas about this. We've discussed it and she'll finish undressing you as you sit there, astride our boy. Be patient. This is just a part of convincing him that you are a gift for him. She'll unwrap you like a present, cold hands on shrinking flesh, lifting you off of him when she is done. For a moment you will know the hollowness that follows in the wake of fucking. The odd, empty feeling that allows you to feel bruised. The sticky wetness between your legs that for one horrifying moment you'll mistake for the wetness that gathers when you rub yourself against the comforter crammed between your legs. You will be more horrified when you realize that it is blood, smeared on the cock that still stands erect.

Like Drusilla, you won't be able to look away while she savors the blood that is left on his shaft. You'll hardly notice that you are being turned and maneuvered just so until you are poised above his mouth. Candlelight flickering madly, heart pounding as a cool tongue curls around and strokes away your blood while hands hold you in an unbreakable grip.

In a part of your head that you won't want to admit exists you'll be thinking about this. It's a night of firsts. Fellatio, cunnilingus, intercourse, all the clinical terms that come from books pale. You are watching a blow job. Spike . . . terrible, awful, Spike is eating your pussy. The cock that Drusilla is taking to the root has been inside you and will be again. In the part of your body that you don't want to understand, you'll be warm and wet. That's when you will close your eyes.

And what you will see behind those eyes is the crazy flicker of candlelight and bursts of color and the wanton arch of your body as you sink down on his cock while Drusilla giggles and shows you how to touch your clitoris. You'll see yourself in chains, with blood running down your arms. You'll see yourself, openmouthed, gasping, spinning toward something shattering.

And it won't be as bad as being alone.

There was something oddly parental about the letter. He didn't notice that the first time he read it. There were too many clichés to sort through. Vampires and virgin blood. Chained-up ex-virgins. Even the gift, the choker, was a kind of cliché that Angelus used to find sneer-worthy back in the day that had worked its way into the metaphor of S&M. Or started there.

A month ago he had been in the house keeping an eye on Dawn, tormented by the heavy scent of blood. It was Tara, of course. Giles packed Buffy and Willow off to a gynecologist and had them taking some sort of contraceptive that prevented them from menstruating. It was one of the odd realities that had be dealt with and were in backhanded fashion, though apparently Tara had not signed on. The mystery of it had been solved for him when Dawn started her period and Willow sent her to the same doctor. She sat on the porch that night, tense and worried, remembering things that she had shared with Buffy. That she did because of Buffy.

He eavesdropped as Tara tried to sort out her mood, but only made it worse. She didn't agree with Willow on the subject. Her reasons were philosophical; they were about messages and body image and not wanting Dawn to think that she was defective or that there was something disgusting about bleeding. Willow was pragmatic and defensive. Arms tightly crossed over her waist.

He thought that he understood it in what she didn't say. It was kind of gross. She didn't want to talk about it. And Buffy had died without having a child. Without even the possibility of it, and that was an idea that deserved mourning. The closest Buffy came to it was Dawn, who was made from her. He could still remember the way her voice cracked when she explained what Dawn meant to her, probably never realizing what went unsaid. Willow heard it, too.

There had been a moment, in losing the boy she had loved, when Willow must have wished that she had the comfort of having some part of him. It wasn't an idea she could share with Tara. In Tara that loss would never be relieved.

Children without parents long to correct their condition in their children. Buffy had lost Joyce and her father was absent. She must have, in some unacknowledged way, seen that she had something in Dawn that she would probably never have in any other way. Willow was doing the same thing, but only because Buffy was dead. Taking care of Dawn didn't make her unhappy; it was the happiness in it that made her feel like she could barely breathe.

The gift implied in the letter wasn't sex. That was the price of the gift. The gift was to be a childe. His childe. It was an oddly revealing acknowledgment from Angelus of his failures. He no longer trusted himself to make a childe, so he and Drusilla were going to sire Willow for him. That was clear in the rest of the letter. They would've fucked her and drained her to death in a strangely sweet act of adoption.

There was a mystery and a riddle inside of this that he couldn't answer. Willow was the only one of them that he would have turned when he had the chance. Angelus couldn't have known that.

It's a thought that makes him look off into the middle distance, smiling a little to himself. Half the time he sort of likes her. Mostly for being Buffy's friend and Tara's girlfriend. Just for trying so damned hard to be somebody's someone. Sometimes he briefly thinks of what Willow would be like as a lover, remembering how close he'd once come to making her his childe. Her body radiating heat and quivering with terror as he leaned in. It really was a lovely moment between them, one that he will never forget. When Buffy was out of it, he didn't think twice about following Willow. He hasn't questioned it in the months since Buffy died.

Drusilla knew about this. He ran his fingers over the choker again. There is a vision of a future in it that makes him feel a little tired and a lot homesick for something that he had in his grasp that has eluded him again. He returns the letter to its place, tucked inside the torn lining, and the choker to the bed of velvet, gazing at them a moment longer before he snaps the lid shut.

He is no longer angry at Willow, and he realizes that the gift she picked out for him to give to Dawn is, in a way, a gift to him, an acknowledgment that he is an important part of Dawn's life. For a moment he considers destroying the box and its contents, which are, and were meant to be, a kind of rape. But Willow is no longer a baby, and there is a remote possibility that someday she'll want the gift. He's seen it in the sadness that coils around her. It isn't power that will be her downfall. It's sorrow. It is the secret rage in her grief that makes her say and do stupid things that will be her ruin.


You think that you don't want to be evil. It isn't what you would chose in your most reckless moments. You think that because you can't imagine how evil finds you in the most well-intentioned moments, when you seem to be making a choice that is questionable but ultimately serves a greater good.

This is the gift I give you. To do what you want because it pleases you. To suspend life and death to discover what pleases you. To reward your selflessness with the selfishness that inspires it. This is the completion that Buffy and Xander can't offer you. To be thought of as a gift, eternally.

When they drain the blood from you and offer it back, you will have everything that you ever wished for. You will be a feast that is feted, a gift given and received. You will find yourself more equal than you might expect. In time, Willow, we will be as much yours as you will be ours. Freed of the demands of conscience, you will be my natural heir. That too is my gift to you. I've cheated myself of the temptation of breaking you, of breaking Buffy with the gift of your dead body left on her doorstep.

I will see your innocence preserved. Evil creatures are unknowing. If I leave you as you are, you would stumble into evil and it would break you to find yourself lost. This is the fate that I will spare you.