All Ye Who Enter

by Aadler
Copyright 2000


One of my shortest stories ever, this takes place shortly after "Passions" in Season Two, and focuses on one of my favorite characters. It was inspired by what I considered a 'missing piece' in Dawn Steele's Let Me Count the Ways.

Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and related characters are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy Productions, and Twentieth Century Fox.


Part I

She prepared as if for a lover, with the same care and many of the same arrangements: soft music, scented candles, lights dimmed to a cozy, intimate level. The last prescribed element was a bottle of White Zinfandel in a bucket of ice, with a tulip-shaped wine glass. She would have preferred schnapps, but tonight she needed to think through some things, to examine feelings and facts, and perhaps make decisions. This wasn't the time for the warm blanket of intoxication, however seductive that might be.

She settled herself onto the couch, slantwise, half reclining, supported by plush cushions, and kicked off her shoes. She had already opened the bottle, and now she filled the glass for the first time, turning the stem in her fingers and watching the liquid swirl within. A long sip, and she let her eyes rest on the flame of the nearest candle, willing herself to relax, feeling the muscles in her neck and back -- and, yes, her face -- begin the gradual release from long-held tension. She had made a place for herself here tonight, private and safe, and inside it she would follow her troubled thoughts to some kind of resolution.

A little over a year now since she had come to Sunnydale with her daughter, hoping a new home and a new start would calm some of the turmoil in their lives. It could have been anywhere, really; there was a town in South Carolina that had sounded intriguing, and other opportunities as well, but the gallery here had been a good match with the settlement she had gotten from Hank, and in the end the choice had been made mainly on the basis of convenience. The results were mixed, at best. She had worked hard for her independence, and Buffy had made friends her first day at the new school, the same friends who now constituted almost the entirety of her social life ...

Joyce sighed. There, the first small thorn of doubt in the optimistic rose garden she had tried to grow here. That school, so open and spacious and charming Spanish Colonial, that bizarre school and the repugnant little man who ran it (and how in God's name could wild dogs have killed the first principal in his own office?) ... Less than a tenth of the rumors that came out of that place were even remotely credible, but what kind of suburban school could generate such an inexhaustible font of urban legends?

And the students who had befriended her daughter, what a strange collection they were. Cordelia Chase was in many ways the kind of person Buffy had been at Hemery, but her arrogance and acid tongue made her difficult to tolerate; and, when you came right down to it, she and Buffy didn't really seem to like each other that much, so why were they so frequently together? It was difficult to understand, but in a way it made sense, teenagers lived in a different world and this was just further evidence of the fact.

Xander Harris was another matter entirely, Joyce had seen warning lights flashing in the background the first moment she set eyes on him. There were dark currents in that boy, underneath the self-deprecating wit and superficial geekiness, and enough hormones rolling off him to clog a colander. No wonder Cordelia had let him inside her guard, or that poor Willow was so hopelessly infatuated with him. The real surprise was that Buffy seemed oddly immune to whatever it was he radiated ...

Willow, now, that was a bright spot with no reservations attached. Joyce would have tried to find a way to discourage Buffy's association with Xander, if not for the fact that Willow Rosenberg was always in the mix. Her wholesomeness and sweetness and normalness more than compensated for Xander's subtle disturbing sexuality, and Joyce would herself have welcomed the girl as a friend and confidant if Willow's obvious devotion to Buffy hadn't occupied the whole of her attention. (Not like her mother, thank God. Joyce had introduced herself to Sheila Rosenberg at the ill-starred Parent Night, and the woman had smiled and nodded and called her 'Janice' before moving on to some other matter of interest. How could such an obviously intelligent person be so clueless?) No, Willow's presence was a welcome stabilizing element in Buffy's rather flighty approach to life.

Of course, Xander and Willow and Cordelia weren't the only persons Buffy had met her first week in Sunnydale.

That thought was enough to empty the glass, and she refilled it abstractedly. It was so easy to be so wrong about someone ... she had known, as soon as her daughter had introduced her to the young man she called Angel, that there were serious feelings between those two. Her pointed comment to Buffy about the age difference had been automatic but perfunctory; there had been something about him, something deep and shy and ... "old-fashioned" was an odd term to come to mind, but that was what she had felt, and she had been instinctually certain that he would never, never hurt Buffy.

She snorted. So much for mother's intuition. Somehow he had stayed in Buffy's life, keeping to the background, for the past year, and during that time he had changed, or perhaps just let the mask slip. The young man was extremely disturbed, obsessive even, and menacing in a way she couldn't define but nonetheless totally trusted. The scene in the driveway had carried the grim reality of live combat footage, and she had been positive he was going to follow her inside, that his insistence wouldn't stop with words ...

... and he and her daughter ... he and Buffy ...

This time she caught herself before gulping, and set the wine glass down with fingers that trembled ever so slightly. No, not that way. She had to hold herself together.

What was she supposed to do? That was the question, that was why she had set aside this time for herself. How could she be sure of the right balance between objectivity and wishful thinking, caution and paranoia? She wasn't the least bit sure she could trust her own judgment; there was something about dating a serial killer that tended to skew your perspective, and realizing it didn't necessarily mean you could get past it. And, in all fairness, Angel may have risen to stalker status but he was certainly no Ted Buchanan ...

This wasn't helping. No matter how much she tried to sort out her thoughts, each one sent three or four new ones careening uncontrolled through her mind. Ted's body, twisted and unmoving at the bottom of the stairs ... the invasion of Parent Night by some mindless murderous street gang, and Buffy taking charge with a determined confidence that said violence was familiar territory for her ... missed curfews, and torn clothes, and explanations delivered in a tone so bright and breezy and casual that it had to be concealing something ...

Worst of all, really, even worse than thinking her daughter had killed Ted, was the evening she and so many others had been overcome by gas fumes at the school, and in her addled state she had fantasized about attacking Buffy with a pickaxe. That was a memory best buried deep and crushed to nothingness. Was she really so poor a mother, did she resent the girl so bitterly that she would subconsciously want her dead?

That seemed impossible. As children will do, Buffy had initially blamed herself for her parents' divorce; but Joyce genuinely never had, suspecting instead that the meltdown of the marriage had aggravated her daughter's erratic behavior, rather than the reverse. And how could any part of her desire Buffy's death, when for the first years of the girl's life she had lived in silent, irrational dread that her precious child would die prematurely?

It was one of those fixations that came seemingly from nowhere, and so ridiculous that she kept it hidden even while it haunted her. Perhaps that was what had driven the first wedges between her and Hank; there was no doubt that he loved his daughter, but there had always been an indefinable distance between them, as if somehow he were an outsider in his own family. Was that her fault, something she had created with her unvoiced obsession? She would never know; she knew only that by the time it eased, the pattern had been set.

Actually ... it had been years since she had thought about this, she had been only too happy to let the fear vanish once it loosed its hold on her, but now she remembered when and why it had ended. Celia, earnest enchanting little Celia, close to Buffy as a sister; in fact, it was Celia's toddler attempts to pronounce her cousin's name that had produced "Buffy" in the first place. The two girls had been inseparable ... and then Celia had died (Celia, instead of her daughter, how ashamed she had been for the relief she felt!), and after that Buffy refused to answer to any other name, until by now only her birth certificate remained to contradict her ...

Joyce poured more wine. This made three glasses, and she wouldn't allow herself to go past four. Already she could feel the first pleasant flush beginning to seep through her; but she needed that, needed something to blunt the edge of constant anxiety so she could think past it. She had brought Buffy here to provide them both with a second chance. So, was it working? and if not, would it accomplish anything to move again? That was the central issue, the thing she had to settle or at least come to grips with. She couldn't allow her doubts to paralyze her, any more than to rule her. She had to choose what was best for her daughter. Even if she succeeded only in getting a clear recognition of the problem, that would be a beginning.

The doorbell was like an electric shock, so completely had she immersed herself in her reflections. She found herself on her feet with no memory of moving, and noted with distant surprise that she still held the wine glass. She set it down and went to the door, wondering who it might be. Buffy wouldn't have rung, and Xander and Willow were with her so it wouldn't be them, and that didn't leave many possibilities. (Except the police. No, don't go there. Just answer the door.)

She had set the chain and deadbolt, for privacy rather than from any real fear of intrusion, and now she paused to take a preliminary look through one of the narrow panes in the door. What --? On the porch was a pizza delivery driver, the red-and-blue uniform shirt and cap unmistakable, his head bent as he peered at the ticket he held atop the warming bag.

Joyce pulled the bolt and chain and opened the door. "I'm sorry," she said, keeping her tone pleasant. "We didn't order anything."

"Yes, ma'am, I know," he replied. His voice had the high, cracking timbre of an adolescent, though by now he surely must have reached his full growth. "This was called in by a --" He ran a finger over the ticket, still leaning in close to study it. "-- by a Willow Rosenberg. She said she and her friends would be right over, but I guess we were faster than she thought."

"Oh," Joyce said. Yes, Buffy did sometimes have the others over, though she usually let her mother know. "Well, I suppose ..."

"Okay," the driver said, as if that settled it. He opened the flap of the warming bag and extracted the two large pizza boxes from within. "They're already paid for," he said reassuringly, and held them out for her.

"Thank you," Joyce said, reaching for the boxes. "If you'll wait for a moment, I'll go get you a tip --"

He had her while the words were still leaving her mouth, his hand snapping out with an effortless grace that hid its speed, fastening on her wrist before the discarded boxes had even begun to fall. His grip was light as silk and solid as iron, and he looked up for the first time, the billed cap no longer concealing the too-handsome face with its amused, chilling smile. "Don't worry about the tip," he said, his voice now the one she knew. "After all, we're practically family, aren't we?"

She stared at him, not wanting to believe, as if she could somehow rewind the last few seconds and still be safe. "Angel," she whispered.

"We never got to finish our conversation the other night," he told her, still smiling, though his eyes were as dark and empty as agate. "Why don't you ask me inside, Joyce? A fellow could catch his death out here."

* * * * *

Part II

"I've met some remarkably stupid women over the years," he observed conversationally. He was lounging back on the couch, feet on the coffee table, eyes lifted to the ceiling, not bothering to watch her. Theoretically she could have made a break for the door, but both of them knew that wasn't about to happen. (Not now, not yet, but soon, soon ...) "Killed most of them," he went on airily, "starting with my sister. Would you believe it? after she'd been to my funeral, and with half the neighbors already sucked dry by the marauding demon that appeared after I climbed out of my grave, that adorable little idiot invited me in voluntarily." He chuckled in fond memory. "I'll always have a soft place in my heart for her."

Joyce forced herself to concentrate through the ache in her head, the throbbing in wrist and shoulder, the knifelike pain of cracked ribs. "She sounds nice," she said, her mouth dry.

"Oh, she was delicious." He smirked at her. "But you'll not be changing the subject here. Now, my sister pretty much tops the list. Then we have Dru, she was absolutely the perfect blend of dumb and devout and poorly educated, I really made a project of her. And Giselle was priceless, convinced she was setting me up for the guillotine and never considering that there might be worse things than aristocrats; that's right, by then I could pass for an aristocrat, Darla loved to graze the upper crust."

Insane, Joyce thought. Paranoid schizophrenia, psychotic delusions. "My invitation wasn't exactly voluntary," she pointed out. "You twisted my arm. Literally."

"It's still attached to you, so you shouldn't complain." A shouted threat would have been less frightening than the amused satisfaction in his tone. "And I think you should be quiet for awhile, I'm trying to go somewhere with this and I can't lay it out properly if you keep interrupting. Let's see, now, I was about to come to Buffy. You'll probably be surprised to hear that I don't really count her as stupid. She has this big, beautiful, wonderful blind spot, and I'm gonna have a lot of fun with it, but she's actually fairly bright. So the question is --" He sat up to look straight at her, eyebrows raised sardonically. "-- how on earth did she come out of a brainless cow like you?"

"Seven hours' labor," she replied evenly. "You should try it." Bastard.

It didn't ruffle him in the slightest; if anything, his smile broadened. "You still don't have the vaguest idea of what's going on. That's the wonder of it, that's why I came here. I could have taken you any time, but I wanted the pleasure of a long conversation with you, to see if I could make some sense out of whatever passes for thought in that empty head of yours."

"You're right about one thing," she said. "I don't know what you mean." He hadn't specifically forbidden it, so she began to climb to her feet from where he had thrown her against the wall, moving slowly, testing her fitness and making it appear that she could barely force herself upright. He was monstrously strong, but if he believed her to be weaker than she truly was, he might get careless ...

"Don't worry, I'll clear it up for you soon enough." He stood with a catlike fluidity that mocked her (exaggerated) difficulty. "Feeling a little stiff there, Joyce? You were being naughty, and don't think I didn't appreciate it."

In heaven's name, how could she be terrified and bored at the same moment? She had never met anyone more in love with the sound of his own voice, and not even the sharp awareness of her peril could still her tongue. "If you liked that, you'd love what I'd do if I could get my hands on a gun."

He laughed and took her by the arm, ignoring the little involuntary jerk of alarm. "No, you actually had a better idea with the pepper spray. Not a chance of using it, but it was still a better idea." He steered her to an armchair, placing her into it firmly but with paradoxical gentleness. "That's why I was so rough with you ... well, that, and it was just so darn much fun. Bullets hurt more, but the spray would have lasted a lot longer. It was a gutsy move, and I'm going to make you really sorry for it."

"You'll enjoy that, I'm sure." She kept her voice defiant. "Your type always does."

"Preying on the weak, you mean?" He sat across from her, studying her with that thin smile. "Be fair, Joyce, that's just how it works in nature. And do you have any idea how far I'd have to go to find someone stronger than me?" He gave her a sly look. "Of course you don't. Even though you live with her."

That was so meaningless it didn't bother her. "If you're looking for Buffy, you picked the wrong night, she's staying over with a friend." She knew as she said it that she might be sealing her fate, but she didn't want him here when her daughter returned.

He shrugged it away. "Not a problem. I told you, I wanted you and me to have some quality time. And it's not just curiosity; an artist has to know his subject. I was proud of the scene I set for Giles -- one of my best works, really -- but do you think I could have done it if I hadn't known what was between him and that gypsy woman?"

What did he ...? Giles, the librarian? Was this supposed to mean that Angel had been involved in that awful tragedy? Before she could collect her thoughts, he leaned forward and said, "Now, if you were Willow's mother, I know exactly what I'd do. Jews really get shook up by that kind of thing, and it's just been ages since I crucified anybody. In the family room would be best, and the little framing touches ... well, I'd improvise with the materials at hand. I'm good at that."

So, he was going to kill her. Part of her had known it as soon as he revealed his face. It numbed rather than paralyzed her, and in a strange way it simplified things. She had nothing to lose now. "We're not exactly a religious household," she heard herself say. True, Buffy had taken to wearing a necklace with a cross on it, but that seemed more like a fashion choice than anything else ...

"Right," he said, nodding. "You see my situation. I want to make a statement here, so this has to be classic. And it's not like I'll get another shot at it. I mean, she only has one mother, so I have to make you count. What do you think? Can we work together on this?"

She made herself look into those empty eyes, and said, "I think that very soon you're going to be in a very small room, with very large men holding you down for your next gallon of thorazine."

He assumed a wounded expression and asked, "Does that mean I don't get to call you Mom?" Then he slapped her playfully on the shoulder -- the injured one, smiling as she winced -- and said, "You know what our problem is? We haven't really bonded yet. Boiling oil is sort of traditional for this kind of thing, you wouldn't happen to have a Fry Daddy in there ...?" He glanced toward the kitchen.

It was only for a fraction of a second, but she was already moving. She'd been watching for such an opportunity, she couldn't hope to match him for strength so to hell with strength, as he turned back to her she drove her extended thumb into his eye, twisting and gouging with the nail. He fell backward with a bellow, and she felt a thrill of unholy joy at hearing pain as well as rage in that cry. He was inhumanly quick, though, coming to his feet even as she did, and she snatched the nearest object from the side table and smashed it against his face. It was a hinged pair of stained-glass panels in thin metal frames, a stylized cross on one side and praying hands on the other, no weight or solidity and it should have done no more than distract him for an instant, if that, but he dropped as if struck with a twenty-pound sledge. Now was the time to run, that was the whole point of this, but instead she reached for another weapon, a heavy ornamental hurricane lamp in cut glass, and heaved it above her head in both hands. Terror-fueled fury transcended her battered joints and muscles, he'd laugh a different tune once she bashed in his fucking SKULL --!!!

The lamp exploded above her, showering her with fragments of glass, her hair and the light sweater drenched in scented oil. It was so unexpected and incomprehensible that she simply stood where she was, open-mouthed; and then Angel had hurled her the length of the room, and she hit the couch with a force that slammed the air from her lungs. She rolled onto her back, tasting blood where she had bitten through the end of her tongue, struggling to breathe, to think, to understand. He wrenched her up into a sitting position and, his face inches from hers, said, "Move from there again and I'll gut you."

He was done playing with her; the lofty amusement was gone, and he spoke with a soft savagery that was barely short of murder. He must have heard it, too, the near-loss of control, for he stepped back and stood glowering down at her. She turned her gaze to where she had been, bewilderment for the moment greater than fear. How had he --?

Oh. He hadn't. She had been standing just in front of the triple-wide doorframe where the living room gave way to the entrance hall, and in the space above it she had recently hung decorative ironwork, turn-of-the-century farm tools and household implements. The lamp must have shattered against one of them. She looked away, sick with self-contempt. Stupid, incompetent, useless ...

"I've gotta tell you, Joyce, I'm impressed." His voice held the faintest ghost of his earlier good humor, but he didn't even pretend to smile. "Slayer doesn't fall far from the tree, does she? You landed two good ones, almost three, and I wish I had a week or so to show you just how much that means to me." He began to pace, anger still curling about him like tendrils of black fog. "Thing is, I'm not enjoying myself any more. You've taken a special moment and turned it into a chore. So I think I'll just get to the point."

He sat suddenly on the other end of the couch, which put him between her and the door. (Had she shaken his confidence? If so, it was a tiny victory, and one that would cost her.) Without preamble he said, "I'm a vampire. Buffy's a Slayer. It's her destiny to kill things like me, and it's going to be my pleasure to kill her." He looked her over with thin-lipped impatience. "I know, you don't believe me. That's what I could never understand about you. You're living with humanity's champion against the forces of nasty badness, and you won't see it. Well, I can't stand to kill you without yanking you out of your dream world first, but I'm not in the mood to talk you through it. Look at me."

She did.

He changed.

It wasn't a trick, she knew it wasn't, he was only a few feet away, this was real. His brow ridges swelled and thickened, his teeth elongated, his eyes ... his eyes ...

Strangely, he wasn't ugly. Though no one would mistake that for a human face, it was actually imposing in a leonine way. But those eyes were windows into Hell.

"This is what I am," he said, his voice unchanged but the words coming out differently from the altered mouth. "This is what your daughter's been snuggling against for the past year. Like it? She did, she couldn't get enough of me. The two of us, out every night together, battling the undead and kissing under the stars ..." He snarled at the thought. "I owe her a lot, and you're going to be the next installment in my extended payback plan."

"She ... Buffy ..." Joyce shook her head, trying to clear it, the shocks were coming too fast to process. "It's not possible. How could she fight creatures like you?"

"She is a creature like me. We're both part of the same big cosmic balance, only I get to do all the fun stuff: you know, death, torture, terrorizing the countryside. She gets all of the grunt work and none of the glory, and she'll die young, I'll see to that." He leaned toward her, fixing her with those demon's eyes. "She's the Slayer, you dumb bitch. She's every vampire's nightmare ... well, every one but me. She's stronger than we are, she's quicker than we are, in the middle of a fight she's more ruthless than I am -- which is really saying something, but after an evening with Mother Dear, I'm starting to see where that comes from -- she's got me outclassed on all the things that are supposed to matter, and it doesn't matter at all, I'm still going to kill her and laugh over every minute of it."

"You can't." The protest was automatic and impotent, but the threat to Buffy had sharpened her attention, and she seized on his words, remembering Ted and the gang attack on the school. "If she's this great deadly Vampire Killer, how can you beat her? You said it yourself, you're not in her class."

He tsk!ed at her, his face shifting back to imitation-human. "Come on, Joyce, after what we've been through together? I'm stronger than you are, but you still put me on the floor for a second, even before you knew what I was; you saw a weakness and went straight for it, no hesitation, no mercy ... y'know, I'm kinda getting a sense of why hubby split for greener pastures." He reached out and took hold of her shoulder (again, the injured one, though by this time little of her wasn't injured), and began to squeeze with steadily increasing pressure. "See? You're not the only one who can hit where it hurts. Buffy's a hellcat in a fight, I've seen her wade through vamps five and six at a time, but I don't plan to fight her. I'll cut her apart piece by piece, because I know her weakness, and I don't have any."

She could barely hear him, the pain was so intense she was ready to faint. He eased up -- not wanting to lose his audience? -- and continued, "What weakness, you say? Easy: she cares. She has all these people around her, and she cares about every one of them. She can look out for herself, but she can't protect all of them, not all the time, and that's the chink in her armor."

Joyce found her voice. "It's not a weakness." He favored her with that mocking smirk, but she forged on. "Caring about other people, that isn't weakness. It's why we do the things we do, the reason we're alive. It makes us stronger."

"Well, see, Joyce, we're just gonna have to agree to disagree on that one. You're pretty much out of time here, all that's really left is to figure out the best approach." He released her and stood up, eyeing her with sadistic speculation. "The important question is, what would hit Buffy the hardest? Finding you spread out over the lawn in little bits? or hanging upside-down in the shower, stripped and bled like a slaughtered sow? or -- here's a thought -- what if I made you a vampire and forced her to kill you herself?" He rubbed his hands together. "Decisions, decisions."

She broke for the stairs, and he glided to intercept her with that lazy, impossible quickness, except she was ready for it and she drove off her lead leg for an instant change of course, slamming into him at an unexpected angle. He could have crushed her as easily as a soda can, but she hit below the outspread arms, and with all his strength he wasn't braced for a hundred twenty pounds clipping him at hip level at a dead run. She bore him down and levered herself atop him, fastening to him like a leech, scissoring his legs with her own and wrapping one arm around his neck. "It's not a weakness," she gasped, sobbing with effort and pain and triumph. "It's not a weakness!"

Perhaps he could have torn her loose in time, but he didn't try. True to his nature as she to hers, he laughed and shifted to demon face; and as he lunged for her throat, she stretched out her free arm to pass the fuel-soaked sleeve over the flame of the nearest candle.

After that, it was only a matter of holding on.

Part III

And it grows, ooohh it grows, the reverberations spreading and multiplying, ripples leaping from other ripples, complications and permutations and consequences caroming off each other like ... pocket billiards, like pocket billiards, and why do they make the chalk blue now? So unattractive, really. She sees the Slayer, mad with grief and guilt and hate, exploding through the night children of Sunnydale like chain lightning, a berserk unquenchable cyclone of vengeance and death. She sees the girl pushing away the consoling arms of her father, and the other man she calls father, sees her striking out from all who care for her, honing and hardening and armoring herself until she can never again be hurt, never again be bereaved, never again love or laugh or trust, until at last she is a wandering, solitary hunter, fighting when she can find a fight but always moving, always fleeing, always alone, alone ...

"Waiting for an answer here, Dru."

She looked up with a shiver of delight, pleasure and adoration and remembered fear coursing through her like ... champagne, pink champagne, SO wonderful it tasted when you knew what to mix with it, all red and rich and fizzy, but she could never remember to bring any home ... "Angel," she purred. "Did you want me?"

"You tell me." He was leaning against the heavy draperies, elegant and ominous. "I was about to make a house call, show my ex that it'll take more than 'changing the locks' to keep me out, and then you go all, Woo-o-oo, this just in. So what's the big news?"

She gave him a fond smile. Such a lovely fire he had/would made/make, she really must be there to see it again ...

... but ...

... but then who would sing to her and hurt her and make her feel precious? Spike, Spike would never leave her, wonderful Spike, how all those silly Chinamen had been terrified of him, it made her giggle to think of it even ever so many years later ... No, it wouldn't do. Spike was a love, but it simply couldn't be right without Angel. They were a family, she had to keep their happy home together, it was a woman's duty to see to such things, even when her hair changed directions and started growing inward, it pressed so on her brain.

She moved to his side, sliding an arm around his waist and molding herself to him. "Go visit her mummy some other night," she wheedled. "I saw the most darling pair of girls, ice skaters, all firm and sequiny, they looked just scrumptious. Say you'll have them with me?"

Angel shrugged. "Why not? Good ol' Mom will keep, and it isn't like she'd be much of a challenge anyway." He grinned down at Drusilla as she raised his hand to her mouth and began to nip at his fingers. "What d'you think, should we bring back a doggy bag for Spike? The boy needs nourishment, he's looking kind of peaked."

They went out into the night, arm in arm, she smiling at her victory and knowing he would believe her pleasure was due to his presence ... and it was, it was. So easy, really, a touch of gentle guidance at exactly the right moment, and let the manly men think they were in charge. They would always be together, linked by blood and atrocity and need, and that was as it should be.

Above them the moon was screaming, and she began to croon in harmony with it.

end


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