One Hundred Strokes
by Vivien

Drusilla sat in front of a mirror in a heavily curtained master bedroom. She methodically brushed through her long, dark hair, staring at the memory of a reflection as the sunlight of morning welled against the fabric covering the windows.

"One hundred strokes," she spoke aloud to no one in particular. "No more and no less, always before bedtime. Good girls keep their hair clean and free of tangles. Not a good girl anymore, no. But one must keep up one's appearance."

The night had started badly with moods and tears and despondency. Her latest demon consort had recently left her, saying her constant gibbering over the pictures in her head drove him mad. She couldn't help it if she saw things. And truly, she thought she sing songed her visions. A lady did not gibber, no matter what X'lar had said.

Once she had had someone who listened to her. She knew Spike didn't always pay her much mind, but he had always listened. And that was her problem. No one listened anymore. "Not Spike crawling in the basement, not poor Darla, dust to dust and ashes in the mouth of the babe, not Daddy under the sea," she whispered, still pushing the brush through tangles. Not even her own new children listened, those pretty ones who fled after awhile or who had to be destroyed because they were naughty.

Drusilla lived in a whirlwind. Her madness kept her from being saddened most of the time. But rare nights like this one gave her miserable hours of clarity. The voices in her head shushed, and she could think again. What she had thought about tonight was loneliness and pain and how Spike was dead to her. Spike, who had coddled her and protected her and loved her with an inconceivable passion for over one hundred years but who was now poisoned by that bitch Slayer. Spike, who had always brushed her hair one hundred strokes, no more and no less, just before bedtime.

Staring into the vacant mirror, she saw not visions but memories of years and years gone by like moments. She saw her mother gently brushing her girlhood mane, Angelus running his hands greedily through her hair, Spike lovingly calling her his dark goddess and murmuring all the delicious things he would do to her after he was finished and always the tingling, sensual feel of the brush scraping and crackling and leaving her hair clean and soft.

"97... 98... 99... 100," she said, and put down the brush. She was tired. She needed sleep before darkness fell again. By tonight, she would have a new family. She'd killed the lady of the house, but she'd brought over the handsome father and the beautiful little girl who lived here. She had decided to take this family when she glanced through the window and saw the mother brushing out the child's long, dark hair. One must keep up one's app earance. Now she would have a little girl of her own to teach and to cherish, and a dashing husband besides. They were living in such exciting times. The darkness was rising, the fire falling, and the blood would flow like a river. She wanted to share all of it with loved ones, just like the old days.

Drusilla glided to the bed, pushing the cold corpse of the woman she'd drained onto the floor. She nestled under the covers, planning tea parties and outings and not so quiet nights entertaining guests. Her family was waiting for her under the garden, and the first thing she would do when they woke was to brush out her daughter's hair. One hundred strokes, no more and no less.

She smiled and drifted off into a cold, dreamless sleep.


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