I've read this fic probably 3 times by now, and it always hits me in just the right ways. BTVS does a lot of skirting around theological questions of the afterlife and souls, in spite of how important souls are to the whole Buffyverse premise of vampires. I love how you weave explanations for this into the canon, and it makes everything about how Spike, Buffy, and William come together so delicious. Thank you for the wonderful read!
Oh, I’m SO glad it’s worth a reread! They never answer the questions about the soul, even though they raise them all over the place. I wanted to make sense out of what we saw in the canon, and I’m so glad it works. Thank you!
This was such a delight to read. I definitely am glad to see that there's more to it (Off Again) because despite that you ended it well, it's just too hard to accept the 'wiped slate' aspect of things.
Stand-out features included William's slow acceptance of 'himself' in Spike, and Dru's entire mental landscape and slow integration. The idea of Angelus and Liam becoming aspects of her was very like the way that people conceptualize identifying with the abuser as a form of protection. It was brilliant and I'll probably remember this story forever for that alone.
The wiped slate is a real drag, but there was no other way to make it work, and I was trying to make the canon work itself. The canon is so twisty and nonsensical this fic is trying to shake it into metaphysical logic, I guess? In any case, I'm so glad so much of this stood out to you, and I'm glad you enjoyed. Thank you so much!
"But everything stood stark and alone, disconnected, framed by the mist, and it was all grotesquely out of scale. Some of the chairs were too small, some of the windows were too large, the stove took up half the wall."
Don't know if this is intentional, but this is representative of a real neuro condition, Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, that typically manifests in childhood and disappears in adulthood: the sense that things are getting bigger or smaller or are far bigger than they ought to be. It's not particularly damaging and doesn't necessarily come with other psychiatric symptoms, but sometimes it does. Including this because even if intentional, someone else may be interested!
This is a fascinating chapter and a heartbreaking one. Turning Angel into his broodiest self had a very Riddikulus! vibe to it, and I mean that in the best of ways.
I didn't know about the active neuro condition, or didn't know it had a name. Something similar happened to me when I was about four and had a terrible fever, and I thought it would be interesting to sketch it out as a manifestation of Drusilla's madness. I am very interested to hear it's common enough to have a name!
Drusilla was the bit where I was really like, "Okay, people may not get this...." She was quite the gift to this fic, though, in many ways.
Oh my GOD this is so good. You said 'meandering' but so far it doesn't feel that way. The logic is internally consistent and I'm really enjoying the way that the mythos you've set up has so clearly shaped William's attitudes towards Spike. I hope William sees the light before Buffy leaves, though.
It was because all of the story was in this alternate heaven world that didn't follow normal social rules, I was like, "Okay, people may not get...." But it seems to go over well. William's point of view is really the crux of this story.
I just read this whole thing. You're an artist of words and I just bought your book (A Long, Long Sleep) on Amazon. You legend.
Oh, eek! I wrote that so long ago now, I’m totally cringing. Out of all my published books, Spinning Thorns is probably the most Spuffy-like, but even that. I wrote before I found Buffy. I feel I’m a better writer these days. Thank you so much for reading, and I’m so touched!
This was such an incredible story. You tied everything together so creatively & it all makes sense it explained so much better in your ideas than just what we saw play out on the actual show. Which often times seems to make little to no sense as to why Buffy would act the way she does?! I really wish it could be turned into a movie on screen. I’m excited this isn’t the end and there is more parts in this series to read I am looking forward to see where this goes next!
Oh, thank you! The rest of the stories in the "series" are just my canon-compliant short stories, so don't get your hopes up too much. I just have so many stories I grouped a bunch of them.
I really like getting all the corners of canon and digging out their logic and smoothing out their edges and making sense of it all. That's what I try to do most of the time with my work, particularly anything canon compliant. Glad you enjoyed!
Powerful chapter. I love how you’ve given William’s soul the opportunity to choose. Drusilla’s explanation makes so much sense for the destructive Spuffy dynamic in season 6. Your ability to make canon make sense is like a superpower.
That was what I thought was important. If Buffy was a soul in heaven, then souls are people. And Spike as a demon got to choose a soul. Isn't it important that the soul choose the demon, too? Even if not out of love -- or out of love for each other between demon and soul -- but out of love for another. I work SO hard to make the canon make sense, I cling to it. Thank you! *cuddles her newly-labeled superpower.*
This chapter was gorgeous and terrifying. It makes perfect sense that Drusilla would be like that, fractured in a surrealist’s nightmare. The shifting tenses and singular/plural nuances were so good for reinforcing that instability. Like Buffy, I felt off balance throughout the chapter.
“in the crumbling house surrounded by the stripped aspects of a mad woman.” Powerful line.
Copper and brass — very Dru!
Loved the eggshell walls of relative sanity. You have such a gift for imagery.
“Shifters and movers” — kinda like Dru speak for “movers and shakers”?
“Work on everyone ‘round her,” Drusilla said, her eyes fixed on William. “And there’s a chance you’ll get to stay here.” I tried to predict how this would develop, but no success. I’m curious to see how it plays out.
“This was William’s power, she realized. This quiet devotion, this love in the midst of complete chaos.” Yes! I gasped, this observation is so apt and beautifully phrased. The image of William rocking little Dru will stay with me.
Yeah, this, once I pulled Drusilla in, was where I was like, "If I don't warn readers this might happen, I might turn them right off." So I made that note about the surrealism of the story at the beginning. As it happened, people seemed to really like it. Thank you!
Ooh, I can’t wait to see what Drusilla is like! The exchange between Anya and Willow was perfect. The emotions were so intense and the words so true to the characters that I felt like I was watching it as a scene in the show.
Drusilla is well worth meeting in this story. She's a treasure of uncanny horror.
Ooh, that's a fantastic compliment about the Willow/Anya Scooby meeting scene, thank you!
I love the world you’re building here. I can almost feel the dreamy, floating being-ness of it. The words you use, the pacing of the sentences - I wish I could identify what creates the atmosphere so comprehensively but wow is it there. I loved this bit and the pizza right afterwards:
“William shrugged. “Just go home. There’s no time or place here. What is home to you?”
“My mother,” Buffy said.
And there was Joyce. And Buffy was home – this was her house in Sunnydale. She reeled. “Where’d William go?”
Joyce shrugged. “Away,” she said cryptically.”
The way they can check on and influence things on Earth is delightful. The book vs television preferences made me smile. Now we just need someone who listens to it as an audiobook and everyone else can complain it’s not really reading. Your depiction of Liam’s relationship to his soul was fascinating and made a lot of sense. I wonder what it will take for William to believe that Spike has changed.
Yeah, there was a lot of dreamy aspects, particularly early in the story. (My original plan was that this was a dream that Buffy remembered and she and Spike talked about it post-season and wondered, but it didn't work. In any way.)
I'm sure there would be those who had audiobooks, or heard whispers in the breeze -- I suspect some of that is what's going on with Drusilla when we meet her-- and there would have been those who were illiterate who had whole other ways of managing things. Different cultures probably manifested themselves differently. The point was that each person sort of creates their own environment that makes sense to their personal soul-space.
Such a beautiful, well written and thought out story. I absolutely loves the concept and how well it fitted in to the canon whilst being totally your own story. Reading it I could completely buy into how this could have been part of the buffyverse but just a part that we didn’t get to see. It would certainly explain a lot of what happened in season 6.
I enjoyed reading this so much.
Thank you very much! I wanted to explain some things, and give William a chance to have his say in the subject, and it’s really nice when other people like it, too. I love me my canon compliant. Thank you!
I’d forgotten how lovely this is. Especially love the soul and demon aspects of Dru, and their connection.
Thank you so much for reading through again! I'm really glad it's still good on reread.
I like that vampire Dru takes care of herself now, and Dru’s soul has come together as much as it can. Healing for both.
I like healing people as much as possible. In life that isn't always possible....
Interesting metaphysical... Buffy loves the soul, but she has grown very attached to the demon as well, and when William was the unchanged, fussy William, she missed the demon-grown version of him. I can’t help but feel a bit bad for dreaming Spike here, who even in his dreams finds she doesn’t love him, or doesn’t at least once there is awareness that he is separate from his soul. For that matter, I feel bad for Buffy as well, who was wholeheartedly in love only moments earlier.
I always feel terrible for dreaming Spike -- both dreams -- in this story. In one he's basically being assaulted by the power of the soul without his consent, and in the other... in the other he can't hold onto Buffy because he doesn't have the ability and she's too far away. I give him some better Buffy dreams in Off Again, where she's actually communicating with him (and yes, those are dreams, but if you take this story as a headcanon, it makes sense that those dreams of Buffy are "real")
Oh good. I think “Off Again” is next, so I’ll interpret the dreams as such.
Geez I just keep reading Child of Shadow into this...
I found one aspect... the wordless child you saw, and took her up. I always....” He stopped, and swallowed.
William looked almost embarrassed. “Well, I had always wanted a daughter,” he said. “Some girl child to care for, to catch up and cuddle and sing to.”
Yep. Also a lot of callback here to the Spike and Buffy holding one another at the end of season 7 here. It’s a lovely echo, and I like how physical you’ve made Buffy. Even as a disembodied soul she’s physical and wants something more.
Yeah, CoS is made of all the pieces of Spike I'd already seen and incorporated into my headcanon.
I love the idea of sex not being important, but not abandoning its power. So I have Buffy in her newness the physicality of still wanting that power -- and when she came back to Earth, BOY did she seize it! -- and her basically gifting it to William while he gifts her the new awareness of how souls mate, which is what she can't have with Spike when she can have his body. Why she abandoned herself to Spike, but couldn't find all she really wanted there, and so made it toxic.
This is a fascinating chapter. Here we finally see the strength of William, his steadfastness in the face of pain and fear and confusion. We see the same in Spike.
William has had to deal with Dru for a long time, but she is deeply disturbing. Spike/William can take disturbing things and just make them part of himself. It's a gift of his to accept someone else's darkness.
I definitely didn’t appreciate this chapter enough the first time around
Just dance! William needed to grow beyond himself. Buffy's realized what's really important (and that Angel wasn't as much as she'd made him out to be.)
and yeah, I see what you said (Anne said) about Spike experiencing Buffy’s death in such a concrete way, and how this would truly change him for the better. Agreed.
Spike was already much calmer by the beginning of season six. I think Buffy's death was sort of good for him -- empathy and grief are good for healing evil.
Jesus that’s a raw hard deal for Spike. They all used him thanklessly for so long (and I know he was evil, so justified, but still), Buffy included. I sure appreciate Anne’s views on Spike as her son. Beautiful insight into growth and development. In this way, despite being undead, Spike has continued to grow and develop. I wonder, do all vampires, or just a few?
I always wondered how they managed the mundane aspects of the death itself. Someone has to prepare the body... and Spike's the one used to dealing with corpses. As for Anne loving Spike as much as she loves her other son, Anne sees that they're already the same person well before William realizes it, but by the time he gets there, he ends up being entirely on the same page as Anne. They're the same... or they should be.
Tara, the only truly emotionally mature scooby, and the only one with appropriate experience with death.
Tara is, of course, an angel. I'm SURE she's watching them all from Heaven and trying to influence them in subtle, positive ways.
Oooh I see what you did there!
I have listened to the confused ramblings of children who understood nothing of what had been done to them. I have been the only one to greet wastrels who were tormented by him for weeks, because they never had anyone to love them in their lives, and he exploited their helplessness.”
And now with Child of Shadow this slots nicely into that, as Vivian certainly would have been an unloved, wastrel child with confused ramblings and no understanding of what had been done to her...
William might have met Vivian, though in truth I meant people like Sarah from Pet, since I hadn't come up with, or personally codified CoS yet, and of course technically Dru killed Vivian. Though really, sexual aspect aside, Vivian and "Sarah" weren't so different in what they did for Spike/Dru. They were pets, toys. The bit that really echoes for me with CoS is the bit in Pet where he's offering to turn her, and Buffy says, "Dru would never accept me," and Spike was like, "If we got her to think of you as our child, she would." I always try to make everything slot nicely together, though.
Ya I wasn’t thinking so much about him meeting Vivian so much as how Vivian fits perfectly into this scenario. And true, “Sarah” and Vivian are similar, although “Sarah” seemed to transcend the plaything status there at the end.
Reread, in middle of night; this deserves so much more praise than I've given it. Dru is just so delicious here, she reminds of a windchime made from a broken piece of glass, all the pieces turning and tinkling against each other but tied together to make a strangely beautiful whole.
And the Spike in William and William in Spike is so wonderfully done, love the way they grow towards each other and becoming something more whole together.
And that image of Buffy’s soul reaching for Spike’s and finding nothing, urg, it is too much exquisite feels 😭 Beautiful hurt.
And I love the way this blends back into canon, without dodging anything. It deepens it.
Thank you 💙
I never know what to say when someone comes back and comments again on something. Dru really carried this story more than I thought she would, just blooming and blossoming and being all fantastic and engaging and interesting.
And I really, really thought it was important for William to have a say -- Spike consented to a soul -- fought for it, even -- but William? He should have a say. And so we know how Spike got to that point, it had to take a lot for William to get to that point, himself.
And of course the idea of souls mating means a lot to me, and that it's not exclusive -- a soulmate is not The One Person, but A Person Who Connects, that was important to me, too.
Thank you so much for rereading! I'm really glad the story works on a reread, too. Just thanks.