image of women sitting in armchair writing

Surviving Sunnydale Series

12. Monochrome

Dull clang of pipes, almost musical, as she dragged the crude wooden stake across them. She paused, tapping the instrument absently against the nearest pipe, and caught the eyes of her accomplice from across the room. Lilah, in her impeccable $1200 business suit, looked completely out of place. Corrupt. Or corrupted. Line too blurred to tell. Arms wrapped around herself and the
faint smirk on her lips as fake as her hair colour. Anxiety was rolling off her in waves but she was just pretty as a picture all the same.

Darla smiled indulgently and drifted around the perimeter of the basement. The smile slipped from her face gradually. She was so tired of lurking in the shadows, of muddying her feet underground amongst the sewer rats and lower demons. Those pretty lawyers kept advising her to keep a low profile, to stay in hiding, and she was sick of it. She'd listened to them, fully aware that they were using her but little did they know that it goes both ways. Now it was time to reclaim her independence from her guardians. Time
to bury the past and all that went with it. She had always been a vampire of the new age, always moving forward, embracing the changes, and adapting. Only this time, she would chose her companions more carefully.

Her eyes alighted upon him, all quivering, hairless white bulk. She'd chosen him for his beauty and brawn. Certainly not his brains, she remembered with a raised brow. He'd been beautiful and so attentive, so completely devoted to his Darla. Poor handsome fool, he'd never imagined that the gypsies would exact retribution. She could almost laugh about it, if it weren't for the fact that it still caused a pain so profound in her unbeating heart. But Angelus was in the past.

She approached him slowly, straining in his chains, watching his shoulders jerk and shiver as she dragged the stake along his skin and up his forearm. His eyes were black, fear swimming through the defiance. Her gaze lingered, tracing the scorched flesh on his skin where one of her lackeys had branded him with a crucifix. Just one of the many ways she'd made him suffer and still he didn't beg, or weep, or break. Just those puppy black eyes staring at her in silent anguish until he was unable to contain his screams as they burst from his lungs. Lilah had turned away, pale hand hovering near the contrast of scarlet mouth, not willing to face the reality of her dealings with the Devil. But it was like music to Darla ears, the raw, dark, curdling music of his filthy, perverted soul.

Teasingly, Darla brought the tip of the stake to Angel's chin. Her other hand sunk into his hair, sticky as it was with gel and his blood. Red-tipped fingers came to her lips and she licked them clean cat-like as he watched her.

"Angel, honey, I never did thank you for killing me," she mused softly.

She watched a flicker of a smirk cross his face. That boy never lost his bravado. "I'd do it again in a heart-beat."

Darla's lips twisted in amusement. "I don't think you're in any position to make threats." She tapped the stake thoughtfully against his chest. "Angelus must be disgusted to see you now. You and that vile soul."

Reaching between her cleavage, Darla fished out a small vial. Removing the cap, she splashed the contents over Angel's wound and he arched in pain, a howl torn from his lips. Darla's nose wrinkled in distaste at the putrid stench that rose from his singed and smouldering skin. She watched his chest heave, the defeated hunch of his shoulders, and laughed high and loud.

"You were a god once, a legend. The mere mention of your name frightened children and grown men alike. Now..." she paused, her eyes tracking over his bruised and beaten flesh. "You're nothing." There was a lump in her throat as she spoke those words. Her love, her Angelus was lost. Almost tenderly, she stroked his cheek, the sorrow in his eyes making her own gaze mist. She lifted her hand, tightening her grip on the stake.

In the corner of her eye she saw Lilah step forward in alarm but the lawyer was restrained by one of the demon lackeys. "Darla!"

"Nothing but ashes," Darla whispered as she plunged the stake into Angel's chest. His lips parted in fear, horror, a million emotions, as flesh and bone exploded in a haze of dust.

Dazed, Darla let the stake slip from her hand, as it landed with a clatter on the concrete floor and rolled out of sight. Released by the demon, Lilah stalked forward, her eyes like thunder. "This wasn't part of our agreement, Darla." She grabbed Darla by the arm, and took her aside. The vampire just rose her eyebrow. "When the senior partners find out about this, they'll -"

"What? Sue me?" Darla asked with a laugh. "I'm trembling, dear."

Lilah gave her a pointed look. "Actually, I'm more worried about what they'll do to me."

Darla rolled her eyes. Really, she was beginning to wonder if Lindsey wouldn't have been a better choice in business partner. At least he knew how to keep his cool. "Don't fret, Lilah. I said I'd take care of everything." Reaching up, Darla stroked the lawyer's jaw, feeling the tremble of fear and arousal. Little girl playing with the big boys, playing dress-up in expensive suits, diamond watches, and designer pumps.

So it was with just a tinge of sorrow that Darla sprang forward, ridges sliding over her features, teeth distending and locking onto delicate flesh. The blood poured freely over her tongue, thick and heavy, as she ripped at skin and cartilage. Lilah's fingers clutching, digging into her flesh so deeply that it was almost pleasurable. Rack of breath and sob in Lilah's throat reverberating through her own mouth, feeding the demon and her thirst. Darla listened intently, awareness thrumming through her senses, waiting for that sublime moment as her prey's heart slowed.

She withdrew with a gasp, allowing Lilah's body to slide to the floor. Yellow eyes prickled as she focused on the blood soaking the lawyer's white blouse and suit jacket. She could smell death creeping in already - such a punctual friend.

Darla turned, dragging blonde strands away from her mouth, and smiled at the terror on the bound girl's face. This one thought she'd seen everything... "Isn't this cosy? Just you and me." She paused, frowning slightly. "Oh, don't look at me like that. Angel had become so boring. Somebody really should 've put that boy out of his misery a long time ago."

Smile still lingering on the corners of her lips, Darla took languid steps toward the girl, circling the chair slowly. Dark eyes watched her, dark head rigid and still, flinching as Darla combed fingertips through Rapunzel-like hair. Almost tenderly. "You remind me of a girl," Darla whispered in soft reverie. "A London streetwalker. Blood thick with opium but a sweet girl all the same." She'd always had a soft spot for her old profession. In some perverse way she felt she was rescuing them, delivering them from the beatings of their men and disease, finishing them the way the Master never did her. "She never made a sound when I drained her and snapped her neck. Darling girl thought I was the Devil made beautiful..."

Without warning, Darla grabbed a handful of pampered tresses in her fist and yanked the girl's head back, exposing an elegant, tempting length of neck. She licked her lips as she watched a vein throb. "What do you think, Cordelia? Hmm?" She savoured the name as it rolled off her tongue and laughed, silvery and high, her voice magnified by the fresh blood thundering inside her.

Darla loosened her grip, petting silky strands of hair. "You're a seer, aren't you? What a pity." She moved around in front of the girl, inclining her head. "You probably already know what I've got in store for you, which kind of ruins the surprise." Darla sighed. "Oh, well, I guess I'll just have to improvise."

She leaned in close, her lips hovering beside the girl's ear. "Tell me, did you see it coming? Did you have a vision of me fucking your girlfriend?" She pulled back to enjoy the girl's expression, the flash of defiance and fury in dark eyes, fear all but forgotten. Humans and their petty jealousies, so predictable. Darla laughed softly. "I guess that answers my question. She was good but, then, you already know that. It must hurt that she keeps fucking around." Darla's gaze dropped to take in youthful curves, supine limbs, and flexed an eyebrow. "Maybe you just can't satisfy a Slayer."

Hot words mumbled and muffled by the gag. This would be amusing. Darla loosened the material. "What was that?" she asked in the same bored tone of voice she'd perfected with crazy, beautiful Drusilla.

"I said 'and you can?'" the girl spat, vitriol firing from every perfectly moisturised pore.

Darla straightened to her full height and smoothed her white dress. Blood-splatters all over the front like droplets of rain, as if she'd just come in from a summer shower. That would be a bitch to dry-clean. "Sweetheart, I satisfied her in every room. Believe me, she needs more than a dumb little Valley girl can give."

"Yeah, well, she's gonna come after you and stake your skanky ass." The girl raised her chin. Obstinate little cheerleader. "'Cause, hey, Miss So Last Century, you're forgetting one thing. She loves me."

Be that as it may... but you don't survive four hundred years without learning something about the weaknesses of humanity. They choose what they know, and Faith knew sex more than love. "If she loves you so much, why does she break your sweet little heart without blinking an eyelid?"

"Because I'm stupid." That smoky voice -- still thrilled her to the core. Faith moved like a streak of darkness through the shadows.

Playtime.

******

The lackeys shifted restlessly but one look from Darla was enough to halt them. Roughly, she replaced Cordelia's gag before turning to face the Slayer. "I don't like to be kept waiting, Faith," she said, eyes fixing on the dark apparition before her. Stink of the streets about her, black eyes, dark hair, and encased head to delicious toe in black leather. The Slayer's eyes skittered over to Lilah's hollow form on the floor, tossed aside like a ragdoll, scandalous glimpse of stockings visible where her skirt had ridden up. "I was beginning to think you'd reneged on our agreement."

"Yeah, well, I'm here so let her go." The mask she wore was too casual for it to be real.

"How noble of you, wanting to protect your lover," Darla said, all silky taunt.

"She's nothing." A shrug rolled off deceptively thin shoulders. "You want me, not her."

Darla clasped her hands in amusement. "Liar." Such a blatant lie.

That cocky grin in place, cheeks dimpling but the arrogant sparkle never reached her eyes. "I'm just killing time with Queen C."

"Prove it."

Darla caught the look exchanged between the two of them, Faith's fašade momentarily slipping. Then she was all swagger again, striding up to the vampire, leather pants creaking with each step. Darla reached out, sliding fingers into unkempt hair, dragging her hands through those unruly waves. Aware of the stake nestled inside Faith's jacket and yet fearless. Hooded eyes, heavy with kohl and grey eyeshadow, slanting lazily. Immigrant Gypsy somewhere in that family line. Blood red lips, full and enticing.

There was no resistance when Darla drew her near and kissed her, tasting lipstick and spit and somewhere... recently... cigarettes and alcohol. She ran her tongue teasingly over that full bottom lip, imagining it split and bruised, and shivered. Faith's eyes were open and hard when she pulled back.

"Nice floor show," Darla murmured, "but your heart just wasn't in it."

The Slayer stared down at her boots. "Damn, I guess only one of us in this room is a good actress."

Suddenly Faith lashed out, all untrained impulse, a flash of black leather before Darla's eyes as she threw a left hook. But Darla's preternatural reflexes were finer than most, catching the Slayer's fist squarely in her hand. She twisted quickly, delighting in the satisfying crunch of breaking bone. Faith grunted through her teeth, dropping to one knee as Darla continued to punish her. Even Slayers were only human.

"It'd be a lot easier if you co-operated, Faith, honey," Darla said with a tired sigh.

Faith's words were ground out through gritted teeth. "That's no fun."

"We could run this town," Darla said, squeezing the Slayer's wrist harder. "We could burn it to the ground. There's a darkness in you I haven't seen since Angelus but you're holding back." Disgusted glance cast towards Cordelia. "She's holding you back but I could liberate you..."

"I don't think she approves of our relationship, C," Faith said, half-smirk, half-wince.

Darla ignored her. "Angel was weak, he was polluted with that damn soul but you... oh, you could be more powerful than you ever imagined." She'd had raptured, feverish imaginings of Faith at her side, dark harbinger, a true equal, lover, confidante.

"That doesn't interest me anymore."

Darla smiled. Poor child striving for nobility where none existed. Lost in the lost cause. "A leopard never changes its spots, dear."

"I know, I know and a whore never changes her panties." Always with the acid quip.

Abruptly, Darla released her grip on the Slayer's fist, stepping backwards as Faith clutched her hand gingerly. "Let's stop playing games, shall we? Isn't there anything I can do to make you reconsider?" The invitation was barely veiled, she'd had a short human lifetime to hone her skills in that department. Politicians, entrepreneurs, upstanding citizens of the colony... and she'd always been discreet. That was why they had always come back.

Faith just smirked. "Fine," Darla sighed, turning away, "it really pains me to do this but..."

With a nod from Darla, the demons emerged from the sidelines, advancing upon the Slayer. Faith's head whipped around, sizing up her opponents and assessing her chances. Little Slayer mind ticking over - how many years of training instilled in this girl? How enjoyable would it be to rip up the rule book and tear the throats of those who had taught her, and, ultimately, abandoned her? Such sweet revenge and all that darling girl had to do was ask.

Faith was on her feet in seconds, taking a defensive stance. Twelve of them, one of her. All coming at her at once. She'd barely been able to throw a punch before one of them grabbed her injured arm and twisted it behind her back. She'd managed to land several kicks against her assailants but they quickly overpowered her, forcing her to floor. While they held her down on the dirty concrete, her hands were tied behind her back, the rope cutting painfully into her wrists. Rough hands tossed her onto her back in time to see Darla approaching Cordelia.

Darla resumed her earlier position, grasping the girl's hair tightly. In one swift movement, her head was dragged to one side, the cords of tendon standing out prominently on her neck, the jugular pulsing erratically. Keeping her eyes on Faith, Darla felt her face shift into its true demon visage and she lowered her mouth to that inviting throat.

"Okay! I'll fucking do it!" Faith shouted out, panic-stricken, squirming against the rope and the demons that still pinned her to the floor.

Disappointed, Darla withdrew. She'd hardly even grazed skin but the twin nicks on tender flesh had still bloodied her lips. She wiped the smear of moisture away with the tip of her tongue. "Good girl, I knew you'd come around." Her hands rested on Cordelia's shoulders and kneaded gently, feeling each great shudder that went through the girl's body. "You really need to learn to relax, honey," she said, a sharp peal of laughter escaping her lips.

The demon ridges receded as she turned to her lackeys. "Take this one back to that quaint little hotel." Her lips curled in an afterthought. "And I want you to make sure she has a lasting impression of my hospitality."

She kept her gaze trained on Faith as the lackeys carried Cordelia away, chair and all. In the corner of her eye she caught one of them stepping on a pile of dust. "Be careful, idiot. You just stood on Angel."

She waited until they were alone before venturing towards Faith. The Slayer had pushed herself into a sitting position and the hatred danced in her eyes. Or was it desire? A very fine line - something that Faith understood only too well. "You killed him?" Faith said, voice hoarse with pain and... guilt.

Damnit, she'd had enough of Angel, his guilt, the guilt he inspired in others. "I had to," Darla replied, distracted. "Now about our deal..."

"No Angel, no deal, girlfriend. I thought we were real clear on the terms and conditions."

Darla glared at her, hard. "I could force you - "

"And what makes you think I won't kill you right afterwards? A vamped Slayer 's gotta be one wicked tough opponent."

Dark eyes bored into her own, as much a battle as the physical blows exchanged earlier. A slow smile tugged at Darla's lips. "You won't." She reached down and pulled Faith to her feet, hand clutching the front of Faith 's shirt. Lips hovered near lips, eyelids drooping in arousal. "You still want me."

Ruby lips split in a wolfish grin. "You stake Angel, you hurt my girl," Faith paused, her mouth dipping to Darla's. "Oh, yeah, I want you..."

Darla hardly saw Faith's hand wriggle free of the rope -- just the blur of it slipping inside Faith's jacket and shoving the stake lightening quick into the vampire's chest. An inch, if that, shy of her heart. She gasped in pain, throat convulsing as she glared at the dark girl in front of her.

"Dead," Faith sneered. "But I figure, I got a soft spot for you. So I'm gonna give you a fighting chance to get your ass the hell out of this town, this entire fucking state."

"If I don't?" Darla asked, squeezing her eyes shut against the pain.

"You'll be in an urn, Blondie."

With that, Faith pulled the stake from her chest and Darla crumpled to the floor. The Slayer never looked back, just left her lying in the dirt beside Lilah's inert body. If she had some part of filthy humanity left in her, if she had tears left, she would've cried.

Instead, she reached for Lilah's wrist, hauling the body closer despite the shards of white-hot pain that lanced through her chest. Her pale hand slipped into the lawyer's jacket, searching for and finding the tiny grey box of cell phone. With a chirp it sprang to life and Darla keyed in the number with rapid fingers.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

Grunt at the other end of the line in greeting.

"Change of plan," she said as she gazed down at the gaping, bloody hole in her chest with distaste, rearranging torn material to cover it. "Bring vision girl back here."

To be continued...