In which things get nasty.
He woke up because Angelus sat up. The cottage was dark and cold; the fire had burnt out. He could hear Darla moving about, shifting bodies by the sound of it.
“The sun’s just down now,” she said, and Angelus swung his feet off the bed and pulled his boots on. Will ran a hand through his hair and looked for Drusilla. She was still asleep, a little black bundle in the corner. One hand was outflung across the floor, the fingers curled anxiously.
“The horses?” Angelus asked.
“They’re close to spent,” Darla said. “And we didn’t feed them. They’ll be slow.”
“We need to change them,” Angelus said. “And cover the tracks.”
“We’ll follow the river,” Darla said calmly. “Don’t fret, darling. We won’t be overtaken.”
Angelus said nothing, and Will sat up slowly and rubbed his head some more. Darla was a bitch, but when their backs were to the wall there was no one he’d rather look sideways and see. Even Angelus seemed comforted. He went over and took the man’s body out of her hands, piling it with the others in the far corner. When he came back, she smiled and reached up to touch his head, and he bent down and pressed his face against her shoulder.
“Isn’t it lovely, my sweet?” she asked. “We’re wild again. Just like we used to be.”
Angelus raised his head and looked at her, and his face was equal parts pleased and troubled.
“Aye,” he said. “But not as free. With the young ones, and this carcass—“ He waved his hand at the bed, and Darla tutted.
“It will be all right, my dear. We don’t have far to go now.”
“Where are we going, anyway?” Will asked. They looked at him—Angelus annoyed, Darla glowing with pleasure.
“To a safe place,” she said, and slipped her hand around the back of Angelus’s neck. He closed his eyes and wavered slightly on his feet. Will looked away. Seeing his Sire like that—anxious, in need of his own Sire’s comfort—was rare and disturbing.
Drusilla made a small sound in the corner, and started to pull herself upright.
“Lord,” she whimpered. “He’s put the whips away, and bricked them up. Doesn’t want us anymore.”
Will stood up, but Angelus was already moving out from under Darla’s hand, walking over and pulling Drusilla up with an arm around her waist. She clung to him and he let her—he was Sire again. It galled Will that he would always be Sire for Dru, but not for Will. Because Will wasn’t mad, or a prophet, or plagued with nightmares of Angelus leaving them forever. Will was just Will, as they never tired of reminding him.
“We’re all awake then,” Darla said. “Would you care to introduce yourself properly?”
For a moment Will didn’t understand what she meant. Then he saw that she was looking at the bed behind him, and remembered the burnt woman. He’d almost forgotten she was there.
She was lying in the same position she’d been in the morning before, looking just as deceased—except now he noticed that the smell of broiled flesh was gone. They all looked at her in silence, and then she sat up.
Her skin wasn’t black now; it was reddened and flaking, and it seemed to itch, because she rubbed her hand over her face with a look of irritation. A few curled rolls of skin floated down from her cheek and hand. She picked one up off the blanket and looked at it.
“Strange,” Darla said. “I always thought so well of Rebecca. But this childe of hers has no manners.”
Angelus pushed Drusilla’s arms away and walked over to the bed.
“Are you deaf, then?” he asked, leaning forward and putting his fists on the blankets.
The woman turned and looked at him. She had brown eyes and small, serious features, and was wearing a man’s shirt and trousers. With her hair cut so short she still looked to Will like a boy. Probably she was supposed to—it would make traveling easier. She looked at Angelus without any expression, as if he were a stranger in a crowd.
Angelus waited a moment, then looked over his shoulder at Darla. “Is she mad, do you think?”
Darla pursed her lips. “Perhaps—from the shock.” She paused. “We really can’t have two mad ones, darling. Just the one is trouble enough.”
Angelus glanced briefly at Drusilla, who was watching him with rapt terror. He turned back to the woman.
“If you’re not deaf or mad, sing out,” he said. “We haven’t time for games.”
The woman considered him a moment longer, and Will was just starting to feel a prickle of excitement in the back of his spine—Angelus was going to thump her any second—when she spoke.
“My name is Caitlin, childe of Rebecca, of the order of Cathbad.” Her voice was quiet and oddly flat—English, but the accent beaten almost out. She looked directly at Angelus as he spoke, then lifted her eyes and looked at Darla over his shoulder.
Angelus stared at her for a moment, then stood up. “That wasn’t so hard, then, was it?” He turned back to Darla. “Not mad, and not deaf.”
“And not well-mannered,” Darla said. “Why did you come to us, little one?”
The woman said nothing, and Angelus turned back to her. This time he didn’t bother with a warning—he just reached out, took hold of the back of her shirt, and yanked her bodily out of the bed. She hit the floor on her hands and knees in front of him.
“You must respect your elders,” he said, putting the toe of his boot under her chin. “Did Rebecca not teach you that?”
The woman looked up at him without fear, but with a great deal of dislike, and Will tensed. It was the sort of expression that got people killed quite regularly. He made a quick resolution to keep his mouth shut and stay out of this.
To his surprise, Angelus didn't kick her in the face, but instead crouched down beside her. “You’ve had your life from me once already,” he said. “You attacked my Sire, and I didn’t kill you then.” He paused. “You know who I am, don’t you?”
The woman nodded, keeping her eyes on his.
“Rebecca mentioned my name, did she?”
Again, she nodded.
“I’m very glad to hear it. Now listen to me, girl—you came to us, you put my childer and my Sire in danger, and you gave the Slayer our home. We rode all last night and we’ll ride again tonight. You are in our debt. And you will show proper respect for your elders, or I will trample you under my boots.”
He said it pleasantly enough, but none of them took it for an empty threat. He’d killed a man that way once before, while Will watched. It had been like heavy jam on the floor.
The woman swallowed and nodded. There was some fear in her eyes now, and her gaze darted quickly around the room, settling briefly on each of them, before returning to Angelus.
“Yes…sir,” she whispered.
Angelus looked at Darla, who nodded. He stood up.
“You were asked a question,” he prompted.
The woman seemed to brace herself, as if she were holding a private inner conversation, and Will waited for Angelus to clout her. Before he could, though, she pushed herself up so she was on her knees in front of Angelus. She brought one leg up and laid her elbow on it, her head lowered so that she was in the formal submissive posture.
“I was sent,” she said, “to ask—to be allowed to be your minion.”
She said it very quietly, but they all heard it. There was a short silence, and then Angelus lifted one foot, put it on her shoulder, and shoved her onto her back.
“Minion,” he said in disbelief, turning away to Darla. “She wants to be my minion.”
“Apparently so,” Darla said. She was staring at the woman with an expression of great interest.
“Ridiculous,” Angelus said. “And insulting. What can Rebecca have been thinking?”
“I’m sure I have no idea,” Darla said.
“What do I want with a minion? And Rebecca’s cast-off, what’s more. Useless fledge, can’t be more than—“ He paused and squinted at the woman, who hadn't moved to pick herself up. “Four or five. No older than Will, and God knows he’s useless enough already.”
Will curled his lip and kept silent.
“I’m eight,” the woman said.
“Shut up,” Angelus said, aiming a kick at her without looking. “Eight years and smells like a four year-old. Am I a wetnurse? Am I so young and feeble that I need minions sent to me—I can’t make my own, should I want them?”
“No,” Darla said, smiling at him. “You are not a wetnurse, Angelus.”
“I am not,” he repeated, and turned back to stare at the woman. “Look at her. Anemic cripple. No manners. Can you even hunt?”
The woman nodded, her mouth tight and angry. Angelus took one step forward and kicked her soundly in the stomach.
“Have you forgotten who I am?” he asked, crouching down and pulling her head up by her hair. “Are you a half-wit? How do you reply to your elders?”
“Yes—sir,” she gasped, holding her stomach. He dropped her and strode back toward Darla.
“She’s a mayfly,” he said. “Stupid and mulish, and we have enough of that with Will. I’m inclined to give her over to Drusilla.”
Drusilla made an excited peep, and Darla held up a hand.
“I quite agree,” she said. “She may be useless, and she’s certainly been troublesome already. But still…”
Angelus waited—they all waited. Drusilla fidgeted with the hem of her dress, sending quick hungry looks toward the woman.
“She came all the way from Lille,” Darla said. “The Slayer fired Rebecca’s lair, and somehow this one escaped. I rather think she didn’t do it alone—I think Rebecca must have helped her. And she survived to London, although she was injured and had to travel at day.”
“She was lucky,” Angelus said, but he made it a suggestion rather than a statement.
Darla nodded. “Certainly. But—why do you imagine Rebecca sent her to you?”
Angelus turned and looked at the woman. She had let go of her stomach and was kneeling, watching them closely.
“Why did she send you?” he asked.
“I don’t know, sir,” she said immediately. Will flinched instinctively—it wasn’t a good answer, in his experience. Angelus walked forward, bent down, and picked her up by her shirt collar, as if she were no more than a dog. Her feet hung several inches off the floor.
“You have no idea,” he said calmly.
“I don’t know, sir—it was all on fire, we were dying, and she hid me in the catacombs and told me to come to you if I wasn’t killed. It was the Slayer—“
“Yes, we know,” Angelus said, and shook her. “That wasn’t the question.”
“I don’t know, sir, she didn’t say why. Just to come to you in London—“
He shook her again, and her head snapped back and forth. Will had a strange sensation, watching—it was a position he’d been so often, he could almost feel his own teeth rattling.
“She doesn’t know,” he said aloud, and Angelus paused and looked at him.
“You know her mind, do you?” he asked. “You’re a witch, now?”
“Then shut your mouth, boy.”
He watched sullenly while Angelus held the woman at arm’s length, inspected her dazed face with an expression of disgust, then dropped her without warning. She went sprawling again.
“It’s getting late,” Darla said, glancing at the window. “We should be off.”
“And what about this—“ He turned back and scowled at the woman, who was collecting herself shakily. “This brat?”
Darla smiled and looked at Will. “Will?”
He straightened up. “Yes, Madam.”
“Should we give her to Drusilla, or take her with us?”
“Give her to Dru,” he answered immediately. He didn’t give a damn what happened to the woman, and all other things being equal, he liked to see Dru happy.
Drusilla crowed, and Darla let her smile linger on Will long enough that he knew it was the wrong answer. Well, that was too bad. She ought not to ask if she didn’t want his opinion.
“All right,” she said at last, and turned to Angelus. “Let Drusilla take her, then.”
Angelus looked from Darla to Will, then back again. “On his counsel?”
Darla shrugged. “We need to move quickly, and she’ll be too slow. She’s cost us enough already. And Drusilla wants her so badly.”
“I do,” Drusilla interjected softly, her eyes on Angelus.
Angelus turned and looked at the woman, his expression dark. She stared at the floor.
“All right,” he said. “But quickly, Dru. We don’t have time for you to play.”
Dru gave a nicker of delight and ran forward, and Will felt a quick upsurge in his chest—he’d given this to her, it was his decision to let her have this. She wouldn’t remember that, but he would.
“You’ve come a long way to die, little one,” Darla said. “Give my regards to Rebecca, if you should see her.”
The woman looked up at Darla’s words. Drusilla stood directly over her now, reaching down to put her hands on the woman’s shoulders.
“Little cuckoo,” she sang, “little cuckoo-bird, it’s time to leave the nest.” She pulled the woman up and went to game face.
What happened next was very fast. One moment, Dru was beautiful and demonic and giddy with delight, drawing her hand back to thrust it through the woman’s heart. The next, the woman had made a sharp writhing movement, like a fish in a net, and she wasn’t in Dru’s grip anymore. She stood a foot or two away, bent half over and looking off-balance, one hand braced on her knee.
“Jackanapes—“ Drusilla said, a look of astonishment on her face.
They all stood watching as Drusilla frowned, stepped forward, and seized hold of the woman again. “Hold still like a good girl,” she said sternly, and moved to grip the woman’s neck.
The woman tried to wriggle free again, but Drusilla was forewarned this time, and held her tightly. “I shall take your head off like a lozenge,” she said, and started to twist.
The woman tried to speak but couldn’t, and they all watched with interest as her head began to turn. Then her arm came up and knocked Drusilla’s hand off her shoulder, and she spun away again.
Angelus sighed. “Drusilla, we don’t have time for this.”
Drusilla cast him a woeful look over her shoulder. “I’m trying to be good, Daddy. She’s awful and slippery.”
“I thought she was going to be weak,” Will said.
“She is,” Darla said. The woman was bent over coughing in the shadows. “She’s terribly weak, isn’t she, Drusilla? Terribly slow and feeble, so you’d better finish her off at once.”
Drusilla gave Darla a searching look, then stepped over to the woman and tapped her gently on the shoulder.
“Pardon me,” she said, “but we’re in a rush. I’d like to play more, but Daddy says we can’t. So if you please—“
She didn’t get any farther. The woman turned around and clouted her across the face, and she went sprawling.
They were all frozen for a second, and in that space of time the woman was already standing over Drusilla in game face. She reached down and yanked Drusilla to her feet, her arm drawn back for another blow.
Will pushed off the wall and launched himself at her, hitting her midriff with his shoulder and grabbing hold. They crashed to the floor together with him on top. He didn’t think about any of the proper fighting skills Angelus had taught him; he just reared up and started punching as hard as he could. He felt something splinter in her face, and his own knuckle went too, and then Angelus’s hand closed on his neck and tossed him off.
He landed on his back, flipped to his feet, and started straight back at her, but Angelus blocked him.
“I’m going to kill her—“ He tried to go around Angelus and got an ear boxed for his trouble.
Even through his rage, he recognized the warning in Angelus’s tone. If he tried again, Angelus would break his arm. He held his hands in trembling fists at his sides and didn’t move.
Angelus watched him with golden eyes for a second, then nodded and turned away. Drusilla was standing up now, holding a hand across her face. She was bleeding a little bit. The bitch had made Drusilla bleed.
One way or another, he was going to kill her.
“Daddy—“ Drusilla held out her palm, with the bright tracing of blood on it. Her face was frightened and confused. Angelus jerked his head at Will.
“Go to her.”
Will went and put his arms around Dru, using his shirt sleeve to wipe her face. The blood was from her lip, which had been cut against her fang.
“Will,” she said. “She pecked me.”
“I know,” he said. “Don’t worry luv, we’ll sort her.”
He looked at the woman, who was rolling unsteadily from her back to her knees and trying to push herself upright. He’d broken her nose a second time, by the look of it—there was thin blood on her face and on the floor beneath her. If any of them had eaten more, there’d be more blood by now.
Angelus was standing beside the woman, watching her attempt to stand.
“You attacked my childe,” he said in a tone of interest. He looked over his shoulder at Drusilla, as if assuring himself that she was still there, mostly unharmed. “You attacked my Sire last night, and now you’ve attacked my childe.”
The woman lifted her head and looked at him sickly. She lifted one knee and rested her elbow on it in submission.
Angelus watched her do it, and gave a short laugh of disbelief. “Do you think that will save you? Posturing like a minion?”
The woman shook her head. “No, sir.” Blood dripped off her chin and freckled the floor.
Will wanted to say, Let me kill her, but he knew better than to intervene. He used the tail of his shirt to wipe Drusilla’s hands clean of blood. She was whimpering slightly, her eyes fixed on the woman. He kissed her temple, but she didn’t seem to notice.
Angelus walked away from the woman and then back, making a small circle. He laughed again and looked at Darla.
“Well, I can’t kill her now,” he said. “We don’t have time for me to do a proper job of it.”
Darla tilted her head and blinked slowly. “No,” she agreed. “I suppose we’ll have to take her with us tonight, at least.”
Angelus put his hands on his hips and shook his head. His face was alight with amusement and rage, and he turned back and surveyed the woman again as if her very appearance astounded him.
“Well,” he said, “you’ll live the night, if you don’t fall down on a stake. Get up, and we’ll be going.”
“Daddy—“ Drusilla started.
“Enough, Drusilla. You had your go at her.”
“Daddy, she pecked me—“
“I’ll do more than that, if you don’t find your cloak and make ready to leave.”
Drusilla whimpered, and Will went to her bed and found her cloak in a heap. He brought it back and fastened it around her shoulders.
“Never mind, luv,” he said. “When we get where we’re going, we’ll all take a turn at her.”
Drusilla blinked at him and caught his hand up in a tight, desperate grip. He kissed her forehead, then had to go and find his own coat in a hurry. Angelus and Darla were already outside, untethering the horses.
The woman was looking blankly around, as if surprised to find herself still there. She stood up slowly, tipped to one side, and caught herself before she fell.
“Just so you know,” he said, pausing in front of her, “you’ll wish you’d let Dru kill you.”
She focused on him with effort. After a moment, she lifted her hand and wiped blood from her upper lip. She looked at the blood on her hand, then at him.
“Yeah,” he said. "I did that. I’ll do a lot more when I get the chance.”
For a moment she just stared at him—then she smiled. It was weary and condescending.
“You won’t kill me,” she said.
“I will if I’m let,” he said. “I’ll take my time doing it.”
She looked over her shoulder at the bed, where her own filthy cloak was still lying. “You’re a bantam,” she said. “You’re a bantam and she’s your little hen. I won’t be killed by poultry.”
She turned and shuffled back to the bed and he just stared at her. Rage was humming in his ears and he could barely stop himself from reaching out and grabbing her, snapping her spine and tearing her head from her shoulders. He wanted to see blood coming out of her neck in a fountain. He wanted to see her broken and pulped at his feet.
Outside, Angelus shouted for them, and Dru turned her head to the door.
“Time to go,” the woman said, pulling her cloak over her shoulders. She smiled at him. “What is it—William? Don’t fret, Will. I’m sure you’ll have your chance.”
“I’m going to drink your blood,” he said. “I’m going to drink it like hock.”
“Possibly,” she said. “But you won’t kill me.”
She walked past him without looking at him, past Drusilla—who shied away and held her hand over her mouth. Some part of his mind noticed that the woman’s walk was steadier already. She opened the door and disappeared in silence.
A second later Angelus appeared in the doorway. “Do you wish to be left here, then?”
Will caught Dru’s elbow and walked her quickly out into the night.