‘At home’ at The Waterloo
Will takes a seat.
They were all silent until they had passed out through the gate again, and traded the sweet toxic air of the gardens for the harmless stink of the streets. Darla set a quick pace and led them south toward the front.
“Will—“ Drusilla whispered, still crushing his hand in her own. “The cuckoo’s come back, Will. She’s going to take pride of place.”
“Hardly, love. Stop it, you’re cracking my bones.”
“I don’t like her,” she said in a soft and desperate voice. “I don’t like her at all, Will. Not at all.” She put her other hand round his neck and pulled him so close he could hardly walk. He could smell her fear, like sweet milk gone sour, and it made him furious.
“Let go a minute,” he said, pulling free. He raised his voice and called ahead to Angelus and Darla. “What was all that about? How did that little brute come back?”
They ignored him, and he hurried Dru up until they were walking just a step behind. “What’s going on? I thought she was dead.”
Darla increased the pace again, until he had to pull Dru almost to a run to keep up. They were almost at the shore; there was a reek of iodine. “I said, what are we going to—“
“Shut up,” Angelus said, turning suddenly and stopping, so that Will ran straight into him. Darla kept walking, leaving them behind. Will backed up a step and kept his hold on Dru, who had tried immediately to go to Angelus.
“What’s going on?” he asked, staring up into Angelus’s frown. “We left her with a stake in her, at sunup. What’s she doing here now?”
Angelus stared at him grimly. “I told you to be quiet,” he said. “Didn’t you understand me?”
“I don’t understand anything—“
Angelus glanced left and right, then smacked Will across the face. Will skipped back another step.
“—anything that’s going on. How does that French bitch know where we’re lodging? And why are you letting her—“
Angelus cracked him over his right ear, before he could even see it coming to dodge. He lost hold of Dru’s hand and had to stagger to stay upright. For a moment the pavement and the sky threatened to swap places.
Then Angelus’s arm was around his shoulders, hauling him up, and they were walking quickly forward again. Angelus’s voice was in his ear.
“Shut up, boy. I won’t explain myself to you, and I won’t have you bothering Darla. You take your sister’s hand and be good and quiet while Darla and I talk, or I will knock your head off your shoulders. Do you understand?”
Will shook his head to clear it, and Angelus gripped the back of his neck. Pain went down Will’s spine to his heels, buckling his knees.
“Yes sir,” he gasped, and Angelus let go.
“Good boy,” he said. “Do as you’re told and don’t be a nuisance, and it will be all right.”
Will was silent, and Angelus rubbed his neck lightly. Darla was disappearing through the seawall break, continuing down to the sand. Some part of Will’s mind fussed that her skirts were going to be ruined.
“What about Dru?” he asked, as Angelus glanced over to the right, where she was keeping pace with them, watching them with wide horrified eyes. “She’s getting into a state.”
“She’ll be fine.” Angelus let go of Will and put out an arm to Dru, who came at once and pressed against his chest. “No reason to take on so, Drusilla.”
She gave a ragged sob and dug her fingers into his coat, and his face twisted impatiently. He glanced again at the seawall where Darla had disappeared. “Come along, stop that. Here—“ He patted her hair, then her back. “For God’s sake, Drusilla—“
“She’s frightened,” Will said. “Seeing that girl gave her a turn.”
“Did it,” Angelus said, without much sympathy. “Look here, Drusilla—there’s nothing to be frightened of. I don’t have time for this nonsense.” She shook and clawed at his neck, and he slapped her hands away. “Christ—stop that. Listen to me, you’re perfectly safe—“
“She’s come back!” Dru cried, raising her face and staring at him with huge-eyed terror. “She hasn’t died properly, she dies and dies and won’t turn to dust, and she’s the new princess, she tells the children what to do—“
“Sweet mother Mary,” Angelus said, and grabbed her wrists. “Take her, Will. Keep her quiet, and don’t wander off. I haven’t the time for this.” He thrust Dru at Will and strode off after Darla.
Will caught Drusilla’s wrists and pulled her close, while she fought and cried for Angelus. “It’s all right,” he whispered, kissing her face. “Stop that, Princess, you’re safe, you’re perfectly all right—“ He cast an anxious look over his shoulder at Angelus’s retreating back. “Come along, she’s only a stupid girl, it’s nothing to cry over.”
She wailed and struck his chest, and he had trouble catching her arms with his mending hand. “Ow—come on, let’s go after Angelus, shall we? We’ll walk behind, and—ouch, dammit—they’ll tell us what it’s all about in a little while. Come on, love.” He trapped her arms and yanked her against him, and started off after Angelus. She wept quietly, her head bowed.
Darla and Angelus were well ahead now, walking almost at the water’s edge. Will kept a little higher up the sand, and murmured reassurance to Drusilla, and kissed her hair. Slowly her weeping stopped, and she rested her head on his shoulder and let him lead her. Under other circumstances, he would have been happy.
They walked the shore for the better part of an hour, tracing and retracing a route between the piers, with Will hanging back with Dru at a respectful distance. Angelus kept his hands clasped behind his back, and stared at the sand. Darla held herself rigidly straight and spoke continuously, without inflection, her gaze straight ahead. Only once did her voice rise, and Will caught the word idiot, spoken coolly as another woman might say table. Angelus did not look up at that, or at anything else.
At last Darla led the way back up to the seawall; she and Angelus passed within a few feet of Will and Dru, but made no acknowledgement. Will held his peace and followed behind all the way back to the hotel, trying not to look at any of the drunkards reeling past. To his own amazement, he was hungry again.
The desk clerk gave them a sideways look and touched his forehead, and they went up to their rooms. Angelus opened the door to the first, and Darla went in without a word.
“You two take the other room tonight,” Angelus said in a low tone, turning to face Dru and Will. “Go to sleep. No noise, or I’ll be in and make you sorry.”
“Yes sir,” Will said immediately, trying to cover his surprise. Dru made no such effort—her face dropped and she let out a stifled cry.
“I’m to be with you, Daddy, it’s our room—“
Angelus scowled. “Hush, girl. If you’re going to throw a fit make it a quiet one. This is a respectable establishment.” He gestured at Will to take her away, and Will didn’t wait for him to change his mind. He caught Dru’s elbow and walked her quickly down the hall to the second room.
He was worried she might indeed throw a fit, and since Dru’s fits were never quiet he was prepared to wrap her in the bedclothes and lie on her until she was done—but she didn’t. The fight had gone out of her. She let him lead her, spiritless, into the room, and watched without expression while he closed the door.
“It’s all right, love,” he said again—he’d been saying it all night, it seemed. “Come on, let’s get you to bed.”
She let him undress her, and lay silently while he undressed too and got under the covers beside her. He lay next to her and ran his hand through her hair, then turned her face and kissed her. She stood it. He stroked her shoulders and her breasts, and she stared at the ceiling. After a while he realized she was listening to the indistinct sound of voices from Darla and Angelus’s room—a few moments after that, he realized he was listening, too.
He kissed the point of her shoulder and sighed, then curled up with his head next to hers on the pillow. They stared at the ceiling together, not breathing, not moving.
This one is sweet, she said, trailing her fingers down his cheek. Her skin was cold and moist. I would drink him like hock.
She caught his broken hand and brought it to her own face, clinging when he tried to pull away. Her grip was strong, and hurt him. She slipped his fingers into her mouth and ran her tongue over them, watching with lashless black eyes to see his expression. Her lips were wet and wide. There were small mottled markings at her temples and throat, and drops of water slid down her brow.
Sweet, she said. Are you certain he is your childe, Angelus—your very own? I have heard otherwise.
No one answered, and she smiled and swallowed Will’s hand to the wrist. The pressure of her throat was agony, and he cried out and tried to pull free.
I would drink him like hock.
He woke up with a start, and pulled his aching hand out from underneath Drusilla. It was daytime, or morning at least—the edges of the curtains were white. He lay staring at the ceiling, cradling his hand against his chest and trying to quiet the panic in his belly.
The hotel was full of the normal human sounds of morning, the harried petty snappishness of parents and the excitement of children, discussions about toast and trains and newspapers passing through the halls. Outside he could hear horses and their trappings, the tinny jangle of an organist, the cries of birds. Beneath all of it was the gnaw of the sea, which had become such a constant in the last few weeks that he’d forgotten it entirely.
He stared at the ceiling and bit his lip and thought of all the ways that humans were stupid—eating and working and ageing helplessly, feeble and soft as jellyfish. They were food, that was all. You caught them and played with them a while, and then you ate them.
But still, a pair of women went down the hall laughing together, and his heart twisted. For just a moment, he wanted to be able to get up and go downstairs to the sunlit breakfast room, where humans would be eating boiled eggs and scolding their sons. He wanted to sit in company, where there was movement and activity, where there was a salt cellar on the table and a cream jug in the willow pattern of his childhood.
It was the stupidest thing he’d wanted in years, since the very start, when he didn’t know any better. He couldn’t imagine why he wanted it now, and he hated himself for a fool, but that didn’t dispel the wanting. His hand ached and he shook it, then got up carefully and found his watch. Nine o’clock.
He settled on his haunches at the foot of the bed, and sighed.
By three o’clock he was famished, and half mad with boredom and anxiety. Dru was still asleep. She had driven her face into the pillow, and slept with an air of fixity and determination, as if wilfully removing herself from the world. There had been no sound at all from Darla and Angelus’s room; probably they had talked all night, and were resting now for whatever was going to come next.
That was what occupied most of Will’s mind, as he sat with his back against the bed, testing his fingers ritually—what would come next. Darla had agreed to let Venétiane come to the hotel, and the more he considered that, the more he found it a deeply disquieting notion. Another master was going to visit them in what amounted, for the moment at least, to their home. The thought raised a queer mix of anger and nausea in him.
And not just another master, but that bloody girl, Caitlin, who by all rights ought to be dead. Who by no rights whatsoever should be paying them a call in their rooms. Who had looked solider and surer and older than he remembered, and who had stared at Angelus with a cold, purposeful hatred that bothered Will even now.
He found himself returning again and again to the moment she had stepped out onto the lawn, and each time he was more disgusted with himself. He ought to have noticed more—how she smelled, and whether she had healed entirely, and a hundred other things that Angelus would have caught right away. Whereas Will had been thinking about her hair. She might have produced a stake and a bottle of holy water from her pockets, and he wouldn’t have twigged until it was too late.
He berated himself for a while, then slipped sideways into a series of consoling fantasies. Caitlin emerged from the bushes and he noticed at once that she was lame and blind in one eye, and had recently fed off an opium fiend. Caitlin didn’t have a chance to emerge from the bushes—he smelt her first, and called her out in a commanding tone. Caitlin emerged from the bushes and he crossed the lawn in a few steps, pinned her against the trunk of the laurel, cracked her chest, and yanked out her heart as a gift for Dru. Of course, that left him with the unpleasant consequences of having killed another master’s minion. Venétiane’s black eyes snapped at him, and he veered away and went back to testing his fingers.
Stefano was another problem. Stefano had followed him back to the hotel, and for that Will owed him a broken hand. And there was the matter of what Venétiane had said: a lovely couple, so beautiful, so gallant. Will thought of Stefano’s arm about Dru’s waist, and a rush of fury filled his head. For that—for just the suggestion of that—he owed Stefano a broken arm. He dwelt on that until he felt a little calmer. It occurred to him that Caitlin had stood a few feet away from Stefano, as if she didn’t like to go any nearer.
Will stared at the wall and wondered how she hadn’t died. She dies and dies and won’t turn to dust. The girl had been killed six ways to Sunday, and somehow she was still walking. Which only proved, of course, that she was no better at dying than she was at anything else. But he thought of how she’d looked at Angelus, and wasn’t comforted.
He stretched his aching fingers and checked his watch again. Three thirty. His stomach growled, and he lay down on the carpet and stared at the ceiling, and wished for night.
He fell asleep shortly before dark, and woke again at the feel of it. A few moments later, the door opened and Angelus came in, knotting his tie. He paused and frowned down at Will.
“What are you doing on the floor?”
“Couldn’t sleep.” Will sat up and ran his hand through his hair. Angelus was still staring at him, so he added, “It’s cooler down here.”
Angelus shook his head dismissively, and looked at the bed. Dru was still asleep; she hadn’t moved all day. “Wake Drusilla up, and tell her to come next door and get dressed. Darla will come in and fetch her own clothes shortly.” He paused and studied Will. “Your face is a little better—how’s the hand?”
Will held it up and flexed it without comment. Angelus nodded. “Good. Though it hardly matters, once she’s noticed it. Get dressed properly, and comb your hair.” He finished his tie and turned to go, and Will stood up.
Angelus turned back, one hand on the doorknob.
“Well—what’s going on exactly? What are they coming to talk about?”
Angelus frowned. “You were present last night. You know as much as any of us, at the moment.”
“So you don’t know why she’s coming?”
“Unless I have forgotten some crucial exchange, she didn’t say.”
“Well—“ Will scratched his chin and tried to order his thoughts. “Well, you know her, don’t you? You and Darla both do. Or at least you know who she is.”
Angelus leaned against the door and crossed his arms. “Yes,” he said in an elaborately tolerant tone. “She is roughly Darla’s contemporary, though I don’t know that they have ever met in person before.”
“Oh. Well, what do you think of her?” Angelus raised his eyebrows, so Will added, “I mean, do you think she can be trusted?”
Angelus laughed. “Trusted? I don’t know, Will, what do you think?” He tipped his head to one side and studied Will closely. “Perhaps I ought to lend you out to her, as she suggested. You might enjoy the experience—you wouldn’t have to call her sir.”
Will swallowed. “No, sir.”
“No to what?”
“No, I don’t think she can be trusted. And you can’t lend me out. I’m not a bloody carriage horse.” He realized as soon as he’d said it that it was an unfortunate metaphor.
Angelus’s eyes dropped to Will’s right hand, then came back to his face. “I think you’ll find,” he said, “that I can do pretty much what I like with you, William. Fledges can be traded. You might remember that, the next time you throw a tantrum.”
Will looked away.
“Get dressed,” Angelus said, turning and opening the door. “And wake Drusilla up. They’ll be here before midnight.”
There was a soft step and a tentative knock, and they all turned toward the door.
“Come in,” Angelus said.
The door opened and the desk man stood looking at them with some perplexity.
“Begging your pardon sir. As you said, there’s a—there’s some folk here to see you.” He had his watch out, and gave it a quick glance as he spoke.
Angelus nodded. “Show them up.”
The man stared at them a moment longer, then pulled the door to and disappeared.
Darla ran her hand over her hair and looked at Angelus. “You should have reminded him of my photosensitivity, darling. He’ll think we’re mad.”
Angelus drummed his fingers on his knee and made a noncommittal sound.
“Mustn’t let our guard down now,” Darla said in a soft reproving tone. She turned and gave Will one last look over her shoulder. “Is it any use telling you to behave again?”
He shrugged. He was wearing his least favourite coat, the one that Darla liked and that itched his neck and wrists. Angelus had done his collar and tie, and they were very tight.
“Try at least not to curse at her,” Darla said, turning back and settling herself more comfortably in her chair. There was a waspish edge in her tone, and she was holding herself very straight. As Will watched, her right hand stole to her reticule and traced the outline of the jaw; then she caught herself and folded her hands in her lap.
Dru was standing behind Angelus’s chair, a bookend to Will. When he had finally got her up she’d been somnambulant, talking in fragments about toads and lizards and cuckoos, and making quiet burring sounds beneath her breath. Even now she was torpid, and leaned on the back of Angelus’s chair.
Will tried to catch her eye, but there were steps coming down the hall, and then another tap at the door. He turned back sharply and straightened up.
“Come in,” Angelus said, without standing.
The desk man pushed the door open with one finger, and stood looking at a card in his other hand.
“Uh—Madame Venétiane,” he said, mangling it badly. “For Mr. Arlees.” He pocketed the card and stood aside, and Venétiane came in, followed by Stefano and, after a moment’s pause, Caitlin. Will glanced at Dru again automatically; her eyes were wide and blank. When he looked back he found Stefano watching him with a slight smile. Will straightened and let his lip rise a fraction, and Stefano looked away.
The desk man lingered a moment, staring, then caught Angelus’s look and disappeared.
“Master Angelus,” Venétiane said with a smile, and dropped into a curtsey. She wore a blue dress now, with the same dark ribbon around her neck. “Madame Darla. Again, I am in your debt for this kind service.”
Angelus stood and bowed. “Madame Venétiane. We’re honoured by your visit.”
“Please sit,” Darla said, indicating the pair of chairs facing her own and Angelus’s. “I regret we cannot offer you refreshment.”
Venétiane waved a hand very slightly. “Thank you, I have already taken something. I find Brighton most hospitable, the promenade especially.” She sank into one of the chairs, and watched Angelus sit opposite her. “It is most hot, is it not?”
“Indeed,” Angelus said. Stefano glided to a position behind Venétiane’s chair, while Caitlin hung a few feet back. Angelus didn’t look at either of them; his gaze was fixed on Venétiane.
“Is this common in your country, such heat?”
“Not common, no.”
Venétiane fanned herself slowly with one hand, smiling. “I quite enjoy it. Have you ever travelled to the côte d’azur, Angelus?”
Angelus tapped his right knee a few times, quickly, then stopped and leaned back in his chair. He crossed his legs and rested his hands in his lap. “A beautiful region,” he said. “Though the taste of the locals is an acquired one.”
Venétiane laughed. “We will travel there someday, perhaps,” she said. “Together. I will show you the best hunting grounds, and you will see—there are many tastes to be tried.”
Angelus smiled and said nothing.
“Or perhaps,” Venétiane went on, “you will favour me with le grand tour of your own country. The Irish are a charming people, when they are fed.”
Will fidgeted slightly, casting another sideways look at Dru. Venétiane immediately turned to him with a smile.
“Bon soir, mon enfant,” she said. “That is a delightful coat you wear. Tell me—if I wish a coat such as that for my boy Stefano, where may I find it?”
Everyone looked at Will. He cast a glance at Angelus, who looked back at him without expression. Angelus’s fingers were tapping his knee again, though, and Will thought he smelled the faintest trace of worry in the air.
“The coat was made in Leeds,” Angelus said, turning back to Venétiane and stilling his hand. “I can provide you with the tailor’s address, if you wish.”
Venétiane shrugged and smiled. “You dress the boy well, Angelus. He is fortunate to have such an attentive sire.”
“I remind him of that fact constantly.”
Venétiane laughed; it was a pretty, tinkling sound. “I am certain that you do, Angelus. You are spoken of—do you know this?—as a master who knows the old ways, and follows them. L’ancien régime, you will excuse the expression. And this of course is why I come to you.”
Darla, who had sat silent and unmoving so far, shifted slightly in her chair. “Forgive me, Madame Venétiane,” she said quietly. “You came to England to seek the Slayer, did you not? Or perhaps I misunderstood.”
Venétiane looked at Darla as if surprised to find her there. “Ah yes,” she said, and smiled. Then she turned back to Angelus. “But I do not inquire into your personal affairs, Master Angelus. What may, or may not, have occurred to the girl is not for me to ask.”
“As you say.”
“Indeed, I have forgotten her already. Bof—like a cloud, she disappears.” She blew lightly over her palm, then fluttered her fingers. “I come for the future, Angelus, not the past.”
Angelus shifted slightly, and looked at her without speaking. She leaned forward slightly and fixed him with a serious gaze.
“France,” she said, “is dying.”
Angelus shot a quick sideways look at Darla. “Indeed,” he said in a neutral tone.
“Yes, it is so. Ma france, mon beau pays, my country that I love. It is gutted and torn, cut up by butchers and fools. They throw it to the dogs, these humans; they throw my country to the dogs in the curb.” Her voice was low and steady, and her eyes held Angelus’s without blinking.
“You speak of the revolution,” Angelus said.
“The revolution, yes. The world turned upside down, so a fishwife may stare at me in the street. Madness. You have had our nobles here, I think, begging from your own people, while heads fell in Paris.”
“I should think,” Darla said, “that such circumstances would be to your benefit. You cannot entirely regret them; you wear the ribbon.”
Venétiane paused, then turned again to Darla. “No,” she said, touching the band at her neck. “I do not mind la guillotine, in its place. And there is a certain pleasure to be found in human confusions. One is a little more free.” She dropped her hand and frowned. “But this is more than confusion. France will not have a king again.”
There was a pause, while Angelus studied the carpet and Venétiane watched him closely.
“That may be,” he said finally, rubbing his jaw. “And it may not. But you asked leave to visit for another reason. That girl is hanging back there like a gorecrow, and I would like to know why you have brought her.”
Venétiane leaned back in her chair and sighed. “Of course,” she said. “Please excuse my forgetfulness. Come here, girl.” She curled her fingers over her shoulder, and Caitlin came forward and stood beside her chair. Stefano glanced at her from under his lids, then looked away. Venétiane regarded her with a slight smile.
“How long, do you think, before she can wear a ribbon?” she asked absently. “Like my Stefano—but not so handsome.”
Angelus shifted, and Venétiane turned back to him. “Forgive me. I think it best I show why I bring her, rather than try to tell. But if I do so, I must first have your agreement to one thing. I am here as your invited guest, Master Angelus—and my childe and minion, too. You will not harm us while we are your guests.”
Angelus put his hands on the arms of his chair and pushed himself straighter. He looked at Darla, who hesitated, then nodded. Angelus turned back to Venétiane.
“That is the traditional arrangement,” he said slowly. “And I agree to observe it tonight. As long as you offer no harm to myself or my family, you are safe.”
Venétiane nodded. “Thank you.” She turned and looked at Will. “Come here, mon enfant. Step forward a moment.”
Angelus immediately shook his head. “No,” he said. “Whatever you have to show me can be done without involving my childer.”
“Ah, but in fact it cannot. I promise you, Angelus, I intend no harm and will do no harm. I am your guest.”
“No. I want an explanation, not a pantomime. Speak French if you wish, but you may not use him.”
Venétiane held up her hands in a gesture of helplessness. “I cannot,” she said. “You would prefer, perhaps, the girl—?”
Will stepped around Darla’s chair. “I’ll do it,” he said. “Whatever it is.”
Angelus shot him a dire look, but Venétiane laughed delightedly. “Oh, this one speaks his mind! How old, Angelus?”
“Get back, William.” Angelus’s voice was cold and tight. Will glanced at him; he was sitting forward in his chair, as if about to stand up.
“I’m all right,” Will said. “She said no harm. What do I have to do?”
“He is quite safe,” Venétiane said, still gazing at Will with sparkling eyes. “I promise you as your guest, Angelus—he will not be harmed. I did not become so old as I am by breaking my promises, did I?”
Angelus stared at Will without speaking, and Will raised his eyes to look at Dru instead. She was watching him with an odd fixed expression: more expectant than afraid. He half-smiled and turned back to face Venétiane.
“What do I have to do?” he asked again.
“Nothing, my boy. Only be, as you are. Just so. And then, girl—“ She turned to Caitlin, and everyone’s gaze followed hers.
Caitlin stared at Will, and he met her gaze with a slight sneer.
“Hello again,” he said softly. “Fancy another draining?”
A furrow formed between her eyes, and he smiled.
“Sit down,” she said.
He took a step to the chair beside Venétiane, and sat in it.
There was a moment’s pause, and he looked around and wondered why everyone was staring at him.
“Stand up,” Caitlin said. He stood.
“Sit down,” she said.
He sat again. Angelus’s expression was extremely odd, and Will himself was feeling strange. He couldn’t put his finger on it; it was as though he had forgotten something. He couldn’t think what it was.
“Stand up,” Caitlin said, and he stood again.
“Stop it,” Angelus said softly. Caitlin looked at him, and her lips curved in a small, cruel smile.
“Sit down,” she whispered, and Will sat.
“Enough,” Venétiane said sharply. She reached out and yanked Caitlin’s waistband. “Aux genoux.” Caitlin dropped to her knees, her eyes on the floor.
Will watched with confusion. There was a familiar smell of anger in the air, but he couldn’t think what he’d done to warrant it. Darla was staring at him with that fixed expression that meant she’d been shaken. Dru’s eyes were huge and wet. It was too much to think about right now. He looked away toward the window, and wished vaguely for a breeze.
“William. Will. Get up, come here.” That was Angelus speaking to him, his voice gentle. But the air still smelled of rage, and the contradiction was impossible to unravel. Better to listen to the sea, or the faint sound of voices from the front. Laughter and shouting, and footsteps in the street below—
A hand touched his. He looked down and saw pale skin and beautiful sharp fingernails.
“Your sire speaks to you, my boy,” Venétiane said. “You must listen.”
He looked into her face, and her black eyes held him, deep and sober. It occurred to him that someday Dru would be that old, and that when she was, she would be the most beautiful woman in the world.
“Will,” Angelus said again. “Come here.”
Will blinked, took his hand from under Venétiane’s, and stood up. He crossed over and stood behind Darla’s chair before he noticed that Angelus’s hand was held out to him; then it seemed awkward to switch sides, so he stayed where he was. Angelus dropped his arm. There was silence.
“My apologies,” Venétiane said after a moment. “She continued, after you wished her to stop. I will speak to her on the subject.”
Angelus said nothing; he was staring at Venétiane with dark hard eyes, and the smell in the room was smouldering. Darla glanced at him quickly.
“That is most interesting,” she said, and her voice was calm. “She casts spells, I take it?”
Venétiane laughed. “Ah—no,” she said. “A spell requires study, understanding, control… She has merely an aptitude. Perhaps the girl of Angelus is the same?”
Darla frowned. “No,” she said. “Hardly the same, I should think.”
“But she too tells a man, ‘Do this,’ and he does it, no?”
Darla made a gesture that neither confirmed nor denied. “This aptitude—you taught it to her?”
“No. I teach her control, and to use it for the right purpose.”
“And what is the right purpose?”
Venétiane smiled and looked at Angelus. “But Master Angelus does not forgive so easily. I am sorry—it is a liberty, I know, but I cannot explain in words. I must show instead. And as I promised, no harm has been done.”
There was a brief silence, and then Angelus repeated, “No harm.” His voice was flat.
Venétiane sat back in her chair and looked at Will. “No, Angelus. He is perfectly well—see him? Let him tell you so.”
Everyone looked at Will, and he shrugged. He couldn’t take his eyes from the empty chair beside Venétiane; he knew he’d only just been sitting there, but couldn’t remember why he’d done so. Surely not because that idiot girl had told him to?
“I’m fine,” he said, when no one spoke.
“And this one,” Venétiane said, reaching out and flicking Caitlin in the side of the head, “I will remind of her place. But still, Angelus, you see there are possibilities.”
“Possibilities,” Angelus repeated.
Venétiane nodded. She had begun absently to run her fingers through Caitlin’s hair. “Indeed. You see why I bring her to your attention. She is so interesting, so curious—I would be selfish to keep her to myself. To…hoard her, I think you say?”
Angelus sat silent for a moment, his hands wrapped around the arms of his chair and his gaze on the carpet. Then he looked at Venétiane. “Have her do it to me.”
Venétiane raised her eyebrows, and Darla stiffened. “Oh, but she cannot,” Venétiane said at once. “Not that I would in any case permit her to.”
“Why can’t she?”
“Because you are too old, Angelus.”
“How do you know?”
Venétiane laughed. “Because I made certain, of course. I would not wish a minion who could tell me stand or sit, and I should have no choice. Or to my children, either. I made certain before I accepted her.”
“How did you make certain?”
Venétiane smiled and looked at her own fingers in Caitlin’s hair. Caitlin’s eyelids had sunk halfway, and her expression was dazed. “You are older than my boy, Master Angelus,” Venétiane said. “Not many years, perhaps, but he is old enough. She cannot make him do as she says. Only humans, and fledges. Little things. Amusements.”
“Amusements,” Angelus said softly, and Darla gave him a quick look.
“Nevertheless,” she said, “you understand we wish to be sure. Have her try with Angelus, please.”
Venétiane shrugged and took her hand from Caitlin’s head. “Au debout,” she said. Caitlin stood, blinking. “Vas-y, avec le monsieur.”
For a moment Caitlin didn’t move; then she rubbed a hand over her eyes and took a step forward so that she was in front of Angelus’s chair. He looked up at her, and for a moment she faltered. She hesitated, began to step back, then looked over her shoulder at Venétiane. Venétiane regarded her without expression, and Caitlin squared her shoulders and looked round at Angelus again.
“Stand up,” she said softly.
Angelus didn’t move. His eyes were locked on her face, and she swallowed and cleared her throat.
“Stand up,” she said, with more force.
He looked at Venétiane. “How do I know she isn’t shamming?”
Venétiane shrugged. “I tell you, she cannot. Only little things.”
Angelus gave Caitlin a bleak, considering look. “Permit me an experiment,” he said, speaking still to Venétiane. “A small one.”
Venétiane sighed. “Certainly. But of course you recall I am your guest, and she also?”
“I recall what you are,” Angelus said, and stood up. Standing, he loomed over Caitlin, and she took a quick step back. There was a thread of fear in the air now, under the smell of his anger.
“No harm,” Venétiane said softly, and Angelus nodded. Then he reached out and wrapped his hand around the back of Caitlin’s neck. She squeaked and rose up on her toes.
“Stop me,” he said. “Make me let go.”
“Let go,” she gasped, and he squeezed harder. His fingertips dug into her flesh.
“Master Angelus—“ Venétiane said, in an imperturbable tone.
“Stop—let go—stop—“ Her toes were barely touching the floor now, and her whole body was arched backward and trembling. Tears ran down her cheeks.
Angelus pulled her close, until his face was only inches from hers. She stared at him in silent terror. He lowered his face to her throat and she began instantly to writhe and claw at his hand.
“Master Angelus—“ Venétiane said again, with a trace of irritation.
Angelus put his nose to Caitlin’s neck and sniffed, then gave her a little shake. “No,” he said softly, as if to himself. Then he let her go, and she stumbled backward and fell over the chair Will had sat in. Stefano smiled slightly and looked away.
“As you see,” Venétiane said, watching Caitlin pick herself up. “She cannot. Though perhaps we will next time agree what is meant when we say, ‘No harm.’”
“She isn’t damaged,” Angelus said calmly. “And I feel obliged to state that I in no way consider that a conclusive test.” He sat down and fixed Venétiane with a cool look. “This is all very interesting, Madame, but you haven’t answered my question.”
“Have I not?” Venétiane asked. “I should think I have. As I say, Angelus, I would be most selfish to keep such a girl to myself. I wish to share her. But not with any master—rather, with one who is strong and wise, who remembers the old ways. That a master is just that—a master—and a minion is also just that. And so I bring her here, to you.”
“To have me teach her.”
“Share her, yes.”
Angelus laughed sharply and opened his mouth, but before he could speak, Darla interrupted. “You are most generous to think of us, Madame Venétiane,” she said. “And your offer is quite extraordinary. We will, of course, respond in due course.”
Venétiane looked from Angelus to Darla, and then back. Angelus had closed his mouth, and sat in silence, without expression. Venétiane nodded. “Of course, Madame Darla,” she said. “I hope for the pleasure of your agreement.”
“Thank you so much for your visit. May we contact you in the same way?”
Venétiane tipped her head slightly and gave Darla a slow smile. “Oh no,” she said. “I thought to avoid the fuss, and to be available if you should wish me near. And so we have taken rooms here, in the…what, the ‘Waterloo’? A charming establishment.”
Darla paused, just for an instant. “Wonderful,” she said. “Though perhaps, on second thought, it would be better for you to lodge elsewhere, to prevent the staff wondering at all of us keeping such hours?”
“Ah,” Venétiane said, standing up. “But your ailment is hereditary, Madame Darla. And we are, after all, sisters. What is more to be expected than two frail, sickly sisters keeping company together?” She winked, then dropped a low, prolonged curtsey. “Master Angelus, Madame Darla, I await your response.”
Angelus stood and bowed, and Darla did something that might have been a curtsey. Stefano bowed and went to hold the door for Venétiane, who left with a final smile at Angelus. Caitlin neither bowed nor curtseyed, and had to catch hold of the closing door to let herself out after Stefano.
As soon as Venétiane was gone, Angelus turned to look at Darla. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“What you should have done months ago,” she said. “Thinking ahead.”
in which Angelus poses the obvious question,
Stefano offers assistance.
Dru was glassy and unspeaking, Darla was grim, and Angelus was taut with rage. And Will—Will was hungry.
He stood by Darla’s chair, rubbing the back of his left hand absently against the plush, and listening with half an ear as Darla berated Angelus. She kept her voice low and steady; she might have been speaking of whist or orchids, except for the words she used.
“And how was I to know—“ Angelus began at last, and she turned and threw her reticule at him. He caught it and stared at it.
“Shut up,” she hissed, her tone suddenly furious. “Shut up, you imbecile. It isn’t a question of knowing or not knowing. You ought to have torn her throat out, you ought to have staked her properly. But you left her, you idiot. Because—what?—because she spoke French at the right moment? Because you thought she was no threat?”
“If you disagreed with my decision, you might have—“
Darla went to demon face, and the smell of fury boiled off her. “What, Angelus?” she asked. “No—tell me what I might have done. Enlighten me.” Her lip peeled up in a snarl.
Angelus stared at the carpet. After a moment Darla shook her head and returned to human face. She put her hands to her temples and pressed. “Give me that.” She held out her hand, and Angelus walked over and returned the purse to her. She stroked it a moment, then glanced at Will and Dru. “When did they eat last?”
“Two nights ago,” Will answered, before realizing the question hadn’t been addressed to him. The plush was soft against his hand.
“Take him out,” Darla said, her gaze still resting on Will. “Drusilla won’t feed in that state.”
“I don’t like—“
“I don’t care what you like. Get out. I won’t have you here right now.”
Angelus’s eyes narrowed, and he pulled himself straight. “Come along, Will,” he said, and turned for the door.
It took Will’s feet a moment to start moving, but he followed. As he went out the door, Angelus looked back at him and frowned. “Your coat, Will.”
“Oh.” He went back and fetched his coat, then waited in the hall while Angelus collected his own. Then they went down the stairs and out into the night.
The air was hot and salty, and Will closed his eyes, listening to the sound of their heels on the pavement. Angelus veered a little to the left and Will bumped into him before he could correct.
“What are you doing? Stop that.”
“Sorry.” He backed off and waited while Angelus stared at him.
“Come here.” Will stepped forward again and Angelus took hold of his head in both hands. He ran his fingers over Will’s scalp, looked in his eyes, turned his chin and examined him from several angles. Will let him do it, gazing meanwhile at nothing in particular, somewhere in the middle of the street.
Angelus smacked him, and Will rubbed his cheek. They stood looking at each other for a moment.
“Come on, let’s get some blood into you,” Angelus said, and turned away. He smelled worried rather than angry now, and he set a quick pace down to the front.
There was none of the usual business of testing Will’s ability to choose and corner prey. Angelus was quick and practical, and in five minutes’ time he’d found a young man collapsed in a doorway. He collected him under one arm and led Will to an alley, then stood watching while Will drank.
It was good hot alcoholic blood, and by the time Will was finished his ears were singing and his whole body seemed to vibrate. He pulled off and grinned at Angelus, knowing he had blood on his chin and not caring.
“Bloody wonderful,” he said, and laughed.
Angelus smiled slightly, but his eyes were still sharp and dark. “Go on and finish.”
Will shook his head. “That’s it for me. Fucking brilliant, though.”
“Then wipe your face.” Angelus sent a look over his shoulder at the mouth of the alley, then took the boy from Will and pressed him up against the brick. Will wiped his face, licked his fingers, and kept watch while Angelus drank.
When Angelus was done he cut the boy’s throat and carried him a little way down the alley to cache him. Will stayed where he was. The sweet blood vibrato drained away, and he was left with a feeling of dissatisfaction, despite his full belly. He couldn’t stop seeing that chair, and he couldn’t remember why he’d sat in it.
By the time Angelus came back, Will was feeling mildly ill. He had Caitlin’s face in his mind, and her voice in his ears, telling him to sit down. He rubbed his neck and glanced at Angelus.
“It’s the strangest thing—“ he said, and stopped. Angelus looked at him a moment, then walked past him, close enough that their shoulders brushed.
“Come along,” he said. “There’s no sense lingering here.”
He led the way back to the promenade, and then down onto the shore. Will followed a step behind, his eyes on the pavement, a queasy panic growing in his belly. When they’d walked a way along the tideline and were alone, Angelus turned to him.
Will gave a short, nervous laugh. “Well what?” he asked. “I don’t know.” His voice was too sharp, and he closed his mouth and looked away out to sea.
Angelus said nothing, and they walked on.
“Why did I do that?” Will asked finally, when he had control of his voice.
Angelus didn’t answer for a moment. “You know why,” he said finally. “You’ve seen Drusilla do the same.”
“To humans,” Will spat, and again he sounded on the verge of panic, and had to pause a moment. “To bloody vagrants and children.”
Angelus took his watch from his waistcoat pocket, and began carefully to wind it.
“I bloody sat when she told me to,” Will went on. “And I jumped up again when she said. Like a fucking trained bear. Like a fucking minion.” His voice caught again and he turned on his heel and stooped to snatch up a handful of stones. He went to demon face and hurled them one after another as hard as he could into the darkness. They took a long time to hit the water.
When he turned back, Angelus was watching him silently, without expression.
“Bloody bitch,” Will said, and showed his fangs.
“Agreed,” Angelus said. “Now kindly put that away.”
Slightly mollified, Will returned to human face. Angelus had turned to start walking again, and Will picked up a few more stones and followed.
“So now what?” he asked.
“I think that is in Darla’s hands.” Angelus’s voice was stiff, and Will examined the stones in his hand.
“Yeh, well. She’s never happy anyway.”
“You mayn’t speak of her like that,” Angelus said automatically. Will shrugged and pitched one of the stones out to sea, listening for the satisfying plop. Angelus listened too, then took one of the stones from Will and turned it in his fingers.
“Tell me what it was like,” he said.
“What—oh. Just…I don’t know. Stupid.” He thought of Angelus saying Stop it, and of Caitlin’s smile. He hurled another stone as hard as he could.
“I don’t know.” He hadn’t been able to think straight; he remembered staring away out the window, and listening to the street. While Angelus had called him and Dru had stared in terror, he’d wanted a breeze. He threw another stone. His shoulder was starting to ache, which pleased him in a quietly vicious way.
“You looked…calm.” Angelus was still turning the stone in his fingers, but he was watching Will closely. Will shrugged. “Were you?”
“Fuck, I don’t know.” He dropped the stones he was holding and bent to take up new ones.
“Stop saying that.”
“That you don’t know. Do you not remember?”
“No. I mean, yeh, I remember. I suppose.”
“Then tell me.”
“What the fuck do you want to know that for? Was I calm? I don’t know. I was sleeping, or something. Stupid fucking question.” Angelus immediately boxed Will’s ear, and the stone in his hand made Will’s head ring. He stumbled, took a few quick steps away, then suddenly couldn’t be bothered anymore and sat down. Angelus paused, then came and stood over him.
“Are you all right?”
“I’m fine.” He wondered whether he should be saying sir, but the thought made his stomach turn. He rubbed his ear and felt a trickle of blood where the stone had cut him.
Angelus crouched beside him and parted his hair to look at the wound, then flicked blood from his fingers. “I’m asking you these questions,” he said, “because they’re important. You can understand our situation, I think?”
Will stared out to sea for a moment. “Yes,” he said. “It was calm, I suppose. Except it wasn’t anything, really. I didn’t know what I was doing until after I’d done it.”
Angelus ran his fingers through Will’s hair, and for a moment Will let his eyelids fall. Then he saw Caitlin kneeling on the carpet, her own eyes half-closed at Venétiane’s touch, and he felt a quiver of revulsion. He jerked his head away.
“I’m not a fucking minion,” he said without thinking.
Angelus raised an eyebrow. “No,” he said, and waited.
Will took up a few more stones and tossed them half-heartedly down to the water. Then he stood up, and Angelus followed suit and watched him search his pockets.
“Can’t find my sodding handkerchief,” Will muttered, pausing to wipe blood from the back of his ear, before it could reach his collar.
Angelus glanced up to the promenade, then reached out and took hold of Will’s shoulder. He pulled him in and licked the blood from his neck. His tongue was cool and firm, and he closed his teeth lightly on Will’s earlobe. “You’re not a minion,” he said softly into Will’s ear. “You’re my childe.”
Will closed his eyes, and this time he saw nothing. Angelus’s tongue touched the cut, and stung for just a moment. Then it was good, and Will tipped his head to feel it better.
“You’re mine,” Angelus said again, and Will smiled. He leaned into Angelus’s arms and breathed in Sire, and didn’t think of anything but Angelus’s tongue on his skin.
After a while Angelus left off and rested his forehead against Will’s head. Will gave him a quick sideways glance.
“Well—“ he said, and started to pull away. Angelus tightened his grip.
“What would you have done?” he asked in a low voice.
“You said you were sleeping, that you didn’t know what you were doing until you’d done it. What could she have made you do?”
The sweet drifting sensation in Will’s chest was snuffed out. He tried without success to twist out of Angelus’s arms. “Nothing,” he said. “I don’t know. How should I know?”
Angelus crushed him tighter, his head still pressed against Will’s. “What if she told you to attack me?” he asked.
Will froze. For a moment he stood completely still, staring sightlessly at the shore where the water foamed white.
“Or Dru,” Angelus said.
Will set his jaw and shoved hard against Angelus’s chest to break his hold, and Angelus let go. Will stumbled and took a few steps away before turning back. It took him a moment to collect himself, to make sure his voice would be even. “Don’t be an idiot,” he said. “There’s no way I would—“ He had to pause again, and look away to sea for a moment. “I wouldn’t do that. Ever.”
Angelus gazed at him in silence. There was a thin stripe of Will’s blood on his lip.
“I’m going to kill that bitch,” Will said. “I don’t care whether I’m allowed, I’m going to rip her guts out.” Then he turned and began to walk quickly back the way they’d come, and after a moment or two he heard Angelus follow.
Will kept in front all the way back to the Waterloo, and took the stairs three at a time. The hotel was silent, but as he drew near to their own rooms he heard the muffled sounds of a struggle.
He looked around reflexively to find Angelus, and found himself thrust sideways into the wall. “Get back,” Angelus said, in a tone that brooked no argument. Will bared his teeth but kept out of the way, and Angelus opened the door in one quick movement.
The chair Will had sat in was overturned, and the rug beneath it was rucked up. Darla and Dru were on the bed, a tangle of linens and skirts and loose hair. Darla was on top, holding Dru’s wrists and pinning her down by the throat. Dru thrashed and arched, and made a low continuous choked groan.
Darla looked up as the door opened; her face was half-demon and white with fury. “For Christ’s sake,” she spat. “Come and help me.”
Angelus stepped in and Will pushed quickly past him. “How long has she been like this?” he asked, leaping up onto the bed beside Darla and taking Dru’s wrists in his own hands.
“Too long,” Darla said. “It’s three o’clock in the morning, and she was working up into a screaming fit.”
“It’s all right love,” Will said, putting his lips close to Dru’s ear. Her face was half-covered by her hair, but he could see she was changing back and forth between demon and human, and that she was terrified in both. He pressed a kiss to her temple and stretched his body out alongside hers. “Love, look at me. It’s all right, you’re safe.”
“Hold her throat,” Darla said. “I won’t have her making any noise.”
“She’ll be quiet,” Will said. “Dru, it’s me, Will—“
Her head rolled and she looked at him with staring eyes, then began to buck wildly against his hands. The groan rose to a strangled half-scream, until Darla clamped down on her throat again.
“My God,” Darla said. “Angelus, come and stop this.”
Will stared into Dru’s eyes, brown and then golden and then brown again, and saw nothing there but fear. She was weeping, and she’d bitten her lip. There was blood on her face, and on the pillowslip under her head.
“Love—“ he whispered helplessly, and then Angelus’s hand came down on his neck.
“Get up a minute, Will.”
He clung a moment longer, trying to make her see him, and Angelus’s hand tightened. Will let go and rolled off the bed, going immediately to stare out the window.
“Now, Princess.” The groan quieted, then stopped, and Will turned despite himself. Angelus was sitting on the edge of the bed with his hand on Dru’s head. As Will watched, Darla cautiously loosed her grip on Dru’s throat; when the silence held, she got up with a look of disgust and began pinning her hair back in place. Dru lay still, her eyes locked on Angelus’s face.
There was a light knock at the door, and the three of them glared at it. Darla glanced quickly at Angelus, then at Will. “Open it,” she said, still fixing her hair. “Carefully. If it’s a servant, send him off.”
Will scowled, but went to the door and opened it a few inches. Stefano stood in the hall, smiling slightly. They stared at each other.
“Yeh?” Will said.
Stefano tipped his head as if he’d been given a compliment. “My mistress sends me to ask if there is any difficulty I can assist with,” he said.
“No. There isn’t.”
“No, of course. Then she conveys her sincerest wishes for a calm and restful day.”
Will said nothing, and after a moment Stefano bowed slightly. He still wore a slight smile, and though he’d made no effort to see past Will into the room, he gave the impression of knowing exactly what there was to see. “Buona notte, ragazzo,” he said, and the corner of his lip twitched.
“Same to you,” Will said. Stefano turned and disappeared silently down the hall.
Will shut the door, and turned to face the room. Darla stood by the bureau, a jet comb in her hands. “Insufferable,” she said, and the comb snapped.
Angelus stroked Drusilla’s hair, and stared at Darla without expression.
“What the hell did he just say to me?” Will asked.
Dru would only keep quiet as long as Angelus was on the bed with her; when he tried to get up to talk with Darla, she clutched at him and began an ominous moaning. He sat back down with a sour expression, and Darla sighed and settled herself in a chair beside him. Will took another chair on the opposite side of the room, and sat staring at the pattern of the wallpaper, one finger stroking the cut on his head.
For a few minutes there was silence; then Angelus said, “Well?”
“Well indeed,” Darla replied. “This is a most unpleasant situation.”
Angelus was silent, and after a moment Darla said, “But as she said, there are possibilities.”
“What—that I should partner with that viper, and be staked when my back is turned?”
“I suppose, if you like. But I was thinking of other things.”
“That girl is a nuisance and a danger. I won’t take her on.”
“I wonder,” Darla said quietly, “why Rebecca sent her to you.” There was silence, and she went on. “We never did discover that, not properly. Venétiane was a friend, and she was in France. It would have been safer to send the girl to her, don’t you think?”
Will looked over; Angelus was stroking Dru’s hair with an absent frown. Darla had the jaw out, and was toying with it.
“Curious,” she said. “And there is the question of how she found us in London, in the first place. I don’t recall leaving our address with Rebecca.”
“What are you saying?”
“I am saying, of course, that you have been an idiot. And so have I, so have we all. I would like that to stop.”
“Meaning that we will tread more cautiously from here. I quite agree with you—the girl is dangerous, and should be staked. But there is more to this situation than seemed at first. From this point, you will say nothing to that woman that we have not agreed upon.”
Angelus wrapped a lock of Dru’s hair around his finger and studied it. “And what have we agreed upon?”
“Then we should—“
Darla shook her head and pointed at Will. “We will discuss this in private.”
Angelus frowned. “He’s involved. He should—“
“You saw what that girl can make him do. If he knows our thoughts, he could be made to tell her.”
Angelus studied Will, and Will stared back at him for a moment, then looked away. “Wouldn’t do that,” he muttered, but it was only for form’s sake. There was a rushing in his ears, and he had an urge to stand up and fling the chair across the room.
“All right,” Angelus said. “Drusilla too, I suppose.”
“We must assume so. Has she settled yet?”
Angelus tried to sit up, and Dru clutched him at once. He sat back with a grimace. “No.”
“Then we will discuss this tomorrow, when we can send the pair of them next door.” Darla tucked the jaw back into her purse, then stood up and began to unbutton the top of her dress. “In the meantime, I suggest we try to sleep.”
She undressed and slid under the sheet beside Drusilla. Angelus stripped to his trousers in a meditative silence, then began taking the combs from Drusilla’s hair and laying them on the night table. Will stayed where he was, slouched low in the chair with his feet planted in the carpet, watching.
“What did it feel like, William?” Darla asked, well after he’d thought she was asleep.
“Nothing,” he said. “It didn’t feel like anything. Madame”
She made a slight sound of satisfied curiosity, and turned onto her side. Angelus raised his head.
“Come to bed, Will.”
“I’m all right.” He sank a little lower in the chair and closed his eyes, and felt his fangs in cool flesh, his hands on a spine. Then bitter dust and ashes, and black joy in his heart.
· Verse 3, Will lops the arms off a cross to be able to use it for something. the genji is impressed.
· third verse: they have let V. go because of politics; but when B. shows up he is not willing to do so. He has turned up in fact specifically to collect C. and to kill V.
o (D. has sent word to him? how could she do this without V. knowing? TK)
· V. has a head start b/c of this lapse on their part, and she has disappeared and sent word to her remaining childer to disappear also.
· The gist of verse 3, therefore, is B. taking C. around France to find V. and her childer, testing out her powers on them and killing them one by one.
· He invites the Bad Family along, since they were planning on a grand tour anyway, and because he’s still the smitten kitten for Darla. There is an implication that the invitation is not entirely voluntary, perhaps.
· Angelus is pissed about this. Deeply unhappy sire, takes things out on Will.
· They do not always travel together, but they meet at intervals and are always on the move. A learning experience for the fledges, B. says. A. growls.
· Real nasty guy, B., when he gets going. But otherwise extremely genteel and polite and cultured, and kind. Stinks of power. Like alcohol fumes—W. gets woozy from it.
Post hand-breaking: A. is in a slightly pissier mood than usual, because he’s self-flagellating and has been raked over the coals by D. all night. Sire/childe relationships are breaking down willy-nilly. (It’s her fault too but she doesn’t admit it—only slams him for stupidity. No sire is perfect.
Will asks if S is French—Aus looks at him as if he’s stupid. Didn’t you notice what he was wearing? And his accent? He’s Italian, you dolt.
He pulled her away back down the street, keeping her close when she tried to veer away to follow a pair of girls in dirty white dresses.
“I had a white dress once,” she said vaguely, smoothing her own dark blue skirts.
The V. Situation:
1. R. and V. were friends of long standing.
2. R. disclosed C.’s abilities to V.
3. V. struck a deal with the Slayer, betraying R. and specifying that they let C. go—assuming that C. would come to her, and she would be able to exploit her. (Slayer and co. didn’t particularly honour this arrangement—would have killed C. if they had been able, but confusion and mismanagement saved her.)
4. However, R. realized what had occurred—she instructed C. to go not to V., but to A. She knew where A. was because V. keeps close tabs on many families, and had been trying to persuade R. to travel together to London with C. and do exactly what V. does in this segment—veiled threat, intimidation with a view to domination, etc. R. knew better than to do this, and wasn’t interested anyway—she considers D. a friend, and is more honourable than V. about these things.
5. R. didn’t tell C. what she’d realized about V.—hoped she was wrong, but was certain enough to tell C. to take refuge with A. instead of V. Crappy second option, given that A. would probably kill her, but D. might protect her (as she did, in fact), and better than sending her to V.
6. V. was a member of French nobility, and still owns land in France. Complains about shift to industrialization, nouveau riche. Underhanded “appeal” to D. and A. as gentlefolk—then “remembers” that they’re not gentle, but respectively a whore and a drunkard. One of many such comments.
7. V. is ambitious in a vampire-ish way, to start a new era of expansion—she admires the British Empire and wants one, herself. Land is a fading currency in relative terms, but in real terms is still valuable. Knowledge is forever powerful. A tool like C. is invaluable.
8. V. proposes alliance to A. and he turns her down—she lingers, causing mayhem. Applies pressure through humans—makes sure word reaches the CoW that there have been throat cuttings in Brighton, and passes word among humans that Will is the horse-killing lunatic. They are unwelcome in hotels, and begin to have the uneasy sense of a mob gathering. They can’t leave without dealing with V. and C.—it would not only lose face, but be stupid and dangerous to turn their backs on a powerful enemy (as they know she is.)
9. Watchers begin to appear in Brighton, like sharks, and V. is sanguine about the increasing danger. W. frantic to leave—A. and D. won’t permit it. C. betrays some anxiety too, though she covers it with pride and new snobbishness. V.: Ah well. If we were a united force, perhaps we would be able to overcome them. (She’s a little bit insane at this point, but mostly lucid and highly intelligent.)
10. They join forces reluctantly—are outmaneuvered, and have a bad feeling of being manipulated, but there is nothing for it—and this gives the opportunity for W. and C. to be placed together, and the following scene below, as well as the scenes with Stefano mocking W. for being A’s woman. (With hint of twisted power attraction in his own right.)
11. There is a point when Watchers pursue A. and W.—they are with C., cut off from the rest, and A. has knocked C. unconscious. They consider leaving her for the Watchers, but it would be stupid for various reasons, so they carry her and flee, encumbered, into an abandoned building. Hide in a basement, below floorboards, while Watchers walk over their heads. C. wakes up between them and is in terror—again, her power doesn’t help her, b/c she can’t speak. They wait it out, and finally can leave.
12. V. immediately determines that W. is A.’s favourite, and uses this as an avenue of attack. Manipulates W. into attacking the salamander (S. comments on W. as A.’s woman; insults to and designs on Dru, esp.).
13. This means the fucking with Aus must take place before this point—the baiting and violence and then Will upended. What causes this?
14. Will speaks French with a sense of lapsing dignity. Finally says, o fuck it, and punches the salamander in the face. V. hen claims unbelievable umbrage and imminent attack unless W. is given over to her for punishment. A. refuses, but V. is powerful in this setting and the four of them aren’t. Negotiates that she can’t maim or kill W., and can only have him for an hour. V. is satisfied.
15. W. is treated well enough—until he’s given over to C. V. in fact only wants to talk to him, which is what Aus. figured, and why he was willing to let him be traded at all. (Before letting W. go, he takes him aside and warns him not to say anything, not to allow himself to be provoked—and fishes out the lock for him. It’s only an hour, you can stand an hour of anything. C. finds it and is bitter b/c she has nothing of her own sire, but gives it back.)
16. When C. has Will to do what she likes with, she drains him. S. wants to rape W., and tries to enlist C.’s assistance. She is revolted and talks her way out of it. Later, after the revelation, she is raped offstage by S. and W. figures it out. A. knows too, of course. Does nothing. S. will get his, don’t worry. (When A. takes her on in the end of the story, he tells her she can do what she like with S. And she does.)
17. And possibly in the third verse, a conversation between the two, on slightly less neutral though still very loaded footing—what he would do if he had the same abilities. He’d do something more than just whoring himself to a master, he says—she says, yes, you’d make that mad bitch love you. At least you think you would. But no. You can’t do that; no one can do that. Magic, maybe—but not us. You can’t do anything worthwhile with this, it’s just a hindrance. Angelus was right, I am a cripple. (Bitter, having realized how much she’s lost—Rebecca and family, and then in service to their Judas.)
18. Caitlin comments that W. is walking all right again. She rasps when she breathes, and perhaps always will. That didn’t heal quite right.
19. A scene where V. shows interest in the jaw, and D. offers to trade it for the loan of Caitlin. This should come after the revelation of V.’s treason, since otherwise she wouldn’t do it. After the jig is up with C., she takes off the velvet glove and just uses the iron fist—gives C. over to S. for a proper lesson in respect to social betters, and C. is in utter misery. V. doesn’t much care—the whole favoured childe thing was just a ruse on her part anyway, though C. believed it of course. When D. offers the jaw in exchange for the loan of C., V. accepts with the same provisos they imposed on the loan of W., and a reminder that C. can’t be used against her, b/c of the minion relationship. Fair enough. What do they really want with her, then? She isn’t properly V.’s minion—she pledged to A. first, and wasn’t ever refused. That still stands. They bring this up with her and ask her to fuck over V. She asks if she’ll have A.’s protection, if she does—will she be his minion. No. He refuses. (Why? Because he doesn’t trust her, she’s dangerous and powerful—but as his minion she theoretically couldn’t hurt him. He might doubt that she would follow this rule, considering her hatred for him. And doesn’t want to provoke V. more than necessary—would rather hang C. out to dry by encouraging her to revolt and not having any responsibility for her. He’s not willing to accept her as a minion until he’s really, really, really pressed to do so by circumstances, which happens when the Watchers and the townspeople start communicating and reaching critical mass.) They are at an impasse. And then we get into the whole floorboards scene.
20. Later, when events have been screwed to the sticking point, Aus agrees to take C. on as a minion. Accepts her. A. performs his own version of her humiliation of Will, telling C. “Sit down. Stand up,” not through mental exertion, but via threat of physical injury. She sits, stands, does what he says. Aus: You’re not V’s anymore; you’re mine. And I care for you even less than she did, if that’s possible. If you open your mouth without my leave, I’ll add to Darla’s collection of jawbones.
21. Later, when it’s possible for C. to do something to save V., she doesn’t do it. With Aus’s sponsorship, C. wants to kill V. but A. won’t let her. Not appropriate, not her place. And killing V. would get V.’s allies up in arms after A. and family. [??In next story, several months later, there is mention that V. has met a gruesome end offstage. No mention of C., but implied.??]
22. A scene near the end where V. sacrifices the salamander despite all her avowals of love etc. for him throughout—they’ve been together two hundred years, but when A. demands him as recompense and as the price of V.’s own release, she gives him up without protest. He is in the end a tool, as C. was. And V. respects A. for manoeuvering the situation to his advantage.
23. Pathetic fallacy is of course included—as they leave, the weather breaks.
24. The next night, as they are leaving, B. shows up and claims C. over Aus’s protests and longstanding grudge. And thus we are cast straight into the third verse.
i. W. loses his temper and kills the horse, which makes them vulnerable to the humans and to V.’s machinations.
ii. A. loses his temper and breaks W.’s hand.
iii. W. loses his temper and punches the salamander, falling into V.’s trap.
iv. Another sense—the tempering of Will in the sense of further growth and maturation, passing through a trial. He’s tempered by pain in C.’s hands. When A. gets him back there’s massive h/c.
v. The Watchers break ranks and bobble the trap, b/c of emotion/anger?
· C. in this one is darker, angrier, meaner, less sympathetic. She has some of her initial pride and bluster back—she is V.’s favourite, and treated as such, and it has been long enough for her to have decided to treat the interlude with A. as wretched and transient, meaningless. He told her she was spoiled and was right—but R.’s spoiling was relatively harmless, just a perhaps-too-soft treatment of a favoured childe. V.’s spoiling is poisonous—she tells C. that C. is a kind of messiah, sent to rule and dominate, and C. has been shaken (and has nothing else, anyway) enough to cling to her and believe it. So C. has turned into a bit of a monster, though she still has, underneath, the parts she began with—a softness, humour, sense of integrity that leads her to help where she can (as with W.’s leg, AWT), simply because of R.’s example. R. was a Good and (truly) Gentle woman, in vampire terms at least—and followed a personal code of upright behaviour and rationality that is unique. When C. finds that V. has betrayed her, and all of them, she realizes more fully what she’s lost in R., and weeps and weeps.
· S. and C. do not like each other. One little bit.
· The Italian Salamander / the cinquecentist / Beppo / the Papist. Will really doesn’t like Stefano.
· In mulling over his jealousies, W. comes to realize that because they don’t die, this pain won’t go away. Will only get greater and greater… Wonders if he’ll go a little mad with it. Seems hopeless—I can’t go on, I’ll go on.
· As they get older their quirks get more pronounced—Angelus and Darla are like that, their personalities more defined and entrenched, their blind spots larger even as they get more experienced and knowledgeable and dangerous. V. like that too—Will sees flickers of a younger person occasionally in her, but mostly she’s simply deepened her groove. She’s a bit mad by now, or simply extreme—the terms cease to have meaning after a while. Not a lunatic, but grasping and hungry and cruel and shrewd to the exclusion of much else. Which is like madness.
· dynamic where the older ones are all sitting around talking, gossiping, etc., and the youngers are thrown together. like being at the kids’ table at a party. Basically C. and W., b/c Dru is mad and the Salamander is about A’s age.
· Stefano is an inbred minor nobleman; V. wouldn’t turn anything less. He was crackers to begin with—de Sade character, always liked inflicting pain. C says, She does things to him I wouldn’t do to a dog. Pause. He likes it. She’s bothered and repulsed by it; a momentary qualm and a chink in her armour, before she seals over again.
· C. and W. slip into a literary discussion? He laughs about the poetry he used to read, though in fact the memory troubles him and he can’t quite remember when he stopped—when he lost that part of himself. She never read poems, but silly novels. And still does, or did when in R’s care. Not anymore—minions don’t read.
· Stefano = black tunic, white stock, hair long in ponytail with ribbon, white stockings, black slipper-type shoe with bows. powdered hair?
· Venetiane = bilious green dress with red choker, small hat
1. Starts out indolent, sweet, tolerant, close. A. is indulgent and protective these days, following the whole AWT experience. Also a little proud of W. for performing so well under fire. Keeps D. and W. close, touches frequently, usually gentle rather than harsh. Strangely, W. finds he doesn’t mind this—actually likes it, though sometimes he wonders what this says about him. Doesn’t think about that much. Is less jealous of A/D than he thinks he should be—though there is one point where A. tries to engage both at once, and W. is half-taken in, then has to get up and leave. Goes out, gets drunk, kills a horse in retribution for the one he let live in AWT. That incurs A.’s wrath later, but not much. He only slaps a few times over the last few months, and when he does he pets immediately afterward, as if reassuring himself that he hasn’t done harm. Da keeps her own counsel about all of this, though she doesn’t approve of spoiling and after a while she does a little spring cleaning around the family.
2. W. is learning French, and doing quite well with it, what with not being smacked all the time. He can tell time now, too, fairly well. Everyone’s getting along just fine—and then V. turns up to spoil the show.
3. V. turns up with a proposal for A., all innocence. Doesn’t mention C.’s presence at all, which is snaky and disingenuous. They immediately know that she knows the little history, and has turned up for some nefarious purpose. A. wishes he’d had a chance to talk to Henry before Da killed him. Spilt milk.
4. At first V. says it’s a social call—then Da points out that they aren’t complete morons, and asks why she’s really there. V. demonstrates C. (sit down stand up sit down) and makes a proposal—a partnership. Flattery etc. Of course they know she’s in fact only there to demonstrate what she thinks is a weapon that could toast their family. They’re polite to her face, and furious behind her back.
5. C. can do it to W. and Dr, but not to Da or A. They’re too old.
6. C. is well-fed and well-dressed, looks well taken-care-of. She clearly dislikes the IS, but is devoted enough to V.
7. V. was R’s close friend. Why, they wonder, didn’t R. send C. to V. when she was killed, instead of to A? Perhaps to avoid leading the Slayer to her—but Da isn’t wholly satisfied with this answer, and continues to wonder. She knew R. somewhat, but not as well as V. Of course, in the end it’s because V. struck a bargain with the Slayer, and R. realized it before she died. She didn’t tell C. at the time, but told her to come to A., who was the next best option, because he’s strong and R. knew Da.
8. R. told C. to tell A. about what she can do—but she didn’t. Because she was spoiled and thought she could hide it, which is stupid but there you go.
9. A. pulls trump card—he never refused C. as a minion, and her request to him still stands. She shouldn’t have made another request to V., without being refused by A. first. Bad form, and invalidates the V. minionship. V. is displeased to learn of this—C. had avoided mentioning it.
10. C. pretty much hates A. and the whole group of them, and who can blame her?
11. V. thinks W. is pretty, and makes some inappropriate comments/offers to A.
12. A scene in which A. and W. fuck, and W. comes out later feeling pleased with himself and life—to encounter the Italian Salamander. Who sniffs pointedly and mocks him for being his sire’s woman. Everyone has a normal sexual interaction but W. W. gets a little wound up over this, and A. gets shirty in response. IS comes in for his own later on.
13. There is a scene where C. and W. must work together? In order to show trust between A. and V? A. is very uncomfortable with it, can hardly bring himself to accept.
14. C.’s ability NEVER helps her. It ALWAYS fucks shit up. Often she’s prevented from speaking for one reason or another—they are in hiding under some floorboards while a crowd of Watchers walk above, for example. She’s been unconscious but wakes up between W. and A., and is highly panicked to find herself there. Must keep quiet to avoid discovery.
15. V.’s proposal is to whack a bunch of Watchers? This would give C. and W. something to reconnoiter, as well as an under-the-floorboards scene, and some oomph to the plot overall. Dangerous because there are so bloody many, both English and French, together (ironically) to discuss the Purwall debacle and lay a league-of-nations type accord for future cooperative ventures. In Brighton this time, because it’s central for all.
16. Da and A knew about the gathering of Watchers, and were preparing to clear out of town for a while, having pretty much exhausted Brighton’s pleasures anyway, and not wishing to get entangled in something that would get them all killed. The Watchers’ blood is up, and they’re very aggressive right now, although there isn’t a Slayer in these parts. Some rumours that the new one is Russian, or Indian, or what have you.
17. V. appears just as Da and A are about to move the family out—and makes her veiled proposals. Thinks C. will be an ace in the hole, and they’ll be able to intimidate and spread fear etc. etc., get the Watchers off their backs. Really, she means she’ll be able to assert dominance. She has fairly pie-in-the-sky notions of C.’s abilities, but A. and Da are a little less convinced. Anyway, they agree because they don’t have much choice given how she’s phrasing it, and it turns into an elaborate game of one-upmanship, cloaked in false front politesse, while V. tries to locate and exploit weaknesses, and generally maneuver to undermine the A / Da family. They realize she’s doing it, of course.
18. C. is limited and of course nothing ever goes right for her. Also, she’s not a simple tool—she’s young and desperate for a proper family, still unconsciously grieving her own, stunned and manipulable to a point, but not stupid. V. treats her too much as a means to an end, like horseflesh, and C. isn’t unaware of this but takes whatever she can get, pathetically.
19. Da figures out V.’s betrayal of R. and they have a chat with C. She disbelieves at first, then goes back to V. When they see her next she’s been beaten black, and V. is much more close-mouthed. Obviously there’s been a showdown. Now C. does what V. says because she’s a minion and she has to, but her allegiance is blown and she doesn’t know who to hate. She can’t ally herself with A / Da, because she dislikes them too and because of her formal agreement with V. But she finds some subtle inactive way to assist them and to allow V.’s downfall.
20. V. isn’t killed at the end, but A. forces her to release C. as a minion. So C. is again a free agent. Again, A. considers killing her—but then he doesn’t. She must have helped them in some considerable way, or shown herself harmless in some way, for him to let her go.
21. Hot hot hot summer mood to this one. And perhaps there’s a scene in which the ocean plays a role, to parallel the fire in the last one.
1. And this is way off, but in the third story (part 3 of the cuckoo trilogy!) C. has fallen in with someone else entirely. The guy who was the De’il in Purwall, back in AWT.
2. He was a fling for Darla, another vamp, and they had a feisty time chasing each other across the northern countryside. The whole Purwall thing was a joke, really—they were playing follow-my-leader with a blood trail, and she caught up to him after he’d been laying waste to Purwall for a while. It was a challenging place to find him, because it’s so far out of the way. To amuse themselves (and partly in earnest) she got up forces against him and became Our Lady, while he was the Devil. He may be black? That would sure ruffle feathers in the village.
3. Aus is not terrifically happy to see this guy.
4. He’s very old—older than Darla, and tres sexy and playful and not really antagonistic, because he loves her in his way. Even though she finally told him to get lost—he’s immortal, he has perspective on these things.
5. He’s picked up C. and is amused and interested—hasn’t seen a fledgling who can mesmerize so well. He can do it too—in story 2, Da reflects on this but doesn’t disclose much. Likes Dru too, (which puts W’s back up in a serious way) but C. is a real find. He shows up with her in tow to get the back story. Which puts him up against Aus, who still hasn’t refused her request to be a minion. Aus isn’t willing to give her up to him, because it seems dumb and vulnerable. Also it’s a bit of a pissing contest, and for the first time Aus is sort of in the W. role—snarly and younger, upstart in comparison to this guy, who is tolerant and had to get a rise out of. W. is bemused by all of this.
6. This one will be a little difficult and different, because he’s not a proper antagonist. There will have to be some other oompph to the plot, without removing emphasis from the family. What other loose ends remain?
7. Some discussion of how bloodlines work—funny that this talent cropped up in C., when R. didn’t have it, or anyone else in the family. Seems to be an inherent tendency even before being turned—she was always good at manipulating people/making them do what she wants them to.
8. The new guy is finally a proper mentor/master for C. She can’t control him and he’s not interested in exploiting her. He’s not scared of her. During the time between V. and him, she wandered alone a lot and was angry and disaffected, basically said fuck it all, and ignored all kinds of rules. Killed a lot of people and a lot of vamps, wreaked havoc, indulged herself. The family came across signs of her from time to time, but she stayed out of their direct path and they didn’t hunt her down, on account of the agreement at the end of story 2. The new guy turned up out of interest in the source of all this brouhaha. And has brought the hammer down. C. has a proper master again, and is partly sullen, partly relieved.
9. There is a long stretch of this story where W. is truly alone—separated, lost, has to rely on himself alone. A la Oliver Twist, soaked and injured and wandering. Rite of passage, anyone?