He bandaged Henry with some of the spare linen and left him in the small bedroom, though he felt an odd prudishness at putting him in the bed. He wouldn’t balk at draining the boy—in fact, he didn’t let any of the spilt blood go to waste—but he disliked leaving him in sheets that reeked of sex. It hardly mattered, since Henry had fainted anyway. Will built the fire up to a blaze and went out.
He could hear them talking in the main hall as he came down—Angelus’s voice, then Caitlin’s, quiet and fearful. He came through the door and found Caitlin on one knee in the center of the room, with Angelus standing over her and Darla sitting at the table, looking serious. Dru was in another chair, her eyes bright and alert; she smiled when she saw him.
He went and stood behind Dru, his fingers in her hair.
“Tell me exactly what happened,” Angelus said, turning to Will.
“She ate Henry,” Will said immediately. Darla sighed, and Angelus glowered. “I mean, I came upstairs looking for him. And I could hear him in there with her, so I went in and there she was up to her gums in him. Sir.”
Angelus looked back at Caitlin. “I don’t understand. Did you think he was provided for your delectation?”
“No sir.” She spoke in a near-whisper.
“You were present when Darla explained that these people belong to her, I think. Or perhaps that was another stray fledgling?”
She said nothing, and put out his boot and swept the knee on which she leaned. She went sprawling, said, “No sir,” in a panicked voice, and got herself back in submissive posture. “I was present, sir.”
“I’m at a loss,” Angelus said, turning to Darla. She gave him a quick glance and turned her gaze back to Caitlin. Her expression was grave and slightly perplexed.
“What interests me most,” she said, “is how she did it.”
“Put her teeth in his neck and sucked,” Will said softly, and Darla’s frown deepened.
“How she got hold of him in the first place,” she said. “It’s not surprising that she did it, Angelus. She was starved—any of us would have done the same, if he’d been in the room. But how did he come to be in the room?”
Caitlin darted a glance up, obviously trying to tell whether the question was meant for her. Darla met her gaze with raised eyebrows.
“He just…came in, ma’am,” Caitlin said. “I woke up and he was there.”
There was a silence, while they all tested the air on that one. Darla’s expression remained sober and thoughtful. Will worked absently at a knot in Dru’s hair and tried to imagine it. Henry didn’t seem the sort to wander, especially when he’d been told not to, but it wasn’t unbelievable. He liked to keep busy; he might have gone in to make up a fire. It was dark in all the rooms, so he might not have seen her at first, until she’d had time to gather her wits and seize hold of him. And crippled or not, she was much stronger than the boy.
It wasn’t unbelievable, he told himself, working gently at the knot. And yet… He remembered standing in confusion at the top of the stairs, his coat over his arm, as if he were about to go down to the main hall. He couldn’t account for it; it felt almost like a dream, or like something he’d watched another man do.
He stared at Caitlin, and she stared at the floor.
“You woke up and he was there,” Angelus said. “And you took that as permission to feed on him.”
“Yes—I mean, no sir—“ She didn’t know what to say to that. He stared at her a minute, then turned to Darla.
“What shall I do with her?” He seemed honestly to be asking, as if he couldn’t think of an appropriate treatment, or could think of too many. Darla drummed her fingers on the table.
“You could beat her again,” she said, “but that would waste energy. You could kill her, but she might still be valuable. Or you could do nothing, but that wouldn’t address our grievance.”
Angelus waited, his face stony.
“Time is running short,” Darla said. “So let’s be practical. She took one of my people without my permission, which is an offense—but more importantly, she took the boy Will was going to have. The Slayer might arrive today; Will needs to be fed. So, let him feed on her.”
Angelus raised his eyebrows slightly, then nodded.
Caitlin was staring at Darla with an expression of horror. She opened her mouth as if to protest, then remembered herself and shut it. Her eyes moved to Will, and for a moment she seemed about to speak again. He frowned, and she dropped her eyes. When she looked up, her face was blank.
“All right,” Angelus said. “Get up, you.” He motioned for Will to come over.
“Don’t maim her,” Darla said, standing up and patting her hair. “Take what you need and see if she can still walk. It might be useful to have another body about, when the Slayer comes.”
“Lucky Will gets the cuckoo,” Dru said excitedly, clapping. Darla crooked a finger at her and she got up reluctantly.
“Oh—“ Darla said, turning as they were almost out the door. “One thing, Will—why did you come down the hall the first time?”
He was halfway across the room to Caitlin, and the question caught him by surprise. “Pardon, Madam?”
“You came back along the hall, after you went in and saw her feeding on the boy. What were you doing?”
He hesitated. “I, er—“ His gaze shifted and caught on Caitlin. She was watching him with a peculiar intensity, as if she were both afraid of and resigned to what he was about to say. He had no idea what it meant. “I thought I’d come and tell you first. But then I thought better of it.”
Darla frowned slightly. Will looked at Caitlin. She looked surprised and relieved, and then she collected herself, and her face was neutral again.
“You’d have been better to intervene immediately,” Darla said at last. “There was no need to waste time fetching us. Honestly, Angelus—is he always so stupid?”
Angelus gave her a dark look, and she turned her back on it and went out with Dru in tow. Angelus used the rest of the look on Will. Then he rounded on Caitlin, whose lips had begun to tremble.
“No fighting,” he said. “If you so much as scratch him, I’ll kill you.” He paused. “You are entirely out of chances with me, girl.”
He grabbed her shoulder and thrust her forward roughly, so that she tripped over her own feet and almost fell. Will caught her up and helped her stand.
“What was Bonaparte’s advice?” he asked, smiling. “Relax and enjoy it?” He lifted her chin and studied the marks where Angelus had bitten her before. “No doubt it’s finer in the French.”
She made a hopeless little noise, and he went to demon face and punched into her throat.
For the first few seconds he was overcome with the taste and feel of feeding properly. It seemed ages since he’d hunted, and the sudden return of familiar sensations—a rigid body clutched against his own, a gasping in his ear, the penny-salty taste on his tongue—made him savage. He dug his fingers into her shoulders and drove his jaw into her throat. She didn’t struggle, which made him even wilder.
Then the initial thrill passed, and he had a firmer rein on his senses. Caitlin’s blood was only slightly warm, not hot as it would be from a human. Of course, it wasn’t her blood—it was Henry’s, and if she’d kept it any longer it would be stone cold. And it was harder to feed from her than from a human with a beating, frightened heart. He had to pull harder to make the blood come. It didn’t hinder him—he just tightened his hold and dug with his fangs, and slightly enjoyed the challenge.
He expected Angelus to stop him after a certain point, and even raised his gaze eventually to invite the order—but Angelus merely sat at the table with his legs crossed, watching without expression. Will dropped his eyes again and kept feeding. After so many days of hunger his stomach couldn’t take much, but the taste was heady and the act itself was comforting.
He slowed until he was hardly suckling at the wounds, and from the corner of his eye he saw her raise a trembling hand to mid-air, as if she were about to push at him. He didn’t pause, and after a moment her hand fell.
“Very wise,” Angelus said.
At last Will was finished—or at least, his stomach was. He would happily have kept up until she was empty, just to have the blood in his mouth, but he had nowhere left to put it. He lifted his head and let her go with some regret.
“A thousand thanks,” he said, wiping his lips.
Caitlin stood for a moment, wobbling and looking at his boots as if they’d spoken to her. A little blood oozed down her neck. She put her hand up to it, then stared at the stain on her fingers.
“I told you I’d do that,” he said. “You probably don’t remember.” She gazed at him blankly. “I thought not.”
“Enough,” Angelus said, standing up. “You’re to be up on the roof, Will. And you—“ he looked at Caitlin—“can make up the fires, since you’ve deprived us of the boy.”
Caitlin stood looking stupidly at the blood on her fingertips, and Will turned away. He felt lighter and stronger than he had in a long time.
“Move, you nit,” Angelus said behind him, and there was a thump and a scuffling sound. Will went up the stairs whistling.
Several hours later, Will sat in the rooftop alcove, wrapped in his coat, hugging himself against the cold. Angelus had been right—it was heavily overcast and even looked like snow—but he still kept his hands and feet pulled carefully into the shadows.
He hadn't seen anything. No people, no movement, just a few thin pencil lines of coal smoke over Purwall, and a goshawk wheeling in the hills. He watched it with a poetic feeling of fraternity until it stooped, then flapped off in the opposite direction with something in its grip. After that, there was nothing else to occupy his attention.
He stood up and stamped at intervals, noticing each time that his bad leg ached a little less. His belly was full and he felt fiercely strong. It was almost irritating that the Slayer was taking so long to arrive. He kept his eyes diligently on the road and on their tracks, and after a while he realized he was actually hoping for her to appear.
Feeding had lightened his spirits, and as he stood waiting he caught himself smiling, and once even laughing, as he thought of the scene in the hall. The poleaxed look on Caitlin’s face—he chuckled again and blew on his hands. With that image in his mind, he felt almost friendly towards her.
There was a sudden bang on the roof across from him and he jumped. For an instant he thought someone had fired a gun—he still had that bloody gun on his mind—and then the door in the opposite alcove was forced open and Caitlin stepped out. She was wrapped in her filthy coat, and her face was white as paper against the dark cloth. She leaned a moment on the door, then stepped through and propped herself against the alcove wall, looking toward Purwall.
Will smiled and waved.
She didn’t look at him, and after a minute he called across.
“He put you on lookout duty too?”
She nodded slightly without turning to face him.
“You’ve just missed a brilliant panorama. 'The Taking of Sebastopol,' with horses.” She made no acknowledgement. “This evening we'll have Vesuvius in eruption.”
He let the silence go a minute, then tried again.
“What do you think—snow?”
She ignored that too, and he sighed loudly.
“Oh, don’t be such a bleeding princess. You’re walking, aren’t you? Could have been worse.”
She nodded slightly, but it might have been in reference to her own thoughts.
“Fine,” he said, turning back to stare at the village. “Be like that.”
A minute later he was jerking his cuffs down over his hands and stepping out of the shadows.
He took the rooftop at a sprint, less because he had to than because he could. His leg was strong, practically good as new, and he took great leaping strides with a foolish grin on his face. He hit the alcove wall with his outstretched palms and staggered back, almost knocking Caitlin out of it.
“Look at that,” he said, pointing back at his tracks. “Eight feet apart if they’re an inch. Check and see if I’ve got wings, will you?”
She muttered something acid and moved as far from him as she could in the small space.
“Sorry, didn’t get that,” he said, stepping over smartly with one hand to his ear. She pressed her lips together and stared at the village.
“Mumbling’s a terrible habit,” he said conversationally. “They boxed my ears no end for it, when I was young. And now I’m an elocutionary model. Perhaps I should—?” He raised his hand and she flinched, then turned and looked at him.
“You were sent to watch,” she said. “Not to torment me.”
“I’m capable of both.”
“No you’re not. Did you see that man come out just now?”
He looked quickly at the village. It was barren as before.
“If there’d been one, you wouldn’t have known.”
He paused, then grinned and squatted down with his back against the wall. “Well, since you’re so accomplished, you be lookout for a while. I’m tired of it.”
“You can be tired of it on the other side, I think.”
“I’m too knackered to go all that way just now.”
She settled herself deeper into her coat and said nothing.
“You look a trifle peaked,” he observed. “You want sleep, and feeding up. A nice Scotch broth, some tea…” He stretched elaborately. “Come to think of it, I’m peckish myself.”
She winced and glanced at him, and he gave her a wolfish smile.
“I won’t let you do it again,” she said.
“I can’t see how you’d stop me.”
She looked away. “Angelus would thrash you,” she said at last. “The Slayer’s coming, and there are only four of you. You need me.”
He snorted. “Right, you can hide in the basement until it’s finished—that’ll be a great help.”
Her hands went to fists at her sides, and she turned on him furiously. “I didn’t choose this—“ she spat, then registered his amusement and broke off. She turned and stared stony-faced at the village while he laughed.
“No, I’m sure,” he said, wiping his eyes. “I expect you’d rather have been staked. It’s a pity you weren’t.” He blew on his hands and peered up at her. “But then, I think staking rather hurts. You might not like it.”
She gave him a scathing look.
“Angelus hardly touched you,” he said, “and you blubbed like a girl. Perhaps that’s why Rebecca took you out of it—you’re a funk?”
Her face had twisted with a mixture of disbelief and rage.
“Angelus is a brute,” she said clearly.
“Hardly. You’re soft. You behave as if you’ve never been thrashed before.”
She gave him an odd sideways look that took him a moment to understand. When he realized what it meant, he could only gape.
“What—you’ve never been thrashed?”
She looked away pointedly.
“That’s ridiculous. You’re eight years old. And you’re annoying. My God, I was ready to clout you the moment I met you.”
She grimaced and stared straight ahead, as if he weren’t there.
“Now, really—don’t lie. Are you saying that your Sire never thumped you? Never once?”
At last she turned. Her expression was defensive and condescending.
“Rebecca didn’t thrash her childer,” she said. “Not all families are as bestial as yours, William.”
He stared at her, hardly registering the insult. “But—how did she teach you?” he asked. “What did she do when you disobeyed?”
“Oh—“ She shook her head and looked away with an expression of supreme annoyance, as if the question were too stupid to bear.
“What about your brothers—how did she control them?”
“Control them?” she repeated incredulously. “You make it sound as if they were dogs.”
He fell silent. Several minutes passed.
“I don’t believe it,” he said finally. “It’s not possible. A Sire can’t control a family that size without thrashing his childer.”
“There must be a clear hierarchy,” he said. “And the only way to teach a new fledgling is to thrash him. He has to learn to obey his Sire—“
She laughed shortly, and he looked up.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “Please go on.”
“Look, you can’t tell me that when your brothers were first turned they didn’t need a beating to settle them. That she simply helped them out of their graves and explained how matters stood, and they were content.”
“Perhaps not content,” she allowed, smiling ruefully.
“Well then,” he said. “Exactly my point.”
“But hardly in need of a beating,” she said. “And as for explaining how matters stood—well, that mostly came beforehand. It’s not as though she simply mauled any of us in an alley.”
She laughed, then caught sight of his face.
“What—?” she asked. “Surely you weren’t—“ Seeing his expression, she stopped and studied him with pursed lips.
He stood up. “Now look here,” he said deliberately. “You are not telling me that Rebecca came to you before she turned you, and—what, explained? Told you what she planned to do?”
She opened her mouth and he held up his hand. “No—shut up.” He was suddenly, irrationally angry; he put his palm on her cheek and shoved, so that she stumbled back into the wall. “You’re not a very good liar, you know. But I am. I could have told Angelus that you hit me. I still could. What do you think he’d do about that?”
She stayed pressed to the wall, staring at him without moving.
“Something brutal and bestial, no doubt,” he said, and yanked his cuffs down. He pushed past her and was a few steps out of the alcove when she called his name.
“Shut up,” he snapped, without looking around.
“No, there’s someone—“
Her tone was urgent and he turned at once. Advancing on the road to Purwall was a single figure on horseback. The horse looked like a country animal—short and sturdy—and the rider was so well wrapped against the cold that Will couldn’t make out whether it was a man or a woman.
He stood for a moment, sniffing to catch at the threads of scent on the air, to tell if there were any other riders following. If there were, he couldn’t make them out.
“It’s just a peasant. Come over from the next village to buy putrid soap.”
But he stayed where he was, watching the horse’s slow approach.
“You should get out of sight.”
Her words took a moment to sink in, but then he turned and got quickly back into the alcove, sneering at his own stupidity. They stood shoulder to shoulder with their necks craned, watching the horse and rider.
“Slayer wouldn’t have a horse like that,” he said.
“That’s not the Slayer,” she replied. “If it’s anyone, it’s a scout.”
“Perhaps. If they didn’t find our tracks coming out of the river, they might have split up to search.”
“Well, let’s go kill him.”
“It won’t matter—if he doesn’t go back, they’ll know something’s happened here.”
“Well then what—?”
“We tell Angelus,” she said simply.
He took the stairs four at a time, half flying. Angelus was in the master bedroom talking with Darla, while Drusilla sat teasing a mouse with a lighted stick.
“There’s someone,” Will said—and without saying a word, Angelus got up and followed him back up to the roof. Angelus didn’t run, but he walked very quickly.
Caitlin was standing just at the edge of the alcove wall, practically quivering with attention; the figure was almost to the village. She spared them a brief glance as they appeared.
“It’s a Watcher,” she said. “It must be. The horse is fagged. No one else would be out riding any distance at this time of year.”
Angelus yanked her aside without comment and took her place. He watched the rider disappear into Purwall, then stood for a moment staring at the empty road. Will pushed in next to him and tried to see what he was looking at.
“Is it a Watcher?” he asked. Angelus wore a meditative frown.
“Of course,” he said.
“What do we do?”
Angelus looked at him and laughed without humour. “Ironically,” he said, “we watch. And wait.” He turned back to the doorway. “Keep an eye on the village. If you see anyone arrive or leave, come and tell me. And you—“ He pinned Caitlin casually to the wall with an elbow at her neck. “Remember your honorifics.”
She squirmed and coughed. “Y-yes sir.”
“Where are you going?” Will asked, as Angelus stepped over the doorframe. He had a tremor in his belly again, and it sharpened his tone.
Angelus half-turned and gave him a look. “Don’t worry,” he said. “It won’t happen yet.”
He disappeared back into the stairway, and Will had to tear his gaze from the empty doorframe. It landed on Caitlin, which was no help at all: she only clutched her throat with a shaking hand and gave him back a look as troubled and unhappy as his own.
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