Without You 15

Part 15

THE BRONZE

“Have you seen this”?

Darla’s pale blonde head came up with a start when the door crashed open, slamming against the wall as an agitated figure stormed over the threshold.

She’d recognise that expression on his face anytime and froze as wariness replaced her previously ordered calm. His wrathful roar had barely finished vibrating in her ears before she walked around the desk wearing a deliberately serene look, trying to limit the damage- to her.

“No. what is it”? Her pale hand reached for the innocuous looking paper, missing it by inches as he whirled away with an enraged screech. Wincing she folded her hands over her waist and waited for him to simply tell her.

“How dare they” the Master continued to rage, pacing stiffly, wrath coming off him in waves of such electric tension that the small cramped room seemed to crackle with it.

“They will pay for this outrage”! He spat whipping around to pin Darla with his blood red eyes. Stunned the blonde took a step back at the virulent hatred gleaming manically in their depths.

“I am the Master here. Do they really believe their puny attempts to usurp me will work”. It wasn’t a question and treating it like one would only make him even more unpredictably furious while he hunted for an outlet to let loose on.

Darla let him finish, knowing that interrupting in his current frame of mind would instantly focus all of his rage on her. She had to be careful though, standing silent by would be interpreted as either disinterest or worse, culpability for whatever this latest trouble was.

“No one can doubt you are our Master. Now let me see the paper, Darling”? Darla asked jumping into a minute gap in his ranting. She dropped the usual seductive purr in favour of practical efficiency deciding she’d soothe his ego later. For now she just needed to understand what the hell was going on to put him in such a rage.

The single sheet was thrust into her outstretched hand; then hands clasped behind his back the Master stormed towards the chair behind the desk. The desk lamp threw off a soft glow, normally very flattering to the chair’s occupant; not this one though. His bald skull seemed to suck in and corrupt any light attempting to touch its dead grey skin; in itself a visual horror relieved only by the harsh glow of eyes so red they resembled blood welling stab wounds above his flattened nose.

Pale blue eyes framed by lush lashes scanned the page, dismissing ineligible squiggles until she came to a section she could understand, then those eyes widened in stunned amazement. Hardly able to comprehend what she was seeing, she read it again, a fine tremble betraying her turmoil at what she was reading.

*If you crave freedom rise up against the Master. Only his death will bring down the barrier meant to keep him in.* “No one was ever supposed to know about this” she whispered tightly, crumpling the already abused paper in her clenched hand.

“Where was it found”? Darla jerked her head back up to find him watching her with a malicious gleam. Seeing it froze her already cold blood. What was he thinking? She couldn’t tell yet, but she had a bad, bad feeling.

“It was handed to me by a loyal friend” replied the master idly, his mood swinging dizzyingly. A look of sorrow melancholy passed over his face. “Unfortunately dead now. I lost my temper” he added and leaning back, inspected his claws for evidence.

Darla simply stood and stared at him, waiting for the rest, knowing full well he hadn’t finished and the punch line had yet to be delivered.

“As for where; well let me put it this way. Our enemies have been busy visiting every drinking hell and gathering place they could think of. By now the news will have spread all over town” He folded his hands over his middle and sighed dramatically. “I’m afraid this quite ruins things for us, my Dear”.

Darla’s eyes narrowed at yet another swift reversal to go along with the mercurial mood change. There was only one explanation. He’d found another target to occupy him and since she was the only one in the room-

“Who did it”? Her throat ached with panic, making the question almost inaudible.

Darla prided herself on being a quick thinker, able to assess actions, reactions and consequences with lightening speed. Now she was floundering. If her wits hadn’t been so scattered she would have seen the trap she’d just walked into.

“Why that’s just the question that has me so intrigued” crowed the Master, beaming at her like a teacher to a particularly apt pupil. He rose and rounded the desk so swiftly Darla stumbled backwards and only just managed to keep her balance in the tight thigh high skirt she was wearing.

“Intriguing”? Darla repeated and warily edged to the side and back. Her finely honed survival instincts were screaming at her to run only and only the knowledge that she couldn’t hope to outpace him kept her from following it through. The Master was in no rush and seemed content to ponder thoughtfully for a moment, giving her time to think.

Darla knew she had to rely on her wits, which would be fine if they’d co-operate and stop reeling back and forth at the abrupt change in their fortunes. Forcing herself to focus the vampiress realised she had to choose between letting him escape to the outside world, leaving her trapped to face the horde alone or…. Help kill him so they could all leave.

It was no contest really and a sly gleam entered her icy blue orbs. Using every voluptuous feminine wile she knew, Darla cocked her hips and eyeing him with her head angled jauntily, plastered on a sensual smile, making use of every painted curve of her full lips.

“What’s so intriguing, my Love”? She murmured throatily and sauntered towards him, following his eyes as they dropped to her seductively swaying hips. A sliver of derision slipped through her guarded emotions, making the smile harden with satisfaction.

The Master took a moment to enjoy the view of rippling blonde locks, tumbling past one shoulder, teasing the side of one up-thrust crisply bloused breast. “That Angel should be seen in town the night before. A most unusual occurrence I’m sure you’ll agree”?

Licking her lips, Darla slid swiftly past him and leaned back against the desk, one hand surreptitiously reaching for a pencil she’d dropped on it earlier. “Really I had no idea” she offered lightly. “Not that it matters. He’s too weak to dare take you on.” She sneered and then pretended to consider it further.

She shook her head decisively, dismissing the idea. “No, it can’t be him”. It didn’t matter who it was- the outcome was the same. There was no way the Master could stay in Sunnydale any longer with more than half the demon population likely gunning for him. Especially since it was only a matter of time until the other half turned against him too.

“You are such an idealist, my Dove. So sure of yourself and yet-” his low voice halted and a cold hand traced her softly curved cheek, Their eyes met, burning red on frozen blue, his hand tightened a fraction. “Yet you are always so wrong”, he exclaimed in a furious hiss.

Darla brought her fist from behind in a stabbing motion, pencil aiming straight for his still heart only to find it blocked and herself thrown to the floor. She landed in a sprawl and twisting onto her back, scrabbled frantically away from the advancing demon that’d sired her.

“It was demons that delivered those. Yet they stink of humans” His booted feet followed her with menacing surety. “Do you know any other freak that would willingly consort with humans? No, Darla” He shook his bald head and hunched over her. “It is you and your unrelenting obsession with that abomination you made that has brought us to this”.

The virulent hatred he’d muted was back and blazing straight at her, dumbly Darla shook her head and tried to avoid the thrusting kick that nevertheless slammed her blonde head against the wall she’d jammed herself against.

Bleeding from the crunching blow she caught the second in her hands and desperately twisted to unbalance him and, having managed to for a fraction of a second, dived to the side. She landed on her hands and knees and tried to scrabble to her feet, slipping in the heeled shoes she wore.

Chillingly stone faced the Master snagged the back of her head, crushing the delicate nape in his hands and yanking her head back, launched her into the air. “Thanks to you I must escape my utopia and find solace in the world again and for what, a face so sickeningly human it should have repelled you”.

She’d landed half on the desk, cracking the wooden surface and her mouth bled from a fresh split. She shook her head to clear it of the incessant ringing, then hauled herself to the other side. One leg gave out and she could feel the bones crunching against one another.

“You’re so very vain, my Dear. But then you always where and I forgave you for it.” His corrupted features twisted even more with hate filled venom.

“Even when you paraded yourselves about, so conscious of what a pretty pair you made. Him so dark and you so pale. I was even willing to accept him but you defied me to be with him and yet- I forgave you and took you back. More fool me, you used me Darla”.

“Of course I used you, old goat” spat out Darla, shaking with her own poisonous need to admit the truth and watch his face as it sank in. “Why do you think I even came to this godforsaken place”?

Not that she’d had any luck locating the gypsy supposed to be living here. She’d found no old woman with silver eyes, no matter how hard she’d tried. So much for saving Angelus from that filthy soul of his, she thought and laughed hysterically as the master approached.

The Master continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “But there comes a time when even my patience runs out”. The Master continued silky and pitiless.

Jealousy and possessiveness might be ripe in his voice but she knew it wouldn’t save her. Obsession was not just her curse, but a sickness that eventually trapped all vampires old enough to find themselves going crazy with the sheer unendingness of it all. He would kill her and mourn her passing, then go find himself a new favourite to lavish his attention on.

“So for that you’d kill me? Don’t be a fool! You *need* me” Darla yelled hoarsely, then using her good limb lashed out at the chair, breaking off a leg to swing it up at the now grinning head.

“Wrong again, my Dear. I don’t need your false devotion. I just need you-” He swiped the leg out of her hands and wrapped his hand around her throat, lifting her up to his leering face. “… to keep them busy for me while I go find your precious Angelus-” he closed his eyes with morbid delight, “and put him down like the dog he is”.

Helpless to break his grip Darla could do nothing but hang there like rag doll while he pummelled her, until finally broken and bleeding he dropped her to the floor in an unconscious heap. Her blood covered his hands and he licked and sucked it off, delicately winding his pale tongue between each clawed finger so as not to miss a drop.

“Hmm I *am* going to miss you but-” he shrugged philosophically and eyed her crumpled body with mild amusement. “Such is unlife. Now then, where can Angelus be”? He wondered out loud.

As if on cue there was a faint whoosh of air followed by a distant bang, drawing the Master instantly to the window to see billows of blackened smoke rising from a point outside of view but streaming high enough to be visible. “There you are, insolent boy. Tut! So typically loud and oafish” he jeered softly

***

BURNT AND BEFUDDLED

Angel watched the burning remnants of fuel tank with a squint against the leaping, bright orange flames. Billowing black smoke stained the landscape and rose in a noxious pillar towards the sky.

“If that doesn’t get you’re attention nothing will” he muttered and with a last fleeting look towards the nearby town, jogged away towards the canyons walls.

It had at one time been a racetrack for the local would-be joy riders to burn out their youthful aggression on, and pay for the privilege. Now it was just a deserted track and shack in the middle of nowhere, just inside the barriers boundaries and on the outskirts of the town proper.

All over Sunnydale similar scenes of carnage were breaking out. Burning buildings and vehicles could be found dotting the townscape. Some started by the rebellious humans now running swiftly from building to building with fistfuls of flammable bottles, and some by malcontent demons enraged to find they’d been tricked.

Meanwhile a gang of thirty or so motorcycle demons, scarred and ugly faces fierce and merciless in their frustrated rage rode up and town the high-street in careless and violent sweeps, knocking over and racing around anything that came into their path.

Before them, just down an alley lay the doorway to the Bronze, outside of which stood a group of nervously twitchy Vampires, clutching their swords with desperately loyal fervour.

The clamour grew louder when as one three bikes stopped facing the alley, snarling with sharply metallic belligerence, as the throttle was twisted again and again in a rising volume of impending aggression.

Outside the High School, now half demolished, a rag tag group of humans streaked down the drive towards its dubious sanctuary, their feet pounding a frantic rhythm as they raced towards the busted doors. Behind them a dozen vamps gave chase entirely heedless of any possible danger.

Inside the once clean halls now filthy with soot and grime the humans careened towards the canteen area, slamming through the squeaky doors, panting hard with exertion and fear. The vamps bolted through only seconds later only to grind to an abrupt halt, yellow eyes bugging in disbelief.

“Hello lads, come to join us” smirked Spike in the front with a large pink skinned and grinning demon next to him. The humans fanned out behind them, hands fearfully yet determinedly clutching their sharpened stakes. “Welcome to the party. Don’t be shy”. He cajoled playfully and swinging up a short vicious looking sword, twirled it meaningfully in skilful fingers.

It was a confused bunch of vamps, their already ridged brows further wrinkled in shocked surprise, that found themselves pounced on without further ado.

***

WACKINESS ENSUES

Cordy found herself skirting the edges of buildings and experiencing one hellova sense of déjà vu. “And I thought this was a good idea, why”? She snarked to herself in a recriminating whisper; “Been there done that, got the tee-shirt already”.

It was no use; she wasn’t going back to sit around twiddling her damn thumbs, so onwards and forward it was. That decided she straightened her shoulders, checked the crossbow was still loaded like it had been thirty seconds ago and taking a deep fortifying breath, scurried over a crossing, praying she wouldn’t be seen.

Lady Luck it seemed was on her side and none of the biker demons noticed her slight figure. Of course Angel’s black shirt helped to blend her in far better than her old shirt, she decided and ignored the little voice in her head whispering that it looked a darn sight better too.

The alley was crowded with jeering demons, edging forward towards the sorry group of vamps guarding the doors. Cordy’s heartbeat accelerated when she saw them. “Thanks guys I could kiss you. Well okay, not literally cos you’re ugly and all but-” Shut up Cor, you’re gonna give yourself away. Right, bad idea.

The coast was clear and so far the demons were more interested in forcing their way in that using stealth, which left the way open for her, hopefully. Satisfied as much as she could be; Cordy backtracked to the edge of the block, then ran at full pelt down the other side, coming up on a much smaller alley, with a basement window at floor level into the Bronze.

“Thank God for a misspent childhood” she muttered thinking briefly about her manic socialising at sixteen. She shrugged and gave the grill a determined look. Who cares? It’s not like I need worry about grades and college anyway.

The grill gave after she heaved on it until her hands were killing her and rubbing her stinging fingers together to try and dissipate the pain; Cordy dropped the crossbow through, then gingerly ducked down and slid legs first through the gap.

Landing in an agile crouch Cordy retrieved the crossbow and sprang back up. Dammit, it’s as black as pitch down here, she fretted and stared wildly around, trying to spot any bumpy uglies. “Hello, is anybody there” she hissed, then winced at the dumbness of that idea.

Gradually she could see in the gloom and finally reassured she wasn’t about to be pounced on, strode purposefully over the large shadowy doorway type shape over the way. “Okay, Master of Pain and Torture prepare to be dusted Cordy Chase style”. She announced resolutely.

“Only dumbasses with a well hidden”, Cordy checked herself and smiled wryly, “okay seriously well hidden, hero complex would even think of taking this creep on in a face to face. Who cares if it’s fair? Dusted’s dusted right”?

Ten minutes later she was left wondering if she’d come into the right building. “Where is everybody? Is it a vamp national holiday or something, you know- Dracula’s Day or whatever”? Frustration made her even edgier as she carefully sidestepped her way, looking back and forwards, straining for some clue that she was on the right track.

The place was deserted, she wandered through the rooms feeling as if time was running out and feeling like she’d missed the plot. Spinning around still walking to check no one was on her tail, she bumped into something and nearly shrieked when she saw it was a skeleton, hanging up still chained to one of the clubs pillars.

Shuddering and skin crawling Cordy backed away from it. Then did shriek when a cold voice intruded on her nightmarish thoughts, “do you like how we’ve done the place up”?

Cordy didn’t spin around, she was too scared to. Her head turned slowly until frightened hazel met ice blue. “Hello, Darla”.

A quick scan was all it took for a brow to quirk. “What happened to you? Walk into a door or something”? Cordy asked with sham sympathy, raising the cross bow to sight it dead centre over the bitches heart.

“You’re sweet to ask, but don’t worry, Cordelia. It’s nothing a nice long drink of your blood won’t fix” Returned Darla with droll sweetness. The wounded vampiress left the door she’d been leaning against, and moved closer, leaving a stain of blood on the doorframe.

“Thanks for warning” retorted Cordelia finger tightening on the trigger. “I’d be worried except for oh so obvious limp. Have a spat with His Ugliness did you? I have to tell you, you two bring new meaning to the phrase ‘bumping uglies'”.

“You wouldn’t understand so why should I bother” dismissed Darla with only a tiny tightening of her bruised face to give away her annoyance. “Nice shirt by the way. I recognise it”.

“Glad you like it. Just so you know distracting me won’t work. I’m not that dumb” she pulled the trigger and watched elated as it sank beneath the breastbone of a now doubled over Darla. “Yes” she yelled and then stopped. Uh oh, where the hell’s the dust already.

“Nice shot bitch. But you missed” hissed Darla yanking out the shaft and throwing it down onto the floor by a wide-eyed Cordy’s feet. Crap!

Cordy froze in terror and squeezed her eyes shut, she knew trying to reload would be a waste of time and besides, she couldn’t move a muscle. Well except for her tongue which even elephant tranquilliser would have trouble stilling.

“Well it was nice chatting and all, I’ll say Hi to Angel for you. Gotta go bye”, the enervating effect of speaking unlocked her legs and she dived for the way she’d come. Only to be tackled to the ground before her feet had even left the floor.

Pinned by impossibly strong hands at her shoulders Cordy stared mute with terror at the victorious face of the vampiress looming over her, in full game face. “I’ll say Hi to Angel myself. Right after I’ve drained you” smirked Darla.

Her descent was checked by a warm hand at her throat. “Look I’m not a nice person so it figures my blood’s gonna be sour right. So why not-” Cordy’s eyes darted around searching for something to save herself.

“Struggle all you like Cordelia. It just gives me more juicy details to regale Angel with when I catch up with him” Cordy pulled free her other hand and Darla let her, confident there was no escape.

“Angel loves me” Cordy told her. “He told me last night straight after we made love. So how does it feel to be well and truly stuck in the ex-category”? She taunted wanting to give herself time. She winced when those hands dug deeper into the flesh of her shoulders, crushing her to the dusty floor.

“Just for that, I’ll make it slow” hissed Darla and forced her fangs to descend, despite the girls desperately restraining hand.

Cordy felt the inhalation of air beside her neck and guessed the vampiress was drinking in the scent of her blood. “Eww that’s gross” she spat out in disgust and heaved with all her might, finally her hand caught what she was after and just before Darla broke her skin rammed the used crossbow into her back.

Darla reared back with a screech and looked open mouthed at Cordy one last time before disintegrating, showering the grimacing brunette with her dust.

“Great where am I gonna find a shower now”? Complained a disgruntled Cordy, and then rolled over to dislodge most of the yucky stuff off.

***

OUTSIDE THE BRONZE

Spike, Wesley, Clegg and about fifty men and women walked down the street towards the raucous crowd of angry demons, some on bikes other not. All of them yelling for the Masters head.

Behind them burning, flickering flames and belches of smoke from vampire nests and loyal demon groups framed their bodies, making each step look as if it were taken in slow motion.

The demons ignored them except to let them through the crowd to the front, where Spike faced off the vamps now holding automatic weapons to keep back the angry mob. “Look mate, either join us and fight for your freedom or sodding well die. It’s that bloody simple”.

Before the vamp could answer the door behind him opened to reveal a beautiful human girl. Tossing her tied back hair off her shoulder Cordelia announced with deliberate bluntness. “Darla’s dust and the Masters escaped. This place is dead”.

Wesley goggled at her through his glasses. “I say, what are you doing here. You’re supposed to be safe and secure with the children”.

“Do I look like a kid to you”? Snapped Cordy and heedlessly pushed her way through the vamps who no longer knew what the hell to do with themselves. “Let’s go, we need to find the Master before Angel does”.

“But…but that’s the plan” stammered a flummoxed Wesley, still staring mouth agog at her, like she was wearing plaid or something. She rolled her eyes at him and lost patience with idiot men.

“Not in my world it isn’t. It’s a dumb plan and I said so at the time except no one listened to me”. Her heated and accusing glare bounced off Spike, since he was well used to her, but silenced the Englishmen.

“The plans working, Pet. Look around you” Retorted Spike, puffing out his chest with satisfaction at the sheer carnage he’d helped create. Wesley recovered his poise enough to nod energetically in agreement.

“Oh really? You seen any barriers come down recently”? Shot back Cordy snidely, then folded her arms while pinning them with a speaking glance, brows arched in question.

The surrounding demons had gone quiet at the sight of a slip of a girl giving a bloodied and aggressive vampire a dressing down. “Good point, okay lets go find the Master” Conceded Spike roughly.

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