TITLE: Flames ('Burning' Sequence, No. 4)
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ARCHIVE/DISTRIBUTION: fanfiction.net, List Archives, Wherever. Just ask.
SUMMARY: Darla seeks sanctuary with Lindsey after Angel's little foray into pyromania.
SPOILERS: Nope. AtS Season 2.
CONTENT/WARNINGS: Possibly a dash of immoderate language, but nothing too racy.
RATING: PG 13
DISCLAIMER: I am not now, nor have I ever been, Numfar. Not even a little bit. Any text inside quotation marks inside brackets is from episodes & belongs to magnificent Jossverse writers. The characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui, Sandollar, and David Greenwalt Productions, 20th Century Fox, and whoever else may have a hold upon them. The situation is wholly mine, and I do not mean to infringe upon any copyrights.
COMMENTS: Grateful thanks to Amych and ElenaB for Beta-ing.
There were undoubtedly other places Darla could have gone seeking solace in the dazed and painful aftermath, but she chose the most obvious sanctuary for simplicity's sake. She knew Lindsey wouldn't turn her away. Sure enough, one look at the poor, bedraggled spectacle of Darla and Drusilla scorched and shivering wetly in the corridor and he was ushering them into his apartment with a fine disregard for his personal safety, the words of invitation falling from his lips almost involuntarily at the sight of her pain.
Darla despised the boy's weakness but was happy enough to make use of it. She stumbled a little and let him sweep her up like a bride and carry her tenderly over the threshold. He ignored the cold water seeping through his clothes as she snuggled trustingly up against his warm chest; it was the sort of romantic gesture that she knew would appeal to Lindsey McDonald. He had showered and changed since returning from the office and in his battered jeans and innocent white T shirt he smelled enticingly of soap and bourbon. No aftershave, but Darla preferred her victims that way; nothing to interfere with the appetising scent of hot blood thrumming just below the surface as it blended with the faint whiff of other bodily secretions too subtle yet for mortal noses. Delicious. She had to suppress a smile as he carried her over to the sofa, her hair sticking clammily to his skin and her daintily-masked face dangerously close to his jugular.
Men were so *stupid*.
Drusilla - weeping still and whimpering some tired nonsense about "eyes like needles" - trailed disconsolately in their wake, fingering her burned flesh with an expression of infantile incomprehension as Lindsey deposited his burden carefully amidst the cushions.
"It wasn't Daddy, was it? It was the Angel-Beast. Was it Daddy? Why did he do it, Grandmum?" Lindsey dragged his gaze away from Darla and stared levelly at the other vampire.
"Angel did this to you?" asked Lindsey, his voice a sudden snarl of protective good ol' country boy. Darla cast him a speculative glance through tangled, half-closed eyelashes and nodded, watching fury distort his pretty face. For a little moment there was silence in the apartment, broken only by Drusilla's woebegone sniffling, and Darla wondered whether Lindsey might go out and try to stake her boy then and there. That would *never* do.
"Lindsey, you have to help us," she said imploringly, snaring his gaze. "You have to help *me*. You're all I have." Which should, she hoped, be enough to keep him from dashing out into the night straight away to meet an untimely and inconvenient death. Right on cue he reached out a tentative hand to brush a wet rat's tail of fair hair tenderly from her face, glancing from the angry wounds to her deceptively human eyes with evident frustration.
"I can't believe he did this to you. That bastard. You're safe now, baby," he assured her in a voice thick with emotion; and it was all she could do to keep from rolling her eyes in disgust.
* * *
While Lindsey was sweet-talking a thoroughly surprised neighbour into lending him some clothes for his 'visiting sisters', Darla surveyed Drusilla narrowly. She had absolutely no intention of sharing her pet human with the other vampire. The place simply wasn't big enough for the three of them - and besides, the little idiot would be sure to break him in no time, which would be a complete waste; and then she would come running to Darla looking all surprised that he'd stopped working once she'd pulled his head off.
Drusilla could be quite *unbelievably* tiresome.
She had finally stopped snivelling and - after wandering around the room curiously for a little while - had settled down to a solemn game of hopscotch, using the lawyer's car keys as a marker. At some point that evening Drusilla had lost her shoes and her filthy, bleeding, blackened feet were now mottling Lindsey's characterless carpet haphazardly with grimy wet smudges of blood and dirt. Darla, acutely aware of the pain in her own burnt legs, wondered whether Dru felt anything at all.
"Four," she announced with a grave expression on her ravaged face; and Darla caught herself actually looking down for a chalked hopscotch grid like an idiot. "*Lucky* number four," added Drusilla in a tone of quiet satisfaction as she hopped. "Four horsemen. Four elements. Four seasons. Four vampires. Four little duckies."
//Four little duckies? *Whatever*. . . //
"Dru, dear, why don't you go and find William?" asked Darla, managing to summon something that sounded almost like kindness. She had comforted the girl at first, but her maternal instincts seemed to have reached their limit already. "It could be just like old times." For a moment Drusilla peered at her gravely, still balanced on one leg. With her raw face, sodden skirts and the dark, streaming seawrack of her hair Dru resembled nothing so much as Kassandra wandering wild-eyed from the flaming wreckage of Ilium; a broken and murderous little Kassandra rudely wrenched out of the choking antique smoke and into the twentieth century. A Tarantino wet dream.
Darla wondered what the hell was going through the girl's mind.
"You are not the Virgin Mary," said Drusilla incontrovertibly, looking rather surprised. She cocked her head and batted cautiously at the air with one sharp-nailed hand, like a cat watching a will'o'the wisp of refracted light dance across a wall. "And I don't think a stable would be very comfortable. A nursery is a better place for magic little babies."
"Good point," said Darla, keeping her voice even with some difficulty. Siring a lunatic had seemed like a charmingly vicious piece of malice at the time, but Darla found that the jest began to pall after the first few decades. In fact, she was swiftly starting to remember how often she'd wanted to stake her boy's mad get in the old days. William could be a nuisance, but at least he was sane; and once she'd sired him Drusilla had been under Darla's feet far less than before. "Don't you think it would be a good idea to find William, dear? We could be a family again," she wheedled dulcetly, just as Lindsey returned with a bundle of clothing.
Armed with his most disarming smile and the molasses eloquence that had convinced many a courtroom that black was white and day was night, Lindsey McDonald had had very little difficulty in talking his bemused neighbour out of her panties. Several pairs, in fact. Also some bras (although he worried they were perhaps too large for his guests), as well as a couple of simple dresses, some pants and a T shirt or two. Not a bad haul, but he had every intention of getting his girl something more suitable in the morning.
Drusilla turned her wild gaze upon him and Lindsey visibly became conscious of his jugular vein, but to his credit he stood his ground.
"Grandmum wants you to herself," Drusilla said, surprising Darla with her unwonted acuity. "She needs some coddling. Her baby boy was naughty, so she wants a living one instead." She reached out one tallow-pale finger to press Lindsey's nose gently. "I'm going to find my Spike. Goodnight, ladies. Goodnight, sweet ladies. Goodnight!" And without further ado she swept out of the apartment, barefoot and bleeding and mad as a hatter, but still carrying herself with incongruous dignity.
* * *
It was an adequate apartment. Rather bland and painfully bourgeois, but adequate nevertheless. Darla would have preferred something a little more overtly opulent in an ideal world, but she was not a person who needed luxury. She just liked it. Over the years Angelus had given her a taste for the finer things. With him there was no skulking in sewers or mineshafts unless it was *absolutely* necessary; and more often than not they had been surrounded by beauty. He had always gone to great lengths to find her somewhere with a view.
But it was an adequate enough apartment for her present needs. Lindsey treated her reverently and seemed to be labouring under the foolhardy misapprehension that she was a delicate little thing in need of his protection, rather than a centuries-old demon strong enough to rip out his spine. For the moment she was content to encourage this conceit and let him pride himself on being her protector, just as long as he proved useful. Feigning vulnerability galled Darla, but it was a small enough price to pay in exchange for a safe haven and the absolute devotion that she knew Lindsey would lavish upon her.
(Although a small voice in the very back of her mind did ask, very softly, whether Darla was really feigning anything. The recollection of Angel's face when he dropped the match still provoked an involuntary shudder whenever it invaded her thoughts; and it irritated her to admit it, but she hurt *all over*. Darla had forgotten it was possible to feel so much pain. So perhaps, just perhaps, it wasn't Lindsey McDonald she was fooling after all.)
* * *
Lindsey ran a warm bath for her and tested the water with the tender skin of his bare elbow, one sleeve rolled up, for all the world like a mother with her first-born child. Younger siblings, Darla hypothesised idly, faintly amused. These white trash families bred like rats. Darla sat on the bathroom floor with her back against the wall and her scorched legs straight out in front of her, looking like one of Dru's accursed little broken dolls in her ruined finery. The pain, try as she might to ignore it, really was excruciating.
Lindsey rummaged in a little chest under the sink and emerged with a virgin bottle of bubble bath. He looked at her questioningly, a tentative smile unfurling as he held it out for her inspection.
"Myrrh," he said, "I'm more of a shower guy myself, but, y'know, Christmas presents an' all. I figure if it was good enough for Baby Jesus it might be good enough for you, honey."
The endearment sounded awkward on his tongue, like he had too much invested in it. If she asked him to jump off a bridge for her just now, Darla thought he'd probably do it. Probably. She shrugged her acceptance and watched dispassionately as he broke the seal and tipped the thick, sluggish liquid into the steaming water. The perfume that filled the room was overwhelming to her vampiric senses - it made her weary head spin and called back far too many memories of places long since vanished into silt or sand.
She had been the Scourge of Europe, fearless and irresistible with her boy at her side and his litter in her wake. She had been truly great. Now she was reduced to *this* and the jarring contrast left a taste of ashes in her mouth. One of William's wretched poets had written something like that, something about a broken statue lying in a desert; she remembered him reciting it drunkenly too often in the early days of his siring and crowing about his own newfound immortality. Angelus had beaten most of the lyricism out of him eventually.
She rested her damp cheek against the cold tiles and closed her eyes, feeling every bit of her four hundred years as she listened to the thunderous racket of the bath being run. It was pathetically typical of Lindsey McDonald, this - soothing water to contrast with her boy's fire. Trying to make her feel better. It wouldn't make her feel better. Like water, Lindsey was cheap and changeable; stronger than he looked, but easily manipulated into whatever direction one found convenient. It would take more than Lindsey McDonald to quench Angelus.
It had never been the same after Romania. Try as she might to wring continued delight from her moonlit existence, when Angelus left her all the passion was leached away with him. Those were terrible times. Without him she was less than she had been; and however many mortals she swived or languidly eviscerated, however many new fashions there were to flatter her curves; however many distracting new arts and artifices were conjured up by the cattle over the decades to amuse her, Darla knew in her unbeating heart that when Angelus left he had taken her fire with him.
It astounded her, because she had always considered herself the strongest of them and had always been confident that she needed nobody else. She had gone crawling back to The Master in the end, humbled and penitent and eager to please. A queen fallen on hard times, ready to don Catholic-schoolgirl gear if her owner told her to do so. Wide eyed. Eager. Obedient. A play-acting whore just as surely as she had ever been in life; it was only the costumes that had changed.
Angelus would have staked her sooner than let her demean herself so for anyone but him. Born-again Angel couldn't care less.
Lindsey's hands trembled slightly as he helped her to rise. She liked his hands. The dichotomy amused her -one soft, warm, vulnerable, flexible, a capable tool; the other hard, cold, unyielding, perfect and hollow. (She was seeing metaphors everywhere these days. Perhaps resurrection did that to a person.) It pleased her that Angel had done this to him; or Angelus, she was no longer so sure where the division lay. The soul cage was a flimsy little prison for her boy, after all. She knew now that the passion, the bloodlust; everything she had loved about Angelus, elements of both the demon and the man, were all still there; quiet like banked coals but searing white-hot just below the surface. It infuriated her.
How he must have *ached* at the urgent spurt of Lindsey's hot blood arcing redly into empty air when the hand was severed, wasting itself in viscous crimson puddles on the floor while Angel's every cell clamoured for it. How he must have wanted to fling himself down onto the cold ground and lick it all up, yellow-eyed and snarling. Not for the first time she wondered whether Lindsey's inscrutable employers had consciously chosen to use the boy as part of their plan for Angel. He was a perfect little temptation for her darling.
But he was not her darling any longer and had not been these many years. And he was not the spineless do-gooder either - he was neither. Or both. Darla did not know what she was dealing with and this disturbed her more than she would admit.
After Lindsey McDonald helped her to her feet they performed a strange little dance, in which Lindsey -in a perverse display of chivalry - tried to simultaneously support her and help her undress without actually ever seeing or touching her body. It was oddly sweet, especially with the memory of how urgently he had kissed her when she was human. Especially since she could smell the arousal on him right now.
She leaned against him as he tenderly helped her peel away the layers of fabric, letting it slip-slide down onto the bathroom floor. Through the T shirt his body was warm against her chest and Darla slowly inhaled the clean, musky smell of Lindsey McDonald, licking her lips unconsciously at the thought of his blood. She remembered the taste of Lindsey's blood vividly.
Darla stepped out of the puddled fabric, appreciating the coolness of the floor tiles against her aching feet as she held onto Lindsey; and as she moved each delicate shift of her weight brushed another part of her body against him. He thought it was an accident of her weakness and it was clearly driving him crazy, but Darla was fairly sure that she wasn't going to let him do anything about it; rather suspected that his outmoded sense of Southern hospitality would keep him from making any kind of attempt when he thought her at such a disadvantage. Rape and pillage were not Lindsey McDonald's style. More's the pity.
The vampire spared a glance for the wreckage of her dress and pouted slightly. Playing at being a Sunnydale schoolgirl had served The Master's purpose, but Darla was a woman and she preferred to dress herself accordingly; the ruined clothing had been expensive - not to her, admittedly, but it was the principle of the matter - and Darla had rather liked it. The waste irritated her.
"Why don't you look, Lindsey?" she asked huskily as she balanced against him, wholly naked and shivering slightly. "Am I too ugly now? Don't you want me any more?"
She was teasing him a little, still sure of herself -but there was a tiny trace of real insecurity in her voice, a catch in her throat that was not calculated. Darla was grateful for once that she had no reflection to taunt her with the ruin of her beauty. Her skin would be curdled and raw, as Drusilla's had been - and although she knew it would heal given a little time, it pained her. Worse still, it stung her pride. Lindsey's arousal was palpable now - another distinct layer of scent mingling with the olfactory chaos of myrrh, gasoline, bourbon, soap, charred hair and crisped meat that pervaded the bathroom and filled Darla's sensitive nostrils. She felt dizzy and let herself lean against him, gratified (if entirely unsurprised) to feel his erection straining enthusiastically towards her.
"Help me?" she said in a husky little-girl voice, and watched him melt on cue.
And then, to her own considerable surprise, Darla fainted.
* * *
She awoke shuddering on Lindsey's bed as he dabbed a cotton ball covered in calamine lotion very gently over her tortured skin. She could smell his tears. The cotton sheets beneath her carried the familiar scent of Lindsey and of fabric softener and she found that they chafed slightly against her overly-sensitised body. She judged that the linen had been changed a day or two earlier; Darla had not performed such menial tasks herself for centuries, but during that thankfully brief period of sunlit inanity between her resurrection and her return to full power, the human Darla had been obliged to acquaint herself with the working of washing machines.
Mortality was a vile business.
He had dressed her in a too-large T-shirt that reached modestly down over her thighs; Darla wondered whether he had tried to clothe her without looking at her body or letting his hands roam where he wanted them to go. Probably. She felt reasonably sure of her hold over him and would have bet a not inconsiderably sum that he had, in fact, been as chaste and respectful as a priest.
The T-shirt was something she would never have worn of her own free will - the modern penchant for androgyny was one fashion trend that Darla had no intention of encouraging. At least the shirt was clean, but beneath the slightly dusty bouquet of soap scented with simulated lemons it was layered with the faint spoor of some unfamiliar and inconsequential woman past the first blush of youth. Darla was clad in someone's cast-offs; and although she had happily twirled in many an outfit stolen from a fresh kill, still the vampire felt galled and belittled by the mundane lending. How far now from her glory days, her carefree, magnificent gory days with Angelus at her side.
She would far rather be naked than wake to find herself wrapped in such an unbecoming charity rag. Darla made a mental note to rip her benefactress limb from limb at the first available opportunity.
Lindsey's hands were tender, almost brotherly, as they tended her wounds; and the lotion was deliciously soothing where Lindsey swiped it over her skin. A human would have been in a terrible state, but Darla's demonic flesh had already done a lot of healing. It hurt - oh, *how* it hurt - but she knew that in time the pain would abate and she would be left with, at the worst, only a light tracery of scar tissue silvering her body. She clung to this knowledge, determined to consider her state objectively and not to give in to self-pity. Tried to blot out the pain and calmly assess how long it might take her to recover, how safe she would be here while she planned an appropriate revenge.
She also attempted, a little less successfully, to forget the utter coldness of Angel's familiar face watching from the shadows as pain had enveloped her. Her cool limbs were still afire, the blistered flesh continuing to cook long after blessed water had doused the agonising tongues of flame. He had marked her and she still was not sure what that meant, but she knew that he was damned well going to pay for his insolence. After this affront Angel would have to die by her hand, or Darla's immortal existence would be thoroughly intolerable.
She wriggled kittenishly a little as Lindsey rubbed calamine into her thigh; glad, on the whole, that he had abandoned the bath idea. Darla very badly wanted to wash the gasoline stink of humiliation from her damaged flesh, but the truth was that she hurt; and more than anything what she wanted right now was to lie still and let these warm, human fingers smooth comforting creams onto her poor, affronted skin.
More than *almost* anything.
She skewered Lindsey McDonald with one calculated flash of her practiced eyes, all honeyed lust and unwilling vulnerability. He caught his breath and ventured a reassuring smile.
"Shh, baby, I'm here now," Lindsey said. "Everything's gonna be Okay."
//Could you possibly be any more banal?//
He grew still under her gaze and reddened slightly. Darla wanted to laugh at the sight; he might have considered himself long past the age for blushing but Darla knew her own strengths, even with her beauty marred so badly. She could hear his pulse drumming tantalisingly and she knew, if Lindsey did not, that even hurt as she was Darla could still take him whether he willed it or no.
He really was a very pretty boy, she reflected appreciatively - and hers, body *and* soul. Which was regrettably rather more than could be said for Angelus at present.
"Lindsey, I'm hungry."
He blinked at her in dawning comprehension and there was a little pause while she wondered whether he would make it rape or give it up freely. He was very useful, Lindsey McDonald, and Darla would be reluctant to lose him so early in the game. But she would cope.
"I don't have...I could go and get something from the All-Night Pandemonium Place," he said, leaning back slightly. "It'll take maybe half an hour. Or maybe, uh, a cat? I mean, there's stuff at work but I don't want them to know where you are and most of my contacts are Wolfram and Hart suppliers - don't want it getting back to them..." his voice trailed off. He was trying quite hard to sound unfazed and it wasn't working for a moment. Which was funny, because he had already surrendered to her in the wine cellar - and here he was getting all fluttery and virginal. She rather enjoyed it. Perhaps he thought he had something to live for? Darla smiled at him very sweetly, keeping her game face restrained by a sheer act of will.
"Lindsey," she murmured in a wounded and imploring little singsong. "I'm hungry *now*. Don't you love me?"
And that did the trick, as she had expected it to. He licked dry lips and yielded up his left wrist, keeping his eyes fixed on hers as the planes of her face shifted and her gaze yellowed.
"Just this once, then," he said with an attempt at firmness. "I'll pick something up from the butcher's tomorrow." But she was no longer listening and his words trailed away.
Darla's small, cold hand closed over his arm and pulled it sharply towards her. There was nothing soft or vulnerable about her face as she drew his pliant hand to her mouth and briefly pressed flaring nostrils against the soft, flimsy skin of the wrist to inhale the heady human musk. She smiled. Lindsey stared down at her with an expression of hopelessness as she sliced through the frail outer tissue, bit into the vein and luxuriated in the coppery rush of hot blood over her parched tongue.
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