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Still Life with Violet and Oleander

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Drusilla stared at her painting with dissatisfaction. The colors never came out quite as she wished; it vexed her. How could anyone tell what the picture was if the colors were wrong?

 

“More gold,” she murmured to herself, daubing her brush and stroking it lightly across the canvas.

 

Still it didn’t look right. Maybe something was wrong with the paint?

 

Then she heard his voice, and it didn’t matter very much anymore.

 

“Jesus, what have you been doing? I could smell this place down the hall,” Angelus said from the doorway, surveying the mess of bodies around the room. Across one wall Drusilla was painting a mural of blood and ink and something he preferred not to get on his shoes; humans were fun when they were suffering, but after they died they were just messy.

 

Dammit, she’d been fine when he left. Okay, kind of whiny and clingy about staying by herself, but he’d told her he’d let her brush his hair when he got back and she’d calmed right down. He’d told her if she tried very hard she’d be able to see through the wall right down to the street, and he thought she’d bought it. He would have laid money she’d still be staring at the wall when he returned.

 

So much for that.

 

Drusilla looked around vaguely. “It was cold without you and Grandmummy,” she said plaintively. “I wanted to make it warm and friendly.”

 

“Then throw a log on the goddamn fire, don’t kill half the hotel’s staff,” growled Angelus in frustration.

 

She started to cry. “Margaret was lonely!”

 

“Your name is Drusilla now,” he snapped. How could she be like this? She was nothing like she’d been before he’d turned her; maybe he shouldn’t have bothered. It had been fun to toy with her when she was alive, take her world apart piece by piece and watch as she sank further into despair. But now, with her mind gone? She was an anchor. A big, crazy anchor that would drag him and Darla down if they let it. He should have listened to Darla; alive Dru had been amusing, but now she was a liability.

 

Maybe he should just stake her and be done with it. Though god knew he hated to admit defeat to Darla; she was so damned smug all the time, and she was insufferable when she was right.

 

Besides, without Drusilla who would entertain him when Darla was busy dancing attendance on her darling prune-faced Master? Angelus was a man who enjoyed his comforts. And Drusilla had her benefits; she was nothing like Darla, at least. Damn the jade.

 

Drusilla peered at him, tears forgotten. “Do you like the maid’s new earbobs?”

 

Angelus glanced at the maid’s body and couldn’t help but feel a frisson of admiration. “I think you’d have to call those eyebobs—”

 

She waved her hands, shushing him. “Daddy, we must get ready for our visitors.”

 

“What?”

 

“They’re coming.” She leaned closer and lowered her voice confidentially. “It’s because they want to have fun like the others, even if they have no invitations. We must be gracious just the same,” she instructed as Angelus stalked to the door and snatched it open to glance down the hallway.

 

He swore under his breath and slammed the door. He wedged a chair under the knob to provide what pathetic little reinforcement it could; against humans, it might last a while. “They’re coming,” he said tightly. He could defeat them without a problem, but dirty little battles in hallways weren’t to his taste; there was no way they’d be able to stay here after Drusilla’s little spree anyway. He threw open the window and looked down to the alley. Clear. The bumpkins hadn’t thought to cover it. Typical English, all force and no finesse. “Come on, Dru, we’re going out the window.”

 

“But my painting—Grandmummy’s clothes—my ribbons—”

 

He dragged her towards the window. “I’ll buy you more ribbons—”

 

“I want my ribbons!” she cried, digging in her heels.

 

“If we don’t leave now we won’t leave at all!”

 

She started to cry. “I don’t care!”

 

The hotel staff was beginning to pound at the door now, and Angelus ground his teeth. “You know the doll you saw in the window of that shop in Mayfair? I’ll get it for you if you come right now.”

 

Drusilla’s eyes lit up.

 

“Dolly! I’ve been waiting for her!”

 

“Then come on,” he said, pulling her out the window. They landed light in the alley below, Drusilla laughing giddily.

 

“It’s like flying! Let’s go again!”

 

“Later,” Angelus groaned, staring up at the hotel. He could hear the hotel staff pounding at the door, trying to break it down. A diversion would be helpful, in case the staff got any bright ideas about following them.

 

“Infernos mind their secrets,” Drusilla murmured secretively, stroking the ends of her hair.

 

“…What?”

 

“Like when one of us dies. Ashes, ashes, all fall down.”

 

Angelus stared at her, struck. She had a beautiful instinct. Like a young shark faced with its first prey, innocently attacking. Driven by ancient, primal knowledge, exquisite and fully formed and without thought.

 

He had made this. She was too perfect to ever destroy.

 

He pulled his matches from his coat pocket and knocked out a window at the side of the building. Inside a woman shrieked, but he was in too much of a hurry to enjoy it as he pulled out the end of the curtain and lit it. The flames leapt up as if the damn thing was soaked in oil. Stupid English with their love for preserving old things; the half-timbered building would go up like a tinder box.

 

“Busy ants, rush, rush,” sang Drusilla to herself as they moved out of the alley.

 

“They are like ants, aren’t they? All panic and impulse, no style,” he sneered, leading her from the alley. As the light from the smelly gas streetlamps hit her dress, he noticed what he hadn’t back in the room: the evidence of how she’d spent her evening was all over her dress. No respectable hotel would give them a room. Goddammit, he was not interested in hiding out in some damned shanty or having to kill the hotel staff and not getting any proper service.

 

He tugged Drusilla back into the shadows, hushing her protests. “You wait a second, and I’ll get a nice surprise for you.” He could hear her humming in excitement as he moved to the sidewalk and waited for a likely-looking woman to rush out of the hotel. The building had caught fire as nicely as he’d expected, and guests were starting to stream out.

 

Ah, finally. A little thing of a size with Drusilla. Probably a whore, Angel thought.

 

He reached out a hand and snagged her as she ran past. “This way, my lady,” he said solicitously, ignoring her panicked protest as he pulled her into darkness of the alley and casually swung her into the wall. The building beside the hotel was owned by someone smarter, who built the damn thing in brick and mortar instead of shit and timber, so the woman was nicely stunned.

 

“Drusilla, come here and have a drink while she’s still fresh,” he called.

 

Drusilla stepped out of the shadows, frowning mistrustfully. “She doesn’t smell good,” she said truculently.

 

He couldn’t argue with it. “Yeah, she’s French. But you know what that means, don’t you? Her dress is probably from Paris. And look at your dress. It’s a mess.”

 

She glanced down. “Oh!”

 

“Look at her dress. Isn’t it pretty?” he prompted.

 

Dru studied the woman, and her eyes grew large with delight. “It is.”

 

The woman groaned, the brick-induced daze fading. “Come on, we’ll both have a bite,” Angelus urged, drawing the woman against him and sinking his teeth into the tender area where the throat met the shoulder. The woman bucked against him and he growled his approval against her, grinding his sudden erection against her backside. Damned if lookers didn’t taste better every time.

 

He lifted his head. “Delicious. Don’t you want a little?” She nodded and leaned in. “Neatly, mind. You don’t want to ruin the dress, do you?”

 

Drusilla leaned in carefully, visibly restraining herself from her usual lusty bite. She bit as delicately as a cat, and he shivered at the sensation of the woman’s blood being drawn away as strongly as he was drawing it in. He pulled at it harder and heard Dru giggle a little as she drank.

 

He finished first, and pulled back. “Ready?”

 

Drusilla nodded, and they pulled off the woman’s clothes. If the fire didn’t consume her, the police would just assume it was a transaction gone awry.

 

He pulled the dress over Drusilla’s head and fastened it. She twirled in front of him, her face hopeful. “How do I look?”

 

Sometimes it didn’t hurt to be honest. “Beautiful.” He took her hand. “Come on, girl, let’s find ourselves a likely spot.”

 

~*~*~*~

 

They kept up a brisk pace for a long while, passing screaming fire trucks and shrieking hotel guests. By the time Angelus slowed their pace the hotel was almost out of sight.

 

“How will Grandmummy find us?”

 

“I’ll send a messenger. They’ll be happy for the late snack.” He released her arm before turning to face the burning hotel. He could still hear the screams of the guests, and it gave him a mellow, satisfied feeling. Not the evening he’d planned, maybe, but a good one nonetheless.

 

Drusilla wandered forward, uninterested in the fire. Finally she stopped, her head cocked to the grand house beside her, listening. He caught up to her and listened, but the house was quiet, its windows boarded up. Nothing to hold her enthralled. “Let’s go, Dru,” he said, tugging at her arm.

 

She didn’t move. “The music,” she crooned. “It’s beautiful.” She began to sway on her feet and he allowed her to pull away, watching as she spun to music that wasn’t there. “Do you see them dancing? She was so happy, but then everything went wrong. Now she moulders, but doesn’t leave. She won’t go on. Can’t.”

 

There wasn’t time for this. The night was growing late, and he had to secure them lodgings and let Darla know before she went back to the hotel and blew a gasket. “Come along,” he instructed, reaching for her hand.

 

Somehow she ending up taking his instead, drawing him back and forth, and almost against his will he was dancing. He wondered if it was the thrall she was already showing signs of possessing, but he was cognizant, his mind clear. He wondered why he indulged her.

 

She rested her head against his shoulder for a moment, not seductively, as Darla did, but trustingly. For a moment, he thought he heard the echo of violins and cellos.

 

A hack drove by, the drunken lordlings inside shouting obscene suggestions of what they should do instead of dancing.

 

The moment was broken, and Angelus pulled away from her with a start. “Time to get going,” he said, and this time she did not protest.

 

For nearly a minute he didn’t say anything. Finally he could stand it no longer. “The music—”

 

“What music, Daddy?”

 

“When we were dancing—”

 

“I didn’t hear any music.”

 

Angelus frowned at her, wondering if she was toying with him. “You said—”

 

“But it was lovely that you wanted to dance. You’re so good to your Drusilla.” She smiled at him radiantly, and he was bemused.

 

“We should find a hotel soon, before Grandmummy tries to find us and gets cross. And then tomorrow night we’ll get my dolly?”

 

It was like trying to push back against the ocean. “Tomorrow night, Dru.”

 

“Thank you, Daddy.”