“I give it a century. Tops.”
It was so typical of her, his Dear One. She found herself another distraction, another plaything, and she was off. But the Master knew that this time it was different. She had made this one, and he knew all too well the love that could coarse through one’s veins for those they sire.
He supposed he should have been more harsh with her, done more to raise her himself, rather than leaving it to Luke. He may have been his best boy but he was still just a boy and Darla had her ways of manipulating him.
Perhaps that was what had been so disarming when she brought this new vampire, Angelus, her childe, to see him. His little girl had always been the greatest manipulator the Master knew. She could bend him and break Luke with only a flutter of her eyes. But now she was the one being manipulated.
The Master heard it in his voice, when Angelus promised to give her everything, when he promised her the view. It was a lie, seduction; it was exactly his dear one’s own game and he couldn’t believe that she was falling for it.
Hadn’t he given her everything already? Didn’t she get clothes and furniture? All the boys she asked for? All the girls she asked for? Wasn’t she allowed to leave whenever she wanted? Travel the world and be protected from harm by his powerful alliances? Hadn’t he let her get away with a hundred transgressions and then, after a kiss to his cheek, allowed her a hundred more?
And this is how she repaid him. By leaving with the stallion.
Still, a century, a mere hundred years. That was how long he counted on them to stay together. He would have made a much more modest estimate, a decade maybe, before that infuriating boy allowed his arrogance to get the best of him. But the Master knew he wouldn’t let anything happen to Angelus. He didn’t want to see Darla hurt. So he would do what he had to in order to protect her, and her worthless stallion, from afar.
For a hundred years he stopped plots against the two of them before they even knew that anything was brewing. He allowed them their toys like Holtz but the real threats, the demons and beasts with grudges against Angelus, they were taken out before they could reach him or Darla.
Even with protection the Master still figured it would only be a hundred years until his dear one grew bored. Before she missed him and her real family too much. Before she returned once again to sit by his side. Yes, she would come back. She had to, because she was his.
But a century came and went. And a hundred years exactly, after she first brought Angelus to him, the Master heard that they had turned another. Or Angelus had, at least, and Darla had allowed it. A seer, a girl in London with visions, a girl they intended to keep.
When Luke brought him the news there was nothing but rage. Flaming torches flew across the room, furniture was snapped in half, and ancient texts were ripped apart from their spines. This was supposed to be the year she returned to the Order. To her family. And instead she had started a new one.
Now he honestly didn’t know how long it would take for her to return.
Forty years. Less than half a century, and there she was, back at his side. Of course, the Master had hoped her return would be under better circumstances. But he was happy that she was home at all. Her precious boy had been cursed with a soul. He had used his old tricks and made her believe again for a while, but now she knew he was really gone.
She had sought out Luke, in Moscow, instead of coming directly home to the Master. But he couldn’t really blame her. Her brother had always been her greatest source of comfort, even if he was also her greatest source of torment. The Master knew that Luke had done his best to take care of her, to put her back together as much as he could before he brought her back to the Order. But she wasn’t the same.
She moped and sniveled. She wrote letter after letter to that other boy she had let into her family. Her eyes never shone, except with the occasional tear, and she didn’t play any of her old games. She was older now and it showed. Luke would tease her or send her a punch, and instead of playfully wrestling him back all she would manage was a snap of her temper.
She sat sullenly at the Master’s side throughout court. Like a child who had been ordered to finish all her supper. It broke his dead heart and he thought he would rather have her gallivanting around the world, or under the table on her knees at his guest’s laps, like the old times, than sitting so seemingly well behaved.
If he didn’t think it would break her further, he would have had Angelus killed for this.
It was a century, tops, before he lost her again. Of course, in that time she regained her old spark. She left the Order to travel like old times, but she had never been so foolish again, never turned any of her play toys, and had never said her goodbyes without intending to return.
Decade by decade she became the girl he remembered and loved, his dear one. She played along with Luke and dreamed up schemes to inconvenience the Master. Her amusement had more of a wicked streak than it had before but he allowed it in stride, remembering with pain the pathetic mess she had been when she first returned.
Then one day, a century later, as he was trapped in place by the hellmouth, he noticed her change again. The light from her eyes withdrew and she became weary, jumpy, more prone to outbursts than normal. It was a week before he weaseled it out of her. Angel was there. In Sunnydale. He was following the slayer and Darla had felt him arrive.
The Master’s first instinct was to have the boy killed. Luke shared the impulse and the Master did nothing to talk him out of it, but he knew that Angelus’s death would still destroy Darla. So he decided to plan the next best thing - bring Angelus back. With Angelus in debt to him for helping restore him to his true self, surely the Master could convince the boy, and Darla, to stay. All he needed was her to stay out of his way for now.
As long as Darla didn’t involve herself, didn’t let herself get too close, the Master’s plan could be put in motion. He commanded her to stay, just like he should have all those years ago. And despite the affection he had for her usual ways, he hoped that for once in her life she would obey.