Chapter 19: Single Combat
Angel studied the drawing of Spike he had made before crumbling it up and throwing it away. Things had gotten better for him since Spike had come back, even though Angel had only seen him that one time.
Darla came to visit him more often, and she was almost always Sweet Darla. He thought about it a bit and realized that she must have come to see him almost every day since Spike's arrival because he didn't go hungry anymore.
He could do that now, figure things out. His head had begun to clear up a bit, nourished as much by Darla's attentions as by the regular feedings.
It wasn't always a good thing. Before, in his addled state he had simply been grateful for her presence. But now he began to pick out other scents on her person, scents mixed with the musk of sex. Like the Strawberry Girl's. Angel didn't mind that one so much, just like he had never minded when Darla played with Dru; in fact he often liked to watch that. But there was another scent, an unfamiliar male scent that clung to Darla like a parasite.
Somewhere, another man thought he could make Darla his mate. It made Angel bristle, but then he would remember the White Place–the lab, he corrected himself–and he wondered if maybe Darla wasn't better with someone who could protect her.
Angel was deep in his brooding on the subject when a new scent came to him, sharp and strong. The smell of blood.
There was nothing unusual about that. He knew there were many vampires in the tunnels around him. He smelled blood both human and vampire all the time. But this was different. This was powerful, like sunlight and goodness. He had smelled blood like this once before.
The thoughts came hard, one on top of each other bringing painful memories.
Darla praising Spike.
Darla sending Angel away.
Panic gripped Angel. Spike was killing another slayer, obviously so he could claim Darla as his mate and have Angel driven out again. That was more than Angel could bear, and for the first time since he had been put in the cell, Angel tried to escape.
With a roar he brought the demon to the front and slammed his body against the door to his cell. The wood splintered and cracked. He only had to throw his weight against it two more times until it gave way completely. It had been intended to keep the younger vampires out, not to keep in the two hundred and fifty year old vampire glutted on the powerful blood of his Sire.
Once he was free, it was easy to find the others. They were all gathered together, his family and the Slayer whose blood called him like a siren's song. He moved quickly through the tunnels until he found the main hall where everyone was gathered. The other vampires were too wrapped up in the proceedings to even notice him.
In the center of the room was the Slayer. He could see the slight trickle of blood run down from her nose. She was fighting a large vampire–named Riley, judging by the cheers of the crowd. Angel's nostrils flared. It was him, the man who was fucking Darla. Angel had gotten it wrong; it wasn't Spike who was trying to drive him out but this other vampire, this Riley.
Angel roared again as he barreled into the center of the room, slamming into the rival vampire with the force of a steam roller. The both hit the ground hard, but Angel was prepared for it whereas Riley was caught completely by surprise.
Immediately Angel's fists slammed into the other body while he tore at the vampire's flesh with his fangs. Riley tried to fight back but he couldn't seem to recover from the initial ferocity of Angel's attack.
And then out of nowhere a tiny fist slammed into Angel's face with a surprising amount of force.
He was knocked back off of his opponent's body, only to look up and see the Slayer standing menacingly over him. For a moment he was confused, then he realized that she must simply see him as another vampire, another threat.
"Run," he croaked, his voice weak from lack of use.
She looked at him defiantly and before he could react, her foot connected with his face.
He rolled with the force of the blow coming to his feet, but before he could try to encourage her to escape again, Spike was there. For a moment Angel thought that Spike was going to try and kill her, but instead he pulled her gently away from the fight.
"This has nothing to do with you, pet," he told the girl.
Angel didn't have time to puzzle over this strange behavior. His first opponent had recovered and this time it was Angel who was knocked to the ground.
The two men rolled about, savagely ripping at each other's flesh. Angel wasn't used to fighting anyone as big as he was, while his opponent was an accomplished wrestler.
Then Darla's voice rang out above the cries of the crowd, "Darling!"
Both men turned to look. She had risen from her couch and held a sword up in front of her. Her eyes flashed, encouraging both men to further acts of violence. Then she reversed the sword and tossed it, hilt first, towards the two combatants.
Riley reached for the weapon, releasing his hold on Angel. That gave Angel the opening he needed to get free. Instead of scrambling for the sword, Angel grabbed his opponent's left arm and yanked hard, pulling the arm from its socket with a loud popping noise.
The vampire yelled in agony, his fingers releasing the weapon a fraction of a second after they had closed about it. While Riley curled up in pain, Angel grabbed the sword and with one sure blow brought it down on the other man's throat.
Angel didn't wait for the dust to settle. He dropped the sword, which clattered heavily on the stone floor, and moved swiftly up to the dais from where Darla had watched the entire battle. He grabbed her roughly by the arms and forced her down on the ground, climbing on top of her.
Fabric tore as he and Darla ripped away each other's clothing. Then he was inside her. She cried out eagerly at the violence of his entry as he buried himself inside her wet depths. She offered him her throat, not in the pitying way she had fed him in his cell, but as an equal.
Angel's fangs pierced her delicate skin and he could feel her fangs sliding into his neck as they reclaimed each other as mates and renewed the bond that had nearly faded from a century of neglect.
When their bodies finally came to rest he released her throat to look up. One by one he met the eyes of every vampire in the room, and one by one they turned away, submitting to his gaze. All except for Spike.
The two Master vampires stared at each other for a moment. Then Spike tilted his head slightly. It wasn't much, certainly not submission, but there was respect. Spike wasn't going to challenge Angel, and that was enough.
Angel looked down into Darla's contented face, and he couldn't have been happier. He was strong and safe, the head of his family once more, and Darla had taken him back.
Everything was perfect until a sudden pain hit his chest. It was as if someone was ripping his insides out. He threw his head back and screamed.
When his head had cleared, Darla looked up at him in wonder. "Angelus?" she smiled as she flung her arms around him in a tight embrace.
Angelus smiled wickedly, "That's right baby," he replied hoarsely. "I'm back."
Buffy moved quickly away from the scene of violence and sex, feeling confused and hurt. She didn't understand what was going on, or why no one seemed to care that the strange vampire had killed Riley and then. . . done that to Darla.
Her only guide was Spike, who'd told her not to interfere, first during the fight and then afterwards when the big vampire had started using Darla. Of course he hadn't been much help other than that. He hadn't even looked away from what was happening when he spoke to her, telling her she could go if she didn't want to watch. That might have hurt, if she wasn't already feeling so bad about him setting up the fight with Riley in the first place.
That had shattered all of her illusions, all of her silly day dreams. Spike had no interest in her. All she was to him was a fighter, a weapon, just like she had been to Tain. The only difference was that whereas she hadn't had a choice in how Tain used her, she didn't have to let Spike treat her like this.
She hurried back to her room. She felt a little guilty about taking the clothes that the vampires had bought for her, but she needed to be able to blend in.
She wasn't going back to The Center. Spike had been right about that at least; there wasn't anything for her there. She needed, wanted more. She wasn't really certain exactly what that more was, but it was a big world out there, there had to be a place for her in it somewhere, and maybe even someone to share it with.
Her few things packed, she made her way out of the tunnels. Before she crossed over into the sunlight, she looked back, wishing Spike would appear and tell her that it had all been a mistake, and that he wanted her to stay. But no one was there. No one had even noticed that she was gone.
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