In Between Demons & Souls
See first chapter for disclaimers...
The key turning in the lock let me know Mathilda was the one entering my apartment. I tossed the rest of my clothes into my suitcase. A quick glance at the clock told me I still had three hours before I had to catch my plane.
“Darla?” Mathilda called out.
“In the back,” I responded. I heard her footsteps head down the short hallway.
“What’s going on?” I watched as she quietly took in the bedroom and the mess. I looked up at her and sighed. She had turned out so beautifully. Her teens had been good to her. Not to mention all the training had left her at 5’6” with a lean frame. Her shoulder blade length brown hair was pulled back in a messy bun. And drastic makeup on her face matched the gothic clothes on her body. Why was I leaving this child behind?
“I have to go. The family is being called in. I can’t say no,” I explained and she stayed in the doorway.
“When did you find out?”
“Last night after I dropped you off.”
“Were you planning on telling me?”
“Yes, Mathilda, of course. But I had to pack and you didn’t need to help out with that. My flight leaves in three hours. I was going to stop by your school before I left,” I immediately told her.
“Of course,” she replied. “So, family gathering and you just leave? What about me? What about our trip this summer?”
“I wish I could explain it so you would understand. But I have to go Mathilda. If I don’t go I’ll be hunted down. I’m the favored childe. And while that means nothing to you, believe me, if I skip out then I don’t even want to think about what will happen.”
“And me?” Mathilda’s voice quivered.
“You, my dear child, need to stay here. I need you to finish school. I would love to tell you that I will be back for our vacation but that would be a lie. I don’t think I’ll be able to get away for at least a year. And I’m sorry Mathilda, but I’ve stayed away too long already.”
“And what…you leave and I wait a year for you to come back?”
“I know that sounds horrible, but it is either that or this is goodbye. I’m sorry, Mathilda, believe me I am, but I have no other choice.”
“Let me call you then. Let me keep in touch with you. It is the least you can do,” she pleaded.
“I will call you when I get out there. And we’ll see about setting up phone calls,” I assured her. It was the best I could give her. Clearly it wasn’t what she wanted, but it was the best I could do.
“Okay,” she finally agreed. “Do you need help packing? Carrying stuff to the airport?” And that sudden acceptance and utter confidence that she had in me was why I had stuck around so long. She cared for me. Despite the things she had seen me do. Despite the fact that I kept things from her. She cared. And I basked in that warmth.
“I’m almost done packing but I could definitely use a hand and company to the airport.”
“Good. Let me know what to grab,” she responded and smiled softly.
Darla hasn’t even been gone for a whole day and I already miss her. The City seems dull, lifeless, and quiet without her presence. I realize I’m probably over exaggerating, but it hurts that she’s gone. And I worry that I will never see her again. That last night’s hug will be both the first and last. And I think Darla worries about it too. Watching her walk down the hallway to the plane was hard. Watching it take off almost broke my heart.
She made me promise to keep training. And I will. The last two plus years have made it so I can’t not train. It’s ingrained in my mind, my body, my soul. And I’ll continue to take contracts. The money is always good. And I’ll wait for her to come home. Mostly because I don’t want to think about living without her in my life one way or another.
I hope she stays safe. Losing Leon hurt…but losing Darla might kill me.
Darla called tonight. Something is very wrong. Her family has come across a problem. Darla kept insisting that one little blonde wasn’t going to get in the way, but my gut tells me differently. And I’m pretty sure hers does too.
Aside from that she told me she was in California, which I already knew. She won’t give me a more specific location. She kept insisting that I not come find her. That her family wouldn’t understand why I was there, and they would probably kill me. And she held a lot of conviction in her tone. She thinks they’ll kill me, and that’s more than enough reason for me to stay away, for now.
She’s supposed to call next week, maybe sooner if she can get to a phone. It’s been weeks and I can already feel myself wilting away. I miss her.
I got an envelope in the mail yesterday. It was to be sent upon her death. Inside was a list of bank accounts, saving deposit boxes, and more, so much more. All of them had my name on them. I was ridiculously rich now. Rich enough I would never have to do another hit in my life. But the cost of being rich was way too high.
I’ve cried all the tears I can. I trashed my room, beat up a few people last night, and got myself well and truly smashed. And now all I’m left with is a letter. Pieces of paper with her writing scrawled upon them. Words carefully thought out and placed for my viewing. And instructions on how to remain alive when – not if – I come looking for her killer.
That is Darla’s true name – her family name. I’m part of that family too. She marked me; when I don’t know, but she did. And she says the others will know.
And she sent a cross to me. It is clearly an antique; she said it was made in the late 1500s. And that she would like me to wear it all the time. Its weight is a calming presence against my skin. Even now, as I write this, I’m still touching it, playing with it, making sure it hasn’t disappeared as well. .
She asked me not to look for her killer immediately. To wait, cool off, get my head back on straight. No emotion, just simple hunting. Emotion could be had afterwards. And so I’ll wait, if only to respect her wishes.
I found Darla’s killer. Angel, her child. Darla never mentioned children. Could Angel and Angelus be related…or the same? I think Darla would have told me if she was having a relationship with her son.
He no longer resides in this town called Sunnydale. He left for L.A. And that is where I am headed. I’m going to look him in the eye while I pull the trigger. Darla deserves that much.
I found Angel, and I’ve got the bruises and broken arm to show for it. And despite all that I’m currently residing in his hotel. He put me up for the night after he got done kicking my ass. As it turns out he says he killed her, put her out of her misery, and set her free. He said she was possessed by a demon. And that Darla wouldn’t have wanted to live that way. I don’t know what to believe. But I plan on keeping a close eye on Angel. It’s clear that he can kick my ass. And it’s also clear that he isn’t going to kill me, despite my attacking him, and his coworkers’ blatant encouragement.
L.A. is giving me a strange vibe. I feel like something big is going to happen and I just need to stick around long enough to figure it out.
I miss Darla. I miss her smile, her laugh, her sarcastic streak, and her viciousness at times. She was more than just Darla. She was my best friend. She was the only one in this whole crazy world that understood me. Except for Leon…but they are both dead. And I’m left behind to pick up the pieces and move on.
I hate being left behind.
I saw Darla this evening. I mean, I don’t think that I was hallucinating. But I have to be. She died. Angel said he killed her. And plus, this woman was running around in the daylight. I hadn’t seen Darla in the daylight in all the years I had known her. In fact, she avoided it like the plague. I went to Angel and asked him. And damn if he didn’t freak out. He started yelling at his coworkers that Darla was really was alive. That I was proof that he wasn’t crazy. And his coworkers kicked me out, and told me not to come back, and so I left. He would lead me to her though. I knew that much. So, I camped out outside the hotel and waited for him to go to her.
He came running back to the hotel a few minutes ago. I’m a little too wigged out by his beaten appearance to actually move closer to the hotel. But I’m following him wherever he goes this time. He knows something. Something big. And it involves Darla. Which means that I am going to get myself involved. How is Darla alive? Why hasn’t she come for me? Despite all the confusion surrounding her I need to see her. I need to hear her voice again. Let’s hope Angel finds her soon.
It seems that Darla has been taken to be reborn in some nursery. A plant nursery of all places. And the Angel Investigations Team mentioned Wolfram and Hart. I thought that was a law firm. Crazy shit goes down in this town. They are gathering weapons - that much I can tell from my distant perch. And Angel looks determined. He looks like he is ready to kill something. God, I hope he isn’t planning on trying to kill Darla again. I’d really hate to have to kill him this time. He seems like a genuinely nice guy. They’re about to move. I should follow them. Darla, my dear Darla, I’m coming.
“Angel?” I look up at my childe in confusion. What is going on? Where am I? And why does he have a stake? Oh god, it wasn’t a dream. Drusilla… I keep looking around, surmising that I am a roof, dressed in a nightgown. And sadly enough I’m in the same place I was in Sunnydale, about to staked by my own childe. For a reason this time. To save me. To save my soul. I can see the pain etched across his face. He feels guilty about me being a vampire. I don’t belong here. I was happy wherever I was. I see him start to bring the stake down again and let my eyes fall closed. I may be able to accept death, but I’m not going to watch my own happen. But the blow never comes.
Drusilla had tackled him, rolling him back toward the greenhouse glass. And I rise to my feet and run to the ledge of the roof. As the seconds tick by I can feel the last tendrils of my soul disappearing. The demon is rising. Taking control. And any moment now I’ll not be me and I’ll be her. The demon is screaming for me to flee. I look back over my shoulder and see Angel start to move. I won’t let him have me. I climb up on the edge and step off, a five story drop, just as I hear him get his feet under him.
I land wrong, but manage to soften the blown by rolling when my knees give out. Quickly, I move out of the street and into a dark side alley. He will still be able to find me if I stay, so I keep moving. I am almost two blocks away when I realize someone is following me. I duck into a dark corner and watch as a young woman comes running into the alley, stopping when she realizes I’m not visible.
“Darla! I know it’s you. Please, come out. Darla!” the girl calls out as she steps further into the alley. Something is eerily familiar about her. Her gait, the way she holds herself, and her voice all sound so recognizable. But through the fog I can’t place her.
I let her walk past me, unknowingly, and step out behind her. She doesn’t hear me as I walk soundlessly up behind her. I had every intention of grilling the girl, finding out who she is, how she knows my face and name. But when I get within inches of her all I smell is blood. Blood furiously being pumped through veins just barely under the skin. Her blood is laced with adrenaline and fear. Both tasty additions to the already savory substance. And I let the demon take over because it needs to feed. And I’m almost gone anyway.
I grab her from behind, wrapping one arm around her chest, catching one of her arms in the process, and my other hand grabs her head, tilting it to the left, baring her neck. I see the bite, recognize it for my own, but still continue. Details of my connection to this girl will come later. Now I can only think about the kill. She immediately starts to struggle, trying to pull my arms off her, lashing out with her boot encased feet, but she is no match for a starving newly risen vampire such as myself. I sink my fangs into the existing mark and feed. The warm, spiced, blood flows over my teeth and tongue and glides down my throat. I bite harder, sucking more and more into my mouth. Gluttony. I’m not even really tasting it at this point, but my body needs it.
The body I’m holding has stopped fighting and her knees give out, sending us both crashing to the paved alley. I manage to rip my fangs out of her neck, flinging myself backwards and away from the girl. Enough blood. Too much even. I wipe my chin with the back of my hand, coming away with blood. Such a mess. And then I see the cross, lying in the hollow the girl’s neck. And my world snaps back into focus. I scramble to get back to her body. Immediately my fingers go to her neck, the left side, searching for a pulse. I listen intently, trying to stop my own suddenly panicked breathing, for a heartbeat. Faint, too faint. She’s too far gone. Not even the demon I am can save her now. Her eyes roll back in her head, what little blood that is left in her body is slowly seeping out of her neck, and I hear her final heartbeat.
Lying before me, in a dirty alley, is my dear sweet Mathilda.
I collapse backwards, putting a small distance between myself and her body. It’s still warm, but cooling off fast with the lack of blood inside it. I notice the pack, just off to her right, close enough that I just have to stretch to get it. I rip the zipper in my haste to open it. The contents spill out into my lap and onto the street around me.
Weapons. My girl never traveled light. She might not have known what she was coming up against, but she was prepared for anything. The leather bound book caught my attention, as it was out of place amidst the weapons. I opened it and immediately recognized it to be Mathilda’s journal. Carefully, reverently I flipped to the last page. I reread her final entry and tears sprung to my eyes. She had been looking for me. And unfortunately she had found me too late.
I closed the book, stuffing it, and the weapons, back in the pack. I bunch the pack back together as best as I could and rose to my feet. I didn’t have much time. I needed to move her now, before Angel found me, before I lost total control of myself. I carefully picked up her body, gently cradling it against my chest, and walked out of the alley.
I buried Mathilda in one of the nicer cemeteries in L.A. It was no New York skyline but it was a decent view. It was the least I could do for her. Her tombstone reads:
Mathilda Aurelius Carroll
April 14, 1982 – December 19, 2000
Now forever with her love.
Be well, my child.
I don’t have the time to mourn her death properly at the moment. I have to deal with these lawyers at Wolfram and Hart. They are responsible for my transformation back into the demon. They will pay for messing with my life.
I hope you will forgive me, my child. I never meant to hurt you. I never meant for anything bad to ever come of you. Please forgive me. I loved you with everything I was capable of. It might not have been much, but it was all I had to give.
Perhaps I will see you again. Take care, my dear, sweet child.