The Subtle Art of Self-Preservation
Summary: Darla has joined up with the Dynamic Duo. Will they start wreaking havoc and causing chaos? I think that’s a safe bet.
Story Notes: Now It’s Dark #4. Spoilers for The Trial.
Disclaimer: The owners of the characters are as follows: Joss Whedon, Chris Carter, Kuzui, Mutant Enemy, 1013, and the greatest of them all, FOX. Don’t sue.
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“Light a candle, light a votive. Step down, step down.
Watch your heel crush, crushed, uh-oh, this means no
fear cavalier renegade steer clear! A tournament,
tournament, a tournament of lies! Offer me solutions,
offer me alternatives and I decline–” –R.E.M.
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I have to admit it–I like the new one.
She’s out of her mind and thinks she knows everything, but fuck me, I’ve missed real, honest-to-God vicious vampires. The new ones are either postmodern assholes, or they’re whiny Anne Rice junkies dripping with velvet and leather. Nothing but poseurs, every single last one of them, and I’ve tired of second-rate demons and their pettiness.
Dana, on the other hand, is a vampire for the ages. She takes a satisfaction in the kill that simply doesn’t exist any more. The Master would have loved her. Unlike Drusilla, who was mad and then went madder and stupider after we turned her, Dana’s madness is the glow in her eyes, the spring in her step, and the last delicious kiss before she drops another 6’2, 250-pound asshole who thought he was the one calling the shots. The girl really gets off on dropping would-be date rapists. It’s a pleasure to watch her work.
I’m not sure if she trusts me, though. Her eyes flicker a lot when she sees me. Dana wasn’t there when I was reborn, though I found out later that she was the one that set up the entire scenario with Drusilla and Wolfram and Hart. I also appreciate that she set up my hasty escape. (Did I mention that? Two days after Wolfram and Hart turned me–“recaptured” me–Dru and I were walking the streets of LA. They lost four guards. It was impressive.) They know nothing about her and when I asked why she set it up that way, she just smiled.
“With secret organizations full of megalomaniacal intentions, I like to watch my ass,” she told me. I’ve tried to tease the information out of her and Drusilla about her past, but all I get are fascinating fragments. Bad things happened to our little Dana (who won’t be babied by me, but allows Drusilla a thousand ridiculous pet names) in the past. Further than that, I don’t know.
Right now, our brave new alliance is drinking a lot of Skid Row blood and Dana is loaded. I don’t know if she’s been draining their tequila bottles or if the last guy she fed on was high, but she’s got that unearthly look in her eye that she gets when she’s not quite home.
Smiling like crazy, she turns to us. “Dana, Darla, and Drusilla,” she says, apropos of nothing. “The Charlie’s Angels of the vampire world.”
Drusilla laughs hysterically and doesn’t know what Dana’s talking about. As usual. I haven’t been around Dru a month and I’m already wishing she would just go away in search of a talking star or a snake in the woodshed or something preferably on another continent.
Dana looks down at the victim, who is glassy-eyed from the three-hour feeding she has been perpetrating–just for fun–in our hotel room. He gasps like a dying fish in her lap.
“Who would you choose to play me in the movie?” she asks, tilting her head and stroking his hair. “The last time they chose Tea Leoni. I didn’t like that at all. She’s sort of wooden for my tastes.”
Abruptly, she tosses the human aside and throws out her arms. They’ve made a movie about our Dana? Very interesting indeed.
“Do you know who I am?” she suddenly asks, ostensibly to the gasping lump on the floor. “Do you, motherfucker? Do you hear me? I’m asking you a question! Do you KNOW who I am?”
She whips her head to look at us. Drusilla is transfixed. For that matter, so am I. Dana’s eyes blaze and she drops to her knees next to him. Her lips touch his cheek as she pulls him close and her grip on his blood-striped back is so tight I can see white under her fingers.
“I,” she begins in a clear hiss, “I am FBI Special Agent Dana Scully, formerly of the X-Files, and while you enjoy the last moments of your life–or more accurately, while I enjoy the last moments of your life–think about this.”
We all go dead silent. The only sound in the room is the hiss of the air conditioner and the sobbing, wavering breathing of the condemned man. We wait.
“Julianne Moore would do an admirable job in the part,” she finally says before draining the man and dropping his lifeless carcass on the floor in about forty seconds. I lick my lips. Some part of me wants to throw my new sister up against the wall and taste all that delicious blood. It’s funny–man or woman, nothing is more sexual than a vampire with a taste for killing and the style to do it right.
Later, after we get rid of the body, I disappear and find Lindsey. I can’t help it. I’m just too curious about my little sister Dana. It’s not hard to find him–he’s terrified that I’m going to kill him and nothing leaves a wider trail than fear. I catch up with him at that ridiculous demon karaoke bar, his eyes the size of saucers at the sight of me.
“You can’t do anything to me in here,” he warns as I walk in and wave at Merle the Empath Demon, who’s listening to a Graknar sing La Vida Loca and ignoring my revamped presence.
“I don’t want to do anything. I have a name for you, Lindsey darling. Can you do me just one more favor, the same as you did me when you ripped that filthy soul out of my breast?” I ask, fluttering my eyelashes.
He looks at me warily, then nods slowly. I sit down and because I’m feeling energized by Dana’s youth and exuberance, slide my foot up his thigh. Lindsey is such a faker. He loves me, but he wants Angel. Babbling twit.
“What is it?” he says in a half-strangled gasp. “Who is it?”
“FBI Special Agent Dana Scully, formerly of the X-Files. Whatever that is.”
Apparently, the name carries some weight. Lindsey’s jaw drops. The three tables around us hush into frightened silence. Lindsey gapes at me, pale as death.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me, Darla.”
“Assume I’m not,” I say, not understanding the reactions. I turn on a Porsimon sitting at the table next to me. It’s blanched at the human name Dana Scully and it’s too much for me. “What? You act like she’s a fucking Slayer or something!”
“Hey, lady, this one was worse than the Slayer,” the Porsimon replies coolly. “At least the Slayer stays put. This Scully, though–back in her day, before she dropped off the planet, she was working for a crazy government unit called–”
“The X-Files. We get it,” Lindsey interrupts smoothly. “Why the interest, Darla? She’s dead, or good as. Disappeared about six weeks ago. If she’s not dead, she’s in a mental ward somewhere.”
“Say I saw her investigating a case in the neighborhood,” I reply calmly. “She was looking for something haunting sewers. Badge and all. I think she’s awfully little to strike so much fear into the hearts of demons. Would you be open to sharing information then?”
Lindsey shakes his head. “It’s a long story. The basic gist of the story is that she had a crazy genius partner, Fox Mulder. They ran around, as FBI agents do, solving crimes and righting wrongs and that sort of bullshit. This, of course, offended many of our clients as well as some special government folks on the East Coast. And these guys are your worst nightmare–Mafia meets PTBs meet Black Ops. Instead of explaining to these do-gooders that they needed to back the fuck off, they just fucked ’em over. Especially her– just to fuck Mulder. I’m friends with these people, and I thought it was sick. They held her once for three months to perform tests. Lots of medical rape, sterilization, cancer, that sort of crazy shit. So finally, the boys out east off Mulder to find out our girl Dana is pregnant.”
“With what?” I ask sarcastically. “An alien? The anti-christ?”
“We dunno. Nobody will ever know. Nobody wanted to find out,” Lindsey says. “Anyway, Mulder is dead and Scully is having his baby. You’d think she’d back off and take up haunting conspiracy newsgroups, but she keeps pushing–and this bitch is good. She could put a few of our clients out of business for good. So the East Coast boys decide to arrange an accident. If you get my meaning.”
“I’m not stupid,” I growl. “I can see where this is going. So she lost her mind, thanks to the massive bitch-slap dealt to her?”
“Apparently. Then she disappeared about six weeks ago,” Lindsey finishes. “But if you’ve seen her, Wolfram and Hart would pay good money for her whereabouts. There are a sizeable number of people who say she faked her death and went sort of vigilante. They’d like to speak to her.”
I think about Dana’s ongoing quest to kill as many things as possible with as much pain as she can inflict. I grin. Lindsey eyes me suspiciously.
“Sort of vigilante? Lindsey,” I say, sliding my foot around his crotch. “That’s like saying Angel kind of does it for you. The way I heard it, girl took out twenty-five of your East Coast boys like they were standing still. In fact, I heard she strung one bad boy up and removed his guts while he was alive. It was a one-woman bloodbath.”
OK, I didn’t really hear about the guts thing, but it’s a good conversational flourish.
“Where is she?” Lindsey asks.
“Singing karaoke at the bar over yonder,” I say, pointing. His head swivels and before he can realize I’ve lied to him, I rush out of Caritas and into the night-black streets of Los Angeles.
For once, Drusilla has done something brilliant. Why she turned Dana, I don’t know, and I don’t care. But we have a name on our side, a name that makes demons piss themselves and big-shot evil guys turn pale as a sheet. I still don’t understand why a couple of FBI do-gooders shake them so, but I’ll go with it. She’s a weapon in my hands, one that could bring the world to its knees.
“Now this is an interesting situation,” someone suddenly murmurs in my ear two seconds before she slips her hand around my throat. “It appears our little alliance isn’t so sacred after all.”
“That wasn’t what you thought,” I squeak, trying to pull Dana’s hand away from my throat.
“I’m not so sure of that,” she says, flinging me against the side of the building. “You have a very bad reputation, Darla. It’s you first, you second, Angel third, everyone else fourth, and then it’s you again. Forgive me if I don’t believe your half-assed confession of innocence.”
“Have some respect, little sister,” I croak, wriggling against the incredible pressure she’s putting on my throat. “Without my self-preservation skills, none of us would be here today.”
“And with your self-preservation skills, I might not be here tomorrow,” Dana replies. “What’s the play, Darla? Are you going to lie through your teeth until I crush your lying throat or what?”
“If I scream real loud, do you promise to crush it slow?” I ask, sneering. Of course it’s a stupid thing to say, but I can’t help it. I deserve this child’s respect, not her third degree. I’m four hundred years old. I was made by the Master himself.
She doesn’t say anything, just slams my head harder into the wall. It hurts like fuck and I go game faced. She slams my head again.
“What do you say, Darla?”
“Fuck you, Dana,” I reply, expecting my head to go into the wall again. Instead, I feel something pointy against my chest.
“If that’s how you really feel,” she says. “I can penetrate you right here, right now.”
“You’d break Dru’s heart,” I protest. “She’s in love with this idea of reassembling the family. How would she feel if her beloved baby girl killed her grandmother?”
“You hate Drusilla, Darla. And she’s really not that fond of you. She’s fonder of your Angel-attracting properties than your charming personality and I’m sure she’d get over it pretty fast,” Dana replies. “Come on, Darla. You like living. Just tell me. What the fuck were you doing with that pretty-boy lawyer?”
She’s not going to back down, and she’s right. I didn’t survive as long as I did because I was idiotically stubborn.
“Finding out about you,” I admit. “That’s the truth. I wanted to know who you were and he told me. Sounds like you were worse than the Slayer in your day, Agent Scully.”
“Righting wrongs and fucking Mulder was pretty much my life until about six weeks ago. I prided myself on being the best at both. It’s sort of a thing with me. I have to do my best or I’m not going to do it,” she says, slowly loosening her grip on my neck. “Plus, I had a gun. The Slayer has a bunch of children’s toys.”
“Maybe so,” I say. “But they’re a bunch of effective toys.”
She glares at me, but it’s a speculative, thinking sort of glare. Even with my bruised neck, I’m excited. This one has everything necessary to bring hell onto this earth. She’s smart, tough, and just realistic enough to avoid obvious death. Plus, she has the desire–not the desire, the pathological need–to be perfect at whatever she does.
“What’s so interesting about me, by the by?” Dana asks after she lets go of me and we start walking down the street.
“Your reputation. It causes brave men and lawyers to piss their pants. Especially after the East Coast bloodbath,” I reply nonchalantly. “So, Dana, now that you’re through the glass darkly, do you have a purpose besides pain?”
She frowns and thinks silently as we turn a corner onto a busy street. “Not really,” she admits. “But do I really need one? A purpose is such a tedious thing to carry around all the time. All I want is to be the best at pain. I was one of the best at suffering it, so I want to see what the other side is like.”
“Good enough for me,” I reply. “So why are you helping Drusilla on this family reunion project?”
“I owe Dru. Besides, you guys are the best of the best. I think that my purposes are best served by uniting this little family again,” she says. “Want to get a beer and a nice bartender to go with it before we go home, Darla?”
I hear the subtext. What she isn’t saying is that she wants to know if I’ll be loyal to her. The idea annoys me. To be subservient to a vampire so young and inexperienced when the Master sired me! When I was brought back from the dead!
But I have nowhere else to turn. Wolfram and Hart are keeping tabs on me, but my escape and refusal to work with them doesn’t make them likely allies. Besides, I dislike them. Angel can’t help me. The vampires of Los Angeles are weak, mewling kittens. This cold, tiny woman with eyes of steel and a grip to match is my only way back to safety, to more than safety, to what I once was.
“Sounds like a plan,” I reply.
“Good,” she says. “After we go home, we need to go to Sunnydale. Dru’s hung up on killing the Slayer. I say it’s not a bad idea, but we’re going to need time, talent, and careful planning if we want to survive the town. What do you say to that?”
“I say I’m going to need a bottle of whiskey to wash down that bartender,” I reply grimly. Sunnydale. I died there. Going back doesn’t really appeal to me. However, killing that blonde cheerleader–or watching Dana do it with a dull knife and a song in her heart–does.
“Seconded and agreed,” she says. Her face softens for a moment, and then she turns to me and smiles.
“You and me, girl. We’re gonna fuck up the world,” she says. And I completely agree.