The Victoria and Albert Museum was done up in high style. The Master of London had finally decided to satisfy his potentially-adoring fans make a public debut, showing the fashion world just how haute couture vampires could be. Nearly the entire court had turned out, dressed to the nines, to mingle with the masses. Tuxedo’d waiters worked the crowd with champagne flutes for the humans and demitasse cups of blood for the vampires. The lighting was low, the mood dangerous, and the décor the height of Vlad the Impaler chic. Languidly moving vampires circled the rooms with studied predation and the humans ate it up with ecstasy.
Giles held a glass of cognac in his hand and looked down at the woman at his side. Anya beamed up at him. She wore a flowing dress of shimmering blues that swirled around her ankles as she swayed to the music, happily tapping her fingers in Giles’ arm.
“What has you in such a good mood, my dear?”
“It’s kind of exhilarating to be using vengeance for the greater good, more or less. Besides D’Hoffryn will be over the moon about this wish.”
Giles stroked her cheek gently. “You really are a remarkable woman.”
“Yes, I am,” Anya said matter-of-factly. “It’s not every guy that brings home a girl who’ll engage in murder and mayhem for him.”
He laughed, a deep rumble that set Anya’s stomach fluttering. “Too true.”
Anya glanced up at him, “Do you think he can do it?”
“Who, Angelus?” He frowned, little wrinkles creasing at the corner of his mouth. “He should have no problem with tonight.”
“I mean after. He is
awfully young,” Anya said, taking a sip of champagne and twitching her nose at the fizzing bubbles.
Giles blinked, then gave a low chuckle that hinted of not-so-nice things, “Only you would think him young. I may loathe the fellow, but Angelus is a remarkable vampire—or has remarkable drive at any rate, and a substantial well of personal power. He has a ruthlessness that’s admirable, as inconvenient as it is. When his sire was killed, he didn’t drop to the bottom of the food chain like the other vampires expected. After he killed the first five or six court flunkies that tried to take advantage of him, the others got the point. His Sourde de Sang is not as fond of him as Darla was, but it’s a close thing, even though she’s now beginning to view him as a threat.”
“As far as Angelus was concerned, Darla’s death was just another thing to be conquered and used to his advantage,” Giles said. “He stepped over her corpse and took her place in his family’s hierarchy, and made a name for himself as no-one’s meat.”
“Then he found you,” Anya said softly.
“Ah yes, then there was me. He’s too impatient sometimes, but he does know how to turn every situation to his advantage.” Giles looked out over the swirling crowd and said, “Like now.”
He rubbed his thumb over her knuckles and asked, “You don’t feel bad about this at all?”
She bit her lip and looked out at the brightly dressed throng, moving in time to a rollicking number from the band. “Well, not really. I mean, I know I should, but just … don’t. I’ve been doing this a long time.”
“And none of us can change our natures,” Giles said, watching Angelus walk their way, a gorgeous blond vampire on his arm. She was dainty and perfect, like a Barbie Doll with fangs. She would have been even prettier if she was smiling, but she was scowling up a storm.
“There you are,” Angelus called out, a sadistic little grin on his face. “I have someone you positively must meet.”
“I owe you nothing, peasant,” spat out the vampire, but she left her hand on his arm.
“Maybe not, Portia, but no one else would escort you to this little soiree, so keep a civil tongue in your head before I rip it out,” said Angelus, with a kiss to her cheek. “You remember Rupert Giles, my human servant? This is his companion, Anya Jenkins.”
Portia turned her nose up. “You let your servant have diversions? Pathetic.”
Angelus gripped her hand tight enough to make her squeak in pain. “And where is your servant, Portia? Oh, that’s right, you could never keep one. Two marks and they kill themselves in desperation.”
Furious, Portia turned her gaze on Anya. “I don’t know why you bother with that human servant. Men will always leave you, human or otherwise.”
Anya turned on all the sympathetic charm she could muster. She smiled and said, “I know. They’re such bastards, all of them.”
Portia hissed, baring fangs. “Particularly, the Beloved Master of London! Oh, everyone loves him so, that betrayer. I don’t know why the Council lets him keep his seat. He’s a weak-willed, petty tyrant.”
“Careful, Portia, just because he tossed you aside like yesterday’s newspaper doesn’t mean he can’t have you stuffed into a cross-wrapped coffin by morning,” Angelus said, exchanging a glance with Giles. The men moved a way a bit, letting Anya work her magic.
“Don’t listen to Angelus; what does he know?” Anya said, with a conspiring grin. “Come on, what do you wish happened to ‘the Beloved Master of London’?”
The blonde vampire flipped a coil of perfectly coiffed hair over her shoulder with a toss of her head. “Something awful. His heart ripped out and stamped on by priests wielding holy water.”
Anya mentally rolled her eyes. Why did she always have to get the uncreative ones? “What else? I mean, you could wish for anything—that he would know what you felt, that he would be convinced that every man, woman and child thought he was worthless.”
“I don’t think that!” hissed Portia, grabbing Anya’s arm. “I am no weak little worm to grovel in fear.”
“But wouldn’t it be fun if he did?” the demon said, tone oozing with sympathy. She wished the vampire would let go of her arm; if she really was a human the bones in her forearm would be close to fracturing right now.
A commotion over by the stage where the musicians played drew their attention. Portia’s eyes narrowed as she watched the Master of London mount the steps to the podium and tap on the mircophone. He was darkly handsome in a particularly vampirish way and moved the way only old things can. Something terrible and furious passed over Portia’s features and she lost all semblance of humanity. A nearby London socialite couple gasped and edged further away.
“Fine, you worthless human. I wish he would know what it feels like to think that every man, woman and child hated and feared him. He deserves every ounce of loathing they would heap on him if they saw his true face, what he was capable of doing to them. Doing to me!”
Portia’s eyes snapped with green light and her fangs clacked when she closed her mouth. Anya patted her hand gently before peeling back her hand so far she snapped the bones in Porita’s wrist. The vampire cried out in pain and surprise as Anya’s true face melted to the fore.
“Thank god you finally got the point. If you’d kept rambling on, I’d have to kill you myself.”
“What are you?” Portia whispered, the fright in her face looking more human each passing second.
“I’m your fairy godmother, bitch. Wish granted.”
Suddenly Giles was at her side again and Angelus yanked Portia behind some potted plants. Anya leaned into Giles’ chest as she watched the party dissolve into a minor bloodbath.
Chaos on the dance floor as the Master of London ripped the throats out of the two nearest dancers then leapt back onto the stage to devour the band despite their best attempts to beat him off using trombones and batter him with string basses. The vampires in the crowd didn’t know what to do, some immediately leaving, others moving to assist their Master. After a moment of wide-eyed shock and awe, the humans stampeded. Stumbling over each other to get out of any available entrance, their screams echoed around the museum.
Angelus came up behind them on the left, Portia’s limp body dangling from his fist. Her head hung on by a few tendons, the blonde tresses dragging on the floor. “Good show, Anya.”
Some of the vampires elected to follow their unhinged leader as he grabbed up one human after the next, but most melted away into the night, away from the furious clicking of reporters’ cameras. Angelus gave a nod to Requiem and Penn who had appeared from the shadows. Spike entered through the service entrance with a small contingent of were-rats. With the rats’ help and a very punk roar, he separated the vampires from the humans still in the ballroom while Requiem and Penn worked to soothe their minds. It worked somewhat, since the few vampires that had initially acted with their master now reconsidered their future existence should they be caught, but the Master was still on the loose.
As the demented vampire flew up into the shadows of the gallery’s eaves, Angelus dropped Portia’s body to the floor and casually staked it with a chair leg. “Guess this is my cue, boys and girls. Try to have some fun, won’t you? This is a party after all.”
With that, Angelus launched himself into the air. The two vampires met with furious snarls somewhere over the buffet table. A moment or two of grappling and they crashed into the shrimp cocktail, splashing condiments all over the slick dance floor.
Anya, in her human guise, and Giles stepped over Portia’s limp body to get a closer look. The fight was bloody, but brief. Separated from his support, the Master wasn’t a match for Angelus in personal combat. Like the rest of the Dragon’s line, Angelus fed on violence, drawing strength with every blow he landed. It helped that the Master of London wasn’t all there in the mental faculties department, but Angelus really was a beautiful fighter. It was clear his combat was as much love and art as it was brute violence.
Giles muttered, “You know, I’m almost surprised that Angelus was right.”
“What, that he knew what the Master would do if he felt threatened?” Anya asked, carefully sidestepping a pool of spilled punch the color of anti-freeze.
“The Master of London won his position by killing everything he feared. And if he feared the scorn of every ‘man, woman, and child,’ then he would immediately turn on the humans. Clever, really.”
Anya nodded in agreement as Angelus threw down his rival with a roar. He held the other vampire’s heart in his hand and dropped it to the ground, squashing it beneath his boot heel.
“Not exactly a priest with holy water,” Anya said.
“No, but Angelus would find the irony amusing,” Giles answered, tucking a lock of her hair behind her ear.
Wiping his hands on his coat, Angelus strode back over to them. His face was bright with the exhilaration of combat and Anya was surprised to realize just how handsome the vampire was. As if he knew what Anya was thinking, Angelus gave her a decidedly heated look.
He stretched, arms flung back, and crowed, “Now, this is my kind of party!”
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
The political ramifications were immediate. By the next day, the Vampire Council had announced a regime change. Inspired by the all-too-blatant pictures and newspaper editorials from all over Europe, they had instituted Angelus in the old master’s place. The human public had practically demanded that their ‘savior’ was put in charge of the London court and for once there were no muttered comments about Angelus’ age and ability to hold the throne from the other Council members.
Angelus thought the idea that he was anyone’s savior, champion, or--the biblical press’ favorite--warrior of the light was one of the funniest things he had ever heard and ordered Giles to purchase all the merchandise he could get his hands on featuring the word Savior. Apparently he thought his human servant should advertise his new position. Giles had other ideas and bewitched all of Angelus’ black dusters to flash Savior with bright, pink letters at an epileptic rate until the vampire called off the wardrobe edict.
The house-cleaning of the London court had other ramifications. Requiem left to join the Master of St. Louis. It seemed Jean Claude was his own Sourde de Sang now, though he had started off in the same line as Requiem. It also meant that Angelus and Giles moved out of the quarters in the store. The shop was still open, but the were-rat that Anya had met the first day she’d walked back into Giles’ life was left in charge.
As for Anya herself, her direct contribution to the festivities was known by only Giles and Angelus. Whenever anyone made any snide comments about Anya’s role in their relationship, Angelus indulged one of his favorite violent fetishes and had the offender’s tongue ripped out. Pretty soon people stopped questioning her presence, which suited Anya just fine.
She was busy with work, and Giles, and vengeance, and more Giles, and didn’t have any desire to play in vampire politics. Giles, for his part, was more than happy to spend any free moment with her. If she were willing to alter the fabric of reality for him, he couldn’t be too bent out of shape she was a demon.
About a month after the London coup, Dawn came to visit. Anya met her at the airport, and drove them back in her Master of London-ordered limousine.
The younger woman had taken one look around the plush automobile and burst out laughing. “You came to London for a date and took over the world.”
“Not the world, just London,” Anya said, fishing a bottle out of a nearby hidey hole. “Drink?”
“Sure,” Dawn said, accepting a glass. “So what’s he like?”
“Well, he’s Giles, but not. I mean, he’s Giles
, but not really.”
Dawn chewed on her bottom lip and looked out at the passing countryside. “Like Buffy is Buffy but not really Buffy. Did you know she’s expecting brat number four? I swear, my mom is so excited she’s going to have a heart attack.”
Anya rolled her eyes, “Your sister is trying to outbreed the rest of the human race all by herself.”
Dawn had grown up considerably over the years. Now done with her Masters, she was thinking of pursuing a PhD in preternatural biology in St. Louis, on the Magic Boxes Incorporated
nickel, of course. It was hard to reconcile this reserved young woman with the frightened child that changed the world. Anya reached out and patted her knee awkwardly.
“Will he know me?” Dawn asked, a bit wistfully.
“No. At least, he didn’t know me.” Anya got a wicked grin on her face. “But I do have a surprise for you.”
“Does it involve burlap and blood larvae?” Dawn asked, scrunching her face up in disgust.
“Nope.” Anya motioned out at the streetlights. “But in about two blocks you’re going to find out.”
Dawn bounced in her seat as she sipped her drink and Anya couldn’t keep the smile off her face. The driver turned into the tunnel that led them to the underground building that housed the Master of London’s court. The car pulled up to a lighted doorway and Anya pulled Dawn out of the car.
“Come on. The sooner we get you settled in, the sooner I can go have sex with Giles.”
Dawn burst out laughing and said, “Well, it’s nice to see some things never change!”
As soon as the words left Dawn mouth, they came to a stop. In front of them in the corridor were Anya’s lover and Spike, arguing about something pointless, no doubt.
Behind her Dawn gasped. “Spike?”
The vampire started, “Niblet?”
“You know me?” Dawn said, her face glowing.
Spike shook his head as if to clear his ears. “No, I thought…No, I have no idea who you are. Who are you?”
Anya answered, “This is Dawn Summers, remember? Angelus said you’d prepared her rooms.”
“Which is exactly what this annoying prat forgot to do,” Giles said. He made a dismissive motion with his hand. “The rooms will be done in a little bit.”
“Well, if I’d known I’d be prepping things for this tasty little tidbit, I’d ‘a done it up right proper,” Spike purred, giving Dawn a lingering once-over to make the young woman blush to the tips of her ears.
“Why did you call me Niblet?” She asked, following his waved direction down the lit hallway.
“Seemed appropriate for such a dish like you,” he said. “I bet you’d be delicious to sink my pearly whites in.”
Dawn giggled and Anya called out, “No eating the guests!”
“We have got to get him a girlfriend,” grumbled Giles.
Anya grabbed his face and pulled it down for a kiss. His lips were soft and he pushed her backwards until her back hit the wall. With a growl he hiked her up until her legs were wrapped around his waist.
“Or you could stop worrying about his love life and do something about ours,” Anya said.
“You are just full of good ideas, aren’t you?” he whispered before nibbling her collar bone.
Anya was happy to say, that yes, yes she was full of good ideas. And if she did say so herself, moving to London was one of the better ones with an excellent return on investment.
Please join us next time for Tomorrow's Sunset
! Dawn heads off to St. Louis and gets a date with Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome, though it turns out that an old friend has something to say about his little Niblet dating a were-rat.
After that, Eternal Midnight
reunites the London and St. Louis crowd for a bit of diplomatic intrigue.