Delicious

Written by Glassdarkly, September 2007

The rat-faced human was afraid. She could smell the fear pouring off him, like sweat. Fear was a lovely smell – one of her favourites – but not his, all mingled with the odours of beer and salami.

"What can I get you?"

He wiped the glass in his hand with a piece of rag so dirty that Mama wouldn’t even have kept it for blacking the range. She thought of telling him so, but his fear had made him deaf to her so she decided to ignore him.

Instead, she carried on singing to herself while the very tips of her fingers ghosted along the counter-top, circling round each stain on the pitted surface. Each stain told a story and if she listened hard she would hear them.

"Miss? Ma’am, that is?"

Even though the rat-man disgusted her, she ought to answer him. She'd been a well-brought up young lady a long time ago and it was only polite.

"Do you have children?" She liked children. Their fear always tasted sweet – or maybe of milk.

"N-no," he faltered. "No ma’am. Confirmed bachelor, that’s me." He was trying to smile at her, the stupid creature.

She tutted at him. "I meant to eat, silly."

"Oh." He set the glass down on the counter and she bent to look into its clouded surface. There were faces there – not her face, of course, but faces anyway. Maybe if she looked carefully she’d see –

But the rat-man was still babbling. "Not kids as such, no ma’am, but I’ve had no complaints about the O Pos. Tell you what – have one on the house."

"And then go – please!" She heard the words he didn’t dare say ringing inside his head like little leaden bells. She laughed.

"All right."

His hand was shaking as he poured the red liquid into the glass.

"Will it be delicious?" she asked him, because it didn't smell it, and he gave her a scared rat-like grin.

"Sure."

The blood stank of disappointment, like it had belonged to someone who’d died miserable. She shut her eyes and inhaled, put one finger into the glass to stir the contents and then licked it.

The rat-man was staring at her as if he couldn’t look away. Had she become a snake without realising it? She swayed a little to see if his eyes would follow her and they did. Was she the snake or the charmer?

She held his eyes and put on her sternest face.

"Disappointing, dearie. Very disappointing indeed."

He looked dismayed and she thought how easy it would be to slash his thick neck and let all the nasty stuff inside come bubbling out.

But she didn't. Not tonight anyway. Instead, she took another sip from the glass and looked around her. Where was he?

The floor was filthy. She picked up the hem of her white dress, in case it got dirty. She wasn’t ready to wear anything else but white – not until she felt better. The people in Prague had been horrid to her, but that was all right because she'd been horrid back to them. Imagine – they'd said she was mad, when she was saner than all of them.

Once she was better, she would wear purple and red and even black if the mood took her. She was the black queen, Spike always said, not the white one.

She picked her glass up, gave the rat-man a polite little curtsey, even though he didn't deserve it for offering treats and then tricking her. Not many people were here tonight – but then they’d all gone out hunting with her little Spike. He'd gone to kill himself another Slayer if he could.

The thought of the Slayer made her feel uneasy. She’d never hated the others but she hated this one. The others had shattered like glass but this one was tougher, a brittle outside hiding a core of iron.

And she smelt like a thief. You didn’t have to be near her to know it.

Poor Spike! She wouldn’t like it if the Slayer hurt him. Maybe the Slayer would kill him tonight instead of the other way round? If so, she would cry and be sad – so sad she’d have to make herself another white knight to replace him as soon as possible. A lady should have her knight.

She took another sip from the glass but the blood was stale and she had no appetite these days, which bothered Spike a great deal. But then he liked fussing over her so she let him.

She should allow him to play at being in charge while he still could, shouldn’t she, because it wouldn't be for much longer.

He was close now. She could almost hear him. She drifted along the row of empty booths, glass in hand, listening for the faintest whisper of his presence.

And here it was at last. She sat down in one of the booths and leaned her head against the seat-back. He'd sat here only recently, rested his head in this same place, sighed and put his head in his hands, snapped at the rat-man and given him money.

Her Angelus.

Daddy.

In fact, if she listened hard, she could hear how even now he and Spike were busy getting re-acquainted, sniffing at each other and baring their fangs like dogs about to quarrel over a bone, just like the old days.

She laughed aloud. Then she pushed her glass off the edge of the table, watching it spiral down, down, to shatter into jagged starry fragments.

"Hey!" The rat-man clapped a hand over his mouth when she swung round in his direction. He shrank back as she came towards him, but she wasn't cross this time. How could she be cross- even with him -when they were going to be a family again?

She blew the rat-man a kiss. Time to go home and get ready for the fun and frolics.

This was going to be delicious after all.