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Ficlet: Gamesmanship

Title: Gamesmanship
Author: Rebcake
Word Count: 676
Rating: PG
Characters: Darla & The Master
Summary: After pursuing her own interests for some time, Darla decides that Family Is Important, Too.
Disclaimer: As always, these characters are not mine, and won't even return my calls.
A/N: Written for the She Did It Her Way Ficathon. Prologue to Home Sweet Hellmouth, a multi-chapter Spike/Dru in 1958 Sunnydale story, coming soon. Okay, coming eventually. Jeez.

Darla, wearing a smart suit, picked her way across the uneven ground. She was by no means dainty or fragile, but her easy grace was the only thing that kept her from twisting an ankle in her spectator pumps. Her entire ensemble was completely inappropriate for spelunking, and she was getting annoyed at the whole endeavor. Once she reached the middle of the cavern, she turned around in a circle, surveying the wreckage of the destroyed church, trying to understand why she had been summoned to this place. She knew the Master preferred to live below ground, but this did not appear to have even the minimal amenities he usually kept about him. He, likewise, was nowhere to be seen. What was the game here?

Finally, she noticed an anomaly: a pool of red spread before the base of a tilted cross on a raised area at one end of the room. She stepped closer, peering at the odd liquid. She bent down to touch it and froze, realizing that her sire was suspended vertically just below the surface. She couldn’t see him, but she knew he was there, and that he was aware of her. She stepped back, quickly. This was not what she had expected, and she didn’t think that the situation could possibly end well. For her.

Where was the rest of the court? They had left for America to revel in the Great Depression and to investigate the rumored hellmouth, but she had lingered behind in Europe to enjoy the build up to the war. She couldn’t tear herself away from the misery as it swelled around her. It wasn’t a religious war, which had always been her favorite, but the zealotry surpassed any she had yet seen, and the scale was dazzling. Now that it was over, she felt a little let down, and finally remembered her place at the side of the Master of her Order. She had thought it would cheer her up to once again be petted and challenged in ways that made her feel that she was at the peak of her depravity. This did not look like the opportunity for either activity.

She took another step back, and considered her options. As she wavered between staying and going, the pool began to bubble, and the Master slowly emerged, eyes closed, fingers twitching. Darla fell to her knees, silk stockings be damned, and bent her head before him. There could be no question of flight now.

“Why, Darla! As I live and breathe,” he said in his customary jovial tone. She shivered. “I’m so glad you could drop by. How’ve you been?”

“I’ve ... I’ve been seeking you, Master.”

“Liar. Still, I love it when the kids come to visit. I want to hear about everything you’ve been up to, you scamp. You’ll stay for supper?” he asked.

“Of course. I’ll stay as long you wish me to, Master.”

“Such a darling. One thing, though: I can’t leave this place.” She looked up to see him leaning casually against the invisible barrier in front of him, inspecting the inch-long talons of one hand. “Be a dear and bring me a little something, won’t you?”

Darla hastened to obey.

After a delicious meal, he requested a chessboard. It was odd, and she tried to remember their games of long ago. She was rusty, but he had been stuck in that gruesome pit for a more than a decade. Rustiness was the least of her worries.

“Oh, my sweetest child,” the Master said. “It will be just like old times. White or black?”

“You choose, Master,” she demurred.

“First move to you, my dear.”

She turned the board on the flattish rock they were using as a table, and moved a white pawn.

He sighed happily. “You have no idea how bored I’ve been. My mind just couldn’t seem to focus on anything. Except for how my family had abandoned me, of course.” He smiled at her, and moved one of his own pawns.

The game was truly on.

FIN

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Comments

( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
shapinglight
Nov. 2nd, 2009 09:41 am (UTC)
Ooh, I love it! I bet she wishes she hadn't come now. The implicit threat in everything the Master says is chilling.

Absolutely adored it and looking forward to reading the 1950s fic one day.

Thank you so much for your contribution.
rebcake
Nov. 2nd, 2009 06:50 pm (UTC)
Yes, I suspect her nostalgia for family evaporated in a moment.

I'm sorry it was such a tiny bit. I just don't have her voice right in the longer piece.
shapinglight
Nov. 2nd, 2009 07:06 pm (UTC)
I don't mind it being a short piece. I adore it.
petzipellepingo
Nov. 2nd, 2009 11:08 am (UTC)
Darla, Darla, Darla... don't go back to Old Batface. He's just mad, bad and dangerous to know.
rebcake
Nov. 2nd, 2009 06:51 pm (UTC)
I'm sure she regrets it already.

Thanks for commenting!
jen_nsync_landl
Nov. 2nd, 2009 04:28 pm (UTC)
she had lingered behind in Europe to enjoy the build up to the war. She couldn’t tear herself away from the misery as it swelled around her. It wasn’t a religious war, which had always been her favorite, but the zealotry surpassed any she had yet seen, and the scale was dazzling.

Of all of this intriguing snapshot here, I love that bit especially, as it's so completely plausible for a Darla rationale. It strikes me that she would be powerfully entertained by human attempts to annihilate each other, and then when the "fun" drew to a close, she would desire attention and a return to the bosom of the family. Depraved indeed.
rebcake
Nov. 2nd, 2009 07:10 pm (UTC)
One of the things Team Joss does, that always tickles me, is the completely mundane nature of evil. The Master talks like a favorite uncle, Skip the demon prison guard talks about his commute, the Mayor is truly concerned with civic improvements. Darla is the perfect stern mother, expecting her children to excel in their evil pursuits, and punishes them when they aren't evil enough. I tried to get at this inside-outness by showing that she'd feel strong and happy in the midst of the chaos and misery of war, but depressed by the rebuilding efforts. Anyway, you said it better, and with less words, so: thanks for noticing!

And, thanks also for commenting!
(Deleted comment)
rebcake
Nov. 3rd, 2009 12:06 am (UTC)
Heh. I couldn't imagine Darla being overjoyed at finding her sire in this situation, but she obviously had, at some point. I'm happy the creepy came through!

Thanks for commenting, sweetie!
angearia
Nov. 3rd, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
Oh, lovely! You so perfectly set the scene. I love imagining her improperly dressed and discovering the Master waiting in the pool. It's so creepy and awesome.

You do a wonderful job with evil vampire POVs. Brava!
rebcake
Nov. 3rd, 2009 02:15 am (UTC)
Oooh! Thanks! Maybe I should be ashamed at finding the evil perspective completely understandable? Eh, whatever.

I'm glad you felt the scene. *waves tiny fist in victory*
riccadonna
Nov. 3rd, 2009 09:58 am (UTC)
They deserve each other! This put an evil smile on my face.
rebcake
Nov. 3rd, 2009 07:26 pm (UTC)
They do, don't they?

Thanks for commenting!
quinara
Nov. 3rd, 2009 05:18 pm (UTC)
Ooh... This was great! You've completely got me thinking about how the Darla we all know became the Darla at the beginning of BtVS. I can totally see this as the beginning of a slow infantilisation, or at least infantilisation compared to who she was before.
rebcake
Nov. 3rd, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC)
Yes, I've thought a lot about that, as well. And I have a plan! If I can just get it together, it'll be about 10 chapters of plan...

But yeah, life with the Master stifles and diminishes her, I think. It's not healthy to move back home as an adult, unless some ground rules are laid...

Thanks for commenting!
brutti_ma_buoni
Nov. 3rd, 2009 09:18 pm (UTC)
Oh, very nice ideas bubbling away here. Darla in Europe in the war is very plausible and could be horrible. The funny opening tone (spelunking, hee) slips so soon into thrall and threat - beautifully nasty stuff.
rebcake
Nov. 4th, 2009 02:58 am (UTC)
Spelunking is a funny word, isn't it? Especially in conjunction with spectator pumps. Heh.

This is in many ways the beginning of the end for Darla. Well, the first end...no, second. When I originally started this, the idea was to go from disdain to fear, an unusual emotion for Darla. I'm glad you think it worked.

Thanks for commenting, darling!
hello_spikey
Nov. 6th, 2009 05:31 pm (UTC)
yay! Another missing segment of Darla's life. Oh poor girl, she deserved so much more screen time. ;)

rebcake
Nov. 6th, 2009 07:18 pm (UTC)
Yes, though I'm sort of happy that we get to make up 400 years worth, with just a few touchstones along the way. Her character definitely got richer in the backstory. The stories in this ficathon have been so great at showing the possibilities. Very inspiring stuff. I hope you've been enjoying them all.
kidcyclone
Nov. 13th, 2009 09:13 pm (UTC)
I love the metaphor of Darla's return to the Master as 'adult child moving back home'. I hope you'll let us see more!

And I love Darla and agree with you, she's the perfect strict mummy- expecting all her children to excel and punishing them when they don't live up to her standards. Joan Crawford had nothing on Darla.

In my AU at least, though, nobody dares disappoint her- and nobody writes a tell all book either! 'Grandmummy Dearest'...

rebcake
Nov. 14th, 2009 04:05 am (UTC)
Heh. Yes, I have more, but the middle is a bit of a muddle. I'm glad you think the metaphor works.

This ficathon has been awfully inspirational, don't you think? And, I thought the strict mummy fic, "Come Quietly", was pretty great, even if it wasn't part of the ficathon. I know you already saw it, but here it is if anybody else wanders by:

http://weinerdogsmama.livejournal.com/7023.html

Thanks for commenting!
kidcyclone
Nov. 16th, 2009 09:15 pm (UTC)
Yes I agree, it has definitely been inspirational for me, as it got me to write the first completed fic I've done in a very long time. Darla's having such a long history and fairly open backstory is fantastic cos it gives so much room to play with...

I loved 'Come Quietly' as well! Weinerdogsmama does such great character voices for the FF, and I love her take on Darla.
pssnfrt_ksss
Feb. 10th, 2013 02:28 am (UTC)
Ah, families. Gotta love them :D
rebcake
Feb. 10th, 2013 08:27 am (UTC)
Heh. It's pretty easy to hate 'em, too. I really pushed the metaphor with this one. One of the things I liked about the Master (possibly the only thing) was the way he was so avuncular. It was done better later on with the Mayor, but that "good daddy/bad daddy" thing is really fascinating.
slaymesoftly
Jun. 13th, 2016 01:53 pm (UTC)
Oooo - she may have to earn her way back into his good graces! Well done.
rebcake
Jun. 13th, 2016 09:14 pm (UTC)
There's a huge difference between the Darla we first meet — all saddle shoes and fawning on the Master — and the calm, cool, collected HBIC we see in the flashbacks. How did she become that, less interesting, person? I've got a longer story involving Spike and Dru, but it's very much on the back burner.
slaymesoftly
Jun. 14th, 2016 12:55 am (UTC)
I think you should move it to the front burner!
comlodge
Jun. 13th, 2016 10:24 pm (UTC)
Oh dear, filial loyalty can be misleading some times. Lovely snippet. :D
rebcake
Jun. 13th, 2016 11:56 pm (UTC)
Poor Darla, the rest of her life in Sunnydale is awfully stunted, seems to me.
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )

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