Notes: Written for the Man-A-Thon for infomoosegal
The sword appeared dull and red in the shadows; Angel smelled the blood dripping onto the ground. He imagined the droplets traveling the Fuller in a dark procession down the groove. Angel could feel his gums tingling as his fangs lengthened. His face formed a snarl and he kept his eyes on the cloaked vampire in the doorway of the plant nursery. Large green leaves of some exotic plant shielded the vampire from view but even the riotous aroma of the flowers that bloomed on the long, tables didn't cover the stench of human blood. Any vampire with a nose still intact would be able smell the blood; Angel knew that this was a trap. He knew he was outnumbered and he knew that every vampire he would be facing tonight would know his weaknesses. Angel was fighting against his clan after all.
When Angel had left Sunnydale there was one thing that he couldn't leave behind, Buffy. She was his first love but he hoped he wouldn't be her last. Every time he walked through the streets of Los Angeles and saw a small blonde, he perversely hoped it was her. A week away from her, he got his arm broken as he sighed mentally about how they had walked in sewers like the one he had been fighting in. Angel knew that he couldn't drift along without a goal or else he would get killed because his mind was still with a certain slayer. When he had heard about all the pockets of the Order of Aurelius in LA; he knew that he had found his summer goal. He told himself that it wasn't a suicide mission and that he needed to take them out to be able to carve a place in the city. It wasn't as if he hadn't taken on the other member of his clan before; during his Sunnydale years he had spend much of his time going after stray members who had survived the Master's fall. Los Angeles was different and he couldn't deny that. His campaign against his clan was much more public. He had earned a nickname, Clan Slayer. To have 'Slayer' in a nickname was the worse insult that a vampire could have. The only exception was if it was 'Slayer of Slayers.' Even among the unholy undead, there were some rules that were obeyed; Angel was quickly breaking them all. Every vampire in L.A., Aurelian or not, was after him.
The nursery was long with tables and shelves lined with plants and gardening supplies. Angel turned his head and sniffed. Cursing inwardly, he gripped his axe tighter. The bloody sword was a decoy; it was to hide the odor of the other vampires. From his hiding place among daffodils, he could sense at least four besides the one with the sword. If he could smell them then they could smell him… Why weren't they attacking?
Rubbing against his wrists were his stakes, all he needed to do was press on the catch for them to jump out. His teeth were clenching together and his fingers twitched but he knew that he could out wait them all. They were all only a few decades old and it didn't matter how well Claude had train them; a two-hundred and fifty year old Master vampire had control that only age could teach. One of them was going to make the mistake of becoming impatient.
There was a rustle in the bushes to his left. Angel, whip hard and fast, threw out his hand and popped the catch of the stake. The dust that hit his hand was like snow hitting a mountain; insignificant. Greenery obscured his view but his nose was as sure as ever. Putting the stake in his coat pocket before raising his sword, Angel waited for the next one. The one in the bloody sword was the next idiot. She charged at an angle and tried to parry his thrust but her small stature and speed worked against her. There was a crunch as his sword broke one of her ribs. He could hear her blood hitting the flowers. Angel drove his sword up through her feather light body before spinning to take on the vampire who had creep up behind him. Claude was getting sloppy with his sword teaching because this one used the broadsword like a club. Floppy, giant leaves took the brunt of the attack that the small vampire was dishing out. The hilt of Angel's sword was a part of his hand as he blocked the vampire's chopping swings before taking the vampire's head. He heard rather than felt the blade slice through the skin of his upper arm. Ducking into a crouch, he threw a left handed punch to the newest vampire's leather covered stomach. Angel knocked his opponent's sword aside. It knocked over a planter and the rich smell of earth flooded his nose. The vampire was a beautiful blonde with the deepest blue eyes he had ever seen; his own eyes widened as he figured something out. Slicing through the vampire's neck was a quick affair; Angel only had half a mind on it. Claude was trying to be clever. All of the four vampires that Angel had fought had been slender, blonde young women. None of them had the skills to even be let out of the training room. Claude was here and Claude, well, he was never going leave.
Angel walked forward out of the haven of the plants. Vines clung to his shoulders before they fell back to swing over the dust of the beautiful fallen vampires.
"Claude, come on out. I know your over there." Angel tipped his head back and inhaled. His grin didn't fit his demon visage and the warm, stale air of the greenhouse caressed his fangs. "How do the begonias smell? You keep brushing up against them letting that lovely fragrance seep out. Isn't that the kind of perfume that your Martha preferred? You just stepped on a orchid." Angel mock sighed. "I thought I taught you better than that. Come on, Claude, don't be sulky because your little trick didn't work. I could hardly see those girls with all the leaves in the way. You get a star for effort, though." Angel was watching the other side of the room intently. The trees, bushes, and flora swirled and grew wild in the night; Claude was hiding in that dark tangle. "Come out and greet your master."
A thin, pale face shone in the moonlight that streamed through the yellowed glass of the building. It glittered in the shadows of the foliage. The face was followed by a equally thin body wearing a white wife beater and dark jeans. The vivid pink flower stuck to the waist of the vampire seemed to leech all the color from Claude. His long dark hair flowed from its holder down his chest. Angel narrowed his eyes. Claude's sword jutted from his hands and was pointed toward Angel.
"I'll have no Clan Slayer for a master," Claude said before he spat on the floor. The voice had changed in the centuries but the trace of Vendee hadn't been exterminated.
"Then I guess we'll see if you can beat your old master." Angel said raising his blade toward Claude's chest.
Claude struck first with thrust aimed at Angel's left shoulder. Angel pull back his shoulder as his sliced upward to get his former protégé to step back. Stepping to his right, Angel parried Claude's fierce return. Their swords seemed to behead the flowers growing in either table to the sides. The long haired Frenchman had gotten better and his footwork much more polished but Angel knew he was better. Twisting at the waist, Claude threw his left arm back as the sword in his right nicked Angel's neck.
"First blood," Claude said with a laugh as his sword thrust to met Angel's. He was still laughing when Angel pushed his sword up and knocked the other vampire against one of the tables. Angel grinned as he head-butted the Frenchman. Bringing his knee up fast, he introduced it to Claude's groin. The other vampire's cheeks hallowed as he gasped in pain. Black-eyed Susans ringed his head when Angel pressed him even farther down against the table.
"I wish I'd be able to give your head to Martha but I suppose a blood stained flower would do." Angel said before he punched Claude in the throat. He knocked the sword from his opponent's hands with the hilt of his own. Claude threw a fist at Angel's face but it only glazed his cheek. Angel popped the catch on the stake on his right wrist. As he raised his hand, he looked at the flowers. The veins on the petals seemed swollen and grotesque in the gloom.
"Master!" Claude gasped before his dust mixed with the earth. Angel caught himself from falling into the flowers by grabbing onto the edge of the table. The dust of his protégé dug into the grooves of his palms.
Angel looked ahead as he placed the second stake next to the first in the pocket inside his coat. He could smell dawn mingling with the sickly, sweet perfume of the flowers and dirt. The hint of vampire dust, Aurealian dust, followed him out of the leafy, jungle of the nursery.