Disclaimer: Characters and situations owned by Joss Whedon & Mutant Enemy.

Timeline: Rome, 1771.

Pairings: Darla/Immortal, Darla/Angelus

Author's note: Dedicated to Karabair.


Loyalty

When Darla met him the second time, the Immortal was called Marcello. She and Angelus had come to Rome because Darla wanted to see the paintings in the Vatican, but when Angelus decided to indulge himself with some living artwork instead, she saw no reason not to renew her acquaintance with the man who had amused and intrigued her on first sight. His blood, his conversation and his sexual skills were all as delicious as she remembered.

The minion who showed up to serve Marcello some wine at some point whispered something in his ear. Darla pretended not to understand, both because she wasn't sure whether the Immortal knew how good vampire hearing was, which might give her a tactical advantage, and because she was curious as to whether or not he would share the information he had just received.

"Cara," the Immortal said after the minion had withdrawn, "as I recall, there was a pesky Puritan on your heels the last time we had the pleasure."

"Indeed," she said, not bothering to point out Holtz was Catholic. The Immortal kept confusing the two in any case.

"The man is nothing if not tenacious," the Immortal said. "Or else your charms are. He is in Rome as well. Not to worry, though. Even the most odious suitor can be discouraged by complete lack of attention. How does a decade on a Greek island sound to you? I happen to possess a few."

Interesting. So he would not sell her out to Holtz, in fact, he seemed to be downright protective, but he wasn't telling her the entire truth, either.

"Grazie," she said, and playfully bit his skillful tongue before rising from the divan they had spent considerable time on and getting dressed. "But always having the same view would get dull after a while. Besides. I'm afraid I just can't let Holtz torture my boy to death. If anyone ever does that, it's going to be me."

The Immortal pursed his lips. In fact, one could say he downright pouted. It made him resemble the types Raffael was fond of. Well, she had come to Rome to study art. Not wasting any time on the obvious, such as observing that she must have understood just what his minion had told him and what he had evidently not planned on telling her, he said instead:

"It is your choice, bella. But didn't you tell me you left him behind in a burning mill once already, when we first met? I can't believe he has improved that much since then."

"You have no idea," she said, a little cruelly, and well aware he would take that as a reference to how the two of them compared in bed. Men were like that. But the truth of the matter was, what had appeared to be the logical thing to do then – saving her own life even if that meant leaving Angelus behind – had become somewhat unthinkable now, and not just because of the wonderfully inventive way Angelus had made her pay once he had caught up with her in Vienna. It was a weakness she didn't intend to reveal to either Angelus or the Immortal, though.

"Thank you for a lovely night, caro," she added while straightening out her dress. "We'll have to this again sometime. Now, considering that some of your minions really appear to have no idea of discretion and should be gotten rid of immediately, may I borrow them to save Angelus? I promise I'll get them all killed. Holtz is ever so thorough, you know."

His expression changed from petulance to half-angry amusement.

"The gall," he said, half to himself. "You really are the most splendid bitch I've ever met, my dear."

She waited, one eyebrow raised.

"Ah, well," he said. "You're right. Take the minions."

Darla was half out of the door when he called after her:

"But for real, now, cara. Why the sudden display of loyalty? What is he to you?"

"Family, of course," she said, exasperated, and was gone.