Heartbeat slowing, body stilling, immense power flowing from her body to his through the connection of mouth to throat. He could feel the poison being swept from his system by the onrush of her life force. Her blood was so sweet, so warm, filled with love and absolute trust.
He woke, body drenched in sweat, cock hard enough to drive nails through concrete. His hands shook as they glided over his face, wiping the sweat and tears caused by the dream from his eyes. The dream he loved and hated, it was the memory of what damned him forever. The act of drawing from her saved his miserable life but cost him her presence. He couldn't stay near her without hearing her blood singing to him through her veins, drawing him like a siren's call, urging him to give into his deepest desires.
He had not fed from a human in so long he barely remembered the innate sensuality of the act. The initial fear that sweetened the blood, giving way to a languorous cessation of movement as the prey was subdued until at last they slid bonelessly from his grasp into oblivion and death.
It had been his preference to take women while locked in an intimate embrace, most often at the point of his climax because it drew his pleasure out beyond the normal scope. A woman would usually achieve a final orgasm from his bite, clenching tightly around him before succumbing to their end. His demon lived for those precious moments.
But he had not killed her, had not even been inside her beloved body when he had fed. Angelus raged at him for not taking advantage of her unconscious form, for not slashing his own breast and feeding her the blood that would turn her, making her his queen……
Instead he rushed her to the hospital, saving her life and cutting himself off from her forever. He could not remain near her after such an intimate act. Her friends condemned him for following her wishes and his demon despised him for being so weak.
She had felt so good in his arms….. His hand slipped under the sheets to grip his erection tightly as the memories played through his mind. Her scent, her taste, her blood…. She was sunshine and life, a perfect counterpoint to his darkness. His other hand slid across his chest to lightly tug on his right nipple, imaging it was her lips tugging at him.
He ached from the need to touch her, kiss her, smell her, taste her. His hips rose to meet the hard strokes of his hand along the turgid length. She had been so tight when he first laid with her, a naïve virgin who set his blood on fire with innocent kisses and caresses. That night had been perfect as they reached for each other seeking comfort, shelter from the storm and the disaster that always marked their lives. Pity it had cost him his soul.
Then a few months ago, those glorious hours when he had been human. Her strength had almost injured him but it was so worth the pain. They had made love in every room of his apartment, laughing like children as the kitchen table toppled, the couch overturned and the shower curtain had ripped. It was heaven and far too brief.
But her life was much more important than his happiness, so memories would have to suffice. They were such good memories. Her hands, her mouth, her hot, wet sex on him….. He felt the sweep of orgasm start deep in his body, arching up through him as his semen shot forth onto his hands and chest.
He took a long, unneeded breath as he savored the last trembling of his muscles. A slow realization came to him that the demon within him was screaming, raging against his iron control. But the screams were not the usual demands for blood, suffering or carnage. Angelus was crying for his attention, for help…..
He loosed his grip on the demon and let it rise to the surface, listening to its ravings. Possession, power, rage, need, fear….. fear? Angelus was furious and afraid. Something was wrong, vastly wrong.
*Nice of you to finally listen to me, soul-boy. Did you have a good start to your day?* The voice in his head was defensive and sarcastic.
"Tolerable. What is your beef with me today?"
*Someone's messing with my possession and I can't stop it. You won't let me out to deal with it!*
"Possession? You don't have any possessions, remember."
*She's mine, just as much as she's yours.*
"Leave her out of this."
*Can't. Have to get to her.*
"No! We can't go near her. She needs to get on with her life."
*If we don't go to her now, she won't have a life to get on with.*
*Can't you feel it? Face the facts, Angel. Someone, no make that something, is slowly killing her. Her, your love and my mate* Angelus snarled at him, struggling for control of his body.
"She is not your mate!"
*Semantics, boy. She bears my mark, her blood still flows in my veins. She's my mate and she is DYING!*
Angel broke contact with the demon for a moment and searched for her. Blind panic filled him, squeezing at his long-dead heart as his throat constricted in terror. She wasn't there, he could not feel her through the blood-bond link. Even though she lived so far away, he could always feel her deep within himself. She was the childe he had spared, bound to him until her death. Her death!
Calm, be calm and reach for her….. Silence….
'Reach again. You would have felt her die!'
There she was. Elation poured through him as he realized she was still alive. But Angelus was right, she was very weak, her heartbeat torturously slow. He tested her emotions, pushing the limits of the bond. She was filled with despair, regret, pain and resignation. The realization of her situation him like a sledgehammer, she was waiting to die.
What had happened to his laughing, caustic, beloved, golden girl?
He reached for the phone beside his bed and dialed the number he had memorized long before leaving Sunnydale.
"Giles, where is she?"
The small townhouse was full of people. An older, serious man was pacing between the kitchen and the living room. Lost in his own thoughts, his elegantly handsome features etched with lines of pain and worry as he ignored the others around him.
A pale younger man, with a face defined by impossibly high cheekbones, flashing blue eyes and topped with platinum blond hair was almost racing back and forth in the living room. Full of nervous energy and a strong desire to kill something, anything. His sire was approaching rapidly and he had not protected her, had not protected his chosen mate. Angelus would tear him limb from limb for not guarding her with his life.
When he came to her for help after the Initiative inserted a chip in his head, he noticed the distinctive scar on her neck. He reeled in shock as he stared at it, he couldn't believe that even his incredibly arrogant sire had the balls to take the Slayer as his mate. And the girl was oblivious to the significance of the mark. When he asked her about it, all she said was Angel needed her blood and had bitten her. But that scar wasn't Angel's mark, that was Angelus'……
As Angelus' favorite childe and despite their current estrangement, it was his sacred duty in the absence of his sire to keep her safe. So he joined her little crew of demon fighters, insinuated himself into their good graces and guarded her from the innumerable threats which spewed from the Hellmouth. He took blows meant for her, killed demons as they stalked the shadows around her, even dusted his own kind when they threatened her life. Bowing to the dictates of vampiric tradition, he did his duty and waited for his sire to return to Sunnyhell and claim his mate……..
But his sire never came and now he had failed in his duty. He knew if the great poof didn't have Angelus under lock and key, the result would make him hurt for years. And he would deserve it. The Slayer belonged to Angelus, she was his to love, to turn or to kill, not some hand-quilted monster created by a laboratory.
A young man barely out of his teens sat on the couch, consoling a sobbing girl with a cap of bright-red hair. Another young girl, a shy blue-eyed blonde rubbed her back, whispering soothing endearments. The redhead's badly bruised face was awash with tears and she cradled her splinted left arm against her body as she rocked in her friend's arms. Behind them stood another redhead, she watched the seated young man with a mixture of concern and jealousy.
Riley Finn stood apart from them all, leaning his back against the stairwell. The harsh lessons of his military training allowed him to remain detached from the situation although his own heart was breaking. Underneath his outwardly calm surface, he was raging, screaming in frustration at his own helplessness. She had needed him and he hadn't been there for her.
He walked out of the Initiative infirmary that evening with his side still aching from where Adam punched a hole through him almost a week ago. His first thought, find Buffy and let her know he was all right. But she hadn't been at the dorm, or the library or even that little club she liked so much, the Bronze. Puzzled by her absence, he finally came here, the home of her former Watcher and found disaster. She had been taken, the beautiful brave girl he loved so much was missing, had been missing since an attack three days ago which left all her friends still shattered with grief.
The little redhead's sobs were reaching a hysterical level, his questions about Buffy had triggered her tears. "My fault, my fault… She's dead, she's dead…"
"Willow……Wills, we don't know that. She could still be alive, couldn't she, Giles?" The young man's light brown eyes caught the troubled gaze of the pacing Watcher.
Giles stopped moving, and surveyed the faces of the troubled teens. So young, so young to have faced so much death and destruction… He wavered between mouthing platitudes to ease their suffering or howling to the skies his anguish. She was gone, his darling girl was gone as so many had gone before her.
It was her destiny, had been ever since the day she was chosen. But for her to die in such an ignominious and painful fashion as what surely had befallen her was even too cruel for destiny. Anything would have been preferably to this, even giving her to Angelus……..
With the clarity of hindsight, it was now painfully obvious to Giles that despite Angelus' protestations to the contrary, it had always been the demon's intention to turn her, to make her his companion for eternity. And although that thought went against all of his training as a Watcher, he silently mused at least then she would have been with the one she loved. He and her friends could have cursed both of them with souls and given his Slayer a happy ending.
He sighed deeply and opted for flat out honesty. After all they had been through together, he owed the children at least that much. "She could be, Xander…... But Adam's track record has been to vivisect his victims almost immediately. Imagine how much he could learn from the physiology of a S-Slayer…. I don't hold much hope, children."
Riley closed his eyes and tracks of silent tears ran down his face.
A rich, calm voice echoed from the quietly opened doorway. "She is still alive, Giles."
All heads turned at the sound. Willow let out a tear-filled squeak and raced into the open arms of the large man standing in the shadows of the doorway. He enfolded her in his embrace, murmuring comfort in an unknown language. His dark head dipped down as he tenderly kissed her hair. "Shh, Ruadh….. Shh, Seileach….."
Xander jumped to his feet, face seething with rage. His hands clenched tightly at his sides as he yelled at the man. "Why the HELL are you here, Dead Boy?!"
Riley's eyebrows shot up at Xander's reaction. He thought he had this one of Buffy's friends pegged, the boy responded to everything in his life with only two emotions, either abject terror or desperate comedy. Hatred he had never shown, not until this very moment and now he trembled with the force of it. *Wow, lot of history here, apparently* And what did he mean by calling the stranger Dead Boy? He shook his head incredulously, if Xander thought this powerful looking man was a boy, he must consider everyone else in the room to still be in diapers.
Xander turned to Giles when the man refused to respond to him. His fury was very evident in each syllable as he hissed. "Did you call him, Giles?"
"Xander, be quiet. I didn't call him…. He called me." Giles approached the stranger, eyeing his hands as they stroked Willow's hair, mindful of their awesome strength. Those large elegant hands smoothing the red strands had tortured him for hours, breaking his bones and snapping his beloved's neck. He shifted his focus to the pale handsome face and met the tormented soft brown eyes of an angel. "You said she is still alive. How do you know?"
A sardonic lift of an eyebrow, a flash of yellow in those eyes spoke volumes to the Watcher. "Of course, the blood bond. Why didn't I think of that?"
The seductive voice was like the rumbling of far-off thunder. "Not many slayers ever survive a draining so deep. I doubt your journals will have any references…." The man kissed Willow's forehead gently, without breaking eye contact with Giles. She relaxed in the haven of his arms. "Seileach, hush your tears. We will find her…"
Riley watched him with curious eyes, not understanding much beyond the initial statement he had made that Buffy still lived. This man was a complete stranger to him and he thought he knew everyone within her small circle of friends. He assessed the man, not quite certain if he was a friend or foe judging by the mixed reactions of the others.
The guy was tall, almost as tall as himself and very powerfully built. Riley knew instinctively that his long velvet coat hid the heavily muscled frame of a fighter. His shoulders were broad and the hands gently stroking Willow's hair, large and well proportioned. An intricate silver ring on his left hand gleamed dully in the lamplight, moving hypnotically in the soothing rhythm.
Willow's heart-rending sobs had lessened and she moved slowly out of the man's arms. Their contact showed a deep friendship, bordering on adoration. Riley felt his curiosity being piqued more and more by the second. Who was this man? Willow had been so in love with Oz, what was this man's connection to her? And to Buffy?
As Willow eased away from him, his hand slid intimately down to her lower back, subtly turning her towards the now standing blond girl. She shyly opened her arms as Willow slid into her embrace, much comforted.
The man now moved further into the room, ignoring the seething boy by the couch. As he moved out of the shadows, Riley was struck dumb by the exquisite masculine beauty of his face. He was absolutely breath taking, even to a strictly heterosexual boy from Iowa.
His eyes were deep-set, velvety brown above elegantly sculpted cheekbones, he had a strong jaw and *God, look at his mouth.* Riley's gaze locked on the sensual curve of his full lower lip and swallowed nervously, the man had a mouth designed for long, deep kisses, for honeyed words whispered against fevered skin….. a mouth meant solely for sex.
Riley shook himself, deeply alarmed by his response to the blatant sexuality of this man, he had never felt such a strong pull toward any male in his life. The stranger glided further into the room with the deadly grace of a predator, moving past where he stood by the stairs.
But then he stopped and fixed him with a mildly curious look. His eyes were endless pools of sorrow and pain, Riley felt his heart moved by them. After a moment of silent regard something changed as the man's nostrils flared, it was though he was testing his scent. The sorrow-ful eyes filled with rage, quickly tamped down as he tightened his lips and moved on.
The magnetic gaze of the man took in the details of the room and fell on Riley's least favorite member of the group, Hostile 17. He argued with Buffy for weeks about the vampire, how he was still dangerous and should be locked safely within the Initiative's containment cells. But she would hear none of it from him and continued to include the creature in their meetings, even took him on patrol with her.
The peroxide-blond vampire had ceased his pacing and was glaring at the new arrival. Riley recognized the cocky stance as Spike's "fight-or-flight" response.
He studied Spike's face as several emotions flitted across it. Arrogance, disgust, hatred, anger to name a few but the strongest emotion was the one that lurked beneath them all. Fear…. A second's worth of sheer unadulterated terror crossed his features as the larger man advanced on him.
The velvety voice was outwardly calm but held a deadly menace. "Giles, could you please explain to me why Spike is in your living room…. And still alive?"
"'Allo, Peaches. I wondered when you would be dragging your soulful ass down here." Spike met the murderous gaze with a cheeky grin. "Slayer's gotten herself into a world of hurt this time."
"Rupert, an explanation?"
The ex-Watcher straightened his glasses nervously before replying. "Spike's been, oh dear, how shall I put this - altered. He can't harm humans anymore and has been helping out occasionally with our work."
"Only when it suits my interests, Watcher." Spike's words were growled in warning as Giles hid a smile behind his hand.
An answering smile quirked one corner of the stranger's mouth. "Altered?"
"Soddin' soldier boys put a chip in my head. Can't bite, can only fight other demons. Puts a hell of a cramp in my social life. Almost worse than having a bleedin' soul, you wanker." Spike glared at Riley by the stairs, then a sly smile spread over his face. "Peaches, you haven't been introduced to all members of our little family, have you?"
"I don't think this is the proper time, Spike."
"Relax, Watcher. The healthy lookin' blond girl holdin' Willow is Tara, a right strong witch and Willow's new… companion, if you catch my drift."
"Spike, I know about Tara. Seileach and I have been connected through the Internet since I left for L.A. It is so nice to finally meet you." Willow gave him a grateful smile for his kind understanding of her situation.
"Huh…. Well the other redhead has been shagging the arrogant pup for most of this year…."
"Anya, it is good to see you again. Unfortunately, we never seem to hit the right social circumstances." The ex-demon perked up at his mildly flirtatious tone and earned a smoldering glance from Xander as he moved to put his arm possessively around her waist.
Spike's face fell a bit at his sire's knowledge of the group but he still had his ace in the hole. "And the tall good-looking fellow in the corner is Buffy's beau, Riley…."
Riley felt the disappointment in the other man's eyes before he saw it. There was infinite sorrow, regret and then resignation in that small glance at him. "I know that too, Spike."
"Red, did you blab that as well? You're spoilin' all my fun."
"Your fun is not why I'm here, my boy. Why didn't you protect her?" The larger man had moved closer to the defiant vampire. They were only inches apart at this point.
"Not my job. She's not my mate."
"You're right, boy. She's not your mate, she's mine and therefore your responsibility!"
"She's not your mate anymore. Not since she spread those dimpled knees for soldier boy over there."An inhuman snarl ripped from the man's chest and he grabbed Spike by the throat. Spike's eyes widened as he recognized the infuriated golden eyes of his sire, Angelus. Angel's control of the demon had only been hanging by a thread. And that thread had just snapped.
Spike was shaken like a rag doll and pulled wordlessly out of the apartment.