"Hey, Rye, how's the shoulder buddy?" Graham was kneeling over his still bleeding friend, applying pressure to the wound as Forrest snapped the arrow in half. Riley groaned loudly while the broken shaft was pulled out of his body. Christ it hurt!
He spoke through clenched teeth. "Feels just great. Who the fuck fired that damned arrow?"
"Wow man, chill. Just trying to take down a hostile." Forrest was wrapping Riley's shoulder tightly in a field dressing.
"Just taking down a hostile? Try the only possible hope we had of destroying Adam. Now who shot the damned thing?" Riley was furious, he had almost lost a friend. Albeit he was a vampire, a vampire with a heavy duality complex, but regardless, he was a friend. Even more than a friend, he was a lover. Strange thought, having a vampire as a lover, even stranger a male vampire as a lover. But there it was in all its shocking truth……. Maybe it was time for him to get some therapy.
"Saunders fired the shot."
"Bring him to me….. You guys all know the drill, you don't shoot allies."
"Ally, what ally? It was a vampire, Riley. Just another damn animal." Forrest was starting to lose his temper. They had lost men tonight and Riley was focusing of the almost shooting of a HST.
"He's more than that…. Don't you get it? They're not animals, Forrest. Some of them are good." The painkiller Graham had shot into his leg was starting to take effect. He was fading out.
"Can't bring Saunders to you Rye, he's dead. So's half our squad, we took some pretty heavy casualties, man." Graham was fashioning a makeshift stretcher out of a blanket and some poles they had found on their way in. Other commandos were moving about, tending to their wounded and finishing the injured demons scattered around the room.
Willow and Tara were moving amidst the wounded, checking bandages, murmuring words of healing. Xander was limping from a cut high on one thigh but he was helping shift bodies, looking for more of the missing humans. Anya was following him, trying to get him to rest and failing. Giles had taken off with the other group, following Buffy out as she ran after Angel and Spike.
Riley fought back tears of shame, he had not thought about asking after his men. "How many have we lost?"
"Three confirmed dead, six badly wounded, four missing and the rest scraped up but doing all right."
"Your girl is just fine. She's leading the recon team after Adam. Damn but she's impressive when she's pissed off." Graham grinned at him as they lifted him onto the stretcher.
"Yeah, that's my girl."
Who was he kidding? She wasn't his girl, she was The Slayer, she was Angel's love, she was Angelus' mate. So many things rolled into such a petite package, so much passion, so much fire. He could never hope to hold her for long, Buffy was too much for one human man, just too much.
*But maybe the two of us could handle her? Wonder if she would agree to that?* He shook his head at that errant thought, wondering if he could have absorbed some of that drug through contact with her skin.
An achingly familiar face appeared in front of him as Buffy dropped to her knees beside him. She gave him a look of grave concern. "Hey."
"You okay? Hurts?"
"Not too much. Doc here shot me up with some painkillers. I'm good for a while. You?"
"Oh yeah, I'm good."
"Did you get him?"
"Didn't need to. Adam got the fast train to hell via Angelus Railways. He did a really good job on him." She was brushing the sweaty hair out his eyes. So much had happened, there was so much they needed to talk about.
"Yeah, I can just imagine..... Did he?"
"He and Spike made it out safe."
"Good, good." Riley was succumbing to all the damage he had received in the past few hours. His eyes slid slowly shut but he took her hand in his and kissed it gently. "We'll talk later."
"Yeah, later." She kissed his forehead as her hand slipped out of his. He was asleep.
"Hey, Buff. We'll take care of him." Graham gave her shoulder a little squeeze.
"I heard that from you guys before."
"We'll let you visit him this time. I promise.... even if I have to sit on Forrest's head." The other commando snorted at that thought and then gave her a smile.
"Yeah, we'll make sure you can see him. Now let's get out of here." They lifted the stretcher, moving toward the opening in the maze. Buffy watched after them, hoping they would keep their word. She and Riley really needed to talk.
At that moment, she was almost bowled over by the Scooby Gang as they rushed her en masse. Buffy gave each of them their own tearful hug and kiss. Willow babbled at her, Xander held her far too tightly and too long for Anya's comfort level. Tara gave her a shy smile which Buffy returned before pulling her into a full body hug as she accepted this stranger into their midst. Anya was startled when she received a hug as well.
Giles had followed her into the tunnel earlier but kept his distance, gauging her reactions to all the chaos around her. It would not do for him to distract her from her Slaying duties. He was elated to discover the mutilated body of Adam in the corridor, obviously a victim of the combined talents of their vampiric allies. The fact the two had escaped without harm made him immensely grateful, it would have been difficult to dissuade the Initiative soldiers from using Angel as one of their barbaric experiments.
However his strongest emotion was sheer relief that his darling girl was safe. Safe and alive and once more in their midst.
He allowed her friends their tearful hugs and waited patiently for his turn. When it came, he enfolded Buffy in his trembling arms. Tears rolled silently down their faces as the Watcher and his Slayer were reunited. They held each other for a very long time, each lost in their own thoughts of communion.
The tight group of friends made their way through the tunnel to the cemetery access point and exited into the velvet night. The rest of the gang ranged ahead of Buffy and Giles as they walked in companionable silence. Buffy was happy to be free but there were many things that needed to be resolved as a result of her sojourn in the darkness.
How was she going to deal with the permanence of Angel's soul? How was she going to choose between Angel and Riley? After the incredible way each man reacted to the other, was there really a need to choose between them? *God, that thought just made my entire body puddle.* Was there a chance they would agree to such a thing? And what about Angelus?
Buffy buried her hands buried in the deep pockets of Angelus' coat as she walked. There was something in the pocket, several somethings. She pulled one of them out and was surprised to find herself holding a little vial of clear liquid.
"Oh Angelus, what do we have here?"
"You were going to turn her!"
*No, I only considered turning her, not the same thing. Hmm. Curious, but I like her more this way, vibrant, warm, defiant, passionate.... She reminds me of Will when he was that age.*
"Oh and there's a great example to use to convince me to trust you. You loved William and still you turned him." Angel was pacing in his bedroom at the mansion, arguing with his demon.
*He asked me to.*
"And what will keep you from turning Buffy?"
*She will. My mate would never agree to it...... No matter what enticements I could lay at her feet, she would never do it. Damn, I love that girl! She's such a challenge.* Angelus stretched within his mind, reveling in the richness of memory from the past day and night. It had been so good to be in control for such a long span of a time. And the sex? Ahh, the sex had been fabulous. He hadn't had so much fun with his clothes off in over a century.
Maybe not even then..... He was purring like a contented cat.
Angel frowned. His demon was right, Buffy probably would never allow it. But Angelus had entertained the same thoughts about Riley.
"Well, you thought about turning him." Angel didn't know Riley as well as his beloved, he wasn't so sure the young man would be able to turn the demon down. Angelus could be so convincing and what young person didn't wish at least once for eternal life?
*Of course I did. He'd make an incredible childe, a perfect compliment to William.* The demon licked his lips, savoring the memory of the boy's blood..... and his come. Both so sweet. *I could lose myself in that body for a decades and not even notice. What a mouth..... And that tight, hot virginal ass. Admit it, Angel, you enjoyed fucking him just as much as I did....... You always were an ass man.*
Angelus sighed. *But once again, she would never allow it. Waste of a great fuck, if you ask me.*
"Nobody's asking you!" His pacing was becoming more furious, more so because Angelus was right. He had really enjoyed the taste and feel of Riley in his mouth. The trust the young man had placed in him had been almost as much an aphrodisiac for Angel as the drug in Buffy's system. And the exquisite joy of having been pleasured in return by his warm, wet mouth.......
Even though he had been in the background for most of it, the tight feel of the young man's ass had been heavenly to him.....
Although the boy agreed to all of it at the time, Angel was not willing to delude himself into thinking he would want a repeat performance. Riley had complied solely to get them out of the situation they were in. But it was so damned tempting, he wanted to experience it again..... and again... and again. Angel swore at his traitorous cock as it rose against his will.
*Then why are you talking to me?*
"I have to do something until sundown." Talking was safe, it was so much safer than taking the tunnels to her dorm, waylaying her between classes and forgetting his resolve in the comfort of her body. Safer than whispering his desires in her shell-like ear and have her go rigid under him, outraged that he would actually consider such an impossible proposition. Furious that she, his beloved, would not be enough to slake his insatiable lust.
*Will we see her at sundown? Will you let me out so I can make love to my mate?* Angelus was purring louder, his thoughts dancing with lascivious notions. Angel particularly liked the one about bending her over the arm of the couch and....
No, no, time for iron control. He would not give in, he would not give in...... "No, we won't see her at sundown. We'll never see her again."
*WHAT! Have you finally lost your mind, Angel?* His purring had stopped, Angelus was starting to worry about the turn Angel's thoughts were taking. Surely he wasn't serious about this… this lunacy. *You're here permanently. I will never be in complete control again. Our mate wants us, US. Not just you but me as well. For that gift alone, I would never turn her.*
"What if she asked you to do it? Would you do it then?"
The demon leapt on that thought, it was a delicious concept. His mate begging him to turn her, to keep her by his side forever. Even more delectable would be the addition of the boy as their companion. Oh, the revels they could have, the hunts, the kills, the nights of shared carnal bliss until they tumbled into a satiated heap in their connubial bed.
*YES! YES! I would do anything she asks.*
"You see. We can't stay. She would eventually fall to your desires...... and I'm too weak. Where she is concerned, I'm just too weak. I would let you do it to have her by my side for eternity." Angel felt the seductive pull of the demon's fantasies. It would be so easy to give in, so easy to drink their blood laced with the heady combination of love and trust.
So easy to pierce his breast, filling their sweet mouths with his own blood and hold them in his arms until they awoke to their new lives. So easy to end his loneliness, to spend forever with his beloved mate and her lover. Damn, he was hard as steel again. "We have to go."
*NO! No, Angel! We stay. We wait for our mate. We stay.*
"No, Angelus. We leave." Angel pulled his bags out of the closet.
*Angel! Please Angel! We stay, we stay...... I promise I won't turn them, I won't ever bring it up again.....* The demon was terrified, soul-boy was serious about this. *Please, please let's stay and talk to her. Would it hurt just to talk to her?*
Angelus was now pacing within him, prowling about in his head, pleading with him. *She's our mate. We have to stay. Adam said others would find her. We have to stay and protect her..... Angel. Angel!*
His demon reminded him of a fact Angel had been trying to ignore. Adam was right, others would come for her. Anyone who recognized her mate's mark would try to wield her as a weapon against his soul. The details of his curse were common knowledge in the demonic underground; it had been the reason why Adam traded for her in the first place. What was not known was the fact his soul was permanent, he had kept that secret to himself until his conversation with Spike.
His mark offered her no protection, it would only bring her more pain. She would suffer the same treatment by anyone who wanted to use Angelus as an ally, thinking by securing his freedom they would bind him to their pathetic causes. They would keep coming unless he removed the temptation...... forever.
Once again, Angel was going to be strong.
He was going to do the right thing.
Riley sat up in his infirmary bed when she walked in the room, relief causing his heart to pound faster. She had kept her promise, she had come to see him. It was probably to tell him she was leaving him for Angel but he could accept that. The vampire loved her with every inch of his supernatural being, he was good for her, he would treat her with all the love and kindness she so richly deserved.
However Riley knew himself, it was all well and good to be noble in his thoughts, but his heart had different plans for them. And maybe, just maybe, if he said it the right way, she would consider his solution to their problem. "Hey."
"Hey..... You okay?"
"Shoulder stings a little, but I'm good." He took her hand almost shyly, ducking his head before raising his eyes to meet hers. Buffy kissed him but pulled away after the merest brushing of lips. She sighed heavily.
*Oh God, here it comes.... *
"Riley, I've been thinking......"
*Oh God, how can I tell him? How can I look into those innocent eyes and tell him all I want to do is have him and Angel in my bed for the rest of my life? How much it turned me on to have both of them inside me? How hot the two of them looked together, especially when Angel... No, when Angelus was up behind him, pumping into him for all he was worth? Riley would never accept it. It would just be too weird of a concept for him.*
Riley held up his hand, catching her attention and stopping her headlong rush into what was probably going to be the most embarrassing confession of her entire life. "Me too...... Buffy, before you break my heart, hear me out. I have a little idea I wanted to run past you."
"Fuck, Angel. You can't do it." Spike was shouting at his ensouled sire. The great pouf was calmly packing up his things, preparing to leave for L.A. without even talking to the Slayer. He could not believe how pig-headed, how stubborn Angel was being about this. "You can't just leave her again.... The last time almost killed her."
Angel paused, a shirt in his hand. "I have to go, Spike. Nothing's changed."
"Wot do you mean nothing's changed, you great bleedin' bog-trotter? Everything has changed! Your fucking soul is permanent. She loves you. She even loves Angelus. There ain't no woman out there who could possibly be better for you..." Spike raised his fists, his eyes shifting from blue to saffron. "How dare you do this to her? HOW DARE YOU DO THIS TO ANGELUS!"
"He understands. If I stay near her, I'm a threat." He stuffed the shirt in his bag, for once careless about his belongings.
"How the hell is your loving that little chit a threat?"
"You saw what Adam did to her. What's going to happen the next time someone recognizes the mate's mark? He almost killed her, Spike. Almost killed her because he wanted Angelus." He slung the bag over his shoulder and pushed the younger vampire out of his path.
"Your leavin' puts her in even more danger, Angel. What's goin' to happen to her if you're not here to protect her?" Spike was frantic, he couldn't believe this was happening. Not after all the joy he had seen on his sire's face when he was with her. He had sworn to protect his sire and his mate and he was going to do just that.
"You don't get it, do you Spike? I can't protect her because I'm the greatest danger to her….. If I stay, I'll turn her. Somehow, someday I'll give in to Angelus and I'll turn her." He whirled to face his childe, his human mask gone.
"I....won't....do....that...to.....her. I won't give her eternal night....." Tears formed in his saffron eyes, threatening to spill down his face.
"What do you think I did when I first found out my soul was permanent, Will?.... I'll tell you what I did. After visiting the Oracles, I jumped in my car and raced back here to Sunnydale..... I wanted to tell her, wanted to take her in my arms, to hold her and kiss her forever.... Do you know why I didn't?"
"No, Peaches, I don't..." Spike chewed his lower lip, maybe if he could keep him talking, the Sl-.... Buffy might show up and best some sense into his head.
"I got here mid-day and drove over to the college. She was out on the front lawn, laughing with her friends in the bright light of day. God, she was so beautiful, so full of life. I could feel her blood from there, could feel it racing beneath her skin and it was calling to me to take her, to drink her, to turn her...... That's when I remembered the real reason I left here, Will..." The silent tears finally started coursing down his cheeks.
"I left her here to protect her from me, from Angelus..... I left her so she could have a life, a human life. Riley's a good man, he'll give her what I can't. He'll take her into the light, he'll give her children, he'll keep her safe. That boy was tough enough to stand up to Angelus, he can certainly protect her against anything that comes." He turned away and stalked through the back hallway of the mansion toward the garage. Spike dogged his steps, still trying to keep his attention, to delay him.
"What if the next thing that comes is something he can't handle? What if the next thing kills him? Then what, Angel, then what?"
There was no break in his long stride, Angel didn't even turn around to look at him. "Then you'll protect her. You gave your oath. I'll hold you to it."
"Just like you to pull that card, you bastard. Just remember this. That damned mark is permanent, Angel. It'll never fade, someone will see it eventually. Someone bigger and badder than me. Then, we'll be a world of hurt." He followed Angel as he made his way to his car.
"I already thought of that. Here." He tossed a big bundle of cash to Spike who caught it without thinking. "That will pay for a good plastic surgeon. They should be able to cover it up."
Spike gaped at him. He could not believe what he had just heard, cover a mate's mark. That was something that just was not done! *Cor, he's never comin' back...... He's.... He's.... No, he wouldn't, would he?* "Angelus will die without her."
"Then we die. Better us than her." Angel opened the car door and stopped to look at Spike. He wrapped his arm around his waist, drawing him in for a final kiss. "Watch out for her, Will. Do it for both of us......"
Spike drew back to look into Angelus' sadly desperate eyes as his sire mouthed the words. "Goodbye, sweet Will."
Spike could not speak, he was too stunned. He stood in the garage and watched as Angel drove away. His head was reeling with the knowledge he would never see him again. Spike did the only thing he could think of to do. He threw his head back and howled.
Buffy watched from the street as Angel's car went past her. She had been on her way to talk to him, to tell him what Riley had suggested. It was the perfect solution to their problem and here he was leaving, leaving again without even hearing her out. She turned to run after the car.
Then Buffy heard Spike's desperate cry and was shaken to her soul.
Riley was sitting up in the infirmary bed. His shoulder still ached a little but the rest of his injuries had faded. Including all of Angel's bites. It had taken some real explaining to keep himself out of quarantine. He laughed in remembrance of the looks on his friends' faces when he had given them a severely edited version of his experiences with the vampire.
Much to his surprise, Graham had come back later to compare notes, seems a lot more had happened with that female vampire than any of the rest of them suspected.
Buffy should be back soon with Angel's answer to his proposal. He hoped it would be yes.
Spike was on his knees sobbing when Buffy found him in the garage. She knelt and gathered him in her arms, gently rocking him as he cried. His sobs shook his body, cool tears wetting her shoulder while she kissed the side of his face, cooing softly to him. His heart was breaking, shattering into little pieces. Angelus had deserted him a century ago, Dru had left, Angelus had returned and was now gone again, this time forever. He couldn't take it any more.
"Shh, Spike..... Shh, what is it.? What is it?" Buffy held him tightly. Whatever had upset him had to do with Angel, she just knew it. "William, William...."
The sound of his given name on her lips reached through the layers of his grief. Buffy never called him by that name. His sobs lessened, he lifted his head out of her shoulder and accepted the tender little kisses she scattered on his face. It felt so good to have her comfort.
"Will, what happened? What did he do?"
"Just tell me, Will and I'll fix it." Spike sighed, relaxing in her arms and told her.
"God damn him! GOD DAMN HIM!" Buffy was pacing around the garage, racing from one end to the other. Spike took a drag off his cigarette, stifling a grin as he watched her move. When she was angry he could see himself in her. No wonder she had drawn his sire's interest.
"Pet, calm down."
"No, I won't. He keeps pulling this noble crap without even talking to me first. I am so damned tired of it!" She was spitting in fury, her little hands clenched into fists. "Like I would let him turn me? As if I wouldn't have anything to say about it?"
"Believe me, if Angelus set his mind to turning you, then turn you he would. I speak from personal experience on that matter." He smiled at the memory of that marvelous night.
Buffy's eyes narrowed, she stopped her pacing to glare at him. "I thought that was your idea in the first place. Didn't you ask him to do it?
"Yeah, I did." She looked at him, her little eyebrow raised. "'Cor, pet, you've shagged him. Would you turn down his invitation to eternity, knowing you could have that magnificent body between your legs for the rest of time? I doubt you have the strength..... I know I didn't."
"You have no idea how strong I really am, Spike."
"You're right. I probably don't. But I know him.... Besides what about your soldier boy? You planning on dumping him for Angelus? Seems like a nice enough lad..... if you can look past his profession."
She flushed slightly, running a nervous tongue over her lips. "Riley and I had a talk. I was coming here with a proposition for Angel." Spike caught the faint scent of arousal and was intrigued.
"Do tell, pet? Was it..... naughty?" Spike's smile was broad. "I'm all ears."
Riley woke instantly, Buffy had returned. He searched her face, hoping for a smile. What he saw instead was grim determination. Things must have gone badly.
"What is it, Buffy? How did... how did it go with Angel?"
"It didn't. He pulled his usual disappearing act. Left Spike in a panic too." She was vibrating with anger. "You up for a road trip?"
"Always. Where are we going?" He rose from the infirmary bed, ignoring the faint twinge from his shoulder as he pulled a shirt over his head. The hormonal cocktail the Initiative had been feeding him over the past year had not completely faded from his system. He still healed very quickly.
"L.A." She held up a little vial of clear liquid. Riley quirked an eyebrow at her and grinned broadly. Oh yeah, Angel was in for a whole lot of trouble.