Buffy/Valentine Crossover

Author’s Notes: This is AU.

My first attempt to write in response to a challenge. It’s loosely based Valentine (as the gist of the story) but I took several liberties with the story. I attempted to capture those things from the movie that were key – but I’m willing to revise for any fans who feel that I missed something significant.

I wasn’t a big fan of the movie Valentine (admittedly, I fast forwarded through several sections…) so please excuse any obvious plot discrepancies or deviations. My apologies up front for those who expected a strict adherence to the plot…

There are vampires, but no slayer. White hats do exist and try to keep the vampire population in control.

Warning: Character deaths. (It is Valentine, after all)

Angel (replacing DB’s character in the movie) is taking revenge on the girls and killing them, as is in the plot of the movie. However, Buffy is one of them and as he is plotting to kill her so he pretends dating her but then he actually falls for her.

Requirements: This isn’t going to be a fluffy story I suppose. And I don’t know if it’s realistic for Angel to escape conviction by the cops for killing the other girls, but ultimately please have a ‘happy’ ending. But please, no cliche. Broody Angel is fine, however.

Rating: Adult; explicit sex

Disclaimer: Own nothing. All belongs to Joss, ME, Fox, et.al.

Pairing: B/A

Distribution: My site, EverySixSeconds; sites currently with permission to host my fics; all others please ask.

Originally posted: Jul 21, 2002

The four girls had known each other all their lives. At least it seemed that way. They grew up in Sunnydale and had gone to school together since 1st grade. Over the years they had all grown into beautiful women and had surprisingly stayed close friends.

They met at the Bronze that December night, excited to catch up on each other’s activities after their first semester of college – or perhaps more appropriately, after their first 6 months out of high school.

Cordelia, the wealthiest of the girls by far, had always planned to become a model. She prided herself on her good looks and was sure that it was only a matter of time before she’d be on a runway doing shows in Milan, Paris or London. Cordelia had spent her fall in LA working on her portfolio. She had only landed one job, which ended up being only a few shots for a clothing catalog, but she was not discouraged. She was planning on spending the next few months in Sunnydale doing some work for local businesses to add to her portfolio, then she’d return to LA or perhaps even New York depending on where her prospects looked best.

Willow, the brain of the bunch, had been accepted to prestigious universities all over the country and in Europe, but she had chosen to stay in Sunnydale for her first term. The decision had been made partially because her boyfriend, Oz, was going there and also because they had a good pre-med program. Willow was planning to become a doctor, specializing in oncology or neurobiology. She and Buffy had just got the keys to their new place yesterday, now that they were renting a place together and moving off campus for the coming semester.

Faith was the wild child, often using her looks and trading her body for the brief moments of affection that could be found in a man’s arms. Her parents divorced when she was very young, and she had the unfortunate experience of being a pawn in a game between two very bitter and mean-spirited people. It wasn’t until high school when Faith’s mother had remarried that she finally lost interest in her daughter – at least enough to stop making her miserable. Faith’s father, an LA cop, was a tough disciplinarian who made the effort to correct Faith’s behavior by physical abuse right up until just a few months ago when she turned 18. To her credit though, she was doing fairly well. She had a steady job as a waitress and her own apartment. She wasn’t interested in college, finding the thought of books and studying much too dull. Right now she was simply set on partying and enjoying the freedom that she had.

Buffy often felt like the odd one out in their small group. There was no one singular adjective to describe her completely like the others – the rich one, the smart one, the wild one – so she blended pretty well in to the background, or so she thought. She would never have realized that she was often referred to as the ‘pretty one’. Something Cordelia would also have taken issue with, had she known. Buffy was attending UC Sunnydale, but had not yet picked a major. She worked as an assistant at an art gallery to help make ends meet, as, unlike Willow, she got very little financial help from either of her parents.

The girls chatted the evening away, rebuffing the offers to dance in favor of continued gossip. At every laugh, men in the Bronze turned to glance at the girls, using the sound as an excuse to stare. None of them realized that one of the faces watching them was one that they should have recognized…

* * * * *

Even though it had been years since he had seen them, Angel would have known them instantly. Their laughing taunts had tormented him, humiliated him. The memory came back, brilliant and unbidden, to that day when he was 9…

It had been a cool day in February not long after he and his family had moved to Sunnydale. His parents insisted he attend the school fundraiser and dance, even though it was only his second day at the school. All of the kids laughingly exchanged valentines, happily smiling at ones received from favored individuals. He felt painfully excluded and wanted nothing more than to go home when the little girl with brown hair approached him. She pointedly drew attention to the fact that he had no valentines, making him feel even more awkward and out of place. She then asked him if he wanted a kiss and when he stammered a tentative ‘yes’ in reply, not knowing what other response to give, she laughed and ridiculed him, calling her friends over. They pointed at him, calling him names as Cordelia admitted that it all had been a dare. She laughed, her friends laughed and everyone stared.

He had been the new kid, shy and awkward with thick glasses and a strange Irish lilt to his speech, and who’s every attempt to defend himself had been met with Cordelia’s cruel taunts and laughter. From that day on, his life had been miserable. The malicious and horrible nicknames she called him stuck, as the other kids teased him incessantly. He was isolated and lonely, no one willing to risk the same treatment from Cordelia and her friends by befriending the object of her derision. His only relief from the torment had been when his family finally moved away a few years later.

Angel sighed and took another drink, shaking off the old feelings. He was now a successful author, with an unprecedented book deal. Both his therapist and Wesley, his editor, had encouraged him to come back to Sunnydale. Now he wasn’t sure that had been such a good idea…

* * * * *

Buffy had noticed the tall, dark haired man at the bar when he first arrived. Then again, given his gorgeous looks, it was hard not to notice him. Cordelia would have been fairly drooling, had she been facing that way. As it was, Buffy was glad that Cordelia was facing her and that Faith had yet to spot him or she had no doubt that the brunette would have been at the bar in a flash, exuding some of her own special brand of ‘fuck me’ charm.

Buffy watched him covertly over Cordelia’s shoulder, wondering if he was meeting someone. She chided herself briefly over such keen interest in a stranger. But she was curious, avidly curious. She wanted to know if he was meeting someone. No, Buffy, check that. Specifically, she wanted to know if he was meeting a girl. Surely a guy that looked that good wouldn’t be single…

* * * * *

Someone else also watched the man at the end of the bar. She could sense the underlying frustration and insecurity along with something else. Anger. Yes, there was anger. It was delicious. He was delicious. She could almost taste him…

Darla flirted with a few men at the bar before finishing her drink and slipping stealthily outside.

* * * * *

Angel looked up in startled surprise when she stood next to him. She was talking to the bartender, asking for change.

He studied her under his lashes. She was beautiful, more so at close range than he thought earlier. Admittedly, he had a crush on her when they were children. She was younger than he by a few years, but he remembered her clearly. Buffy had been the only one who hadn’t laughed at him that first day, but she hadn’t said anything to defend him either. Weeks later she had sat by him one day at the neighborhood park. She had only said a few words before Cordelia and Faith descended upon them. They had teased her cruelly as they so often did to everyone else, and she had relented under the peer pressure. Buffy never talked to him again.

Buffy noticed him watching her and she unconsciously soothed her hair and licked her lips. The others always teased her about her lack of a social life. It was true she didn’t go out much, especially compared to the other girls. Buffy grimaced at the comparison. Even the most competitive serial dater would have trouble keeping up with Faith’s track record…

Maybe though, she should get out more. Tentatively, she smiled at him. There was something about him, something remotely familiar. She felt drawn to him, somehow.

Angel offered a slight smile in return. Even though he had long since grown out of the physical awkwardness of his childhood and no longer wore the thick glasses (thanks to laser surgery) or spoke with an accent, there was something about Sunnydale that brought out the old feelings of nervousness and hesitation. Of course, no one that had known him in Sunnydale would have ever suspected that the Irish boy they had made fun of had become so extremely popular later in life.

“Hi.” Buffy’s voice interrupted his thoughts as she held out her hand to him. She was still smiling, albeit somewhat shyly. “Buffy.”

“Angel.” He returned her greeting, shaking her hand lightly. Her hand was small, dwarfed by his. He felt a surge of lust when he touched her. His eyes flicked over her face, down to her body stopping briefly at her breasts. He no longer used the name Liam, preferring the nickname he had been given much later in deference to his stunning good looks. He had earned quite a reputation with the ladies during his high school and college years, one in which he pursued diligently as if in spite of his earlier humiliation and rejection.

“Nice to meet you. I don’t think I’ve seen you here before…” Buffy looked away as she accepted her change from the bartender.

“I haven’t been in town long.” Angel found that he couldn’t resist looking her over once again, his eyes traveling down her slim curves to her dainty feet. She was perched slightly on her toes in the high-heeled sandals as she leaned forward over the bar. He smiled, finding her incredibly sexy.

“Oh. Did you just move to Sunnydale?” Buffy turned back to face him. She tried hard to not stare. He was far too handsome, especially now that she could assess him at close range.

“I’m here for a few weeks doing some research for a project.”

Buffy nodded, unsure what to say. He was wearing a ring on his left hand, but not on his ring finger.

“Do you live here then?” Angel’s voice broke Buffy’s concentration, her continued perusal of him.

Out of the corner of her eye Buffy saw the other girls gathering up their things. They would see her in a minute, but more importantly, they’d see him. With a sudden rash impulse, she knew she wanted him. Covetously, she wanted to keep him all to herself. The words came out in a blurted rush. “I don’t usually… That is, would you…would you like to date?”

“Date?” Angel looked at her quizzically, her choice of words unusual.

“Date?” Parroting his word, Buffy blushed slightly, realizing how stupid that must have sounded. Way to go, Buffy, you don’t even know if he’s single. Well, she admittedly was lacking practice at this sort of thing.

“Would you like to get a cup of coffee or something?” Angel saved her any further embarrassment, rephrasing her question with polished finesse and a sexy half-smile. He thought she was adorable.

“Yes. Coffee.” Smooth, Buffy, really smooth. She was annoyed with her awkward stammering. Taking a deep breath, she calmed her jumbled nerves. “How about tomorrow? Is that good for you?”

Faith, Cordelia and Willow stopped near Buffy in time to hear her question. The two brunettes eyed Angel with considerable interest.

“That’d be great. Want to meet here around 8:00?”

“Ok, yes. See you then. Angel.” Buffy smiled and turned to her friends. They weren’t even close to the door with the excited chatter started.

“Way to go, B. Picking up the hottie at the bar.” Faith grinned, tapping Buffy lightly on the arm.

“May I just say, hellooo salty goodness? Buffy, I can’t believe you spotted him first.” Cordelia was actually a little peeved that Buffy had noticed him first. “I get first dibs if you don’t want him.”

Willow just smiled patronizingly, happy to see Buffy getting out for a change.

* * * * *

Darla watched from the shadows as the dark-haired man emerged from the Bronze, alone. Just as she started to follow him, a loud, drunken group exited and moved in the same direction that he had gone. When they had disappeared around the corner, so had he.

Cursing softly, Darla turned back down the alley and made her way home.

* * * * *

Buffy dressed carefully for her date, the first she had been on since… Well, since longer than she could remember. Since she had yet to unpack everything in their new place, clothing was strewn over boxes and furniture as Buffy had dug through her belongings frantically in search of just the right outfit. Eying herself critically in the mirror, she reminded herself once again that it was just coffee.

“You look great, Buffy. Doesn’t she look great?” Willow turned to Oz who was helping the girls move and happened to be passing by at that moment carrying a lamp.

“Oh, yeah. Terrific.” Oz, never one to be wildly enthusiastic, voiced his opinion in his typical flat monotone.

“Ngh. I can’t believe I’m doing this.” Buffy turned around once more before glancing at the clock. “Oh nooo… Now I’m going to be late.”

“Go. Have fun.” Willow hugged her then pushed Buffy toward the door.

* * * * *

Angel was already there when Buffy arrived at the Bronze. When she caught sight of him, he was smiling and laughing at something Cordelia – Cordelia?! – had said… Frozen in her tracks, Buffy was fighting the temptation to run when Angel noticed her. He stood and walked toward her.

Cordelia turned and waved, looking – to Buffy’s eyes – suspiciously guilty. As Buffy approached the table with Angel, Cordelia slid out of the chair. “Hi Buffy. Ok then. Angel, I’ll see you.”

“Um, did I interrupt something?” Buffy looked at Angel, wondering if he had perhaps been interested in her friend instead.

“No, not at all. She said she was meeting someone here and thought that I was meeting her friend – which I guess would be you – and so she sat down.” Honestly, it had taken Angel every ounce of determination he possessed to even be civil to Cordelia. And she had remained unchanged from how he remembered her – vain, cruel and self-absorbed.

Buffy ordered a mocha, Angel ordered a cappuccino and then they sat in awkward silence for a brief moment. When they both started to talk at once, the awkwardness was somehow broken and the conversation began to flow easily. He cautiously hid any part of his life that might have revealed his years in Sunnydale, choosing instead to tell her about growing up in Los Angeles and attending college in New York. Buffy was impressed when she found out that he was a successful mystery writer and promised to read one of his books. Smiling easily, she found herself growing more attracted to him as the evening wore on.

When he offered her a ride home, Buffy was somewhat disappointed that the evening had come to an end. She graciously accepted his offer, however, as she did not drive. When they stopped outside her building, she smiled at him. “Thank you. For the coffee and the ride. I had a really great time.”

Angel returned her smile, his teeth flashing white in the subdued light. His eyes drifted over her, thinking that her beauty was singular in his experience. She was sunny and golden, with her blond hair and flawless tan complexion. Her eyes were mesmerizing, her lips sensuous and enticing.

He seemed larger somehow, in the close confines of the car, yet it gave her a strange thrill as if size alone could be an aphrodisiac. Buffy stared at his mouth, unconsciously licking her lips. Would he kiss her?

She met him as he leaned toward her, her lips parting slightly in anticipation. At the first touch of his lips to hers, she almost jumped in startled surprise. His mouth moved over hers slowly, making her feel a delicious languor in her limbs, a warm heat in the pit of her stomach. When his tongue brushed her lips, she shivered and pressed closer.

Buffy felt strangely disappointed when he lifted his head, the sweet kisses at an end. She searched her mind for something to say but came up blank.

“Can I see you again?”

Her heart leapt at his soft words and she smiled. “Yes. Definitely.”

“Tomorrow?” Angel was strangely anxious to see her, his heart intrigued, his body acutely interested, yet his mind was cautious. Could he trust her? The old scars, even though they had healed, were still there.

“I have to work tomorrow.” Buffy was truly disappointed. “Wednesday I’m free though…”

“Wednesday then. I’ll pick you up around 7:00 for dinner?”

At Buffy’s nod, Angel kissed her again then got out of the car to walk her to the door. She kissed him once more at her door, quickly, then smilingly went inside.

* * * * *

Darla had seen the couple at the Bronze, had watched them for a while as they talked before she grew bored. He definitely intrigued her. She dismissed the girl as any real competition, as she seemed young and inexperienced.

When they left, Darla shrugged and moved slowly toward the dance floor. She had plenty of time…

Stopping just near the crush of dancers, Darla crooked a finger at a young man standing near the bar. When she nodded her head to confirm that she meant him, he smiled and stepped out to the dance floor and joined her. She moved with a sexy catlike grace, a smile on her full lips and a promise in her eyes. After awhile, she took his hand and led him out into the night.

* * * * *

Buffy tried on the last of the five bras that she had brought into the dressing room at Victoria’s Secret. She was searching for the perfect lingerie for her date with Angel tonight, knowing that it was THE night. Willow and Oz were going to be out, so she was cooking dinner for the two of them at her place and then, if all went according to plan, she’d be cooking him breakfast as well.

Buffy smiled happily as she thought of the past month that they had been dating. He was wonderful, so smart and sweet, so thoughtful. Not to mention so damned sexy it took her breath away.

“Pick one already. It’s not like he’s going to see it for more than five minutes.” Cordy stuck her head in the dressing room, anxious to be on her way. “Besides, I still have to get a Valentine’s card for Xander.”

“Cordy, Valentine’s day isn’t for another week and half.” Buffy settled on the peach miracle bra, but bought the black one too thinking that black was always a popular choice with guys and the bra gave her just a little extra cleavage. She picked up matching v-string panties and paid for her purchases while Cordelia waited impatiently.

Cordelia and Xander met two weeks ago at a photography exhibit, Xander being one of several artists with their work on display. She had taken an instant liking to him and he to her, which had led to a mutual demonstration of such interest in a backroom at the exhibit hall. They had been essentially inseparable since, even though Faith suggested that it had more to do with Cordelia’s financial contributions to Xander’s art than his affection for her.

“I know, Buffy, but I want to get the perfect card. Not just any card.” Cordelia, using her best I’m-talking-to-a-three-year-old voice, explained. “Don’t tell me you’re not getting your darling Angel a valentines gift? Of course, after a month with no sex the guy’s probably just glad to be getting rid of his blue balls. I still can’t believe you haven’t given him any…” Cordy teased, but was really surprised that they hadn’t slept together yet.

“He’s getting *some* Cordelia, we just haven’t done *it* yet.” Buffy smiled, thoughts of passionate embraces from nights past warming her cheeks.

“Buffy!” Cordelia grinned as they reached the card shop. “Details. Tell me details, you naughty girl.”

Buffy gave Cordelia a quick, highly edited version of the last time she had seen Angel, just two nights ago. They had rented videos and he had cooked dinner for them at his apartment. Neither had been particularly interested in the video, which led to a heated make-out session on his couch. Buffy, rather spontaneously, had unzipped his pants and gone down on him, greedily sucking him to a rather exhaustive climax.

“So did he return the favor?”

“No. But he would have. It wasn’t the right time.” He had wanted to, but she shyly declined. Buffy would not admit to Cordelia that she had never had a guy do that to her.

Riley, who had been Buffy’s boyfriend through high school, had enjoyed receiving oral sex but had never offered to reciprocate, saying he found the idea disgusting. They eventually lost their virginity together, but their combined lack of sexual experience and Riley’s hesitancy to explore made for rather limited pleasure. Tonight, however, Buffy was anxiously looking forward to changing that. She knew already that sex with Angel was going to be different than anything she had experienced so far.

The girls chatted a bit more as they finished their shopping, then headed out in opposite directions.

* * * * *

When Angel arrived at Buffy’s that night, he was pleasantly surprised. The scene was obviously set for seduction, the candles lit, the scent of fresh flowers in the air. Even Buffy was looking deliciously ripe in peach halter-top and brown slacks. He opened the wine while she checked on dinner, but found himself unable to stop from kissing the nape of her neck when she turned away from him at the stove.

She closed her eyes briefly against the feel of his lips, so light against her skin. Such a delicate touch should not have made her so hot, so eager for him so easily, yet she felt the tremor of desire move through her.

They ate dinner quietly, Angel complimenting her on food he hardly tasted as his thoughts focused solely on her and their evening ahead. When she stacked the plates in the sink, he came up behind her. She could feel the heat from his body as his arms slid around her, the ridge of his erection pressing against her bottom.

“You’re beautiful.” His husky voice near her ear made her shiver with anticipation. Buffy turned in his arms, her palms flat against his chest. Rising up on her toes, she twined her arms around his neck and lifted her lips to his.

They kissed for long minutes, his lips nipping at hers gently. Impatiently, Buffy pushed her tongue into his mouth and pressed closer as Angel slid one hand down her back to her bottom. Squeezing her firm flesh, he fitted her more closely against him.

“Your room?” He wanted her, no doubt. Buffy pointed and Angel lifted her, carrying her rapidly through the small apartment.

He sat her on her feet and returned his lips to hers. Buffy moaned softly and tilted her head when he traced a hot path down her neck, nipping and biting. Glancing at her face, Angel untied the strings of her top then pulled it from her. He planted several wet kisses above her bra along her cleavage before tugging the lace down away from her nipple. When his tongue swirled around the hard peak, she gasped and gripped his shoulders tightly to hold herself upright.

He undressed her between intoxicating kisses and bewitching caresses, then she undressed him. Buffy took her time, exploring his body with hot, wanting eyes and eager hands. When she lay back on her bed and reached out for him, Angel felt an emotion stronger than lust pass through his senses.

The splendor of her body incited him, her skin flushed and heated from her desire, her nipples hard from his attentions. Angel watched her as he opened the small package he retrieved from his pants. She whimpered when he touched himself with a practiced hand, gliding over the hard erection before rolling the latex condom down the long length. As Buffy stared at him, she was struck once again with his overwhelming physical beauty. He was like a classic Greek sculpture, refined and elegant.

When Angel moved between her thighs, she wrapped her arms around his neck. As her lips searched once more for his, he guided the crest of his arousal to her wet cleft before pushing inside with one firm thrust. When he began to move, she clung to him, adoring the size and strength of him, the sheer pleasure of his hard cock inside her.

Buffy whimpered and rocked against him when he murmured seductive love words in her ear, his voice deep and velvety, promising her unimaginable delights. When he felt the tightening of her muscles and the first delicious flood of her orgasm, he increased his pace thrusting harder and deeper. His lips brushed across hers as she whined softly and reached low on his back, determined to pull him closer. When she reached her next explosive climax, he joined her, panting heavily in her ear, his face pressed into the pillow.

After a few minutes, he rolled from her and disposed of the condom. He ignored her initial protests when he lay back down on the bed, sliding down so that his shoulders were between her thighs, his face even with her hips. She was luscious and responsive and he was more than eager to explore the perfection of her tiny body. Buffy sighed and moaned as he licked and ate at her wet slit, exploring her with his mouth and fingers and bringing her to climax several intense times before she finally pulled away, panting for him to stop. She felt over-stimulated, every nerve alive and throbbing to the pulse of her heart.

Pushing him on to his back, she took him in her mouth. She bobbed her head, sucking and licking for several long minutes before he pulled away to roll on another condom. Lifting her over him, her lowered her on to his hard shaft then guided her movements until she kept the pace on her own. Surveying her under half-closed lashes, he lifted his hands to cup her breasts as she moved, his fingers toying with her nipples. Buffy felt every tug of his fingers on the taut peaks as if those nerves were connected directly to the ones between her legs. Grinding her pelvis hard against him, she felt herself losing control once again as she raced toward that inevitable explosive ecstasy. At the height of sensation, he rolled her on to her back slamming into her with two hard thrusts that brought them to the tumultuous peak together. They lay for long moments as if they had washed ashore in a storm, sweat soaked and breathing heavily.

As Buffy drowsed in his arms, her body satisfied and her heart lost, she smiled. After this night, he was surely the gold standard by which any other men in her life would be measured.

* * * * *

Hours later, clad only in a t-shirt, she kissed Angel good night at her door. He had an early morning call with his editor otherwise he’d like nothing more than to stay. Hugging her close, his face buried in the curve of her neck, he promised to call.

* * * * *

Parker opened his door when he heard sounds in the hallway. Even though it was just past two in the morning, he was hopeful that it might be his new neighbor. Running his fingers through his hair, he attempted to make himself presentable. He stared in disappointment to see the object of his interest so intimately wrapped around the dark haired stranger at her door. When the man’s fierce scowl scared him back into his apartment, Parker consoled himself with the fact that he got a glimpse of her legs and even a pretty good view of the curve of her behind.

* * * * *

Angel whistled softly and smiled as he walked slowly to his car on the dimly lit street. The evening had been incredible, Buffy absolutely amazing. He wanted to call Wesley immediately and let him know that sending him to Sunnydale had been an inspired idea. Hell, maybe he’d even send him a fruit basket. Research for the book was going well, he felt that he was actually putting the bad memories of his past behind him and he might just be falling in love.

He had just pulled out his key to unlock the car door when he heard a noise. Angel glanced over his shoulder in the direction of the noise. Seeing nothing, he shrugged slightly in dismissal and turned back to his car. The noise sounded again. This time it sounded like a woman’s voice. When he looked again, a beautiful woman walked out of the shadows toward him. He stared, curious.

“Hello there.” Darla smiled and sauntered closer. She wrinkled her nose, frowning slightly. She could smell that girl on him. It was the musky smell of sex. With a minute shrug of dismissal, she continued toward him.

Angel simply waited, seemingly unable to look away from her. It wasn’t sexual attraction he felt, certainly not now after the past hours spent with Buffy, but there was a certain curious interest.

“I finally found you.” Darla was close now, inches away.

“Excuse me?” Angel wanted to step back, away from her but could not seem to make his feet move.

“I’ve been looking for you for almost a month now, you bad boy. I wanted to show you something…” Her features morphed as she leaned into him, changing into the vampire that she was. She was stronger and faster than he ever suspected as she gripped his shoulders and lunged toward him. He attempted to push her away, but she held firmly. He heard a growl as she buried her face against him, the pain in his throat sharp and piercing for only a moment before he felt cold, his consciousness fading. Growing weaker as she fed, he dropped to his knees, still struggling to understand what was happening to him.

When she had drank her fill, Darla tugged her top down and drew a razor sharp fingernail across her breast, breaking the skin and making the crimson fluid run down her chest. Gripping the back of his neck, she pulled his lips to the wound. “Drink, darling…To live you need to drink…”

As her words penetrated his consciousness his mind recoiled in horror, yet his desire to live was strong. As the tangy metallic taste filled his mouth he almost choked, but she held his head hard against him. As he began to drink Darla dropped her head back, the sensation of his lips on her chest bringing her close to orgasm. When he began to suck eagerly of his own volition, the rich elixir of her blood turning him into a creature like her, she felt it. She cried out sharply as she came, Angel collapsing against her.

* * * * *

Angel woke up abruptly, gasping like a drowning swimmer reaching the surface of the water, a silent scream echoing through his head as he sat bolt upright in the bed. He had been dreaming of death and darkness, of indescribable pain and unspeakable horrors. He was confused and disoriented, his surroundings unfamiliar.

“Hello, lover.” Darla lay beside him on the bed, a tiny red chemise covering her ample curves. She leaned on her elbow, facing him.

His first thought as he calmed was that he felt different. Oddly unburdened. Slowly he became aware of the unearthly silence of his body, the utter stillness. Angel looked at Darla warily. He had vague recollection of seeing her on the street, then abruptly his eyes widened as he thought about how her features had changed…

“What have you done to me?” He glanced down, the absurd realization dawning that he was wearing only his boxers, as if that inconsequential detail mattered at this moment. Everything seemed oddly unreal, as if he were watching from a distance. Memories of his life danced through his mind, yet there were no feelings attached to any of them, no emotional landscape to refer to.

“I’ve given you eternal life, darling. No guilt. No remorse. No fear.” Darla ran her hand slowly down his arm, testing the strength. She licked her lips as she felt a surge of wetness between her legs. He was going to be her greatest creation yet.

Angel felt a spark of lust at her touch, the sight of her red nails on his flesh. As he turned toward her, an unbidden memory flashed through his mind of another similar moment, a different woman with blond hair. A memory filled with soft sighs, silken curves and heated caresses. Buffy. What happened to Buffy? Where was she now?

As if she could read his mind, Darla pushed hard against his chest, sending him crashing to the floor in a sprawl. Had she not caught him off guard, she would never have been able to do that. He rose slowly, standing next to the bed.

“You stink of her.” Slowly drawing her silky covering up her thighs, she slid a hand between her legs. With her other hand, she reached out and rubbed his growing erection. “Shower first, lover, then I’ll show you paradise.”

Angel watched her, a slow smile crossing his face. He held her eyes with a scorching look of anger as he gripped her hand, deliberately using her own fingers to pleasure herself until her eyes were glazed and she was panting with need. When she was fully aroused and nearing climax, he released her hand and went to the shower, a feral smile on his face.

Darla cursed him but continued the manipulations on her own until she reached her peak, moaning his name.

* * * * *

Buffy stirred her coffee and looked up at Faith and Willow who were watching her intently. “What?”

“B. you’ve been moping for days. What gives?” Faith signaled the waiter, intent on passing on her phone number as well as getting a refill.

“He hasn’t called, has he?” Willow checked the schedule on her palm pilot, and reached in her bag for her wallet.

“No. And he hasn’t been home when I called him either.” Buffy sighed and slumped back in her chair. “Am I really that bad? I mean…”

“What? You finally got busy then he got gone? That’s the way most men are, B.” Faith adjusted her top as the waiter approached, then smiled brightly at him as she slipped her number in his pocket. “You need to get back on the horse, so to speak. Find another man to ride and Angel – well, with the right guy, you won’t even remember Angel’s name.”

Buffy rolled her eyes at Faith, but considered whether Angel could be so easily replaced. No, she decided after a few seconds of deliberation. Even her emotional attachment to Riley, whom she thought she loved, seemed dim compared to the depth of her feelings for Angel.

“Sorry, Buffy. I’ve got to go.” Willow dropped a few dollars on the table to pay her share of the check then picked up her things. “Maybe he’ll call tonight.”

“Gotta motor too, B. You staying?” Faith stood and smiled flirtatiously once more at the waiter.

“Yeah for awhile. See you later.” Buffy sighed heavily as Faith left. She didn’t know what had happened. She and Angel had the most amazing night of her life, then he had disappeared. She took another sip of coffee then gathered her things. Maybe she should stop by his place…

* * * * *

Buffy knocked hesitantly on the door of Angel’s apartment. She thought she could hear sounds, as if someone were moving around inside. Tentatively, she tried the doorknob. When it twisted easily in her hand, she pushed open the door and stepped inside.

“Angel?” His coat was draped over the back of the couch, but everything else looked neat and orderly. Touching his coat almost curiously, she glanced around again. She whirled in surprise when he crossed the room behind her.

“Angel?! I was so worried. Where have you been?” Buffy rushed over to him wrapping her arms around his waist in a hug.

“Around.” He shrugged out of her embrace, flinching as the cross she wore brushed his skin.

Buffy stepped back from him. His voice was different. *He* was different. “Angel? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong. Why?” Angel pulled on his shirt and turned away from her dismissively.

“You haven’t called. And, and- you seem different.”

“What Buff? I’ve been busy. It’s just like a woman to get clingy after you’ve screwed. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good time, no doubt about it, but it’s not anything I haven’t done before. You’ve got a lot to learn about men, kiddo, but I guess you’ve already proved that.”

Buffy’s senses were whirling in confusion. Where were these cruel words coming from? Where was the sweet, thoughtful attentive man that she had fallen in love with?

“You want to fuck or what? Cuz I’ve got things to do.”

Buffy sucked in a deep breath, trying to think rationally. He’d been unusually cold when she touched him, his body still. Could it be? She needed to know… She adjusted the collar of her shirt and stepped toward him.

Angel looked at her warily, his eyes flitting from the cross she wore to her face. As she drew closer he instinctively stepped back, his eyes flashing gold for the briefest of seconds.

Buffy rushed past him, her eyes filling with tears.

“I should have known you couldn’t handle it.”

His voice carried out in to the hall, following her as she ran.

* * * * *

Cordelia rose quietly from the bed, Xander’s still snoring form face down on the bed next to her. She was anxious to take a quick swim then hop into the newly built sauna that her parents had installed. Surely she could sweat off another three pounds before her photo shoot tomorrow. Granted, it was only a small ad for a tanning salon but work was work.

She smiled as she passed by the heart shaped box that sat on kitchen counter. No doubt Xander brought them earlier, but she wasn’t about to partake in the calorie-laden sweets.

Cordelia flipped on the outdoor lights before she walked through the quiet night to the pool. The pool itself was covered with a removable bubble, but the walk from the house to the pool was cold in the February air, even for Sunnydale.

She shivered slightly as she dove in the water, swimming laps with slow measured strokes. She had just reached the end of the pool when she heard the door to the enclosure slam.

“Xander?” Glancing back over her shoulder, she looked around. “Xander Harris! Come out here right now.” Turning back, Cordelia swam to the opposite end of the pool then pulled herself up on the side, looking toward the door. It now stood open.

“Damn it, Xander.” Cordelia jumped out of the water and walked toward the door. Just as she reached for the handle, she was grabbed from behind. A hand covered her mouth, prevented her scream. She struggled futilely for a few minutes before everything went black.

* * * * *

“Buffy, please, do sit down. You’re making me dizzy.” Giles watched as Buffy paced back and forth across his living room threatening to wear a path in his carpet. “And do tell me what’s wrong.”

He was relieved that she had finally stopped the heart wrenching sobs, but her restless pacing was no less disturbing. Every time she attempted to tell him what was wrong, the tears began again.

“It’s Angel, Giles.” Buffy finally dropped back on the couch, emotionally drained and feeling exhausted. She had no more tears left.

“Angel? Your, er, boyfriend?” Giles sat his teacup down and studied her face. He had known Buffy most of her life. She was like a daughter to him and he hated to see her so upset.

“Yes, Angel, my boyfriend. He’s a vampire.” The words came out in a flat monotone.

If Giles had not lived on the hellmouth so long, he might have been taken by surprise. But, as it was, he had seen and battled more than his fair share of otherworldly demons and preternatural beasts so it took more than a simple vampire announcement to shake him up.

“How do you know?”

“He disappeared for a couple of days, then when I saw him last he was different. Mean. And he was cold to touch. Oh, and he flinched from my cross.” Buffy closed her eyes and rested her head on the couch. She’d lived on the hellmouth too long as well, vampires and demons commonplace for the locals.

“Buffy that hardly is enough evidence to claim that he’s a vampire.” Even though Buffy saw him as a staid librarian, it hadn’t been that many years since Giles had been a young man. He was well aware of the propensity for sexual amusement, the broken-hearts that followed. He’d certainly left more than his share of women in a similar fashion.

“He is, Giles. Trust me on this.” Buffy knew without a doubt that her lover had changed. She wished though, that she had seen the telltale bite marks on his neck. That confirmation would have supported her theory without a doubt. But, he’d been wearing a shirt with a collar at the time and… leather pants? Where did he get leather pants? She didn’t remember him wearing those before.

“Leather pants! He was wearing leather pants.”

“Well then, let’s do hurry. That’s surely a sign that he’s evil, as only the very worst of men would even dare attempt to wear those. We’d best stop him before he opens the gates of hell.” Giles comment was flippant, but he was seriously considering Buffy’s words.

Buffy shot Giles a contemptuous look. “Giles! No need for the commentary.”

“Very well, then Buffy. If Angel is a vampire, well then, I suppose we have to…We must-”

“What, Giles? We have to what?”

“Well, we have to, um, er, stake him then. And we need to find his sire. The vampire that made him.” Giles hated to state the obvious, knowing that Buffy was so clearly emotionally attached, but as the only remaining leader of the White Hats he had to make the decision that would protect the people of Sunnydale.

“Isn’t there any other way? Something else we could do?” Searching for any hope, Buffy asked the question in a tiny voice.

“No, Buffy, I’m sorry.”

“Well, actually, there is *one* thing…” Jenny came down the stairs in her robe, her hair still wet from the bath. She’d been lounging in the tub when Buffy arrived, but had heard most of their conversation as it drifted to her upstairs. Picking up the orb of thessulah off the desktop, she held it up to the light. “But it’s risky.”

* * * * *

Wesley crossed the street, squinting at the bright sunlight. He had always disliked Sunnydale with its tidy suburban neighborhoods and the overt family orientation. Hideous strip malls had popped up on the edges of town as it had expanded, making it even more of a haven for the less desirable – or so he thought.

It’d been years since he had been there, having vowed never to return when he left. He still couldn’t really believe he had come, but then it had been several days and he’d heard nothing from Angel. Fearing the worst, Wesley felt he had no other choice than to visit Sunnydale himself.

* * * * *

Willow hummed as she walked along, her mind on her classes. She was anxious to get through the introductory courses and move into the more complex material, having read the introductory texts as prep work already.

Her thoughts shifted to Buffy’s earlier message. Cordelia had not been heard from for several days, and Faith had not returned Buffy’s call yesterday. Willow assumed that Cordelia had simply taken off with Xander, as he apparently had disappeared as well. As for Faith, well she was known to be rather less than reliable, so it was likely she’d crawl out of whatever bed she had crawled into given another day or two.

As she crossed the street, Willow thought she heard someone call her name. She paused and retraced her steps, looking toward the darkened parking lot. “Hello? Is someone there?”

Something rattled in the distance, followed by a soft creak.

“Hello? Anyone?”

Another creak, a soft thump. Maybe a footstep?

Nervous now, Willow turned and began to walk hurriedly away. Glancing over her shoulder, she thought she saw a shadow. Picking up her pace, she began to jog. The sounds now began in earnest behind her. She was being followed and they were gaining on her fast. Now running and pushing for more speed, she took a hard left at the next corner. Breathing heavily and running fast, Willow searched her mind for where to go.

Reaching the street where Giles lived, Willow made another quick turn. When she reached the door she began pounding on it and shouting. When Giles opened the door, Willow practically crashed into him, gasping for breath. Buffy rushed out behind her looking down the dark street. Someone was stopped just down the street in the shadows. Buffy squinted, but could not make out the dark figure as it turned and began to jog away. She looked at Willow, who was nearly hysterical. When she glanced back, whoever it had been was gone.

It had taken Willow nearly two days to calm down from the scare. She refused to be alone, spending all her time with Oz or Buffy. She never knew about the Valentine that had dropped out of her bag along with one of her text books when she had made her escape. And, unfortunately, no one got a good look at the person that had chased her.

* * * * *

“So you’re saying that you can curse him and that he’ll be – well, still a vampire but at least not a killer?” Buffy looked at the orb that Jenny had sat on the desk along with various other magic supplies.

“Yes. At least I think so. The curse has been handed down among my people for years, but I don’t think it’s been used for centuries. I’m not even sure that my translation of it is correct.” Jenny shifted through some printouts that she had brought from her office.

“If this works, then why hasn’t it been used more often?” Willow looked curiously through the books that Jenny had brought, interested in the various spells.

“Besides involving some rather powerful magic, it requires someone to be in physical contact with the vampire during the ritual in order for it to work. There are several herbs and potions that need to be burned, along with your standard Wicca circle.” Jenny shrugged and continued to add items to the small wooden bowl on the desk.

“And, most vampires will kill a human in less time than it takes to complete the ritual if they even get that close.” Giles removed his glasses, cleaning them.

“I’ll do it. I’ll at least try.” Buffy looked at Giles and Jenny, her eyes large and somewhat frightened, but her mind made up.

“Buffy-” Giles could not believe she would be so foolhardy. “Angel is not the same now as when you knew him. He’s a vicious, brutal animal – just like the rest of them.”

“I have to try, Giles.” Her voice soft but determined, she glanced at Willow then at Jenny before finally meeting Giles’s eyes.

Giles sighed in resignation. He was against this, but he knew Buffy was stubborn when she set her mind to something.

* * * * *

The police had stopped by Buffy and Willow’s the next morning with the news. Cordelia’s body had been found in a wooded area near her house. They refused to release the cause of death, saying only that it had been vicious and brutal.

Buffy and Willow exchanged a look, both wondering if it had been a vampire that had killed her. Specifically, if it had been Angel…

The investigating officer introduced himself as William, although his friends on the force tended to call him Spike. He was polite as he asked the girls about Cordelia, and about Xander. They had put out an APB on Xander Harris, as evidence that he had been in the house had been found and he was, for the moment, the only lead and the only suspect. He was interested when Buffy mentioned that they had also not heard from their friend Faith. The officer took down Faith’s address, and then left a card, asking them to call should they think of anything else that might be helpful.

After he left, Buffy called Cordelia’s parents and offered her sympathy. Then she curled up in her room and cried.

Willow called Oz, who picked her up and took her to her classes. She needed to keep her mind off of everything that seemed to be happening, and keeping busy seemed to be the best alternative.

* * * * *

It was dark when Buffy awoke, having fallen into an exhausted sleep. She glanced at the clock then at her window. She didn’t remember leaving it open. It was then that she noticed him. He was sitting in a casual sprawl in a chair across from the bed, watching her.

“Angel?” Her voice was a soft, husky from sleep. For a brief moment, she thought she was dreaming.

“Hello, lover.” His dark eyes drifted over her, the memories of her still clear and sharp in his mind.

“What do you want?” Buffy sat up in the bed then scooted back against the wall. Her eyes were large, frightened as she stared at him.

“You, Buff.” It was true. He wanted her beyond logic, beyond reason.

She tugged the covers up to her chest as if the thin barrier would protect her, would stop the swirl of heat that his words provoked. “I don’t think so.”

“Don’t challenge me, Buff. I never lose.” His words were cold, abrupt, the demon inside him giving him a merciless tone. He stood and slowly walked toward her.

Buffy whimpered and pressed back against the wall. His towering size was menacing, his expression ominous. She glanced around the room, frantically searching for a weapon. Finding none within reach, she closed her eyes and prepared for the worst. She could feel him near by, his weight dipping the mattress as he leaned on the bed.

Buffy jumped in startled surprise when his hand cupped her breast, his touch cool even through the thin fabric of her top. She shivered. Then she felt his lips on hers, cool and firm against her mouth. She was tense for long minutes as his tongue softly explored her mouth, then slowly, tentatively she began to respond. She knew she should resist, but her body was traitorous to her wishes. She moaned softly when he changed the slant of his head and deepened the kiss. The sound of the door to the apartment opening broke them apart.

Angel stared at her face for a moment before he broke the silence with his deep, velvety voice. His thumb still moved slowly back and forth across her now taut nipple. “I’ll be back, lover. And sorry to be crude, but I mean to fuck you.”

A muted whimper escaped her lips at his words even as an intense, unwelcome pleasure spread at his touch.

Grabbing her shoulders, he pressed his lips to hers in hard, punishing kiss. He growled as he released her, bolting out the window.

Buffy shivered and stared at the window until Willow knocked on her door, calling her name.

* * * * *

Faith smiled curiously at the red rose on her apartment door when she arrived home. She’d spent the past weekend in Rosarita Beach, Mexico with the waiter from the Bronze. He had been amusing and fun, but Faith eventually grew tired of his smiling face and buff body. She smiled when she thought how she left him, naked and tied to the hotel bed. The maids would no doubt get a kick outta that. She laughed as she extracted both the rose and the small card that was tucked in the door’s small window and went inside.

She opened the card with a bemused smile, wondering what idiot guy would have left such sentimental crap. The card was a stupid cheap valentine card with a cheesy sentiment. Faith dropped it on the table then reached in the fridge for a bottle of water.

Pressing play on the machine, she listened to her messages as she rummaged through the mail. She stopped when she heard Buffy’s voice. She hadn’t talked to any of the girls since their get together at the Bronze a few nights ago. Fleetingly she wondered if Buffy had seen Angel or if he had really was the jerk she suspected.

“Faith? It’s Buffy. Give me a call. It’s about Cordelia.”

She was just about to dial the phone when a knock sounded at the door.

“It’s open!”

When no one entered, Faith grumbled in irritation and strode to the door. When she yanked open the door, she was more than a little surprised to see the person on the other side.

“What the hell are you doing here?!”

The next thing Faith saw was a baseball bat as it swung full circle and hit her in the face.

* * * * *

Angel closed the door to his apartment, the dark and familiar place welcoming. He could smell the coming dawn and knew that he needed to close himself off from the world for the next twelve hours. The blood he had consumed tonight tasted better than any of his earlier victims, revenge and anger making the taste sweeter, richer. He ran his tongue across his fangs in memory, his game face still in place.

He knew, even as he strode down the darkened hallway to the bathroom, that she was there. He knew her scent, her sound, but equally he had already come to know her clinging jealous behavior. Darla expressed her dislike of him hunting without her, lashing out at him angrily when he had done so only two nights after she had shown him how.

Angel turned on the shower and was undressing as she approached.

“I can smell her. Your little schoolgirl. Did you kill her, darling?” Darla was hopeful, her smile evil, vicious. She thought that by turning him, she would possess him. That he would become her eager lover and devoted servant, like so many others she had made. Angel had proven her wrong, almost immediately. He did not look at her with admiration or deference and she had so far been unable to manipulate him to her whim. In fact, he appeared to resent her, taking her body only as if he physically needed to. Their mating was brutal, rough, Angel seeming to take pleasure in hurting her. Which, of course, only made Darla crave him more.

She dropped her robe and stepped into the shower behind him. She suppressed her screams of delight when he took her roughly from behind, using her viciously to pour out his anger and lust. Darla knew too that his mind had left her the minute he had finished with her, and it made her seethe with anger. She knew what she needed to do…

* * * * *

“Wesley Wyndam-Price.” Giles stopped short, his surprise evident. He had been coming out of the Sunnydale magic shop, Jenny close behind him when he nearly ran into the man exiting the coffee shop.

“Mr. Giles.” Wesley coolly replied.

“I thought you’d never come back to Sunnydale again.” Giles felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up, his nerves on edge. Seeing Wesley in Sunnydale, so close to the hellmouth when vampire activity was on the rise could not be a good thing. “What are you doing here?”

“Yes, well, it’s a matter of some urgency, or I would never would have come to this god-forsaken place, rest assured.” Wesley straightened his cuffs, uncomfortable now.

Giles glanced at Jenny, who was looking at the two of them curiously. “I’ll wish you a brief stay, then. Pleasant day.”

Wes nodded, then moved past them on down the street.

“What was that all about? Who’s is he?” Jenny glanced back at Wes again, her questions going unanswered.

“I’ll explain later.” Giles didn’t look back, his thoughts clearly preoccupied.

* * * * *

Spike knocked on the door of Buffy and Willow’s apartment once again. His gut instincts were telling him that the key to this latest string of murders could be found with these girls, their proximity to the victims too close for coincidence. He resisted the urge to light a cigarette as he waited in the hallway, watching casually as someone approached carrying a dozen red roses.

The boy grimaced as he checked the number of the clipboard against the apartment. “This 2C?” It was Valentines Day and he had over two-dozen deliveries to get out before 10 AM and get back and reload the truck or his boss would fillet him.

“Yeah.” The unlit cigarette dangling between his lips, Spike was taken by surprise when the boy pressed the vase of flowers into his hands.

“Thanks, man. Valentines day sucks.”

Spike stared after the boy, chuckling slightly that he had so easily been coerced into delivery boy. Which is what Oz saw when he opened the door.

The flowers, as it turned out, were for Buffy. Angel had arranged for their delivery almost two weeks ago. Buffy’s eyes welled with tears as she read the card he had written himself at the florist. It was sentimental and affectionate, telling her of his growing feelings for her and was signed simply ‘Always, Angel’.

Spike watched her curiously. He had already done a preliminary background check on Angel and found nothing unusual. Guy was a writer with plenty of money in the bank and family and friends back in New York, where he now lived. The only thing of interest was that he never seemed to be home. Spike’s detective instincts were challenged however, when Buffy mumbled something about Angel being out of town. He could tell when someone was being less than honest. He made a few notes to check further into the boyfriend.

With Willow and Buffy at the table, Oz standing behind Willow, Spike then went on to explain that they had found Faith’s body. The cause of death appeared to be similar to that of Cordelia, he body dumped in approximately the same place. They had started questioning various men from Faith’s past, but expected that to take some time.

He encouraged them to think of anything, anyone that Faith and Cordelia might have in common. Lastly, he warned then that he was worried that they might be next. The manner of death suggested that the crimes were highly personal, that the murdered had violently disliked the victim and had been seeking to punish them for real or perceived wrongs.

“Buffy, do you think it’s Angel?” Willow said only after Spike had left. She was even more worried now that she knew Angel had been in their apartment.

“Maybe. I don’t know. It doesn’t make any sense. Why would he kill Cordelia and Faith?”

“Well, he’s a demon. They do that.” Oz had seen his share of demons as well, having actively participated with Giles on the various white hat teams over the years that helped to keep the Sunnydale demons to small numbers and the hellmouth closed.

“Jenny said she’d be ready to try the spell tonight.” Buffy glanced at the flowers. Was it selfish of her to want to save Angel because she loved him? What happened to him wasn’t his fault… But what happened to Faith and Cordelia – what if that was? Could she live with herself for protecting a cold-blooded killer?

* * * * *

Spike climbed the stairs to the second floor for the second time that day. He glanced at the apartment number 2C before turning and entering 2E. Several uniformed policemen nodded to him as he passed, one pointing to the bedroom at the back of the apartment. Parker Abrams body had been found this afternoon by a friend of his that had stopped by to collect some money Parker owed him.

Consulting with the M.E. on the case, Spike learned that Parker had been killed around three that morning. Parker had been beaten brutally but the actual cause of death had been heart failure due to severe blood loss. Parker, like the girls, had been brutally beaten but unlike them, at least that Spike recalled, he also had puncture wounds on his throat and had been drained of blood.

Spike shook his head. It had been several years since Sunnydale had seen homicide activity of this level. In addition to these three cases, there were almost two dozen others. Six involved young beautiful women, and the rest men of varying ages, and two of which involved Sunnydale’s less than desirable criminal element. And these were only the cases where bodies had been found. There was no telling how many others there were, given the large number of missing person cases on file as well.

Sighing heavily, Spike reached for his phone. He called Druscilla, apologizing profusely about needing to postpone their plans. Hanging up the phone, Spike turned his mind to the case at hand. It had been a long day…

* * * * *

It was about an hour before sundown as Buffy crept slowly inside Angel’s apartment. She moved quietly to the window, opening it a crack and setting up the runes and candles to Jenny’s directions.

Giles and Jenny waited outside, watching the window for Buffy’s signal. Once she’d found him, she’s light the candles and Jenny could begin the ritual. Giles would wait outside the door with crossbow, a precautionary measure should anything go wrong.

Buffy knew she wasn’t alone only seconds after she finished setting down all the required items. She inhaled deeply and turned.

“Well, well. Look who’s here…” Darla leaned casually on the wall, her arms behind her.

Buffy’s eyes widened in surprise. She expected to see Angel not a stunning blond woman.

“Who are you?”

Seeing her opportunity to make Buffy suffer emotionally before she moved on to the physical torture, Darla shrugged. “I’m his wife. Didn’t he tell you?”

“Oh, really?” Buffy struggled to look composed but her wits had taken flight at the word ‘wife’.

“I’m sorry to tell you honey, but you aren’t the first. Every time he goes away on business he finds some sweet young thing to screw. I don’t even know why I stay.” Darla laughed softly, moving out of the shadows. “Actually, I do know why I stay. He’s gorgeous, he’s got money and he’s a fabulous lover. I just have to let him sow a few wild oats now and then.”

“You’re pathetic.” Buffy was staring at Darla now that she had moved more clearly into the light. There was something familiar about her.

“Pathetic?!” Darla closed in and slapped Buffy hard across the face. “You’re the one that’s pathetic. You and your friends, always thinking you were so perfect. Just wait until I get through with you. They won’t even recognize you…” Buffy staggered backward again as Darla struck her.

“That’s enough.” At the sound of his voice, Darla turned. Angel walked casually into the room with the arrogant poise and confidence of a man unafraid of any challenge.

“Perfect timing, lover. We can enjoy her together.” Darla’s eyes glittered with madness, her thoughts focused solely on removing the object of Angel’s obsession as if Buffy were the only obstacle in her path.

“I don’t think so.” Angel’s eyes flicked over Darla in irritation.

“I made you, you ungrateful bastard!” Darla advanced on him, yelling wildly. When she reached him, she slapped him across the face. Turning his head back to face her, he retaliated in kind.

While both vampires were distracted, Buffy inched closer to the table and lit the candle. Their plan was now in motion.

“Well, then, you can have the pleasure of watching her die.” Darla spun around and reached for Buffy’s arm, but Buffy anticipated her move and darted away only to find herself trapped in the corner.

Darla was inches away from her when she suddenly burst into powder. Buffy blinked to see Angel, a stake in hand where Darla had been.

“Now lover, that we have no distractions…” He held his hand out to her, his smile predatory.

Giles cursed softly, not expecting to run into anyone as he snuck up the darkened stairway. His apology broke off in mid-sentence however, as he recognized Wesley.

“Damn it, what are *you* doing here?”

“I should ask you the same question. And with a weapon like that?” Wesley hissed his reply and brushed the imaginary dust from his jacket.

“And what is that?” Giles nodded to the stake in Wesley’s hand.

Wesley looked sheepish in response.

“I don’t have time to discuss this with you right now. Step aside.” Giles brushed past Wesley and continued up the stairs. When Wesley followed, Giles glanced at him irritation.

“Just where are you going?”

“There.” Wesley nodded to the door ahead, Angel’s apartment.

“Oh for heaven’s sake.” Giles couldn’t believe his luck. Of all the people in the world that could be here, he was saddled with Wesley. “Fine, but stay out of my way.”

“Quite. You do the same.”

When they reached the door, Giles motioned Wes to silence then pressed his ear against it.

As Buffy reached out her hand, she prayed that Jenny was working her magic and that she’d be able to complete her small part.

Angel pulled her to her feet, eyeing her critically. “You look great, Buff. Although I have to say I prefer you in skirts.”

Buffy swallowed nervously then advanced toward him. “Really? I thought you might prefer leather…” Jenny had suggested the dark red leather pants and Buffy hesitated, but now she realized that it gave her more clothing and therefore more time.

He arched an eyebrow but said nothing as she placed her hands on his chest. “Thank you for the beautiful flowers. I wasn’t a very good shopper, but I did get you this…” Buffy held out a piece of paper. Angel took it and read the neatly printed words.

“Twenty four hours?” His smile could only be described as wolfish.

“Yes. Starting, say, now?” Her small on hands on his chest, she pushed him to the overstuffed chair next to the couch. “Close your eyes.” The demon strangely agreeable in her presence, he sat.

When his eyes were closed, she quickly poured the circle of herbs in a circle around them. Just as his eyelids fluttered as if he might open then, she yanked her shirt over her head and straddled his lap.

She prayed for Jenny to hurry once again as she planted a kiss on each eyelid, then traced a pattern down his nose to his lips. She wasn’t sure how long she could keep the demon in check.

Wesley almost squeaked at the sight through the keyhole, a young girl sitting in Angel’s lap kissing him.

“And I thought he was in dire trouble…” Wesley stood and moved to knock. “Stand aside, Mr. Giles.”

“Are you daft man?” Giles knocked Wesley’s hand aside, then motioned for him to step back away from the door.

With his preternatural hearing, Angel heard the whispers outside the door but with Buffy squirming on his lap he chose to ignore them. Fools. He’d deal with them later, after he played with his new toy.

Buffy slid off his lap to the floor. Kneeling between his legs, she began to unzip his pants. She’d only just touched him when a bolt of lightening seemed to shoot through the room and into Angel. He gasped for a few minutes before slowly opening his eyes.

“Buffy?” His voice was hesitant, unsure.

“Angel?” Buffy eyed him nervously, her heart racing.

“What- What’s going on? I feel like I haven’t seen you for weeks.” Angel reached down for her hand, pulling her to her feet.

Buffy climbed into his lap, hugging him close while silent tears rolled down her face.

When Giles knocked softly, Buffy stood up and put her shirt back on. As Angel looked at her visions of the past days were flashing through his mind. He recoiled in horror at the things he’d seen, the things he’d done.