Secrets & Lies, Part VI

Author’s Notes: Future-ish fic.

Buffy and Willow have a talk about ex sex, Angel tries a new cocktail at Willies, and Cordelia reveals more of her truly lovely personality. And well, they each run into to an old friend from their past…

Thanks again for the great feedback and encouragement on this story from everyone! I hope you all enjoy this next part as well… there’s still plenty more to come!

This does presume the suspension of belief that the demon could still take over with a little ‘drugged’ happiness – even without the happiness clause.  *g*

Rating: Adult; explicit sex

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

Pairing: Ultimately B/A. Has C/A and mentions of B/S.

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

Originally Posted: Feb 23, 2003

As she made her way up the walk to Buffy’s condo Willow was somewhat surprised to realize that it had already been over a week since the new years eve get together with the gang at the Bronze, which had also been the first time in months that they had all been in the same place at the same time. She felt a small pang of remorse that their small group of friends had grown apart over the last few years. Sure, she saw Xander every week when he came into the clinic for physical therapy but her contact with Buffy usually consisted of a brief phone call every couple of weeks and more often than not that was with Buffy’s answer machine rather than the Slayer herself.

She actually had  managed to reach Buffy yesterday on the phone, but they had both been at work and busy which meant that there had been no time to discuss the events of new years eve . and Angel’s visit.  She’d asked only very casual and indirect questions about the vampire’s appearance in Sunnydale, hoping that Buffy would offer up the reason why he had been in town but she had been customarily mum. No longer content to wait to alleviate her curiosity, Willow had made the drive across town prepared to find out just what was going on.

Not that she particularly expected Buffy to confide anything at all to her. They weren’t as close anymore as they had been at one time and hadn’t been for almost four years. The appearance and banishment of the First Evil had changed them all that year whether they had consciously realized it or not. For a while they had each withdrawn into their own worlds, content to exist apart after months of constant togetherness.  Buffy, not surprisingly, appeared to be the most affected although strangely it didn’t seem to hit her until weeks later.

Willow only noticed that her friend seemed markedly different after she returned from a visit to LA where she had gone in search of additional Slayer lore just before the SITs had all been sent home.  At the time she briefly suspected the use of magic, but quickly dismissed the idea, believing that Buffy would never have turned to the dark arts either for amusement, evasion or solace. Rather than pursue any alternative explanation for her friends changed behavior, Willow had simply dismissed it as the aftereffects of the dramatic months that they had all endured.

On the drive over to Buffys Willow encountered a traffic jam and was subjected to almost an hour of delays while they cleared the debris from an overturned garbage truck from the road.  The unplanned downtime time forced her to consider and reconsider just what she might tell Buffy about Angel losing his soul a few years back and his call to her just a day or two before he made his appearance in Sunnydale.  Despite all the time spent mulling it over, when she parked the car she still wasn’t quite sure what, if anything, she was going to say. Ultimately she decided that it all depended on what Buffy said about her ex.

Now stopping at her friend’s door, Willow admired the red and white blooms of the honeysuckle plant on the porch, the vine gracefully wound around a decorative metal trellis. Admittedly, she was somewhat surprised to see the potted plant, remembering that Buffy wasn’t particularly one to garden.  As she knocked on the door, she heard Buffy’s voice along with that of an older woman.

Buffy answered the door and greeted Willow with a brief hug, after which she introduced her to her somewhat new neighbor, Betty Selden.

Willow greeted the older woman politely and took a seat next to Buffy on the couch, her eyes drifting around the small living room and casually admiring the other flower arrangements that were placed here and there surrounding the occupants in lush profusion.

After almost an hour of Betty’s prattling chatter and idle gossip, the older woman finally departed, unwilling to miss the upcoming episode of Matlock.

“How do you stand it?” Willow asked with a small smile as Buffy closed the door and returned to the living room.

“She’s not so bad. Better than leering Mr. Davidson that was next door. And hey – at least she sleeps soundly at night.” Buffy said with a smile and sincere cheerfulness, “Otherwise I have no idea how I could ever explain my odd hours. There’s no telling what outlandish story she’d make up and tell the other neighbors if she even suspected that I leave here at 10 most nights and return any time between midnight and dawn.”

“True.” Willow agreed, returning Buffy’s smile and enjoying the shared moment of companionship.

Buffy continued with a laugh, “Of course, all the flower deliveries have sent her into a frenzy of nosiness. She’s been over here every day and has been less than subtly trying to find out about my ‘young man’.”  The Slayer laughed again as she curled her feet under her in the chair, “Of course, she’d have an apoplexy if I told her that the young man is like 250 years old if he’s a day.”

“So the flowers are from Angel then?” Willow questioned speculatively, wondering not for the first time about the vampire’s recent and obvious renewed interest in her friend.

“Yes. I told him to stop sending them, but.” Buffy trailed off, her eyes lighting on the nearby basket of violets. “Well, they are very pretty and very sweet.”

“What’s up with him anyway? He shows up at the Bronze – and without Cordelia – and now showering you with flowers?” The red haired witch asked, gesturing at the various bouquets that aligned the mantle. “Are you two…?”

“No, we’re not. Not… anything.” Buffy paused and chewed her lip thoughtfully for a moment. She’d been turning this over and over in her mind for a week now; perhaps she needed to talk it through with someone, someone who could offer her saner counsel.  After a long moment, she added. “Will, I need your advice. Or maybe just a sympathetic ear.”

“Sure, Buffy. Anything.” Willow sat forward slightly, happy for even a subtle nuance that resembled the close friendship that they once shared.

“Angel’s soul – it’s permanent.” Buffy continued, clutching her hands together in her lap, “Giles… well, the curse was changed when you restored his soul and Giles – he never told anyone.”

“What?” Willow regarded Buffy with mild surprise, a brief flash of memory from the day that she’d done that very spell crossing her mind.

“Jenny had changed it.”  Buffy affirmed, glancing at Willow as she returned a few loose strands of hair to her ponytail.

“Okay. I have questions. Lots of questions. Giles. Why? How? Why?” Willow stammered, confused and a little flustered by the news that she had not expected. Although, it did confirm what she had already suspected a few years earlier: that Angel’s soul had not been lost to perfect happiness as his seer had wanted everyone, including Angel, to believe. “And now you… You and Angel – but Cordelia-”

“He’s not with Cordelia – not any more. At least that’s what he says.” Buffy replied, dropping her head back against the chair, her voice growing cold and distant as she recalled the damage that had been caused by her trusted Watcher’s omission. “And why? Well, Giles wanted revenge.”

“But- Giles… I can’t believe he’d do that.” Willow muttered softly, surprised that the honest and upstanding Watcher had done such a thing. But then again, none of them had ever been too supportive of Buffy’s relationship with Angel – something that Willow only realized after she had lost Tara.  And Giles had lost Jenny… with sudden sharp clarity she realized that she would have done the same thing; had in fact done even worse. She had killed the man that had killed her lover. She stared pensively at Buffy, her thoughts taking a melancholy turn.

“Believe. He did do that.” Buffy declared coolly, her eyes shuttered. Casually she reached out and pulled a fragrant gardenia from the nearby arrangement, holding it to her nose and inhaling the delicate scent.

“Well, he loved Jenny.” The red haired girl excused, feeling a need to explain Giles’s actions as they were so mindfully akin to her own.

“I know, Will. And I loved Angel.” Buffy replied sharply, tired that everyone seemed to forget that fact so easily, tired of hearing excuses for judgments that had been handed down to her over the years for her feelings while the others were always excused for their mistakes and weaknesses, tired of pretending that her love for the vampire hadn’t mattered. It was as if she had been held to a higher standard than anyone else, yet had constantly been found lacking as they refused to allow her the same human frailties and failings that they excused in themselves without hesitation or doubt.

“No one has to remind me of the horrible things that the demon that wore his face did, things that Angel would never have done but will eternally held responsible for. I know, I was there, I lived each and every minute of it.  Angel doesn’t deserve to be condemned for those things. If it was anyone’s fault, it was mine for making him into that monster again.”

Willow studied Buffy’s face for a long moment, cognizant of the fact that Buffy had long felt responsibility and guilt for Angelus’s return. Aware too, for the first time, that perhaps she and the others that had professed to be Buffy’s friends hadn’t understood or empathized with her feelings at all. She never before considered what it would be like to be put in the position where you were expected to kill your lover, nor, she suspected, had the others. They had all simply shifted Angel from Buffy’s boyfriend to the enemy almost overnight, with little to no thought of the emotional entanglements involved.

Shifting uncomfortably on the couch, Willow recalled with discomfiture their reactions to Buffy’s return after running away. They had all in some way lashed out at her, punishing her for what they had perceived to be wrongful behavior. In retrospect, she could now see that running away to nurse her wounds had been Buffy’s only hope at survival, at coming to terms with everything that had happened and still managing to come out sane. Her own despair had turned her into a killer, a path that Buffy could have taken only too easily given her Slayer nature. Fortunately for them all, she had proved to be a much stronger person than they had ever given her credit for.

After a long silence, Willow sighed heavily and began to speak.  “I don’t think his soul is permanent Buffy. I think he can still lose it, maybe just not to perfect happiness.”

“What do you mean?” Buffy glanced up from where she had been absently toying with the flower in her hand.

Willow then went on to explain in as much detail as she could remember about her trip to LA almost 4 years ago now, how Cordelia had called in a panic wanting to have Angel’s soul restored and so she’d packed up the necessary supplies and made the trip to LA.  She admitted that she had kept the trip to herself because she didn’t want to add to Buffy’s all ready full plate of worries with the First Evil, the SITs and Spike.  Certainly, Angelus loose in the world due to perfect happiness with Cordelia, along with Faith being out of prison would have been just additional burdens that Buffy would have felt that it was her responsibility to deal with.

She confessed to also having done some sleuthing with magic when she returned, having noticed that nothing seemed to pass through her when she completed the spell as it had the first time and also because she didn’t quite believe the former Sunnydale cheerleader’s story about how he had lost his soul. It was too practiced, too pat and too insincere. Willow admitted to having uncovered information that led her to believe that Angel’s soul had been taken from him by a Shaman at the request of a demon but which demon wasn’t clear.

Willow finished penitently, “Buffy, I think that the demon was Cordelia. But I have no proof of that. And I don’t exactly know what made her return his soul to him, except a guess that the Higher Powers somehow caught on to her. Either way, she had me do the ritual at the same time the Shaman did his so that Angel would think he’d lost it the, er, normal way. You know, perfect happiness.”  Little did Willow know that Angel hadn’t been the least been fooled by the sham; he’d known all along that it wasn’t perfect happiness that relieved him of his soul then.

Buffy took it all in, watching Willow somewhat indifferently. When she finished, Buffy thought once more how all her friends always thought that she was this fragile delicate thing that they needed to protect when the reality was often quite different. She was strong, independent and more than capable of making her own decisions. She didn’t need to be sheltered nor did she need them deciding what was best for her. Living without the constraint of constant worry about their judgment these last few years had been more than freeing. The fact that the spell to protect her heart from love had also lifted that burden was an unexpected but quite peachy side-effect.

“Oh. Does Angel know?” Buffy asked dispassionately, as if she were merely commenting on something as innocuous as the availability of a favored fruit at the market.

“No. At least I don’t think so. Since he stayed with her and everyone said that they were in love, I figured he forgave her or something – if he ever even knew.” Willow replied carefully, her eyes watchful of Buffy’s expression, as the petite blonde’s response to her story was somewhat unexpected. She’d expected worry or hurt, fear perhaps, but not this accepted nonchalance.

“So, you think it’s okay to have sex with your ex? Or is there too much baggage?” Buffy queried after a brief pause, as if nothing she had heard was of any consequence. She shifted on the chair recrossing her leg beneath her.

“Oh, Buffy, you’re not thinking about-” Willow questioned with some surprise.

“Yes, actually, I am. I’m attracted to him – sexually. Really attracted, if I were to be completely honest. And it’s been so long, since I’ve…” The petite blonde paused, somewhat reticent to admit that she’d been celibate for the last four years.  “Well, I was thinking – I’m attracted, he seems attracted – maybe we could just – you know…”  Buffy shrugged, as if her incomplete sentences made perfect sense.

“You’re talking about getting back together with him?”

“No. Not like that. Just, you know, maybe fooling around.” Buffy replied matter-of-factly, glancing up at her friend with a playful expression on her face. “I mean, it’s not like we ever had much of a chance to do, well, much of anything.”  Out of practiced habit, she declined to mention the few passionate encounters she had had with Angelus.

“You want to just have sex with Angel? Nothing else?” Willow’s delicate brows rose, unable to contain her surprise. If anything, she expected Buffy to suggest something with more permanence regarding her ex.

“Yes. Is that bad?” Buffy scrunched up her nose, making a face as she slid lower in the chair.

“How do you think you can just have sex with him? C’mon Buffy, we’re talking about Angel here. The love of your life. The ‘I’ll never love anyone as much as I love him’ guy.” Willow scrutinized her friend with a somewhat amused expression. The concept of anything impersonal or less than dangerously emotionally involved between Buffy and Angel was next to impossible to comprehend.

“Things are different now, Will. I’m different.” Buffy insisted firmly, unwilling to divulge any information about the spell. She’d never told her friends about it and she wasn’t about to reveal that tidbit of information now.

“What makes you think you can trust him this time, Buffy? Or that you won’t get hurt?”  Willow asked exasperatedly. “What if he’s lying about not being involved with Cordelia now? How can you even forgive him anyway for getting involved with HER of all people?”

“That’s the beauty of it. I don’t have to trust him and I won’t get hurt. It’s not like a relationship – it’s just… sex.” Buffy leaned back in the chair, attempting to look like she was certain of what she was saying when in fact, this was the first time she’d really allowed herself to seriously consider the thoughts that had been drifting through her mind since Angel’s visit the other night. Of course, hearing his warm, sexy voice on the phone had only been propelling those thoughts further.

“And for his involvement with Cordelia… well, he says they aren’t involved and even if he was, so what?” She replied somewhat defensively, her own words in complete contradiction to the scandalous behavior she had chastised him for just the other night.  She’d contemplated that more than once, her morals mentally warring about it for quite some time before reaching the conclusion that she owed no loyalty, no allegiance, no deference, no *anything* to Cordelia. The brunette never gave a damn about her or her feelings and would have stepped on Buffy to get to Angel without even looking back. Perhaps it was time that she simply did the same.

“You’ll understand if I don’t believe you, right?”  Willow replied skeptically, studying her friend with a doubtful expression. Buffy’s casual disregard for Cordelia and her possible relationship with Angel worried her more than little; it was so unlike Buffy to be so willing to ignore someone’s feelings. Perhaps it was some sort of jealous retaliation – which, now that, Willow could easily understand.

“I know it’s far-fetched, but trust me on this. I am different.”  Buffy replied with certainty, studying her fingernails for a moment before lifting her gaze to meet Willow’s. “Older. More mature.”

“And Angel? He just wants sex with you? Not something more?”  The red-haired girl questioned sardonically, more than familiar with the relationship between the vampire and the Slayer.

“Well, he might have said something about the relationshipy thing. But guys like the no-strings sex thing, don’t they? I mean, he wouldn’t object, would he?” Buffy chewed her nail, considering for the first time that perhaps that Angel might be against a casual encounter or two with her. In the next instant she dismissed that idea; Liam, Angel and Angelus had a colorful, varied and extensive sexual history – she’d read most of what had been documented in the Watchers journals years ago. No, she couldn’t imagine that he’d object very much or very strenuously to what she had in mind.

“I’m probably not the best person to ask about that.” Willow replied with a small laugh and shake of her head, “But I’d have to say yes, most guys probably do. But you and Angel – I just don’t see it.”

“I’m thinking a quickie or two, get him out of my system and boom. I’ll be ready to find another guy and fall in love and all that.” Buffy retorted complaisantly, “Just like you guys have been telling me to do for years.”

“Yeah and maybe pigs will fly. Ooh, or- or maybe the Hellmouth will stay closed.” Willow snapped her fingers gesturing wildly with her arms “Hell will freeze over and Anya will stop wishing she was a vengeance demon every time she and Xander have to wait in line somewhere.” At Buffy’s peeved look, Willow stopped with her examples and lifted her brows slightly.

“Hey – this could be closure.”

Willow nodded skeptically, her head moving slow and exaggeratedly. “Honestly, Buffy, I don’t think getting involved with him is the best thing you could do.”

“You’re probably right, Will. Thanks.”  Buffy stretched gracefully, lifting her arms over head and arching her back, signaling an end to their conversation.

Knowing by the expression on her face that her mind was made up, Willow sighed and softly added. “He’s only hurt you before Buffy. He’ll do it again.”

Buffy said nothing, only shifted the topic to their normal conversation topics: Xander’s health, Willow’s job, Jessie or slaying.

“Angel?” Willie questioned with surprise, looking up from the bar that he was wiping down as the newest patron crossed the threshold.  He was busier tonight than he had been in weeks; in addition to the few regulars that typically hung out, 2 groups of demons along with a cadre of vampires had arrived within the last two hours, all of them chattering about some “Slayer Elimination” tournament that they had been selected to participate in.  Apparently there was a considerable cash prize for the winner, provided that they bring proof of her demise. And, unbeknownst to Willie the contestants had been instructed to meet at his bar and from there the competition would begin promptly at 11:00 pm.

All of which made it somewhat even more surprising to see Angel saunter casually through the door. Willie knew that the vampire had long since moved on from Sunnydale and in fact, he even knew that Angel had a new girl and a son. News tended to travel quickly in demon circles and certainly news about Angel and the Slayer (or her replacement) tended to be particularly juicy fodder for gossip.

Of course, there could be another reason why the vampire might be here tonight. Warily, Willie looked up at the tall vampire, searching his features. “That is you, right Angel, buddy, pal?”

“Yeah, it’s me.” Angel absently replied as he stopped near the bar and glanced around the room. A pair of Abbadon demons was sizing him up, while the trio of Fyarl demons seemed to be arguing amongst themselves. There was obvious tension coupled with excitement in the air, which he found a bit unusual for the ordinarily staid pub. Of course, he had been away from here for several years and things tended to change. His attention shifted back to Willie, now standing in front of him behind the bar. “Is that a problem?”

“No. Not a problem. I’m just surprised, that’s all.” Willie muttered before turning away and stacking freshly washed mugs on the shelves behind him.

“Why’s that?” Angel returned his gaze to the various groups clustered together in the small bar, his senses picking up the familiar scent of the LA sewers. Several of the demons had obviously only recently come to Sunnydale.

“You haven’t been around here for a few years is all.”  Willie glanced at Angel briefly before he poured a drink for the demon that had walked up to the bar. “Here ya go, pal. Now remember, you guys have a limit on your tab. I’m not giving away drinks here.”

The demon grumbled something in response and took his drink back to the table where he had been sitting with his buddies.

“Well you’ll be seeing me around a bit more I suspect.” Angel replied, half listening to the conversation between the various demons in the room. His reason for stopping in Willies had been twofold: he wanted to find out what, if any, gossip was currently circulating about the Slayer so that he might be able to help her and quite honestly, he was stalling. Now that he’d arrived in Sunnydale after his impulsive drive, he wasn’t sure just what he was going to tell her about why he was suddenly here again. He needed time to think and this seemed as good of a place as any to do that. At the very least it seemed to be a better option than simply driving around in circles.

“Oh yeah? Why’s that?”  Willie questioned, moving down the bar to pour a foul looking concoction from a plastic jug into a tall glass for the scaly Rothrak demon at the end of the bar.

Hearing a mention of the word “slayer” from the three biker-looking vamps at the corner table followed by a rather rambunctious laugh, Angel abruptly shifted his attention to their conversation and didn’t answer Willie’s question.

“Angelus?”  The tall, lean vampire questioned loudly, stopping on his way back into the bar from the back room where he’d been having a quick little bit of fun with a female vampire companion. “Holy fuckin’ hell on earth! It is you! I’ll be damned. How the hell are ya man?”  Eagerly, the vampire grabbed Angel’s hand and shook it before pulling him into an almost bone-breaking hug, slapping him soundly on the back.

Willie watched the exchange nervously, expecting trouble when the vamp realized that it wasn’t Angelus after all.

“Sebastian.” Angel replied almost imperiously, playing the role of his demon as he studied the reputed master vampire with piercing interest. Sebastian hadn’t changed much in the 100 or so years since they’d last seen each other. Well, that is except for the clothes. He was taller than Angelus by about three inches, but he was much leaner.  With thick, wavy reddish brown hair that hung down to the middle of his back, the tight black leather pants, ripped t-shirt and studded black leather jacket, the vampire looked like he’d just stepped out of a heavy metal video.

Additionally, Angel noted, there was a good chance his charade wouldn’t be discovered as Sebastian was clearly under the influence of some mind-altering substance – alcohol or perhaps drugs. Either was typical – the vampire always one to party hard.

“Don’t tell me you’re here for the Slayer tourney man?” Shaking his mane of hair out of his eyes, the younger vamp gestured to his friends at the nearby table. “This is fuckin’ awesome. We haven’t hung out in what – like 120 years?”

“At least.” Angel replied agreeably, now warily apprehensive. Slayer tourney? What the hell was he talking about?

“Shit, let me buy you a drink.” Sebastian slapped Angel on the arm and turned to Willie, who was watching them with a troubled expression. “Give me and my boys another round of Blood-E cocktails, my man, and a double shot for my friend here.”

Willie nodded and mixed the potent cocktails, sliding two of the blood filled glasses down the bar to Angel and Sebastian before taking a tray with the other drinks over to the biker vamps, whose laughter was growing increasingly louder.

“When’d you get here?” Angelus asked with a ruthless glimmer in his eye, doing his best effort to impersonate his demon. When Sebastian turned away, Angel quickly shot a warning look to Willie to keep his mouth shut as the proprietor returned to his usual position behind the bar.

“Today. Only heard about the tourney a couple of days ago. Cheers, man.” Pushing the glass into Angel’s hand, he clinked the glasses and slammed back the viscous liquid. After a brief hesitation, Angel did the same, slamming the glass down on the bar.

“How’d you find out about it?” Casually Angel probed, careful to not reveal that he had no idea what the wanna-be rocker vamp was talking about.

“Some guy, almost a kid really. Just showed up at our door with an envelope and instructions. Kill the Slayer, get 100K. Shit, I’d kill the Slayer for free but for 100 large – you know I’m there. You?”

“Uh, same.” Angel suppressed the panic that the words instilled him and mentally said thanks for whatever urge that had sent him to Sunnydale tonight.  Following that, he felt the smallest unwelcome tremor of dismay. Surely it wasn’t…?  With cold waves of dread churning through his stomach, he forced out the question. “You catch a name?”

“Just some guy. Connor maybe? What’s it matter man?”  Sebastian grinned manically as he signaled Willie for another drink and clapped Angel hard on the back. “We can kick some ass like old times, only this time we’ll get paid for it. Then we can par-tee.” When the drink arrived, he lifted his glass in salute to Angel and then to his buddies before drinking it down in one fast swallow.

Strike one for Connor. Not only was his whole professed attitude about wanting to change their relationship an apparent scam but he’d also violated his ‘parole’ by leaving the hotel. Angel grimaced but nodded in agreement, returning Sebastian’s grin with an honestly angry one of his own and fought down another wave of panicked urgency to do something to stop this apparently planned and soon to be paid for attack on Buffy.

Between casual reminisces of the past with Sebastian, Angel managed to find out that there were 4 ‘contestants’ and all of them had been recruited in LA in the last week. Strike two for Connor. Proximity to the chosen assassins was circumstantial but incriminating just the same.

“These losers” he gestured to the two odd sets of demons in the bar, “are no competition. Surprised the Saubhaudra’s ain’t here though. They’ll be the ones to beat.”

“What about the Slayer?” Willie asked somewhat belligerently, feeling an alliance with the tiny blonde girl that had become a fixture in Sunnydale, “She’s pretty tough herself.”

“Hey, so where is your chick, man?” The long-haired vampire questioned with a leer, nudging Angel with his elbow. His only acknowledgement to Willie’s question was to shoot him look of annoyance over his shoulder.

Angel and Willie both turned startled eyes to Sebastian, Angel suddenly fearful that the vampire’s friendly demeanor had been a sham and that this was some kind of trap.

“Man, she could suck a bowling ball through a straw, that girl.” Sebastian sniggered, grabbing his crotch as if in fond memory.

Willie rolled his eyes and Angel nearly sagged with relief. Darla. He meant Darla. He’d known that she was never faithful but the extent to which she whored around often surprised him. Were there any vampires that she hadn’t screwed?  Unemotionally, he finally replied. “Dead.”

“Oh. Sorry to hear that man. She was a great lay.” Sebastian acknowledged, as if her physical prowess in bed were the only thing that would be missed. He leaned on the bar with his elbows, now distracted by the female vampire across the room crossing her legs seductively and looking at him over her lashes. She had just been wondering how she might possibly attract the two handsome vampires at the bar and proposition them for a threesome when one of them finally looked in her direction.

Angel turned surprised eyes to Willie and intended to speak, but the room strangely seemed to shift out of focus.  When the vaguely familiar hazy cloud passed through his brain again, he clutched at the bar.

“Ah, shit. Not now.” He muttered under his breath, the doximall laced cocktail now creating a rushing sensation through his nerves, his brain.  ‘Blood-E’! The drink. Blood-E was blood with ecstasy.  No wonder Sebastian was out of his mind, the way he was slamming back glasses of the potent mixture.

Angel groaned. This could not be happening, not now, not tonight! Feelings of horror and dread warred with a perverse sense of excitement as the demon within him surfaced.

With traces of gold glittering in his eyes, Angel picked up the now full glass that sat in front of him and glanced at Willie. The promise of retaliation was in his eyes for serving him the intoxicating concoction, but it would have to wait as any control he had held was fast slipping away.

“Ah. Free! Thanks to you, my friend.” He sighed heavily and saluted his friend who was grinning at him idiotically, before draining the contents of the glass without hesitation, the smell of blood intoxicating. “I absolutely love this stuff.”  This time when he slammed the glass down, it shattered into hundreds of tiny pieces, the razor-sharp shards cutting his hand, several pieces left embedded in his skin.

Angelus laughed delightedly at the pain.  After a moment, his focus shifted to Sebastian and he regarded the other master vampire dangerously, his tongue sweeping along his teeth as his fangs began to appear.

His eyes scanned the demons in the room before he turned back to Willie and demanded with impatient arrogance, “Got a pencil? I need to write down a number.”

“Uh, yeah Angel sure.” Wille regarded the vampire with suspicion, noting the sudden mood swing. It had never occurred to him that the doximall laced drink might have adverse side effects for certain vampires. “Uh, *us* – Angel-*us*.” At the feral look from the tall vampire, he corrected himself with the quick stuttered addition to the vampire’s name.

While he waited for Willie to return with the required item Angelus sniffed with disdain at the black wool slacks and charcoal cashmere sweater his souled half had chosen to wear today. The idiot had no sense of taste or style, and had proven that to be true not just in clothes. What he wouldn’t give for his leather pants.

When Willie handed him the pencil, Angel twirled it around in his fingers briefly, his eyes landing speculatively on the vampire next to him. It’d had been years since Angelus had been out and he had more than a little pent up rage to vent. Rage that began with idiot soul-boy leaving *his* mate behind and continued to build through the years of near mind-numbing domestication at the hands of a shallow, worthless she-demon whore. He’d apparently lost not only his mind in these last few years but his balls *and* his mate. Knowing that he’d have only a few hours to attempt to straighten out the mess that his half-witted soul that made of *his* life, his first priority was clearly to reclaim his mate. He smiled cruelly, thinking of the delicious punishments he intended to mete out to her for even thinking that she could break their bond.

With that in mind, Angelus turned his attention back to Sebastian. He didn’t have time to fuck around with idiot demons and stupid contests that had seemingly been arranged by his hell spawn of a son. Distracted for a moment with the thought, he considered the possible punitive measures that would be appropriate for his only offspring, even while taking pride in his son’s apparent bloodthirstiness. It was certainly something to make a demon father proud. To bad it had been instigated against the wrong woman.  Had Connor done the same thing for the wanna-be blonde slut back at the hotel – now that, Angelus chuckled with malicious glee, he would likely have congratulated.

Sighing, Angelus shifted his focus back to the current matter at hand.

“First, Sebastian my friend, let’s get something straight. No one will be taking out my girl-”  With calm deliberation, Angelus drove the pencil into the vampire’s heart. “But me.”  Casually dusting off his hands, Angelus strolled over to the demon sitting at the bar nearby and now staring at him in stunned surprise. He reached into the demon’s shirt pocket and withdrew a pack of cigarettes, removing one from the pack and lighting it, seemingly oblivious to the fact that all eyes in the room were upon him.  Sebastian’s minions had come to their feet, indecisively looking at each other and back at Angelus. They wanted to avenge their leader but they were more than a little fearful of the vampire that had taken him out. Angelus’s reputation was well known and well deserved.

“Now. Listen up. Who’s here for the so called ‘Slayer Elimination tournament’?”  Angelus’s voice rang out loudly in the now deathly silent bar.

The pair of Abbadon demons, the trio of Fyarl demons and Sebastian’s buddies slowly and somewhat hesitantly all raised their hands.

“Great. Outside. We’ll kick this off.”  Angelus ground out the cigarette on the palm of his hand and tossed the butt on the counter. Eight against one. the odds were not in his favor. But then again, he had some pent up rage burning through him. Perhaps he could pretend that one of the vamps was his idiot souled half. Ah, that idea had some definite merit.

He spun around just inside the door at the sound of a shotgun blast followed rapidly by a second shot.  Willie held the gun over the bar, the barrel still smoking.  The two Abbadon demons lay dead on the floor – apparently they had guessed that perhaps Angelus wasn’t simply asking them outside to kick off the contest so they had bolted after him, each armed with a lethal looking pair of nearly 20″ long machetes.

Well, 6 to 1 now, Angelus corrected with a touch of disappointment. Without a word, he spun back on his heel and headed outside.

Cordelia shook out her new scarlet crepe skirt, once more admiring the graceful and fluid lines of the fabric as well as the delicate paisley embroidered pattern that adorned the entire length.  The skirt, along with a new matching velvet tank top, was a surefire vampire attractant of that she had no doubt. She’d chosen the color specifically for that reason, knowing that vampires had an instinctive draw to the color red and she’d chosen the fabric for the sexy way that it clung to her ample curves counting on the assumption that one certain vampire also had an instinctive draw to well-proportioned female figures.

She was annoyed that her plans for Operation Reclaim Angel had been derailed, particularly since the obstinate man had been so damn good at avoiding her this last week. But, she sighed heavily, hanging her new outfit on the hook on the back of the door, after tonight things would surely be different.  Angel, the poor lamb, was sure to be in need of some serious consoling and she planned to be there dressed and ready should that consolation take on a more intimate and physical form.

She checked the clock again, noting with satisfaction that the Saubhadra demons that she’d spent the last few days tracking down should have already reached Sunnyhell by now along with the others. Saubhadra’s were known for being particularly evil and vicious, not to mention brutally strong, and excellent fighters. They weren’t known to be the brightest of demons, but that was simply a bonus as far as the seer was concerned. They the only drawback was that they moved excessively slowly, their great bulk not conducive to anything faster than a slow trot.

Once more she congratulated herself on such a brilliant plan. Not that she particularly believed Buffy to be an obstacle for her in getting Angel back, but it never hurt to smooth out any possible bumps in the road. And with this plan she would also take away Angel’s other emotional attachment freeing him to focus exclusively on her, er, them.

With her visionary powers, it had only taken her a matter of days to track down the most ostensibly dangerous demons and vampires in Los Angeles and, with sufficient encouragement, which happened to come in the form of a large cash reward stolen from Angel and the offices of Angel Investigations, Cordelia sent them off to Sunnydale for the World’s first “Slayer Elimination” tournament.

She had Connor hand deliver them each an invitation containing an elaborately fabricated tale about an imbalance in the powers of good and evil, and how it was necessary to eliminate the current Slayer who had lived too many years beyond her allotted time (not to mentioned had cheated death at least twice too often).  The instructions also gave the logistics for the competition, along with the stated requirement that proof of death must be provided before the cash prize would be paid out. As an addendum, Cordelia included a summary of every weakness she had been able to ascertain or remember about the Slayer, much of it knowledge that she’d retained from her days as a higher being when she saw more than she’d imagined about the chosen warriors for the Powers: Buffy and Angel/Angelus.

At the sound of the door opening next door, Cordelia raced across her room then stopped suddenly as if she had been planning on going out anyway and calmly opened her door, as if coincidentally leaving her room the same time as Angel was leaving his. She schooled her features into a sad but somewhat surprised expression and glanced up, expecting to see her vampire ex. Instead, she came face to face with Lorne.

“Lorne?” Cordelia groused in surprised frustration, dropping her false pretense of a chance meeting in the hallway.

“Yes, sweetie.”  The Host replied, still feeling somewhat shell-shocked by his earlier set-to by Angel.

“I was hoping-” The seer spoke softly, instantly altering her countenance to best suit her purpose. Using every ounce of acting ability she possessed to appear hurt and disappointed, she continued, “Well, I was hoping you were Angel. I’ve been trying to see him. You know, to find out what went wrong, why he’s upset with me but he just seems to be avoiding me.”

Lorne looked at Cordelia, really looked at her for the first time in years. He peered at her intensely, attempting to read her. The brief glimpse of her aura that he could make out was a mottled mix of gray, brown and the mustard yellow color of sulfur all streaked with red. He pressed his lips together slightly in fear and worry.  Those colors were clear indicators of the presence of a darker power mixed with a whole lot of negative energy and rage. He felt a small shudder of something akin to fear pass through him.

“Lorne. LORNE.” The dyed blonde repeated, unable to completely mask the irritation in her voice. “Hello? I’m talking here.”

“Oh, sorry sweetie. Lost in thought there for a minute.” The green demon cleared his throat, shifting slightly on his feet and gazing at her speculatively.

“Where is Angel anyway?” She asked, glancing past Lorne to Angel’s door. It was important that she be close at hand when Angel got the news about Buffy’s soon-to-come demise.  The winning group of demons had been instructed to call the hotel, ask for Angelus and taunt him about her death. Within a week they needed to then provide proof and then their monies would be paid in full.

“Hum?  Oh, he left a little while ago.” Lorne glanced up, seeing Connor coming down the hall toward them with a friendly expression on his face. The young man had been unusually pleasant these last few days and seemingly reconciled to his confinement in the hotel.

“Left?! Where did he go?” Cordelia gaped, unable to conceal her surprise. She’d been in her room all afternoon – well, except for her brief shopping excursion and trip to the salon to get waxed, buffed and perfectly coiffed in preparation for her planned evening activities.  How was it that she’d not heard him leave?

“I don’t know. Out on a case maybe?” Lorne truly didn’t know where the vampire had gone when he’d left, but if he had to guess he might say Sunnydale. His ex-girlfriend was clearly much on his mind as of late, and just as clearly he intended that she soon be his ex no longer.

“Lorne? Do you think maybe – you could talk to Angel for me?” Cordelia whispered, glancing furtively at Connor then back at Lorne. “Find out why he’s avoiding me?”

“Uh, normally I’d love to help you, creampuff, but no can do.” The Host replied, unwilling to risk Angel’s anger or friendship by further involving himself in the vampire’s personal affairs.

“Hey.” Connor said in greeting, stopping in front of them.

At the interruption, Cordelia’s features formed an impatient mask.

“Hello and goodbye.” Lorne saluted them, grateful for the excuse to exit the conversation before he had to admit that he was simply afraid to risk Angel’s ire or friendship. No doubt the seer would accuse him of cowardice but he preferred to think of it as simple self-preservation instincts. “Gotta run. Gotta gig tonight over on the west side and you know how bad traffic can be. Ciao.”

“See ya.” Connor replied absently, noting Cordelia’s tight-lipped expression.

The seer didn’t respond, instead she turned back to her own room and made to close the door, only to find it blocked by Connor’s foot.

“Connor. Move. Your. Foot. ” Cordelia demanded impatiently, glancing down at his foot then back at his face.

“Talk to me.” Connor pleaded, not understanding her vacillating moods.

“No. Not now.” The dyed blonde said firmly, aggravated to find out that Angel had left the hotel again tonight. She’d followed him discreetly a couple of times this past week watching as he either patrolled the dangerous alleys of LA or he went to magic shops. Why he was so interested in magic, she had no idea. She’d attempted to find out what he was looking for, but she hadn’t had any luck there either.

“Why not?  We can be together now, there’s no need to hide from anyone.” Connor replied, not mentioning his father’s name specifically although that was who was clearly implied by ‘anyone’.  “This is what we’ve always wanted. What we’ve been waiting for.”

“No, Connor. This is not what *we* have been waiting for.” Cordelia retorted with exasperation. How was it that he was so dense at times?

“But the other day-” Connor interrupted, somewhat bewildered. He had thought that things between them had been resolved. After all, she’d been the one that had come to him.

“The other day was a mistake.”  Cordelia replied flatly. She had wanted information about Angel’s activities and whereabouts and she needed Connor’s compliance with her plan, so she’d sought out Connor in his room. One thing led to the next, and she ended up in bed with him. As far as she was concerned, it’d had been an adequate bribe and little more than a pity fuck but ever since the young man seemed to be of the impression that she considered them ‘back together’. She scoffed slightly. The real irony was that most of it had been for naught – Angel may have spent some time with Connor in the last week, but he certainly hadn’t confided any of his plans in his son.

“What do you mean, a mistake?” Connor stared at her face, his words a harsh whisper. Every time he opened his heart to her, she trampled on it.

“Look, baby. You know I still care about you. A lot.” Cordelia soothed, brushing Connor’s hair back away from his face. “But, you know we can’t. We aren’t meant to be. I love Angel.”

“But the other day- You said, you said – that breaking things off had been a mistake.” He ground out the words with a grim smile, his brown eyes locked on hers.

“Look, Connor – ” The dyed blonde brusquely interjected, crossing her hands over her chest and tossing her hair.

“Do you love me or not?  Tell me!!” Connor shouted, angry, hurt and more than a little bewildered. How could she treat him so callously? How could they share what they had shared and she still be so cold to him?

“No, Connor. I don’t. I need Angel back.” Cordelia drawled softly, watching the expression on her young lover’s face turned from bewilderment to hurt to rage.

“You lying bitch.” He spat in a heated rush of temper, stepping toward her and clenching his fist.

“Connor – ” The seer replied warningly, her eyes flashing with anger.

“Shut up. Just shut the fuck up!” Connor shouted, glaring at her insolently. “You whore. You lying whore! How can you fuck me if you love *him*? How?!”

“Don’t you dare talk to me that way!” She shrieked, stepping forward and shoving hard at his shoulder, knocking him off balance and back a step.

“Don’t touch me.”  He jerked away from her, as if disgusted by her touch. In a low threatening voice, he added, “I’m going to tell him everything.”

Slowly advancing toward Connor, Cordelia wore an expression of such black fury that the young man nearly flinched from the expected blow. As a demon, she’d grown quite strong and powerful, and he’d been the recipient of her physical prowess a time or two in the past.

She hissed through clenched teeth, her voice the barest of whispers, “Don’t you dare, you little shit! I’ll make sure you return to Quor-toth!”

“No you won’t. My dad won’t let you!” Connor sharply retorted, acutely disturbed by her threat. He’d told her that he still had nightmares about his time there.

“Your *dad*,” Cordelia said, her voice softly vicious, her eyes an unrelenting and angry chill, “won’t be able to stop me. You’ll just disappear one day and he’ll think you ran off. Besides, Connor, *you* delivered those letters. Your *dad* is going to think you’re trying to kill his ex – *again*. Think he won’t believe that?”

“You bitch. What did you do?!” Connor shrieked, a cold shock of fear washing over him as he cursed his own stupid naiveté. She’d drawn him in and used him so easily for her bidding and he’d hadn’t once stopped to question her.

“Just taking care of things, baby, just like I always do.” The seer replied smugly, crossing her arms over her chest. “I – well, *you* promised a few nasty demons some money to take care of the little Sunnydale freak of nature. Daddy is not going to be pleased when he finds out.”

“We’ll see who he believes.” Connor turned abruptly and stalked off in frustration. She was very likely right – Angel had no reason to trust him or believe that he wouldn’t leave on his own. And now – god, what had she done? She’d told him that the letters were nothing more than collection letters, but he should have known better. Would his father believe him if he went to him now and said he hadn’t known? Or would Angel believe that anyone could be that gullible?

Cordelia pressed her lips together tightly in anger, her eyes boring into Connor’s back. When he disappeared at the end of the hall, she muttered a curse and slammed the door to her room.


“Fuck!” The blonde seer whirled around in surprise, clutching one hand to her now rapidly beating heart. “Skip. God. You nearly scared me to death. What the hell are you doing here?”

She stepped forward, rubbing her hand over her face as she calmed slightly from the brief scare. She had no idea that anyone else had been in the room and suddenly she wondered how long he had been there.

“You are no longer allied with your champion.” The demon guide stated softly, his words not a question but a statement of fact.

Cordelia’s eyes widened and she slowly expelled a breath. She thought she would have had more time before they found out.  Adamantly she contended,  “It’s only temporary, Skip. I swear.”

“The dark forces within you are growing strong again.” Skip had yet to move from his spot, watching her with disappointment clearly on his face and sadness in his eyes.

“No. They aren’t.” She vehemently protested, walking toward him and holding her hand out in supplication. ” They really aren’t.”

“Cordelia.” The demon guide scolded gently, sighing deeply.  “I know better. You can’t lie to me.”

“But-” The seer pouted slightly, her perfect white teeth chewing at her lower lip. Skip had a soft spot for her she knew, and she knew how to work her innocent act to take full advantage of his feelings.

“You know I can’t keep this from the Powers much longer.” Skip firmly told her, unwilling and unable to turn a blind eye to her increasingly horrible antics much longer.

“I promise. After tonight – it’ll be fine. Angel and I – we’ll be back together, working together. And I promise – no more hiding of visions. I’ll tell him about all of them no matter what. And I’ll do good, I swear. I’ll help starving children and homeless people. And puppies! I’ll adopt puppies. Please Skip.”  Cordelia insisted as her eyes filled with tears and her lower lip trembled. She wiped at the tears on her cheeks as they began to fall.

Skip sighed. The darker side of her demonic nature was indeed growing stronger, finding a seemingly unlimited array of dishonest, immoral or devious personality traits within her from which to draw energy and strengthen it’s possession. By their very nature, demons took on the characteristics of their hosts. Only those with pure hearts, conscience souls or an incredible strength of character were able to keep their demon from completely taking them over. With Cordelia, her selfish and ungrateful nature had proved time and again to be her dominant characteristic, gradually allow her darker nature to take over.  In fact, her nature had been the very thing that had gotten her expelled from the higher dimension. She had proven herself unworthy of the honor that had been bestowed upon her and had been sent back to atone for the many and varied ways in which she’d readily displayed her true disposition. The Powers had allowed her to return to this dimension only because she could be allied with their chosen warrior and he could show her the path to redemption.

“I’ll do what I can.” Skip relented, unable to promise more. Even now, he knew he was testing the limits of the Power’s patience.  He admittedly had a soft spot for the former brunette beauty and had covered for her mistakes and her selfish behavior several times in the past, but now the Powers were threatening to punish them both. He certainly cared about her, but he was unwilling to suffer the wrath of the Powers for her unnecessarily.

He’d stall a bit longer and she if she could straighten things out as she did last time. Barring that, there simply wasn’t much else that he could do.

Angelus dusted off his hands and wiped the blood out of his eye. The 3 demons and 3 vampires had been more than adequate exercise, allowing him to vent his rage and reassure himself that he still was as powerful and ruthless as he had ever believed. His souled half hadn’t completely ruined him – yet.  Now he was intent on more important tasks.

Her lights were off as he walked past by her condo and he guessed given the time of the night that she was most likely out on patrol. He moved in the direction of her scent, his dark figure blending easily into the shadows of the night.

His senses picked up the demons even before he saw the overly large, grayish rhinoceros looking demon sprawled on the ground, his eyes open and staring upward in death. Picking up his pace, he made his way through the brush into the vacant lot just beyond the edge of an industrial building.

Buffy was fighting another of the mountainous creatures, her moves lithe and graceful, the beast slow but strong. When she glanced over in alarm to assess the approaching newcomer, the demon managed to strike her hard across the face and send her flying toward him.

She slammed into Angelus with powerful force and they both went tumbling into the damp brush.  Buffy landed on top, panting heavily.  The axe Angelus had been carrying clattered to the ground. The Saubhadra demon roared in anger but turned and fled from the small clearing.

Buffy stared down at Angel in stunned surprised. It was almost unreal to find, right here beneath her, the object of her fantasies of the last few nights, in the flesh and between her thighs.

Angelus stared up at her face, shifting slightly and allowing her legs to drop on either side of his hips, enjoying the soft pant of her breath against his cheek, the heat of elevated body temperature pressed against his chest all due to the physical exertions of the fight.

Without a thought and without a word, driven by the sexual needs that he had awakened in her days ago and coupled with the general exultant and heightened sex drive that often came with slaying, Buffy leaned down and pressed her lips to his.

Angelus paused, unable for a moment to react. This was not the greeting he had expected, but it would most certainly do.

Buffy wound one arm around his neck as she slipped lower, pressing the warm heat between her legs firmly against his stomach as her thighs clutched his waist.

Angelus began returning her kisses with an eager urgency, unwilling to deny himself the pleasure of her kisses or any other part of her after he’d been denied for so long.

“That was…” Buffy mumbled, lifting her head after a pleasantly long interval, only to return to his lips once more. After another heated interval of kisses, she continued in a soft breathy whisper. “…rude.”

“Yes.” Angelus muttered in reply, one arm encircling her back and holding her close, the other tugging on a tendril of her hair that was hanging down near his face pulling her lips back to his when they lifted the smallest fraction.

“We should…” Buffy nipped his lips with her own, sucking his bottom lip greedily between her teeth and raking it with her teeth. She released it and murmured softly, “…go.” almost at the same time her tongue traced his lips and slipped into his mouth. She kissed him eagerly, delighting in the faint cinnamon and spicy taste that was pure Angel. Lifting her lips slightly to change the slant of her head, another soft murmur escaped her lips “…and…” His tongue curled around hers, luring it deeply into his mouth with an erotic caress. When she pulled pack slightly to take a breath, she finally finished her sentence. “…kill it.”

“Mmm… yes.” Angelus replied distractedly as he slid one large hand into her hair, pulling out the cloth band holding her hair and loosening her ponytail as he tugged her lips firmly back to his, taking her mouth in a ravenous kiss. His tongue dueled with hers for dominance for a long moment before she relented and let him have his way. He explored her mouth to his satisfaction before finally releasing his hold on her hair and allowing her to pull back for a breath. “…we should.”

“Um-hum.” Buffy agreed, pressing her lips to his once again. After another few minutes of heated kisses, she reluctantly pulled back and forced her mind back to her work.

She studied Angel’s face in the moonlight. Her memory of him paled in comparison to the real thing. There was no doubt of his incredibly beauty, the classic bone structure or the dark, sensual eyes. What she hadn’t captured in memory was the touch of wildness that existed in their dark depths, a wildness that lured and enticed, promising wicked delights.  His physical perfection at such close range struck her powerfully, reducing the world around her to inconsequential details while her focus was singularly on him.

She was quite spectacular, Angelus thought with a connoisseur’s eye, her mass of golden hair rich and glowing so that it seemed alive. Her face was dominated by her large hazel-green eyes, her golden skin sun kissed from time she spent out doors. Less now than when she was younger, but enough to still make him feel as if she were the warmth of the sun that he had long forgotten.

“Well, lover, that was certainly a nice greeting.” Angelus silkily whispered, breaking the long silence. He moved beneath her slightly, enjoying the feel of her pressed so intimately against him.

Buffy peered down at him in the dark, her gaze narrowing speculatively. She made no move to leave her position perched on his mid-section, which was perfectly fine with Angelus. Twenty seconds ticked before Buffy thumped him hard on the chest with her fist, her dainty eyebrows lifting sardonically. “Thought you couldn’t lose your soul, Angelus.

“Didn’t lose it. Soul-boy is just… slumbering for awhile.” Angelus replied with a smirk, his hands running along her thighs to her hips. He adjusted her slightly so that she sat firmly on the ridge of his growing erection.

“Humpf.”  Buffy pushed hard against his chest and came to her feet standing next to him. She fixed her hair, adjusting the band to restore her ponytail to its position high on the back of her head.

“And just how did that happen?” She questioned almost distractedly as she turned away, searching for any tracks that the fleeing demon might have left.

“Doximall. Ecstasy.” Angelus grudgingly answered as he stood. He was uncertain he wanted to give away the reason for his return.

“Oh.” Buffy turned and looked at him with an expression of surprise mixed with a touch of disappointment. Angel did drugs? That was certainly new.

Angelus laughed at the obvious displeasure on her face, “Now, now Buff. Before you start your “just say no to drugs” lecture, soul-boy didn’t know the delicious blood cocktail was laced. Willie’s serving up new specials these days.”

“Oh.” She replied, somewhat relieved although in truth she hadn’t really suspected anything sordid knowing Angel. But then again, you don’t know him. Not anymore.

“Doesn’t have to change anything. you might have had in mind.” Angelus hinted with a leer, stepping close to her.  Apparently idiot soul-boy was doing something right to get a greeting like that.  Although, he thought, his lips pressing together in annoyance, his mark was truly gone. And her scent – it was similar in many ways and yet different from what he remembered. She no longer smelled like *his* woman. And that bothered him too.

“You coming or staying?” Buffy’s question broke his thoughts as she moved off in the direction that the demon had gone. She sighed. Angelus was certainly a consideration tonight as well. She couldn’t very well leave him alone to ravage Sunnydale as he was likely to do. Hmm. But perhaps he could ravage, oh, someone like say, me. She sighed again. Her libido was dangerously out of check. Down, Buffy. She chastised herself. This is Angelus, not Angel.

“Both Buff.” Angelus replied with a wicked grin, retrieving the axe he had been carrying and falling in step next to her.

Buffy only shot him an impatient look before continuing in the direction of the large hoof prints. They pushed through the through the thick brush and set off in the direction that the demon had taken.

“Saubhadra.” Angelus stated after they had gone only a few feet.

“Saab-what tra?” Buffy questioned, whispering in case the creature was nearby. She was unfamiliar with the neanderthal looking beasts. When she came across a demon she didn’t recognize she usually just described them to Willow who then looked them up and gave her a name to put in her journal.

“Saudhadras. Vicious. Brutal fighters.”  A muscle twitched in his clenched jaw. Another strike against Connor for soliciting such brutal creatures to participate in his little game. Was that two or three now against the little whelp? Maybe he could manage to convince his lame souled half to have another of those delicious ‘Blood-E’ concoctions before confronting his ungrateful offspring.

“They’ve got nothing on a Turok-han.” Buffy sniffed with disdain, pointing to the path on the right. She glanced over at him as she spoke, noticing how his charcoal sweater hugged his sculpted chest; his hair was mussed just so. making him look so sinfully delicious in the moonlight. Angelus would need to be watched tonight as well, she mused. Yes, and that would be easy to do if I were to take him home. And maybe chain him up. Maybe to the bed. Ooh, and naked. Chained and naked he’d be much easier to watch. To control. To lick… The wicked little voice inside her head offered up a few more choice ideas, making Buffy’s cheeks flush slightly at her own lascivious thoughts.

“A Turok-han?” Angelus questioned sharply, his mind turning over in a panic. How could she have faced a Turok-Han and he hadn’t known?  He didn’t even realize that the ancient, primordial, ferociously strong vampires even still existed.  Of course, even if he had known about them, likely soul-boy would have avoided them; they were the vampires that even vampires tended to fear. Not Angelus though, with his calm unruffled arrogance and boundless confidence. He’d willing dance with the devil himself without a touch of fear. “I thought they were myth.”

“Nah. You can find them around. Hellmouth special of course.” Almost against her will she smiled up at him slightly, her mind half preoccupied now with wondering how one goes about making the first move in asking someone if they’d be interested in quick no strings attached fuck. Or maybe not so quick. And maybe more than one..

“What are you doing here anyway?” Buffy asked, as if his uncommon appearance in Sunnydale had just occurred to her.

“Why do you think, Buff? I came to see you of course.” Angelus answered, his words soft and low, almost a purr. It wasn’t exactly a lie. Angel had come to see her.  Though, he found no need to tell her about the ‘Slayer Elimination’ tournament he’d disrupted. He doubted that she’d be grateful and he certainly didn’t want to disrupt the relatively agreeable mood she seemed to be in.

“What happened to your face?” She gestured to the cut on his brow, the slight bruise on his cheek. For a breath-held moment she worried that Angelus had already been up to his old tricks.

“Just a demon or two that got in my way. Nothing human.” He glanced at her with an amused expression. “Worried, lover?”

“Well, you’re not exactly trustworthy.” She grumbled, shooting him a look of annoyance out of the corner of her eye.

They walked in silence for another ten minutes before they encountered the slightly injured demon. They might be big and vicious fighters but they lacked stamina making them relatively easy to catch. Together they made short work of the creature, Angelus watching Buffy with something akin to awe. There was no doubt that her fighting skills were nearly perfect; her physical form much, much better than perfect in his estimation.  His lust for her raged, particularly with the delicious smell of her blood in the air from the cut on her cheek, her slightly bruised and split lip.

After the demon dropped to the ground, Buffy stopped in front of Angelus. “So, uh…”

Angelus yanked her forward into his arms, leaning down to lap at the drop of blood on her lip. The sweet rich taste was intoxicating and powerful and he groaned slightly with the heady pleasure. He then lowered his mouth firmly to hers, taking her lips in a demanding kiss as if he were starved for the taste of her. His arms encircled her waist, bending her back slightly as he devoured her mouth.

When Buffy broke off the kiss for air, Angelus shifted his attention to her neck, raining the soft flesh with kisses and licks and tiny bites. As last time she had been in his arms – well, Angel’s arms – she fought for composure, her wits spiraling out of control while the heated flame of desire began to burn. She was nearly crushed into his body, her breasts pressed firmly into the hard wall of his chest, one of his thighs pressing firmly between her legs.

Needing a moment to gather her thoughts without the feel of him befuddling her mind, Buffy shoved hard against him sending him staggering back a step.

“Is there a problem lover?” Angelus asked, his voice soft, seductive. There wasn’t a chance that he was going to be denied tonight, the question was would she be willing or not? No, he mentally revised. She was willing. More than willing.  The question was whether she’d give in to her desires or continue to hold to some silly moral high ground.

As her gaze swept over his tall lean form beginning at his feet, taking in the long legs, the narrow hips and waist, the increased width of his shoulders to the stark masculine beauty of his face, her pulse rate sped up just a bit and she clenched her legs together making the smallest attempt to quell the beginning ache of desire.

So, she was physically attracted to him. That was never a question.

She prided herself on her independence now, on the fact that she made the choices that she wanted for her own reasons.

And hadn’t she spent the last few days rationalizing the idea of sex with Angel as just sex? A rare not-to-be missed second chance to experience the carnal delights that he could offer? Particularly with the added bonus that she could enjoy all of that expertise without the slightest bit of emotional turmoil and heartbreaking pain that accompanied so many of her Angel-y encounters?

Buffy licked her lips, tasting him still. Angel might have been less inclined for a purely physical encounter but she doubted that Angelus would object. In fact, this could very well be a blessing in disguise. As an additional small measure of relief, she mentally noted that her last period had ended just 3 days ago. No worries there.

The mild heat swirling through her body inched up another degree.

“Let’s get something straight.” Her gaze was clear and direct, her green eyes resplendent with the heated fires of passion that had been suppressed and ignored for much too long.

“Yes?” His dark gaze was bland, faintly mocking. He easily detected the increased scent of her arousal as she stood there staring at him, the shifting of her position and clenching of those oh-so-gorgeous legs.

“If-if we do this-”

“Fuck, you mean?” He stepped toward her, his moves like the graceful predator that he was, his gaze insolent.

“Yes, that. If we *fuck*.” Buffy replied brusquely, as if they were simply negotiating a business contract. “there will be no biting.”  It was a compromise of sorts with her warring thoughts over having sex with the demon instead of Angel yet she wasn’t even sure why she felt that particular demand was the necessary distinction.

Angelus contemplated her for a moment. He had never bitten her during their few sexual encounters, although the desire to do so had been strong. Perhaps given the sheer depth of his uncontrollable obsession for her, it had been because he was never sure that he would have been able to stop himself from draining her. And he hadn’t been ready to turn her.

“I can’t promise no *biting*, lover.” Angelus murmured, conceding to her stipulation as he approached, walking around her in a slow circle, his eyes drifting over her lazily as if vetting her for his interest. “But I won’t feed.”

“Let me make this very clear, *Angelus*,” Buffy coolly declared, her gaze once more roamed down his body to settle on his obvious arousal. “No biting with fangs.”

“You’re sure?” He questioned with a leer stopping in front of her.

“Yes.” Buffy replied unequivocally, her hand grazing the bulge between his legs and watching as the rigid erection seemed to grow inches in length at her light touch.

“Then, Buff,  I suggest you decide *where* or you’re going to find yourself backed up against that tree over there and fucked standing up.”

Buffy’s breath caught at his blunt words, the image highly provocative and increasing the throbbing between her legs.

“I think here.” She murmured softly, glancing around at the grassy clearing. They had already moved quite a ways away from the dead Saubhaudra demon, and were in a pleasant clearing surrounding by crickets chirping and the scent of night blooming jasmine wafting through the air. It was almost… idyllic. “The first time.”

The implication of her words ‘the first time’ sent an added rush of wicked anticipation through his senses. He was more than willing to oblige her, however often she wanted it.  In one more minute, however, if she continued the deft manipulations of his already hard cock she was going to find herself flat on her back with him buried deep between her thighs.

Teasingly, her eyes locked on his, Buffy stepped back and slipped her jacket down over her arms, dropping it to the ground behind her. She removed the band from the ponytail holding her hair and shook her head slightly, allowing the golden mass to fall over her shoulders and down her back.

Angelus licked his lips, stifling a moan at her provocative display. She’d never played the seductive vixen for him before – the sight had him mesmerized and immobile.

She pulled her shirt over her head and tossed it on her jacket. Next she kicked off her boots and socks. With a coy expression, she unzipped her pants before turning her back on him.

A small heated silence ensued as he watched her, both of them struggling to control the ungovernable desire assailing them.

He drank in the sight of her firm back and trim hips, her hair brushing along the smooth flesh. He groaned as he thought of the feel of her hair on his body, stroking across him with unintentional feather light caresses.

At the low sound from him she cast a glance over her shoulder. She smiled, noting the pained expression on his face while his hand unconsciously stroked his erection through his pants. It was a heady sensation to think that she had so thoroughly captivated the attention of such an experienced and profligate creature as Angelus. She unfastened her bra and dropped it with exaggerated slowness off to the side. Her pulse rate sped up just a bit more as she shimmed out of her pants, bending slightly and arching her back to flaunt the curve of her behind.

She heard rather than saw him growl and yank off his belt, nearly ripping his pants in haste to get them open.

The grass was cool on her back, even through thick mohair of his long coat as he lifted her and laid her down on it in almost one swift move. She had only a moment to take his consideration for her comfort into account before he was kneeling between her legs, his hands easing her thighs apart.

He ripped her panties from her without hesitation, glancing briefly at her face when he heard the small gasp that escaped her lips.

“Hurry.” She breathed softly in plea, her eyes half closed as she regarded him covetously. His large body was blocking the moonlight overhead, leaving her shadowed in darkness. She could find no explanation for the feverish lust she felt. No one else had ever made her feel such mindless desire, not Spike, not Riley, not Robin. It was as if he possessed some hold over her, some potent allure, or perhaps some type of vampiric thrall.

But then again she thought with a small smile, Angel had more than just bewitching allure, her eyes taking in the enormity of his rampant erection as he slid his pants down his hips out of the way. He had physical attributes that most men would envy and most women would crave. She ached to feel him inside her. It had definitely been too long, much, much too long.

Her soft demand jolted his body and he plunged into her with any additional preliminaries or care, fraught with his own impassioned need for her. She clutched at his shoulders as her hips rose to meet him, the heat surrounding his shaft as her flesh yielded to his invasion nearly scalding him. She was so hot, so damned wet that he was able to sink into her so deeply on the first stroke that he felt the mouth of her womb. She whimpered slightly at the combined pleasure and pain and he glanced up at her face, terrified for one second that he’d hurt her. She was so small, so tight, so fucking hot.

But she only sighed with blissful delight and encouraged him to move, arching against him in a natural age-old rhythm. Impatient and needy she forced the pace when Angelus would have slowed, the strength of her legs aiding her in drawing him deeply and preventing his withdrawal until she was ready again to release him.

Angelus rocked against her, putting pressure on the most delicate of pleasure points as his way of protesting her attempt to control him. There was no question of his sexual accomplishments or expertise, his 200 plus years of experience giving him the advantage in knowing all the subtleties of pleasing her, all the pleasure points and sensations that could easily be called into use.

She keened softly as the rapturous satisfaction washed over her, his weight grinding hard into the sensitive nub of her clit as he pressed her into the cold, hard earth beneath them. “Fuck.” He whispered, holding himself firmly inside her as the rippling waves of her climax surrounded his cock and bathed him with shimmering ecstasy. He pressed forward an infinitesimal distance and then gloated in satisfaction as she screamed, panting hard beneath him and convulsing with pleasure yet again.

Her every little panting breath and whimpering cry seemed to vibrate through every nerve in his body. He was attuned to her in a way that he had never felt with anyone else; not Darla, not Druscilla and certainly not that cheap, shallow whore that had been occupying space in soul-boy’s bed for the last few years. The astonishing pleasure of Buffy’s body was unique in his much-explored sexual universe.

Incapable of restraint, they moved against each other in a feverish, pounding rhythm, exploring the extent of their physical need for each other in an avaricious, famished frenzy.

He was better than she remembered, longer, bigger, stronger… the fleeting thought crossed her mind only to be interrupted by his next powerful down stroke. Any further consideration of his delectable attributes was lost to the next tidal wave of glorious sensation, the powerful pull of orgasm sweeping over her once again.

Just after the peak of sensation subsided and her shudders of pleasure calmed, he pulled out of her and flipped her over onto her stomach, lifting her hips almost violently to bring her to her knees and then slamming back inside her.  His hands restlessly explored her body, cupping her breasts and squeezing her nipples, alternating between delicate tweaks and near painful pressure. In response, she ground her bottom hard into his groin, rocking her hips with unrestrained intensity. One large hand swept over her abdomen and between her legs, finding the sensitive nub of her clit and flicking it with his finger in time with his thrusts.

When the next explosive climax finally broke, he joined her, the shocking rapturous sensation washing over them both, burning through their bodies in wild agonizing convulsions before they collapsed heavily on to the soft darkness of his coat, face-first.

For a long moment she didn’t move, content to lie beneath him despite the crushing pressure of his heavy weight. She savored the abating waves of pleasure radiating through her senses.

After another few minutes she wiggled and he obligingly rolled off. Patting him lightly on the hip, she murmured, “Hmmm… that was great.”  She stretched slightly and glanced around for her clothes.

Angelus looked up from his reclining position next to her, his gaze speculative. Her seemingly casual attitude annoyed him.

“My place now?” She questioned, fastening her bra. “If you want.” She amended with a small smile, taking note of his sudden rigidity and disgruntled expression.

“We can both get naked and try out my bed.” Buffy shook out her jeans and stood, pulling them on glancing over at him as she zipped them up.  He was still fully dressed, although his pants were still unfastened giving her a rather licentious and titillating thrill.

He grunted softly, an almost inaudible sound.  But within seconds he was on his feet and following her.