Buffy sniffled and sucked salty liquid up her nose. Blood? Not sticky enough. Sweat. Strings touched her face...no, it was her hair, hanging limply, stiff with sweat and...blood? She wasn't sure. She lolled in her chains and thought of him, the bargains he was trying to make right now. She hoped he'd take a while to turn it back on him, because she could take more, she could take much more. What would keep it on her, once it got bored with him again? Maybe that was it...boredom. What could be more boring than being the First Evil? How could she make it interesting, more interesting to torture her than him? Maybe she could work the girl angle. Angel was so weak right now.
Another blow came out of the darkness, a slam from nothing. It was like wind, or like a shock wave. It shattered through her. She felt the organs in her chest and belly quiver and then come to rest; then the pain, like a scream trapped inside her body trying to get out. The pain ricocheted through her throat and belly, into her shoulders, bounced through her chest, until she felt she might not breathe again. Then it subsided. She vomited for the third time in...how long? She spat and looked up into blank darkness.
"Weak," she coughed, the acid in her throat making her voice raw, "You gotta lead from the hip,"
Another hit came and Buffy buckled down inside herself, focused. Think. Think the right thoughts. Stay up.
Buffy thought of Joy's first day at school. She had kissed her mother solemnly, told her not to worry, patted her on the head. Buffy watched from the window as Angel squatted in the doorway, handed Joy her lunch, kissed her. Joy had leveled her eyes at her father.
"I'll be home soon," she had said, to comfort him.
Then she had traipsed down the front walk, tiny and blonde and undaunted.
Buffy had sighed, thinking, There she goes, the last baby, she's going to conquer all and leave us behind.
Angel shut the door. He came around the corner into the living room and stopped. They looked at each other. An entire domestic life hung between them, like a garish bead curtain of detail, of parent-teacher meetings and football practice and ballet and shopping and demon-slaying. Buffy looked at him and the strands of noise and obligation began to part, because what kept them there was each other, it had begun with them and it was still about them, it was their creation. Buffy looked at him and the details began to drop and roll away and she could see him more clearly, she could see the same thing happening in his eyes, that they didn't, for the moment, have to be business partners bent on successful family life and war. For the moment, they were alone, they could be THEM.
She opened his robe and put her hand on his chest; it was next to her every night, it was right there at eye-level every day, but now she took a minute and put her hand there, there where she listened for his languid heart to move in the morning and at night. He was a little warm today; every year he seemed to get warmer. When Joy had been born he'd actually sighed, he'd taken his first breath in hundreds of years that day, and they had both wept over it and then laughed until their faces had hurt. So much history between them, and this chest was so much hers. Now she felt his skin under her hand vibrating like it had the very first time she'd touched him there, even though so much had changed. It was still him.
She smiled at him. He smiled back, very softly; his eyes were sleepy. She moved her hand up his throat, over his cheek. He closed his eyes. She slipped her hand around the back of his neck and went up on her toes, pulling his mouth to hers, and they kissed very lightly. Buffy pulled away and traced his mouth with her fingers, rediscovering it. It didn't look like a generous mouth, from a distance, it could tighten and narrow easily, but under her touch his lips softened and opened as easily as petals. She kissed the bow of his upper lip, then she fell to smoothing her fingers over them again, plying them slightly. She'd never really done this, in their years together she'd never made a careful study of his lips. How many other things hadn't she thought of yet? He submitted to her with amusement, then faint arousal. Buffy kissed him again, thinking.
"Hey," she whispered.
"What?" he whispered back.
"Where haven't we-"
"Back of the couch," he said quickly.
She giggled, "Have you been thinking about that, too?"
"How?" she asked softly.
"Well..." his arms went around her, "We haven't done ANYTHING on the back of the couch,"
Buffy walked slowly backward. Her behind met the back of the couch and she paused. She turned and bent over it, lowering her face onto the cushions. He sighed. He went onto his knees and pushed her nightshirt over her hips. She brought her legs up, bracing them gracefully on either side of the back of the couch. She put her weight on her forearms and relaxed.
She felt his hands on her thighs, moving in long, firm strokes; then on either side of her sex, which was radically exposed.
"What do I look like?" she asked suddenly.
"Like the prettiest secret in the world," he said.
His fingers traced her sex lovingly, "Every day you're walking around with this between your legs. I think about it a lot, when I watch you walk,"
"Oh, yeah," he said, "More, now,"
"Why more now?'
"Because for so long I couldn't have you whenever I wanted you," He held her hips and pressed his mouth on her inner thigh, "I had to think about you and not have you. Now I think about ambushing you. I think about these," he let his lips glide along the petals of her and she could feel his mouth moving on her as he spoke, "How they shift when you walk, or if they do, and about how you smell, and how you taste, and in every mood you're in how long it would take to-" he swallowed, his voice had lowered to almost a whisper, "To make you wet,"
"Am I wet now?"
"Not quite yet. And I think about this little bud," his fingers held her clitoris, kneading it delicately, "When you cross your legs, do you put pressure on it? Does it swell when you cross your legs? Does it start heat inside you?"
"You think about all this?" she asked, smiling.
"All the damned time," he murmured.
"What do you want to do to me?"
"Look at you. Tease you,"
She crooned. He moved his mouth along the furled edge of her sex, tickling the tiny electric hairs there. He kissed the flesh surrounding it in a slow circuit, nudging the inner edges of his lips, the wet silky surfaces, closer and closer. He dipped a finger into his mouth and traced the edges of her and her sex parted like an invitation; she was wet now.
"They're swelling," he whispered, tracing the delicate inner petals with a slick finger, "They're getting darker, a color like that rose I found the other night, remember? Dark red,"
"Lick me," she begged, breathlessly.
"No, not yet, I'm going to kiss you," His lips enclosed her clitoris and held it with gentle pressure. His fingers teased the inner petals of her sex. They were parted now by the moisture seeping between them. His free hand traveled steadily up and down her thigh with a firm, smooth, reassuring touch.
Buffy sobbed. "Angel, please,"
He drew on her clitoris now, rubbed it between his lips. Buffy swallowed, then said his name again. His fingers opened her sex, holding the folds of her apart as his tongue began to move on the very tip of her clitoris, a tiny, coaxing stroke. He took it completely into his mouth and released it; he did it again, more and more quickly, his tongue moving slyly and knowingly as he slurped on her. Buffy braced her hands on the cushions of the couch and cooed, wriggling her hips desperately. He began licking her then with dedication as he held her hips securely in his arms, and Buffy convulsed and almost cried out for help. He brought her hips toward his mouth and devoured her and Buffy saw black; the blood was rushing to her head anyway, and now she actually went blank for a moment and then woke from it, coughing. He brought her legs down and pulled her upright against him; he held her cheek on his chest and began to unbutton her nightshirt. She turned and planted her mouth on his and tasted herself, sweet but with an electric tang, like the touch of her tongue to a battery. She sucked on his lower lip. Her night shirt fell; she pushed his robe off and raised her foot to grasp the waist of his boxers between her toes. She pulled them off him.
He pushed her backward and she perched on the back of the couch; he slid his arms under her hips. She raised her knees and braced them on his chest, she grasped his upper arms, holding on, and they both looked down to watch themselves meeting, to watch him disappear into her. Buffy contracted her sex and kept careful watch on his eyes; they stayed still, feeling the motion of her body around him. He moaned gutturally, cleared his throat. He kept his eyes on hers.
"OH," he said.
Buffy clenched him inside her again, then again, pulling him deeper, squeezing him. His mouth formed around a word and held it silently, not releasing it. She pulled on him more aggressively, rippling against him in a luxurious rhythm.
"Stop, stop," he groaned, "Stop,"
Buffy grinned, "What if I don't?" she panted.
He clenched his teeth and brought her right up against him, burying himself inside her. She cried out several times, lost in a bright pulse. Finally she was silent, blinking her narrowed eyes furiously, trembling.
"Here's what," he hissed. He began lunging into her slowly, giving her his full length, then withdrawing almost completely, pausing, and diving again, torturing her with calculated vengeance. Breath shivered in and out of her as she tried to move on him faster, but he held her in check, slowing even more. They glared at each other like opponents.
"Come on, come on!" she screeched.
"No," he grunted.
Buffy dug her nails into his arms and bucked on him. The couch teetered and gave way, spilling them on the floor. They were thrown apart. Buffy climbed onto him, gripped his chest and impaled herself desperately. They shouted together over and over, their cries falling peacefully in an empty house.
"GOD," said Buffy, "God,"
He plastered her against him as they lay on the floor.
"I love you," he said, "Kiss me,"
Salty kisses, a deep sigh from Buffy. Then from him. Buffy smiled with gratitude to hear it. It was, like his heartbeats, increasing slowly over time. They looked at the ceiling.
"Hey," said Buffy, "Living room ceiling,"
"Yeah. I've never seen it from this angle before,"
He beamed down at her.
"How can you not be bored with me?"
He laughed outright, a short laugh. Then he looked at her and laughed again. "How could I ever be?"
"I mean, is it...an immortal thing? Because-"
"You mean do I want 'variety'?"
"I've got plenty," he was grinning at her.
"You know what I mean,"
He brought her closer in his arms. Buffy put her hand on his chest. Thump.
"The reason I don't want other women...it's probably two reasons. First, I've HAD too many women already. I had a chance to use women just like I used all humans, more like an addiction than just feeding, even. Like junk food. You use one, kill another one, toss their bodies away like wrappers. Only demons do that...or humans who don't know their own value do that. If you don't value yourself you can't value anyone else. A lot of human men think in terms of commodity, because they're afraid of love in so many ways, they're afraid of being erased by it. Face eternity without love and then find love, and I guarantee you'll never forget what it means. But it's not even that...it's-it's you, Buffy. I know what I've got,"
"So...most men who get tired of their wives don't know what they've got?"
"Well, I think most men actually get tired of themselves,"
"They get tired of their lives and need someone else to take the blame for that,"
"How lucky AM I, anyway?" she marveled.
"Not as lucky as I am. I was the most useless thing in the world. Now I have everything. How could I get tired of YOU? How could I be tired of watching my daughters grow? It's miraculous, it's amazing, all of it, every minute of it,"
They lay on the living room floor, naked and moist against each other, kissing. The memory faded.
Buffy gasped now, because she saw him, his face, right in front of her. He was battered, like she probably looked, gray under the eyes and his mouth cracked and bleeding, but he was smiling at her.
"Memories," he said.
"We have so many," she smiled.
"They'll keep us alive," he said, and she knew he was right. So easy to slip into madness or to give up and die here, in the dark, separated, tortured to the brink. But with the memories they shared a space, they became fortified together, they fought as one.
"I love you!" she shouted, "I love you and I'll always love you!" Then she saw his image writhe and heard him groan, and he faded. Goddamn it. She'd lost it.
"HEY!" she shouted, "Hey, First Evil! What's the matter, can't handle a WOMAN?"
But her shouts went flat, as if into fog. She hung from her chains for a
moment, allowing her
body to relax. She had to think. Some way to bring it back to her, some way
to find out
more about it. Before it killed him.