Buffy padded silently down the alley. The figure at the end of the alley turned, spotted her, and bolted. Buffy leaped into a run and chased it around the building, across the street, down another street. She was hardly working at all tonight; she felt lighter and stronger than she had in weeks, her legs moved under her effortlessly. The vampire grasped a railing and attempted to swing upwards onto a fire escape platform; Buffy leaped into a flying side kick and got it square in the kidneys. It rolled onto the ground, growling. Buffy delivered a front snap kick directly under it's chin, snapping it's head back in a blow that would have put a human on a respirator. It scrambled up onto it's feet and looked her in the eye. It was about to speak, but Buffy sent a round-house punch and it's head spun to the left with a pop.
"Gonna have a little fun with me, hunh, Slayer?" it rasped.
Buffy threw a side kick into it's sternum, doubling it over.
"Gonna use it all up on me?"
Buffy paused. She hated it when they talked.
"Shut up!" she spat.
"You're here alone, hunh?"
She gave it a sinister smile. She bluffed like a seasoned poker player by now.
"You'll never get all of us," it wheezed, "Even your ex-boyfriend couldn't handle it,"
Buffy picked the vampire up by it's throat and smashed it against the wall. Slayers get stronger as they get older, the same way vampires do.
"Why don't you keep talking. I'll chain you up in that alley, and you can watch the sun come up. Would you like that?"
"Looking for Angel?" it countered, "I know where he went,"
"Sure you do," she said, pulling a short length of bike chain out of a pocket.
"Wait-wait, I do!"
"So keep talking. It better be good,"
"He went back to Manhattan," it lied, and Buffy changed her mind. She dropped the bike chain, pulled out a stake and thrust it home.
"Oh, Miss," the clerk behind the hotel desk hailed her, "You have some messages,"
Buffy looked at her watch.
"I've got messages at three in the morning?"
"Two urgent ones," the clerk held out two pieces of paper. Buffy took them and went up to her room. Not the Wilshire, but nifty service.
"Please call Giles as soon as conveniently possible" said one. How Giles was that? Buffy didn't even glance at the other message. She punched the number without looking.
"Yeah, I'm O.K."
"How many did you get?"
"Is this an 'urgent' question? The word 'urgent' tends to hype the panic glands. Is there a reason why you worried me?"
"Uh...yes...it seems there might be a box of documents left behind from his last move..letters, that sort of thing,"
Buffy let the phone dangle in her hand for several seconds. Privacy? What the hell was privacy? Were Slayers immune to it? She wasn't going to turn these over. No. Absolutely not. But she'd better check the box for something official-looking.
"I'll check it out,"
"How was your night?"
"Oh...smashing," Something was strange in her Watcher's voice. He sounded like he was hiding something.
"Giles, are you alright?"
"Uh-yes, of course...just, uh, check the premises,"
Buffy said goodnight and got out of her patrol outfit. She put on a night shirt and stood looking down at the box that she was beginning to fear. Were they all just letters to somebody about how he used to be in love with her, about how she was almost happy? About missing happiness, having only had a taste. About how emptiness was much worse when you've been full before....
Two things the living have invented that I allow myself: hot showers and soft towels. Of course refrigeration is convenient; cold blood in a bag keeps you alive, but it's never a delicacy. Hot water that warms the body and sweetens the skin is nothing less than ambrosia. Soap. All manner of scents, all manner of lathers. It's my weakness. It's one of my favorite things about America, the national obsession with cleanliness. Even if, at first, it meant nothing to me.
I know, I know....you think I owe it all to you. Not all of it.
In your own way, you have done a lot for me. It was a relief to finally be fighting them; well, a conflicted and strange relief, but the only I'd had in a hundred years or so. Killing other vampires lost it's horror after the first two. Of course there's horror....you get to see your own death. For me the squeamish side of it faded quickly, because I'd seen worse. Up close. And, of course, there was a young girl who was so alone...it was all about her, anyway, always. I fought them for her. You convinced me to be someone that counted, but Buffy made me a man again, or at least, as much a man as I'm capable of being. Just by existing, just by breathing, she made me want to be more, although after the experience on her windowsill I started thinking I should be a little bit less.
I avoided her for a couple of days; I just didn't show up anywhere. Things were moving too fast. She was coming into full bloom and I wasn't keeping up. I was afraid of losing control in a way that I couldn't explain even to myself; I needed to think, and....to stay away from her. Sound cowardly? Imagine that you haven't been touched by another living thing in over 100 years. Suddenly you're confronted with the most vibrant, sensual, beautiful being in the world....and you feel somehow that you could be a danger to her, not to mention the fact that you are absolutely unworthy of her. The world needs her; she's the Chosen One. What would you do?
I took long showers, and not as hot as I liked them. I had just got finished with one and got pants on when there was a knock on my door. It was Buffy's knock. That's a joke among the living, who haven't got the hunting senses vampires have. I could hear the shape of her hand.
I opened the door.
"Hi, come in,"
Her eyes were full of questions and something that bordered on hurt. This needed to be fixed. I was suddenly washed over with guilt.
"Buffy, I know I haven't been around,"
She looked at me full on.
"It's not-it's not anything about you, or-"
"Do you want to break up?"
"No," I said, too loudly. But she relaxed a little.
"I could still be a danger to you-"
"You've saved my life a few times now. Don't you think I might be in more danger if you're not around? Haven't we covered this?"
"You can take care of yourself," I said, with some admiration.
She turned away from me and paced the room once. Then she stood in front of me again.
"Do I look different to you now?" she asked.
I was confused.
"Yeah... now that...I mean, do I look weaker, do I look , I don't know, used-"
"Buffy-" I was shocked by how much I had hurt her.
"Have you lost interest in me-"
I couldn't help laughing. "Not likely,"
"Then why isn't it O.K. to want to touch you? If it's not about me, then there's no reason, because I want you. I know what I'm doing. I'm not a child. Life is going to be short for me, Angel-"
"Don't say that, don't ever say that," I took her shoulders in my hands. " It's not true,"
"It is true. I don't mean that every minute off-patrol has to be a swinging party, but I'm old enough to save the world from total destruction by demons. I'm almost old enough to vote. I've made some huge decisions in my life already. I know who I am, Angel. If you're afraid I'll get corrupted, it's too late. I already know what evil is. I already know that people die because sometimes I'm too late to save them. I already know that some of the worst things happen to the best people, and there's no reason why. I already know that some people don't get to fit in and be normal, ever. I already know that I can't have everything I want, and that life is short. What's left?"
I could only look into her eyes. I knew she was right about so much of it, but my core instincts were screaming. One of the first feelings I'd ever had for her was the urge to protect her. Her life would not be short. Not if I had anything to do with it.
"But neither one of us can know everything. There are things-that can be hidden, dangers we don't know about-"
"Angel, if you really aren't blowing me off, then this sounds a lot like paranoia,"
I gathered her close to me and pressed my lips to the top of her head. Every cell of me hungered to tell her I loved her. I was holding her tightly. I felt her sigh and relax even more.
"I know you respect me. I know you care about me. I know you want me," she said.
Tell her, tell her, the words raged through my mind.
She reached up and took my face in her hands and pulled my mouth onto hers. Her mouth was very warm, almost hot. Her hands wandered over me. An alarm went off inside me. I needed to get a shirt on. I started to pull away; she seized my wrist and pulled me back. She was using her strength. She meant business. Her hands were warm, too. They slipped over my shoulders, up an down my back, my neck, across my chest. It was heavenly. I loved her hands on me; if I'd been free to I would have just stood there and basked in her touch. Actually, I was doing just that. I jerked back from her. In one swift movement she tossed me over one of her legs, twisting and tripping me. I flew a good four feet and landed on the bed. Good shot, I couldn't help thinking. She wasn't only strong, she was accurate.
Her small hand went over my mouth. She crouched over me and kissed me ferociously, searching for my tongue and drawing deep on it. She gently gripped handfuls of my hair and released them. Her hands were all over me, kneading, stroking tenderly, gently raking her nails over my skin. Her fingers trailed downward, tantalizing my stomach with dancing fingertips. She began kissing my chest, tasting mouthfuls of my skin, devouring me with kisses. Her hands traveled over my hips, down my thighs, back upward, and then right onto where I was excruciatingly hard. I gasped and the muscles in my back arched sharply. I tried to move, but she had me pinned. Her hands were exploring the feel of me with first-time tenderness, lightly teasing. Her mouth traveled down further; she was kissing me just above my belt and dipping her tongue beneath...lower, lower. Her hands tested me, gripping, stroking, stroking harder, keyed to my responses, lengthening her strokes, quickening them. By this time I was completely unable to resist her; she was gaining confidence, moving her hands on me with her hunter's instincts, zeroing in on me. Her mouth was poised there; her breath was hot. She looked up at me, eyes brimming with desire.
I didn't hear myself shout but I felt my throat contract. It was like lightening tearing through me, sudden, jolting. Even in that moment I was afraid, but my body gave over to her, helplessly. I heard myself saying her name over and over like a song. She continued stroking and kissing me until it was over. She laid on top of me and planted her lips on mine. She kissed me until we both were starving for air; she settled down, wrapping herself around me on the bed, and then she sighed, a long, deep sigh of contentment. I was still shaking. After all, it had been a long time, by any standard; I had been fond of girls in my youth, but not one of them could have held a candle to Buffy. Buffy's vitality is both daunting and intoxicating. She's nothing like I remembered girls, who simpered and preened and manipulated. Buffy is the real thing. Centuries of observing the living, hunting them, drinking them down, had given me a deep understanding of them, but not necessarily of myself. It felt like my first time. I felt...exposed, and probably every bit as shaken as any vampire would be after being overpowered by a Slayer, after being so thoroughly and completely caressed that I could barely move.
"You'll never know how beautiful you are," she said.
I held her head on my chest and closed my eyes. I was relieved, but also nervous, and so in love I couldn't think straight.
Buffy thought to herself that it was really too bad that she didn't drink. If she'd ever felt like she might like to get hammered, now would be the time. He knew, she thought, on some level he knew, and I had to force the issue. She remembered the scent of him, clean and warm, the satiny feel of his skin, the strength in his arms, his big hands, his wonderful, velvety voice, the taste of him, his amazing eyes. Well, she was only human, Slayer or not. Slayers have needs, too. She said this to herself but it didn't make the ache go away.
She suddenly remembered the other message the desk clerk had handed her. It was on the nightstand unread.
It was a number. Just a number....and a weird line-up: +358 1 5555555. It must have been a mistake, mabey the clerk gave her a piece of his scrap paper. She put it back on the nightstand, looking at it. It gave her an eerie feeling, she couldn't explain why.
Time for bed, though.
Buffy dreamed of green....an entire land of green, rich, lush, emerald green. The sea, gray and wild. Sheep roaming on hillsides. She was walking through a churchyard, suddenly, at night. Gravestones, luminous in the bluish light of the quarter-moon, loomed around her. The quiet was so deep it seemed to stick to her like ink. She felt, rather than heard him. He was behind her and wouldn't let her turn around; it was some power he had. She started to cry. "Why?" She sobbed in the dream, asking why she couldn't see him. He spoke; it was the voice she hadn't heard for over two years, that soft, velvet voice. "You've got the number," he said.