"'Bout time," Ford said as Buffy joined him in his booth at the Bronze.
"Sorry," she lied, "we had to run down a few leads."
Ford shrugged and turned his attention back to the band. He made it very clear on several occasions that he didn't like to be reminded that she was the Slayer. He never asked about her work and he discouraged her from speaking about it. Whenever he introduced her to his friends, which wasn't often, he never mentioned her last name or what she did for a living.
Buffy settled back against the cushions of the booth. At least she didn't have to worry about him touching her. She was still visibly bruised from the run-in that she and Angel had with the nest of DHSTs. Ford never touched her when she had any visible imperfections. He didn't like them.
Or, at least, that's what he said. Maybe he just didn't like her and that was a convenient excuse to avoid touching her at all.
Buffy pushed away the thought. What good would it do to think such things? It wasn't like she could do any better. At least Ford would be seen with her in public. Most guys wouldn't dare date a Slayer, regardless of how much they might be able to gain from the association. She knew that Ford got ribbed by his friends about being physical with someone so much stronger than himself. Most male egos couldn't take the constant criticism.
Buffy thought about it for a moment. She couldn't remember the last time any guy had been able to hold his own in a fight with her. She had always been freakishly strong, even as a small child. She had no memory of ever being bested in a fight by a guy.
Except ... for Angel. But he wasn't a guy, he was a ... Well, he was something else. Sure, he could hold his own in a fight with her, they both generally won as much as they lost against each other. And he never seemed to mind that she was so strong. Much the contrary, he often gave her fighting tips. And he'd told her never to be ashamed of her strength ...
And he said she was sexy as hell.
Buffy felt a blush rise in her cheeks at the thought of Angel's words. She was the Slayer, and he was a vampire, but she couldn't deny that there was a definite attraction there. Buffy sighed wearily. Thinking about this made her head hurt.
"You look chipper this evening," Giles commented sarcastically as Angel snarled at the text he was attempting to translate. When the vampire didn't respond, Giles asked, "Where's Buffy?"
"With Ford," Angel bit out.
"Oh," came the Watcher's quiet reply.
"What?" Angel snapped.
"I take it you don't like Ford," Giles said calmly.
"No, I don't," Angel said, and then added, "and I don't like how Buffy acts around him."
Giles nodded, pouring a cup of tea for both himself and the vampire. "At times it appears she is trying to live in two different worlds," he said quietly.
"That's putting it mildly," Angel grumped.
Giles gave him a chiding look. "If I were you," he said, "I wouldn't be so quick to judge. She's young and she is trying to maintain two completely divergent lives. I'm sure at times it's all she can do to keep her head above water."
Angel frowned, but took a sip of tea as he looked at the Watcher. Giles definitely had a point. While Buffy was a Slayer and very comfortable in that role, she was also a young woman. A young woman that had never been afforded the opportunity to act as one.
"Somehow I doubt the fact that you're enamored of her helps your objectivity any," Giles added quietly.
Angel opened his mouth to protest, but then snapped it shut. Obviously Giles was as aware of his affections for Buffy as Holtz had been. Somehow, he didn't think Buffy was quite as clear on the concept. Or maybe she was, and she just didn't care.
Angel intended to share his good news about Caritas with Buffy that evening, but obviously plans hadn't gone as he hoped. For a moment, he debated going to Caritas without her, but then decided against it. He knew how important the discovery would be to her, and irritated or not, he wouldn't be that much of a jerk.
"This place?" Buffy asked the next evening as she warily eyed the supposedly abandoned warehouse.
"That's what she said," Angel replied blandly.
"She?" Buffy asked, cocking an eyebrow speculatively.
"Her name is Fred," Angel replied. "She seemed like a pretty sweet kid. I met her at the Council ball. She is a friend of Anya's would-be boyfriend."
"She's a vamp," Buffy declared, knowing that Anya's admirer, Xander, was a vampire and that if Fred had been working at the ball, she was a DHST as well.
"So?" Angel countered, quietly daring her to give him a lecture on vampire behavior.
"Never mind," she said in exasperation, irritated that Angel had neglected to mention meeting another female.
Buffy started on a slow circuit of the building, looking for a doorway or window that showed signs of heavy traffic. About five minutes later, on the back end of the building where it abutted a small grove of trees, they found a loading dock. They watched it for nearly half an hour from the cover of trees.
"That's it," Angel said after they watched an untagged DHST enter through a hidden doorway, his neck and wrists dyed black from the leather bands he somehow managed to remove.
Rogue DHSTs were rare, but not exceedingly so. Vampires had been admitted to the city for nearly a century and a half. The human population was verging on ten million, but the DHSTs still numbered only in a couple tens of thousands. Every now and then, one of them would go rogue, remove its tags, and live in The City's underground. For the most part they were harmless, avoiding humans at all costs. It generally wasn't time efficient to hunt them down and remove them. So long as they didn't start massing in large numbers, the Watchers' Council turned a blind eye. Buffy had caught sight of them every now and then on patrol, but she never knew any of them to be aggressive.
"You're sure?" she asked, wary of following the rogue.
He looked at her for several seconds and nodded curtly. "I can smell them," he said with a mocking smile.
Buffy turned away lest she say something to him and they get into a huge fight in the middle of their recon mission. He had been copping an attitude all evening. She knew it was because of the whole mess with Ford the previous evening. But why should she have to defend herself to Angel? It was none of his business.
"You coming?" Angel asked and Buffy suddenly realized he was heading towards the loading dock.
"What are you doing?" she hissed, her head whipping around wildly to see if anyone was watching them.
"Going inside," he said evenly, like he had been invited over for afternoon tea. Much to Buffy's horror, Angel shrugged and walked over to the loading docks. It took him several moments, but he eventually located the door the vamps used to gain access to the building. Pulling it open, he looked at her in blatant challenge.
With a muttered curse, she picked up the gauntlet he threw down and left the cover of the trees. Angel stepped through the door and waited for Buffy. When she cleared the threshold, he pulled the door shut again, making sure it looked just as it had before they passed through it. The lighting was dim, but sufficient for the Slayer to make out their surroundings. They stood, close together, in a long, narrow hallway.
Angel shrugged off his jacket and handed it to Buffy.
"I'm not cold," she said.
"I don't care if you're cold or not, put it on," he replied acridly.
He glared at her in the darkness. "How is it," he asked, "that you're so good at hunting vampires without understanding them at all?"
Buffy flushed, thankful for the bad lighting, but remained silent.
"Smell is very important to us DHSTs," he said. "You smell like a Slayer, so take this coat and wrap it around yourself. It won't completely disguise it, but it should muddle it."
Silently, Buffy took the black leather jacket that Giles had given Angel some weeks earlier, and pulled it on. It was far too large for her and she had the bunch the sleeves up so her hands cleared the material. When she had the jacket situated, Angel grabbed her wrist and pulled it up to his face. Buffy was irritated with the vampire, but she still trusted him, so she didn't pull away as he pressed the inside of her wrist to his mouth. The action was slow and deliberate as he licked her wrist. When he was done with one wrist, he dropped it and grabbed the other, repeating the action. He pulled away and looked at her with a frown.
"Don't get upset," he said quietly.
"What are you talking about?" she asked, trying to shake off how strange the gesture had made her feel.
"I need to ... " he started. "I need to mark your neck."
"Mark?" she asked.
He sighed in exasperation. "I told you that smell is really important to vampires. We mark our possessions."
Buffy turned her wrist over and looked at it. "You ... marked ... me?" she asked.
"Yes," he replied cautiously. "Don't worry, it'll wear off in a day or two and only vampires can sense it. But I need to get a few more of your pulse points."
"This will make me smell like a vamp?" she asked.
He was silent.
"No," he finally replied. "It will make you smell like a kept human. But more importantly, it will mask the fact that you're a Slayer."
"Oh," Buffy said quietly.
She looked at the tags on his neck and around his wrists. The tags that proclaimed to the entire City that he was her property. She couldn't help but think back to his suite on the night of the Council ball and she swallowed convulsively. The situation had been reversed, with her removing the marks from his neck and wrists, while he was here intentionally doing the opposite to her. Yet, she felt hot and anxious, much as she had the night in his room. "Okay," she said quietly.
Slowly and carefully, Angel reached for her. They were well used to each other's presence, but she was still the Slayer and allowing any vampire near her neck was bound to set off some primal warning bells. He pulled her closer and closer, until their bodies were in full contact from chest to knee. He watched as her fingers curled into the material of his shirt, clutching it tightly out of nervousness.
Much to his shock, she flipped her head, baring her neck to him. She didn't look at him, her vision firmly fixed on the center of his chest, but he almost trembled at the force of the gesture.
With an unsteady hand, he reached up and cupped the back of her head, twining his fingers through her loose locks and urging her to bare even more of her vulnerable throat. She did, without hesitation. He maneuvered her closer, until her forehead was resting against the solid wall of his chest. She was nervous, he could tell that much, but she wasn't giving him any resistance. He lowered his head so that his lips were resting at her temple. They were both breathing hard and her fists closed even tighter around the material of his shirt.
"You okay?" he asked quietly as one hand gently gripped her hip and the other massaged her scalp.
She nodded against his chest, taking a deep breath and releasing it. She pressed herself more fully into him, silently encouraging him to get on with it.
He pressed a hard kiss to her temple before his lips ventured lower. He maintained constant contact, skin to skin, so as to not to startle her by suddenly touching his not-quite-human temperature lips to her neck. He nuzzled against her, pressing his lips to the hollow beneath her ear.
She sucked in a startled breath, pulling tightly on the fabric of his shirt. Angel stilled, but didn't remove his lips from her flesh. She didn't pull away.
He gave a fleeting thought to the wisdom of pulling her so tightly against himself. He wasn't toying with her or inventing excuses to touch her. They were ready to walk into what they both assumed would be a large nest of renegade DHSTs. They weren't there to do battle, they were there to get information. It was imperative that the vamps not realize that she was the Slayer. The easiest way of insuring her anonymity was by marking her.
It was business.
At least that's what he told himself. His body didn't seem to care if it was business or not, and was reacting instinctively, exactly as it had on the previous occasion they were touching so intimately. Pressed as tightly as she was against him, there was no way that Buffy could miss the insistent press of his arousal. Nor was he apt to miss her excitement. He could feel the sharp points of her erect nipples pressed into his chest through the multiple layers of clothing.
Without conscious thought he started purring, a low, deep rumble buried in his chest. His lips parted and he suckled the flesh of her neck with infinite care. He gently nipped and licked, leaving his scent on her warm flesh as a calling card. He was claiming her, publicly stating that she was his.
Angel didn't still as Buffy's hands released his shirt. He was certain that she was going to push him away, but instead, her hands twined around his neck, holding his head to her, pressing him more forcefully into her flesh.
He took the hint, gripping her more tightly, nipping a little more forcefully. He bit down on her flesh with blunt teeth. It wasn't hard enough to break the skin, but it might bruise. He felt himself grow harder at the thought of her bearing his mark. He growled lightly, pressing his lower body against her. She let out an almost inaudible moan of pleasure in response, digging her fingers into the corded muscles of his neck. Angel's entire being throbbed. He could smell the way her body was reacting and it made him want to do more than just mark her with his kisses. Slowly, thoroughly, he worked his way from one side of her neck to the other, pressing kisses from her jaw to her collarbone. Eventually, his lips rested in the hollow under her opposite ear, his job completed.
Angel suddenly became aware of the fact that they had moved. Buffy's back was flush against the cold concrete wall of the hallway and he was pressing into her forcefully, sparing her none of the bulk of his weight. Their legs were entwined and her hands now gently sifting through the hair at the nape of his neck. He was all too aware of the harsh sound of her ragged breathing as it echoed in the hallway. Neither of them moved to end the embrace.
Slowly, Buffy shifted, but rather than moving away, she pressed her cheek into Angel's. The vampire pressed back, sliding his flesh along hers as his mouth rooted for its mate. The first contact was tentative, lip to lip. Angel started to pull back so he could look at her, but she wouldn't let him. Somewhat clumsily, she pulled his head back to hers.
It was all the incentive he needed. With the practiced ease of almost three centuries of experience, he kissed her. It was gentle, rather than an assault. He slowly circled the plump fullness of her lips with the tip of his tongue, silently begging admittance, but allowing her every chance to refuse. She didn't refuse him. Her lips parted, meeting his with hungry abandon. He nibbled on her bottom lip and she repaid him in kind. Tentatively, his tongue made shallow forays into her mouth, coaxing her to do the same. She did, hesitantly exploring the texture of his mouth, astounded by its cool, sweet taste.
She moaned into his mouth, a heady, needy sound. Angel swallowed her plaintive wail with his kisses, but instinctively moved his lower body against hers, grinding his aching hardness against the juncture of her thighs. She gasped, but before he could pull away, she kissed him harder, more hungrily. She widened her stance and threw one leg over his thigh.
Warning bells went off in Angel's head and he almost growled in frustration. As much as it pained him to stop, he knew they must. Slowly, he pulled back from Buffy. She let out an unhappy whine and attempted to pull him close again. With more than a little effort on his part, mental, as well as physical, he moved his hands to his neck and wrapping his fingers around her wrists, freed himself from her grasp. He pulled back and looked into her wide, startled eyes.
"Buffy," his lips caressed her name.
She blinked rapidly and her vision flitted around the space nervously, as if she couldn't believe what had just happened. He methodically untwined their legs and stepped back so that he was leaning against the far wall. Given how cramped the hallway was, he didn't go far.
His eyes caught hers once again, but rather than the relief he had expected to see there from having released her, all he saw was hurt and embarrassment. She blinked back tears, instinctively wrapping her arms around herself. Without thinking, he grabbed her forearm and pulled her hard against his body, gathering her in his embrace. Regardless of her earlier distress, she burrowed her head against his chest. He rocked her slowly, trying to soothe her as well as himself. Both of them were completely overwhelmed, unprepared for the fact that their business had quite suddenly become starkly intimate and mutual.
Angel didn't know how long they stood in the narrow hallway, but it was a safe bet that it had been too long. They needed to get moving, and fast. "Buffy," he said, "we need to get inside."
She pulled back far enough to look up at him and nodded slowly, trying to push away any lingering awkwardness.
"We'll talk about this later," he said, leaving her no doubt what exactly 'this' meant. "But right now, we have to finish the mission."
She swallowed harshly and nodded again, not trusting herself to speak. Her emotions were in perfect turmoil at the moment.
"You're probably not going to like this," he said, "but you're going to have to follow my lead. I need you to keep quiet and stay in the background. Don't do anything to draw attention to yourself."
She sighed heavily, knowing it was going to be easier said than done. She wasn't used to taking orders or remaining in the background, but at the moment, she didn't even trust herself to speak.
"Come on," he said, grabbing her hand and pulling her behind him.
[End Chapter 9]
Feedback to indie
Back to Domestication Index
On to Next Chapter
Back to Previous Chapter