"You made it!" Fred squeaked with obvious enthusiasm as she came to a skittering halt in front of Angel.
He smiled warmly at her and nodded. Fred was positively glowing as she looked at him. Buffy's gaze raked over the tall, thin girl ruthlessly. Fred was pretty and feminine, even outfitted in the standard issue DHST attire and tags. She looked like an adorable little farm girl, innocent and sweet. Buffy suddenly wondered just how well the two were acquainted. She stepped back from Angel.
Or tried to, anyway. As the Slayer stepped back, Angel countered perfectly, shifting his weight and exerting just enough force to pull her flush against his side. He quickly wrapped a strong arm around her shoulders, pinning her to his body with enough force for it to be a warning.
Fred's gaze shifted to the petite blonde in Angel's embrace. Though her gaze wasn't as nakedly reproachful as Buffy's had been, she studied the other female from head to toe. She took a deep breath that caused her nostrils to flare and quickly frowned. Her enthusiasm waned by degrees.
"Fred," Angel said, "this is Buffy."
Fred tried to hide her disappointment behind a cheery smile. "Hi," she said, waving enthusiastically. "I didn't know Angel had a mate."
Angel squeezed Buffy so tightly that she couldn't have spoken if she wanted to. She merely nodded in greeting. Slowly, Angel relaxed his grip.
"Come on," Fred said, "have a seat."
Angel followed, pulling Buffy with him as they pushed through the crowded space. He paused every now and then to acknowledge other DHSTs he knew. "Willow," he said with a nod to his former friend who was now employed in the library. She nodded in return, but quickly turned her gaze back to her companion.
They sat and spoke with Fred for close to two hours while they waited for the elusive Lindsey to show. Buffy spent the entire time glued to Angel. Much to her own surprise, she wasn't too unhappy with the situation. She had no idea what had happened in the hallway upstairs. One second she had been trying to repress her natural instinct to stake a vamp and the next she was climbing all over him and whining for more.
Angel didn't seem to be too bothered, or at least he was hiding it well, chatting easily with Fred as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Buffy blushed. She knew he had been excited earlier. She could still remember the feel of his rigid sex pressing against her abdomen as he purred in her ear. The memory made her body tingle low in her belly and she felt hungry for more. She hadn't even realized vampires could purr.
She shook her head to clear it and reached for her drink, taking a large gulp of the quickly cooling coffee. She couldn't be having these thoughts. She just couldn't.
Angel caught her gaze, idly rubbing the flesh on the back of her hand with his fingertips. The gesture was shockingly intimate ... and pleasurable. There was a determined look in his eyes that gave Buffy pause. She had a sinking feeling that she wouldn't be able to tell him no. Swallowing harshly, she looked away, but she couldn't bring herself to brush off his caress. Buffy had never thought herself overly fond of being touched, by anyone, but maybe that was changing. Ford rarely touched her in public. What a joke. Ford rarely touched her in private. And when he did, it sure as hell wasn't in the same zip code as what had happened when Angel had touched her.
While the two vampires talked, Buffy's body may have been focusing its attention on Angel, but her eyes roamed the room. Caritas, as it was called, was located in the basement of the abandoned building. There were a shockingly high number of DHSTs. There were legitimate vampires, as well as the rogues who were easily identified by the black rings of stained skin around their neck and wrists. They didn't wear tags, but they were still clearly marked.
What was even more shocking to Buffy than the number of vamps, was the number of humans. There were at least several dozen people in attendance, clearly because they were mates of the DHSTs hiding out in Caritas. Men, women, young and old were there, people from all walks of life. Several of the people, Buffy recognized. An attractive brunette woman in her early forties, clearly the mate of a blonde vampire who appeared to be about twenty-five, was a clerk at the library. She smiled openly when she saw Buffy with Angel, approval clearly evident on her features. Buffy blushed, hiding her face against Angel's shoulder. Looking in the direction Buffy had been watching, Angel figured out why Buffy had reacted, he nodded to the woman in reply, a smug grin on his beautiful features.
"You're liking this way too much," Buffy muttered under her breath while Fred was away, procuring more drinks for the three of them.
Angel smiled wickedly. "You're liking it too," he said quietly.
Buffy blushed again as she realized he could feel the aching tips of her nipples pushing into his arm. She didn't move away from him, though she knew it would have been for the best.
The night progressed and she and Angel made several promising contacts through Fred. It was fairly late when Lindsey finally showed, ordering a double vodka tonic and settling down into a dark corner alone. They decided to give him a while to relax before they approached him.
They never got the chance.
"I'm sorry to interrupt."
"Oh, you're not interrupting," Fred said cheerily to a lanky, dark haired human in his early thirties. He was dressed conservatively in a light blue dress shirt and a pair of tan slacks. He looked oddly out of place in the sea of black.
"I hate to break up your conversation," Wesley continued, his mood very sober, "but I'm afraid I need to speak with these two alone."
Fred smiled. Wesley's words seemed innocuous enough on the surface, but both Buffy and Angel were aware of the dozen large vampires flanking the man from a distance. The vampires wore no tags and were dressed in street clothes rather than the DHST attire. It was safe to assume they were rogue. Everything was being kept polite, but Buffy and Angel knew that if they resisted, that force would be used. Fred seemed oblivious to the undercurrent of tension.
"It would be our pleasure," Angel replied blandly, rising from the couch and pulling Buffy behind him. His movement forced Wesley to take several steps back. The human retreated, but his eyes never wavered. Buffy was impressed. Humanity at large may have deemed vampires to be unwarranting of their attention, but few of them would have held their ground in light of Angel's obviously aggressive move. Wesley was no lightweight.
"Nice place you've got here," Angel remarked casually as the door slid shut. They were standing in a room obviously used as an office area. They were still accompanied by the vampire guards and Angel kept Buffy glued to his side.
Wesley watched them carefully. "Yes," he said, "it is. And I would like to keep it that way. Now if the lady would please accompany me into my office ..." He gestured to a closed door.
Angel tightened his grip on Buffy. "Fred invited me here," Angel said truthfully. "I brought a ... friend along. I didn't get the impression we were doing anything out of the ordinary. Why is it such a concern?" His calm words belied the tension Buffy could feel in his body.
Wesley smiled mirthlessly. "It is a concern because none of the other DHSTs seeking refuge under my care have ever dared to bring a Slayer with them."
Angel's body went absolutely rigid. "I don't know what you're talking about," he blustered.
"Oh, but I think you do," Wesley said, narrowing his gaze menacingly. "You will wait out here while I speak with Miss Summers privately."
Angel opened his mouth to speak, but Buffy silenced him. "He's a Watcher," Buffy said quietly, never taking her eyes off of their adversary. "His name is Wesley Wyndham-Price."
Wesley smiled and nodded. "I spend most of my time in Archives, but I have had several occasions to meet the current Slayer," he explained evenly. "I'm shocked you remember me."
Buffy shrugged. "I'm good with faces," she said plainly.
"Obviously," he countered. "Now if you would, please."
"She's not going anywhere alone," Angel said, his voice full of menace.
"She has no choice," Wesley replied dryly, adding a smile.
"This is supposed to be a sanctuary," Angel ground out. "We are here, vampire and human, obviously together and you question our motives?"
"They're not your motives he questions," Buffy said insightfully. "They're mine."
Wesley nodded slowly, turning his attention to Angel. "You are a vampire," he said. "By default you are given the benefit of my doubt. She, however, is not."
Angel opened his mouth, but Buffy cut him off. "I'll be fine, Angel," she said, forcing Angel to turn and face her. He didn't look happy. "We need to talk to him," she said quietly, lacing the fingers of both of her hands through his and squeezing lightly. "I'll be okay, I promise." Buffy was well aware that their exchange was not that of supervisor to employee, but of two people with a strong personal relationship.
Angel sighed, but took a step back, releasing her. He didn't look thrilled, but he was resigned. Buffy nodded at Wesley and followed him as he led her into the small office. He took a seat behind the shabby desk and offered her a seat in the only chair. She slid into it gracefully.
"You're either a hell of an actress, or you're walking a very dangerous line," Wesley said.
Buffy smiled mirthlessly. "We're here to discuss you, not me," she said. "I'll worry about where I walk."
"As you wish," Wesley replied blandly. "Why are you in my club?"
"I'm looking for evidence of an organized DHST uprising," she said candidly. "Though, I'll admit that I was expecting to find Maggie Walsh pulling the strings, not a Watcher."
Wesley sighed deeply and sank back in his chair, a frown creased his forehead as he studied the young woman sitting across from him. He steepled his hands in front of himself in a thoughtful gesture. "So the Council is aware of Walsh's treachery?" he asked.
"Aware that something is up, yes," she replied. "The specifics are hard to come by."
"I had not heard anything to indicate that the Council had any idea," the Watcher said honestly.
"Are you involved?" Buffy pressed.
Wesley shook his head vehemently. "Most certainly not," he said with a disdain only a Watcher could affect. "Maggie Walsh is an affront to all of my sensibilities. The woman should be removed from The City and banished."
"If you've known about her for so long," Buffy asked, "then why didn't you alert the Council? You obviously have their ear."
Wesley swallowed harshly, his expression both guilty and angry. He had apparently been grappling with that very subject for quite a while. "I could not expose Maggie Walsh," he explained. "My situation is very ... precarious ... to say the least. Pointing the finger at Walsh would have drawn attention to me, my activities, my private life. I couldn't do that. It is not self-interest that motivates me. I have others that depend on me."
"Then what are you doing?" Buffy asked.
"Exactly what it looks like," Wesley replied, indignantly. "I provide a sanctuary for DHSTs living in The City. A lot, but not all, of them are rogue. I give them an alternative to sacrificing themselves for Walsh's cause or out of simple despair."
"Sacrifice?" Buffy asked.
"The Council's treatment of DHSTs is deplorable," Wesley said vehemently. "They are beings with human souls, yet they are treated as if they are merely lobotomized demons. They are given virtually no rights, no protections by the society that they have sworn to serve. They are treated like refuse. A large number of them are empathetic, caring, intelligent beings and they deserve better."
Buffy nodded. She knew first hand that everything Wesley was saying was true.
"Walsh is a cold, mercenary bitch," Wesley bit out. "She preys upon the misery and disillusionment which are so prevalent in the DHST community. She is heavily recruiting from their numbers for something which she knows to be a suicide mission."
"What is she planning?" Buffy asked.
"A revolt," Wes replied bluntly. "She plans an armed uprising against The Council and she will use them as her pawns."
Buffy had suspected as much, but hearing it laid out so coldly still shocked her. How could Walsh even attempt such an atrocity? It was beyond the pale. "She wouldn't dare," Buffy hissed.
Wesley laughed mirthlessly. "Oh yes she would," he said. "Maggie Walsh resents having to bend to the Council's regulations on her labs and experiments. She thinks she knows what is best for humanity. She desires total autonomy and she thinks she's made a deal which will ensure it."
Buffy went cold. It was unthinkable. "Walsh isn't working alone?" she asked.
"Maggie Walsh is a scientist," Wesley explained. "She doesn't have the financial resources necessary to instigate something of this magnitude. She's not stupid. She knows that Nabbit Industries won't back her once they find out what she's really up to. She's sold her proverbial soul to the devil so she can be free of the Council's sanctions."
"Varkesh?" Buffy asked, horrified at the very idea.
"Yes," Wesley replied.
"I can't believe it," Buffy mumbled as she walked down the street blindly. She was still reeling hard from Wesley's revelations and had quickly explained to Angel what had happened in the private meeting. She hadn't even noticed that Angel's hand was still clamped firmly around her own.
"Human avarice knows no bounds," Angel said dryly.
Buffy turned her head and looked at him. She couldn't deny the veracity of his statement. Walsh was about to sell her own species to the demons in return for the freedom to play God.
"Not to make light of the situation," Angel said, "but some other things happened tonight."
Buffy flushed, remembering the feel of his arousal pressed against her. It was ridiculous but she felt some measure of pride in having him respond to her like that. He was by his own admittance well acquainted with sexual intimacy. He said he had many lovers and from the way he kissed, she had no trouble believing him. But still, he could be excited by the freaksome Buffy Summers and she reveled in that knowledge.
"Yes," she said bluntly, "something definitely happened."
He used his grip on her hand to slow her down as they neared one of the myriad of cemeteries they patrolled regularly. She didn't object as he dragged her through the sea of tombstones and quickly made a beeline for one of the larger monuments. He pushed open the door to the large marble crypt and pulled her inside.
Buffy didn't even have time to think before she found herself in Angel's arms once again as he pulled her into his lap and sat down on a cold stone bench. Their position was somewhat precarious, with Angel seated on the bench and Buffy straddling his hips. Neither of them moved. Buffy could feel him, hard again, barely brushing against her. His eyes held hers, filled with stark hunger. Buffy swallowed harshly, but didn't look away.
His hands were suddenly on her body, lightly clasping her upper arms. He waited, motionless to see if she would resist the contact; if she would throw off his grasp and retreat.
Angel took a deep, shaky breath and his hands slowly made their way down her body, gently massaging her arms, until his hands finally rested on her hips. His fingers bit into her flesh, but it only excited her more, causing her breath to come in ragged bursts. Slowly, he pulled her against him until she was no longer crouching over him, but firmly sitting in his lap.
They both gasped at the contact, and Buffy couldn't stop herself from riding more tightly against him, grinding down on his hardness while she pressed her chest against his.
"Buffy," he gasped, twining his fingers through her hair as he pulled her lips to his.
There was nothing shy or tentative about her this time. Her mouth automatically opened under his, eagerly suckling his tongue. He moaned, wrapping his arms around her so tightly that she could barely breathe, but still she didn't stop. She pulled back long enough to take a breath and he turned the tides. She was helpless as he gently nipped and sucked her lips, alternately using his tongue to tease and soothe.
While she definitely enjoyed what was happening, Buffy had never been the passive sort. She already knew that he liked certain touches, so she put two and two together and decided that he would probably like other things as well ...
Angel yelped, grabbing her hips roughly and thrusting up against her as Buffy's teeth sank into the vulnerable flesh of his neck, just above his collar. She bit him fairly hard, but not hard enough to break the skin. She released him with her teeth and used her tongue to lave the wound.
"Did I hurt you?" she asked wickedly, removing her lips from his neck only long enough to utter the question.
"Gods ... yes ... do it again," Angel stuttered, too lost in sensation to think clearly.
Buffy smiled against his skin and bit down again, though not as hard as the first time. A shudder went through his powerful frame and she could feel him swell even harder beneath her. A stunning realization hit her.
She wanted him.
Not just to touch or tease or even talk to. She wanted him physically. She wanted to feel the hardness that tented the front of his trousers, demanding her attention. She wanted to touch him and make him beg. Never before had she ever been aware of any sexual power she might wield. She always shied away from it for fear of scaring off whatever human male she was with, but Angel clearly wasn't afraid. And he obviously liked it when she took the lead.
But she wasn't exactly sure where to lead. Suddenly, her hands were clumsy and she was all too aware that he was the experienced partner while she was the novice. What if she was making a fool of herself? What if he was trying not to laugh at her?
"Buffy?" Angel asked tentatively when she suddenly went still.
She was silent, keeping her head buried under his chin. Slowly, he pulled her back so he could see her face. She wouldn't meet his gaze.
"Did I do something wrong?" he asked quickly. "I didn't mean to rush. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done that."
Buffy shook her head. "No," she said, "you didn't do anything wrong, it's just ... "
"Just what?" Angel asked nervously. He was going to stake himself if he just messed up things with Buffy because he couldn't control himself.
"I don't know what to do," she said in a tiny voice.
Angel looked at her incredulously. "You were doing just fine," he said so seriously that it made Buffy smile.
"Was I?" she asked meekly.
"Yes," he replied with a wicked grin that made Buffy's body tingle.
She leaned forward to kiss him, but then stopped abruptly, her body going rigid. Angel looked at her plaintively, but then he heard it too. Every sense went on alert. Someone outside was calling his name quietly. Angel and Buffy crept out of the crypt and peeked around the corner. Lindsey was searching the cemetery, quietly calling out to Angel.
"He has wonderful timing," Angel said dryly, his displeasure evident.
Buffy couldn't help but smile. He frowned at her in return and pulled her close for a hard, quick kiss.
"Go on," he said. "Odds are he won't talk to me with you around. I'll meet you back at the library later."
Buffy nodded and left quickly. They needed Lindsey and whatever information he might be able to provide, but it didn't make her any more happy about leaving Angel.
[End Chapter 10]
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