Written for the Angel Elders Mansion and Blood Roses Alliance.
The month of July’s theme is a holiday one. So, I called this Holiday. Lazy or what?
This tale is unbeta’d, so any and all mistakes are my own. My super beta, Jo, is away on holiday, at Writers Con and this is for her and all her hard work. For Deb too, who wondered at the word Holiday and oh, sunglasses came up in conversation.
The brilliance of the sunlight almost made his eyes water. His eyes aching, squinting against the glare he reached into his breast pocket and found the sunglasses there. Much better, he thought, as the ultra-violet rays disappeared behind tinted lenses. He was sitting under the portico of the hotel that faced the beach. Thankfully, there was a lot of ground between the sand that glowed white-hot in the midday sun and his seat in the shade. From his vantage point he could see the curl of the waves lap cool against the grains of bright silica, the water soothing in both touch and sound. It was supposed to be relaxing, a reward to sit here and enjoy the view. A lump formed in his throat. It brought pain instead, but then, everything these days did.
He sighed and fiddled with his glass. The beads of moisture dripped, became a pool of water around the base, and when he lifted the drink the moisture fell and with a cool wetness darkened his already dark shirt.
He sighed again and put down the glass. He really had to stop doing that.
His hearing being what it is, picked out shrieks of laughter; water logged sounds from the beach. People were having fun. He was having fun. He was here, wasn’t he, having fun?
A wet kiss on the back of his neck made him shiver. Not from the cold, but from the sensual tingle that climbed down his vertebrae and curled in the pit of his stomach.
“Having fun?” Buffy asked, as she plopped her freshly showered and still damp body down next to his. He thought the deck chair would collapse trying to contain the energetic body within.
“Fun…yeah…see me having fun.”
Her hazel gaze swept over him trying to see behind his dark glasses. Her lips made a moue. “You’re not, are you?”
Putting out a hand, he caressed her brown thigh. The thrill that coursed through him wasn’t in his spine or his stomach.
“I am now,” he said, hoping his smile was sexy.
Her grin was wicked. “Uh-huh! I bet this was your plan all along. Get the girl by looking miserable, and can she do something to cheer you up?”
“I can’t get away with anything, can I?” he lied.
She grabbed his fingers and laced her own through them. “It’s not fair. You get to ogle bare flesh, while I only see silk and cotton.”
“We can go back to the room?” he said, wanting to, aching to.
“Tempting,” she said, and made it sound like a promise.
“Where’s the others?” she asked, craning her neck to see down to the beach.
“I don’t know.” He didn’t really know; he could guess, often did, but did not say.
Fingers still entwined, Buffy looked back at him with a frown. He didn’t like to see her worry, so he leaned in and kissed her ever so gently. Her face cleared, and the worry forgotten, she smiled.
“You are trying to seduce me,” she accused.
He tasted salt, shampoo, and chap-stick.
“You were swimming when I woke. I missed you.”
It was she who moved to kiss his lips. Footsteps whispering in their ears informed them that other guests were about, perhaps watching the couple on the patio. Angel paid them no mind and he was sure that Buffy was ignoring them too.
His lips warmed against hers and without breaking contact, Buffy slid onto his lap. Oh, the pleasure of having Buffy-flesh against his. One lucky hand, fingers splayed across her bare back, pulled her tight, the other hand tangled fingers in golden hair. Buffy moaned into his mouth, her sweet tongue lapped at him, tasted him. She wriggled, and it was his turn to moan and, he definitely wanted to taste her. She burned; a radiant heat against his cool, a cool that was being consumed by her fire. Taut with desire, he forced his lips away from her and rose from his seat. Scooping her up in his arms, he swept through the doors and with long powerful strides was down the large hallway that led to their curtain-drawn room in no time at all.
He was inside the room in moments, and with a flurry of discarded clothing, inside Buffy.
Nothing else mattered.
Whispers, ghostly rumblings attempting to break through the bliss that was his, invaded his awareness. He refused to open his eyes: the disturbance would disappear if he ignored it. He tightened his grip and snuggled closer to his love.
The whispers drew close, evolved into actual words. He would scream if it didn’t mean waking Buffy. He would never do that, not for the world.
“Leave him be. He’s exhausted.”
Yeah, that’s right, leave me be, he thought, trying to blot out the sounds.
“I know and I’m sorry, but…”
“Why is he sitting like that?”
The voices drew away. He could still hear them and he didn’t want to. His grip was death-like now, but then, wasn’t it always?
The same voice asked, “Is that normal?”
“He’s not normal,” the other voice, low, murmured. “Besides, what’s normal these days?”
“Could you…please? It’s important.”
He detected a trace of fear in the voice. Well there should be. He reached out to Buffy and found instead a slicing pain. The cold, wizened organ that was his heart squeezed tight. She was gone.
“Angel? Can you hear me?”
He opened his eyes. Two men stood before him, one little more than twenty. Both were people he knew, friends or close to being friends. He blinked. They were still there.
Terry, the young man, nervous, fidgeted. They knew it was a dangerous thing to wake a sleeping vampire. He didn’t have the energy to care.
Grant, a man in his thirties, a teacher in his other life and knowing the vampire far longer spoke.
“I’m sorry to wake you, Angel. Terry says it’s urgent.”
Angel’s eyes slid to the younger man.
“A Talaquia is loose downtown.”
Talaquian demons were big, too big for any one man, or in this case, several men to take down. They could do it, but they needed help. His help. Without moving his head he looked down at his hands. They were wrapped around the sword that was laid across his knees. It was that he had been clutching thinking it Buffy. He eased his grip from the blade – marvelled at the now bloodless gash on his palm - and tightened the one he had around the hilt. He had cleaned the sword, a man or vampire always looks after his weapon, but had been too exhausted to bother with his person. The vampire inclined his head and reacquainted himself with his torn and bloody attire.
He stood, ignored the sudden intake of breath from young Terry, who, hastily stepped back. Grant did not, however.
The man instead offered, “Can I get you something, Angel? There’s O pos in the fridge.”
Too tired to answer, Angel just shook his head. His food was human now. Donated or stolen, it didn’t come gushing, spurting, deliciously hot from the neck, and that was his only saving grace. Civilization had broken down. Lawlessness ran riot. Demons were no longer the bogeyman under the bed; they were the monsters on the street. The apocalypse had arrived along with the dragon and the hordes of demons sent by the Senior Partners. Twenty years hence, Buffy was dead, as was Giles and almost everyone who knew her. Her death still twisted his gut, ripped out his heart and yet, he survived because living through it wasn’t an option for him.
The two men in his room were members of his new crew. Somehow - and he could never understand why - people came and stayed. Stayed to fight, to help in any way they could, to make a difference, he supposed. The world needed that difference. Fight the good fight, yeah? And that was what he did, what he would do, until he was particles of dust that no-one will remember had ever been a man. He belonged to the world of fighting. He would honour the dead by saving the living, maybe save himself in the process, although that was not why he persevered. It was the doing, the fighting, and if it involved suffering, pain, and heartache, so be it. He was a creature of darkness: his kingdom, pain and suffering, and, he was on intimate terms with both.
And if he went away on holiday once in a while – albeit a vacation through the strange workings of his mind – who’s to say that that world wasn’t as real as the one he left behind. In that world he could be happy. Perfectly happy.
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