A hundred things had happened since the last time he’d seen her. Things he wouldn’t be able to share with her. Things he would gladly tell her, if only to relieve the weight of them from his chest. Things that would break her heart; things that had split his wide.
But this was about business and as much as he would have liked to make it be about something other than that, he knew now was not the time.
For one thing, when he’d arrived she’d been pretty much in a life and death battle with some clown who seemed pretty handy with his fists. For another, he could smell Spike all over her; Spike leaked from her pores. Lastly, all rational thought and all the millions of things he wanted to say to her flew out the proverbial window when she realized he was standing there and smiled up at him.
He couldn’t not kiss her. That would have been ridiculous. The smile was an invitation, an invitation Angel recognized because she had given him the same one the first time she’d ever smiled at him. How old had she been? Sixteen? A lifetime ago.
So, without thinking of the consequences and pushing the thought that Spike had touched these lips with his own, and tamping down the need to tell her about ConnorCordeliatheBeastJasmineamillionsotherthings, Angel leaned down and kissed her, hard.
She’d felt like kindling in his arms, fragile bones he could snap in two with little effort, the way he and Kathy had snapped the wishbone from the turkey after Christmas dinner. But underneath the veneer of weakness was a reserve of strength that almost took Angel’s breath away, if he’d had any breath to steal.
And when they stepped away from each other, Angel saw something in Buffy’s eyes that he could almost mistake as relief. Then, Buffy’s adversary Caleb, as Angel had later learned he was called, made a return appearance and Angel stepped back to watch his girl, yes, his girl still, fight.
Outside, Angel gave Buffy the amulet. Buffy gave Angel the not surprising news about Spike. But then, she did surprise him. She told him to wait. And he did.
She delivered herself to him almost three months after Sunnydale was sucked into the abyss. He’d looked up from some dull paperwork Gunn had asked him to sign and there she was: a mirage in his doorway. The air stilled around him. And his first coherent thought was that this was a mistake of colossal proportions and his second: that he’d never seen anything so beautiful in his life than Buffy in the sunlight.
“Surprised?” she asked.
“Not really,” he said, pushing away from the desk and walking toward her.
She looked up at him, then, her eyes a deeper hazel than he remembered. He smiled a little, hoping that would help.
“I just thought it would take longer,” she said after a long moment.
“Longer to what?”
She sighed and moved past him, heading for the window that looked out over Los Angeles’s vast concrete landscape. He waited for a moment before he moved to stand next to her. “Magic,” he said unnecessarily, tapping the glass.
“I figured, seeing as you weren’t all crispy critter,” she said, the ghost of a smile lighting her face.
“Are you ready, Buffy?”
She made no response, just continued to direct her gaze into the smoggy horizon. “So, do you think I could have a job?”
“Do you want a job?”
“I don’t have any skills,” Buffy said.
“Neither does Harmony,” said Angel, “and I pay her.”
Angel took Buffy’s hand, so small, and led her to the couch, pulling her down with him. “Buffy, this has to be--”
“I know,” she said, “and I am. It’s just--”
“We’ll go slow.”
“I don’t want to go slow. I don’t want to waste another minute, Angel,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper.
“We have time.”
She shook her head. “No, Angel, you have time.”
She had a point, he supposed.
“Look. You just got here. Why don’t we have dinner, at least, before we start complicating things.”
That made her laugh. “I’d say things are already complicated.”
“Perhaps. But we don’t have to complicate them anymore,” Angel said.
So, dinner. Angel chose a restaurant that was intimate, but not overly romantic. He called ahead and asked for the most private table, but one that wasn’t cloistered. He asked Buffy to meet him there, and arranged to have a car pick her up. He dressed carefully, more carefully than he had in months. He ordered wine and sipped it, trying to recall the way it had once tasted on his tongue.
When the maitre de arrived, a nervous-looking Buffy in his wake, Angel stood while she was seated. Nothing felt right. Not this moment or this restaurant, not the money clip in his pocket, or the slim business card holder in his suit: Angel, CEO, Wolfram and Hart.
He poured wine into Buffy’s glass and waited for her to say something.
“How is this ever going to work?” she said, after bolstering her courage with a gulp of wine.
Angel lay his hands flat on either side of his place setting, felt the smooth cotton of the tablecloth beneath his palms.
“I mean, is it even going to work?” she asked quietly.
“I don’t know Buffy,” he replied honestly.”
She nodded. “Well, maybe that’s something to consider before we rush willy-nilly back into anything.”
She gave him a genuine smile. “You know what I mean.”
The waiter arrived and handed them small, hand-printed menus, advised them of the evening specials and took his leave.
Buffy stared down at the piece of heavy paper in her hand. The words on the page blurred together.
“Do you know how often we’ve actually had dinner together, out, like this?” she asked.
Angel stared at the top of her head. Her hair wasn’t the same sun-spun golden it had once been, but he still had an overwhelming urge to touch it, to lay his hand on her crown and feel the silk of it against his fingers.
“Never,” she said, answering her own question. “Not once.”
Angel bristled. “I suppose you and Spike had romantic dinners all the time.”
Buffy lifted her head and met Angel’s eyes across the table. Her eyes were filled with tears and he immediately regretted his statement.
She shook her head. “What’s the point?”
Angel didn’t understand.
“I mean, what’s the point in going back, Angel? We can’t go back, not really.”
“It isn’t like before Buffy. When I left you, after the Mayor, you were young and--” he paused, not wanting to seem patronizing. “—inexperienced. I thought that you’d find a way to have a better life. Christ. We’ve been through this a million times and I’ve been through it a million more times, alone, in my head. It’s just an endless circle.”
“This is my fault,” Buffy said, toying with the lip of her wineglass. “I told you to wait for me.”
“I didn’t need to be told. I’ve been waiting all along, not for you, for me. Waiting for redemption, forgiveness, shanshu, the sky to fall, whatever. But the truth of the matter is that I am still a vampire and you are still the Slayer…”
“Ex-Slayer. Sort of,” Buffy corrected him.
Angel shrugged. “It doesn’t matter.”
The waiter reappeared, pen poised to take their order. Buffy glanced down at the menu and quickly chose wild mushroom risotto, knowing it would taste like sawdust in her mouth. Angel ordered lobster fettuccine. The waiter collected the menus, refilled their wineglasses and walked away.
“We could just wait and see,” Angel said.
“Yes, and I could just spill my heart out of my chest and wait to get it trampled on all over again, too,” Buffy said, though she smiled a little when she said it.
Angel’s eyes darkened.
“You can’t even promise me that we wouldn’t hurt each other again,” Buffy said quietly.
No. I can’t, he thought.
“And, honestly, I can’t promise you that I won’t want more somewhere down the road.”
I want it now.
Their food arrived, two beautifully appointed plates, steaming hot and smelling delicious.
“Can I bring you…”
Angel waved the man away.
“Look. You need a job and I can give you one. I can help with an apartment and money,” Angel said. “What I can’t help you with is trust. You’re right to not trust me.”
Buffy shook her head. “No, Angel, it’s not you I don’t trust. It’s me.”
True to his word, Angel set Buffy up in a beautiful office, one floor up from his. Her title was the pretentious sounding: Special Projects Co-Ordinator. Vague. Well-paid. Nice digs.
Angel took her around the complex and introduced her to his key people: Gunn, Lorne, Fred. Wesley shook her hand warmly and inquired after Giles and the others. Angel showed her the room where Cordelia lay, silent as death.
He gave her a suite of rooms just below his own penthouse. “Stay as long as you need to,” he said, dropping the key in her hand. The space was bereft of any real personality and she had nothing personal, save a few framed photos, to add any real life to it. It was clean, spacious, tastefully decorated in neutrals and leather. If she listened carefully, she thought she could hear Angel, pacing the floors above her head, late at night, when she couldn’t sleep.
Buffy attended the morning meeting with all the other department heads. She had coffee with Wesley or Fred. She learned to meet Lorne’s curious and strangely penetrating stare head on. She spent time with Gunn in the executive gym. She looked, half-heartedly, for an apartment outside of the Wolfram and Hart building. She devised new strategies for dealing with non-hostile demons. And she waited for the other shoe to drop.
He couldn’t sleep. From the moment he’d given Buffy the key to the apartment below him, he’d spent the long night-time hours pacing the floors his mind battered by images of her. It was ridiculous, really. They barely spoke. They hardly ever spent time alone, unless it was to discuss some work-related problem. It seemed as though the past didn’t exist and the future, their future, was permanently on hold. But still, Angel’s head was filled with erotic images and he thought it might be because she was closer than she had been for years. He could touch her if he wanted to, even knowing that to do so would shatter their fragile relationship.
He has no illusions. Buffy Summers was the one. Moth to flame. Bee to pollen. And for whatever reason, he knew that she felt the same way. He knew with certainty that while he was pacing above her, she was below listening to him pace and fighting her own demons. He also knew that he was the demon at the top of her list.
Maybe, he thought, he should try to spend more time out of the office. Maybe he should have one of the office warlocks concoct some sort of spell, ( to do what exactly, he wasn’t sure). Maybe he should just go down to her suite and kiss her; that’s what he really wanted to do. That’s all he’d thought about since she’d first arrived in LA, parting those lips with his own, sweeping her tongue aside with his.
Angel stopped. He ran a hand through his hair and sighed. Whatever he had imagined about having Buffy back in his life, this was not it. This was constant torment. Nothing had changed. He was cursed.
The pacing stopped. Buffy rolled over and stared out the huge window that dominated the East side of the room. She always left the blinds open so that she’d be kissed by the sun first thing in the morning and so that, on night’s like these, when Angel was particularly restless, she could watch the night lights twinkle.
She groaned when she glanced at the small clock beside her bed. 2:23 a.m. Wide-awake, she decided that she may as well get up and make a pot of tea. She swung her legs out of the bed and, without bothering to grab her silk housecoat, padded across the floor and out into the living-room. Her heart stilled when she saw Angel standing, shirt undone, loose-limbed, beside the couch.
“Angel,” she said, suddenly aware of her own attire: satin draw string pants and a barely-there spaghetti- strapped t-shirt.
“Sorry. I let myself in.”
“Guess it’s one of the privileges of being the boss,” Buffy said, crossing the room and heading for the kitchen. “I was just going to make tea. Do you want some?”
Buffy’s laughter died in her throat as Angel’s long fingers curled around her arm and pulled her back and around so that she was facing him.
“We need to talk. Now.”
His tone startled her. She shrugged her shoulder forward in an attempt to get Angel to release her, but he only held on more firmly.
“Ow,” she murmured.
“You’ve been in Los Angeles a month, Buffy, and we’ve barely spent five minutes alone together,” Angel said quietly, finally releasing her arm.
She reached up absently to stroke the spot his hand had been and waited. She was tired and out of sorts and she had a horrible feeling that this conversation was going somewhere she wasn’t ready to go. But then, that wasn’t really true. After all, she’d come to LA. She’d asked Angel to wait and then before the dust of her life had even settled, she’d come here, to him. It wasn’t by chance; it was by design.
“Is that why you’re here, skulking in my apartment. You need alone time?” Buffy said sarcastically.
Angel’s eyes darkened.
“We can end this all right here, Buffy. You’re not bound to me. You don’t owe me anything and you’re free to choose,” Angel said.
“Choose what?” Buffy said crossly. “When in hell have I ever had the right to choose anything?”
“Look. Whatever is happening here between us, this sort of relationship limbo that we’re in—it’s not working,” Angel said.
Buffy crossed her arms beneath her breasts and sighed. “I know.”
“The temptation to touch you gets worse every day. I should be stronger, I know, but I’m not,” Angel admitted.
“You and me and business…those aren’t mix-y things,” Buffy said.
“We can do business. We can do friendship. But we always want more, Buffy. I want more.”
“So do I,” Buffy admitted.
Angel motioned to the couch and they moved to sit, near but not touching, as if Angel was kindling and Buffy, a match, and sitting too close to one another would ignite the room.
“What if I knew a way, then,” Angel said looking down at the hemp mat under the chrome and glass coffee table.
“A way to what?”
“Be together,” he answered.
Buffy’s eyes widened and for a second, Angel was catapulted back to that first night in her room, the first time he kissed her and the look on her face when she realized who he really was.
“Do you trust me, Buffy?”
Did she? It was a question she hadn’t really given much thought to in the last few years. But then, she hadn’t ever really thought much about being in a position to have to answer this question The truth was, she didn’t know if she trusted him or not. She wasn’t even sure she could trust herself.
“Close your eyes.”
Buffy pressed her lips together and considered Angel’s request.
Reluctantly, Buffy closed her eyes and felt Angel’s weight shift on the couch. Near the door, a rustle. Then the smell of him, earth and spice, was close again. The silky ends of something, a scarf or tie, brushed against her bare shoulders. She opened her eyes, just as he wrapped the material around her eyes, shutting out the light and her view of his bare stomach, glimpsed through his open shirt.
“Angel,” she said.
A sharp tear, and then something sticky across her mouth. Buffy tried to stand and felt Angel’s hands on her shoulders, pushing her back down.
“Not yet. I need you to listen to me,” he said, his voice a cool whisper against her ears.
Buffy’s chest hammered in her chest and she knew Angel could hear it, welcomed every beat; the thought of the blood pushing through her veins must be driving him mad.
“We are going to make a deal,” Angel said. “You can decide and I won’t try to influence your decision. But if you choose to accept my proposition, there’s no turning back. Do you understand?”
“If I don’t touch you, I’m going to lose control,” he said. “I haven’t been completely celibate since I left Sunnydale, but damn close. Now, you’re here in LA, here at Wolfram and Hart and it’s too much, Buffy. It hasn’t helped that you haven’t seemed to know how you want to fit into my life. And I don’t know how I’m supposed to fit into yours.”
She started to protest against the tape.
“No. Just listen,” he said. “This is what I propose. A bargain. You submit to me. You give yourself to me. I know that goes against everything in you, Buffy. You’re not the submissive type. But if you can, then I think it might be enough, me knowing that this isn’t what you really want, to keep me from losing my soul.”
Buffy didn’t move. She didn’t know how to react other than to knot her fingers together.
“Think about it.”
The room was suddenly empty. Buffy pried her fingers apart and reached up for the blindfold. She pulled it off and blinked against the sudden light. Then she peeled the tape off her mouth.
What did he want from her? Her submission. He wanted to dominate her, to control her. She wasn’t sure she could let that happen; he’d been right about that. But she also wasn’t sure how much longer she could be around him without letting something happen between them. And, if the circumstances weren’t controlled somehow, that could lead to deadly consequences.
Buffy e-mailed Angel a week later.
His reply: “End of discussion.”
She saw less of him in the days that followed the terse exchange. But he seemed more relaxed, as though a yoke had been removed from his neck. Once, in the employee cafeteria, he had even casually touched her arm and Buffy felt as though she’d been stung.
But they hadn’t discussed what their new arrangement might mean and he had made no move to be alone with her. Buffy’s days grew busier: a couple hours in the gym in the morning, the staff meeting to discuss new clients and research, lunch with Wes or Fred, an hour answering e-mails from Willow and Giles. Phone calls. A short visit to Cordelia’s room every other day or so.
“We need a safe word,” he said.
“What?” she said.
“We need a word that we both know means stop. So that I won’t…” Angel hesitated. “So that I won’t hurt you.”
“Do you intend on hurting me?” Buffy asked quietly.
“But you might,” Buffy said.
“Alright. What sort of word?”
“Anything that we both immediately recognize, that wouldn’t come up during the normal course of what we do together,” Angel explained.
Buffy thought about it for a moment.
“Xander?” she said.
“Well, we wouldn’t likely be talking about him, would we?”
“No,” Angel conceded. “Xander it is. If you ever want me to stop, say his name. I’ll stop. No questions asked.”
“Okay.” Buffy bit her bottom lip. “Angel?”
“Do you love me?”
“Do you doubt it?” he asked.
“I doubt everything.”
He stepped closer. He cupped her face, tipping it up to meet her eyes and whispered: “I love you, Buffy.”
“Thanks, Wes,” Buffy said hanging up the phone. She sighed, rubbed her eyes and pushed the file across the clutter on her desk. She needed to talk to Angel about more active duty. This desk job was driving her nuts. She was filled with pent-up energy, energy she was used to expending on demon-killing. Surely there were demons in Los Angeles. After all, didn’t they run the biggest evil law firm in California? Weren’t half their client’s demons?
Her e-mail program dinged and Buffy looked up. One new message. From Angel. Buffy clicked on the little envelope.
That’s all it said. Buffy shuddered. She’d tried to stay out of Angel’s way these past few days, well, exactly five since he’d shown her the special room. Down a little used corridor, it was a veritable playground, if you were into the grown-up toys Angel seemed to have an endless supply of.
Her feelings about the room and Angel and the bargain they’d made were intensely conflicted. She understood that the arrangement was partly to safeguard her from Angel’s happiness clause. He’d explained that if he thought that he was hurting her or doing something against her will, that it would prevent his own unconditional release. Buffy hadn’t really allowed herself to think too much about Angel’s seemingly endless knowledge of that topic. All she knew was that tonight was the first time she would be alone with him in the room and her heart was beating so fast at the thought she felt as though she’d just dusted a dozen vampires.
The corridor was dimly lit. There was a note taped to the door.
Take your clothes off. Enter the room and lay on the bed.
Buffy glanced back over her shoulder at the way she’d come. She was alone. Of course. She unbuttoned her blouse and slipped it off, folding it and leaving it on the floor by the door. She slid her skirt off. Unclasped the bra. Took off her shoes, hose and panties. Piled everything on the floor. She was naked except for the tiny earrings she wore, a gift from her mother on her 19th birthday.
She put her hand on the knob and twisted. The room was cool. It was also empty. Buffy padded across the floor and climbed up onto the bed. It was a huge piece of furniture: ornate posts at each of the corners. It was piled with cushions, each fitted with soft covers. The blanket next to her skin was velvety soft and reminded Buffy of the blanket on Angel’s bed back at the mansion. She’d never been naked in that bed. She lay back, trying to get comfortable, hands fidgeting next to her.
“Good girl.” The voice came from beside her and Buffy twisted her head to see Angel standing there. In this light he looked shadowed and menacing. His eyes glittered gold.
“Give me your arm.” It wasn’t a request.
Buffy lifted her arm and Angel quickly tied smooth cotton rope around her wrist and then secured the rope to the post. He walked around the bed and held out his hand. Buffy lifted her left arm and he quickly secured it to the post. Then he walked to the foot of the bed and Buffy watched as he spread her legs, tying them to the bedposts.
She felt exposed, vulnerable in a way that she hadn’t felt since… well, since Spike.
“Angel,” she said.
He shook his head. “Shhh.”
He stood back, admiring her as if she were some rare and beautiful sculpture and it was then, in the silence that grew around them, that Buffy noticed he was wearing leather pants. Her heart hammered dully in her chest and she forced herself to stay calm. He was wearing a black silk shirt, collar open at the throat to expose beautiful white skin. She could just make out the glint of a silver chain around his neck.
“I wonder,” he mused, almost to himself, “how far to go with you tonight? How much can you stand?”
Buffy couldn’t be sure that this wasn’t a rhetorical question, so she bit her lip against answering.
He was staring at her, through her, and Buffy felt a warm liquid rush of heat to her fingertips and belly.
He came back to the head of the bed and slipped a blindfold over her eyes. “Trust me,” he whispered.
Then he moved off the bed and for a long moment Buffy was sure he’d left the room. She tested the restraints. There was no slack. She didn’t think it would be impossible for her to get free, but it wouldn’t be easy.
Something cool touched the hollow of her throat. At first, she thought it was his tongue, but it only took a few seconds before Buffy realized that the object wasn’t cool, but ice cold. She shifted uncomfortably. The bed shifted and Buffy felt something cold at her belly, more ice sitting in the indentation of her navel. The blunt edge of a cube running along the inside of her arm, along the arch of her foot, the slope of her ribs, along her neck. She tried to calm her breathing, tried not to think about how cold the ice felt along the smooth tender skin. But then she felt the edge of a cube of ice trace a path up the slope of her breast and curve around her nipple, giving it a wide berth.
“That’s it,” she heard Angel say and she knew her nipples were puckering. He ran the ice over the turgid peak and she sucked in an anguished breath. When he bent down to pull the hard nipple into his mouth; his mouth felt almost warm by comparison to the ice. She felt the ice on her second nipple, felt it pebble painfully. The room was so cool that her nipples didn’t soften. Buffy shifted.
And felt the ice settle against the top of her pubes. “No,” she gasped.
“Buffy,” Angel warned, dragging the ice down, down, into the wide-open place between her legs.
She moaned and Angel stilled his hand, holding the dripping cube against her, gratified by her wriggling hips, her desperate attempt to move away from the frigid ice.
Angel leaned back and admired his work. Rivulets of water ran down Buffy’s sides, the slope of her muscled thighs. Her crotch was wet, her jutting clit, red. Angel dropped the ice into a bucket beside the bed and then leaned over to the table he’d set beside the bed.
Sandpaper, wire brushes, nipple clamps, paintbrushes sat neatly on a tray. Angel’s hand hovered. He licked his dry lips before settling on a sheet of fine grade sandpaper. He scuffed it lightly up the side of Buffy’s breast. Her nipples were still erect, the room’s air conditioning saw to that. He drew the paper over her nipples, buffing them as he would a piece of wood. Buffy’s reaction was immediate and rewarding.
Angel discarded the sandpaper and reached for something he’d had custom made: a glove, the palm side of which was fitted with a coarser-textured sandpaper. He slipped it on and cupped Buffy’s breast, slowly dragging his fingers up, up, pulling at her nipple and relishing the sound of her moan.
He gave the same attention to her other breast and then rewarded each with another application of ice. It was exquisite torture, Angel knew. He’d spent a century experimenting with the fine line between pleasure and pain. He wanted to believe that Buffy walked the line, too: that they could walk it together.
Buffy’s breasts were chapped when he was done. Angel admired his handiwork before he reached for a bottle of soothing oil, which was sitting in a bucket of hot water. He squirted some in his hands, rubbed them together and then massaged Buffy’s abused breasts. It wasn’t the worst he could do, but it was a start.
He trailed his slick fingers down to Buffy’s navel, down through the little patch of hair covering her sex, down into the exposed clit and then his slippery fingers began to work their magic, brushing and petting her until he could feel the flutter of her orgasm. He moved his hand and watched as, tied, blindfolded and helpless, Buffy came.
Buffy considered packing her belongings and getting as far away from Wolfram and Hart and Angel as she could.
He’d scared her today. Standing at the foot of the bed in well-fitting leather pants, a predatory gleam in his eye, Buffy was sure that she was staring into the face of her worst nightmare. Had he planned that? Had he been trying to throw her off balance? If that was true, it had worked.
She had pushed her fear down, though, forcing it down her throat the way she’d forced down the lima beans her mother used to make for dinner. Angel wouldn’t hurt her. Angel wouldn’t hurt her. That was her mantra as he’d tied her to the bed, spread-eagle and defenseless. Angel wouldn’t hurt her. That was what she said, silently, as he walked up and covered her eyes. He wouldn’t hurt her.
And he hadn’t, not really. Not when she compared what he’d done to the things she’d done with Spike. She shook the image of Spike’s sharp cheekbones tilted up to look at her from where he was nestled between her parted thighs, lips dripping with her blood.
She had handed Spike the reigns of her life, but it hadn’t been about losing control. It had been about forgetting everything. She had been foolish to trust him. Was she foolish to trust Angel?
Buffy rolled over carefully, every movement causing the material of her cotton tank top to rub against her overly-sensitive breasts, sending a rush of feeling to her crotch. She blushed at the memory of how he’d barely touched her before she’d come, a blinding rush of sensation shooting like sparks of electricity through her body. She was glad then for the blindfold, that she couldn’t see him watching her. It seemed like forever before the wave of pleasure dissipated. She may have even passed out; she knew that moments later she discovered that the restraints had been loosened, the blindfold gone and the room was empty.
She’d crawled off the bed, and made her way to the bathroom on shaky legs. She started the shower, stepped into the steamy water and winced as the water hit her abraded breasts. She stood for a long moment under the water before lathering her hair with the expensive shampoo she found. Clean and refreshed, she stepped out of the stall and wrapped her hair in a towel, before drying off and donning a robe she found on a peg on the back of the door.
When she stepped out of the room, she discovered that all reminders of what had just happened were gone and a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt were lying on the bed. She dressed quickly, towel dried and finger-combed her hair and then, with a backward glance at the bed, made her way to the main door.
Now, hours later, she couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened to her. Her body had betrayed her. And she had the feeling that it would again. She couldn’t decide whether she should feel dread or excitement.
He hadn’t allowed his own release during that first encounter, but he’d jerked off many times since thinking about her breasts and the way they had responded to the ice and gritty paper.
There were so many options, so many tools of the trade, things he’d gathered from dark alley shops and received in plain brown wrappers from online sex shops. Now, waiting for her to join him, he contemplated the items before him.
He turned. Buffy stood, hands fisted and bouncing against her thighs, her hair swept off her face. She looked young, so young, too young.
“Were we supposed to meet?” He asked, although he knew that he had not invited her here.
She shook her head.
“What are you doing here then?”
He waited. He was curious to know what she’d been thinking about. He hadn’t planned that their encounters were something they would discuss, but he had wondered how she’d processed that first meeting.
Buffy looked past Angel’s shoulder to the table and its array of strange items.
“What did you think Buffy?” He asked, stepping closer, blocking her view.
“That you’d changed your mind,” she said returning her gaze to meet his. “About this. Us.”
He inclined his head towards her. “Have you?”
“I don’t have any experience with this sort of thing,” she said, her mouth dry.
Angel narrowed his eyes. Was she really expecting him to believe that sex with Spike had been gentle and loving? Spike was a vampire and sex with a vampire always had an edge of danger to it, a vein of violence coiled and ready, regardless of any tinkering either the military or a demon in Africa might have done to him.
Angel turned and walked back to the table. He paused before selecting a pair of police-issue handcuffs, foregoing the other pair he’d purchased, which was lined with soft velvet.
“Come here,” he said.
Buffy moved closer and when she was standing next to him, he pulled her arms behind her back and snapped the handcuffs in place.
“Feel familiar?” he whispered. He gave her a shove and she fell forward, face down on the bed.
He reached his hand underneath her and undid the snap and zipper on her jeans, pulling them down and off. Underwear, socks and shoes, too. Her sleeveless shirt, which buttoned in the front, posed more problems, so he reached for a pair of scissors and cut it up the back, neatly snipping through the band of her bra as he went. Naked, arms locked behind her, she looked vulnerable. But he could smell her and he hardened.
“See, I don’t believe you,” he said, admiring the curve of her back, the swell of her ass, the long, lean length of thigh and calf, arch of her foot.
“I don’t understand,” she said. Her face was turned towards him, her eye seeking him wildly.
“Let’s not do this,” he said, tracing a finger along her shoulder blade, down her spine, the crack of her ass. He pulled her legs apart and stroked one finger against her moist quim. “At least let’s be honest.”
Buffy groaned and tried hard to stay still. She closed her eyes.
The bed shifted and then she felt something smooth and cool probing the tender place between her legs.
When she opened her eyes, Angel was lying beside her, his eyes mirthless. He licked his lower lip and then Buffy’s crotch began to vibrate. Her eyes widened in shock and Angel watched, raptly, as her predicament became apparent to her.
“Shhh,” he whispered.
It didn’t take long before he was rewarded with the sight of Buffy’s eyes drifting shut as her orgasm washed over her. He clicked off the remote, but only briefly, before he switched it on again, nudging the setting up a notch. She came immediately. And again.
Angel unzipped his pants and released his throbbing cock. He wrapped one large hand around its base and squeezed. How much longer could they go, he wondered: her coming and him not. He considered the question as he switched on the vibrator once more.
Business as usual. Angel had altered her job description and given her responsibilities which allowed her to, occasionally, fight hand-to-hand. She’d forgotten how good it felt to beat down the bad guy with her fists and feet. It was a black and white world out here in the dank alleys and tidy cemeteries. The lines weren’t blurred like they often were in her personal life.
She paused, her skin prickling. She swept careful eyes around the looming tombstones and mausoleums, looking for the source of her discomfort.
Out of nowhere, something hard hit the backs of her calves and she found herself on her back, looking up at a starless sky. She lay quietly, listening, and then scrambled to her feet.
A movement in her peripheral vision had her whirling, stake held high, but again, she was knocked down, this time from behind so that she landed on her knees. She was about to get up, when a boot on the small of her back forced her to her stomach.
“Angel?” She said.
He squatted in front of her. “Thought you might like some company,” he said and she could hear the smirk in his voice. “Or some back up.”
She pushed herself to her knees. “Back up?”
“Well, I did knock you down. Twice.”
“I don’t need back up,” she said, reaching for the stake which she’d dropped the second time he’d knocked her down.
Angel stood and held out his hand. “I don’t want anything to happen to you out here,” he said.
Buffy swiped at his hand and stood without its aid. “Nothing’s going to happen to me.”
“Says who?” Angel said, advancing toward her.
The low flat marble slab was engraved with the names of an entire generation of Headley’s. Buffy traced their names: Caroline, Bertrand, Phyllis, Mabel, Paul, with her finger after he was done. The last three names were smeared with blood. Hers.
The pain had only been incidental.
First he’d taken her clothes off. Then, he’d laid her on the slab on her back, tied her wrists to huge brass handles that were (rather conveniently, she thought) secured on either side of the tombstone. He pulled her down, so her legs dangled over the edge, and stood between her parted, trembling knees.
She was cold all over: marble beneath, cool spring air, Angel’s trailing fingers. Her nipples were diamond-sharp and she waited, her breath knotted in her throat.
There, beneath an unforgiving sky, Angel slid razor-sharp fangs into her cunt and drank. Her blood, her essence, her life and Buffy began to understand that submitting to Angel was, indeed, a line she had crossed.
Death was all around her and Buffy had never felt more alive.
“This was all the rage back in the day,” Angel said. He stood with his hand on what looked, to Buffy, like a triangular sawhorse.
Her blank eyes showed that she didn’t understand.
“It’s a wooden pony,” Angel said. “I had it made.”
Buffy crossed her arms. She didn’t understand the significance of the strange apparatus in front of her, that much was clear to Angel.
“Take your clothes off,” he said.
She hesitated, but just for a moment, before she slid her sweater over her head and undid the snap on her skirt. Naked, she waited.
“Come here,” he said.
She walked forward and he took her hands in his, stroked the pulse points on her wrists before lifting them up and snapping the metal shackles that hung from the ceiling around them. He used a winch to pull the chains up, winding them around a pulley she’d never noticed before. When her feet were dangling about six inches off the floor he stopped to admire her. She was biting her lip in concentration, trying to ignore the burn in her shoulders.
Angel walked behind her and slid the wooden pony forward between Buffy’s legs. This pony was modified. Instead of a sharp edge, which would cut into her mercilessly, the top of the horse was slightly rounded, but narrow; it would slip between the soft folds of flesh between her legs and when her weight was fully on it, it would most definitely cause discomfort, probably pain, but it would cause no permanent damage.
When the pony was positioned, Angel began to lower Buffy. The balls of her feet hit the floor just as her sensitive flesh hit the pony.
Buffy’s reaction was immediate. She pushed herself up onto her toes.
Angel walked around and pulled a chair in front of her and sat down. Ever since Buffy had agreed to this arrangement he had been careful not to hurt her, to show her the knife’s edge of pain and pleasure. He’d been patient because he didn’t want to frighten her so everything he’d done had been about her pleasure and safety. This, too, eventually, though he was fairly certain she was a long way from seeing that.
She lasted 72 minutes before her burning calves and aching toes gave out on her. Angel had watched her fight the intense pain. The terrified look in her eyes as she came closer and closer to realizing the end result of this little game was almost more than he could bear.
At last, she had no choice. She lowered her feet and came to rest on the little ledge of polished wood. She looked at him then, but said nothing. The wood disappeared into her slit, pressing unmercifully against her. Angel counted three minutes before Buffy pushed herself up onto her toes again.
She lasted 14 minutes. This time Angel got up and came closer. He stroked her underarm, slipped his knuckles down the incline of her ribs, brushed his fingers across her nipples.
Up on her toes.
“Give in,” he whispered.
Angel put his mouth against her nipple and sucked; it peaked against his tongue. She tried to stand back up and found that she no longer had the energy. Angel stood back so he could watch as she settled back on the pony’s narrow wooden beam. Her flesh was bruised and tender, the result of the intense pressure placed on it over the last long minutes. Buffy struggled to find a comfortable way to accommodate herself, but there was no comfort to be found and she squirmed and bucked and Angel watched, mesmerized, as she finally did what the cruel device intended. Buffy rode the pony.
He visited her in her rooms that night. She opened the door and let him in, silently. Her room smelled of lavender and the air was moist, as if she’d just had a long, hot bath.
He longed to reach out and tuck a stray curl behind her ear.
“Today was…” he paused, “harsh.”
Buffy’s back stiffened.
“I have certain—desires. I crave…”
Buffy’s expression softened. “What?”
“I want to take you into it with me, Buffy.”
“I don’t know if I can,” she said her eyes filling with tears.
Then he did touch her, curving his palm against her face and drawing closer to kiss her lips. She was hesitant at first, cautious. He pulled her closer, pressing her against him, his hand resting in the small of her back.
He would show her that the two could often be bedmates.
His mouth traced a path to her jaw, lower to the scar on her neck, the creamy skin above her breasts. She didn’t protest when he removed her shirt. Her breasts were perfect, unblemished, the nipples just beginning to pucker.
He knelt before her and tugged at the drawstring of her loose cotton pants, pants he knew she wore for a reason. He would show her that with darkness came light.
When she was naked he stood and swept her into his arms. She was weightless, fragile, a precious thing.
In her room he took off his own clothes. He was hard, aching.
She watched him warily.
“Show me,” he said.
She shook her head. She didn’t understand.
“Spread your legs. I want to look at you,” he said.
He ran his hand up her thigh and paused. He could already see her swollen labia, the protruding clit. The sensation of pushing into that engorged flesh would be…Angel’s cock twitched.
First, though, he had to make her forget the tender, bruised place between her legs. He settled beside her, palmed her hip and turned her towards him, so that they lay facing each other. She winced a little as her legs pressed together. He kissed her, sliding his tongue along the seam of her lips and waiting patiently as she decided what to do.
Then her mouth was open and his tongue was inside, caressing hers, curving around her teeth. He felt her hands on his shoulders, in his hair and he deepened the kiss, felt for her breast with his hand. No matter how slowly he wanted to go, his body careened madly towards the abyss whenever she was near.
He stroked down her side and up over the flare of her narrow hip and cupped one buttock, pulling her closer.
“I can’t,” she whispered.
He rolled her onto her back and began a slow, methodical descent down her smooth body with his mouth. By the time he reached the juncture between her thighs, Buffy was quivering helplessly. He probed her gently with one long finger, unsurprised to find her slick.
He said nothing. He lowered his mouth to her, licked her carefully. He could feel her, swollen and magnificent. This orgasm would be a thing of beauty. He held her open with his thumbs and paid careful attention to the kernel of flesh that was exquisitely distended.
Angel slid into her sleek flesh with one finger, two and angled them. He felt Buffy’s body liquefy and knew that her orgasm, when it came, would be unlike anything she had ever experienced. He was patient and the reward of seeing her explode, a wild combination of bliss and pain crossing her face, was one he would cherish.
That pain and pleasure were connected was not a foreign concept to Buffy. She was the Slayer: she took great pleasure out of giving pain. And truthfully, sex with Spike hadn’t been exactly enjoyed through a gauzy veil either.
There was something about Angel, though, when he was intent on the task, focused on her so quietly, that made her shiver. She had learned over the past few weeks that she could take the pain. He’d spanked her, flogged her, clamped her nipples, drizzled her with hot wax, once even cut into her with a tiny razor…chasing the beads of blood with his tongue.
Always, every single time, she’d exploded beneath him.
And never once had he penetrated her with his cock.
Now she is waiting, as instructed, in the room. Today the room is warm, which is good because she’s naked. Angel has thoughtfully provided some magazines, but she has no interest in them. She can’t concentrate on anything but the feeling in the pit of her belly: part excitement, part dread.
This isn’t how she’d imagined a life with him. She had come to Los Angeles because she had run out of excuses. When he’d come to Sunnydale to deliver the amulet, Buffy had felt something she hadn’t in a long time: peace. Caleb was kicking the shit out of her and then, like a sign from the Gods, there was Angel’s hand, extended in friendship. She had a sudden vision of herself at sixteen, seventeen, so in love she couldn’t see all the reasons why being with him would never work.
She’d taken his hand and everything that had transpired before she felt his cool, smooth palm slide across hers disappeared: her friend’s betrayal, her sister’s, Giles’s, Spike’s; none of it mattered because Angel was there.
With renewed strength, she’d defeated Caleb and then she’d sent Angel away. How she’d gotten from there to here was a mystery.
The door opened and Angel entered. He stood regarding her with rapt attention and Buffy held out her hand. Whatever happened here wouldn’t be nearly as bad as what would have happened to her if she had never come.
“You need to relax, Buffy,” he said, restraining her wrists. She was kneeling, bent slightly forward, her stomach supported by an inclined, padded bench. Angel walked around her and fastened her ankles. Despite all that had transpired in the past, Buffy felt exposed and vulnerable. She felt Angel’s hands travel over her backside, reach underneath to cup her breasts, pulling gently on her nipples.
Something cool and wet dribbled down the crack of her ass and then she felt Angel’s fingers sliding through the viscous liquid, down and around, those cunning fingers plucking at her clit until she was vibrating against his hand.
“That’s right,” he said, removing his hand.
More liquid, this time aimed straight at her puckered asshole.
“Angel,” she warned. This was not something they had discussed, not that they’d had any meaningful discussions about what happened here and elsewhere.
“Don’t make me gag you, Buffy,” he said.
His finger slid into her, just a bit, but Buffy tensed at the intrusion. Not even Spike had trespassed here.
“You’re going to have to relax,” he said again, pushing into her a little further.
“I can’t,” she said.
A little further and this time he swirled his finger as if trying to make the opening looser.
“Well, that’s your choice then,” he said.
Buffy breathed a sigh of relief when he removed the finger. But her relief was short lived when she felt something cool and smooth and far bigger probing her.
Angel’s fingers slid against her clit again, pressing against her with such finesse that Buffy could feel her orgasm gaining speed, but just before it hit her with full force, he stopped and simultaneously pushed whatever he had in his hand, through the ring of muscles and all the way into her.
Buffy bit her lip to keep from crying out. But she couldn’t help herself when she felt the sting of the paddle on her backside, the impact jarring the plug in her ass. Three more whacks and her ass was on fire and Buffy was frantic to break free of the wrist restraints so she could work her throbbing clit. A half a dozen more and she was begging Angel to fuck her.
He removed the plug carefully and before Buffy had time to consider what that might mean she felt the long hard length of him replace it. Hands on her hips he pushed forward until he met resistance and then, he withdrew, pushing back into her and again, until he’d buried the formidable length of his cock entirely.
Then, reaching for her clit, he finished what he’d started, smiling when she screamed shamelessly as she came.
It was rare, but sometimes when Angel came to her he did nothing more than gather her into his arms. They’d sit on the couch in Buffy’s room and watch the night sky or they’d lie, fully clothed, on the bed in the room and talk quietly. Angel would stroke Buffy’s hair; sometimes she’d fall asleep, sometimes he would. It was during these moments that Buffy understood the tremendous sacrifice Angel was making just to have her near. She never considered her sacrifice. Bruises fade, cuts heal.
Her heart had healed, too. And as they watched the stars blink outside the window, fingers laced together, Buffy no longer worried about the unorthodox nature of their relationship. He’d said, long ago, that he knew this wasn’t what she really wanted. How could she ever have known it was so much more?
His love was a gift.
Time. There’s so much and so little of it. Hadn’t that been what the Oracles had told him, once? Seemed like a lifetime ago. More. Time wasn’t something that Angel had ever spent very much, well, time considering. The demon in him saw the endless stretch of existence laid out before him like some sort of promising yellow brick road. Each step led nowhere but to the next step. The demon didn’t believe in much of anything beyond the promise of a belly full of blood and the fulfillment of certain other predilections.
Time changed that. Time and a curse and a century of living like a rat: living with the rats, actually. Then it all got spun on its ear. He’d seen the light and the light was a girl.
And time stood still.
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