Disclaimer: Not mine, it’s just for fun.

Theme: Angst, but with a happy ending – for once!

Spoilers: General Btvs season 6

Rating: NC17 – language

Scenario: A vampire’s take on getting back to nature.

Pairing: B/A

Feedback: Yes please – to lpritchard2020@btinternet.com

A sense of Balance

By Lisa P

 

 

Angel was hunting again. He thrilled to the scent of his prey, stalking it silently, creeping closer and closer. And then the final rush. That instant where the prey realised its peril, started for its life. Too late. The crash of body against body, hide to hide, fingers clutching, clawing, fangs ripping and tearing. The sudden gush of blood, pumping bright red from a panicked heart.  Thrashing, dying struggles, the flow of blood weakening, until the prey stilled, eyes glazing as the life finally fled from it.

Angel lay over the body of his kill, panting, gorged with its blood. He couldn’t remember the last time he had felt this satiated. He lazily licked at the final drops that oozed from the torn out throat of the deer that he had so carefully and patiently stalked.

 

With a satisfied grunt, Angel rolled off the cooling corpse and slowly got to his feet.

He scented the air around him, revelling in the lush multitude of night-time aromas that pervaded the forest in which he stood, confident in his status as the ultimate predator within a wilderness full of hunters and their prey.

 

The vampire slipped back into the darkness of the forest, dappled moonlight catching the merest reflection of his pale body, streaked and blotched with the drying blood of the dead deer. He was looking forward to the hot shower and welcoming fire that he knew would be waiting for him on his return.

 

-0-

 

The pine cabin was completely isolated, miles from its next neighbour, half a day’s drive from the nearest shop. It was a perfect place to let go, cut off from the outside world, only the flora and fauna of the surrounding forest for company. For Angel, it was a sanctuary, and a much needed release from the world he occupied these days. Here he could finally – safely – liberate himself for a time. Angel sighed contentedly as he wrapped himself in the quilt and snuggled down on the big, soft sofa that was in front of the wood-burning stove in the cabin’s small living room. There was a generator which supplied electricity, but Angel had never switched it on. The stove heated the water for the shower, and Angel didn’t need artificial lighting other than the glow from the fire. Clean, fed and comfortable, the vampire relished the feeling of being warm and full of hot, fresh blood. Not quite like human…but a more than adequate substitute, the tang of fear-induced adrenaline being particularly sweet. He had brought a shelf-full of books to read, but was just happy to doze for a while, luxuriating in his fullness, and the rare sensation of being completely relaxed.

 

He had needed this. Almost without him noticing, he had become ever more tightly wound over the past weeks and months. The strain of living among humans, trying to behave as they did had begun to tell on him. And even though his mission to help the helpless often meant he had to track and eliminate evil demons, there was none of the excitement that he had experienced tonight, a predator hunting down and catching his prey, feeding from a hot, living creature. The freedom to roam, unwatched, unhindered, unjudged.

 

The first night he had been in the forest, Angel had hunted and killed a small wild pig. After feeding, he had howled at the moon and rolled and cavorted in the long damp grass of the forest glade, the dew smearing the gore from his kill all over him. Alone, yes, but free from all the constraints and conventions that usually contained him as if in a straitjacket. He had returned to the cabin shortly before sunrise, his body marked with dried blood and grass stains.

 

This was now the fourth night of Angel’s sojourn in the wilderness. He had hunted and killed every night, but tonight’s kill was the largest prey so far, and the most satisfying. He frowned slightly as he thought briefly about his human colleagues, and how appalled they would be if they saw this side of Angel’s nature. Once again he acknowledged how very little they understood about him, even though, on occasion, they had witnessed the feral part of him surface in the heat of battle. It was such a relief to let his wildness emerge, not having to appear tame and predictable, day after day, week after week, month after month. He stretched, a purr vibrating from deep within his chest.

 

A sound caught his attention. Angel cocked his head, listening. A car engine. Still far away, but definitely coming closer. Angel growled in annoyance, and got up from the sofa. He would have to get dressed and investigate. Grumpily, he pulled on black sweats and a cotton jumper, but stayed barefoot. He walked over to the front door of the cabin, opened it, and stepped outside.

 

There was only a narrow footpath leading to the cabin, the nearest road was a good mile away, ending in a small clearing where those who were renting the cabin could leave their cars. Angel headed towards it, wondering who would be coming up here at this hour of the night. As he slipped silently through the woods he kept scenting. Then he stopped dead, every nerve tingling as he caught a scent that, although it was not what he remembered, was still familiar enough to cause him to tremble from head to foot.

 

“Buffy”.

 

She was pulling a bag from the back of the SUV, and now she turned to face him.

 

“I knew if I found the car park that you would find me.” She said simply.

 

Angel was wary. “I don’t understand…why are you here…who told you I was here?” He fell silent, knowing that he must have sounded unwelcoming. Buffy’s scent unnerved him.

 

“Wesley told me you had gone away for a while, where to come. He seemed to think it would be a good thing for me to know.” Buffy’s voice was flat.

 

Angel saw that the Slayer was still the same as when he had seen her last, when she had been thrown back into the land of the living after sacrificing herself to save her so-called sister. This Buffy was not the girl he had given up his long isolation for. Not the same golden girl he had fallen so hopelessly in love with. This Buffy was a woman who had lost her way, who had been irrevocably changed. Who even smelled different. Who smelled…used.

 

“I can see this was a mistake. I’ll go.” Buffy made to throw her bag back into the car.

 

 

“No. Wait. I’m sorry, it’s just a surprise…” Angel took the bag from Buffy. “Come with me, it’s not far, about a mile.” He led the way, trying to give himself time to get used to the idea of Buffy being there, so close, but so closed off.

 

They walked back up the woodland track, Buffy’s slayer instincts making her nearly, but not quite, as silent in her movements as Angel. Neither spoke.

 

They reached the cabin, and Angel stood aside to allow Buffy to enter first. She trudged past him, not even glancing at him as she went inside. Angel followed, putting the bag down just inside the door.

 

“I hope you brought some supplies with you….There’s nothing in to eat. I wasn’t expecting visitors.” Angel said quietly.

 

 “Oh. No. I forgot. It doesn’t matter. I’m not hungry.”

 

Angel took a good look at the Slayer. Buffy was thin to the point of gauntness, her soft curves just a memory. She stood in the middle of the room, her whole demeanour one of defeat and weariness.

 

When she had first returned from the dead, Angel had rushed to see her, unbelieving,  overcome with the fact that Buffy had been, like him, granted a second chance. But as soon as he had met her, he knew that things were very different for her than they had been for him. She had accepted his embrace, tolerated his kisses, and then told him that they would not meet again. No tears, no emotion at all. Her voice had been flat, her eyes opaque. He had tried to reach her, argue with her, but it was like she couldn’t hear him.  He had left her then, knowing that finally, even more than when he had heard that she had died, that he had lost her.

 

Now she was in front of him. Why had she come?

 

“Sit down. Get warm.” Angel pointed to the sofa where he had so recently been happy and relaxed. Buffy did as she was told. Angel retreated to the shadows, her scent still upsetting him, although he couldn’t quite work out why.

 

“I suppose you can smell me?” her bluntness startled Angel. He nodded, but didn’t speak.

 

“What do you smell?”

 

Angel shifted uncomfortably, not wanting to articulate what he sensed. “It’s you…but not. You smell…uh…different.”

 

“Angel. Stop it. You can smell it, I know. It’s like I’m alive, but not. Not like you, a vampire, but similar…more like a zombie, perhaps? And the other smell. Perhaps its confusing you. The scent of the undead. It’s Spike. I’ve been screwing him.”

 

Angel froze. It was true, he had scented it, he just hadn’t for one moment believed Buffy would do such a thing, had put it down to…to…something – anything - else.

He clamped his teeth together, trying to suppress the growl that was threatening to erupt from him. Spike….how had everything he had wanted for her come to this? Buffy, his golden girl. Full of life, hope, sunshine. He had left her so that she could have the normal life she so craved. This…person…who was slumped on the sofa….how had things got into such a mess?

 

“I suppose you hate me now”. Buffy stared into the embers in the stove, sounding as though she didn’t care one way or the other.

 

“I don’t hate you. I just don’t know you anymore. Buffy, why did you come to me tonight?”

 

She shook her head, staring at her hands that were pulling distractedly at her pants. Then Angel saw a tiny splash land on one of those hands, a single teardrop. In an instant, he was beside her, gathering her to him.

 

“Buffy….Oh, Buffy” he whispered into her hair, shocked at her skeletal thinness, holding her gently so as not to bruise her. Buffy hid her face in his chest, and started to sob.

 

-0-

 

Angel had tucked Buffy into the only bed in the cabin, an old-fashioned double brass bedstead with a feather mattress.

 

 She had sobbed as though her heart was breaking, crying herself into complete exhaustion while Angel held her, rocking her, trying to soothe her. Finally she had stopped, too tired to speak or move. Now she was sleeping, and Angel was wondering what to do next.

 

One thing was for certain, Buffy needed to eat. He peered into the empty kitchen cupboards, cursing himself for not having brought anything with him. But then, why would he, when he had all the food he needed outside in the forest? He remembered the deer he had killed only a couple of hours earlier. Angel quickly penned a note in his extravagant, flowing handwriting, telling Buffy not to worry, he had gone to get her food, just in case the slayer woke in his absence.

 

He took a last look at the woman asleep in his bed, and then returned to the wilderness.

 

As he padded silently into the darkness, Angel considered his and Buffy’s situation. Seeing her now, he once again wondered if he had done the right thing by leaving her. At the time there had seemed no other option, and his own doubts had been crystallised by the Mayor’s cruel comments, and particularly by Joyce Summers’

visit to him. He’d truly believed that Buffy would get over him - her first love - and go on to another who could give her everything that he could not. He knew that those who loved Buffy best were glad to see him go, and he had thought she would be cared for and kept as safe as it was possible for a slayer to be by those same people.

 

But Joyce had died, and her friends had dragged Buffy back from her peaceful death. Giles had abandoned her too. It was probably no surprise that Buffy had turned to Spike, he was possibly the only one who could come close to understanding what she was going through. Angel fought down the anger that seethed in him as he thought of Buffy and his Childe together. But try as he might, he couldn’t help the growls that escaped him.

 

An answering growl stopped Angel in his tracks. Angel scented. He could smell the deer he had killed earlier, and also the unmistakeable reek of bear. He stepped into the little clearing where he had left the carcass of his kill. Crouched over it, huge jaws gory with the entrails of the deer, was an enormous black bear. The two predators stared at each other, neither moving a muscle. Angel didn’t want to fight, but he also needed to have the food he had killed for Buffy, and get back to her as soon as possible. Leaving the kill and finding new prey could take much longer than he wanted to be away from her.

 

He felt the change transform him. The bear, already aware that the creature that had disturbed him was not human, now recognised that this creature looked to be a fearsome opponent, despite it being smaller and much lighter than itself. The bear rumbled a deep warning, hackles raised along its back. Angel snarled his response, preparing himself for the confrontation. But as if sensing that this was no ordinary predator, the bear hesitated, and then backed away, still growling, but not wanting to engage this fierce creature in a fight.

 

As the bear shambled back into the depths of the forest, Angel relaxed again. Reaching down, he slung the carcass over his shoulders and then headed back the way he had come.

 

-0-

 

Buffy woke to the aroma of roasted meat, with some kind of herby overtones. Her stomach rumbled with hunger. She sat up in the bed, squinting into the darkness, her eyes drawn to the faint glow that was coming from the living room. She got up and went over to the doorway. Angel was slowly turning the pages of a book, his brow furrowed in concentration, so absorbed he had not realised that she had awakened. She gazed at the vampire, lit by the fire that was crackling in the old range, and with a small shock saw again how very beautiful he was.

 

“You’re awake”. Angel had noticed her presence. He put down the book and stood up to greet her. Buffy suddenly felt shy.

 

“I know you’re going to tell me that you’re not hungry, but please humour me and eat something. I’ve roasted some venison…no vegetables unfortunately, and only water to drink, but it will have to do for now.” Angel led her over to the kitchen table, where he put a match to an old-fashioned oil lamp for more illumination.

 

Buffy smiled weakly. “You look pretty expert with that thing. I can never get them to light”.

 

“Well…I did have over 150 years worth of practice. Candles, oil lamps, flame torches, rubbing sticks together…Not as convenient as flicking a switch though.” Angel replied as he carved some of the venison haunch. “I found some wild rosemary, and fortunately someone had left salt and pepper in those little packets in the kitchen.”

 

Buffy began to eat, her eyes widening as the rich, succulent flavour of fresh, organic, wild venison hit her taste buds for the first time.

 

“Mmmm. I’ve never tasted meat like this before.” She thought grimly of the awful, almost meat that she served up to customers at the fast food outlet she worked in. Angel didn’t reply, he had turned back to the book he had been so engrossed in.

 

“What’re reading?” Buffy mumbled through a mouthful of venison.

 

“Uh, this was in the bookcase. It’s called Food from the Forest. It’s got all the stuff that you can collect that’s safe to eat, mushrooms, berries, leaves. I thought…well…if you were planning to stay a while….” He tailed off.

 

Buffy kept eating, not knowing what to say. When she had called LA she had not been thinking straight, not thinking at all really. Wesley had answered the phone, telling her that Angel was not there, that he had needed a break. Although she had barely spoken to the English ex-watcher, he had obviously picked up on something, and had volunteered the information as to Angel’s whereabouts. She’d thanked him, put down the phone, packed a small bag and driven straight to Angel, having no idea what she was going to do or say once she had got there. Now she was here, and had already acted like a complete idiot, crying uncontrollably and then flaking out on him.

She realised with a jolt, that none of her friends – or Dawn – even knew she had taken off.

 

“Oh God, I didn’t even think to tell them I was going”. Buffy said, her voice thick with resignation. “They’ll be wondering what’s happened to me….I’ll have to go.”

 

“Buffy. Wait. I have a cell phone. You can call them. That is, if you want to stay.”

 

For one fleeting moment, Buffy felt something other than bone-weariness. Both the fact that Angel obviously wanted her there, and the revelation that he owned a cell phone, made her feel lighter inside. She gave a tiny chuckle.

 

“Somehow, I can’t visualise you with a cellphone”.

 

“I’m afraid I can’t visualise it either. Cordelia insisted I have it, but I’m always leaving it switched off, or with a flat battery. And this voice mail thing…lost on me. But don’t worry” Angel added quickly “It’s all charged up at the moment. I was given a crash course, with written instructions on how to access the voice mail, and I check it every day, in case something comes up where I’m needed back in LA”.

 

Buffy watched as Angel rummaged around in the pockets of his leather jacket. Like her, Angel had changed, but in his case, he looked somehow more comfortable with himself, more a part of life, instead of just a bystander. How strange that their positions now seemed reversed.

Angel handed Buffy the phone. She stared at it unhappily, not knowing what to say to Dawn, or Willow. She handed it back to Angel.

 

“I’ll call them, shall I? Just to let them know you’re OK, and that you’ll stay with me for a while.”

 

Buffy felt a surge of gratitude. It was so long since anyone had taken charge, and as ever, Angel seemed to know instinctively what she needed without her having to say anything at all.

 

-0-

 

The next days and nights passed with Buffy and Angel spending much of their time foraging for the food that the book had said would be safe for Buffy to eat. There was enough venison for several meals, but Angel had continued to hunt, waiting until Buffy had drifted off to sleep before disappearing into the forest. She hadn’t asked him where he was getting his blood from, and he hadn’t been inclined to tell her.

Angel was actively feeding Buffy up, ignoring her complaints that he was trying to turn her into a barrage balloon.

 

“I think if I force fed you for a year, you’d still be the thinnest barrage balloon the world has ever seen. Buffy, you’re too thin, it’ll be making you weak.” Angel was insistent. He had found himself taking charge of the slayer, and was surprised that she had been so compliant, another change from the headstrong girl he remembered.

 

“Yeah. Then I’ll really be good for nothing.” The bitterness in Buffy’s voice caused Angel to come over to where she was sitting, peeling some mushrooms they had found earlier that evening.

 

He put his hand over hers. “Whatever are you talking about? Since when do you think you are good for nothing?” Angel was disturbed.

 

“Look at me, Angel. You’re right, I’m a wreck. My reflexes are shot to hell, I can’t remember the last time I trained. Dawn is a shoplifting truant, I’ve got a totally crappy job….Tell me that sounds like a success story.” She paused, and then stared defiantly at him. “Oh. And Yeah. I get my kicks from screwing a vampire in a crypt. Home run.”

 

Angel’s expression was unreadable, but he took his hand from hers. That small action was all Buffy needed. Suddenly she wanted nothing more than to hurt him.

 

“Have to say, Spike’s a great fuck though. Vampire stamina of course, we go all night sometimes. I can hardly walk home afterwards. And inventive? God, I don’t think there’s a position, or a place that we haven’t done it in.” She saw Angel’s face twitch, but otherwise the vampire remained completely still.

 

“Yeah, and when he fed from me the first time….” Buffy stopped, realising she was speaking to thin air. Angel had bolted from the cabin. Her heart pounding, Buffy felt a vicious sense of triumph sweep over her. She felt powerful. She laughed, scornful of Angel’s pain. Following him out of the cabin, she saw Angel standing in the darkness, facing away from her, every line of his frame taut with tension.

 

“What’s the matter, Lover?” she called. “Is all this sex talk getting you going?” She threw the words at him as though they were arrows.

 

“I thought you would have enjoyed hearing all about it, after all, that’s all you can do, isn’t it….talk about it, I mean.”

 

“Buffy….please” Angel turned towards her, his voice so low it was barely above a whisper.

 

“Please what? Stop telling you about Spike and me?  Spike, my lover, who fucks me and feeds from me whenever he pleases?” Buffy’s eyes glittered, wave upon wave of sadistic pleasure rolling over her as she saw Angel’s shoulders hunch in misery. She felt, strong, potent in a way that she had almost forgotten. She was the Slayer once more, all powerful, crushing evil demons under her feet. Then Angel was walking towards her, tall, determined.

 

“Buffy. Stop. You’ve done it. I’m hurting. You can stop now.”

 

Buffy slapped him, hard. “Don’t you tell me when to stop. I like this feeling. I want to hurt you. You deserve it, and it makes me feel…good”.

 

“Alright then. Carry on. You just keep going.” Angel’s totally unexpected response floored Buffy. He stood before her, trembling but resolute.

 

“W-what?”

 

“If it makes you feel good - if it makes you feel anything for that matter – then go on.”

 

Buffy glared up at him. “Oh no you don’t. Reverse psychology. Give me permission, encourage me, then I’ll not want to do it. Sorry Angel, you don’t win that easily.”

 

Angel stared back, dark eyes unfathomable. “Win? Who said anything about winning? Game’s already over Buffy. You see, I know why Spike wants to screw you. Do you?”

 

Buffy felt the first flicker of uncertainty. “Spike says he loves me, needs me.”

 

Angel smiled, the smile not reaching his eyes. “And you believe him?”

 

“I believed you.” Buffy retorted angrily.

 

“He came to me, you know, about a year after he had that chip implanted.”

 

Buffy started, she knew Spike had disappeared from Sunnydale after the Adam fiasco, and had re-appeared over a year later, but hadn’t known where he had gone.

 

“He had nowhere else to turn. You and your friends had abandoned him. Not that I blame you. But he came to me. You forget, Buffy. He is my Childe. I own him. He couldn’t stay - it was for the best that he went back to Sunnydale - but while he was with me, he became mine again. He sees you as part of me, Buffy. When he’s with you, it’s as close as he can be to being with me. Don’t you see? Spike’s not screwing you. He’s screwing me.”

 

Buffy gasped, her heart thudding painfully in her breast.

 

Angel’s dark eyes gleamed. “So I know why Spike’s screwing you. What I want to know is, why are you screwing him?”

 

Buffy sank down to the ground, her legs refusing to support her. The surge of power had drained away from her, passed from her back to Angel. She felt vulnerable once more, weak and helpless. Then she felt herself being effortlessly lifted from the ground. She found herself in Angel’s arms, being carried back to the cabin. As her head lolled against his broad shoulder she heard him whisper.

 

“You carry my mark, Buffy. Spike may have fucked you, but he’s never fed from you, no matter how much you may have begged him to”.

 

-0-

 

Angel had left Buffy lying on the sofa, covered in the large patchwork quilt. He had returned outside, needing to be away from the broken slayer for a little while. The sounds and scents of the night time forest both stirred and calmed him at the same time. He wandered further into the black woods, distancing himself both physically and mentally from Buffy. He had to think. Even though, as a dominant male vampire, he was furious that another of his kind had had the temerity to touch anyone he had marked, he also understood that Buffy, as a slayer, would have been difficult for Spike to refuse, even if he had wanted to.

 

What had really hurt and upset Angel was Buffy’s sheer misery. This lashing out, deliberately wanting to hurt him, was so unlike her. He could only begin to guess at how bad things were for her that her only way of feeling something other than despair was to inflict pain on another.

 

Angel could feel anger starting to roil within him towards all those in Sunnydale and everywhere else who had let Buffy down. He made a decision and stalked back to the cabin.

 

-0-

 

“You’re not going back”. Angel’s voice was firm. Buffy, awash with shame for her earlier behaviour, glanced up at him, startled.

 

“I want you here, with me. We’re going to fix this. I can’t help you if you’re in Sunnydale, and I’m in LA. We’re going to stay here until we’ve worked through everything.”

 

“Angel….I can’t…Dawn needs me”.

 

Angel shook his head. “No. I don’t buy that. You’ve done everything for her. You protected her, cared for her. Buffy, you died for her. It’s time she gave something back, and stopped behaving like a brat. Christ, from what I’m getting, she’s even resentful that you were happy after you died. Willow can look after Dawn. She needs to atone. This can be part of it. I’m not going to see you sacrifice yourself on the altar of martyrdom. You’re worth more than that.”

 

Buffy sighed. “It’s not that simple, Angel. There are bills to pay. I have to earn otherwise we don’t eat.”

 

Angel was implacable. “Not your problem, Buffy. Your friends know that they owe you. Big time. They’ll sort something out between them. After all, what would have happened if you hadn’t been spirited back?”  Privately he had decided to ensure that the essential running costs of Buffy’s home would be covered if the Scoobies weren’t able to come up with a solution.

 

“Why are you doing this, Angel…you’ve every right to want to throw me out on my ungrateful ass, not try to help me, after the way I’ve been to you.” Buffy muttered unhappily.

 

“I’m not even going to grace that with an answer.” Angel said. Then he reached down for her, and pulled her to her feet. “Come on. We’re going hunting.”

 

Too surprised to protest, Buffy allowed herself to be led into the night by the tall vampire.

 

-0-

 

Buffy turned to Angel, her eyes shining, still panting from the exertion of the final rush and lunge at her prey. She had missed the wild pig by a whisk of its bristly tail, and it had gone squealing off into the safety of the undergrowth. Despite her failure to capture the pig, the sheer exhilaration of the hunt had made her flushed with excitement, the blood racing around her veins fuelled by the huge release of adrenaline into her system.

 

“Shit! I was so close, I nearly had it! God, Angel, that was just fantastic!” She was laughing now, wiping her hand across her sweaty forehead.

 

Angel smiled back at the slayer, his dark eyes amused. “Not tired, I hope. After all, that was my dinner that just escaped. Now we’ll have to find something else to hunt.”

 

“Can’t wait…your turn this time though, I want to see if you can do any better than me”. Buffy’s happy face, her teasing voice warmed something inside of Angel. She stood before him, hair tousled, mud streaking her face, his beloved Buffy once again.

 

Barefoot, Angel slid silently back into the depths of the woodland, Buffy following as quietly as she could, slayer senses on full alert. She watched with admiration how Angel almost floated across the ground, questing around him as he did so. Buffy could sense and track vampires, and many other demons, but she freely admitted that her supernatural powers were restricted to those she was destined to destroy. Angel, on the other hand, was the complete predator, all of his senses designed to hunt any living prey. His sense of smell was awesome, and both his sight and hearing were still far superior to her own. Only in terms of strength were they a match. As she tracked him, it occurred to her for the first time that although she fought evil, her super powers were solely there for the purpose of destruction. Angel, on the other hand, needed his in order to survive. This thought made her pause for a second. Angel looked back over his shoulder at her, questioningly. Buffy smiled at him, and caught up to him again.

 

For five minutes they crept through the night-time woods. Then Angel caught a scent. He began to stalk. Angel was extra cautious, knowing that Buffy was behind him. Despite her superhuman powers, she was unskilled in the art of stalking animal prey. It would have been easier for him to suggest she wait for him to finish the hunt, but instinctively he wanted her to be with him, to watch him. He scented continuously, all senses on high alert. His prey smelled like another wild pig. Gradually, he crept closer and closer, freezing every time he sensed that the pig had become uneasy. Waiting until it had begun its snuffling again, Angel finally saw his quarry on the edge of another glade. It was a full grown boar, with murderous-looking tusks, and a heavily muscled, powerful body. He could feel Buffy’s excitement radiating off her as she came alongside him. He motioned her to remain still, and allowed the change to come over him. Leaving the excited but motionless slayer, Angel began his final stalk, yellow eyes glowing like hot coals, focussed completely on the wild boar.

 

The wild pig lifted its head and snorted in alarm, at the same instant that Angel sprang at it. Buffy saw the two bodies collide, the force of Angel’s attack throwing the boar onto its side. She leapt to her feet, running across the glade to where Angel, growling and snarling, was tussling with the terrified animal, its squeals echoing in the forest. As she reached him, she saw the vampire grasp the boar firmly by one of its tusks, and yank the animal’s head back sharply, while simultaneously sinking his fangs into the throat of the creature. With every muscle in his body corded with the effort of restraining the struggling beast, Angel drank the life blood from it, feeling its strength flow into him as the pig weakened by the second. Buffy stood, transfixed by the sight, shuddering breaths coming from her open mouth as she watched the vampire feeding.

 

Finally it was over, the boar gave a last, convulsive heave, and died. Angel disengaged his fangs from the corpse’s throat, and stared up at Buffy, his golden eyes glittering, mouth and fangs running red. Over the smell of the blood, he could scent her excitement, a feral musky smell that aroused him considerably. Buffy knelt down by the side of him, panting, her eyes flicking from the gory wound in the pig’s throat, to Angel’s bloody fangs. Slowly she leant over to him, and licked at his mouth, tasting the blood. Angel growled, a deep rumbling sound.

 

Then he was kissing her. Not a gentle, loving kiss. But hard, passionate, possessive. Buffy moaned, a small sound in the back of her throat.

 

There, on the edge of the clearing, half in shadow, half in moonlight, Angel took possession of the slayer. No wondering, tentative lover now – amazed that anyone could love him in return – this was feral, a male vampire stamping his mark, claiming ownership. No perfect love and happiness, this. No tenderness. Rather, a snarling savage domination of one powerful predator over another.

 

After it was done, Angel got to his feet, pulling Buffy up with him.

 

Wordlessly, he reached down, and slung the boar’s carcass over his shoulder, and then turned in the direction of the cabin, not looking back, knowing that Buffy would follow him.

 

-0-

 

Buffy entered the cabin, feeling exhausted. She had been, quite literally, drained of her energy. Not dangerously so, but enough to make her flop down onto the sofa, never wanting to move again. She sighed as Angel gently covered her with the quilt, and then saw him slide back into the shadows, face averted.

 

“Angel? Come over here….sit down beside me”.

 

Reluctantly, Angel complied, sitting awkwardly on the edge of the sofa, not meeting Buffy’s eyes.

 

“What happened…in the forest….” He stumbled to a halt, not having the words to explain himself. Buffy too, couldn’t articulate her feelings. The whole experience had been so primal, wild…alive. She touched her fingers to the wound on her neck, she was re-marked, the new mark overlaying the old scar exactly. But this time – somehow – Angel’s drinking from her had restored her, in the same way that last time it had restored him. Buffy felt life leaping through her veins, felt excited and hopeful in a way that she had forgotten was possible. She smiled up at him, every line of her face alight with happiness.

 

“Buffy?” Angel was studying her, his face puzzled, uncertain.

 

“It’s OK Angel. In fact, it’s so much better than OK. I can’t explain it, but I feel…it’s like I’ve been sleepwalking, and I’ve just woken up. Do I seem different to you too?”

 

Angel nodded in dawning amazement. “You smell…like you. I mean, like you used to smell. All vanillery, fresh, alive…Buffy.”

 

She laughed. “I feel alive, I feel like Buffy” She stroked the vampire’s cheek. “I don’t know what happened out there, but it’s like a miracle. What about you, Angel, do you feel anything different too?” For a moment Angel thought Buffy was concerned about the anchoring of his soul. But what had happened in the forest between them…it had been ferocious, lustful…almost painful, and as far from human love as it was possible to be.

 

Angel stilled, his dark, liquid eyes turned in on their own fathomless depths. “Yes. I feel…right. As though the connection is now as it should be.” He hesitated, trying to explain this new feeling. He gazed at Buffy. “I needed you so much Buffy, when I came to Sunnydale, and after I came back from Hell. You were the strong one. You made me feel human. Now, tonight, it’s as though the balance is redressed, as though I was able to make you feel all the passion and wildness of being a vampire.  It makes me feel…comfortable.”

 

Buffy pulled a teasing face. “You’re just a typical male, aren’t you, Angel. Completely unreconstructed.”  He chuckled, but didn’t disagree. Now he knew he could see Buffy return to Sunnydale, and to her friends and family. He wouldn’t need to worry about her any more. And as for Spike. He almost wished he could be there when Spike saw Angel’s renewed mark. The younger vampire would be too terrified to go within ten feet of the Slayer from now on. Not that Buffy would need to go to Spike now, in any case. Still, there was time enough to think of the future. For now, Angel had everything he could want. He was fed, warm, and had Buffy all to himself.

 

He started to purr.

 



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