RATING: R. The overall rating used to be NC-17 but I've decided to hold that off indefinitely.
DISCLAIMER: I think it's pretty obvious by what has happened on the shows that I DO NOT OWN ANYTHING.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is for Sneha and loftyheights because they got me writing this again. Thank you to everyone who has expressed some form of encouragement. Every bit helps. Vorax is Latin for voracious.
SYNOPSIS: Set in Wishverse; Buffy and Angel don't make it out of the basement.
I shouted and yelled my throat hoarse as they carried me kicking and fighting out of that room. My exertions only hurt me more and I made a last attempt before screaming my rage at the four vampires, going limp. My abdomen was on fire, aggravated by my movements.
"Scream all you want," one said with a sneer, restraining my left arm with a bruising grip. "You'll only taste better."
I bit my lip hard, willing the pain away, attempting to overcome the fear that wrenched my insides. I lifted my head with difficulty, attempting to see where they were taking me. I was turned to the ceiling, suspended maybe two feet in the air. Blood rushed to my head and I felt heavy and weak. It was an unfamiliar feeling, a distorted sense of vertigo.
The passageway was dimly lit and they drew back a red velvet curtain, entering a small chamber. My feet were suddenly dropped to the ground with a thud and I winced, my back slamming against a stone wall as they forced me backwards and up. A grinning vampire pushed me up against the wall with his body as two others locked my wrists into heavy manacles.
I thought I'd be ready for this. I thought I'd fight my way out with fists and sheer will, but they were still one step ahead. Angel. In comparison, I almost prayed to be shoved back into that prison.
I couldn't push against the vampire that had pinned me due to pure disgust. His mouth reeked of decay, and I felt sick. My stomach revolted and I drew my head back as far as possible, hitting the wall.
"Get off me," I demanded through gritted teeth. He laughed and I brought my knee up hard, into his groin, causing him to cry out with pained anger. He elbowed me brutally, hitting my right cheek, solid bone meeting bone.
I closed my eyes as my cheek throbbed from the blow, trying not to feel it.
"Xander, lock her feet, you fool," a commanding voice said with disdain.
My eyes flew open despite my dizziness and I kicked blindly, my boot meeting a gnarled face. Hands gripped my ankles and I heard locks snap shut before the feeling registered, suddenly restrained and feeling like I was about to fall forward but unable to. I almost felt claustrophobic as I struggled vainly against the bonds. The vampires stepped back quickly, wary of another attack. The chamber was candlelit, a large throne presiding over the room against the wall to my right. A rich maroon rug covered most of the cement floor, as if adding a touch of elegance would distract from the bleakness of the room.
It was him.
It had to be him. I could feel the power emanating from him, the monster harnessed within his form. I had become used to a vampire's countenance, but his features were so grotesquely marred, I couldn't tell what he might have looked like as a human.
There was nothing human about him.
His hands had become claws. He lacked hair, causing him to seem like even more of a monster. His skin was pallid and sickly white. His voice was deep and removed so that it sounded like it came from all around me, and if I closed my eyes, it was neither near nor far. I wanted nothing but to drive a stake through his dead heart.
"I was impatient," the Master admitted with a twisted smile, drawing nearer. "I had to see what you were like, Slayer, before I killed you."
I remained impassive, unblinking. No weakness.
"You're prettier than the last one I killed," he said, his face mere inches away from mine. His breath carried the stench of old blood, worse than the other vampire.
"I'm going to enjoy watching you die," I sneered, yanking on my chains ineffectually so that they rattled coldly in the cavernous room. It was so cliched and pathetic I almost winced.
He laughed, his voice empty of joy or mercy. "Feisty, too. I'd keep you around longer if I didn't want to eat you so much. But I do like to play with my food."
"Why don't you unchain me and I'll show you how much I like to play," I challenged. "Or are you too much of a coward?"
"I don't take unnecessary chances," he answered smoothly, running a cold, white finger down my cheek. I had to force myself to stay still, but my muscles tensed in revulsion. "I'll bet Angelus is just itching to take a bite out of you," he drawled.
God, Angel. Forget him. Forget him.
"How is he, anyway?" he said conversationally, and the hate I felt for him became purely primal. I wanted to rip him apart with my bare hands. I wanted him to feel every bit of pain that he had inflicted upon his victims, and I wanted to be the one to do it.
"Peachy," I said, clenching my teeth when his fingers slid down between my breasts and to my wound.
Without warning, his fingers dug into my punctured flesh and I cried out as pain exploded in my abdomen. I was breathing hard, feeling my knees weaken and buckle. My arms strained from carrying my weight and I just wanted to curl up and cradle the anguish within me. I blinked as my vision skewed, then cleared.
The Master withdrew his bloodstained fingers and held them in front of his nose, inhaling deeply. "You smell absolutely delicious."
I straightened with effort, biting down on the inside of my lip, and watched with loathing as he licked my blood from his hands.
"You don't know how good a Slayer tastes to a vampire. You're so rich, so sweet on the tongue." He gripped my chin roughly so that I had to look at him in the eye. "You're afraid. I like that."
The bottom half of my shirt was soaked in my blood. I cringed inwardly, but fought to give nothing away.
"Are you gonna try to kill me already? I hate it when a guy's all talk," I retorted, ignoring his taunts. I looked him up and down with a flick of my eyes. "God, you're an ugly piece of shit."
The Master only smiled once, before my head erupted in pain and my vision blacked. I knew the blow would leave a bruise, feeling my cheek swell and ache. I bit my lip again and prayed for numbness. Dammit, it hurt, but I wouldn't feel it. Not if I tried hard enough.
"Slayer, you are treading on very thin ice," he warned, growling the words. "I'm sorely tempted to give in to my impatience." I spat some blood onto the ground in response. I had bitten my lower lip raw since they had captured me and his friendly knocks weren't making the healing process any easier.
"I'm used to it." I leaned back against the wall and looked up at him, undaunted. "You think you're hurting me? I've felt worse," I said darkly, glaring at him while drawing my words out slowly, my throat dry and sore. "You think I'm afraid of you? You're nothing. You're nothing but another pile of dust."
His fist met my stomach in an implosion of agony before I had time to prepare myself for the impact.
"I think you're enjoying this," he taunted. The punch knocked the breath out of me and I gasped for air, squeezing my eyes shut as I waited vainly for the pain to abate. I tasted more coppery blood at the back of my throat and swallowed it with a grimace.
I couldn't see, my head growing heavy and the aching pressure behind my eyes nearly overwhelming me.
"Giving up already?" the Master sneered with mock disappointment. "I wanted to play a little more."
There was a last stunning blow to my face.
His feet pounded on the pavement and his arms pumped as he rounded a corner and gathered speed, his lungs begging for oxygen and his throat burning and searing as he panted. He tried to swallow, to soothe the cold flames that flared with every heaving breath, but it was futile as he continued to run, his legs becoming stiff and painful.
Giles' place. He was almost there, seeing the dim glow of light from the lamp outside his apartment building. The British librarian had become something of a leader in the battle against darkness, and he was the first person they turned to at the first sign of trouble.
There was big trouble.
He reached the front door and thumped his fist against it, gasping for breath.
"Giles! I need your help!"
There was silence on the other side of the door as he hammered against it restlessly, before attempting to turn the doorknob.
The door opened with silent ease.
Oz watched it slide slowly across the carpet, the apartment revealed to him as he stood in the doorway uncertainly.
He stepped in cautiously, glancing around for signs of movement.
"Giles?" he called, receiving no answer. He called out louder and made his way around the living room, before stopping abruptly.
The librarian was slumped on the carpet, a bleeding wound marring the side of his head. Oz rolled him over and let out a relieved breath when he found that Giles was still breathing. He shook him gently in an attempt to rouse him.
"Giles," he said louder. Oz pulled him up to lean against the wall, Giles' dead weight making it difficult. "GILES."
The librarian came to slowly, his eyes barely opening.
"Oz?" he mumbled, wincing as consciousness brought with it the pain.
"Hey," Oz said, giving him a slight smile with relief. He stopped him when he tried to sit up. "Easy. What the hell happened here? Who did this?"
Giles squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, then brought his hand to his head. His palm came away stained with blood. "Anyanka. She granted the wish. She's gone."
Oz went to the bathroom for the first aid kit. "Cordelia's wish?"
"Stupid girl," Giles muttered with regret, sitting up against the wall as Oz returned. He kneeled down beside him, taking out a bottle of antiseptic.
"They took Larry," Oz said grimly. "They've been rounding people up for something big the Master's cooked up. Something about a plant."
"They would need a factory," Giles said, hissing in pain as Oz quickly cleaned his head wound. The werewolf looked up. "You aren't thinking a two man kamikaze mission, are you?"
"I doubt it's much different from what we do every day," Giles said humourlessly. "But no. The Slayer, Buffy Summers, went after the Master and she..."
"Hasn't come back?" Oz finished dryly. "Theme of the day. Look, I know where those vamps were heading, it shouldn't be hard to find the factory. I say we scope the place out."
"We need more people," Giles reminded him. It seemed almost pointless, the way the day was crumbling before his eyes. There had been bad days before. Days with twelve deaths at a time. But he had never felt so tired.
"And we'll find them on the way. Larry had the upper hand last time I saw."
"Okay. Weapons," Giles said, standing with effort. "And pass me that scotch."
I drifted in and out of wakefulness for what seemed like an eternity. I didn't know how much time had passed, feeling groggy every time my eyes reluctantly opened, only to see the unending darkness once again.
I was alive. Again. Still.
"Buffy?" That was me. My name. And I was being enfolded, a cool hand on my cheek.
I couldn't stay conscious for more than a few seconds, my eyelids falling shut with utter relief and my entire body relaxing, and softening, and sinking...
Someone was moving above me, no longer sinking but above the ground so that I was pressed to nothing but an unyielding form. There was thick, soft hair beneath my hands...expanses of cool skin sliding against warm and it seemed like a place where I could hide from the darkness. And lips. There were lips in all the right places, with teeth.
My eyes snapped open to see black. My heart was racing. My mind couldn't comprehend whether I had been dreaming or awake. I blinked in the darkness, trying to figure out where I was and who I was and why the nakedness wasn't real.
I was sitting in his arms again, in the same position we were in before. For a second, I wondered if I had imagined everything, and we were back where we started. I wondered how he knew that I needed to be held.
I swallowed painfully and cleared my throat. I was parched. I wanted to sleep for a long time, right there, but alertness was quickly returning. The Slayer scoffs in the face of sleep. My Watcher had actually said that to me once, but at the time, I was too angry to laugh.
"I'm awake." My voice was rough -- from sleep or exhaustion or that dream, perhaps all three. I shifted against him nervously, trying to slow the palpitation of my heart.
"Are you hurt? What did they do to you?"
There was heartfelt concern in his voice that I hadn't heard from anyone in a long time and I realised that I missed it. My Watcher was cool and distant, so that most times, I couldn't tolerate being in the same room with him, quickly taking his orders and departing. He represented all the things that had gone wrong in my life. I hated that he was the one person who could possibly understand me, and didn't.
"Nothing. It's okay," I said, trying to sound perfectly okay. I didn't have a chance at pulling it off and grimaced at the sound of my voice.
"It's not okay," Angel insisted grimly. "You were unconscious."
"I told you not to worry about me," I said harshly, but there was no real venom in my voice, like I thought there would be. I just sounded...resigned, and it scared me a little.
He didn't say anything in reply, lowering his head so that his hair brushed against my cheek. It was so hard to perceive distance in the darkness and he was always closer than I expected.
I exhaled. "They took me to the Master."
He tensed. "What did he do?" he asked, genuine fear in his voice. I found myself wanting to appease him.
"He just...he just beat me up a little. It was nothing I couldn't handle." He was silent, and it was hard to tell what he was thinking. "I'm fine," I tried to reassure him.
"I was afraid of what they were going to do to you," he admitted, and I knew he was talking from experience. It was obvious to me that he had felt nothing but pain at the hands of the Master. I had seen the scars and the burns. The thought of Angel being hurt caused a sudden outrage and protectiveness to rise within me, and I unsuccessfully tried to tamp it down.
"I'm tough," I said with a resilience I didn't quite feel, "I can take whatever they throw at me."
"All I could think about..." he stopped and I waited for him to go on, realising that I was holding my breath. "All I could think was that I failed you."
My mouth opened and closed, and I was glad that he couldn't see me. Sometimes, the darkness can be a good thing.
"I-I wasn't able to protect you--"
"You don't have to," I interrupted, leaning my head against his shoulder with some relief. My headache felt like it was getting worse, a dull pain in my temples. "I'm the Slayer," I reminded him.
Angel's voice was warm and soft, hesitant. "Even Slayers need to be taken care of, Buffy."
I swallowed. And that's what he'd been doing all this time, right? Taking care of me? I pushed the thought out of my mind, confused. It was a nice, tidy theory but it wasn't real life, every day, slugging it out with demons and monsters. Slayers don't have keepers, they have Watchers. Completely different animal.
The tension in the air was thick as the seconds ticked by -- if there had actually been a clock in here it would have driven me mad. I was never good with words. I didn't know what to say that would sound right or what I was supposed to say, so I reached for his hand instead, preferring the contact and the quiet intimacy it created. I hadn't held hands with anyone in a long time. The last distinct memory I had of soft hands were my mother's. She had beautiful hands, with perfect nails and slender fingers. Angel's hands were large and capable, and I felt strangely invincible in them. Like I could do anything and these hands would be there to catch me if I fell.
But that was only wishful thinking. I went over that already. This time was just that. This time. An isolated incident. We were forced into a situation in which we had to spend an unnatural number of hours alone together, the fact that he knew me meant *nothing*, and we needed each other if we wanted to make it out alive. The chances of that happening weren't exactly confidence boosters.
"How long have we been here?" I asked after a while. "I don't even know if it's day or night."
"It's night," Angel said, and I assumed that knowing the time of day was part of a vampire's benefits package. "Late, I think. We've been here since last night."
"Feels like longer," I said. I felt like I had aged another year in a single day. Time had ceased to exist for me. A question was on the tip of my tongue and it slipped out without warning. "How old are you?"
I had some idea from what he said earlier, though I seldom came across a vampire over a hundred. It was impossible to place him because he was able to adapt to the times, a rare quality. Most of them couldn't shake their roots, like unfashionable parents with pointy teeth.
"Old," he replied wearily. "I feel old."
"Immortality isn't the worst deal. I mean, you could have mine." Not particularly comforting for either of us, but then, I was never good at that.
From his silence, I felt like I had pained him and immediately dropped the subject, concentrating on his hand instead. He didn't pull away, stroking my knuckles in a small motion, and I felt my chest tighten. It was strange that the slightest touch of his fingers could affect me this much.
"I saw you take on six vampires at once, a long time ago," he said, his voice low and velvety. I listened intently. "You hadn't been a Slayer long, and you were alone."
"I must have won," I said, still unable to grasp that he had been there all the time. It was a little unnerving, but mostly, I felt like I had been protected in those days, when things weren't so dark and scary.
"You finished them off in five minutes," he said, a tinge of pride in his voice. He had a rather flawless way of stroking a Slayer's ego. "After you staked one, you got another two before he could turn into dust."
Focusing on his words, I slowly slid my thumb down the centre of his wrist...his palm...to the tip of his middle finger. I refused to think. Touch had replaced my eyes in this lightless prison.
"And then what happened?" I asked, even though I already knew. I hadn't thought about that night in years, it seemed like any other.
I laced my fingers through his, slipping back and forth in lazy movements.
"And...." he faded off, losing concentration. I bit my lip when his fingers caught mine gently, twining with them. What was happening? "And then..."
And then it was my left hand and his right that were doing all the talking instead.
to be continued...