Halfrek stared at the Slayer, her now human face contorted in horror. "Oh, no…" she gasped, grabbing her head in both hands. She glanced about the room, at Anya, at Tara, at a befuddled William rising from the floor, and finally back at Buffy. "Got to get out of here," she muttered, almost to herself, and then bolted for the door, catching an unsuspecting William in the temple with a errant elbow and knocking him flat, on her way out.
Stunned, Buffy turned to Tara, and then Anya. All were speechless for several seconds, before the former vengeance demon finally spoke.
"Wow," she said, glancing at Buffy, "I always thought you were scary looking, but…" She shook her head. "Must be those brassy blonde highlights."
Tara frowned. "Why do you think she—"
"I don't know," Buffy cut in, looking at the witch, "I don't think it was anything I did. Maybe…" She turned to William, still lying on the floor. He appeared to be unconscious. "Maybe Spike… The spell…"
Tara moved over to the motionless vampire, knelt down at his side and placed a hand on his cheek. He remained still. "Spike— I mean William's out cold." She slapped his face lightly, and still, he didn't stir.
Anya gazed around the now empty Starbuck's and cleared her throat, getting her friends' attention. "Maybe we should go," she suggested, "before Sunnydale's finest get here. I'm gonna have enough debt as it is with this wedding to pay for." She glanced about at the broken chairs and tables that littered the establishment. "I'm sure they have insurance," she added. "Big companies with deep pockets." She reached into her own jeans pockets. "Small pockets, see?" she said, pulling out the pocket liners to emphasize her point.
Buffy nodded unconsciously. "Maybe she's right," she said, striding towards Tara and the inert William. Buffy leaned over the vampire and gave him a resounding smack. He moaned softly, but didn't wake up. With little effort, she picked up the vampire, who, although lean, was still approximately twice her weight, and slung him over her shoulder. "I'll take William home," she said. "Then I'll go looking for Halfrek." She turned to Anya. "Any ideas of where I might find her?"
Anya shot her a dubious look and shook her head. "Sorry. Not a clue."
Buffy's eyes narrowed and she studied the former demon for several seconds, deciding if she was telling the truth.
"I really don't know!" Anya insisted irritably.
The Slayer nodded. "I believe you," she said, her voice quiet. She tightened her grip on William's legs and headed for the door. As she reached the exit, Buffy stopped, and glanced over her shoulder. "But tell your friend," she said, "that when I find her, I will kill her."
And then she was gone, leaving Anya and Tara alone in the ruined Starbuck's. The two women exchanged a look, but remained silent. Within seconds the place was completely deserted.
* * *
He'd committed a heinous act. Or was it acts?
It was almost dawn and he was only now undressing for bed. He glanced in the mirror, noting his disheveled appearance; clothes wrinkled and soiled, hair mussed. He reached into his coat pocket and took out his father's revolver, absently checking the barrel and noting all six bullets were still nestled safely in their chambers. None had been fired.
His clothes still smelled of Cecily. He stripped them off, but she was also on his skin. He thought of Buffy and couldn't help feeling that he had somehow betrayed her. He scowled at the thought.
He'd done it for her. To get back to Sunnydale, so they could be together.
He'd realized that killing Cecily would've only caused a bigger disaster, drastically changing the past, and possibly even causing a rift in time. A paradox.
So instead, he'd sent a message…to Halfrek.
He smiled an evil, calculating smile, hoping she'd gotten it.
* * *
She awoke cold, but sated.
"William," she murmured, arms searching for him, seeking his body to warm hers. A draft blew over her bare skin, and she heard the sound of voices, then footsteps. Slowly, she opened her eyes, and was greeted by the sight of a large cross looming above her, silhouetted against a kaleidoscope of colors shining brightly. Stained glass illuminated by sunlight.
The voices grew louder; footsteps echoed against cold marble. She scrambled to her feet, searching for clothes that weren't there. Eyes wide, she looked for William.
But he was gone.
She was alone, standing naked, at the altar, when the priest walked in. A man in his late forties, he looked at her with surprise and a hint of lecherous curiosity. Others followed. Churchgoers arriving early to secure a front row seat: a tall, gaunt man and his heavyset wife; an elderly couple; a family of eight. All stopped and stared. Some gasped. Some murmured.
Cecily backed away from them, hunched forward, covering what she could with her hands and arms. Then she turned and ran blindly, arms pumping like a sprinter; stopping only briefly to snatch a random coat from the rack by the door. Then she ran barefoot down the street, several blocks, to her family home. Breathless, she hurried upstairs to her bedroom, slamming the door shut behind her, eyes filled with unshed tears that finally were unleashed in the privacy of her room.
She slumped against her dresser, face hidden behind her hands, sobbing uncontrollably. She'd been humiliated. Simply humiliated!
And by…William! Oh, why?
She looked up into the mirror, blinking back tears to see reflection. Her face was red and shining, her hair a jungle of curls. She stood a little straighter and the coat fell open, revealing the bare skin beneath.
Squinting, she looked at the writing across her breasts. Black, soot, forming letters. She wiped back more tears and focused on the words. Written backwards; meant to be read in a mirror, they said, "Reverse It!"
* * *
Halfrek finally stopped running when she reached an alley a few blocks from the Starbuck's. Panting, she leaned forward, hands on her knees.
The memories. Oh God, the memories! How horrible!
William was messing with her past. He had to be stopped! She took a deep breath and straightened to full height. There was only one thing she could do.
"I take it back," she whispered, "I…" She paused, then spoke in a more commanding voice. "I reverse the wish!"
* * *
In the underground part of his lair, Buffy stood looking down at the vampire lying asleep on the large bed. His face was perfect, as if chiseled from stone.
There was no evil in this face. She sat down on the edge of the bed, knowing, there was no evil in this man.
He was innocent. Not like the monster who'd left her. Yet she longed for the monster.
Tentatively, she reached out her hand, and traced the edge of his cheek with her fingertips; skin, smooth and ageless. His lips were parted, enticing her. She leaned forward, hesitated, then kissed him.
A light, delicate kiss. She pulled up quickly, feeling a twinge of guilt for kissing one man, while thinking of another.
Then he stirred; lashes fluttering. She let out a small gasp as his eyes opened. Sudden and wakeful, like he'd been feigning sleep for some time.
He gazed up at her, and there was something in his look that was different. Darker than before. And then he smiled, and she knew.
He reached up to caress her face, then both hands pulled her down to him, his lips seeking hers. Hungry and forceful, they stole her breath, and left her gasping for more.
She drew away, just slightly, eyes filled with wonder. "You came back," she whispered, her expression searching. "But how?"
His lips curled into a lazy smile as if the events of the past couple of days had never happened. "It's not important," he said, arms tightening around her, pulling her close for another kiss.
"But Halfrek… She said you made a wish. I tried to make her reverse it, but she got away." Her words came out hurried, then she stopped and stared at him, gaze focusing. "It was you, wasn't it? You—"
"I did what I had to," he answered quickly. "And whatever I did, I did for you."
"But…" Her voice trailed off, and she relaxed against him, giving in to the embrace.
"It doesn't matter," he murmured against her skin, before claiming her lips, once again, with his.
Thoughts flashed through her head; of Halfrek, the wish, and of William. Unanswered questions whispering inside of her. But they didn't matter. And slowly, they slipped away. She concentrated instead on the kiss, matching and even surpassing the voracity of his passion.
Then with swift, catlike grace, he shifted his weight and rolled on top of her; his body leaning into hers. Capturing her hands with his, their fingers entwined, he had her pinned to the bed. He stared down at her, his eyes slightly glazed, lips parted and quivering almost imperceptibly. His mouth twitched into a vague, mysterious smile, and she felt her heart tug inside of her.
"Miss me?" he asked, hoarse and breathless.
"I…" She stared at him, unable to hide the fact that she really had, but not ready to tell him. She remained frozen for a moment, then answered in small voice. "A little."
He seemed satisfied with her response, probably because he'd guessed the truth. He looked at her, his expression a mixture of lust and amusement. "A little," he said softly. "Well, I suppose that's something."
Buffy nodded, not trusting her voice. She turned her head to the side, feeling the cool pillow against her cheek, and closed her eyes. His body was pressing down on hers, and she couldn't ignore the growing heat caused by his proximity. She arched her back, pushing up against him, urging him on with growing impatience.
She didn't have long to wait though, as moments later, their clothes were strewn over the dirt floor, and his hands and mouth seemed everywhere.
At last, she let his darkness fill her, replacing the emptiness, and, at least for a little while, making her feel warm, and loved, and alive.
* * *
And they lived happily ever after…until, of course, she broke up with him the following week after finding out he was a black market dealer of scary demon eggs… ;)
A/N – Thanks to everyone who left feedback! This story started of as a bit of fluff and fun, but ended up something more substantial. Your comments and support have helped shape the story to what it is. Thanks again!