Crimson Velvet

Chapter 4:

'Birds of Fire'

She could hear the coals. He was moving them around with his branding iron. She squeezed her eyes shut. She knew he was doing it only to frighten her. That he got a high off her fear. She would not be afraid. She refused to be afraid.

"Now, if you experience any burning, tingling, prickling, or discomfort of any kind, please let me know," Angelus bent over so his face was directly on the level of hers, "I'd hate to miss it. And please, go ahead and scream. I won't be offended."

You wish, you slimy, filthy, disgusting, perverted-her inner rant was cut off because her entire mind was suddenly screaming with pain. This was pain she had never known. She had been cut, punched, stabbed, slammed, kicked and almost every other manner of inflicting pain. But never, never had she been burned. She hadn't been missing out on anything spectacular. Her already damaged lip bled profusely as she bit into it, determined not to scream.

"What? No screaming. And I here I had you pegged as a shrieker. Oh well. There's lots more where that came from." He was down on his knees now, licking the charred flesh between her shoulder blades. It wasn't just his cold tongue that gave her shivers now. His whole proximity was setting her body tingling. Apparently the intense training her body had gone through to prepare her to battle vampires hadn't abandoned her completely. She didn't know how Buffy had managed to love not one, but two vampires. Maybe she got off on the constant danger signal hammering through her. That was just the kind of kinky secret Buffy would have. But in all seriousness, Faith honestly didn't know how she could do it. Every pore in her body was screaming 'vampire' at top decibels. It was insane.

"I only scream for really special guys," she hissed, teeth clenched to prevent her mouth from betraying her, "And I don't feel we've made a connection."

"Oh, you want a connection?" His cool lips dipped further down on her back, "that could be arranged."

Dammit! That was probably the worst possible thing she could have said. Tormented, tortured, fondled, she could handle all that from him. It was nothing more than she endured every single day of her life. But…she didn't even want to think how bad the tingles would be. She had standards, dammit! Not high standards, she'd admit that, but one of them was 'breathing'.

She tried to get up, but his hand was on the back of her neck in moments, holding her back down.

"Don't go so soon. You'll hurt my feelings."

"Ha." The arm of the bench was beginning to dig into her stomach. Being bent halfway over hadn't been fun from the beginning, but being pushed down on top of an iron beam was downright painful. And without any special Slayer benefits, she knew she was going to be bruised for a while.

"Really, Faith. I have so many twisted fantasies trapped in my mind. All I've needed is a girl of your," he bent one of her legs up so that her foot connected with her head, "stretchiness." Apparently she hadn't lost any of the flexibility she had built up through her slaying years.

"That's really what every girl longs to hear."

"You could be a part of bringing my visions to life," he sounded choked up, and she knew it was from holding in the demonic cackle he was dying to let loose, "doesn't that mean anything to you?"

"Been there, done that. Being a masterpiece gets old real quick." She had been attracted to him. God, it was sickening to even remember there was a time when she had found the evil Angelus exuded intoxicating. But she was older now. Wiser. Ha, she smirked through the pain. Older, at least. She had seen the real Angelus, and she had never had to battle fuzzy feelings for him ever again. He was still physically attractive to her, sure. But knowing that lurking beneath the gorgeous face was a literal demon…definitely a turn-off. The package was evil, but she couldn't deny the wrapping was mighty fine.

"Oh, don't think about that Faith. I'm an artist, and you are quite a lovely canvas." He ran his finger over the brand, and she knew what he was thinking. "A phoenix, maybe. The wings can spread over your shoulders, and I can put some flames on those nice perky-"

"I would appreciate it if you kept your knife away from there," Faith growled, "Don't you know that there's a shortage of perfect breasts? Don't ruin mine."

"Not ruin…enhance," without warning, he jerked her up and pushed her down onto the sofa so she was lying on her back. He grinned at the mark across her stomach where the iron armrest had been, then inched his eyes up and looked critically at her now completely exposed torso, "You haven't had implants or anything, have you?"

"One-hundred percent natural."

"Good, I hate it when, just as you're putting the finishing touches on your work, you hit silicon. It's insulting, you know? That you're expected to work with a canvas that's already been worked on. It's like asking Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel, and somebody had already painted a floral arrangement up there, or something."

"Not that the ranting isn't fascinating, but if you're done-" He laughed loudly at that.

"Don't you wish," he snickered, displaying all his teeth in a very predatory grin, "I've only just begun." He walked over to the coffee table and she noticed for the first time the vast array of sharp objects glinting there. He gestured absentmindedly to her, and, trying to avoid any more pain than was necessary, she heeded his command and rolled over onto her stomach.

"How long is this gonna take? I've got places to go, people to see."

"Scalpel, scissors, dagger, tweezers, so much to choose from. I think we'll start out with the scissors for some detail work. Nurse, I believe we're ready to begin." She could hear his approach, he wasn't making any effort to soften it. On the contrary, he was being purposefully loud. He wanted her to be scared, and to scream. But she wouldn't scream. He would never make her scream.

The scissors dug into her back, carving a beak just above the brand. She had the terrible feeling of being drained of life again, and the sharp pain of the cuts. But she only suffered for a few moments, before she felt his tongue on her back again, lapping at the blood, and, remarkably, sealing the cuts. Healing spit, she thought wryly, must be a useful skill. But why would he do that? Ease her suffering? The answer was obvious. Staring her in the face all the time. What use was she to him if she blacked out, or died from the blood loss? Then the games would be over.

He was back to cutting, and she guessed it was the scalpel now, broad strokes for what would be the feathered head of the mythical bird. She thought back to what Cordelia had said. 'And you get a little bit more the happier you make him.' Angelus obviously had great expectations for her. That in itself was almost scarier than anything else she had encountered thus far.

"Faith! Faith! You'll never, never guess what I just found out!" Cordelia burst dramatically, as always, into the dressing room, where Faith was just pulling up her stockings.

"Toad-shaped Jell-O is raining from the sky?"

"No, you're going to be in an act! A real act!" Faith frowned and sat up straight. She had to hear this. There was usually some kind of act or another going on at Crimson Velvet, an evil musical group, a not evil musical group (a crowd favorite, because they were messily dismembered after they performed), some kind of demonic comedian. Cordelia had an act sometimes, in which she played Little Red Riding Hood. This Little Red seemed to have hung onto her cloak, but not much else. She also had developed a previously unpublicized talent for pole-dancing.


"Isn't it though?" Cordelia was so excited she either missed the sarcasm or ignored it, "Angelus is going to be in it, too! He thought about having me do it, but I'm too well known around here. He wanted a fresh face."

"I'm sure that's what he wants," Faith muttered, fastening on her garters.